Pittsburgh Update

Pittsburgh Update publishes weekly summaries of recent developments in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion that affect or could affect Pittsburgh Episcopalians. Emphasis is on reporting, not interpretation. This is a service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. This site is in no way affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice          

A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Week Ending 01/16/17

Presidential Inaugural Concerns

While Episcopalians
debated whether churches should pray for the incoming president by name or by title, and others were upset that Washington National Cathedral was hosting the post inauguration prayer service and sending its men's and boy's choir to sing as a prelude to the actual inauguration, the Archbishop of Canada asked members of his church to pray for people in the U.S.  The discussion over how to pray for the incoming president led Presiding Bishop Curry to issue a formal statement. Most prayers in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for the country and its leaders are by generic title.  Only two have an option of adding a name. Those upset with the National Cathedral service raised issues about whether that was a form of endorsement of him, were concerned that the inaugural committee was planning the service, (not the cathedral dean or bishop), that there was to be no sermon, and that it was a ticketed event.  The performance by the cathedral music groups at the prelude to the inauguration was opposed as being inappropriate given Episcopal values.  Statements by the cathedral dean and Bishop Mariann Budde did not end the criticism.

Pauli Murray Home Named a National Landmark

The childhood home of the Rev. Pauli Murray, poet, activist, lawyer, feminist, and the first African American woman ordained to the Episcopal priesthood
has been declared a national historic landmark.  The group restoring the house is working on opening the site by 2020.  You can read more about Murray here. Murray has a Pittsburgh connection, having spent the last year of her life in our diocese as a member of Holy Cross parish.

Reformed Church Ordains First Openly Gay Minister

Chad Tanaka Pack
was ordained this last week in the Reformed Church in a ceremony at Middle Collegiate Church in New York.  He is on the staff of the Marble Collegiate Church also in New York City.  It makes for some interesting commuting because Pack is the spouse of the Rev. Michael Foley, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, PA.  Pack is the first openly gay individual to enter the ordination process of the Reformed Church as an "out" gay.

Scots Criticized for Epiphany Service with Muslims

St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow planned its Epiphany Service with input from the local Muslim community which was invited to attend.  One of the readings for that service was from the Koran.  The Cathedral was surprised by the large number of protests they received.  Some of those upset threatened the church. The Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland
has issued a statement saying the Church is sorry that the service caused so much offense and is also sorry for the abuse that the cathedral and staff have received.  They will be looking for other ways to continue the interfaith dialog.

ACNA Bishops Approve Trial texts for New Prayer Book

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is on its way out in ACNA congregations.  The bishops of the break-away denomination
have approved texts for all of the remaining parts of their new Book of Common Prayer and put them on line for people to make comments and to use.  They are on track to publish the new book in 2020.  Approval came at the recent ACNA House of Bishops meeting. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Week Ending 1/9/17

Ecumenical Groups Express Concern About Trump Appointments

The National Council of Churches and PICO National Network (the largest group of faith-based organizations) have both expressed concern about some of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet Appointments.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judiaism and the Rev. William Barber's group Moral Monkeys made statements. You can find a summary of their concerns here.

Controversy Continues Over Dar-es-Salom Bishop

The Archbishop of Tanzania deposed the Bishop of Dar-es-Salom for financial irregularities.  Bishop Mokiwa however is refusing to recognize the authority of the Archbishop to do this, and controversy continues.  It is not clear if the Archbishop can do this without the action of the House of Bishops and they had declined pursuing the charges.  Mokiwa is himself a former archbishop of the Anglican province.

Bishops Against Gun Violence Take Next Step

The Episcopal Bishops United Against Gun Violence are now facilitating a conference in Chicago on April 20-22, 2017 which hopes to empower those who attend to deal with the "unholy Trinity" of poverty, racism and guns.  You can find more information including registration information here.
The group of Bishops made their first public statements in a march during the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake.  (See the Update here.)

Five Part Series on Diocese of Fort Worth Questioned

Last week Pittsburgh Update carried the link to the first of a five-part series by the Episcopal News Network on the "Resurrection" of the Diocese of Fort Worth.  The rest of articles each featured one parish, one that meets in a theater, one that does weekly lunches for college students, one meeting in a former mission chapel, and one in a shopping center.  Meanwhile the IRD has published an article picked up by conservative church news sources that questions the statistics showing diocesan growth  in the first article.  While the material in the IRD article may not be accurate on budget, the rest is based on The Episcopal Church parochial report statistics for the diocese.

Anglican Archbishops in the News

The Anglican Archbishop who headed the Maori track within the three-part organization of the Church in New Zealand has died.  Ninety-two-year-old Archbishop Brown Turei had already announced plans to step down in March 2017,  after serving for over 24 years as archbishop.  The update covered his retirement announcement here. Meanwhile Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has come out with a statement in support of the Archbishop of Southern Africa.  The South African President Jacob Zuma had told Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to keep the church out of politics.  Both archbishops referred to the long history of the church witnessing on political issues.

Two Diocese Take Steps Forward

The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont has made a major commitment to green energy by purchasing the solar array that they had been leasing.  The array is on diocesan property and provided all the electricity needed for the diocesan conference center property with a little to spare and sell. Meanwhile, the diocese of Bethlehem is moving forward with plans to elect a bishop.  They have been sharing a bishop with the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Bishop Sean Rowe has served as provisional bishop of Bethlehem since  March 2014.

Too Much Candle Power at Christmas

Church of England vicar Frank Coleman noticed that his server's vestments had caught fire from a candle and it was about to spread to her hair on Christmas Eve.  He rushed over and patted out the fire with his hands and then after a member of the congregation made him soak his hand in cold water continued with the service.  The server was unhurt.  The vicar ended up after the service in the emergency room with severe burns on 30% of his hand.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Diocese of Fort Worth Featured in Series of Articles

The Episcopal News Service has begun a series of four articles on the rebuilding Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.  The first article covers ways that having to start over has led to innovation.

Province of South India Faces Charges of Corruption

The Anglican Province of South India (which is part of a consolidated church with Methodists and Presbyterians) is in court because a special state commission investigating fraud has made an initial finding that major corruption has taken place.  The investigator ordered the removal of all financial trustees. The same province has been in court defending the extension of the terms of current church official by one year. The question was whether that applied to the people currently in office or if the longer terms started with those to be elected in the upcoming synod.  These legal difficulties led the Presiding Bishop of the province to resign from Anglican Communion committees and commissions to focus on matters at home.

California Bishops Write to Trump

In December, Pittsburgh Update reported on a letter sent by Massachusetts Bishops to President Elect Trump.  Now the bishops of the six dioceses in California have sent a similar letter asking Trump to reconsider his choice for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and calling on him to be a president for all people, especially immigrants, women, people of color, and the poor.

Egyptian Archbishop Calls Story "Inaccurate" 

Pittsburgh Update carried a summary of a story by George Conger in AnglicanInk that suggested Archbishop Annis of Egypt was upset with the Archbishop of Canterbury for appointing the dean of the Alexandria Cathedral to a task force and for being unsupportive in a legal battle that could subordinate the Anglican Province to the Presbyterian Church.  Now an Anglican Communion News Center release suggests that if Archbishop Annis is peeved at anyone, it is George Conger because he got a number of things wrong.  Conger is an Episcopal priest in Central Florida who has been sympathetic to the Global South and is the founder and chief editor of AnglicanInk.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Week Ending 12/26/16

Merry Christmas!

As we all celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, the Diocese of San Joaquin was celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2007 in the diocesan Cathedral.  Their facebook page had two series of pictures, one taken of the building just before the service, and one during the service.  Meanwhile in Melbourne Australia, people were happy to be celebrating Christmas in an intact cathedral.  Police had announced the arrest of 5 self-radicalized terrorists who had been planning to blow up the Cathedral on Christmas.  Because of ISIS threats to that and other Anglican Churches, there was heightened security at many places.  In England despite fears that York Minister bells would not ring out at Christmas, a group of Yorkshire ringers volunteered to step in as the Cathedral continues to be at odds with its former bell-ringers. (See update story here.)  Meanwhile Church of England parsons scurried from parish to parish trying to cover Christmas services despite a shortage of clergy for rural parishes. The shortage is forcing the Church of England to do things that have long been the practice in the Americas, such as giving more power to vestries, renting out church buildings, and using lay-led services.

Latest Appointment to Special Task Force Brings Controversy

One of the things that the January 2015 primates gathering requested was a special task Force to try to heal the divide among Anglican Communion Churches.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has filled a vacancy created by the stepping down of a bishop from India by appointing the Dean of the Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt.  The Task Force membership has created controversy because Welby did not allow GAFCON to dictate its membership.  The latest appointment has led to criticism by the Bishop of Egypt (who is also the primate of Egypt and the Middle East), Mouneer Anis, a strong supporter of GAFCON.

National Cathedral to Host Post-Inaugural Service for Trump

The National Cathedral is hosting a prayer service on January 21 for the newly sworn-in president.  Planning of the ecumenical service is still under way.  They have done this for each inauguration since FDR in 1933.  The decision has led to criticism, however, by those who feel he embodies the opposite of Christian values.  Episcopal Churches seem to figure prominently in Trump's recent plans.  He attended Christmas Eve services at the Episcopal Church in Palm Beach near his estate; and is also planning to attend service at St. John's Episcopal Church, as have other presidents, on the morning of the inauguration.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Week Ending 12/19/16

Chief Operating Officer Nominated for Church Headquarters

The Executive Committee has approved the candidate nominated by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies as the new Chief Operating Officer for the Episcopal Church.  It is a deacon, Geoffrey T. Smith,  currently serving on the diocesan staff in New Hampshire.  He has previously served as a deacon in the Dioceses of Chicago, Maine, and Massachusetts.  He has a long career in the insurance field as a risk management officer, and has served in all four dioceses as a safe church trainer.  

Bell Ringer Controversy Continues

In October the Cathedral of York fired all of its bell ringers and announced it would be holding interviews to create a new group to ring the changes.  At the time there was a lack of communication between the cathedral dean and ringers, and an issue related to dismissal of one member suspected of sexual impropriety with a child.  The cathedral has been having difficulty in recruiting a new set of ringers and is now complaining about intimidation of candidates by the old ringers.  Thinking Anglicans has a good summary of the current flap, statements and counter-statements.

Lexington Bishop to Resign

Pittsburgh Update reported earlier on the unwillingness of the Diocese of Lexington to allow Bishop Douglas Hahn to return after a leave imposed because a past sexual affair  became public. Now there has been a joint announcement by the Standing Committee of the Diocese and Bishop Hahn that he will resign March 10, 2017.  Bishop Bruce Caldwell who has served as provisional bishop during Hahn's year-long leave, will continue in that role.

Church of England Appoints Second Black Bishop

When John Sentamu was chosen as Bishop of Stepney in 1996, he became the first black bishop in the Church of England.  He was still the only black bishop in 2005 when he became Archbishop of York.  Now, twenty years after he was consecrated a bishop, Sentamu will be joined in March by another African-born priest, Dr. Woyin Karowei Dorgu.  Dorgu has been chosen Bishop of Woolwich, a suffragan see in the diocese of Southwark.  Woolwich is an area of London with a large Nigerian population.  Before ordination, the newly nominated bishop served as a medical doctor.  His service as a priest has been entirely in the Diocese of London and he is the current president of AMEN (Anglican Minority Ethnic Network). The Guardian reports that Dorgu hopes to encourage more ethnic minorities to enter the Church of England ministry. The Episcopal Cafe also has a story on his appointment.

Famine in Africa

The Canadian Church's Anglican Journal reports that famine in Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe is forcing starving people to eat locusts which are toxic in large quantities.  The famine is a result of crop failures at least partially caused by climate change.  A bishop in Madagascar reported that one man collapsed from hunger as he was being confirmed, and that church officials had confirmed that some others had been too weak to come to the service.  Although the UN is providing some relief and the Anglican diocese are working with farmers to mitigate crop damage in the future, there is a need for immediate relief.  

Communion Secretary-General Fears African Churches Manipulated by American Conservatives

Bishop Joseph Idowu-Fearon, the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion gave an extensive audio tape interview to the Church of Ireland Gazette last week.  His comments on GAFCON and the role of American conservatives in creating the African anti-gay issue drew the most attention.  Idowu-Fearon stressed there was more diversity in Africa than the primates would admit. The real pressure was from American conservatives who have manipulated African Church leaders. The Church Times has a full story on the interview, Episcopal Cafe has a shorter one.

Standing Rock Chaplains Provided a Needed Service After Army Corp of Engineers Denies Pipeline Permit

An ecumenical group of 30 trauma chaplains, recruited to work during the witness of several thousand veterans at the site of pipeline protests in Standing Rock had to quickly switch their focus after arrival.  The 10 Episcopalians, 3 Buddhists, 6 Disciples of Christ, 4 Lutherans, 5 Unitarians, and 2 UCC ministers had just arrived when the Army Corps of Engineers announced it was denying a building permit for the pipeline on the last crucial segment.  The chaplains quickly switched gears to help the veterans present process their own reactions to the changed situation and a fast approaching blizzard.  The chaplains had come in response to an invitation issued by the Rev. John Floberg, priest of the Episcopal congregation at Canon Ball on the Standing Rock Reservation.  They left feeling part of a team and convinced an ecumenical group of chaplains had much to offer in other crisis situations. The Episcopal New Service story has interviews and comments from the group.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Week Ending 12/13/16

Massachusetts Bishop Ask Trump to Reconsider EPA Head

Five Episcopal Bishops from Massachusetts, including the current diocesans of the Dioceses of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts, and the current and two retired suffragan bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts have all signed a letter to President-elect Donald Trump requesting that he rethink his appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  They also stated that they would write their representatives in Congress urging them to block Pruitt's appointment.  Both dioceses currently feature the letter on the home page of their diocesan web site.  

South Carolina Episcopalians Back in Federal Court

Episcopalians in South Carolina made oral arguments in their second appeal to the Federal Appeals Court in Richmond Virginia.  They are hoping to get the appeals court to tell the retired federal judge in S.C. he can no longer delay in hearing the suit brought originally by Bishop von Rosenberg against Mark Lawrence for fraudulently claiming he is an Episcopal bishop.  The local judge had originally stayed the case until the State law suits over property had been settled.  SC Episcopalians appealed the stay and the court sent the case back to the retired judge to hold the trial.  He again issued a stay.
You can find a summary of the arguments on the December 9, 2016 blog posting on  scepiscopalians.com.  The actual oral arguments are available from the diocese. .  Pittsburgh Update covered the filing of the second appeal here.

Anglicans Take Action Against Gender Violence

The Update carried the announcement that the Anglican Communion was sponsoring a sixteen day focus on actions against gender violence.  In response the Anglican Church of Burundi has established a shelter for victims of Gender violence and trained 126 volunteers to offer support to victims of violence.  The province has made the issue of gender violence a major part of its ministry and has a coordinator for gender violence issues. In Fiji (part of the Province of  Aeotaeroa, New Zealand, and Polynesia), Anglicans worked with other Christian groups to produce a 60 second advertisement that ran in movie houses and national television.  The video stressed that Gender-based violence was a sin. Sixty-four percent of Fiji women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been the victim of intimate partner abuse. 

Former St. George's School Chaplain Arraigned

Howard White, the former Chaplain at St. George's School in Rhode Island has now been arraigned on criminal charges of assault and battery in Massachusetts concerning incidents that took place in the 1970s when he was in Massachusetts on a school trip.  White has already been deposed from the priesthood based on the charges of sexual abuse of children both at the school and in a parish in North Carolina.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Week Ending 12/5/16

Standing Rock Celebrates Decision

The decision by the Army Engineers to deny approval for the last piece of the Dakota pipeline brought cheers and celebrations at the camp on the Sioux Reservation, and a statement from the Episcopal Presiding Bishop.  The announcement brought relief on the eve of what had been feared would be another confrontation if law enforcement moved on the camp to enforce an order to vacate the water protectors camp on land controlled by the army, but claimed under an 1851 treaty by the Sioux.  Episcopalians have been involved in the protests from the beginning. The situation had been considered grave enough that Presiding Bishop Curry had written to the North Dakota Governor and  the local sheriff asking them to not use water canons or rubber bullets and to de-escalate the law enforcement response. He noted that there were 30 chaplains present to counsel any of the veterans planning to serve as a non-violent shield between law enforcement and the protectors. The construction company's hard-line response, however, means that the struggle has not yet reached a conclusion. Pittsburgh Update has carried numerous stories on the Standing Rock situation.  The most recent is here.

Church Troubles in Haiti

This last week Presiding Bishop Curry released a letter outlining problems dividing the Diocese of Haiti.  The letter notes that the Bishop Duracin and the Suffragan Bishop Beauviour are at odds, that there are charges pending that may result in a Title IV hearing, and that the turmoil is affecting clergy and laity in the diocese, including the filing of a Title III request to separate the suffragan from the diocese.  Curry has already sent representatives who negotiated a new memorandum of understanding on the processes for joint development projects between the diocese and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (i.e. the missionary arm of the Episcopal Church).  Bishop Curry is now sending a three person team to open conversations with the two bishops and others to see if there is a way forward towards reconciliation.

Los Angeles Diocese Votes to Be a Sanctuary Diocese

At a convention dominated by the election of a bishop coadjutor, the Diocese of Los Angeles also passed a significant resolution committing the diocese  to be a sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation, to network with other groups making similar declarations, to encourage its parishes and schools to declare themselves sanctuary sites and to provide training for parishes and individuals to be effective sanctuary sites. The resolution was proposed by All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, but co-sponsored by 90 people.  All Saints is on record as supporting immigration reform.

Gatlinburg Parishes Helping Fire Recovery

Recovery from the fires in East Tennessee that destroyed over 1600 buildings and killed 14 people and injured 134 will be a long process. (The numbers keep rising on destruction and deaths as officials are able to get into areas affected by the fire.)   Trinity Episcopal Church in Gatlinburg was spared, but parishioners were not allowed into town for Sunday services so as many as could met a at member's house in nearby Sevier for a service.  Seven families from the parish lost their homes.  The parish and others in the area are now assessing how best to help in the recovery.