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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         

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Week Ending 8/14/17

Episcopalians Witness Against Racism in Charlottesville

The three Episcopal parishes in Charlottesville were very active in helping to organize the ecumenical response in Charlottesville which formed when word of the planned march of White Supremacist and Nazi groups became public.  One of the parishes, adjacent to the campus and very close to the statue of Lee which was the focal point hosted the evening prayer service that was nearly surrounded by tiki torch-bearing Supremacists Friday night.  The three Episcopal bishops from the Diocese of Virginia issued a pre-protest call to clergy to gather as a peaceful, powerful witness against the Supremacist protesters.  After Supremacist attacks resulted in deaths and injuries on Saturday, the bishops issued another statement and suggestions for next actions.  Other Episcopal leaders have also condemned the attacks, especially after the first statement by President Trump spoke of violence from "many sides." (See the Episcopal Cafe and Episcopal News Service stories.)  Bishop Dorsey McConnell's statement is here. Trump has finally issued a second statement specifically condemning the Nazi and White Supremacist groups.

St. James the Great Church Heartbreak

 Celebrations of the Hearing Panel recommendations (See the previous Update) concerning Bishop Bruno and his attempts to sell St. James the Great property in Newport Beach came to a crashing end with a letter from Bishop Coadjutor Taylor saying that the diocese was bound by the sales agreement Bruno negotiated in secret after his first deal fell through. It means that almost certainly Bruno will be suspended from all clerical activities for three years.  Taylor did say that the commercial developer intended to preserve the worship space part of the property and would make it available to community groups including the dispossed congregation.

Break-Away Diocese in South Carolina Asks for Rehearing

The split decision, largely favoring the loyal Episcpalians in South Carolina, has encouraged the schismatic diocese's Standing Committee to ask the state supreme court to rehear the case.  Three of the five justices now serving were not on the court when it heard the case two years ago.  This may delay the hearing of the trademark case filed by the Episcopalians in federal court since the state court decision had left this issue to the federal court rather than rule on it.  Should the SC Supreme Court deny a rehearing, the schismatics will need to decide if they want to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

New Zealand Anglicans May Consider Local Option for Blessing Same-Sex Marriages

Last year the Anglican Church in New Zealand, which operates under a unique blend of three ethnic archbishoprics, found a report supporting blessing of same-sex marriages, was dividing the church.  Rather than vote on the propsals, they created a committee to study how the church could stay together while accomodating different theological positions on the issue.  The province includes pacific island countries where same-sex marriage is not legal, as well as New Zealand where such marriages have been legal since 2013.  The new report propses a form of local option, at a bishop's discretion, with promises of no penalties for those on either side of the issue, and possbly a separate track for dissenters.  The Church Times in England covered this, but a more detailed version of proposals can be found in New Zealand coverage, and the full report is here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Week Ending 8/7/17

South Carolina Supreme Issues Decision

The South Carolina Supreme Court finally issued its opinion in the appeal of the trial court award of Church property to the schismatic parishes and diocese.  The opinion makes clear why there was a two year wait following final arguments and filings.  The five judges each wrote their own opinion.  The result was a mixed opinion, granting the diocesan property, and  most of the parish properties to the group that remained in The Episcopal Church. A handful of schismatic parishes that had never acknowledged the Dennis Canon in their governing documents were able to keep their property.  The justices punted on the issue of diocesan name, seal, and identity.  Both sides are now waiting next steps.  The schismatics have to decide if they want to ask for a rehearing in front of a court that has had substantial personnel changes, appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or just call it a day.  So far they have issued a pastoral letter.  The ACNA presiding bishop has also issued a statement. Not surprisingly,  the schismatic group in Fort Worth which is awaiting a Texas Supreme Court decision, weighed in to distinguish their case from South Carolina's.  Alex Haley, the lawyer who represented the San Joaquin schismatics in their unsuccessful attempt to keep property has raised conflict of interest charges against the South Carolina judges.  The schismatics did not raise the issue when the court heard the case. The loyal Episcopalians have to decide what they want to do with properties which would be returned.  They issued an initial pastoral letter and have held a meeting of clergy to begin sorting out their response.  The Post and Courier in South Carolina carried an initial article and a follow-up article on the decision.  The scepiscopalians.com blog has a number of postings on the legal issues.  read back to July 20 for a full picture. The Update has followed the case from the begining.  The most update coverage of the supreme court hearing is here.

Major Gender Wage Gap Documented Among English Clergy

A national study in England has documented a wage gap between male and female Church of England clergy with women making 40% less than men. This is much worse than the national average for all occupations. 

Kenyan Appeals Court Orders Reinstatement of Three Clergy

 Three Kenyan Anglican clergy who were removed as clergy on charges that they were gay, have not only prevailed a second time in court, but have been awarded compensation.  All three claimed the charges were false.  Both the trial and appeals courts ruled the Church had no evidence to support charges that the men were gay.

Final Recommendations Issued in Bishop Bruno Case

The Hearing Panel has issued its final order in the case against Bishop Jon Bruno, and as in the draft order, has recommended a three year suspenion from all clerical and episcopal actions.  It is now up to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops to affirm that order.  Because Bruno can appeal, the Presiding Bishop issued an expanded restriction on Bruno that removed him from any actions related to the property, members or clergy associated with St. James the Great in Newport Beach, CA.  Presiding Bishop Curry's restriction turned these matters over to the new Coadjutor in Los Angeles, John Taylor and the standing committee.  They have now issued a statement accepting that responsibilty.

 First Episcopal Wedding of Same Sex Couple in Scotland

We reported recently2 that St. Mary's Cathedral in Scotland was the first Parish in the Episcopa Church of Scotland to be approved to do weddings of same-sex couples.  However the first wedding was done in a small chapel not at the cathedral.  The two men have been together for 24 years.  It is expected that many couples from England will seek a Scottish wedding.  The wedding puts great pressure on the Church of England,

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Week Ending 7/31/17

Presiding Bishop Issues New Partial Restriction on Bruno

Presiding Bishop Curry has expanded his original partial restriction on Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno.  The original order forbade Bruno from taking any action on the sale of St. James the Great until after that Hearing Panel completes its work on the case brought by members of St. James against the Bishop.  The new restriction expands the prohibition of action to include any dealings with the parish in exile, its members, the priest serving that group or other property owned by the parish and extends to any subsequent appeals.  It specifically gives care of the congregation and its rector to Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor and the Standing Committee.  The latest restrictions comes after the Presiding Bishop read the draft decision.  The congregation of St. James the Great made the draft decision public, but there is a period for comment from those who filed the complaint and the Church Attorney before a final version is issued.

Church Stands with Transgender in Military

President Trump's overnight tweet announcing he was banning all transgendered people from service in the military, including those already in the service, has met with a a number of condemnations from those supporting military service by transgender people.  Presiding Bishop Curry issued a statement supporting transgender service as have a number of other Episcopal Church leaders, including the Dean of  Washington Cathedral, the Bishop for the Armed Forces.  The Episcopal News Service article carries links to all of the statements issued so far.

Joint Statement by Archbishops Provokes Response

The 50th anniversary of decriminalization of homosexual acts in Britain was marked by a joint statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.  That statement has been the subject of a wide range of commentary and criticism from both progressives and conservatives.  Progressives were critical of the way the statement moved from support for civil equality to a discussion of sin, coming close to a statement that while legal all such acts are sinful.  Conservatives were unhappy that the statement was too accepting of same sex people.  Others commented that the statement seemed a typical Anglican muddle in the middle.

New GAFCON Bishop Denied License in English Diocese

The plans of GAFCON to send a missionary bishop consecrated outside the Church of England to minister to traditionalists in England has met with resistance in England.  The new Bishop, consecrated by ACNA at its recent synod in Chicago, is a priest licensed in the Dioceses of Sheffield and Canterbury.  The Bishop of Sheffield did not renew the license for Andy Lines to serve in any capacity in his diocese.  All clergy in the diocese have annual licenses that expire on June 30.  Without that license Lines cannot provide any services in a parish in the diocese. Because the Church of England is an established church, Lines could find himself subject to legal penalties. The story was originally carried by the Church of England Newspaper which limits on-line viewing to subscribers.  David Virtue, however, picked up the story.

Cabinet Members Meeting for Bible Study

A core group of Trump cabinet officials has been meeting regularly with Ralph Drollinger for Bible study.  Drollinger runs Capitol Ministries, an ultra conservative group with branches in 40 cities.  He is claiming that he sees the cabinet members have been applying his lessons in their policies statments.  Drollinger is a climate change denier, who has argued that God only hears the prayers of the righteous.  For more on his views see this article.

Australian Court Reverses Deposition of Bishop and Priest Who Abused Children

A recent court ruling in Australia has abuse victims and Church official upset.  Church courts under disciplinary procedures created in 2004 had deposed Bishop Keith Slaver and priest Patrick Comben for their handling of sexual abuse complaints 1940-1980 at a children's home.  On appeal, however the courts ruled that the church courts did not have jurisdiction and thus restored the men's orders.  However, it appears they will not be given a license to officiate and thus will be unable to act in any official capacity.  The Australian Church has proposals coming before its next synod to tighten and strengthen the disciplinary procedures to avoid a repeat of this appeal outcome.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Week Ending 07/24/17

More Traditionalist Responses to English Synod Votes

  The debates in the recently concluded Synod of the Church of England have led to a series of protests by traditionalists upset that the church has now condemned "conversion therapy,"and has asked the House of Bishops to consider possible liturgical materials to mark the transition of a Transgendered person.  (See the Update story here.) On July 18, 23 people signed a call to "orthodox" Anglicans to consider joining in plans for a "faithful ecclesiastical future" in England.  Of these, five were prominent Church of England members, including the Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden, who until recently served as the Queen's chaplain.  The rest were members of groups already working outside Church of England structures.  It resembles early steps in the U.S. leading to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America, a point noted clearly in the coverage of the letter by the British Newspaper Telegraph. The parish of St. John, Newland, Hull in the Diocese of York has sent a letter to Archbishop Sentanmu that they will no longer contribute to the work of the diocese.  The stoppage of funds is in protest of the Archbishop's support of the measures passed by the Synod.  St. John Newland, an evangelical parish,  is one of the larger parishes in the diocese and is a member of GAFCON.  

Scottish Cathedral Will Do Same Sex Weddings 

St. Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow will be the first church in the British Isles to offer same-sex couples a marriage ceremony.  The parish has announced it is now taking  reservations for such marriages. One of their earliest bookings is by an English couple who cannot have a church wedding there.  The Cathedral expects to draw couples from all over the British Isles.

Hearing Panel Recommends Sanctions Against Bishop Bruno

St. James the Great in Newport Beach, CA has released copies of the draft decision prepared by the Hearing Panel. The most recent Update story on the Bruno case is here. The panel sent out the draft to get comment from the complainants and the Presiding Bishop.  Bishop Bruno is not allowed to send in comments. The draft recommends suspension for Bruno from all clerical and episcopal duties for 3 years, and that the property be returned to the parish.  The recommendation for suspension goes to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops headed by Bishop Catherine Waynick for action.  Bruno has the right to appeal.  The property recommendation would require action by Bishop Taylor, coadjutor of Los Angeles, and the diocesan Standing Committee.  The decision was 4-1.  Bishop Smith of North Dakota dissented saying that property matters were the preserve of the local bishop and diocese. The Episcopal Cafe article noted that Smith's views are not surprising since he is one of the Communion Partner bishops, who have argued that the Episcopal church is a loose federation of independent dioceses. The 91 page report of the Hearing Panel meticulously documents the timing of actions and upholds the claims of the parish members that Bishop Bruno had consistently mislead and misrepresented matters in dealings with the diocese, the parish, and its Vicar. The most detailed explainations of what the Hearing Panel recommendation means are found in the Episcopal News Service story and in that by Anglican.Ink.

Churches Continue Protests Against Current Health Care Proposals

An interdenominational group of clergy have continued to put pressure on U.S. Senators to defeat current Republican proposals on health care and fashion a bill that will provide affordable health care coverage to the more than 23 million Americans who are at risk of losing coverage they gained under the Affordable Care Act. This is the third week in a row that they have organized protests at the capitol.  Each time, some members have been arrested.  The most recent protest featured a funeral procession with members carrying a full-sized cardboard coffin with marchers carrying death certificates for individuals who would lose their health care.  This week they were joined by some from the medical community.  They have vowed to be back every week as long as people are threatened with loss of coverage. The Update carried a story earlier on a similar West Virginia protest by clergy.

Episcopal Leadership Weighs in on Texas "Bathroom Bill"

Republicans in Texas have revived efforts to pass a bill requiring Transgender people to use bathrooms based on the sex listed on their birth certificates of other official identification.  A number of large corporations, some police chiefs,and the Episcopal Church have all spoken against the bill.  The latest voice is a letter sent to Texas Speaker of the House, Joe Strauss, by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Curry and House of Deputies President Jennings.  This is their second letter to  Strauss who has been an opponent of the bill. The letter notes that the Church is scheduled to bring a 10,000 person convention to Austin in 2018 and that the Church moved the 1956 convention from Houston to Hawaii when it decided that some of those attending would face discrimination.

New Study on Doubt Among American Christians

The Barna Group, which does research on American religious attitudes and behavior with a special eye towards things of interest to evangelicals, has issued a new report based on surveys of Americans.  Approximately two-thirds of American Christians have had faith doubts at some point, how they resolve that doubt varies by age and connectedness to a worshiping community.  What was most notable is that those struggling with doubt withdraw from the institutional church and seek guidance from other sources.  You can read the summary report here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Week Ending 7/17/17

New Hampshire Launches Criminal Investigation at St. Paul's School

Last week the Update reported on the latest sexual misconduct investigation at St. Paul's School. Officials at St. Paul's had begun a disciplinary investigation into a story about new allegations of seniors engaging in an end of the year sexual contest.  The school now finds itself under investigation by the New Hampshire District Attorney's office.  The investigation will focus on whether the school has been guilty of child endangerment or obstruction of justice. School officials say they will cooperate with investigators.

Bishop Bruno Wins One in Secular Courts

Bishop Jon Bruno still awaits the finding of the church Hearing Panel on charges of conduct unbecoming a bishop or priest that sprang out of his efforts to sell the property of St. James the Great in Newport Beach. As reported earlier, news that he had negotiated a new sales agreement for the the property while the panel was deliberating resulted in action by the Hearing Panel, Presiding Bishop, and Disciplinary Board for Bishops all restricting him completing or signing any sales agreement.  Meanwhile he has won a round in secular courts. The California Superior Court confirmed Bruno's position that deed restrictions placed on the property by the original donor had been removed.  These restrictions had required the property to be used for a church.  Thus while the courts say the property can be used for something other than a church, the Episcopal Church has forbidden him to complete any sale until the Hearing Panel decides whether he needs to restore the property to the congregation as part of a restitution and reconciliation process. 

New Reference Tools on Anglicanism

Oxford has launched two new reference tools that will interest Episcopalians. The Oxford History of Anglicanism is a five volume print study with a different editor for each volume and each chapter within the volume written by a different scholar. This study is focused globally with North America the focus for no more than one chapter each in volumes II-IV.  The volumes will appear, not necessarily in chronological order between October and February.    Another new tool, and on-line research encyclopedia of American History is also being prepared by Oxford.  A long essay (78 pages) on Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America is forthcoming in this new tool under its religious history subheading.  The current editor of update.pittsburghepiscopal.org is the author of the article on Episcopalians.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Week Ending 07/10/17

Woman Born in Iran Appointed as newest Church of England Bishop 

The Queen's latest round of appointments included notice that the Rev.Gulnar Francis-Dehqani has been appointed to the newly created suffragan see of Loughborough in Leicester.  Her special focus with  be on reaching out to the immigrant community and women's ministries.  Fourteen-year-old Francis-Dehqani arrived in England with her family as refugees from Iran following the revolution there.  She holds a Ph.D. in theology and has been serving as Curate Training Officer and Advisor for Women’s Ministry in the Diocese of Peterborough and Canon at Peterborough Cathedral.  She has 3 children and is married to another Church of England cleric.  Her consecration is scheduled for Canterbury Cathedral November 30.

New Group of St. Paul's Students Charged with Assault

No matter how it tries, St. Paul's, the church related boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire cannot seem to escape issues related to sexual assault.  Two years ago, a senior student was convicted of sexual assault for forcing sex with a younger female student as part of a senior contest.  This was followed by a set of painful revelations about faculty and staff who had assaulted students over a long period of time.  Now they are facing a new incident where about a eight senior students engaged in a contest resulting in sexual assault.  The school's efforts to change its culture have obviously not had the desired effect.

Church of England Synod Bans Conversion Therapy

The Church of England Synod met last week in York and issued several resolutions that held out a welcome to LGBTQ people.  One of the most debated, with several amendments proposed, and at least one accepted, was a resolution condemning conversion therapy (i.e. attempts to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ individuals).  The Church Times noted that the measures were passed while London was celebrating Gay Pride.  You can read the official press release on the resolution here, and the Church Times much longer story with details on the proposed amendments and testimony here.

Bruno Appeal Rejected

 The  sanctions imposed on Bishop Jon Bruno by the Hearing Panel convened to hear the dispute between the bishop and members of St. James the Great in Newport Beach have been upheld in a decision by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops.  No one from the Hearing Panel took part in the Disciplinary action.  Catherine Waynick, the recently retired bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis, chairs the Disciplinary Board.  She convened the Board by phone and they supported the Panel's finding that efforts to sell the church property before the Hearing Panel issued its findings and decision that his actions "disrupted and interfered with the integrity of the process of the Title IV proceeding" and that the sanctions were appropriate.  As reported last week, the presiding bishop also issued a partial inhibition on Bruno forbidding him to sign any sale documents until the Panel completes its work. The denial of the appeal came one day before the new coadjutor bishop of Los Angeles, John Taylor was consecrated in a grand festive occasion.  Bruno has been scheduled to retire this fall.  The Hearing Panel may speed up his departure.

Episcopal Priest Arrested in Road Rage Case

The Rev. William Rian Adams was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol for threatening the occupants of a truck with a gun.  Apparently the incident began when Adams stepped on the brakes to try to get a truck following his car too closely to back off.  The truck then pulled up along side Adam's car and from there the stories told by the occupants of the two vehicles diverge.  Adams, rector of a parish in Fletcher, North Carolina, and a former special forces chaplain who served in Afghanistan until an injury forced his retirement, claims that the occupants of the truck rolled down a window, yelled at him and threw a can of pop at his red corvette.  The truck occupants say Adams waved a gun at him.  Adams admits he had an unloaded gun in the car, but that it was under the passenger seat.  The priest posted the required bail and has been released.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Week ending 07/03/17

Presiding Bishop Restricts Bishop Bruno

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued a partial restriction on Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles directing him to not sign any sales agreements until the Hearing Panel completes its work and issues its decision.  The measure adds legal weight to the order of the Hearing Panel issued when they were presented with evidence that Bruno had negotiated a new sale of the St. James property in Newport Beach.  The Episcopal News Service has issued both the press release and a story on the Presiding Bishop's actions. The Church attorney in the hearing has now filed an addendum to his filing about the rumored sale asking that Bruno be deposed as a bishop and recommending a forensic audit of the Corporation Sole records.  The reader comments on these and the Episcopal Cafe story are worth reading.  For the earlier action by the Hearing Panel, see the Pittsburgh Update here and here.

Bishops From Around the World Continue Building Bridges

A group of Bishops from the Anglican Communion issued their communique from the latest in a series of conversations begun in 2010 to build bridges and understanding among parts of the Communion.  Twenty-two bishops, including two from TEC (Virginia and Oklahoma) met in Kenya to continue learning about each other.  The Anglican Church of Canada has facilitated the meetings and provides the staff.  Over 45 bishops  have participated in at least one of the meetings.  Most have been from Africa and North America.

ACNA Meeting Continues Disruption of Communion

Last week the Provincial Council and Assembly of ACNA met at Wheaton College, just outside of Chicago.  The Council ratified the entrance of the schismatic South Carolinia diocese into ACNA.  The South Carolinians had voted at their diocesan convention in March to join ACNA. The move compounds the confusion of ACNA's overlapping jurisdictions in South Carolina, a point noted by blogger Steve Skaradon in his posting on June 28.  It also clearly ends Bishop Mark Lawrence's claim to still be part of the Anglican Communion. 

In a separate action at the  ACNA meeting, the group consecrated Andrew Lines as Bishop to Europe.  GAFCON bishops decided to consecrate their own bishop for Europe in response to the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church to allow same -sex marriage. (See Updates here and here.) The Archbishop of Sydney and the Bishop of Tasmania, both members of the Province of Australia, participated in the ceremony over the objections of Archbishop Philip Freier, the Primate of Australia. The Sydney diocese is an extremely conservative low church diocese usually at odds with the rest of its province.  The Tasmanian bishop already serves on the Anglican Relief and Development Board, the agency created by Bishop Robert Duncan shortly before the creation of ACNA to provide an alternative to Episcopal Relief and Development.  The rationales of the two Australians for participating reflect the muddied status of the whole project.  Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies defended his action as the consecration of a bishop for people who were no longer in the Church of England or Scotland and thus he was not participating in a "border-crossing," ( a position that undercuts ACNA's claim to being part of the Anglican Communion) while Bishop Condie of Tasmania claimed he was going to show support for those who were remaining in the "true" church.