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         

Monday, May 26, 2008

News for Week Ending 5/26/08

Two bishops respond quickly to signs of parish division

Two Bishops, one in South Carolina and the other in Canada, have responded quickly to signs of schism locally.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina has appointed Canon Michael Bullock as priest-in-charge at St. Christopher’s in Spartanburg. The parish’s rector and most of its vestry have resigned from The Episcopal Church. Bishop Henderson has moved to reclassify the parish as a mission; appoint a bishop’s committee, treasurer, and wardens; and inhibit the Rev. George Gray for abandonment of the communion of the church. Henderson himself conducted the service on Pentecost. The diocesan Web site has links to information about the St. Christopher’s situation, including to letters, press releases, and a story from The Living Church. A local newspaper story is available here.

David Virtue has published a letter from priest Kenneth Harding of the Canadian Diocese of Athabasca, in which he informs people that Archbishop John Clarke has inhibited him after he attended the April 25–26 Anglican Network in Canada conference and posted on the Anglican Mainstream Web site a long essay arguing that parishes should realign.

California parish announces equal treatment for all couples seeking marriage

In response to the California Supreme Court’s decision striking down a state law barring same-sex couples from marrying, All Saints, Pasadena, has announced that it will treat equally all couples, including same-sex couples, seeking to marry. The Diocese Of Los Angeles has not responded to the parish announcement. Three of the six California diocesan bishops had issued statements supporting the civil rights position of the court before the Pasadena announcement, but the bishops said they needed time to craft diocesan responses to the decision. (The statements by Bishops Bruno, Andrus, and Mathes are available on the Web.) Bishop Jon Bruno has now announced that the California bishops were appointing a joint task force to study the canonical, constitutional, and pastoral implications of the decision and to recommend a uniform response. Episcopal News Service covered both the parish and joint task force announcements in one story.

N.B. The above story was inadvertently omitted from our original posting. We apologize for the error.

Bishop Duncan addresses Wisconsin AAC chapter

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bishop Duncan addressed the local American Anglican Council chapter while in Wisconsin for events at Nashotah House. Bishop Duncan reported that, at a recent meeting of Common Cause bishops in Pittsburgh, there “was unanimity among us” and that, within the next 24 to 36 months, “a separate ecclesiastical structure in North America within the Anglican Communion will exist as a united reality.” While commenting on the possible outcome of the Global Anglican Future Conference, Bishop Duncan noted “we are not going to be held back by the existing structure of the Communion in our commitment to ourselves and the Gospel.”

Battle of words continues in Diocese of Pittsburgh

As the fall annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh approaches, advocates on all sides are offering documents to influence Pittsburgh Episcopalians. In response to the diocese’s “Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment,” Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh recently released “Realignment Reconsidered,” intended as a point-by-point analysis of the diocese’s position. The Coalition for Realignment has also made available the text of an address by Ascension’s rector, the Rev. Jonathan Millard, given at a May 10 rally. The untitled address is available here. Millard argues that a split in the diocese is inevitable, and that realignment is the best way to free those who think as he does from a dying and unreliable Episcopal Church.

St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, is sponsoring a forum on realignment at 2:00 pm on June 1. Included on the panel are the Rt. Rev. Henry Scriven, the Rev. Canon Mary Maggard Hays, the Rev. John Bailey, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Hall, and the Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert.

On June 5, the Coalition for Realignment is sponsoring a 7:00 pm workshop titled “Support, Care, and Protection for Clergy and Laity” intended for supporters of realignment. The event will be at Church of the Ascension in Oakland.

Monday, May 19, 2008

News for Week Ending 5/19/2008

Registration figures released for GAFCON, Lambeth

Organizers of the Global Anglican Futures Conference have announced that 280 bishops are among the more than 1000 registrants for their Pilgrimage to Jerusalem (June 22–29), which follows their June 18–21 conference in Jordan. Participants come from 17 Anglican Communion Provinces. The GAFCON announcement did not specify if any of the participants were from Common Cause partners outside the Anglican Communion, but a number of attendees are expected from groups that have realigned. The pilgrimage will end in time for those bishops who wish also to attend the Lambeth Conference to do so. England’s Church Times has carried a story noting that the Lambeth Conference of Bishops (July 16–August 3), held once every ten years, has announced registration of 620 bishops out of about 880 possible invitees. Not attending are 172 bishops from Uganda and Nigeria, but almost every other bishop has indicated that he or she will participate. (About 10% of Anglican sees are currently vacant).

Zimbabwe violence targets Anglicans

According to The New York Times, police supporting President Mugabe of Zimbabwe have attacked Anglicans in the Harare Diocese during worship services. Last year, Bishop of Harare Nolbert Kunonga announced he was withdrawing from the Anglican Province of Central Africa because it was too “soft” on issues of homosexuality. Kunonga is a strong supporter of President Mugabe, who faces a runoff election next month. The Province of Central Africa has appointed a new interim bishop and won a court order requiring that followers of the two bishops share church buildings. However, police have allowed only the breakaway group to worship. Worshipers who have not followed Kunonga complain that attacks by police ignore the fact that their numbers include supporters both of Mugabe and the opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.

Jefferts Schori, Orombi exchange letters

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a letter to Uganda’s Archbishop Henry Orombi on May 12 protesting the “unwarranted incursion” represented by his planned May 14 visit to the congregation of Christ Church, Savannah, Georgia, without contacting the local Episcopal bishop. She reminded him of the provisions against such incursions in the Windsor Report and urged Orombi to meet with Episcopal Church leaders. Archbishop Orombi sent a strongly worded reply two days later explaining that he was visiting a parish of the Church of Uganda and accusing the Presiding Bishop of arrogance in citing the Windsor Report.

More churches sign up to support Diocese of Virginia, Episcopal Church

As reported by Pittsburgh Update here, the United Methodist Church, along with other churches and judicatories, filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church April 24 in their court battle with breakaway parishes. Another eight churches and judicatories, as well as two additional Episcopal dioceses in Virginia have now petitioned the Fairfax County Court to file briefs with the court. The requests were granted.

The Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church are mounting a constitutional challenge to a Virginia statute governing ownership of property in the case of a church “division.” The trial judge ruled that the Virginia law applied to the property dispute between 11 Virginia congregations claiming parish property upon leaving The Episcopal Church and “realigning” with the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)-affiliated Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). The position of the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church is now supported in the case by the United Methodist Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Worldwide Church of God, the Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Church of the Brethren, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and others. Despite opposition from the 11 congregations, the court granted all the new filers the right to participate in oral arguments scheduled for May 28.

Episcopal New Service has a story here. Actual court documents are available on the Diocese of Virginia Web site here. (Note that entries on the Diocese of Virginia site are in chronological order, so the most recent documents at at the bottom of the page.)

Trinity names new dean

Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry has named a new Dean and President, the Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry. Terry, a priest who was ordained in the Church of England, has, since 2005, been Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Ambridge, Pennsylvania, evangelical seminary. Terry will take over from the Rt. Rev. Dr. John H. Rodgers, a bishop of the Anglican Mission in the Americas who was Trinity’s second Dean and President and had been serving in an interim capacity. Trinity’s May 16 press release can be read here.

Pittsburghers attend concurrent meetings

While some Pittsburgh diocese members attended the Province III synod in Martinsburg, West Virginia, May 18–20, as unofficial observers, the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s official leaders met for their annual retreat. The synod meeting’s agenda featured speakers explaining the new administrative organization of The Episcopal Church and exploring ministry to families of armed services members serving abroad. Nancy Bolden, the coordinator for Province III’s anti-racism network, attended because of her position. Others attended as unofficial observers interested in maintaining ties with The Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, members of Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, Board of Trustees, and the bishop’s staff met at the annual Diocesan Leadership Retreat, May 18–19, to discuss diocesan issues.

Monday, May 12, 2008

News for Week Ending 5/12/2008

Southern Cone to amend constitution and canons to ‘regularize’ admission of dissident North American dioceses

In a story for The Living Church written by the communications officer of the Diocese of Fort Worth, it is reported that Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the province of the Southern Cone has announced his intention to take the steps necessary to amend his province’s constitution and canons to allow admission of dioceses beyond the area approved by the Anglican Communion when his province was created. (Venables’ visit was covered in an earlier Pittsburgh Update post here.) “Despite articles of incorporation which seem to prohibit welcoming overseas dioceses and licensing deposed clergy and bishops for ministry in other Anglican provinces, Bishop Venables said he felt compelled to act so that brother and sister Anglicans can ‘get on with their ministry.’”

Canadian Court rules withdrawing parishes must share space with diocese

Three Canadian parishes in southern Ontario (in the Diocese of Niagara) that have tried to realign as part of the Southern Cone have been ordered by a court to share their facilities with the Anglican Church of Canada until higher courts resolve competing ownership claims. The diocese has suspended the realigning clergy and appointed new clergy to oversee the parishes. The trial judge, Jane Millanetti, ruled that title to two of the properties “rests with the diocese; the third appears to rest with them as well.” The court order requires the diocese to have access from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. on Sundays, and to have access on major feast days, as well as specified times during the week. One congregation has changed service times to comply with the order. The other two have announced that they will move to new locations rather than share their facilities. The Toronto Star has covered these developments here.

Settlement reached regarding ‘historic’ Central Florida parish

On May 7, the Diocese of Central Florida announced that all parties have reached a settlement regarding the historic Trinity Parish in Vero Beach, Florida, where a portion of the parish has decided to withdraw from The Episcopal Church. In 2003, the parish had around 1,300 members. The settlement provides that the “Leavers” will be paid $700,000, will get to remove the church’s bell carillon at their expense, and will cease using the parish facilities on July 1. During the next 10 years, they will have first refusal if the “Stayers” decide to “sell, transfer, lease, or otherwise convey interest in the historic Trinity property.” The Very Rev. G. Richard Lobs, retired dean of the Cathedral of St. Luke in Orlando, has agreed to serve as the interim of the Episcopal parish. The complete agreement can be read on the diocesan Web site. Stories from Episcopal News Service and The Living Church can be read here and here, respectively.

Connecticut diocese files suit against Bishop Seabury Church leaders

The Hartford Courant reported May 10 that the Diocese of Connecticut has filed suit against the Rev. Ronald Gauss and 12 leaders of the parish that, in November 2007, voted to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). (For additional details, see Pittsburgh Update story here). Gauss, who formally retired last year, but is serving as rector of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, Connecticut, has been suspended by the diocese. He has refused to turn over the keys of the church to the diocese and has claimed that he will not surrender church records.

Colorado bishop asks 18 dissident priests to clarify status with diocese

The Diocese of Colorado has confirmed that letters were sent to 18 former diocesan clergy by Bishop Robert O’Neill informing them that they must either renounce their orders in The Episcopal Church or be inhibited for six months and deposed for abandonment of communion thereafter. The previous bishop of Colorado, Jerry Winterrowd, had granted 17 of the clergy letters dimissory to the Province of Southeast Asia in 2001. However, the clergy did not go to that province but remained active in the United States as part of the Anglican Mission in the Americas. The eighteenth recently affiliated with CANA. Bishop O’Neill and the diocesan Standing Committee (which certified that the clergy had abandoned the communion of the church) consider the steps a “housekeeping” process to clarify that these clergy are not under the jurisdiction of the diocese and not authorized to serve in Episcopal parishes. This story has not been widely reported, though one story about these events can be found here.

Pittsburgh bishops to attend Lambeth Conference

Both Diocesan Bishop Robert Duncan and Assistant Bishop Henry Scriven will attend the Lambeth Conference in July and August, as well as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in June, the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced May 6. According to the diocesan statement, Bishop Duncan will attend the Lambeth Conference July 16–25, and Bishop Scriven will attend July 26–August 3, in a move to reduce costs. “Those who accuse us of abandoning the Anglican Communion will certainly be present and vocal. It is important for us to be able to respond directly to their claims about the situation in The Episcopal Church and our place in the Communion,” Bishop Duncan is quoted as saying. Other supporters of realignment that have announced their intention to be at Lambeth include Fort Worth bishop Jack Iker and Southern Cone primate Gregory Venables.

Monday, May 5, 2008

News for Week Ending 5/5/2008

Brazilian bishops see no need for Anglican covenant

In a statement released this past week reacting to the so-called “St. Andrew’s Draft,” members of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil said they continue to believe that an Anglican covenant is unnecessary to guide relationships between Anglican provinces. “The Covenant continues to be a mistaken proposal for the resolution of conflicts through the creation of curial instances absolutely alien to our ethos,” the bishops’ statement says. The full statement may be read here. Episcopal News Service has a story on the statement here.

Canadian diocese sends subtle message

Anglican Journal reports that the synod of the Diocese of Athabasca, in northern Alberta, has passed resolutions to “inform the parishes and the bishops who have joined the Anglican Network in Canada and the Province of the Southern Cone that we are in full communion with them” and to express dismay at bishops’ using the courts to retain property of congregations leaving the Anglican Church of Canada for the Anglican Network in Canada. The local bishop, Archbishop John Clarke, has written a letter to clarify the synod’s resolutions. In it, he asserts that members of the diocese believe that the communion table is the place for all Christians to come together “to find the wisdom, courage, and grace, to overcome our differences.” The Diocese of Athabasca has 3,500 members, scattered among 33 worshiping communities in 18 parishes, none of which has voted to leave the Canadian church.

Williams: Robinson can perform no priestly acts in England

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams informed Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire by e-mail on April 29 that he is prohibited from preaching or presiding at the Eucharist while he is in England. The archbishop had already refused to invite Robinson as a regular participant in this year’s Lambeth Conference, although the gay New Hampshire bishop plans to be on hand as an observer. Extensive coverage of this development is provided by Thinking Anglicans, a British Web site.

Bishops reportedly circulating charges against Jefferts Schori

On April 30, The Living Church reported that a group of (unnamed) bishops and other church leaders are circulating a legal memorandum arguing that charges could be brought against Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for the way she has handled the inhibition or deposition of Bishops Robert Duncan, of Pittsburgh; John-David Schofield, of San Joaquin (Calif.); and William Cox, a retired bishop now living in Oklahoma. The memo reportedly lists 11 counts of alleged violations of the church’s constitution and canons that could be included in a presentment, which might lead to an ecclesiastical trial. The Living Church quoted a spokeswoman as saying the Presiding Bishop declined to comment because she has not seen the memorandum.

Presiding bishop reviews canonical processes in letter to HoB

Also on April 30, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori e-mailed a letter to members of the House of Bishops reviewing and commenting on processes related to bishops’ deposition, inhibition, renunciation, and resignation. In it, she discussed the canon on temporary inhibition of a bishop pending a final decision by the full House, saying that her understanding is the one held by her chancellor, David Booth Beers, as well as by members of the Title IV Review Committee, an attorney who is an original member of the Committee, the chancellors of several dioceses who have been consulted, and the former chair of both the Standing Commission on the Constitution and Canons and the Legislative Committee on the Canons at the General Convention. The full text of the letter may be found here.

Loyalist Episcopal groups in Fort Worth diocese form umbrella group

Fort Worth area groups opposing “realigning” with another Anglican province have formed an umbrella organization named The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians. Groups within it are Fort Worth Via Media, North Texans Remain Episcopal, Remain Episcopal of Granbury, Steadfast Episcopalians, and several clergy members, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported April 30. The story quotes Bishop Jack Iker as calling the new organization “a self-selected vigilante group whose only stated purpose is ‘to remain in The Episcopal Church’ no matter what—and regardless of what TEC believes or practices. They espouse a blind institutional loyalty that borders on institutional idolatry.”

Venables visit draws PB’s protest, Iker defense

Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, drew a protest from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori regarding his May 2–3 visit to the Diocese of Fort Worth. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In a letter dated April 29, Jefferts Schori called his visit “an unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province [The Episcopal Church].” (The letter is reproduced in the Episcopal News Service story here.) Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker responded the following day with a letter to the presiding bishop calling her communication a “rude letter” and asserting that she had no say in the matter because a diocesan bishop is free to invite other bishops to visit and speak in his diocese. Venables’ visit to Fort Worth followed visits to Vancouver, where he licensed clergy to serve in the Anglican Network in Canada, and San Joaquin.

Iker going to Lambeth

Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker announced May 1 that he will attend the Lambeth Conference in England this summer, as well as the earlier GAFCON in Jerusalem. In a statement posted on the diocesan Web site, Iker said: “I stand in solidarity with all those Bishops who have decided, as a matter of conscience, that they are unable to be at Lambeth. However, given the situation the Diocese of Fort Worth finds itself in with the unfolding realignment that is taking place in Anglicanism, I think it is important for me to be there to make our case and to face our detractors.”