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, July 28, 2008

News for Week Ending 7/28/2008

Bishops march against poverty

Bishops attending the Lambeth Conference took time off from Bible study, worship, and discussion groups July 24 to march through London with their spouses in support of reducing world poverty. The hour-long march took place behind a banner reading “Keep the Promise/Halve Poverty by 2015,” which refers to one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. According to an Episcopal News Service story, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the march “one of the greatest demonstrations of faith this great city has ever seen.” The Telegraph story on the march includes video of the event.

Media restrictions irk reporters

Even before the Lambeth Conference began, concerns were being expressed about how secretive Lambeth sessions would be. (See, for example, Douglas LeBlanc’s July 15 essay for Episcopal Life Online.) Now that the bishops are well into the conference, the media are indeed upset at being excluded even from worship services. Church Times editor Paul Handley wroten a July 25 piece complaining about the lack of media access to the bishops. Handley also complained about the lack of information provided by conference organizers. In particular, the conference has refused to distribute a list of the bishops attending the conference. Reporter Pat Ashworth expressed the frustration of many reporters in his blog:
So I cannot do my job and describe for those in the dioceses and parishes the richness of worship there must be when voices from all around the world come together in praise and supplication. I can’t report accurately for our readers—whose Church this is—whether the bishops are doing what they came here to do. I don’t even know who’s here and who isn’t, and I’m not likely to.
LeBlanc, writing from Virginia, has sent an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury pleading for more openness at the conference.

Lambeth Conference receives presentation from Windsor Continuation Group

The six-member Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) appointed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in February 2008 has presented “preliminary observations” to the bishops attending the Lambeth Conference. The WCG, which was formed to “address outstanding questions arising from the Windsor Report and the various formal responses from provinces and instruments of the Anglican Communion,” presenting its findings in three parts, on July 23, 25, and 28, for comment and discussion.

In its initial presentation, the WCG emphasized the “severity” of the situation now faced by the Anglican Communion. The second presentation concentrated on the way forward, suggesting a need for “communion with autonomy and accountability.” The most controversial part of this presentation was a call for a “Faith and Order Commission,” characterized as an Anglican Inquisition in some press reports (see, for example, the Times story here). The final presentation addressed the question of getting “from here to there.” It proposes absolute moratoria on blessing same-sex unions, consecration of bishops living in openly gay relationships, and cross-border interventions. The WCG called for development of a “Pastoral Forum” as another mechanism to deal with disaffected elements of the Communion.

More details are available in Episcopal News Service stories here and here. Initial reaction from Episcopal Church bishops July 28 was largely negative, although ENS quotes Pittsburgh’s Bishop Henry Scriven as saying that the Pastoral Forum “from our point of view would be very helpful” if it delivers what the WCG suggests.

Sudanese archbishop demands Robinson resignation

The Archbishop of Sudan Daniel Deng, speaking at the Lambeth Conference, called July 22 for the resignation of openly gay New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson. Deng also called on bishops who consecrated Robinson to repent and ask forgiveness for their action. A statement from the bishops of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan echoed Deng’s remarks on homosexuality, although it neither mentioned Robinson by name nor called for him to step down. As reported by Times Online Bishop of Fort Worth Jack Iker went a step further, declaring, “Those Bishops who stand in solidarity with Gene Robinson should withdraw themselves from further participation in the Lambeth Conference.” More details are available in an Episcopal News Service story here.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts explained that it was not her place to request that Robinson step down and that she doubted that that would happen, according to and Anglican Journal story.

The bishops’ statement also called on the churches in the United States and Canada “To cease court actions with immediate effect.” This is surprising, given that the Sudanese church recently won a court case to recover a guest house in Kartoum that had been sold by a deposed bishop in 2004. (Details, with links, are available here.)

There are many ties between dioceses in The Episcopal Church (including Virginia) and dioceses in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. No one in either church suggested that these ties could not persist.

Nigerian gay activist given asylum

Times religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill reported on her blog July 27 that Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder and head of the gay rights organization Changing Attitude Nigeria, has been granted asylum in the U.K. Mac-Iyalla has been attacked physically (and, by Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola, verbally) and has received death threats for his advocacy of gay rights. Mac-Iylla visited the U.S. in 2007 and spoke at Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, May 22.

CCP to seek provincial recognition, Duncan on Primates’ Council

A relatively new coalition of “Anglican” groups within and outside The Episcopal Church has announced its intention to ask to be recognized as a “province.” The Common Cause Partnership (CCP) issued a press release July 24 indicating that it intends to ask that it be declared “the North American Province of GAFCON.”

Bishop Robert Duncan, of Pittsburgh, is the moderator of the CCP, as well as of the Anglican Communion Network, which is a member of the CCP.

The recently completed Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) suggested in its Jerusalem Declaration, published at the end of the conference, that the CCP should be recognized as an Anglican province. According to the CCP press release, the CCP Council, meeting December 1–3, 2008, will make its appeal to the self-appointed Primates’ Council. It will also ask that Bishop Duncan be seated on the Primates’ Council.

The CCP has not made clear what it means to be a “province” of GAFCON.

Pittsburgh video offers lay voices for realignment

A 10-minute video produced by Jim Forney of St. Stephen’s, Sewickley, was posted on Parish Toolbox July 23. Titled “An Open Door, Pittsburgh Laity Discuss Realignment,” the video is the latest promotion favoring the realignment resolution to be voted on at the October 4 diocesan convention. The video emphasizes “the authority of scripture” and a commitment to the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, even if he is deposed by The Episcopal Church.

Monday, July 21, 2008

News for Week Ending 7/21/2008

GAFCON leaders respond to Williams critique, criticize covenant draft

The primates of Nigeria, West Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Southern Cone responded July 18 to Archbishop Rowan Williams’ criticism of the Final Statement issued at the end of GAFCON. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In their response, the primates deny that they have asserted that they are “the only ones to hold a correct interpretation of scripture according to its plain meaning,” while asserting that others are promoting a “false gospel.” They argue the need to “evangelise among people of other faiths,” and they defend the legitimacy of GAFCON and its innovations. The primates’ statement also defends boundary crossings and the acceptance of clergy into one province after their having being disciplined in another.

At the same time the primates’ statement was released, GAFCON’s Theological Resource Team—the group’s members are not named—issued an analysis of the so-called St. Andrew’s Draft Text (SAD) for an Anglican covenant. The team declares the SAD “seriously limited and severely flawed,” defective in ways incapable of correction “by piecemeal amendment.” The document enumerates seven “theological flaws” of the SAD, while asserting that “a crisis of obedience to Scripture” is the problem any covenant should address. The team attacks the so-called Instruments of Communion generally, but it is especially critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is said to have “undue influence” and a role assigned by the SAD that is “frankly colonialist.”

Andrew Goddard has just posted “GAFCON & The Anglican Covenant,” which analyzes “Changes between the Nassau and St Andrew’s Drafts of an Anglican Covenant” another GAFCON paper that is related—it is unclear how—to the GAFCON analysis of the SAD. (The link here is to Anglican Mainstream, as the GAFCON briefing paper disappeared from the GAFCON public Web site after Goddard posted his analysis. The original GAFCON link is here.) Goddard questions the conclusions of the Theological Resource Team’s work, as it seems to rely on a comparison not between the Nassau covenant draft and the SAD but between the SAD and an earlier document that predates the covenant proposal of the Windsor Report. (He points out other problems as well.)

Participants in GAFCON are not alone in criticizing the SAD, of course. A paper given by the Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams, of Christ Church, Oxford, has been widely circulated. “Unfit For Purpose or, Why a pan-Anglican Covenant at this time is a very bad idea!” was presented at the 2008 Modern Churchpeople’s Conference. The 14-page paper carefully analyzes the history of the covenant concept and the specific drafts that have been put forward. Her conclusion is apparent from the title of her paper.

Lambeth Conference moves into full swing

The 2008 Lambeth Conference moved into full swing Sunday, July 20, 2008, as the main program began with a service in Canterbury Cathedral. The grand event has been widely reported, for example, in the Guardian and the The Times, both of which quote Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams later delivered an address at the first plenary session of the conference. He described the Communion as being at a “deeply significant turning point,” and urged that the bishops move toward the adoption of an Anglican covenant. (The Archbishop’s address can be read here. See also the Times story here and Telegraph story here.) Bishop John Howe, the Central Florida bishop who recently broke with the Anglican Communion Network but who nevertheless opposes trends in The Episcopal Church (see Pittsburgh Update story here) has written a very clear account of the options for the Communion offered in Williams’ Sunday address.

Sunday’s events followed a three-day retreat for the assembled bishops that included a number of addresses by Rowan Williams. (Episcopal News Service provides an overview of the Lambeth Conference here.) Williams, of course, remains the central figure in ongoing disputes, and the current Lambeth Conference is very much his. The Guardian has brought back its former religion reporter Stephen Bates to do a profile on the archbishop, and his piece “Church of England: Beset by liberals, hounded by conservatives, Williams needs a miracle to keep church intact” provides helpful insight into Williams, Lambeth, and the conflicts in the Communion generally.

It is fair to say that the conference has yet to produce much news, but commentary abounds. A number of bishops are blogging about the conference, and The Lead has thoughtfully offered a syndication feed from blogging bishops. The “Lambeth Daily” feature on the official conference Web site will help Web visitors follow conference events. The popular church cartoonist, Dave Walker, is contributing cartoons to “Lambeth Daily” and providing his own commentary on his personal blog. Stories on significant developments will likely be noted quickly on Thinking Anglicans. Religion reporter Ruth Gledhill of The Times has her own blog, Articles of Faith. Her postings will add color to Lambeth reporting and may, on occasion, offer actual news.

Schofield not attending Lambeth

Bishop John-David Schofield, the former Episcopal bishop who engineered the “realignment” of the Diocese of San Joaquin to the province of the Southern Cone, will not be attending the Lambeth Conference. According to a letter to Schofield from Southern Cone Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Gregory Venables, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams wrote that “it is acknowledged that his [Schofield’s] exact status (especially given the complications surrounding the congregations associated with him) remains unclear on the basis of the general norms of Anglican Canon Law.” Under the circumstances, Schofield declined the invitation to Lambeth that he received while he was still an Episcopal Bishop.

Perhaps significantly, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, but not the diocese that Schofield claims to lead, is listed on the official Anglican Communion Web site. Bishop Jerry Lamb, the new provisional bishop of San Joaquin is attending Lambeth.

Unlike some GAFCON attendees, Venables has chosen to attend Lambeth, though, according to the BBC, he was “one of several bishops who did not take communion [at the opening service of the conference proper, in Canterbury Cathedral], arguing that he is no longer in communion with many of his colleagues

Remain Faithful calls for ‘definitive action’ against same-sex unions, ordination of gays

The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported July 19 that the conservative Remain Faithful group has called for “definitive action … not just more ‘discernment periods’” against same-sex unions and the ordination of active homosexuals. It took the action July 12 during a convention held in Arlington, Texas. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Star-Telegram story reports that Remain Faithful claims 700 members in 60 dioceses.

Monday, July 14, 2008

News for Week Ending 7/14/2008

Press taking diverse views on Lambeth Conference

The Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world, is scheduled to open officially at the University of Kent on Wednesday, June 16, but most of the 660 bishops attending have been in England for a while, participating in pre-conference activities.

Nearly all the bishops from four countries (Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda) are staying away as a form of protest against actions by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Press coverage is quite varied. The Daily Telegraph has been printing stories predicting the break-up the Anglican Communion. Other coverage has highlighted those bishops attending the conference despite the boycott. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ leadership has been assessed in a variety of ways, even in the same paper. The Guardian took a positive approach. The Telegraph carried both a sympathetic and a more critical piece.

The uninvited Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has been getting a lot of press attention, especially after a heckler interrupted his sermon at St Mary’s Church in Putney. Stories can be read in the Guardian, Times, and Telegraph. Stories about the heckler have been provided by the Guardian, Daily Mail, and the BBC.

Presiding Bishop preaches at three services in Salisbury

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had a full schedule in Salisbury on Sunday, July 13. Her reflections at the 8:30 a.m. Morning Prayer (Real format) service and her sermon at a 4:00 p.m. choral Evensong were both broadcast by the BBC and are available on-line. She also preached at the 10:30 a.m. Eucharist at the Cathedral Church of St. Mary in Salisbury. The text of that sermon (Microsoft Word format) and of the sermon (Microsoft Word format) preached at 4:00 p.m. are also available on line. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and the bishops of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan were guests of the Cathedral in Salisbury as a part of the pre-Lambeth Conference Hospitality Initiative.

Salisbury Cathedral is one of two cathedrals in England whose dean is a woman. According to information on the Salisbury Cathedral Web site, the Presiding Bishop came to Salisbury from Oxford, where she attended a pre-Lambeth conference, Oxford entitled “Transfiguring Episcopé: Women, Leadership and the Anglican Communion.” She gave the keynote address to this official gathering of Anglican women leaders from around the world. The Sudanese bishops were celebrating their church’s 35 year partnership with the Diocese of Salisbury. On Monday, The Presiding Bishop, Dean June Osborne, and the Sudanese bishops will consult with each other and participate in a question-and-answer session with the press. Episcopal News Service covered the visit here.

Welsh primate would ordain gay bishop

The primate of the Church in Wales, Archbishop Barry Morgan, has indicated his willingness to ordain a gay person to the episcopate if his fellow bishops choose such a candidate, according to WalesOnline. Morgan said that he agreed with the decision of The Episcopal Church to consecrate Gene Robinson. “There should be a backlash against this fundamentalism that has been thrust upon us,” Morgan is quoted as saying. “It is contrary to the ministry of Jesus and damaging the Church.” The story was published a few days after the Welsh bishops issued a press release urging the upcoming Lambeth Conference to concentrate on environmental issues, rather than on sexuality. According to the bishops, “Jesus’ ministry was full of concern for God’s world for he proclaimed and embodied God’s love for it. The real challenges, therefore, are not about sexuality but about eradicating poverty, injustice, violence and tackling climate change.”

Presbyterians okay further dialogue on closer relationships with Episcopalians

The recently concluded General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) agreed to continue dialogue with The Episcopal Church on a plan aimed at encouraging closer relationships between congregations of the two churches. The General Assembly’s vote is subject to approval by a majority of the 173 regional presbyteries. If such approval is achieved, the matter will be an item of business at The Episcopal Church’s General Convention next year.

The proposed agreement would allow Presbyterian and Episcopal clergy to perform ministerial functions in each other’s congregations “when requested and approved by the diocesan bishop and local presbytery.” It stops short of being a full-communion agreement. The Presbyterian Committee on Ecumenical Relations is due to oversee continuing talks and to report on them at the next General Assembly in 2012.

Episcopal News Service reported on the Presbyterian vote here.

Tenth Episcopal Youth Event held in San Antonio

The tenth Episcopal Youth Event (EYE), a triennial gathering of Episcopal high school students, was held July 9 through July 13 on the campus of Trinity University, in San Antonio, Texas. More that 850 young people, joined by more than 300 adult sponsors and resource persons attended the church-wide event. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori spoke to participants at a July 8 evening event before the official start of the EYE. Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, spoke to the gathered young people on July 9. Further details are included in an Episcopal News Service story here.

Church’s Midwest regional office now open in Omaha

As part of its ongoing reorganization and decentralization, The Episcopal Church has opened a regional office in Omaha, Nebraska, in the office building of the Diocese of Nebraska, adjacent to Trinity Cathedral. The office space has been provided to The Episcopal Church rent-free under a five-year agreement.

Much of the work of the church’s Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and Evangelism and Congregational Life Center will now be conducted in the new Midwest office. Episcopal News Service reported the opening of the office here.

Bishop Duncan visits Dallas

Bishop Duncan was in Dallas this weekend attending the consecration on Saturday, July 12, of Canon Paul E. Lambert as suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, according to a source who was present. Press coverage was minimal, but the Dallas Daily News carried this story on the consecration.

The Bishop of Pittsburgh has been on the road much of July. He attended the opening of the GAFCON Conference before going to Italy, where he celebrated his birthday with family. He is heading back across the Atlantic soon to be at the Lambeth Conference, which opens on July 16.

Calvary Church requests “monitor” to watch diocesan assets

With the leadership of the Diocese of Pittsburgh pressing for a vote in October to realign the diocese, i.e., to remove it from The Episcopal Church and attach it to the province of the Southern Cone, Calvary Episcopal Church returned to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas last week to request that the court appoint a “monitor” who would “inventory and oversee property held or administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” The move is intended to help enforce the stipulation agreed to by all parties in 2005. Calvary has also asked the court to allow any parish wishing to do so to pay its assessment into an escrow account pending resolution of property issues. Episcopal News Service reported the story here. As this is being written, the link in that story to Calvary’s petition is not correct. A searchable version of the court filing can be found here.

Central Florida bishop breaks with Network

According to The Living Church, the Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. John Howe, has resigned from the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), led by Bishop Robert Duncan, and is supporting the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI). The story is based on information in the July 2008 Central Florida Episcopalian, which has not yet been posted to the diocesan Web site. According to Howe, the ACI seeks “to promote orthodoxy within The Episcopal Church.” The ACN, on the other hand, “is now made up of far more people who have left The Episcopal Church than those who remain inside it,” and Howe has not been pleased with “the secessionist direction of the Network.” Peter Frank is quoted in the Living Church story as confirming Bishop Howe’s action. Frank noted that it was not clear if the diocese or the member parishes had withdrawn. The Network has written each parish directly to ascertain their intent regarding membership.

NOTE: After the above story was written, the Diocese of Central Florida posted the July 2009 Central Florida Episcopalian on its Web site. You may view it here. Bishop Howe’s letter appears on page 2 and is continued on page 4.

Monday, July 7, 2008

News for Week Ending 7/7/2008

GAFCON continues to make news

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) has announced that the BBC will telecast a documentary on the conference July 21. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story on GAFCON here.) The conference Web site contains audio clips from many of the GAFCON presentations, including audio from the final press briefing on June 29 in Jerusalem. Questions were answered by Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Peter Jensen of Sydney, and Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda.

Comment on GAFCON has been sharply divided. Bishop David Anderson, in the American Anglican Council e-mail update, described the process for developing the GAFCON final statement as “steel sharpening steel.” He said that it is now necessary to work to perfect a proposal for the GAFCON Primates’ Council to recognize the Common Cause Partners Federation as a North American province.

Archbishop Fred Hilz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, on the other hand, said in a statement that “I challenge and repudiate” GAFCON’s charge that Anglican churches in both the U.S. and Canada proclaim a “false gospel that has paralysed the Communion.”

In a controversal move, Archbishops Orombi (Uganda), Jensen (Sydney), and Venables (Southern Cone) took the GAFCON message to England, where they addressed Church of England supporters on the newly announced Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

Church of England takes next step in authorizing women bishops

On July 7, at the end of a long afternoon and evening of debate and voting on fourteen amendments, the Church of England General Synod passed a resolution authorizing the drafting of legislation allowing women to be ordained as bishops. Despite pleas by both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to make special provision for those who cannot accept women as bishops, the final resolution required only that “special arrangements be available, within the existing structures” for those who cannot accept women bishops. This fell short of the special diocese or “super bishop” proposals requested by those opposing women as bishops. The resolution authorizes the legislative group to draft a code of practice inclusive of women as bishops. The code will require approval by the Synod in 2009.

Ruth Gledhill’s report for The Times can be read here. More detail is available on her blog, which provides a running summary of the debate, the amendments, and the votes.

Presiding Bishop participates in gathering on Hispanic and Spanish ministry

More than 200 people from 8 countries gathered in Atlanta last week to share experiences in ministering to Spanish-speaking and Hispanic congregations. This was the first such meeting in six years. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached in Spanish at the opening Eucharist. Spanish was the primary language at the conference, with English translation available. The conference looked at pastoral care, legal issues, and how to handle the growth that most Hispanic and Spanish congregations are experiencing. Episcopal News Service covered the conference here.

Episcopal Church Web site gets makeover

The Episcopal Church has announced another makeover of its Web site, to be launched July 8. The new site is intended to be more visually arresting, to provide better search capabilities, and to reflect better the current organization within the Episcopal Church Center. Additional changes will be implemented in the coming months. Episcopal News Service describes the changes in a July 7 story here.

Remain Faithful group plans first event

Remain Faithful, organized last month by individuals in the Diocese of Fort Worth as a lay-led organization of “orthodox” Episcopalians and Anglicans, will hold its first event July 12 in Arlington, Texas, a conference entitled “Mobilizing the Faithful.” Its keynote speaker will be Dr. Michael Howell of St. Petersburg, Florida, an official lay representative at the recent GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem. A marine scientist, he is also a trustee of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, serves on the board of American Anglican Council, and on the council of Forward in Faith/North America. Others participating will be Rev. Dr. Tom Hightower, rector of St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Arlington, and the Rev. Dr. Bill Dickson, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. Episcopal News Service reported on the conference here.

On its Web site, Remain Faithful claims more than 500 members from over 60 dioceses.

Episcopal Church joins Connecticut Diocese in lawsuit

The Episcopal Church has formally entered a lawsuit as a co-plaintiff with the Diocese of Connecticut against the former rector and vestry members of Bishop Seabury Episcopal Church in Groton, Connecticut. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story here.) The suit asks the court to prevent the defendants from retaining church property, since they are no longer Episcopalians. Other plaintiffs are the Bishop Seabury Episcopal Church congregation that continues to be a part of The Episcopal Church and its priest-in-charge. The former rector, Ron Gauss, was one of the “Connecticut Six” priests who insisted, in 2004, on oversight of their parishes by a bishop from outside the diocese. This January, Gauss, and many parishioners, voted to affiliate with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Bishop Smith appointed a priest-in-charge for the congregation remaining in The Episcopal Church. When the CANA group refused to leave the property, the diocese filed suit in April 2008.

The Connecticut controversy has been bitter. Smith deposed one priest and took control of his parish in 2005. The “Connecticut Six” sued the bishop in federal court and filed presentment charges against him with the church. The federal suit was dismissed in 2006, and, in 2007, the Title IV Review Committee refused to move the presentment forward. All but one of the six parishes has experienced a withdrawal of members, and the diocese sued the group from Trinity Parish, Bristol that tried to retain control of the church property. In May 2008, the Bristol group decided to end the legal battle by giving the property to the diocese.

The New London Judicial District Court late last month granted a motion adding The Episcopal Church as a plaintiff.

Virginia bishop pledges to “exhaust every possible option” to reverse court ruling

In a letter published July 3, Bishop Peter Lee, of the Diocese of Virginia, said the diocese and The Episcopal Church will press ahead with efforts to reverse the recent court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of a state law dealing with a “division” in religious bodies. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to Lee:

The ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Virginia Division Statute threatens all hierarchical churches in Virginia. We continue to believe that hierarchical churches have the First Amendment right to organize themselves without interference from the State. The Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church will exhaust every possible option to correct what I believe to be a profound injustice and injury to America’s First Freedom, born here in Virginia.

“Stop the World” blog comes to an end

The Rev. Terry Martin, otherwise known as “Father Jake,” has announced that he is shutting down his blog, “Father Jake Stops the World,” which he has operated for five years. “I believe that a constant exposure to some of the toxic rhetoric found on the net has had a negative impact on my spiritual health,” Martin said. “I find it more difficult to discern the glory of God. Most likely this is because I’ve become too preoccupied with the depravity of man. I need to take care of myself.” He said he is considering launching a new project, but gave no details.

“Father Jake Stops the World” was notable for its liberal author’s analysis and the lively community discussion—not all of it relevant to the matter at hand—that it provoked. No more posts or comments are being added to the blog, but the trip to its Web site has served up a variety of fare since Martin’s announcement. It is not clear how much of the blog will remain visible on the Web long-term.