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.

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A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

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.