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, January 26, 2009

News for Week Ending 1/26/2009

California Supreme Court to review another Episcopal property case

In October 2008, a state appellate court reversed a trial-court decision that had allowed St. John’s, Fallbrook, in the Diocese of San Diego to keep parish property when the congregation chose to leave The Episcopal Church and put itself under a Ugandan bishop. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) St. John’s appealed to the California Supreme Court, which has recently agreed to hear the case. The move prevents the diocese from reclaiming the property until the Supreme Court issues a ruling. The Living Church reported the story here. Legal Newsline offers a longer story here.

Abandoned New York church building to house new Episcopal Church plant

The Buffalo News reported a story January 26, 2009, likely to be replicated across the country in the future. Last October, members of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Tonawanda, announced their intention to leave The Episcopal Church and abandon their church building to the Diocese of Western New York. (See Episcopal New Service story here.) An Episcopal priest who attended St. Bartholomew’s as a child will now begin a new church using St. Bartholomew’s former home. The Rev. Sarah E. Gordy begins her new church plant with a congregation of four. “We’re not St. Bartholomew’s, and we’re not a restart of St. Bartholomew’s. We’re something completely different,” Gordy is quoted as saying.

Wantland, Scriven released from Episcopal vows

Episcopal News Service reported January 23, 2009, that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had accepted the voluntary renunciation of their orders from Bishop William Wantland and Bishop Henry Scriven. Both bishops claimed to have left The Episcopal Church in the “realignments” of Forth Worth and Pittsburgh, respectively. The actions were taken with the consent of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice.

Wantland, retired Bishop of Eau Claire, has been serving as assisting bishop in Fort Worth. In response to his statement declaring that he has left The Episcopal Church, Jefferts Schori sent him correspondence that can be read here. Wantland has responded to his being removed from ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church in a strongly worded statement on the site of the “realigned” Fort Worth diocese here. In it, he accuses the Presiding Bishop of lacking “a basic understanding of the English language” or of choosing “to engage in illegal activites.”

Scriven, who served as assistant bishop under Robert Duncan in Pittsburgh, announced last summer, before the Pittsburgh vote to join the Southern Cone, that he would return to England in January 2009 to work for the South American Missionary Society (SAMS). No statement from Scriven has been reported.

Sparring continues over Diocese of Pittsburgh assets

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported January 23, 2009, that Morgan Stanley, which handles investment accounts for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, informed the group led by deposed bishop Robert Duncan that the firm would make no more distributions from diocesan accounts until the matter of who is the rightful owner is established. Filings in the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas on January 20 by Duncan’s lawyers disclosed the Morgan Stanley move and asked the court to reject the request by Calvary Church and the Diocese of Pittsburgh to deliver diocesan assets to the Episcopal Church diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

On January 22, the Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a statement giving its interpretation of the filings by the defendants in the Calvary lawsuit. The pleadings themselves (and many other documents related to the ongoing litigation) are available on the Web site of the Allegheny County Prothonotary. (Go to the site and enter case number GD-03-020941.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

News for Week Ending 1/19/2009

Details of Primates Meeting announced

Anglican primates (or, in some cases, their representatives) will meet in Alexandria, Egypt, February 1–5, 2009. The Anglican Communion Office issued a media advisory about the meeting January 15. Episcopal News Service, in a story issued the same day, indicated that the agenda will include “the proposed Anglican covenant, the situation in Zimbabwe, global warming, and Christian responses to the global financial crisis.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will attend the meeting, representing The Episcopal Church.

It is unclear whether the matter of the Anglican Church of North America—see Pittsburgh Update story here—will be discussed formally at the Alexandria gathering. The Living Church reported January 16 that Bishop Robert Duncan failed to deliver a scheduled address to the Mere Anglicanism Conference due to “an unanticipated series of consultations with the primates who originated the call” for a new North American province. According to The Living Church, Duncan said the GAFCON primates will present a paper advocating a new province at the February meeting.

Exactly what the Anglican Church of North America will look like is still unclear, but deposed Bishop of Fort Worth Jack Iker provided an intriguing hint in the presentation he gave at the Mere Anglicanism Conference. In his paper “Global Anglicanism: Beyond the Elizabethan Settlement toward the New Anglican Conciliarism,” Iker declares, “Though we have our continuing differences over the issue of the ordination of women, Bishop Duncan and the CCP lead bishops have given assurances that there will be no women bishops in the new Province and that the historic, traditional theological position on this matter will be protected, respected and welcomed.”

In letter to PB, Bishop Iker tries to have it both ways

Fort Worth blogger Katie Sherrod recently posted a letter from deposed Fort Worth bishop Jack Iker to the Presiding Bishop complaining about her coming to Fort Worth for the reorganizing convention for the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here. Sherrod’s post, which includes the Iker letter, can be found here.) Like Robert Duncan, Iker claims to be out of The Episcopal Church, while at the same time claiming jurisdiction over Episcopalians in his former diocese.

San Joaquin bishop writes departed congregations in wake of Supreme Court decision

In response to the Supreme Court decision giving the Diocese of Los Angeles rights to the property of parishes that left the diocese to be part of the Ugandan church—see Pittsburgh Update story here—Bishop of San Joaquin Jerry Lamb has written letters to those who left the diocese in the “realignment” led by deposed Bishop John-David Schofield. Saying in the January 14, 2009, messages that the court decision makes it clear that parish property must stay with The Episcopal Church and its local diocese, Lamb called for dialogue. “There has been enough pain and suffering on all sides of the issue of separation from the Episcopal Church,” he wrote. His letter can be read on the San Joaquin Web site. In letters to those who have remained in The Episcopal Church, Lamb urged everyone “to engage their friends and acquaintances from the other group in personal conversations, and based on long-standing friendships, move toward healing in the diocese.”

Holy Cross to host prayer service for Obama

Church of the Holy Cross, the diocese’s only predominantly African-American parish, will host “Obama Sunday” on January 25, 2009, in honor of the President Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the United States. Details are listed here on the diocesan Web site.

Diocesan Council announces appointments

Diocesan Council has announced appointment made at its January 5, 2009, meeting. President of the Council is now Joan Morris, of St. Andrew’s, Highland Park. The Rev. William Geiger, of Christ Church, Indiana, is Vice President. The new Secretar4y is Judith M. Rosensteel, of All Souls’, North Versailles. A full list of appointments can be found here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

News for Week Ending 1/12/2009

Central New York diocese wins property case

The New York Supreme Court has ruled that Good Shepherd, Binghamton, whose congregation withdrew from the Diocese of Central New York in November 2007, must vacate its building. The Binghamtom Press reported the story January 12, 2009. The court ruled that parish property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church. The parish is headed by the Rev. Matthew Kennedy, a long-time critic of The Episcopal Church on the World Wide Web. Additional information is contained in an Episcopal News Service story here.

Pittsburgh diocese grows

The Diocese of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church has grown by two parishes. St. Mark’s, Johnston, and St. Thomas’ Memorial, Oakmont, have voted to remain with The Episcopal Church. Details can be found on the diocesan Web site here.

Assisting Bishop Robert H. Johnson in now in Pittsburgh and met with diocesan leaders in planning meetings January 10, 2009, at Calvary Church. (See diocesan announcement here.) The various diocesan bodies (Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, etc.) are beginning to function with full or nearly full complement of members.

Calvary/Diocese ask for resources

Calvary Church and the Diocese of Pittsburgh went to court January 8, 2009, to make requests of the special master overseeing the stewardship of assets currently controlled by former Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan and his supporters. In a brief filed with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Calvary lawsuit, joined by diocesan chancellor Andy Roman, requested the special master to report to Judge Joseph James that the group headed by Duncan has violated the terms of the stipulation of October 2005. That agreement between the plaintiffs and the then diocesan leaders declared that diocesan property, even in the event of defections in Pittsburgh from The Episcopal Church, would stay with the Episcopal Church diocese.

The special master was asked to recommend “immediate termination” of the use of diocesan property by the group that purports to be part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The filing also asked the special master to request “immediate access to and control by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America of the endowments, checking accounts, and other Property” covered by the stipulation.

The court filing can be read here. The defendants issued a public statement calling the reorganized diocese “new” and calling for “equitable division of the assets” of the diocese. News stories are available from the Post-Gazette, Tribune-Review, and Episcopal News Service.

Monday, January 5, 2009

News for Week Ending 1/5/2009

C of E seeks accommodation on women bishops

The issues of ordaining women priests and consecrating women bishops are largely settled in The Episcopal Church, but the Church of England, which ordains women priests but has provided “flying bishops” to minister to those who cannot accept them, is now struggling with how to implement its decision to allow women bishops in the face of continued opposition. Proposed legislation, which would effectively perpetuate “flying bishop” (to be called “complementary bishops”) seems unlikely to satisfy either proponents or opponents of women bishops. Church Times summarized the proposal here. More detailed information can be found at Thinking Anglicans here and here.

California Supreme Court rules for Episcopal Church in property disputes

In a long-awaited opinion, the California Supreme Court ruled that the property of three breakaway parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles belongs to the diocese and not to the congregations of the churches, which claim to be under Ugandan jurisdiction. The court handed down its unanimous opinion on January 5, 2009. The parishes involved in the litigation are St. James Church, Newport Beach, All Saints’ Church, Long Beach, and St. David’s Church, North Hollywood. Although the churches prevailed in the trial court, the decision was reversed on appeal. The Supreme Court decision upholds the appeals court decision. It is unclear whether the dissident congregations will continue their legal battle. Los Angeles bishop Jon Bruno described himself as “overjoyed” at the decision and spoke of possible reconciliation with the three congregations.

A number of news stories are available about the court decision, and more should follow soon. The Los Angeles Times story is here. Episcopal News Service has a story here, with links to statements by Bishop Bruno and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

South Carolina church leaves without property

The Augusta Chronicle reported January 5, 2009, that the priest, staff, and congregation of St. John’s Episcopal Church of North Augusta, South Carolina, are leaving The Episcopal Church and joining the newly-formed Anglican Church in North America. According to the Chronicle, the 90-member congregation will abandon its current building to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and begin worshiping in a converted warehouse.