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, February 23, 2009

News for Week Ending 2/23/2009

Quincy gets consulting bishop; plans synod

The Living Church reported February 19, 2009, that the Rt. Rev. Keith Whitmore, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Atlanta and former Bishop of Eau Claire, will consult with the reorganizing Diocese of Quincy. Whitmore will lead a clergy event on March 4. A reorganizing synod (convention) is to be held on April 4 in Peoria, Illinois. At that synod, the Episcopal diocese will elect a provisional bishop. The Diocese of Quincy synod voted November 7, 2008, to leave The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Pittsburgh diocese writes leaders about dispute

The Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Pittsburgh wrote to “Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC)” on February 18, 2009. (The letter can be read here.) The Standing Committee noted that its claim to diocesan property is based on an agreement reached in October 2005 in the Calvary lawsuit against Bishop Robert Duncan and other diocesan leaders. The letter disclosed that Duncan’s group, which claims to be part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, recently proposed a “fair division” of diocesan property. The Standing Committee’s letter describes its response to that overture.

Monday, February 16, 2009

News for Week Ending 2/16/2009

Akinola writes to Canterbury

Nigeria’s Archbishop Peter Akinola wrote to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams February 10, 2009, expressing dismay at the outcome of the recent meeting of Anglican Primates in Alexandria, Egypt. (See Pittsburgh Update story on the meeting here.) Akinola explained that he had hoped “that we would receive assurances from the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada that they were willing to exercise genuine restraint towards those Anglicans in North America unwilling to embrace their several innovations.” Having failed to obtain such assurances, Akinola explained that he was forwarding reports to Archbishop Williams of the offenses of the American and Canadian churches. Akinola’s letter, as well as the attachments, are available on the Web site of the American Anglican Council.

In a related development, The Living Church reported that Bishop David Anderson, American Anglican Council president speaking for the Common Cause Partnership, said that the group would welcome the mediation recommended by the primates. Episcopal News Service reported earlier that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori also indicated a willingness to engage in mediation.

Church of England makes slow progress toward authorizing women bishops

The General Synod of the Church of England agreed February 11, 2009, to remand to a committee draft legislation that would authorize women bishops in that church. The committee will have a year to revise the legislation, which is intended both to authorize canonical revisions to provide for women bishops and to offer a framework to accommodate those who continue to oppose women bishops. Whereas the action moves the church closer to consecrating women bishops, the first woman bishop of the Church of England is still seen as five or more years away. Episcopal News Service reported on the action here.

Bennison court confirms judgment; appeal possible

Episcopal News Service reported February 4, 2009, that the ecclesiastical trial court has confirmed its sentence of deposition against the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, inhibited bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Bennison was convicted of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy for his failure 35 years ago to respond properly to the sexual improprieties of his brother, who was working under Bennison as a youth director at the time. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Bennison has 30 days to file an appeal.

Episcopal Church joins Calvary lawsuit

The Calvary Church lawsuit against deposed bishop Robert Duncan designed to protect property of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and The Episcopal Church continues to collect plaintiffs. (See most recent Pittsburgh Update story about the lawsuit here.) As reported here last month, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is now working with Calvary Church to restore diocesan property now controlled by Duncan and his supporters. The Episcopal Church itself has now filed papers with the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas recognizing the reorganized Diocese of Pittsburgh and asking the court to remove diocesan assets from control by Duncan and give them to the Episcopal Church Diocese. The Living Church reported the story here, after the diocese posted a statement from the Standing Committee regarding the filing. The court documents from The Episcopal Church can be read here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

News for Week Ending 2/9/2009

Primates meeting cordial, undramatic

Anglican primates met in Alexandria from February 1, 2009, to February 5, 2009. Although not all Anglican Provinces were represented, most were, and the meeting was not boycotted by any province. Discussions seem to have lacked the heated exchanges that seem to have become common recently. Perhaps this was in part the product of non-primate partisans being asked to stay away from the meeting. Moreover, the agenda was not monopolized by discussion of internal Anglican conflicts, as the primates discussed crises in Zimbabwe, Gaza, and Sudan, about which they released statements here, here, and here.

Nonetheless, the Windsor Report continues to cast a long shadow. The movement for an Anglican covenant seems still on track, although indications are that it may be kinder and gentler than many feared. The primates received a report from the Windsor Continuation Group that continues to advocate the prescriptions of the Windsor Report.

The final communiqué from the meeting can be read here. The phrase “gracious restraint” appears multiple times in the document, which is a challenge to all sides.

Although the Anglican Church in North America apparently was discussed at the meeting of the primates, no dramatic action was taken regarding its future.

Episcopal News Service reported extensively on the meeting, which seemed notable for its reduced security and smaller press corps coverage compared to recent meetings. The final communiqué from the meeting was covered here. Earlier ENS stories can be found here, here, here, and here. Reaction to the meeting was covered in a follow-up story here. As usual, Thinking Anglican provides the best guide to commentary on the meeting. See Thinking Anglican posts here and here.

Diocese of Fort Worth reorganizes

Like the dioceses of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh before it, the Diocese of Fort Worth held a special convention February 7, 2009, to reorganize after an earlier “realignment” vote. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Fort Worth, like San Joaquin, was left without either a bishop or a standing committee after a “realignment” vote, a situation that required direct intervention by the Presiding Bishop to call a special convention for the selection of a bishop. In Pittsburgh, on the other hand, one person was left on the standing committee after the vote to leave The Episcopal Church, and the standing committee, even with a single member, had the authority to make appointments and call for a special convention. The Fort Worth situation did resemble that of Pittsburgh in that a broad-based coalition was built before a special convention was held.

As expected, Fort Worth elected the Rt. Rev. Edwin “Ted” Gulick as provisional bishop. Gulick will split his time between the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Diocese of Kentucky, of which he remains bishop. Episcopal News Service reported on the convention here. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram carried stories on the special convention both Saturday and Sunday. The Dallas Morning News carried a story on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the former Fort Worth bishop, Jack Iker, “released” certain parishes and clergy from any obligation to the group that he leads. The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians—a group roughly equivalent to Pittsburgh’s Across the Aisle group—issued this statement, however.

Monday, February 2, 2009

News for Week Ending 2/2/2009

Primates meet in Alexandria

The primates of the Anglican Communion are conducting one of their regular meetings February 1–5, 2009, in Alexandria, Egypt. The proposed Anglican covenant is a major item on the agenda, but so are a number of other issues that do not involve the nature of the communion itself. The proposed Anglican Church in North America is not formally on the agenda, but it is likely to be a topic of discussion. Early reports suggest that the atmosphere at the meeting is less tense than at recent meetings of the primates. Early reports on the meeting can be found here, here, and here. Pittsburgh Update will have more substantive reports on the meeting next week.

Archbishop Morgan vows to oppose plans for ACNA

The Times reports that Wales Archbishop Barry Morgan has said that he would oppose a proposed Anglican Church of North America “with every fibre of my being.” A new North American Anglican Province “makes no ecclesiological or theological sense,” Morgan told the Times.

Nigerian anti-gay bill resurfaces

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have expressed concern about the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 again before the Nigerian National Assembly. According to Amnesty International, “The Bill would introduce criminal penalties for marriage ceremonies between persons of the same sex as well as for persons witnessing or helping to formalize such a marriage.” Similar repressive legislation was supported by the Church of Nigeria, Anglican in 2006, but the legislation was not enacted. Background information is available at Thinking Anglicans.

Toronto diocese moves toward ‘generous pastoral response’ to same-sex relationships

The Toronto Star reported January 31, 2009, that the Diocese of Toronto in the Anglican Church of Canada will begin blessing same-sex relationships within a year, though it will not offer a formal marriage rite. No parishes will be required to perform such blessings, and an elaborate approval process is being established. Additional details are provided in an Episcopal News Service story, which indicates that the diocese is deferring to the General Synod on issues such as establishing a rite for such blessings, while still responding to the 2007 House of Bishops’ commitment to “develop the most generous pastoral response possible within the current teaching of the church” to same-sex relationships.

Executive Council meets in San Joaquin

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church met in Stockton, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin January 29–31. Episcopal News Service has reported on the meeting here, here, and here. Not surprisingly, The Episcopal Church is engaging in a degree of budget tightening in the wake of deteriorating economic conditions. Executive Council also issued an official church response to the St. Andrew’s draft Anglican covenant, which is available here. The Council also agreed to lend the Diocese of San Joaquin as much as $500,000 to help protect diocesan property.

Fort Worth diocese to hold special convention: Gulick proposed as provisional bishop

The Diocese of Fort Worth will hold a special convention February 7, 2009, to reorganize. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called the meeting and recommended that the diocese call the Rt. Rev. Edwin “Ted” Gulick Jr. as its provisional bishop. Gulick has the unanimous support of the Steering Committee, North Texas Episcopalians, which has been planning the February 7 meeting. If elected as expected, Gulick, who is Bishop of Kentucky, will continue to serve the Diocese of Kentucky while acting as provisional bishop for Fort Worth.

Led by former bishop Jack Iker, the Diocese of Fort Worth voted November 15, 2008, to leave The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) As in San Joaquin, although many individuals and parishes desired to stay in The Episcopal Church, the diocese was left with neither a bishop nor a Standing Committee.

Episcopal News Service has a story on Gulik here. More information about him is available on the Diocese of Kentucky’s Web site. Additional information about the convention can be found on the new Web site for the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Proposed Texas law favors congregations in church property disputes

The Rev. Canon Ed Monk, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Corsicana, Texas, along with “other leaders of the conservative 300-member St. John’s,” according to Episcopal News Service (see story here), have persuaded a Republican state representative to introduce a bill in the Texas legislature to favor dissident congregations over the property rights of churches that they wish to leave. Monk admits to have been inspired by the nineteenth-century Virginia statute that has thus far allowed a number of congregations that have left The Episcopal Church to prevail in court. (See latest Pittsburgh Update story on the Virginia litigation here.) Many believe both the Virginia statute and the potential Texas statute to be unconstitutional restrictions on the First Amendment.

John Rodgers to serve breakaway Pittsburgh parishes

The group headed by deposed bishop Robert Duncan announced February 2, 2009, that the Rt. Rev. John Rodgers, first dean and president of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, will assist Bishop Duncan by performing “confirmations, ordinations and other tasks.” Rodgers was consecrated bishop in the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) in 2000. The group, originally made up of congregations that had broken away from The Episcopal Church and put themselves under the authority of the Anglican churches of Rwanda and Southeast Asia, is now one of the larger elements in the Common Cause Partnership forming the Anglican Church in North America. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Rodgers chaired an AMiA team that studied women’s ordination and produced a report in 2003 that led to the AMiA’s decision to ordain women as deacons, but not as priests. That policy remains in place. (See “What is the Anglican Mission’s position on the ordination of women?” on the Anglican Mission in the Americas Web site here.)