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, April 27, 2009

News for Week Ending 4/27/2009

Conservative bishops/ACI issue controversial statement on church polity

A paper titled “Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of The Episcopal Church” was published April 22, 2009, on the Web site of the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI), a conservative advocacy group. The statement carries the names of 15 “Communion Partner” Episcopal bishops, 11 of them diocesan bishops. Three members of the ACI endorsed the statement. Based in part on an earlier ACI paper by attorney Mark McCall, “Is the Episcopal Church Hierarchical?” the statement argues for the independence of both dioceses and diocesan bishops, minimizes the importance of the General Convention, and asserts that dioceses can approve an Anglican covenant independently of their province. The paper has proven quite controversial and has occasioned a good deal of discussion on the Web. Both Episcopal News Service and The Living Church have written stories about the statement, though only the former touches on the controversy engendered by the statement. Thinking Anglicans has followed the statement beginning even before it was issued. (See posts on Thinking Anglicans here, here, here, and here.)

Executive Council appropriates money for dioceses torn by schism

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, at its last meeting prior to the 2009 General Convention, appropriated another $110,000 for clergy salaries and other expenses incurred by the Diocese of Quincy “and other similarly situated dioceses,” such as Pittsburgh. Executive Council had already authorized more than $1,200,000 to support diocese undergoing reorganization after convention votes to leave The Episcopal Church. Episcopal News Service reported on this and other Executive Council actions here on April 22, 2009.

Study finds people change churches for personal reasons

“Conservative” Episcopalians frequently charge that losses in church membership are the result of the “liberal” church policies or the result of doctrinal controversies within the church. The Washington Post, however, ran a story April 27, 2009, suggesting that people largely change churches for quite personal reasons. The Post story reports on a study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life that found that more than half of all adults have changed churches at least once in their lives and, in many cases, have done so multiple times. An executive summary of the study can be found on the Pew Forum Web site. Links to the full study, to a PDF of the executive summary, and to related material can be found there.

Maine bishop supports non-discriminatory marriage bill

Bishop of Maine Steven Lane gave written testimony to a legislative hearing in Augusta, Maine, on April 22, 2009. He was unable to attend the hearing, but he provided testimony through a representative. Lane declared his support for a proposed bill in the Maine legislature titled “An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.” In his testimony, Lang said, “To deny those rights [of civil marriage] to certain persons on the basis of sexual orientation is to create two classes of citizens and to deny one group what we believe is best for them and for society.” The bishop explained the non-discriminatory policy of The Episcopal Church with respect to holding office in the church, and he acknowledged that the church was not of one mind regarding human sexuality. In particular, Lane supported provisions of the bill declaring that no clergy will be compelled to act against conscience. The story was covered by Episcopal News Service here.

ENS reports on Calvary-Rodef Shalom project

Episcopal News Service ran a story April 23, 2009, about Mitzvah Day, a joint project of Calvary Episcopal Church and Rodef Shalom Congregation. The two congregations set aside April 26 to work on community projects—packing medical supplies for overseas aid, weeding and planning in a local park, and painting at local churches, among others. You can read the story here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

News for Week Ending 4/20/2009

GAFCON Primates’ Council issues statement

The GAFCON Primates’ Council met in London last week and issued a communiqué April 16, 2009. (The statement is labeled as being from the “GAFCON/FCA Primates’ Council.” See below.) According to Episcopal News Service, members of the Council were joined by deposed Episcopal bishops Robert Duncan and Jack Iker, as well asby several former priests who have been consecrated bishops by conservative Anglican provinces.

The communiqué suggests that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglican (FCA) that was announced at the GAFCON meeting last summer has been rethought somewhat. FCA finally has its own Web site and will establish regional chapters and networks. A U.K. branch is scheduled to launch in London on July 6, 2009. (Religious Intelligence has written about this event.)

What has received most notice is a statement on the developing Anglican Church in North America: “The FCA Primates’ Council recognizes the Anglican Church in North America as genuinely Anglican and recommends that Anglican Provinces affirm full communion with the ACNA.”

Fort Worth diocese and Episcopal Church sues Southern Cone “diocese”

In a move similar to what was done by the Diocese of San Joaquin—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the Diocese of Fort Worth, along with The Episcopal Church, filed suit April 14, 2009, against former Episcopalians who claim to have removed the diocese from The Episcopal Church and transferred it to the Southern Cone. The action is aimed at restoring property and other assets to the Diocese of Fort Worth. Episcopal News Service reported the story here. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News also covered the development. The actual court filing can be read here.

Hearing to be held on whether stipulation was violated

As noted by The Living Church, a number of pleadings were filed this past week by both plaintiffs and defendants in the Calvary Church litigation against Bishop Duncan, et al. As a result of a hearing on April 17, 2009, Judge Joseph James has ordered a hearing on the significance of the October 2005 stipulation agreed to by all parties. Both the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the reputed Southern Cone diocese led by Robert Duncan issued press releases on the latest legal development. Each has its own take on the matter, but the hearing will be on the matter that the plaintiffs, rather than the defendants, asked the court to settle. The Episcopal News Service story on the latest hearing can be read here.

In particular, the defendants had tried to block the participation in the litigation of Andy Roman, chancellor of the Episcopal Church diocese. Attorneys for the defense claimed that Roman represented a “new” Diocese of Pittsburgh that had not properly entered the case as a plaintiff. Defense attorneys also objected to the entry of The Episcopal Church, although, in previous filings, the defense had argued that The Episcopal Church was an essential party. Judge James, at the April 17 hearing, allowed the entry both of Roman and of The Episcopal Church, in the person of Bishop John C. Buchanan, on the side of the plaintiffs. Whereas the defense wanted a hearing on whether a diocese could withdraw from the church—a matter the plaintiffs argued was beyond the power of the court to decide—the plaintiffs wanted the court to determine whether, in fact, the October 2005 agreement requires that diocesan assets be turned over to the diocese that remains in The Episcopal Church. This is the issue that the judge determined will be the subject of the next hearing, a date for which has not yet been set.

Monday, April 13, 2009

News for Week Ending 4/13/2009

New Anglican covenant draft issued

As expected, the Covenant Design Group made public this past week—see press release here—its latest (third) draft for a proposed Anglican covenant. (See last week’s Pittsburgh Update post here.) The so-called Ridley Cambridge Covenant Draft was completed at the Group’s meeting in Cambridge, England, March 30–April 3. Episcopal News Service, in its story on the new text, reports that the two Episcopal Church members of the Covenant Design Group view the new draft as an improvement over the previous one (that is, the St. Andrew’s draft), responding as it does to comments from Anglican provinces and from bishops who attended the 2008 Lambeth Conference. In addition to the covenant text itself, the Covenant Design Group has issued its own commentary on the new draft. The Ridley Cambridge draft, the Group’s commentary, and earlier drafts and related documents can be found here.

The Ridley Cambridge draft will be considered by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in May. The ACC may send the draft to the Anglican Communion provinces for their approval, though this is not certain.

Reaction to the new draft has been mixed and is, at this time, fragmentary. Thinking Anglicans has been updating its list of remarks on the new draft here.

Court orders breakaway churches to pay Niagara diocese

According to an Anglican Journal article dated 4/6/2009 and later revised, three congregations that left the Anglican Church of Canada to join the Anglican Network in Canada have paid the Diocese of Niagara $20,000 for legal costs incurred in the property dispute among the parties. Judge Jane Milanetti had ruled in May 2008 that church buildings had to be shared by departing and remaining parishioners until ownership had been determined. At the time, she had already determined that property of two of the three parishes belonged to the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update post here.) The diocese may collect additional money to cover legal costs as the result of a future hearing.

Episcopalians appeal to Virginia Supreme Court

After losing a string of property-related court decisions that hinged on a unique nineteenth-century Virginia law about church “divisions,” the Diocese of Virginia and The Episcopal Church have appealed to Virginia’s highest court to reverse the earlier decisions of a Fairfax County judge. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The appeals, filed April 7, 2009, relate to the property of a number of Virginia congregations that have attempted to leave The Episcopal Church, taking property with them. The congregations are now part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). The appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court argue that the state statute was misapplied and is, in any case, incompatible with the constitutions both of Virginia and the United States of America. Episcopal News Service reported the story April 8, 2009. The court filings, as well as supporting briefs from other dioceses and other denominations, can be found here on the Diocese of Virginia Web site. The Diocese’s press release on the appeal is available here.

Fallbrook Episcopalians return home

Parishioners of St. John’s Episcopal Church celebrated Easter Sunday in their Fallbrook, California, church April 12, 2009. It was the first time an Episcopal service had been held in the church since 2006, when then-rector Don Kroeger led members of the congregation to remove themselves from The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of San Diego and to affiliate with the Ugandan Anglican church. The decision of the California Supreme Court not to hear an appeal by the Kroeger group to its upholding of an appeals court decision in favor of the Diocese of San Diego—see Pittsburgh Update story here— led to the return of the Episcopalians and the removal of the Ugandan congregation to the facilities of Living Waters Christian Fellowship. The Ugandan congregation, which had called itself St. John’s Anglican Church, has taken on the new name Christ Church, Fallbrook. It began meeting in its temporary home on Palm Sunday, as described in a press release here.

The Rt. Rev. James Mathes, Bishop of San Diego, preached to an overflow crowd. He welcomed the Episcopal congregation home and called for reconciliation. Christ Church, Fallbrook, held its Easter celebration several hours later, presided over by the Rev. Don Kroeger. North Country Times reported the story. An earlier story from Episcopal News Service can be read here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

News for Week Ending 4/6/2009

Duncan to attend GAFCON meeting

The Living Church reported April 1, 2009, that deposed Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan has been invited to attend the GAFCON Primates’ Council meeting as a guest. The Council will meet in London April 13–18.

AAC COO says ACNA recognition unlikely

In another story in The Living Church, the Rev. J. Philip Ashey, chief operating officer and chaplain of the American Anglican Council (AAC), is quoted as saying that he does not expect Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to recognize the Anglican Church in North America, the new church being organized under Bishop Robert Duncan. Few people were likely surprised by this observation. Less expected was Ashey’s characterization of the AAC: “Like Special Forces, we go behind the scenes and we blow up things.”

ANCA publishes constitution and canons

The Anglican Church in North America published its proposed constitution and canons on April 6, 2009. A letter from Bishop Robert Duncan introducing the new documents can be read here, where the documents themselves are available as PDF files. The letter solicits comments before the Provincial Council meeting scheduled for April 24–25, 2009.

ACC to meet in May

Episcopal News Service has published a story on the upcoming meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), which is to take place in Kingston, Jamacia, May 1—13, 2009. The ACC is the most representative of the four so-called “instruments of communion” of Anglicanism, including, as it does, ordinary clergy and laypeople of the Communion churches, in addition to bishops. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will attend the meeting as a member of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and ACC.

The ACC is expected to consider the latest draft of an Anglican covenant and whether it should be commended to the member churches of the Communion for their approval. According to ENS, the Covenant Design Group, which met in Cambridge, England, March 30–April 3, is expected to issue a revised covenant draft sometime this week. The Presiding Bishop suggested in October that, should the ACC put forward a new draft for adoption, the 2009 General Convention should not act on the matter, as there will be insufficient time to consider the draft covenant before the church’s governing body meets. (See ENS story here.) She has received some criticism from advocates of a covenant for this statement.

The ACC will also be reviewing the final report of the Windsor Continuation Group, which was presented to the primates in February.

The Falls Church appeals for funds

The Falls Church, one of a group of breakaway churches aligned with the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) and engaged in a long-running battle for parish property with the Diocese of Virginia, has written to parishioners asking for additional funds for legal expenses. (See Pittsburgh Update story here on Virginia litigation.) The letter to contributors of an earlier capital campaign has been posted by The Lead here. Interesting background on that capital campaign has been provided by the Falls Church News-Press.

Episcopalians return to Colorado church for Palm Sunday celebration

After a Colorado judge ordered the dissident congregation occupying the property of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church to return the property to displaced Episcopal parishioners, an orderly transfer of control led to a Palm Sunday return of the Episcopal congregation. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to Episcopal News Service, more than 540 people attended the service.

Corrected Pittsburgh constitution and canons published

The Committee on Canons of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Pittsburgh has published a corrected version of the diocese’s Constitution, Canons, Rules of Order, and Financial Regulations. The new file can be found here. The new version of these documents was necessitated by the decision of the diocese at its December 13, 2008, special convention to declare that certain changes to the constitution and canons were improper, and therefore void. (Resolution IV can be found here on the diocesan Web site.) The file from the Committee on Canons, which had to be reconstructed from older PDF files because the source was not available has bookmarks for the individual documents and a table of contents with links to document content.

The diocese’s story on the new file can be found here. Also on the diocesan Web site is a letter from the Committee requesting suggested changes to the constitution and canons by May 31, 2009. On the same page, the Committee has posted previous versions of the governing documents of the diocese and convention journals from the past several years.

Quincy diocese reorganizes

The Diocese of Quincy, whose synod (convention), like that of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Fort Worth, voted to leave The Episcopal Church, held a reorganizing convention April 4, 2009. As reported by Episcopal News Service, the synod elected the Rt. Rev. John Clark Buchanan, retired bishop of the Diocese of West Missouri, as its new provisional bishop. Buchanan will spend approximately 10 days each month in the Diocese of Quincy. As was done in Pittsburgh, the synod rolled back changes reputedly made to the diocesan constitution and canons by earlier synods. The presence of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was of special significance for the Diocese of Quincy, which has never ordained or welcomed the ministry of women.