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, May 25, 2009

News for Week Ending 5/25/2009

CoE bishop supports Canadian church in property litigation

Church of England Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali is the most prominent signer of a letter of support to St. John’s, Shaughnessy, in the Canadian diocese of New Westminster. Nazir-Ali, who is stepping down from his position to work with “persecuted Christians” (see story here), has been a strong supporter of GAFCON and related “orthodox” movements within Anglicanism. The letter was published here on the Anglican Mainstream site on May 25, 2009. The letter follows by one day a similar letter of support from Anglican Mainstream itself.

Nazir-Ali said, in part
We have grave concerns regarding your diocese’s departure from orthodox Christian teaching which is held by the majority of the Anglican communion, and pray that this will not distort the nature of our proclamation of the gospel of transformation which we are all called to declare.
The Shaughnessy church is one of four churches that brought suit against the Diocese of New Westminster to keep parish property when they reputedly left the Anglican Church of Canada for the Anglican Network in Canada. Additional information can be found on the St. John’s Web site, on the Diocese of New Westminster’s Web site, and in a story from Canadian Christianity.

As was The Episcopal Church for ordaining Gene Robinson, the Diocese of New Westminster was criticized in the Windsor Report for authorizing a rite for same-sex blessings.

Virginia recalls missionary from Sudan

Bishop of Virginia Peter Lee has recalled the Rev. Lauren Stanley from her missionary position in Sudan’s Diocese of Renk. According to examiner.com, Archbishop of Sudan Daniel Deng Bul Yak had requested the removal of Stanley as a result of remarks in support of same-sex blessings she had made last January at the Annual Council of the diocese. The Archbishop has been critical of The Episcopal Church and, at the last Lambeth Conference, suggested that Bishop Gene Robinson should resign.

Episcopal Church regains building in Petaluma

The property of St. John’s Episcopal Church of Petaluma, California, is to be returned to parishioners remaining in The Episcopal Church by July 1, 2009. The Diocese of Northern California announced a negotiated settlement of the dispute with members of the congregation who voted to leave The Episcopal Church in 2006 and are now calling their congregation St. John’s Anglican Church. The diocese filed suit to regain the church property in February 2008. Litigation was put on hold while other church property issues were decided by the Supreme Court—see Pittsburgh Update Story here—after which the judge in the St. John’s case ordered the parties into mediation. Few details of the outcome of the mediation have been made available. The May 20 press release from the diocese and other material related to the St. John’s controversy is available on the diocese’s Web site. The Living Church has a brief story about the settlement here.

Defendants dispute Episcopal Church assertions in Calvary case

In response to the May 12, 2009, filing by The Episcopal Church in the ongoing Calvary lawsuit against former Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan and other former diocesan officials—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the defendants filed a brief May 19, 2009, in which virtually every assertion made by attorneys for The Episcopal Church, including that the church is headquartered in New York City, is disputed. As noted in an earlier Pittsburgh Update post, a important hearing in the case is scheduled for May 27, 2009.

Monday, May 18, 2009

News for Week Ending 5/18/2009

ACC concludes in Jamaica

The 14th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), which began on May 3, 2009, concluded with a Eucharist on May 12. Although the most significant outcome of the meeting from the standpoint of Pittsburgh Episcopalians was the delay in sending an Anglican covenant draft to the churches—see Pittsburgh Update story here—many other resolutions were passed dealing with both internal Communion issues and issues in the world at large. They can all be read here. It should be noted that the Joint Standing Committee, which is made up of primates and representatives from the ACC, will be called simply the Standing Committee in the future. It is this group that will determine when to send a covenant draft to the churches. The ACC also asked “the Primates to include an equal number of non-Primatial members of the Standing Committee as non voting participants in the Primates’ Meeting.” Primates on the Standing Committee already participate in ACC meetings.

Space does not permit full coverage of the ACC meeting here. Readers are encouraged to read the Episcopal News Service coverage of the address to the convention by the Archbishop of Canterbury, however, which had a hopeful tone. Thinking Anglicans provides links to post-ACC comment here.

PB calls for clarity in dealing with B033

In the church’s May 13, 2009, Webcast about the upcoming General Convention—see Pittsburgh Update story here—Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said that she thought it bad legislative practice to repeal General Convention resolutions. She spoke in response to a question about B033, the last-minute resolution passed at General Convention 2006 calling for those who must consent to the consecration of bishops “to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” Jefforts Schori said, “I would far more prefer us to say where we are today, in 2009, to make a positive statement about our desire to include all people fully in this church and that we be clear about who we are as the Episcopal Church.” President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson pointed out that 12 resolutions dealing with B033 have been proposed and that General Convention deputies will have to decide what to do with them. The Episcopal News Service story on the Webcast, can be read here. The Living Church also ran a story on the Webcast, though that story quoted the Presiding Bishop incompletely, leaving out her mentioning inclusiveness. The Webcast can be viewed on the Web here.

L.A. diocese loses bid for legal fees

Daily Pilot reported May 15, 2009, that the Diocese of Los Angeles was denied attorneys’ fees and court costs related to its successful legal action against the breakaway congregation of St. James’, Newport Beach. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Orange County Superior Court Judge Thierry P. Colaw ruled that the church had not acted frivolously and was therefore not liable for legal fees. More details are available from VirtueOnline.

Diocese kicks off youth initiative

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has begun a Diocesan Youth Initiative. A committee has been formed to collect information on parish youth programs and to assess youth needs throughout the diocese. According to the Rev. Kris Opat, a member of the new Youth Initiative Committee, “The hope is to once again offer a robust program for the youth and families of our diocese to come together in worship, fellowship, and service.” More information is available on the diocesan Web site. The Youth Initiative was approved by Diocesan Council, which also approved a $10,000 grant in support of the Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program of St. Stephen’s, Wilkinsburg. This was reported on the diocesan Web site here.

Episcopal Church files brief in anticipation of hearing

The Episcopal Church has filed a complaint-in-intervention in the ongoing litigation against deposed bishop Robert Duncan and other defendants now claiming to be part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The move was reported by The Living Church and comes shortly before a May 27 hearing that promises to be an important milestone in the litigation first brought against Bishop Duncan by Calvary Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The arguments presented in the May 12 filing largely repeat those made when The Episcopal Church first petitioned to intervene in the case on February 13, 2009. Additional filings by the defense are also likely to be submitted to the court before the May 27 hearing.

Diocese inaugurates new mailing list

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has a new way to communicate with the people of the diocese. Called Grace Notes, it is an e-mail newsletter directed to Pittsburgh Episcopalians. The inaugural issue was sent May 12, 2009. People are encouraged to sign up to receive the newsletter, which you can do by clicking here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

News for Week Ending 5/11/2009

ACC reaffirms moratoria, sends covenant for revision

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, endorsed the report of the Windsor Continuation Group on May 8, 2009. That report, endorsed continuation of the moratoria within the Anglican Communion on same-sex blessings, consecration of partnered gay bishops, and episcopal boundary crossings. An endorsement on a fourth moratorium on litigation over property was defeated. Episcopal News Service released a story on the move, which includes the resolution as passed.

The big surprise from the ACC meeting, however, was the failure of the Anglican body to send the Ridley Cambridge draft of an Anglican covenant—see Pittsburgh Update story here—to the member churches for approval. News reports on May 8 on what was happening in the debate over the covenant were confused, apparently reflecting complex and controversial parliamentary maneuvers in the meeting itself. Episcopal News Services reported the final resolution passed on the Covenant draft here. The controversial Section 4 of the draft, which deals with mechanisms to enforce discipline within the Communion, is to be sent to a committee to be appointed by the Archbishop of Canterburty for revision. The revision is not being made by the Covenant Design Group. It will be the Joint Standing Committee of the primates and ACC that will approve a final draft of the covenant to be sent to member churches. Significantly, the draft is to be sent “only to the member churches of the Anglican Consultative Council,” which excludes individual dioceses and Bishop Robert Duncan’s in-formation Anglican Church in North America.

The Living Church reported both on the disposition of the covenant draft and on the controversy surrounding the voting that took place on what was to be done with it. A video report by Anglican TV provides a sense of the confused debate that took place on the covenant. An ENS report also deals with the controversy surrounding the ACC voting, as well as with other actions taken at the meeting.

The disposition of the covenant by the ACC takes pressure off this summer’s General Convention, though the issue of the moratoria will surely be an issue with which the General Convention will have to contend.

For more information about what happened at the ACC meeting, readers are referred to the resources mention in the previous Pittsburgh Update story here.

Court leans toward Episcopal Church in San Joaquin case

Prior to a court hearing, a Fresno County, California, judge has issued a tentative ruling favoring the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and The Episcopal Church in its dispute with the “realigned” “Anglican diocese.”

As is true in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a substantial portion of the assets of the Episcopal Church diocese is currently controlled by a deposed bishop who claims to have removed his diocese from The Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and its provisional bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb, sued former Bishop of San Joaquin John-David Schofield and other diocesan leaders to recover diocesan assets. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

On May 4, 2009, Judge Adolfo M. Corona issued a tentative opinion in Diocese of San Joaquin v. Schofield, et al. The opinion acknowledged Bishop Lamb, not Bishop Schofield, as the legitimate bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin and deferred to The Episcopal Church’s determination in such matters. Lamb, according to the opinion, heads an ongoing, rather than a “new” diocese; it asserts that the defendants left the diocese. A May 5 hearing was scheduled to argue the substance of the opinion.

The Episcopal News Service story on the tentative California decision includes a link to the court document. According to Religious Intelligence, the hearing was on “a motion for summary judgment by the Episcopal Church against the Anglican Diocese.” It could result in the tentative opinion’s becoming an actual opinion, or the litigation could lead to an actual trial. Apparently, the hearing was held on May 6. According to a statement from the chancellor of the Episcopal Church diocese (who described himself as being “cautiously optimistic”), an opinion must be rendered within 90 days. The Southern Cone group posted a response to the tentative opinion here and offered the following view on its home page:
The Judge in Fresno Superior Court, The Honorable Adolpho M. Corona, heard the arguments of our Chancellor and co-counsel that the preliminary, or "tentative", opinion issued May 3rd contained information which was inaccurate. There were "questions of fact" which were in dispute and could only be resolved through a full trial proceeding—or so was our argument. Our goal is to go to trial so that we may present our case fully before a jury.

Newport Beach church to appeal to Supreme Court

Last week, we reported that the Diocese of Los Angeles was attempting to recover litigation costs in connection with the departure of the congregation of St. James, Newport Beach. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Now, Daily Pilot has reported that the congregation that left The Episcopal Church plans to appeal the California Supreme Court verdict in favor of the diocese and Episcopal Church to the U.S. Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds. The nation’s highest court, of course, takes very few of the cases presented to it.

Defendants respond in Diocese of Fort Worth case

The Living Church reported May 8, 2009, that the breakaway Fort Worth “diocese” has filed a response to the suit brought by the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The 12-page response asks that the suit be dismissed and claims that The Episcopal Church is a voluntary association of dioceses.

Bishop Johnson extends Pittsburgh assignment

When it was announced at December’s special convention that Bishop Robert H. Johnson had agreed to be assisting bishop in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, his tenure in our diocese was scheduled to end in July. The concerns of many that the diocese would not regularly have a bishop available after that date have now been alleviated, as Bishop Johnson has agreed to stay on through the next annual convention, which is scheduled to take place at Trinity Cathedral on October 17, 2009. It is widely anticipated, but by no means certain, that the convention will be asked to approve a provisional bishop at the October convention, who would serve until a search and election for a new diocesan bishop is conducted. The extension of Johnson’s service to Pittsburgh was reported on the diocesan Web site on May 8, 2009.

Standing Committee president to be in GC Webcast

The Rev. Dr. James Simons, president of the diocese’s Standing Committee, will participate in an Episcopal Church Webcast on Wednesday, May 13, 2009, relating to the 2009 General Convention. The Webcast is being hosted by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson; Executive Officer and Secretary of the General Convention, the Rev. Gregory Straub; and Bishop J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Questions about the General Convention can be submitted by e-mail. The Webcast can be viewed on the Episcopal Church Web site at 11 AM Eastern time.

The General Convention is being held in Anaheim, California, from where this week’s event will originate. Simons will play an important role at the General Convention as chair of the Dispatch of Business Committee, which is responsible for the progress of resolutions.

Additional details about the Webcast can be read in the story from the Diocese of Pittsburgh and from the Episcopal News Service story.

Hearing on request for diocesan assets set for May 27

Calvary Church and other plaintiffs have filed a new brief with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in support of their request that the court enforce the stipulation of October 2005 against Robert Duncan, et al. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The document filed May 8, 2009, can be read here. A hearing, which could result in diocesan assets being transferred from control of Duncan to the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Pittsburgh, has been scheduled for May 27.

Monday, May 4, 2009

News for Week Ending 5/4/2009

Anglican Consultative Council begins meeting in Jamaica

The Anglican Consultative Council, the most representative of the four “Instruments of Communion” of the Anglican Communion, is meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, May 1–13, 2009. The group of bishops, clergy, religious, and laypeople from the various provinces of the Anglican Communion meets (in principle) every 2–3 years. The last meeting of the ACC, however, was in Nottingham, England, in 2005. At that meeting, at the request of the Anglican primates, representatives of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily agreed not to participate. The two churches will take part in the Jamaica meeting.

The most notable item on the agenda of the ACC is the matter of what to do with the Ridley-Cambridge draft of the proposed Anglican covenant. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The ACC could decide to send the draft to the Anglican provinces for their acceptance or rejection. Other actions, including sending the draft back to the Covenant Design Group, of course, are possible, though less likely. The circumstances under which the covenant would be sent to the provinces has yet to be determined. Secretary general of the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon has said, according to Anglican Journal, that acceding to the covenant will be voluntary and that acceptance or rejection of the covenant will not affect membership in the Anglican Communion.

The program of the ACC meeting is available here. The agenda also devotes considerable time to the Windsor Continuation Group.

Initial news reports on the ACC meeting are available from Episcopal News Service and Anglican Communion News Service. (The latter link includes audio of the May 2 press briefing.) Continuing reports can be expected from ENS and ACNS. No doubt, The Living Church will also offer reports. Anglican Journal and Anglican Mainstream have both committed to systematic coverage of the ACC meeting.

Ugandan representative barred from ACC meeting

The Lead has reported that the designated clergy representative of the Church of Uganda has been barred from the Jamaica ACC meeting by the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the primates. The Church of Uganda chose the Rev. J. Philip Ashey, chief operating officer of the American Anglican Council and a resident of Atlanta, Georgia, as a replacement for a clergy delegate who was unable to attend. Over the protests of Ugandan primate Archbishop Henry Orombi, Ashey was deemed ineligible to represent the Ugandan church, as his position with the church is the result of an incursion into the jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church. The Lead (see earlier link) reproduces the correspondence between the Church of Uganda and the Anglican Communion Office concerning Ashey’s attendance. The Living Church has written about the “credentials flap,” as has Episcopal News Service.

New York court: church not entitled to bequest

According to Episcopal News Service, a New York court has ruled that members of the former Church of the Good Shepherd, Binghamton, are not entitled to a bequest from Robert Branan, a deceased vestry member of the parish. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Members of the congregation left The Episcopal Church in November 2007, and the Diocese of Central New York has asserted that Good Shepherd parish no longer exists. Justice Ferris D. Lebous wrote, in his opinion, “While Good Shepherd may have abandoned the Episcopal faith, Mr. Branan never did, and his intent was clearly to benefit a local Episcopal church.” According to the justice, there is “simply no basis on which to find that Mr. Branan would want his money to go to those former members of the Church of the Good Shepherd that abandoned the faith that he, apparently, held so dear.”

Los Angeles moves to recover legal costs

Southern California newspaper Daily Pilot has reported that the Diocese of Los Angeles is attempting to recover legal costs of its battle with the breakaway congregation of St. James, Newport Beach. The California Supreme Court ruled in January that the parish property of St. James belongs to the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) A court hearing is scheduled for May 15. The breakaway congregation, now calling itself St. James Anglican Church, as well as individual vestry members may be liable for the considerable legal costs incurred by the diocese.