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 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.