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, July 27, 2009

News for Week Ending 7/27/2009

News and commentary on the General Convention

The 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church concluded in Anaheim, California, on July 17, 2009. The previous Pittsburgh Update post noted the most discussed actions of the triennial gathering. As expected, there are now some good summaries that include information about less well known actions. The Diocese of Southwest Florida has posted a helpful 6-1/2 minute video on YouTube summarizing the convention. The Diocese of Chicago has posted a more comprehensive summary of legislation on its Web site.

It would be impossible to list here all the commentaries that have appeared on the Web discussing the General Convention. Of special note, however, is the fact that the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Bishops wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning Resolution C056. The correspondence was reported here by Episcopal News Service. ENS also carried a story on the Presiding Bishop’s letter to The Episcopal Church. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has published his own reflection on the General Convention, “Communion, Covenant and Anglican Future.” It is, of course, too early to know what the effect of the convention will be on Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion relations.

San Joaquin court ruling seen as first step in returning property to Episcopal Church

A California Superior Court judge issued a ruling July 21, 2009, declaring Episcopal bishop Jerry Lamb to be the Bishop of San Joaquin and rightful steward of the property of the Diocese of San Joaquin. The decision declares that former bishop John-David Schofield had no right to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church and transfer it to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The decision, which was not unexpected—see Pittsburgh Update story here—decided many issues also in contention in the Calvary litigation against deposed bishop Robert Duncan and other former diocesan leaders. The judge declared that The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church, that a constitutional provision declaring accession to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church cannot be modified by an individual diocese, and that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is not a “new” diocese. Episcopal News Service reported the story here. The court’s opinion can be read here. The Presiding Bishop issued a statement about the San Joaquin decision that can be read here. Although the decision does not immediately return property to the Diocese of San Joaquin, it is seen as an important step in regaining property belonging to The Episcopal Church.

Post-Gazette reports on two dioceses

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried a story on Sunday, July 26, 2009, on the Diocese of Pittsburgh in The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the Anglican Church in North America. The article, “Churches attempt to heal after split,” which emphasizes the experiences of individual church members, can be read here.

‘Anglican’ diocese tightens belt

The Pittsburgh diocese headed by Archbishop Robert Duncan that is part of the Anglican Church in North America has revealed several cost-saving measures. On July 21, 2009, the diocese announced that the diocesan archives, established in 1979 by Bishop Robert Appleyard, had ceased operations on July 1 in an effort to cut expenses. Only a few days earlier, the diocese declared that it will abandon its expensive downtown office space in the Oliver Building and move to less expensive space in Allegheny Center. Duncan moved diocesan offices to the Oliver Building from Trinity Cathedral seven years ago, a move that negatively impacted the cathedral budget.

Monday, July 20, 2009

News for Week Ending 7/20/2009

Bermuda adopts women’s ordination

Disputes over the place of homosexuals in Anglican churches have brought renewed attention to differences over the ordination of women. Although ordination is widely available to women in the Anglican Communion, it is not universal, and the hostility of the newly created Anglican Church in North America to women’s ordination is notable. In this context, the synod of the Anglican Church of Bermuda has just voted to allow women deacons and priests. The move was reported July 6, 2009, by The Royal Gazette. The change in policy came quickly after Bishop Ewen Ratteray, a staunch opponent of ordaining women, was replaced by Bishop Patrick White. Although women will not be able to become bishops in Bermuda, Bermuda expects to follow the lead of the Church of England, which is in the process of approving women bishops.

Bermuda is part of the Anglican Communion, being a diocese that is extra-provincial to Canterbury. That is, Bermuda is directly under the episcopal care of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

General Convention moves cautiously forward

The 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church concluded July 17, 2009, in Anaheim, California. Although the convention had a long legislative calendar, the passage of two resolutions by wide margins in both houses dominated the news from Anaheim.

Many resolutions were proposed to revisit Resolution B033, which was passed during the final minutes of the 2006 General Convention. That resolution was widely viewed as a virtual, if not literal, ban on the consecration of additional gay bishops. After much discussion, the convention passed D025, “Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion,” on July 14. The resolution expresses strong support for the Anglican Communion (the “Commitment” part) and reiterates General Convention approval of faithful, monogamous, same-sex relationships and the openness of the discernment process for ordained positions irrespective of sexual orientation (the ”Witness” part). D025 also acknowledges that the views expressed by The Episcopal Church are not uniformly accepted.

Although D025 has not rescinded B033, it has generally been viewed as having removed any advice by the General Convention to reject gay episcopal candidates out-of-hand. The resolution has been both applauded and condemned in the U.S. and abroad. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies wrote the Archbishop of Canterbury to say that D025 represents an honest presentation of where The Episcopal Church stands. They indicated that B033 is still in place, while suggesting that its effectiveness will be diminished. (See ENS story here.) For his part, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams condemned the resolution even before it was passed. Comment from the archbishop after passage and after receiving the letter from Jefferts Schori and Anderson has not been reported.

Perhaps of even greater significance was the passage of Resolution C056, “Liturgies for Blessings.” Acknowledging “changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations” regarding the legal status of same-sex unions, C056 calls for the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to collect and develop, in an open process, theological and liturgical resources relating to same-sex blessings and to report to the 77th General Convention. Moreover, “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church.” C056 is considered a modest step forward in the process of adopting officially a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. It will trouble many in the Anglican Communion, but, like D025, it is seen as being an honest reflection of sentiment within The Episcopal Church. The Living Church reported on the adoption of C056 here. The Episcopal News Service story is here.

It is impossible to summarize other actions of the General Convention here. Pittsburgh Update expects to present additional information on the 76th General Convention next week, by which time legislative summaries should be available. The disposition of particular legislation can be checked here. Appointments and elections can be found here. Thinking Anglicans has been collecting (and, presumably, will continue to collect) reaction and opinion regarding the General Convention.

Despite its dealing with some very controversial issues, all accounts have suggested that the 76th General Convention was an exceedingly respectful and friendly gathering. (See “Mood of convention reflects ubuntu.”) It was also a convention where people from Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Fort Worth, and Quincy were made to feel welcome. (See “Continuing dioceses: The church is alive and well.”)

Church budget/staff slashed by General Convention

The Episcopal Church is not immune to the financial problems besetting the economy generally. Because both gifts and endowment income is down, the church’s budget for the coming three years has, according to The New York Times, been reduced by $23 million. The reduced budget will result in a 17% reduction in staff positions. Whole programs will be eliminated by the revised financial plan adopted by the General Convention, the next General Convention may be shortened, church bodies will meet less frequently, and the church’s contribution to the Anglican Communion Office will be reduced. Episcopal News Service posted stories on the budget here and here.

Ironically, the General Synod of the Church of England, meeting at the same time as the General Convention and facing similar financial difficulties, rejected a plan advanced by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to reduce the number of bishops and dioceses in the church. Opponents of the cuts called for more imaginative ways of reducing expenses. The story was reported by Episcopal News Service here.

Dissenting bishops issue ‘Anaheim Statement’

Some of the most controversial votes in the House of Bishops at the recently concluded General Convention were lopsided. It is not true that those who chose not to endorse Resolutions D025 or C056 are comfortable with the direction taken by their colleagues, however. In a closed session on July 16, Bishop Gary W. Lillibridge, of the Diocese of West Texas, read a statement that is being called the “Anaheim Statement.” (Reports about the statement are available from Episcopal News Service and The Living Church. The latter story contains a list of signatories, which may not be complete. A more recent story from The Living Church lists additional bishops who have signed on. The statement itself can be read here.)

The Anaheim Statement acknowledges the direction in which the majority in the House of Bishops has chosen to go regarding human sexuality issues. Signatories pledge a commitment to the Anglican Communion, to the three moratoria (on consecration of gay bishops, on the blessing of same-sex unions, and on episcopal border crossings) demanded of Communion provinces, and to the Anglican covenant process. The bishops made no specific commitment to The Episcopal Church in their statement.

Monday, July 13, 2009

News for Week Ending 7/13/2009

General Convention begins in Anaheim

The 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church began in Anaheim, California, July 7, 2009. Early highlights included addresses by the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson. Also, for the first time, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams attended the General Convention briefly. The Diocese of Pittsburgh is maintaining links to General Convention stories from Episcopal News Service, which you can read here. Other news resources about the convention were mentioned here last week. The church publishes a General Convention newspaper every day. You can read current and past issues here.

GC begins making legislative progress

Although participants in the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will long remember convention events such as the welcoming address of the Presiding Bishop, it is legislation passed by the House of Deputies and House of Bishops for which history will remember the Anaheim gathering. As the convention moves to the conclusion of its first week, notable resolutions are beginning to work their way throw the legislative mill.

The piece of legislation that has received most notice so far is D025, “Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion.” This resolution was singled out by the World Mission Legislative Committee as the basis for affirming our commitment to the Anglican Communion while declaring that we have no moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops. As we go to press (on July 13, 2009), this resolution has just been passed by an overwhelming vote in the House of Bishops after having been passed handily by the House of Deputies July 12. The current version of the resolution is available here. Because what has been characterized as a minor amendment was made by the bishops, the legislation now returns to the House of Deputies, where its passage seems likely. Episcopal News Service reported on the passage of D025 July 12. Ruth Gledhill of The Times reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury, even before D025 reached the House of Bishops, said, “I regret the fact that there is not the will to observe the moratorium in such a significant part of the Church in North America but I can’t say more about that as I have no details.” Most in The Episcopal Church would argue that resolution B033 from the last General Convention was only advisory and did not establish a moratorium on gay bishops.

In other developments, the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee sent resolution C056, which calls for the collection and development of “theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions,” to the House of Bishops. (See ENS story here.) The House of Bishops has also approved a denominational health plan. This legislation, in the form of resolution A177, now goes to the House of Deputies. (See ENS story here.)

Pittsburgh GC deputies blog on diocesan Web site

Members of the Pittsburgh deputation to the Anaheim General Convention are posting thoughts about the General Convention on the Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site. They are not acting as reporters but are offering personal observations that communicate a sense of what it is like to be participating in the legislature-cum-family reunion that is the church’s General Convention. You can read their blog posts here. Additionally, our deputies have been taking photos at the convention, which can be seen here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

News for Week Ending 7/6/2009

Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK) holds kickoff meeting

A group intended to be GAFCON’s Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK (FCA (UK)) has scheduled its kickoff meeting July 6, 2009, in London. (See Pittsburgh Update post on last year’s GAFCON here.) A press release concerning the event can be read on the GAFCON Web site. According to The Press Association, more than 1000 people are expected to attend. The meeting takes place amid concerns that the new organization could be disruptive to the Anglican Communion and even the Church of England itself. Five Church of England bishops are expected to participate. Newly minted archbishop Robert Duncan, deposed Bishop of Pittsburgh, will give a keynote address. Religious Intelligence and TimesOnline each has a story containing information and opinion about the event.

An early report coming out of the meeting claims that over 1600 attended and that the threat the “movement” poses to the Church of England—FCA (UK) claims not to be an “organization”—was made quite explicit. Bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst, Chairman of Forward in Faith International, is quoted as saying, “Satan is alive and well and he’s working in Church House [the building housing the administrative offices of the Church of England].” According to the Religious Intelligence story, this threat was made: “Consecrating women as bishops in the Church of England without proper provision for those opposed to the move would prompt FCA UK to challenge the current Church leadership.”

General Convention meets in Anaheim

The 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church begins its work this week in Anaheim, California. The governing body of The Episcopal Church, which convenes once every three years, will meet from July 8 through July 17. Eight to ten thousand people are expected to participate in the meeting, counting bishops, deputies, exhibitors, other church officials, guests, and visitors. For the first time, live video feeds will be available over the Internet, allowing those who cannot be in Anaheim to follow the proceedings. Webcasts and other convention-related content will be available at a Web site described as a “media hub” established by the church’s digital communications team. Legislation—there is a good deal of it—can be tracked at a site that makes both original and marked up resolutions available. More information about the technology being used at the General Convention can be found in the Episcopal News Service story here. The General Convention’s home on the Web is here.

For the first time, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will be present for part of the General Convention. Episcopal News Service reported July 1 that he will be meeting privately with selected deputies to discuss issues of sexuality.

A brief introduction to the work of the General Convention by our Assisting Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Johnson, can be read on the diocesan Web site here. Bishop Johnson’s introduction also lists the deputation attending the convention from Pittsburgh:
  1. The Rev. Dr. James Simons
  2. The Rev. Scott Quinn
  3. The Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis
  4. The Rev. Dr. Bruce Robison
  5. The Rev. Lou Hays (Alternate)
  6. Mr. Stephen Stagnitta
  7. Mr. David Laughlin, Ph.D.
  8. Ms. Joan Gunderson, Ph.D.
  9. Ms. Mary Roehrich
  10. Ms. Gwen Santiago (Alternate)
The Anaheim convention will be covered by the usual news sites and blogs. Many dioceses are also planning special coverage from their particular perspectives. Members of the Pittsburgh deputation are expected to offer impressions on the Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site. Extensive coverage will be provided by the Diocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Virginia.

Local priest participates in Episcopal Life Online exchange

Although no version of an Anglican covenant is before the General Convention for its approval—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the very notion of a covenant remains controversial and a topic of much discussion within The Episcopal Church. On June 25, Episcopal Life Online carried essays both for and against adopting a covenant. Arguing the case for a covenant was the Rev. Bruce Robison, rector of St. Andrew’s, Highland Park. Robison’s essay is “Covenant aligns with Episcopal identity.” Taking an opposing view was the Rev. James V. Stockton, of Austin, Texas. His essay is “Consider facts about proposed covenant, not myths.”

Robison is one of the sponsors of a General Convention resolution by which The Episcopal Church would provisionally agree to abide by the provisions of the most recent covenant draft. Robison argues that we do not have to choose between the extremes of submitting to “an authoritarian international hierarchy” or becoming “some kind of autonomous American ‘denomination.’” We can, he says, be both independent and “profoundly interdependent in character and spiritual identity.”

Stockton argues, on the other hand, that the covenant claims to be re-establishing an Anglican unity that has never existed and that serves no useful purpose. Conservatives see the covenant as a way of controlling churches such as our own. However, a covenant, he says, is “ fantastically useless.” It is preoccupied with establishing uniformity and is distracting our church from its mission. We are “one in Christ” already, says Stockton, and The Episcopal Church should be leading the Anglican Communion back to being “a collegial fellowship of independent churches, working and praying interdependently to bring Christ to the wider world around us, and to find Christ there waiting for us.”

to the two essays were posted at Episcopal Life Online July 2.

Although the 2009 General Convention will not be asked to approve an Anglican covenant, the church’s Executive Council has asked General Convention deputations and bishops to study the latest covenant draft, according to a story from Episcopal News Service.