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, August 31, 2009

News for Week Ending 8/31/2009

Presiding Bishops elaborates on her welcome address

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was criticized by conservative commentators for a statement she made in her opening address to the 76th General Convention on July 7, 2009. Specifically, she spoke of the “great Western heresy … that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. The Presiding Bishop has now written an essay, “Salvation's goal: returning all to right relationship,” explaining what she was trying to say to deputies to the General Convention. The essay appeared on the Episcopal Church Web site August 27. In the essay, Jefferts Schori identifies the heresy as “individualism,” a word not used in her July 7 address. She also admitted, “At the same time, salvation in the sense of cosmic reconciliation is a mystery.” The Living Church wrote about the new essay here.

Breakaway San Joaquin group appeals court finding

John-David Schofield and his breakaway Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin have asked a California appellate court to review the July 21, 2009, court opinion that declared Bishop Jerry Lamb to be the bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin and Schofield, the former bishop of the diocese, to have no claim to authority or property in the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here on the trial court decision.) The Diocese of San Joaquin and The Episcopal Church have until September 15, 2009, to respond to the Schofield petition. Episcopal News Service reported the story August 28.

Daily American reports another side of Pittsburgh bishop

Somerset’s Daily American carried a report August 28, 2009, to the effect that Pittsburgh’s assisting bishop, the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Johnson would be visiting St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church the following Sunday. The story included a fact not well known to Pittsburgh Episcopalians, however. Bishop Johnson was a model for the bishop in novels by writer Jan Karon about an Episcopal priest in the fictional community of Mitford, N.C.

Standing Committee president presides at dog funeral

The work of an Episcopal priest sometimes takes surprising turns. The president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Rev. Jim Simons, found himself presiding at a memorial service for a dog on August 23, 2009. German shepherd Ando served Ligonier Township for seven years as a K-9 police officer. Ando was recently euthanized after being diagnosed with cancer. The story was reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Additional information and pictures can be found on the Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site.

Monday, August 24, 2009

News for Week Ending 8/24/2009

Lutherans approve partnered gay pastors

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in a week-long meeting of the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, Minnesota, took two actions likely to have repercussions beyond the ELCA. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

On August 19, 2009, the governing body of the largest Lutheran church in the U.S. adopted a “social statement” titled “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.” Such social statements are guides to church action, and adoption of the statement was a prelude to consideration of a more controversial decision two days later on partnered gay pastors. The statement addresses, among other things, “lifelong monogamous same-gender relationships,” acknowledging that members of the ELCA are not of one mind about such relationships. The statement was passed by the required two-thirds majority. Attempts by conservatives to amend the statement were defeated.

The ELCA press release concerning “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” can be read here. News stories include those from Episcopal News Service and Associated Press.

The biggest news of the week from the Lutheran meeting, however, was the passage, on August 21, of a proposal (in the words of the ELCA press release) “to open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships.” Previously, such pastors were expected to be celibate. The usual arguments were advanced against this move, and some are threatening to leave the ELCA as a result of the church’s decision. The Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, expressed the hope that a way could be found to keep Lutherans in the church whose conscience cannot accept the decision taken by the ELCA. (See the press release here.)

Other stories on the ELCA decision to remove the celibacy requirement for pastors are available from The Living Church, Episcopal News Service, Los Angeles Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. Associated Press has summarized the positions on gay clergy of various churches here.

Savannah church case in hands of judge

Savannah, Georgia, TV station WTOC reported August 17, 2009, that the matter of ownership of the property of Savannah’s Christ Church is now in the hands of Chatham County Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf. A hearing was held in Judge Karpf’s courtroom August 14 to argue whether the Diocese of Georgia or the Christ Church congregation should have control of the property. Christ Church was established in 1733, but the congregation, unhappy with actions of The Episcopal Church, is trying to leave the church while retaining parish property.

More bishops sign on to Anaheim Statement

According to an August 24, 2009, story by The Living Church, two additional conservative bishops have signed on to the Anaheim Statement, a declaration of commitment to the Anglican Communion and to the moratoria urged by elements of the Communion on The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Rt. Rev. Charles E. Jenkins, III, Bishop of Louisiana, and the Rt. Rev. Harry W. Shipps, retired Bishop of Georgia, have now signed the statement. Signatories are mostly conservative bishops, but also include several moderate bishops who voted for Resolutions D025 and C056.

Monday, August 17, 2009

News for Week Ending 8/17/2009

Lutherans to vote on gay clergy

According to an August 15, 2009, report from National Public Radio, clergy and laypeople of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will vote this week on whether to allow partnered gay pastors. The decision will be made at a week-long meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The measure is given a good chance of passage. Text and audio of the story are available on the NPR Web site.

More GC summaries appear

A month after the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church ended, summaries and interpretations of what was done in Anaheim are still appearing. Episcopal News Service ran its own brief summary (“Summaries of General Convention actions now available”), and the General Convention Office has produced the more comprehensive “Summary of Actions of the 76th General Convention,” available as a 25-page PDF file. Episcopal layperson Pamela Dolan did a good job of providing an answer to the question “What’s happening in the Episcopal Church?” in her essay for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

SC bishop urges diocese to distance itself from Episcopal Church

Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence, in an address to diocesan clergy August 13, 2009, accused The Episcopal Church of “a multitude of false teachings.” He announced that a resolution will be brought before an October 24 special convention. That resolution will assert that the diocese should “begin withdrawing from all bodies of governance of TEC that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture; the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them; the resolutions of Lambeth which have expressed the mind of the Communion; the Book of Common Prayer (p.422-423) and the Constitution & Canons of TEC (Canon 18:1.2.b) until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions.” Lawrence urged that the Diocese of South Carolina approve the Anglican covenant draft, even as its fourth section is being revised. He said that his diocese should find a way to support conservative parishes in other dioceses.

Lawrence’s address is posted on his diocese’s Web site. Episcopal News Service and The Living Church each reported on the address. Additional resources are available on Thinking Anglicans.

Quincy gets new Web site

The Diocese of Qunicy, the smallest of the four diocese that, like Pittsburgh, experienced a mass departure of conservatives, has a new Web site. The site, whose appearance is a clear sign that the diocese is moving forward, can be found at http://myepiscopaldioceseofquincy.org/.

Briefs filed in Supreme Court appeal

Two friend of the court briefs have been filed supporting the request for Supreme Court review by St. James, Newport Beach. The California Supreme Court ruled against the breakaway church and in favor of the Diocese of Los Angeles in their property dispute. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Philadelphia’s The Bulletin reported August 10, 2009, that Good Shepherd, Rosemont, which has been involved in a longstanding dispute with the Diocese of Pennsylvania, has filed a brief supporting St. James. A brief supporting St. James has also been filed by a group of Presbyterian laypeople who have engaged Kenneth Starr as their attorney. That July 27, 2009, filing can be read here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

News for Week Ending 8/10/2009

Archbishop’s message provokes more responses

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ reflections on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention—see Pittsburgh Update story here—continues to provoke controversy. This week’s most notable development was the publication, by a group of 13 organizations within the Church of England, of a statement critical of “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future”. The August 4, 2009, statement can be read on the site of Inclusive Church. It accuses the Archbishop of Canterbury of inconsistency and expresses “grave concerns” about the archbishop’s reflections. The Times religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, citing the statement, wrote a column with the perhaps exaggerated title “Liberal Anglicans declare war on conservatives in the Church.”

The Guardian ran a series on the topic “Who cares about the Anglican schism?” Links to the diverse views expressed in response to the archbishop’s ruminations can be found at Thinking Anglicans. Additional commentary on the archbishop’s reflections is summarized at Thinking Anglicans here.

In collaboration with the Anglican Communion Institute and Fulcrum, Bishop of Durham N.T. Wright wrote an analysis of “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” shortly after its publication. Wright explained what he thought the archbishop was saying and then declared what he thought the archbishop should do. The LGBT advocacy organization Changing Attitude is now running a two-part attack on Wright’s essay. The first part is available here; the second part is to be published August 11.

Committee on Canons to hold public forum

The Committee on Canons of the Diocese of Pittsburgh will hold a public meeting August 12, 2009, to present its recommendations for changes to the constitution and canons of the diocese. The event will take place at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, at 7:30 PM. Pittsburgh Episcopalians can ask questions about the recommendations or make suggestions before the committee issues its final report. Details are available on the diocesan Web site. The committee’s recommendations can be downloaded here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

News for Week Ending 8/3/2009

Archbishop’s ‘reflection’ sparks discussion

The latest “reflection” by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has been the subject of many news stories and much commentary on the Web. Williams posted his “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” on July 27, 2009. Though nominally a response to the 2009 General Convention, the essay is more of a status report and commentary on the Anglican Communion by its spiritual leader.

The Archbishop begins by stating his understanding that the two resolutions passed at General Convention related to ordination of bishops and same sex relationship blessings “do not have the automatic effect of overturning the requested moratoria.” He then argues against ordaining homosexuals and discusses how the Anglican Communion should make decisions, but the secular media have largely reported on his suggesting that the Communion could become a “two-track” affair. (See, for examples, stories from The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.) Williams had earlier suggested a “two-tier” Communion; the latest discussion of this idea offers two ways of being Anglican, rather than first-class and second-class Communion citizenship for provinces such as The Episcopal Church.

The past week has seen a flood of commentaries on the archbishop’s reflections. Episcopal News Service ran a story on the reaction on July 31, but commentaries continue to appear. Generally, Rowan Williams seems to have satisfied neither conservatives nor liberals. (See the story in The Boston Globe.) Thinking Anglicans has continued to cover responses. Particular posts can be read here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Test of ‘moratorium’ looms

Whatever one’s view of whether The Episcopal Church has had a moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay bishops since the 2006 General Convention, the reality is that Bishop Gene Robinson remains the only such bishop in the church. This could change soon, however. On August 1, 2009, Episcopal News Service reported that the Diocese of Minnesota had nominated three priests to be considered as its next bishop. One of these, the Rev. Bonnie Perry, who currently serves as a rector in the Diocese of Chicago, is a partnered lesbian who, in 2006, was an episcopal candidate in the Diocese of California. Additional information on the candidates is available here. A new bishop for Minnesota will be elected at the end of October.

On August 2, ENS reported that two partnered gay candidates are among the six candidates to be considered for two suffragan bishop positions in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Included among the candidates for the December election are the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool, of the Diocese of Maryland, and the Rev. John L. Kirkley, of the Diocese of California. Additional information is available here. The Los Angeles election will be held in early December.

All bishops elected in The Episcopal Church are required to receive consent to their consecrations by a majority of bishops with jurisdiction (mostly diocesan bishops) and a majority of diocesan standing committees. The recent General Convention declared that there are no institutional bars to LGBT persons entering the discernment process at any level of ministry, but they may, like other candidates, be eliminated or withdraw during the discernment process (see Pittsburgh Update story here). A number of bishops have indicated, in the so-called Anaheim Statement—see Pittsburgh Update story here—that they will not vote for an LGBT candidate.

PB explains property litigation policy

Diocese of Washington blog The Lead has published a post containing the text of a letter sent to bishops by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on July 31, 2009. The letter grew out of recent discussions among Episcopal bishops and among members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice regarding property disputes. In the letter, Jefferts Schori sets out specific policy that has not hitherto been articulated publicly. In particular: (1) property settlements must be “reasonable and fair,” and (2) the church will not make agreements “that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church.” Explicating the latter policy, the Presiding Bishop writes
Pragmatically, the latter means property settlements need to include a clause that forbids, for a period of at least five years, the presence of bishops on the property who are not members of this [Episcopal Church] House [of Bishops], unless they are invited by the diocesan bishop for purposes which do not subvert mission and ministry in the name of this Church.