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, September 28, 2009

News for Week Ending 9/28/2009

La Crescenta church faces eviction by L.A. diocese

According to Crescenta Valley Weekly, the Diocese of Los Angeles has demanded that the congregation of St. Luke’s Anglican Church, formerly St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church, vacate its La Crescenta, California, church. The move comes after the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from an appellate court decision that declared the parish property to be that of the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In a letter to the congregation, the diocese declared that the church should be vacated by noon on Friday, September 25, 2009.

Bennison denied dismissal of charges or new trial

According to Episcopal News Service, Bishop of Pennsylvania Charles E. Bennison was denied his request for dismissal of charges against him or a new trial September 24, 2009, by an ecclesiastical trial court. Bennison is charged with failing to report sexual abuse of a minor by his brother, John Bennison. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The bishop was tried and convicted in 2008 on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. He is currently inhibited and facing deposition from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church. He had no immediate comment on his latest judicial setback.

S.C. resolutions announced

As promised by the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the Diocese of South Carolina has posted five resolutions to be offered at a special diocesan convention on October 24, 2009. Taken together, the resolutions represent a commitment to the Anglican covenant and a repudiation of The Episcopal Church, although the diocese is not actually proposing to withdraw from The Episcopal Church.

NW Pa. diocese not thinking about reunion

Episcopal News Service reported September 25, 2009, on the resolution to be offered at the annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh requesting a study of the advisability of “reuniting” the diocese with the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) A spokesperson for the Erie-based diocese, Vanessa Butler, told ENS that there is no plan to introduce a related resolution at that diocese’s annual convention November 6–7. Butler indicated that the diocese might be interested in joining with another Episcopal diocese, but that it was not interested in doing so “anytime soon.” Pittsburgh will vote on its resolution on October 17.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

News for Week Ending 9/21/2009

Nigeria selects new primate

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has elected a successor to Archbishop Peter Akinola, who will retire in March, 2010. Nigerian bishops elected 56-year-old Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop of Bendel Province and a retired lieutenant colonel in the Nigerian Army, on September 15, 2009. (See story here.) Lagos’s The Guardian published a profile of Archbishop Okoh on September 18 that makes it clear that Okoh is likely to follow closely in Archbishop Akinola’s footsteps. (Akinola has been the most conspicuous critic of The Episcopal Church among the Anglican primates.) As further evidence, Ruth Gledhill of the Times reported on a sermon delivered by Okoh in July in which he asserted that Islam is mass-producing children to take over Africa. (“That is the type of evangelism they are doing: mass-production, so if you have four wives, four children, sixteen children, very soon you will be a village.”) Christianity and Islam have been in keen competetion in Nigeria, a conflict that has sometimes been violent.

Property litigation begins in Fort Worth

The legal battle for the property of the Diocese of Fort Worth has gotten underway in a Tarrant County (Fort Worth) courtroom. Little has been decided at this point, but the major parties to the litigation, each calling itself the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth,” are already working hard to spin the meager facts being created in the Texas courtroom. The group headed by Bishop Leo Iker, who claims to be in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, issued a press release on September 16, 2009, suggesting that it had achieved a great initial victory in the litigation. This was quickly disputed by the other Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, as reported by Episcopal News Service here. Both the Episcopal Church diocese and the reputed Southern Cone diocese have published particular court documents on their Web sites, but those documents give little clue as to how the litigation will finally be decided.

S.C. court rules against diocese and Episcopal Church

The long-running dispute between The Episcopal Church and its Diocese of South Carolina, on one hand, and All Saints, Pawleys Island, on the other, resulted in a South Carolina Supreme Court decision September 18, 2009, giving parish property to the congregation. The congregation voted in 2004 to leave The Episcopal Church for what was then called the Anglican Mission in America (now the Anglican Mission in the Americas). The rare legal defeat for The Episcopal Church in a property dispute turned on specific facts in the case, according to The Post and Courier of Charleston. The decision, which reversed a lower court ruling, can be read here. Its significance, in South Carolina and elsewhere, is unclear. The Lead offered its perspective here.

Opportunity to meet Bp. Price next week

Pittsburgh Episcopalians will have an opportunity to meet Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Jr., next week. Bishop Price has been nominated by the standing committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to become Pittsburgh’s provisional bishop following the October 17, 2009, annual convention. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) As reported on the diocesan Web site, a reception for Bishop Price will be held at Calvary Church at 7 PM on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

News for Week Ending 9/14/2009

Southern African church declares gay leaders OK

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa issued a statement September 9, 2009, expressing the view that sexual orientation is not a bar to church leadership. The bishops went on to declare, however, that “we hold that clergy unable to commit to another in Christian marriage partnership are called to a life of celibacy.” According to Anglican Journal, this is the first time an Anglican church in Africa has publicly recognized homosexual clergy.

According to the bishops, reports that the Anglican Communion is on the brink of schism are “grossly exaggerated.” The Communion has been struggling with the issue of human sexuality, according to the statement, but has not reached “any significant consensus.”

The bishops also reported that they have formed a committee to deal with a request from the Diocese of Cape Town
“to provide pastoral guidelines for gay and lesbian members of the church living in ‘covenanted partnerships,’ taking into account the mind of the worldwide Anglican Communion.” The Republic of South Africa, in which Cape Town is located, allows civil unions of persons of the same sex. The Republic of South Africa makes up only part of the territory covered by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, however.

Debate over covenant continues

As reported in an update to a Pittsburgh Update story last week, the seven Episcopal Church bishops who met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on September 1, 2009, issued a statement September 7. (Episcopal News Service first reported that the meeting took place on September 2, the date reported by Pittsburgh Update. The statement from the participants gives the date of the meeting as September 1, however.) In their statement, the bishop express doubts that the 2012 General Convention will ratify the proposed Anglican covenant, and they encourage Episcopal Church dioceses and congregations to study and endorse the covenant. Episcopal News Service and The Living Church carried stories on the statement, which was released by Bishop of Western Louisiana D. Bruce MacPherson.

Church Times reported a different take on the covenant by high-profile conservatives. The Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, has again teamed up with the Anglican Communion Institute to write a 27-page paper titled “The Anglican Covenant: Shared Discernment Recognized by All.” The thesis of the paper is that The Episcopal Church cannot conscientiously sign on to the Anglican covenant because its actions, including those taken at the most recent General Convention, represent a virtual rejection of the covenant and of the shared discernment process of the Anglican Communion. Only by changing its current positions, the paper argues, could The Episcopal Church credibly sign on to the covenant.

Yale professor Frank M. Turner, in “The imagined community of the Anglican Communion,“ an essay published by Daily Episcopalian on September 8, 2009, offered a dramatically different theory. His essay draws on retired Cornell professor Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined community.” Turner refers to the “so-called Anglican Communion,” arguing that the Anglican Communion is a fiction that some are trying to reify through adoption of an Anglican covenant. The Archbishop of Canterbury, says Turner, seeks a “unity of an imagined Anglican Communion that has virtually no existence in reality” at the cost of persecuting women and gays.

FCA makes N. American debut

Virtue Online reported September 14, 2009, the announcement of the advent of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans-North America (FCA-NA) at Nashotah House, the Anglo-Catholic Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin. The announcement was made by the Rev. Phillip Ashey, traveling chaplain of the American Anglican Council (AAC). Nashotah House dean Robert Munday seems to have been actively involved in the planning that led to the September 14 announcement.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans was a product of the June 2008 GAFCON event. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The announcement follows the formation of a similar group in the UK in July. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Ashey described FCA-NA as a “ministry partner” of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the new church headed by former Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan. Ashey declared that The Episcopal Church “has become theologically revisionist through a false gospel, heretical, and heterodox ways in the post-modern, post-Christian culture.” He did not, however, clarify the relationships among the AAC, FCA-NA, ACNA, and The Episcopal Church.

Large S.C. congregation threatening to leave Episcopal Church

According to The Living Church, St. Andrew’s Church of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, is about to embark on a 40 Days of Discernment program, an activity that, elsewhere, has led invariably to the congregation’s departure from The Episcopal Church. According to information on The Episcopal Church’s Web site, St. Andrew’s has a membership of over 2,400 and an average Sunday attendance of more than 1,200. St. Andrew’s begins its “discernment” on October 4, 2009, shortly before the Diocese of South Carolina has its special convention October 24 intended to isolate itself from the wider Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The resolutions to be voted on in that convention have not yet been published.

Pittsburgh convention materials available

Pre-convention material for the October 16–17, 2009, diocesan convention are now available on the Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site. Packets were mailed last week to deputies. A “Pre-Convention Information Session” is to be held October 4, 2009, at 7:30 PM at Calvary Church, East Liberty. The convention itself will be held at Trinity Cathedral. As expected, a number of changes to the constitution and canons of the diocese are being proposed. Most of the remaining resolutions are unremarkable, save for one. That resolution proposes the formation of a committee to study the possibile “reunion” of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Northwestern Pennsylvania. A group of clergy and laity acting as individuals submitted the resolution.

Monday, September 7, 2009

News for Week Ending 9/7/2009

Episcopal bishops meet with Archbishop of Canterbury

Seven Episcopal bishops, all of whom signed the Anaheim Statement—see Pittsburgh Update story here—had a private meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams September 2, 2009. The The bishops who attended the meeting were Mark Lawrence (South Carolina), Gary Lillibridge (West Texas), Edward Little (Northern Indiana), William Love (Albany), Michael Smith (North Dakota), James Stanton (Dallas), and Bruce MacPherson (Western Louisiana). To date, no information about the meeting has been revealed. Episcopal News Service reported the story here.

The seven bishops are from what are generally considered conservative dioceses. In at least one of those dioceses, however, there is clear discomfort among at least some Episcopalians. The Albany Times-Union reports that members of Albany Via Media intend to question Bishop Love at upcoming informational meetings as to whether he intends to try to remove his diocese from The Episcopal Church.

9/8/2009 UPDATE: The seven bishops have now issued a statement, which can be read here.

Nuns leave Episcopal Church for Rome

All but two of the dozen Episcopal nuns of the Society of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor in their convent in Catonsville, Maryland, have joined the Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. Warren Tanghe, who has been chaplain to the order, is also asking to be accepted as a Roman Catholic priest. The decision to leave The Episcopal Church was years in the making. According to The Pilot, a Catholic newspaper, the sisters were distressed by a number of developments in The Episcopal Church, including the ordination of women. The Living Church reported on this story here and here.

Iker challenges authority of Fort Worth provisional bishop

Episcopal News Service reported September 2, 2009, that attorneys for Bishop Jack Iker, the former Bishop of Fort Worth who encouraged his diocesan convention to vote to leave The Episcopal Church, is challenging the legitimacy of Bishop Ted Gulick Jr., and the standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. The move is part of the ongoing litigation involving the diocese being conducted in a Texas court. A September 9 hearing has been scheduled. On September 3, the Diocese of Fort Worth petitioned the court for a partial summary judgment in its attempt to recover diocesan assets from Iker and his followers, who are now part of the Anglican Church in North America. Details are available on the diocesan Web site here.

Candidate for Pittsburgh provisional bishop named

The Diocese of Pittsburgh announced September 3, 2009, that the diocesan standing committee has chosen Southern Ohio suffragan bishop Kenneth L. Price as its candidate for provisional bishop of the diocese. The annual convention of the diocese, which is to be held at Trinity Cathedral on October 17, 2009, will vote on the standing committee’s selection. The Rt. Rev. Robert H. Johnson, retired Bishop of Western North Carolina, has been serving as assisting bishop. If elected, Bishop Price, unlike Bishop Johnson, will have jurisdiction, i.e., full authority as bishop of the diocese. He will serve only until the diocese nominates and elects a diocesan bishop in the usual manner. The three other dioceses that experienced a recent schism immediately moved to elect provisional bishops and are now led by provisional bishops.

Additional information about Bishop Price is available on the diocesan Web site at the address given above. Also available are letters from the standing committee, Bishop Price, and Bishop Johnson. They can be found here. Stories from Episcopal News Service and The Living Church can be found here and here. Stories from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review can be read here and here.