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, October 26, 2009

News for Week Ending 10/26/2009

Rome courts Anglo-Catholics

Many Anglicans were stunned October 20, 2009, when the Vatican announced a plan whereby potentially large numbers of disaffected Anglo-Catholics might join the Roman Catholic Church while retaining their liturgies and clergy. The plan would allow married Anglican priests to become Roman Catholic priests; they could not become bishops in the Roman Church, however. The Vatican move came in response to various requests from Anglo-Catholics over the years for inclusion in the Roman Catholic Church. Among such groups is the Traditional Anglican Communion, which claims 400,000 adherents worldwide but which is not part of the Anglican Communion. Because of the ongoing dispute over women bishops within the Church of England, there is concern that there could be significant defections among Church of England Anglo-Catholics, possibly involving litigation over property. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was informed about the Vatican move only at the eleventh hour and publically tried to give the story a positive spin. (See his joint statement with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster here.)

It is difficult to choose stories to link to here. An enormous number of news stories have been written about the Vatican’s announcement, and even more commentaries, on blogs and op-ed pages, have appeared and continue to appear. The AP story published in the The Washington Post provides a good, early overview. Church Times published a story several days later on “traditionalist” reactions worldwide. Episcopal News Service published its story on reactions to the Vatican here. As usual, Thinking Anglicans is doing a fine job of documenting news and commentary. Interested readers should read the first Thinking Anglicans post and follow subsequent posts on that site, which continue to appear.

Swedish church approves gay marriage

The Local reported October 22, 2009, that the Synod of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran church, has voted to perform marriages without regard to the sexes of the principals. The measure passed by a nearly 3-2 margin. The church has allowed the blessing of same-sex unions since 2007. The Church of Sweden decision follows the May 1, 2009, legal extension of marriage to gay couples.

Ireland commends Section Four of covenant draft

According to The Church of Ireland Gazette, the Standing Committee of the Church of Ireland General Synod has commended the controversial (and still being edited) Section Four of the draft Anglican Covenant. The Standing Committee said that “we believe that the text of Section 4 as it stands commends itself in the current circumstances.” Section Four of the Ridley Cambridge Draft specifies procedures for resolving controversies within the Anglican Communion. It is currently under review and may be modified before being presented to Communion members for approval.

Centrist Episcopal bishops visit Canterbury

Episcopal News Service reported that six Episcopal bishops representing the “broad center” of The Episcopal Church spoke with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at Lambeth Palace October 23, 2009. The bishops discussed issues related to the American church and the Anglican Communion, including the proposed Anglican covenant. The six bishops are Clifton Daniel (East Carolina), Michael Curry (North Carolina), Stacy Sauls (Lexington), Neff Powell (Southwestern Virginia), and assisting bishops William Gregg and Chip Marble (both of North Carolina).

Seven conservative bishops had met with Archbishop Williams in September. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

S.C. convention votes to isolate diocese from Episcopal Church

At a special diocesan convention called by Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence, South Carolina Episcopalians approved four of the five proposed resolutions offered by the diocesan leadership. (The five resolutions brought before the convention can be read here. Bishop Lawrence’s address to the convention can be read here. It is available as a video clip here.) According to Episcopal News Service, delegates “voted Oct. 24 [2009] to distance themselves from the Episcopal Church and to seek ‘missional relationships with orthodox congregations isolated across North America.’” Among other actions, the South Carolina resolutions declared General Convention 2009 resolutions D025 and C056 null and void. Only Resolution #5, asserting that the diocese “will not condone prejudice or deny the dignity of any person, including but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered” failed to pass. After discussing a number of amendments, the resolution was tabled.

Dallas convention promotes covenant approval by diocese

At its regular convention, the Diocese of Dallas pointedly avoided considering any resolutions. Instead, the convention, held October 16–17, 2009, considered the proposed Anglican covenant. Centerpiece of the convention was a series of three talks given by Bishop James Stanton and other speakers associated with the Anglican Communion Institute. The convention received little press coverage, perhaps because no resolutions were to be voted on, but Lionel Deimel reported that delegates were told that the diocese has as much right as The Episcopal Church to ratify and Anglican covenant and that they will be asked to do so once Section Four of the covenant is finalized.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Important Announcement

Please Excuse the Interruption

Due to administrative changes beyond the control of Pittsburgh Update editors, this site (and parent site A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice) was off the Web for approximately three weeks prior to October 25, 2009. These sites have been migrated to a new server and are now completely under the control of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. The purpose and policies of Pittsburgh Update are unchanged, and we look forward to supplying Pittsburgh Episcopalians with news of the diocese and news of the wider church with the potential to affect the Pittsburgh diocese.

We apologize for the interruption of service and ask your indulgence as we work to eliminate the backlog of weekly posts that have not yet appeared on the site.

Lionel E. Deimel, Ph.D.
Joan R. Gundersen, Ph.D.
The Rev. Diane Shepard

Monday, October 19, 2009

News for Week Ending 10/19/2009

Presiding Bishop accepts Ackerman renunciation

According to an October 16, 2009, Episcopal News Service story, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted the voluntary renunciation of his ordained ministry by Keith L. Ackerman. Ackerman resigned as Bishop of Quincy shortly before that diocese voted to leave The Episcopal Church. He is president of Forward in Faith North America, a group opposed to the ordination of women. Ackerman intends to function in the United States as a bishop of the Diocese of Bolivia, which is in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Ackerman complained that he did not intend to renounce his ministry, according to The Living Church. ENS, however, reported that the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, explained that there is no canonical provision for the kind of ecclesiastical arrangement sought by Ackerman.

Va. Supreme Court to hear Episcopal property case

The Living Church reported October 16, 2009, that the Supreme Court of Virginia has agreed to hear the appeal of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in its property dispute with congregations now aligned with the Church of Nigeria (Anglican). A lower court ruled against the diocese based on a nineteenth-century Virginia statute. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) A statement from the diocese can be read here. A statement from the Anglican District of Virginia can be found on its News Releases page.

Pittsburgh elects provisional bishop in conflict-free convention

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh held its first annual convention October 16–17, 2009, since the schism of October 4, 2008. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The convention was held downtown at Trinity Cathedral. On October 17, deputies unanimously approved the Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., who is also a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, as its provisional bishop. With the election of Bishop Price, ecclesiastical authority in the Pittsburgh diocese passes from the Standing Committee to the new provisional bishop. It is expected that Price will serve Pittsburgh for 2–3 years until the diocese is ready to elect a new diocesan bishop.

In other business, the convention elected candidates to various positions (details here), approved all resolutions that came before it, and approved, with little discussion, the 10 changes to the diocese’s constitution and canons proposed by the Committee on Canons. (Constitutional changes require passage by two successive annual conventions to become effective.) The convention concluded with a Eucharist that included the ordination of Linda Tardy Wilson to the deaconate. Departing assisting bishop Bob Johnson preached at the service, which employed a choir drawn from a number of parishes.

The Pittsburgh convention was covered by Episcopal News Service, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Monday, October 12, 2009

News for Week Ending 10/12/2009

Women bishops in CoE dealt blow

The Church of England has, in principle, approved the consecration of women bishops, but implementation of that decision is proving controversial. In February, a committee was given the task of working out the necessary details. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) On October 8, 2009, that committee issued an interim report indicating that it had decided to make significant concessions to opponents of women bishops. It appears that the Church of England will not be able to have women bishops until at least 2014. Final recommendations by the committee will be reviewed by the General Synod next year. Additional details may be read in stories from Reuters and The Times.

Executive Council responds to Anglican covenant draft

Episcopal News Service reported October 8, 2009, that the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council has made an official response to the Anglican Consultative Council regarding the controversial Section Four of the Ridley Cambridge Draft of an Anglican covenant. Section Four, which is expected to undergo additional revisions, deals with enforcement of the covenant. The Executive Council report (available here), which is based on comments from General Convention deputations, is critical of the current version of Section Four of the covenant draft.

Court hands diocese major victory

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas judge Joseph James handed the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh a major victory in the so-called Calvary lawsuit on October 6, 2009. At issue was the interpretation of paragraph 1 of the stipulation agreed to in October 2005 by Calvary Church and then bishop Robert Duncan and other diocesan leaders:
Property, whether real or personal (hereinafter “Property”), held or administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (hereinafter “Diocese”) for the beneficial use of the parishes and institutions of the Diocese, shall continue to be so held or administered by the Diocese regardless of whether some or even a majority of the parishes in the Diocese might decide not to remain in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. For purposes of this paragraph, Property as to which title is legitimately held in the name of a parish of the Diocese shall not be deemed Property held or administered by the Diocese.
In a terse 5-page opinion, Judge James ruled that the “Diocese” in the paragraph refers to the diocese recognized as the Diocese of Pittsburgh by The Episcopal Church. The decision means that diocesan property currently controlled by Duncan and his supporters must be surrendered to the Episcopalians. James ordered that all parties meet with the special master, who has been responsible for inventorying diocesan property. The special master is to report to the judge, after which James will “enter an appropriate order for the orderly transition of possession, custody, and control over said property.”

The Episcopal Diocese issued this statement October 6. Archbishop Robert Duncan responded with a pastoral letter October 7 to be read in the churches under his authority. Duncan began, “We lost.” Duncan emphasized that parish property is not directly affected by the court decision and indicated that an appeal is under consideration.

The story was covered by Episcopal News Service, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and other media outlets.

Monday, October 5, 2009

News for Week Ending 10/5/2009

Supreme Court declines to hear St. James appeal

As was widely expected, the U.S. Supreme Count announced on October 5, 2009, the first day of its new session, that it would not review the decision of the California Supreme Court favoring the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in its property dispute with the breakaway St. James’, Newport Beach. Lawyers for what is now called St. James Anglican Church had appealed to the high court on First Amendment grounds. The California case was one of thousands the Supreme Court declined to hear.

The court action was widely covered in the press. Episcopal News Service ran a story that includes links to statements by both sides in the dispute, as well as to the appeal to the Supreme Court.

The St. James congregation has vowed to continue its legal battle to retain the disputed parish property.

Pittsburgh Standing Committee allows departed clergy to avoid deposition

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has sent letters to all canonically resident clergy. According to the letter, clergy who declare by October 19, 2009, their desire to be released from their obligation to The Episcopal Church, as well as clergy who have not participated in the diocese since the October 4, 2008, “realignment” and who do nothing, will be removed from the rolls of Episcopal clergy without prejudice. As explained in a story on the diocesan Web site, the action is being taken now because it is expected that realigned clergy will take action at the upcoming November convention of the group headed by deposed Bishop Robert Duncan that will make it impossible not to depose the clergy for abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church. “We do not want to see our priestly brothers and sisters deposed,” explained the Rev. Jim Simons, Standing Committee president.

The Pittsburgh action stands in sharp contrast to the way a similar situation was handled in the Diocese of San Joaquin. There, Bishop Jerry Lamb asked diocesan clergy to affirm his authority over them. Those who failed to do so were deposed for abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church. (See explanation here.)

The Pittsburgh action was covered by Episcopal News Service, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

New resolution for convention introduced

At a meeting at Calvary Church October 4, 2009, copies of the resolution were distributed by which it is expected that the convention will accept the Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., as the provisional bishop of the diocese. Copies of the diocese’s new mission statement and goals were also distributed to convention deputies.

Local Presbyterian church wins property case

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported October 3, 2009, that a Washington county judge has awarded church property to the conservative Peters Creek United Presbyterian Church. In 2007, the church elected to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church. It is not clear if the Washington Presbytery, which hold that church property is held in trust for the PCUSA, will appeal the court decision.