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, November 30, 2009

News for Week Ending 11/30/2009

Brazilian church expresses reservations about covenant

The Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) released its official response to Section 4 of the proposed Anglican covenant on November 24, 2009. (The 8-page English version of the document can be found here.) According to the Foreword, the statement is the result of broad consultation within IEAB. The document makes it clear that the church cannot yet commit to or reject the proposed covenant.

The Brazilian document raises various questions about the covenant process, including whether the agreement should be called a covenant at all. The IEAB finds that the first three sections of the Ridley Cambridge Draft do not break ground and questions why they are even necessary. It finds Section 4 legalistic and argues that it raises serious questions about its wisdom and clarity.

The Rev. Canon Francisco de Assis da Silva, who describes himself as “lawyer, Anglican clergyman, and Secretary General of the IEAB” on his blog, has provided a brief overview of the IEAB document here.

Canadian court rules for New Westminster in property case

The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled November 25, 2009, that the parish property of four congregations that left the Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) to join the Anglican Network in Canada belongs to New Westminster. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story here.) The story was reported by The Vancouver Sun. The Anglican Network in Canada is now part of the Anglican Church in North America, headed by Archbishop Robert Duncan. The Diocese of New Westminster’s approval of the blessing of same-sex unions (see chronology here) became, along with the 2003 General Convention’s consent to consecrate Gene Robinson Bishop of New Hampshire, became the topic of the October 2003 emergency meeting of the Anglican primates.

The judge ruled in his 98-page opinion, that parishes “are intrinsically part of the Diocese” without the “authority to unilaterally leave the Diocese.” He dismissed the argument by plaintiff congregations that they had a trust interest in the properties by virtue of their “orthodoxy”:
To repeat, the plaintiffs submit that the parish properties are held on trust for purposes of ministry consistent with historic, orthodox Anglican doctrine and practice. “Historic” and “orthodox” are uncertain and subjective terms that cannot, in my view, form the basis of an enforceable trust. The history of Anglicanism spans over 400 years, and thus it is simply not apparent what period “historic” is in reference to. “Orthodox” is similarly subjective and, therefore, equally problematic in defining a trust. Moreover, a trust which freezes doctrine at a point in history is inconsistent with the history of change and evolution in Anglicanism. For example, the ACC now permits the remarriage of divorced persons. The Church ordains women as priests, and there are also female diocesan bishops in the ACC. These developments are inconsistent with what many would consider historic and orthodox Anglicanism.
The ruling denied the bishop the power to replace trustees who had left ACC but bound the trustees to administer the property for the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Michael Ingham commented on the court decision on the diocesan Web site. In its press release about the decision, the Anglican Network in Canada emphasized its victories in the case and indicated that a decision about whether to appeal has not yet been made.

Monday, November 23, 2009

News for Week Ending 11/23/2009

Archbishop of Canterbury visits Rome

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams visited Rome last week. On Thursday, November 19, 2009, Williams addressed a symposium celebrating the centenary of the birth of Cardinal Willebrands, the first president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In his talk, the archbishop asserted that ecumenical talks with the Roman Catholic Church have established broad areas of agreement about the character and mission of the church. He asked if questions of authority, primacy, and decision-making are not secondary theological issues that should not be allowed to impede closer unity. Williams defended the ordination of women and put forward, however improbably, the Anglican Communion as a model for unity despite disagreements. Thinking Anglicans has collected links to commentary on Williams’ address here.

On Saturday, the Archbishop of Canterbury had a 25-minute meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. The New York Times reported that the church leaders held “cordial discussions,” but no especially remarkable news came out of the encounter. Again, Thinking Anglicans contains a collection of links, which you can find here.

Pressure building for Church of Uganda opposition to homosexuality bill

Anglicans are beginning to call for The Church of the Province of Uganda, led by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, to speak out against the anti-homosexuality bill that has been introduced in the Uganda parliament. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to Thinking Anglicans, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod has passed a resolution calling for the Ugandan church to oppose the legislation and for the Canadian government to protest the legislation and work for its withdrawal.

Ekklesia has started an Internet petition to urge Christian leaders to oppose the Uganda legislation, and Chicago Consultation has called for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop, and other Anglican leaders to do so as well. Episcopal News Service reported November 23, 2009, that the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council will meet via telephone conference on December 7 to discuss a possible statement on the Uganda legislation.

In a related development, the Massachusetts-based progressive think tank Political Research Associates issued a report detailing the ways American conservatives have used African religious leaders to advance their own agenda. According to PRA, “sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars.” The report, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, & Homophobia,” can be found on the PRA Web site. Church Times covered the new report.

Bethlehem moves forward with same-sex blessings

Episcopal News Service reported November 17, 2009, that Bishop of Bethlehem Paul Marshall wrote to his clergy November 16 to inform them he has put into place provisions for blessing same-sex unions in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem. Because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not allow for same-sex marriage, Marshall cautioned against using the word “marriage” when discussing the newly authorized services. For couples legally joined in another state, The Blessing of a Civil Marriage from the prayer book is to be used, suitably adjusted. For those not otherwise joined, a liturgy from the Diocese of Washington is to be used. “The Washington rite,” explained Marshall, “lays emphasis is on the making of a covenant, as does the BCP.”

The 2009 General Convention’s Resolution C056 has encouraged bishops to authorized the blessing of same-sex unions by willing clergy.

Church buys full-page ad in USA Today

On Friday, November 20, 2009, a full-page advertisement from The Episcopal Church appeared in USA Today. The ad listed beliefs and practices of The Episcopal Church and is described in an Episcopal News Service story here. The Rev. Nicholas Knisley, writing for The Lead, suggested that this and other publicity efforts (e.g., the op-ed piece by Dr. Chuck Robertson, the Presiding Bishop’s Canon in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) represent the church’s pushing back against the charges of its detractors.

In response to the USA Today ad, the Rev. Frank Logue has offered some very attractive alternative Episcopal Church ads on his blog.

Legal moves complicate Fort Worth litigation

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has detailed the latest legal moves by Bishop Leo Iker and his followers who withdrew from The Episcopal Church. Those actions are described on the diocese’s Web site. Iker and other defendants filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Second Court of Appeals on November 13, 2009, which is having the effect of delaying progress of the case in the trial court. On November 17, what the Episcopal diocese characterized as “a number of groups claiming to be congregations under the authority of former Bishop Iker and the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and using the names of some of the Episcopal congregations in the Diocese” petitioned the court for declaratory judgment that they, not members of The Episcopal Church, are entitled to the use of parish buildings. Relevant documents can be viewed from the page cited above.

Monday, November 16, 2009

News for Week Ending 11/16/2009

Women bishop saga takes another turn

The path to allowing women bishops in the Church of England took another unexpected turn November 13, 2009, when the Revision Committee, which is working out the details of how to implement the policy change, reversed its decision to make major concessions to opponents of ordaining women bishops. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to a November 14 press release, committee members could not agree on a plan to accommodate opponents of women bishops. This may result in simpler legislation that cannot be accused of giving women bishops second-class status. The committee has not yet finished its work, however, and conclusions about the ultimate enabling legislation can only be speculative.

Episcopal Church cool to Vatican offer

Bishop Christopher Epting, the Episcopal Church’s deputy to the Presiding Bishop for ecumenical and interreligious relations, has issued a statement in response to the Vatican’s Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to Epting’s November 16, 2009, statement, the Vatican action to accommodate groups of disaffected Anglicans who want to join the Roman Catholic Church “appears to be a unilateral action on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which flies in the face of the slow, but steady progress made in the real ecumenical dialogue of over forty years.” Epting reaffirmed the Episcopal Church’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue, but he characterized the Vatican move as an invitation to “come home to Rome.” The full text of Epting’s statement in contained in the Episcopal News Service story here.

Washington bishop supports gay marriage

In a November 16, 2009, column, Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane has made, according to the essay’s title, “A Christian case for same-sex marriage.” A bill to allow gay marriage in the District of Columbia is now before its Council and may be voted on before Christmas. Whether the bill becomes law, however, ultimately will depend on the Congress.

Chane argued that the Church’s view of marriage has changed over time and that Christian support for same-sex marriage is not a dramatic break with tradition. He chided the press for portraying opposition to gay marriage “as the only genuinely religious or Christian position,” and pointed out the the proposed legislation is secular legislation that does not compel clergy to perform same-sex marriages.

Chane’s support for the D.C. legislation is covered in an Episcopal News Service story here.

San Diego diocese wins another court victory

On November 10, 2009, a California Superior Court judge ruled that two congregations of the Diocese of San Diego cannot leave the diocese and retain their property. The diocese has been locked in a property dispute with the congregations in Oceanside and Ocean Beach, California, since 2006. The decision is consistent with other recent decisions made by California courts. Episcopal News Service reported the story here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

News for Week Ending 11/9/2009

Vatican issues rules for accommodating disaffected Anglicans

On November 9, 2009, the Vatican issued a press release, as well as other documents detailing how the Roman Catholic Church can establish a full-communion relationship with Anglican groups that have asked to maintain elements of their Anglican identity while becoming Roman Catholics. (See Pittsburgh Update story here on the October announcement that the Vatican would accommodate such groups.) A brief statement has been issued by the Church of England. National Catholic Reporter provides an initial analysis here, and more commentary should be forthcoming from both Roman Catholic and Anglican groups in the coming days. Religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill of The Times suggests that the Vatican plan is generous indeed.

Apparently, the first Anglican group to accept the Vatican’s offer of a Personal Ordinariate is the Traditional Anglican Communion in the U.K. (See story here.) The Traditional Anglican Communion is not in communion with the Anglican Communion.

More on Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill

Uganda’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill continues to cause controversy. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Pink News reports a statement from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office expressing concern about the bill. Thinking Anglicans, which has published a number of posts about the Ugandan legislation, has posted a press release from the Church of Uganda asserting that the church has not yet expressed an opinion on the bill. The press release makes it clear, however, that the Church of Uganda strongly opposes both the death penalty and homosexuality. Human rights activists cannot be encouraged by the quotation from Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi in the statement: “I am appalled to learn that the rumours we have heard for a long time about homosexual recruiting in our schools and amongst our youth are true. I am even more concerned that the practice is more widespread than we originally thought. It is the duty of the church and the government to be watchmen on the wall and to warn and protect our people from harmful and deceitful agendas.”

Episcopalians identify goals

A survey of Episcopalians conducted by a strategic planning committee established by the church’s Executive Council has identified five goals for The Episcopal Church. In order, those goals are
  1. Reaching youth and young adults
  2. Evangelism/Proclaiming the Good News of Christ
  3. Worship, music and liturgy
  4. Leadership
  5. Strengthening congregations
More information and links to the survey report can be found in the November 5, 2009, story from Episcopal News Service.

Maine bishop laments rejected marriage law

Episcopal News Service reported November 4, 2009, that Bishop of Maine Stephen T. Lane was “deeply grieved” by voters’ rejection of Maine’s same-sex marriage law in the November 3 election. The law, which had been passed by the Maine legislature, had never been put into effect.

Dioceses move forward on blessings

The Lead reports that Bishop of Southern Ohio Thomas E. Breidenthal has announced that priests will be allowed to offer public blessing of same-sex unions in the Diocese of Southern Ohio after Easter next. Full guidelines have not yet been written, but every such ceremony will have to be approved by the bishop. In the same post, The Lead notes that the convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts has passed a resolution urging Bishop Thomas Shaw to allow priests to not only bless same-sex unions, but actually perform civil marriages.

Anglican Diocese holds convention

The newly named Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh—see Pittsburgh Update story here—had its annual convention November 6–7 at St. Stephen’s, Sewickley. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the convention voted to be part of the Anglican Church in North America, rather than the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, but bishops and clergy will be in both entities in order to maintain connection to the Anglican Communion. (It is unclear how this is supposed to work. The proposed changes to the constitution and canons of the diocese are posted on the diocese’s Web site here, and they were presumably passed without amendment.) The convention welcomed several churches from outside the historic boundaries of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh into union with the diocese, and it adopted an anti-abortion resolution. Additional stories on the convention were published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Service Update

Site Up-to-date

We are happy to report that Pittsburgh Update has now brought its posts up-to-date following its brief absence from the Web. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) We apologize for any inconvenience and do not anticipate any additional problems. Thank you for your patience.

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

Monday, November 2, 2009

News for Week Ending 11/2/2009

Anglican compassion in Uganda: jail, rather than execute gays

Uganda is considering a law to increase the penalties for homosexual activity. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the law proposed by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati would make certain offenses capital crimes, as well as criminalize the failure to report homosexuals to the authorities. Changing Attitude has summarized the legislation here. A view from inside Uganda can be read in Kampala’s Daily Monitor. Australia’s Sky News reports concern for the legislation in the French and U.S. governments. Ugandan religious communities have urged modest restraint. From Kampala’a Daily Monitor, we have this argument against the death penalty:
“If you kill the people, to whom will the message go? We need to have imprisonment for life if the person is still alive,” said Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, the provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda.
The Church of Uganda is a member of the Anglican Communion and a church closely allied with conservative dioceses and parishes in the U.S. and Britain. Archbishop Duncan has had close ties with Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda, who has visited Pittsburgh a number of times. Changing Attitude has urged the Church of Uganda, the Anglican Primates, and Church of England bishops with formal links to Uganda to oppose the proposed legislation.

Judge rules for Diocese of Georgia in Savannah case

On October 27, 2009, Judge Michael Karpf of the Chatham County Superior Court entered summary judgment in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and against the breakaway leaders of Christ Church, Savannah. The congregation had tried to leave The Episcopal Church with its property. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In his opinion, the judge begins
This case is one of a series around the country involving parishes of the Episcopal Church who have sought to disaffiliate because of doctrinal differences. Specifically, the case at bar involves a schism in what is likely the oldest church in the state of Georgia. The division within the church has resulted in one faction taking control of the church property, while the other has sued to regain it. It appears that both sides are passionate about the doctrinal issues, but it is well settled that courts have no business intervening in such disputes.
The judge proceeds to apply “neutral principles of law.” Along the way, he distinguishes the case from the recent South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in the Pawleys Island case, which also involved a parish older than The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) He concludes
Taking all of these factors into account, the court is entirely satisfied that a trust over the property exists in favor of the National Church and the Diocese of Georgia. Accordingly, the court finds that the church property reverts to the control of the Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia for the uses and purposes of the Episcopal Church and that plaintiffs are entitled to immediate possession.
Episcopal News Service reported on the decision on October 28, 2009. Savannah Morning News ran a story October 27.

Diocese of Tennessee sues to regain property

The Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee has filed suit to reclaim the property of St. Andrew’s, West Nashville. The congregation now styles itself an Anglican church and claims to be part of the breakaway Diocese of Quincy. According to The Tennessean the diocese and the Anglo-Catholic congregation have been unable to resolve their conflict over parish property for three years. The parish’s rector, The Rev. James Guill, claims that the church left the diocese and The Episcopal Church in 2006.

Fort Worth to ordain first woman

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has announced that it will ordain the first woman in its history. The diocese was formed from the Diocese of Dallas in 1983, and, before the recent departure of Bishop Jack Iker and his supporters, had been one of only three dioceses in which the priesthood was not open to women. Deacon Susan Slaughter will be ordained a priest by the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. [Ted] Gulick Jr. on November 15, 2009. The upcoming ordination is described on the diocesan Web site here. The Dallas Morning News ran a story on the upcoming ordination on October 27, 2009.

Duncan diocese renamed, vows appeal

On October 29, 2009, the group calling itself the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican) issued a press release declaring its new name to be the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The press release also indicated that the group intends to appeal the recent court decision favoring the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rendered by Judge Joseph James. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The press release was posted on a new Web site at http://pittsburghanglican.org. The Web site that has been in use by the Duncan group has retained the title “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican)” and makes no mention of the press release. The Episcopal Church diocese issued a brief statement expressing its disappointment with the promised appeal and its determination to see the litigation through to its conclusion.

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