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.

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A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Monday, July 26, 2010

News for Week Ending 7/26/2010

Standing Committee meeting in England

The Standing Committee, composed of members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and primates, is meeting in London from July 23, 2010, to July 27. Members of the Standing Committee include Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and newly consecrated Bishop of Connecticut Ian Douglas. Anglican Communion News Service has reported on the first two days of closed-door meetings here and here. (Subsequent ACNS reports should be found here.) Episcopal News Service reported on the meeting July 25 and noted that the Presiding Bishop preached at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. ENS ran a second story on the meeting July 26 here.

The name of the Committee—formerly the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council—has been a source of confusion and concern. The draft Anglican covenant refers to it as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. According to ACNS, Committee members decided during their first day of meetings to call their body simply the Standing Committee.

Membership issues were also discussed on July 23, including the question of whether Bishop Douglas was indeed qualified to serve. The ACC Constitution and Bylaws have just been replaced by new Articles of Association, however, which have different requirements for membership. Bishop Douglas will continue as a member of the Committee.

On June 24, Dato’ Stanley Isaacs, from the Church of the Province of South East Asia proposed that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Anglican Communion. The proposal was rejected. According to ACNS, “the overwhelming opinion was that separation would inhibit dialogue on this and other issues among Communion Provinces, dioceses and individuals and would therefore be unhelpful.” The Standing Committee also concluded that the request by the primates to increase their representation on the Committee from five to eight should be considered by the full ACC.

San Diego bishop authorizes same-sex blessings

The Rt. Rev. James Mathes, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, has authorized the blessing of same-sex unions. San Diego’s St. Paul’s Cathedral has announced that it will treat same-sex couples in a manner similar to how heterosexual couples are treated. More information is available on the cathedral’s blog, All Our Voices, here and here. The Living Church has provided helpful background to this story.

Monday, July 19, 2010

News for Week Ending 7/19/2010

Argentina approves gay marriage

On July 15, 2010, the National Congress of Argentina passed a law authorizing same-sex marriage in Argentina, despite strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Argentina. With this legislative action, Argentina becomes the tenth nation to legalize same-sex marriage and the first in Latin America. The story has been reported by Time.

Women bishop measure advances in England amid great anxieties

The Church of England’s General Synod, as reported here last week, approved a measure to allow for women bishops that will soon be in the hands of the church’s dioceses. Those opposed to women bishops failed to achieve the kind of guarantees of isolation from women bishops they sought. The only concession they have won is a code of practice regarding dissenters that has yet to be written. It is expected that final approval by the General Synod will occur in about 18 months.

Several news outlets have summarized the current state of affairs in the Church of England. Among the contributors of notable stories are Ecumenical News International and Church Times. The latter explains the steps needed for women bishops to become a reality in England. Additional commentary can be found here and elsewhere on Thinking Anglicans.

Church gets $404,000 grant for same-sex liturgies

According to The Living Church, the Arcus Foundation of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has given a $404,000 grant to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific to assist the church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in its General-Convention-mandated task of gathering and developing liturgies for same-sex blessings. Since the General Convention has provided a mere $25,000 for the project, the Arcus grant is very welcome. Additional details can be found in the story in The Living Church.

Episcopal Church handed more setbacks in Fort Worth

The breakaway Fort Worth diocese, still insisting that it is the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth,” continues to score minor legal victories. (See most recent Pittsburgh Update story here.) Recent action before a Hood County court is described in a press release from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) diocese. (In reading the press release, understand that the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation of the Diocese” refers to the ACNA diocese.)

At issue in this case is the proper beneficiary of a bequest to a parish of the diocese, one whose congregation has left The Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is arguing, unsuccessfully, so far, that the disposition of the bequest should depend on who legitimately represents St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Fort Worth. No decision has yet been made in the case. Details can be read in the press release.

Monday, July 12, 2010

News for Week Ending 7/12/2010

CoE General Synod rejects archbishops’ plan

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were handed an embarrassing defeat at the hand of the Church of England’s General Synod on July 10, 2010. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The plan, put forward by Rowan Williams and John Sentamu at the eleventh hour before the General Synod convened, would have given women bishops less power than male bishops. It was intended to appease those opposed to women bishops on theological grounds. The archbishops’ amendment needed the approval of the three houses of the General Synod. Bishops voted 25–15 in favor of the plan. Laypeople voted for it 106–86, with 4 abstentions. Clergy voted against the measure, however, 90–85, with 5 abstentions. Forty percent of English clergy are now women. There are still many procedural hurdles that must be negotiated before there can be women English bishops.

Episcopal News Service has provided a good summary of what is happening in the General Synod, which concludes its work July 13, 2010. The Daily Telegraph has attempted to capture the state of the Church of England in its story “A divided church faces its darkest hour.” A helpful status report has also been provided by the Guardian. Other news and commentary can be found on Thinking Anglicans.

Jeffrey John again denied episcopal appointment

For the second time, Church of England priest Jeffrey John has failed in his bid to become a bishop. John, a talented, well-respected priest, has a male partner but is said to be celibate. The then new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, convinced John to step down after his having been selected as Bishop of Reading in 2003. In the recent instance, John was on the short list to become Bishop of Southwark, which is said to be the most liberal diocese of the Church of England. According to the Daily Telegraph, John was rejected because it was feared “that his consecration would have provoked a split in the Church.” Although deliberations regarding episcopal appointments in the Church of England are supposed to be confidential, John’s being considered was leaked to the press, presumably by opponents of his appointment. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, a member of the Crown Nominations Commission that was selecting a bishop for Southwark, is said to have been furious at the pressure created by the leak to the press.

First female Latin American bishop dies

The Rt. Rev. Nerva Cot Aguilera, 71, died suddenly July 10, 2010. Bishop Aguilera was the retired suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. She became the first female Anglican bishop in Latin America when she was consecrated in June 2007. The Episcopal News Service story on Aguilera’s death can be found here.

Presbyterians move forward on gay clergy

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to accept homosexual clergy, but it has not moved forward on gay marriage. The proposal now goes before the church’s presbyteries, which have to approve the measure before it becomes effective. The presbyteries have rejected similar measures in the past. Details are available from Beliefnet and Crosswalk.

Defense of Marriage Act partly declared unconstitutional

A federal judge in Boston declared parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional July 8, 2010. The 1996 law prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. This, according to U.S. District Judge Joseph Taur, prevents the government from giving benefits to gay couples that are given to heterosexual couples in Massachusetts, a state in which gay marriages are legal. This violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Moreover, he ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act infringes on the right of states to define marriage. Additional details are available in a story from the Los Angeles Times.

Georgia court rules for Episcopal Church

According to a July 9, 2010, story from Episcopal News Service, the Georgia Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision awarding control of the property of Savannah’s Christ Church to the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and the Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Episcopal Church and the Georgia diocese filed suit to regain control of Christ Church after the congregation voted in September 2007 to align with the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda. It is unclear whether the defendants will appeal the ruling. (As of this writing, “Christ Church Savannah,” associated with the Anglican Church in North America, has no statement about the recent court decision on its Web site.) A statement from the Episcopal parish is available here. A statement from the rector, the Rev. Michael White, can be read here.

Virginia churches ask state Supreme Court to reconsider ruling

VirtueOnline posted a June 10, 2010, press release from the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV, part of CANA, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America) and a related AP story indicating that the nine breakaway congregations in litigation with The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia have petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to reconsider its decision of June 10, 2010. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The court ruled that the state statute on which a lower court decision was based was misapplied. The lower court had awarded control of parish property to the ADV parishes. The defendants’ application for rehearing argues that the trial court was correct in its application of Virginia law.

San Joaquin targets Visalia property

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has filed another lawsuit seeking control of parish property currently controlled by former members of the diocese who are now members of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. Papers were filed July 6, 2010, with the Superior Court of California in Tulare County seeking the assets of what is now being called St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Episcopal News Service has details here.

NW Pa. bishop offers apology, asks victims to come forward

Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania Sean Rowe, in a letter read in all churches of his diocese July 11, 2010, apologized for the sexual abuse of girls by a former bishop of the diocese, Donald Davis. Davis, now deceased, was diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania from 1974 to 1991. Rowe said that he is aware of “four credible allegations of sexual abuse” by Bishop Davis. He invited other victims to come forward to seek healing and reconciliation.

According to Episcopal News Service, Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning, who had become aware of the abuse by Bishop Davis, quietly asked Davis to resign from the House of Bishops in 1994, when Davis was in retirement.

Monday, July 5, 2010

News for Week Ending 7/5/2010

Mexico adopts Anglican covenant

Anglican Communion News Service reported June 30, 2010, that the Anglican Church of Mexico’s General Synod, meeting June 11–12, 2010, has become the first church in the Anglican Communion formally to adopt the Anglican covenant.

New members named to Standing Committee

Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) has reported that two new members will take their place on the Standing Committee (formerly the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates) when it meets July 23–27, 2010. The ACNS story also confirmed that Uganda’s Archbishop Henry Orombi and his alternate, Archbishop Justice Akrofi of West Africa, have resigned from the Standing Committee. A story from Episcopal News Service provides clarification of the changing face of the Standing Committee. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Task force group leaders announced for same-sex blessing work

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church announced the leaders of task forces charged with assembling resources in support of same-sex blessings, as authorized by the 2009 General Convention’s Resolution C056. Chairs of the Liturgical Resources Task Group, Pastoral/Resources Task Group, and Theological Resources Task Group are named and their backgrounds given in this June 28, 2010, story from Episcopal News Service.