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 30, 2010

News for Week Ending 8/30/2010

Conference of African bishops concludes

As we reported here last week, the second All African Bishops Conference (AABC), organized by the Council of African Provinces of Africa (CAPA), met in Entebbe, Uganda, August 23–29, 2010. Nearly 400 African bishops attended, as well as notable guests, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Archbishop John Chew, primate of South East Asia and Global South chairman; and Archbishop Robert Duncan, primate of the independent Anglican Church in North America.

Two public statements were issued at the end of the AABC, and they reflect a certain bifurcation of the conference agenda. The CAPA primates issued a communiqué lamenting the “alien and cultural arrogance which undermines the moral fiber of our societies” and attacking departures from the “standard teaching of the Anglican Communion” by The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Church of England. The primates declared that “it is obligatory of all Provinces to observe the agreed decisions and recommendations of the Windsor Report and the various communiqués of the past three Primates Meetings, especially Dar es Salaam in 2007.” (We have provided a link to the statement on Thinking Anglicans, as AABC Web site has not kept pace with conference developments.)

A separate and longer statement was issued over the signatures of the CAPA chairman and vice-chairman. It calls for the protection of “Anglican orthodoxy,” a “Biblical standard” of the family, and a stronger Anglican covenant. It does not, however, attack specific Anglican Communion churches. Much of the document is devoted to specifically African problems—inadequate medical care, food insecurity, abuse and slavery, poverty, climate change, and political concerns. Anglican Communion News Service reported on the statement here. Episcopal News Service’s wrap-up on AABC can be found here. Thinking Anglicans covered the conference extensively beginning here.

VirtueOnline has posted a story suggesting that African bishops are not of one mind regarding The Episcopal Church. In a story dated August 29, 2010, David Virtue quotes from a letter from two African Anglican Provinces—Central Africa and Southern Africa—to the effect that those provinces do not agree with attempts to marginalize The Episcopal Church. Whereas the letter does not condone actions of The Episcopal Church that have angered Global South bishops, it says that to abandon “relationships [with The Episcopal Church] would be tantamount to abandoning our call of the gospel to struggle with each other’s failure as we journey with Christ in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation as we were passionately reminded and to live with our rich diversity.” The letter also rejects the idea of replacing The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion with the Anglican Church of North America.

San Joaquin sues another congregation

Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has again filed suit against a former Episcopal congregation. Litigation was begun against former members of St. Paul’s, Bakersfield, California. The action seeks return of the property currently being used by what is being called St. Paul’s Anglican Parish. This is only the latest action by the Episcopal diocese. (See recent Pittsburgh Update story here.) Details can be read in the story from Episcopal News Service here.

Pittsburgh convention information announced

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has posted information on its Web site about the upcoming annual convention. The event will be held at Trinity Cathedral on October 15 and 16, 2010. Information sessions for deputies and other interested parties are being held at various locations September 27, 29, and 30. A session dedicated to proposed changes to the constitution and canons will be held Wednesday, September 1, at St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon. Details and links to documents can be found on the diocesan Web site here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

News for Week Ending 8/22/2010

CAPA meeting to convene in Uganda

The Council for Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) will be holding a meeting in Uganda August 23–29, 2010. The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will preach at the service opening the Second All Africa Bishops Conference. Bishops from 400 African dioceses are slated to attend the Entebbe, Uganda, event. Additional details are available from Thinking Anglicans and Episcopal News Service.

Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury to meet during UK visit

Details are now available for the much anticipated visit of the Pope Benedict XVI to the U.K. next month. The Roman Catholic Pontiff arrives in Scotland for his four-day U.K. visit September 16, 2010. Benedict will participate in an ecumenical service in Westminster Abby with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams September 17. The two religious leaders will meet at Lambeth Palace earlier in the day. Relations between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have been tense because England is in the process of authorizing women to be bishops and because the Vatican has invited Anglican clergy to defect to the Roman Catholic Church. Additional details can be found in the story from Episcopal News Service here.

Bennison controversy continues

The setting aside of the judgment against Bishop of Pennsylvania Charles E. Bennison and the bishop’s return to his episcopal post continue to make news. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Episcopal Church is getting unflattering publicity, such as this August 22 story in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Disappointment and frustration with the handling of the Bennison case by The Episcopal Church has also been expressed in a letter to the church from witnesses who participated in the Bennison trial. The letter calls for a removal of the statute of limitations on sexual abuse and the construing of the covering up of sexual abuse to be equally serious, as it allows abuse to continue. The latest Episcopal News Service Story on the Bennison situation can be read here.

New W. Kansas bishop to retain rector position

Episcopal News Service reported August 21, 2010, that the Rev. Michael Pierce Milliken, newly elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas, expects to retain his position of rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Hutchinson, Kansas. In the early years of The Episcopal Church, bishops commonly retained a rectorship as a way of financing the diocese, but the arrangement is unusual today. Milliken will need to receive consents to become bishop of the diocese. Western Kansas is a small diocese and has only been a diocese since 1973.

San Diego church on rebound after split

According to North Country Times, Holy Cross Episcopal Church of Carlsbad, California, is growing again after most of its parishioners left The Episcopal Church to form a church under the Bishop of Bolivia. The new priest in charge at the church in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego is the Rev. Laura Sheridan-Campbell, who recently earned a doctorate from Church Divinity School of The Pacific. You can read the story here.

Anglican school rejects girl of lesbian parents

A school in suburban Fort Worth, Texas, has refused to accept a female student because she is being raised by lesbian parents. St. Vincent’s School, formerly an Episcopal school, is now associated with the Anglican Church in North America, headed by deposed Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan. Details can be found here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

News for Week Ending 8/16/2010

Controversy grows over ACC structural changes

The quiet transformation of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) from an unincorporated international body to an English charity is drawing increasing scrutiny. Not only is the ACC one of the so-called Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion, but it is the most representative of the four bodies and the only one that includes non-episcopal clergy and laypeople among its members. The former constitution of the ACC can be found here; the new constitution can be found here.

Questions were raised as early as last December about new “Articles of Association” of the ACC that Anglican leaders refused to release, saying they were not yet approved. Seemingly, however, they were already in use. Two recent stories in The Church of England Newspaper raise questions both about the adoption of the new constitution and about its actual content. (The articles are reproduced on the blog of their author, the Rev. George Conger. They can be found here and here.)

Attorney Mark McCall, who is associated with the Anglican Communion Institute, authored a helpful essay explaining the issues around the ACC’s governing document for The Living Church. The McCall piece summarizes a longer paper from the ACI.

In what appears to be an effort in damage control, Anglican Communion News service, on August 11, posted questions and answers about the ACC’s new constitution from the AAC’s legal advisor, the Rev. Canon John Rees.

Australia rules against deaconal/lay presidency

Perhaps surprisingly, not all Anglican controversies are about sex. The Diocese of Sydney in the Anglican Church of Australia has long advocated deaconal and lay presidency, that is, allowing deacons and laypersons to preside at the Eucharist. Anglican opinion worldwide is overwhelmingly against this idea, but the Diocese of Sydney has persisted. Episcopal News Service reported August 12, 2010, however, that the Appellate Tribunal of the Australian church has ruled that presiding at the Eucharist by deacons or laypersons is not allowed under current canons. The Appellate Tribunal did not consider theological issues.

Bennison return unpopular

The return of Bishop Charles E. Bennison to his position as Bishop of Pennsylvania has sparked protest and calls for his resignation. Bennison’s conviction on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy was overturned on a technicality, allowing him to resume his episcopal duties. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported August 11, 2010, that members of the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demonstrated August 10 against Bennison’s return at the office of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. (In the past, most of SNAP’s activities have been directed at clergy abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.)

The Rev. Timothy Safford, rector of Philadelphia’s Christ Church, wrote Bennison August 8 suggesting that he not resume his episcopal duties. In his letter, Safford wrote, “My strong belief is that your return will do more harm than good, create more anger and less reconciliation, and hinder, not advance, the Church’s mission in our diocese.” The Rev. W. Frank Allen, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pa., made a similar plea to Bennison. Neither priest offered much hope that his advice would be taken.

Episcopal News Service and VirtueOnline have written about resistance to Bennison’s return. The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania issued a statement August 8 anticipating the bishop’s return and expressing appreciation for those who have served in his absence. On August 16, the day Bennison was to return to his duties in the diocese, the Standing Committee, in an open letter to the diocese, called for the Bishop to resign.

Union of Kansas dioceses suggested

According to VirtueOnline, the Rt. Rev. Dean E. Wolfe, diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, has written to the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas suggesting that the two dioceses unite. Western Kansas will be electing a bishop August 21, 2010. Both dioceses are small and experiencing financial difficulties.

The idea of combining the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh with the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania was raised last year before the diocesan convention. The convention passed a resolution encouraging the dioceses (as well as other nearby dioceses) to study ways of co-operating with one another.

Fort Worth diocese files amended petition

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, according to its Web site, filed an amended petition in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, August 13, 2010, in the diocese’s litigation “for declaratory relief against the Southern Cone officials” who claim to have taken the diocese out of The Episcopal Church. The court filing can be found here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

News for Week Ending 8/9/2010

Covenant attacked by AAC

The conservative American Anglican Council has called for changes in the draft Anglican covenant. Whereas Modern Church recently asserted that the current draft abandons traditional Anglicanism for Puritanism—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the AAC has argued that the proposed covenant is not strong enough. The changes desired by the AAC, would, among other things, put more power in the hands of the primates, establish an explicit requirement of condemning sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage, and exile non-signing churches from the Anglican Communion. The AAC argument draws on a paper written by the Rev. Dr. Steven Noll, retired Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University and a former member of the faculty of Trinity School for Ministry.

Charles Bennison conviction overturned

In a surprise development, the conviction for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy of Bishop Charles E. Bennison, erstwhile Bishop of Pennsylvania, was reversed on appeal by a Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop. (See Pittsburgh Update story of Bennison’s appeal here.) The court decision turned on the interpretation of the statute of limitations. Bennison was accused of failing to report sexual improprieties of his brother more than three decades ago. Bennison is expected to resume his duties in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. Both Episcopal News Service and The Living Church covered the court decision, as did the The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Appeal by Anglican diocese advances

In an August 6, 2010, opinion, Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rejected the effort by attorneys for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and The Episcopal Church to quash the appeal filed by the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The appellants were attempting to overturn the January order of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas that required them to transfer control of diocesan assets to the Episcopal diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) At issue was whether the appeal by Archbishop Robert Duncan and fellow defendants was filed in a timely fashion. The Episcopal diocese argued that the decision that needed to be appealed was the one issued in October 2009. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Judge Jubelirer thought otherwise. The appeal will therefore be heard by Commonwealth Court. Judge Jubelirer’s opinion can be read here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

News for Week Ending 8/2/2010

Standing Committee completes its work

The Standing Committee, representing the primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, completed its London meeting on July 27, 2010. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Anglican Communion News Service issued two additional stories about the closed-door meetings this past week. (They can be found here and here.)

On the final day of its meeting, the committee returned to the question of consequences of moratoria violations. Members agreed to a statement to the effect that the Standing Committee “regrets ongoing breaches of the three moratoria that continue to strain the life of the Anglican Communion; regrets the consequential resignations of members of the Standing Committee which diminish our common life and work on behalf of the ACC and the Primates’ Meeting; recognises that the ACC and the Primates’ Meeting are the appropriate bodies to consider these matters further.”

On July 27, Episcopal News Service ran a story titled “Standing Committee members celebrate commitment to transparency.” Indeed, ACNS has provided more information than usual about the Standing Committee meeting. By contrast, The Lead, citing the just-released minutes of the last Standing Committee meeting in December, pointed out the newly disclosed fact that, at that meeting, a resolution was proposed (and rejected) that would have asked The Episcopal Church to absent itself for a time from additional Anglican meetings. The Living Church also addressed the transparency issue in its story “Standing Committee Adjusts to Scrutiny.”

Modern Church attacks covenant

The UK-based Modern Church, formerly The Modern Churchpeople’s Union, has come out strongly against the proposed Anglican covenant. It has added a collection of pages to its Web site that argue that the covenant is un-Anglican and “will not create open, forward-looking, twenty-first century churches. (The pages can be accessed here.) Also, Modern Church’s general secretary, the Rev. Jonathan Clatworthy, has written an essay, “No covenant please, we’re Anglican” published by the Guardian.

CoE bishops pledge continued opposition to women bishop legislation

Thinking Anglicans reported August 1, 2010, that 15 Church of England bishops have written a letter expressing their continued opposition to the proposed conditions under which the church proposes to begin consecrating women bishops. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The letter, which was sent to sympathetic clergy, suggests how opponents of women bishops may react if special provisions are not made for them, but it does not suggest that all opponents will react the same way. More votes are required before women can become bishops in the Church of England, perhaps as early as 2014.

Post-Gazette: Episcopal leaders addressing sex abuse

In an August 2, 2010, story, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviews efforts by The Episcopal Church to deal with clergy sexual abuse. The story appears as reports of clergy abuse in the Roman Catholic Church continue to appear and after abuse by the former bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Donald Davis, was revealed. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The story, by reporter Ann Rodgers, makes clear the conflicting imperatives experienced by interested parties in sex-abuse cases.

PEP schedules annual picnic

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has scheduled its annual picnic for Monday, August 16, 2010. PEP members and friends are invited. Details of the event, as well as a poster, are available here.