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 27, 2010

News for Week Ending 9/27/2010

Canterbury interview sparks spirited discussion

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams gave an extended interview to Times reporter Ginny Dougary shortly before the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI. The interview appeared in The Times on September 25, 2010, and has caused a good deal of comment. (The interview is on the Web site of The Times here, but is available only to subscribers. It can be read for as little as $2, however.) The Lead has provided a good analysis, noting that the archbishop is for women bishops and sees no objection to gay but celibate bishops. Williams expressed regret for his role in denying Jeffrey John a bishopric but offered no apology for it. As he has done before, Williams made a distinction between his personal views and his stance as Archbishop of Canterbury. Moreover, he refused to offer a personal view on whether the church should change its view of gay clergy, saying that “I don’t want to put thumbs on scales.” He also said that he does not expect to be Archbishop of Canterbury when he is 70, in 2020. The Lead post links to other commentary, as do the Thinking Anglican posts here and here.

CoE sends legislation for women bishops to dioceses

According to Thinking Anglicans, the Church of England has now sent draft legislation that would enable women to become bishops to all the church’s dioceses. According to the September 27, 2010, post, dioceses have until November 14, 2011, to vote on the draft legislation. If a majority of dioceses approve it, the matter of women bishops will again be taken up by the church’s General Synod. The Church of England Web site explains the approval process for the measure and links to the documents sent to the dioceses here.

Bishops speak on immigration, Bennison

The House of Bishops completed its fall meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, September 21, 2010. (See Pittsburgh Update story here. Since last week, Episcopal News Service (ENS) has issued additional stories about the meeting here and here.) The bishops completed their work by issuing a 17-page statement on immigration reform intended as a theological resource, a story covered in some detail by ENS.

ENS reported September 21 that the bishops also called for the resignation of embattled Bishop of Pennsylvania Charles Bennison. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The very next day, however, ENS ran a story explaining that Bennison had rejected the bishops’ request, insisting on his innocence.

For readers preferring a brief summary of the House of Bishops meeting, The Living Church offers a story here.

South Carolina group calls for investigation of diocese

Pennsylvania is not the only diocese experiencing significant conflict. The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina (EFSC) sent a 5-page letter to the Executive Council and to the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church September 22, 2010, asking that the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina be investigated. According to the letter, diocesan leaders have been “accelerating the process of alienation and disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church.” The letter was sent three weeks before the diocesan convention will meet to adopt resolutions to “protect” itself from the general church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Episcopal News Service (ENS) ran a story on the letter the same day. Bishop Mark Lawrence responded to the letter the next day on the diocese’s Web site, saying that the letter presented a “teachable moment” and promising, in his response, to refrain from using “ecclesiastical language” or “unduly difficult theology.” Lawrence proceeded to answer the EFSC charges one-by-one, though not, one suspects, to the satisfaction of the authors of the letter. Comparing the task of the diocese to a military campaign, Lawrence declared that “we are called to resist what appears is a self-destructive trajectory by many within the Episcopal Church.” The ENS story on Lawrence’s response can be found here.

Fort Worth initiates trademark suit

In the latest skirmish in the ongoing struggle to determine in the courts what entity is the real Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Episcopal Church diocese filed a Federal trademark infringement suit against Bishop Jack Iker September 21, 2010, asserting that he and his diocese improperly used the diocesan name and seal registered to the plaintiff. Iker recently posted an appeal on his diocesan Web site intended to raise at least $1 million for the Anglican Church in North America’s diocese’s Legal Defense Fund. According to Iker, “At stake is everything we have as a Diocese—ownership of Camp Crucis and the Diocesan Center, our churches and property, our bank accounts and investments, our clergy and our Bishop. TEC wants it all!” The Lead posted the press release from the Episcopal Church diocese here, and a commentary on the legal strategy here. The Federal complaint is here. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram covered the story September 24, 2010.

Va. Supreme Court declines to rehear case

The Virginia Supreme Court, on September 24, 2010, rejected the request of the CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America) congregations to reconsider the court’s decision of June 10, 2010, that sent the long-running property litigation back to the lower court for retrial. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia reported on the development on its Web site. The decision of the court can be found here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

News for Week Ending 9/20/2010

Australian church to study covenant for three years

The Anglican Church of Australia, meeting in its General Synod in Melbourne, has passed a resolution asking all its dioceses to debate the Anglican covenant draft and report back by December 2012, so the covenant can be considered by the General Synod in 2013. The original resolution was amended to say that the church “received,” rather than “welcomed” the proposed covenant. Details can be read here.

Dublin to host January primates meeting

Anglican Communion News Service has announced that the next meeting of the Anglican primates will be held in Dublin, Ireland, January 25–31, 2011. A story from Episcopal News Service provides additional information.

Although the Primates Meeting was originally established to provide an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation” among the chief episcopal leaders of Anglican churches, it is now spoken of as an “Instrument of Communion” and has increasingly sought to yield power within the Anglican Communion. The most recent meeting of the primates was held in Alexandria, Egypt, in 2009.

Lesbian pastors welcomed in ELCA service

In accordance with the decision taken by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) last summer—see Pittsburgh Update story here—three partnered lesbian Lutheran ministers with a combined 60 years of clerical experience were welcomed as official Lutheran pastors in a September 18, 2010, service in St. Paul, Minnesota. The ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted “to open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships” last August 21. The Rev. Anita Hill, the Rev. Phyllis Zillhart, and the Rev. Ruth Frost were welcomed in a ceremony in which apologies for past discrimination were made on behalf of the church. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the story here. Video is available from CNN here.

Bishops meeting in Phoenix

As noted here last week, Episcopal Church bishops are meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, concluding their fall gathering September 21, 2010. The bishops have discussed many topics, particularly immigration, but little of serious news value has emerged to date. Nonetheless, Episcopal News Service has been issuing daily summaries, and some final words are expected from the bishops before the meetings conclude on the 21st. Summaries can be found here, here, and here. Sermons preached September 19 by various bishops, including the Presiding Bishop, can be found here.

Episcopal blogger elected Springfield bishop

Episcopal News Service reported September 18, 2010, that the Rev. Daniel H. Martins has been elected the next diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. Martins is well known to Internet-savvy Episcopalians through his blog, “Confessions of a Carioca”—he was born in Brazil—and through his contributions, as a General Convention deputy, to the House of Bishops and Deputies e-mail list.

Assuming that Martins receives the necessary consents from standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, he will succeed the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith as Bishop of Springfield. Under Beckwith, who was vice president of the American Anglican Council and associated with other dissident “orthodox” groups, there was considerable anxiety about the status of the Springfield diocese, even though Beckwith asserted his intention to remain in The Episcopal Church. Martins, a conservative who attended seminary at Nashotah House, will, many hope, be a less controversial bishop. His many public statements may make collecting the needed consents more difficult than usual, however. For example, at least one blog has already questioned his opposition to the 2009 General Convention’s Resolution C056.

Former Episcopal priest accepts plea bargain in Colorado

The Rev. Don Armstrong, described by The Lead as a “charismatic founder of the Anglican Communion Institute and current priest in good standing in ACNA [the Anglican Church in North America],” pleaded no contest to felony theft charges September 17, 2010, a move that earned him a deferred judgment and sentence, according to The Denver Post. Armstrong had already been tried in a ecclesiastical court and removed as an Episcopal priest for embezzling funds from his church. Also, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado had to go to court to retrieve parish property removed from control of the diocese by Armstrong and his congregation. (The diocese prevailed in March 2009; see Pittsburgh Update story here.) Episcopal News Service covered the story here. The diocese issued a press release asserting that the plea was an implicit admission of criminal guilt by Armstrong, but his parish, St. George’s Anglican Church, issued a statement saying that “we have become convinced even more strongly that controversies within the larger denominational church were the catalyst for the Diocese’s investigation and complaint, for the purpose of silencing our bold and successful defense of orthodoxy through our parish’s life, discipline, and teaching ministry.” [Editorial note, 9/23/2010: As explained by The Lead, Armstrong’s church has removed the statement referred to above from its Web site. It can be read here, a file that was created from the Google cache of the page. Armstrong’s plea agreement can be read here.]

Pennsylvania Standing Committee: Bennison trying to create ‘alternate reality’

Episcopal News Service reported September 16, 2010, that the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania has written to Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, responding to her concern that Bishop Charles Bennison should resign. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In its letter, which has not been made public, the Standing Committee expressed frustration that Bennison does not acknowledge the reality of his situation and is seeking to create an “alternate reality.”

South Carolina proposes changes at special convention to ‘protect’ itself

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is holding a special diocesan convention October 15, 2010. Resolutions have been proposed to “protect” the diocese, supposedly from unconstitutional changes to Title IV of the Episcopal Church’s canons adopted at the 2009 General Convention. The diocese cited an Anglican Communion Institute essay as justification for its resolutions, which have much in common with resolutions used to justify schism in Pittsburgh. Episcopal News Service covered the story here.

Breakaway group in Fort Worth fails in latest court ploy

According to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the breakaway group led by former Episcopal bishop Jack Iker has failed in its attempt to have itself declared the legitimate successor to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. The judge in the Tarrant County case has urged the parties to move quickly to argument of substantive issues.

Monday, September 13, 2010

News for Week Ending 9/13/2010

Pope visits UK this week

The long awaited visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland and England takes place this week. The visit begins September 16, 2010, and ends September 19. The official Web site of the visit can be found here. The ostensible reason for the visit is the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the one-time nineteenth-century Anglican who converted to Roman Catholicism. A preview of the visit, which will include a service in Westminster Abby, can be read here. The Living Church offers a view of the divisions that provide a backdrop to the papal visit here. As usual, ongoing coverage of the visit can be expected from Thinking Anglicans.

Second Moravian body joins Episcopalians in full communion

Episcopal News Service reported September 10, 2010, that the Southern Province of the Moravian Church has voted for full communion with The Episcopal Church. As we reported in earlier—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the 2009 General Convention approved full communion with both the Southern Province and Northern Province of the Moravian Church, the latter of which approved the agreement on June 18. The ENS story pointedly notes that, on the same day that the Northern Province approved full communion with The Episcopal Church, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, was telling The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council “that the communion’s ecumenical dialogues ‘are at the point of collapse’ because of the church’s decision to ordain as bishop an openly gay and partnered priest for the second time.”

Fort Worth bishop hopeful about litigation

According to Episcopal News Service, Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, “is optimistic about the progress of litigation over disputed property and assets in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, after several recent court actions.” Ohl also asserted, however, that legislation “is not the center of our diocesan life.” (The most recent Pittsburgh Update reports on the Fort Worth litigation can be read here and here.)

On September 2, 2010, a Hood County case involving a bequest to an Episcopal Church now held by a breakaway congregation was halted. It appears that the case will now be heard in the same Tarrant County court in which the Episcopal diocese and the breakaway diocese led by Bishop Leo Iker is being heard. Additional details can be found in the ENS story. The Episcopal diocese also has information on its Web site and links to pleadings here.

House of Bishops to meet in Phoenix

As reported by Episcopal News Service, the church’s House of Bishops will have its fall meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, September 16–21, 2010. According to ENS, discussions will be dominated by issues of immigration, a particularly hot topic in Arizona, and evangelism. Many bishops will visit the Arizona–Mexico border area in the days before the meeting to see conditions there. Additional details can be found in the ENS story here.

NW Pa. bishop offers update on abuse by previous bishop

Bishop Sean Rowe of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, has again written his diocese concerning abuse by predecessor Donald Davis. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story here.) His September 12, 2010, letter can be read here. Rowe reports that five additional women have come forth with charges against Bishop Davis. Three claim to have been abused as children, and two report being harassed as adults. Rowe intends to speak to other bishops in whose dioceses Davis has been resident when he attends the upcoming House of Bishops meeting. Episcopal News Service covered this story here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

News for Week Ending 9/6/2010

Church leaders urge covenant study

To facilitate informed action on the proposed Anglican covenant by the 2012 General Convention, congregations are being urged to study the final covenant draft and forward their opinions to an Executive Council Task Force. The suggestion came in a September 3, 2010, letter from Episcopal Church leaders. More details are available from Episcopal News Service. Executive Council approved a study guide for the proposed covenant at its June meeting that can be downloaded here.

Jericho Road project wins orchard

Episcopal News Service reported September 2, 2010, that the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative of New Orleans will be the recipient of a 50- by 125-foot orchard as a result of public voting on projects sponsored by Edy’s Fruit Bars and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. An earlier ENS story can be read here. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was a strong advocate for the Jericho Road initiative. A “thank you” from Jericho Road can be viewed on YouTube.

Bennison should have wisdom to resign—Bonnie Anderson

President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson has said that the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, Bishop of Pennsylvania, should have the “wisdom and generosity of spirit to resign.” So reported Episcopal News Service in a September 2, 2010, story. Bennison was convicted of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, but his conviction was overturned on a technicality. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Anderson said that a review of the canons is in order.

Tennessee diocese clashes with Nashville church

Conservative Web site VirtueOnline reported September 1, 2010, on the conflict between the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee and St. Andrew’s Parish of Nashville, which claims to be part of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy. Despite a summary judgment against the parish determining that the property is to be used by The Episcopal Church, the parish has not relinquished its real estate. This past week, the Bishop of Tennessee presented the church’s priest for refusing to submit parochial reports (thereby denying that the parish is a part of the Diocese of Tennessee). Details are available on VirtueOnline here.