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 29, 2010

News for Week Ending 11/29/2010

CoE sends Covenant to dioceses

As we noted last week, the General Synod of the Church of England was to have a major vote on the Anglican Covenant this week. The Synod was being asked to continue the consideration of the Covenant by sending it on to the individual dioceses. In his Presidential Address on November 23, 2010, Archbishop of Canterbury made a strong and personal plea for a positive vote. Despite some reservations expressed in the debate the next day, the Covenant did receive a strong endorsement from all three houses. (Clergy and laity have separate houses in the Church of England.) Not a single bishop voted against the wishes of the archbishop.

The vote was overshadowed by the release by the GAFCON Primates’ Council of the so-called Oxford Statement. This declaration was the outgrowth of a meeting of the Council in October, but it was released just before the General Synod vote. The Oxford Statement was not mentioned in the debate. The statement, signed by eight former or current primates (including former Pittsburgh bishop Robert Duncan, who, of course, is not a primate in the Anglican Communion), declared that they and other Global South primates will boycott the meeting of the primates called by the Archbishop of Canterbury that is to take place in January, saying that “we can no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy.” They also called the Anglican Covenant “fatally flawed”—they failed to explain in what respect—and vowed to withdraw support for it.

The General Synod vote and the Oxford Statement have been widely reported and commented upon. Stories are available from Episcopal News Service, The Living Church, Anglican Communion News Service, the Guardian, and the Telegraph-Journal. Additional news and commentary can be found in the Thinking Anglicans post here and in subsequent posts.

Monday, November 22, 2010

News for Week Ending 11/22/2010

CoE to vote on Covenant this week

The new General Synod of the Church of England will vote on the Anglican Covenant Wednesday, November 24, 2010. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Should the Synod vote in favor of the Covenant, it will be sent to the dioceses for their consideration before the Covenant comes again before the Synod. Credible predictions of the outcome seem to be unavailable, but essays and counter-essays have been coming in rapid succession. The Inclusive Church/Modern Church advertisement of October 29 led to rebuttals by Andrew Goddard and Gregory Cameron. Jonathan Clatworthy answered these essays but provoked another, longer response by Goddard. Clatworthy answered that one as well. Meanwhile, various bloggers have joined the fray opposing the covenant—Jim Naughton was responsible for a particularly good essay—and some of the proponents of the Covenant have begun fighting with one another. (See, for example, the overview provided by Charles Raven.)

San Joaquin case sent back to trial court

Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported November 19, 2010, that the California 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno reversed a lower court decision that Jerry Lamb is the proper bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, saying that this is a church matter not subject to court jurisdiction. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The ruling overturned a summary judgment in favor of the diocese and was described as a “technical procedural setback” in a story on the diocese’s Web site. Michael Glass, chancellor of the diocese, suggested that the decision was a kind of “sacrifice fly-ball,” since The Episcopal Church, which the court said has the right to determine the bishop of the diocese, has determine that the bishop is indeed Jerry Lamb. More details are available in the ENS and diocesan stories. The court opinion is available here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

News for Week Ending 11/15/2010

Uruguay votes to leave Southern Cone

The decision of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone not to begin ordaining women priests—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has had surprising consequences. Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported November 15, 2010, that the Diocese of Uruguay synod voted November 12 to leave the Southern Cone for another Anglican church over the inability to ordain women priests. According to ENS, the diocese wants to arrange the transfer within a year. The diocese has been a part of the Southern Cone since its inception in 1981.

‘Hundreds’ in England to go to Rome

It remains to be seen what defections there will be from the Church of England over disagreements about allowing women bishops. Some bishops have already announced that they will become Roman Catholic. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to a November 13, 2010, story in The Telegraph, 50 Anglican clergy and “hundreds on Anglican churchgoers” will join them. It will actually be years before the Church of England will be able to create women bishops, of course.

New Westminster ‘orthodox’ lose appeal

Four congregations that broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of New Westminster over issues around homosexuality have lost an appeal to a 2009 court decision that awarded property to the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The congregations are now part of the Anglican Church in North America. Three judges of the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled unanimously November 15, 2010, that the lower court decided the case correctly. One judge wrote that the dissidents “cannot in my respectful decision remove themselves from their diocesan structures and retain the right to use properties that are held for purposes of Anglican ministry in Canada.” According to The Vancouver Sun, the court decision may be the end of litigation, but it is possible for the “orthodox” congregations to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. This story was also reported by the Winnipeg Free Press.

Robinson says Glasspool inspired retirement thoughts

Last week, we reported that gay bishop Gene Robinson has announced his coming retirement. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In an interview with The Living Church, Robinson elaborated on his decision to step down before canonically required to do so. He told The Living Church that he had not considered retiring early until Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, was elected a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles. That election, he said, gave him permission to consider retirement. More information is contained in the Living Church story.

Fort Worth parishes and missions join litigation

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth reported that, on November 12, 2010, 10 parishes and 38 missions have joined with the diocese in the Tarrant County litigation seeking recovery of property taken by those who left the Episcopal Church diocese for the Southern cone. The ongoing litigation was last reported on by Pittsburgh Update here. Additional details may be found at the link given above.

Monday, November 8, 2010

News for Week Ending 11/8/2010

New international group opposes Anglican Covenant

Just after two British groups ran an advertisement opposing the Anglican Covenant—see Pittsburgh Update story here—a new international group has established a Web site offering anti-Covenant arguments. The new group is the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, and it includes members from England, Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and New Zealand. Its Web site is here. Episcopal News Service reported the story November 3, 2010.

After the Modern Church/Inclusive church advertisement ran, the Rt. Rev. Gregory Cameron, now Bishop of St. Asaph in Wales, but formerly the secretary to the Anglican Communion Covenant Design Group, wrote a letter to Church Times accusing the sponsoring groups of scaremongering and xenophobia. Cameron and the moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, the Rev. Dr. Lesley Fellows sparred on the subject of the Covenant on the BBC November 7, 2010. (The segment can be heard here, about 24 minutes into the program. The program is available only for seven days on the Web.)

CoE bishops resign to go to Rome

The Guardian reported November 8, 2010, that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has accepted the resignation of several bishops who plan to become Roman Catholics in response to the failure of the Church of England (CoE) to make concessions to opponents of women bishops. Two of the bishops are active “flying bishops,” holding positions created when the CoE began ordaining women. Flying bishops provide pastoral care to those who oppose women’s ordination. Lambeth issued a brief press release here. Additional details can be found in the Guardian story.

Canadian church returned to ACoC

According to press release from the Anglican Diocese of Niagara, the property and assets of St. Peter’s Church in Hamilton, Ontario, are being returned to the Anglican Church of Canada diocese. The property has been under the control of members of the Anglican Network in Canada. According to the November 1, 2010, statement, an “amicable agreement” has been reached to return the parish property to the Anglican diocese of Niagara after weeks of negotiation.

Zavala elected Southern Cone primate

Episcopal News Service (ENS) reported November 5, 2010, that the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone has elected Bishop Hector “Tito” Zavala of the Diocese of Chile to replace Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables as the church’s primate. The election came at the triennial synod held November 4. Zavala received some of his theological training at Trinity School for Ministry. He was in the news most recently for having been removed from the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) News reports have not suggested that any representatives from North America participated in the Southern Cone synod.

ENS also noted that the synod rejected changes that would have allowed women to become priests. The measure was approved by bishops and laypeople, but not by clergy.

Local group supports Springfield bishop-elect

Just after Springfield bishop-elect Don Martins received a no-confidence vote from the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin—see Pittsburgh Update story here—Concerned Laity of the Springfield Diocese, a group associated with the liberal-leaning Via Media USA—issued a letter saying that it is satisfied that a Bishop Martins will not try to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church and urging bishops and standing committees to consent to Martins’ consecration. The Living Church published the letter November 3, 2010.

Bishop Gene Robinson to retire

New Hampshire’s Bishop Gene Robinson apparently surprised his diocese’s convention November 6, 2010, by announcing his decision to retire in 2013. It was Robinson’s election as bishop in June 2003 that set in motion the current chaos in the Anglican Communion. In making the announcement that the diocese should begin to look for a bishop coadjutor, Robinson said, “The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you. Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as Bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, YOU.” Robinson will retire after nine years of service at the age of 66. The story was covered by The New York Times here.

Philadelphia church withdraws financial support for bishop

Another chapter is being added to the ongoing conflict between Bishop Charles Bennison and the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. (See most recent Pittsburgh Update story here.) Philadelphia’s Christ Church has decided not to pay its episcopal assessment to the diocese next year, contributing that money instead to the diocese’s program budget. The effect is to withdraw its financial support from the office of the bishop while still contributing its total assessment to the diocese. In a letter published by VirtueOnline November 5, 2010, the church explained that Bennison’s remaining as bishop threatens the program budget and that the vestry believes that to pay its episcopal assessment is to approve of Bennison’s remaining as bishop, which it does not do.

Monday, November 1, 2010

News for Week Ending 11/1/2010

Church Times reports developments in Nordic churches

Church Times reported news from churches in Finland and Norway October 29, 2010. The newspaper noted that more than 36,000 people have left the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland after the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Päivi Räsänen, called homosexuality sinful and gay marriage unbiblical. Because church membership results in being subject to a tax, explicit resignation from the church is commonplace, but the rate of resignation after Päivi Räsänen’s remarks is unusually high.

In the same article, Church Times disclosed that the Church of Norway, another Lutheran church, has elected its first female Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Helga Haugland Byfuglien.

British groups oppose covenant

Two liberal groups in England have declared their opposition to the proposed Anglican covenant. Inclusive Church and Modern Church have sponsored ads titled “Who runs the Church?” The ads suggest that the Church of England will lose autonomy if the covenant is adopted and urge that members of the General Synod be lobbied to vote against its adoption by the Church of England. The covenant comes before the General Synod November 24, 2010.

Thinking Anglicans has links to the various documents related to the General Synod, including the agenda, the resolution concerning the covenant, and the briefing paper on the covenant. Episcopal News Service covered the story October 28.

San Joaquin urges withholding of consent for consecration of Springfield bishop

Bishop Jerry Lamb and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have raised questions about the suitability of the Rev. Daniel Martins to become the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield. Martins was a priest in San Joaquin and was active in diocesan affairs prior to the December 2007 vote by the diocesan convention to leave The Episcopal Church. Martins took a position in another diocese, however, before that vote. In a letter to bishops and Standing Committees, Lamb and the San Joaquin Standing Committee argue that Martins actively facilitated the subsequent schism and believes that the action taken by the San Joaquin convention was proper. The letter urges that consent for Martins’ consecration be withheld. The story was reported on the diocesan Web site, which has links to a page of documents supporting the view expressed in the October 16, 2010, letter.

Drama continues in South Carolina

On October 25, 2010, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council wrote a letter to Episcopal Forum of South Carolina (EFSC) in response to that group’s request that the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina be investigated. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) EFSC had cited a number of concerns, including the inaction of the diocese after St. Andrew’s Church in Mount Pleasant voted to leave The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Executive Council letter explained that the investigation requested by EFSC is not authorized by Episcopal Church canons. Four days after the letter was written, Episcopal News Service reported that Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence removed four clergy on the staff of St. Andrew’s from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church on October 21, 2010.