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, December 27, 2010

News for Week Ending 12/27/2010

N.J. diocese cuts deal with departing congregation

The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey has negotiated an amicable property settlement with the congregation of what is now St. George’s Anglican Church of Helmetta, New Jersey. The former Episcopal congregation disaffiliated from The Episcopal Church in early 2008 and began negotiating with the diocese a year later to retain parish property.

According to myCentralJersey.com, the parish property was sold to the congregation on November 23, 2010. In an explanation of the sale on the Diocese of New Jersey’s Web site, Bishop George Councell is quoted as saying, “In the matter of St. George’s, Helmetta, the Standing Committee and I are clear that we acted in the best interests of the Diocese of New Jersey. We are satisfied that this agreement is the right settlement for this particular circumstance and we wish our brothers and sisters well.”

According to VirtueOnline, St. George’s has made a $30,000 down payment and will make additional payments over several years. VirtueOnline describes the chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey and “Episcopal leaders at church headquarters in New York City” as being “not supportive” of the settlement reached with the breakaway congregation.

St. George’s Anglican Church is now affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

Court rules against El Paso congregation in property dispute

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth reported December 23, 2010, that, on December 16, the District Court of El Paso County, Texas, issued a final summary judgment in favor of The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande and against members of the congregation of the former St. Francis on the Hill Episcopal Church of El Paso, Texas. The plaintiffs left The Episcopal Church in October 2008 with the intention of taking parish property with them. The court argued that, as a hierarchical church, the property could not be so taken and that, even under the neutral principles of law standard, judgment would be entered for the defendants.

Iker granted delay in trademark case

A U.S. District Court granted former Bishop of Fort Worth Jack Iker the stay he requested in the trademark infringement suit brought by the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The action temporarily halts all actions in the case except petitions to intervene. Iker claimed that such petitions will have substantive bearing on the case. The action was reported by the Diocese of Fort Worth. The court order can be found here.

N.B. This post was updated 12/28/2010 to include information overlooked in the original 12/27/2010 post.

Monday, December 20, 2010

News for Week Ending 12/20/2010

Episcopal newspaper publishing sees exit, entry

According to a December 16, 2010, story from Episcopal News Service (ENS), The Episcopal Church is about it exit the newspaper publishing business. ENS ceased publication of Episcopal Life in January of this year. The replacement publications, Episcopal News Monthly and Episcopal News Quarterly will print their final issues in January 2011. Anne Rudig, director of the church’s Office of Communication, explained, “Diversion of our very limited staff and resources to support these publications is now impacting the news gathering and dissemination for the wider church.

On December 15, 2010, The Living Church reported that Jerrold Hames, former editor of Episcopal Life, will begin publishing a new newspaper, Episcopal Journal, beginning in February. The two official publications being discontinued by The Episcopal Church were being distributed along with diocesan newsletters. Episcopal Journal is intended as a replacement for those publications and will initially be distributed in a dozen dioceses, not including Pittsburgh.

Iker tries to delay trademark litigation

According to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, former Bishop of Fort Worth Jack Iker filed a motion in U.S. District Court December 16, 2010, seeking an emergency stay to delay responding to the trademark infringement suit filed against his breakaway diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The diocese responded the next day, arguing that Iker did not follow proper procedure in his request and failed to establish that any emergency exists. Links to court documents are available from the diocesan Web site.

Martins nears required consent total

The Rev. Daniel H. Martins, who was elected Bishop of Springfield on September 18, 2010, has nearly achieved the necessary consents for his consecration from Standing Committees. According to the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield Web site, Martins has collected 51 of the required 56 consents. Eleven Standing Committees have given Martins the thumbs down. To be consecrated, the bishop-elect also needs support from a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction, but, since these positions are not regularly revealed, it is unclear whether he is doing equally well with that constituency. Consents must be received within 120 days of the request for them by the diocese.

Martins’ has been a controversial election, as he was formerly resident in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, where he did not oppose the schismatic actions of Bishop John-David Schofield. Nonetheless, he has been supported both by liberals and conservatives, most recently in a letter dated November 1. (See also Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Virginia litigation goes to trial in April

Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County Circuit Court has scheduled the retrial of the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) for April 25–June 14, 2011, according to BabyBlueOnline. Bellows denied CANA’s request for a jury trial. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The diocese has posted additional documents on its Web site, but its listing is not completely up to date.

Bishop search committees named

In the December 20, 2010, “Grace Happens” newsletter from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the diocese announced the members of the two committees involved in the diocese’s search for a new bishop. Dana Phillips, a parishioner of St. Thomas, Oakmont, who facilitated strategic planning for the diocese, will chair the Nomination Committee. The Transition Committee will be headed by the Rev. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, rector of St. Stephen’s Wilkinsburg and outgoing Standing Committee president. The full list of committee members can be found in the on-line version of the diocesan newsletter here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

News for Week Ending 12/13/2010

Breakaway New Westminster congregations appeal to Canadian high court

The four congregations that left British Columbia’s Diocese of New Westminster and are now part of the Anglican Church in North America have decided to appeal a lower-court decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. An appeals court ruled in November that the congregations had to relinquish parish property to the Anglican Church of Canada diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) As in the U.S., the Supreme Court of Canada is not obligated to hear the case. The move by the four congregations was noted in a December 12, 2010, story on the Anglican Network in Canada Web site. The Diocese of New Westminster has a statement on its Web site. The judgment to be appealed can be read here.

Calgary congregation may become Roman Catholic

Anglican Journal reported December 10, 2010, that the congregation of St. John the Evangelist in Calgary, Alberta, voted in November to initiate discussions with the Roman Catholic church aimed at joining the Anglican Ordinariate in Canada. St. John’s could become the first congregation of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) to take advantage of the offer made by the Vatican more than a year ago to join the Roman Catholic Church while retaining some Anglican traditions. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The development was announced in a letter from Bishop Derek Hoskin of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary. For now, St. John’s retains its status as an Anglo-Catholic parish within the ACoC.

Monday, December 6, 2010

News for Week Ending 12/6/2010

Ga. court rules against presbytery

The Layman Online reported December 2, 2010, that a Georgia court has reversed a lower court decision in favor of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta in a property case. The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled November 30 in favor of the congregation of the Timberridge Presbyterian Church of McDonough, Georgia. The congregation left the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA) for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and has been seeking to retain the church property. Although the presbytery prevailed at the trial court level, the recent decision found that the presbytery did not have the right to control the Timberridge property under neutral principles of law. The court rejected the notion that there was an implied trust in favor of PCUSA. According to The Layman online,
“In applying neutral principles of law as required by the United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Georgia, we cannot ignore relevant statutes, documents of the local body, or the actual language of the relevant deeds, in favor … of the rules of the national body,” the judgment states. “The narrow approach urged by the presbytery would result in a de facto ‘rule of compulsory deference to religious authority in resolving church property disputes, even where no issue of doctrinal controversy is involved,’ as disapproved by the United States Supreme Court in Jones v. Wolf … ”
It is unclear whether this decision could have any bearing on parish property cases involving The Episcopal Church. In particular, the Dennis Canon was developed to establish an explicit trust in favor of the church, rather than rely on an implicit trust.

ENS highlights congregations in rebuilding dioceses

Episcopal News Service reported November 29, 2010, on activities in the four dioceses that have experienced a split in recent years, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Fort Worth, and Quincy. You can read the story here. The story hightlights All Saints Episcopal Fellowship in Bridgeville.