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, April 25, 2011

News for Week Ending 4/25/2011

Kansas objects to Section 4 of Covenant

The 2012 General Convention deputation of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas wrote to the Executive Council Task Force on the Anglican Covenant April 24, 2011. In their letter, members of the House of Deputies expressed no concerns about Sections 1–3 of the Anglican Covenant, but they declared that they do not support Section 4, with its penalties of “relational consequences.” According to the letter, “The deputation believes that the inclusion of such penalties would be antithetical to any covenantal relationship. The inclusion of penalties is consistent with a contractual or legal relationship in the secular world, not a covenantal relationship.”

Virginia diocese settles with another church on eve of return to court

On April 19, 2011, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced an agreement with another of the churches that attempted to leave the diocese in 2006 while retaining parish property. The agreement comes two months after the diocese settled with Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands, and only days before the remaining parties in the property litigation in Virginia returned to court. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Church of the Word, Gainsville, reached an agreement with the diocese April 18 that reflects “a set of unique circumstances” regarding the Gainsville church building. A road construction project near the church negatively impacts the viability of the church at its present location. The church is being allowed to keep most of its real and personal property, but the diocese will retain a $1.95 million compensatory payment from the Virginia Department of Transportation. In addition, Church of the Word will disaffiliate from the Anglican Church in North America, the Anglican District of Virginia, and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America for a period of five years, although the intention is to re-affiliate after that period.

Episcopal News Service has additional details here. Church of the Word issued a press release and offers background information.

On April 25, the diocese, Episcopal Church, and the seven churches that have not yet settled, began another trial in the court of Fairfax County Circuit Judge Randy Bellows. Associated Press reported on the beginning of the trial here.

Ohio court rules for Diocese of Ohio

Episcopal News Service reported April 20, 2011, that an Ohio judge ruled April 15 that five parishes that sought to break away from the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio do not have the right to retain their property. Judge Deena Calabrese based his decision largely on the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon. The litigation dates from 2008. Additional details can be read in the ENS story and this post from The Lead.

Legal maneuverings continue in Fort Worth case

The litigation over the split of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth continues on several fronts. No definitive judgments were handed down in the past week, but the Episcopal Church diocese reported on a numbers of moves by the parties, along with links to court filings. That report can be found here.

Presiding Bishop visits Pittsburgh

As announced here two weeks ago, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh April 19, 2011. Details of her visit can be read in stories and a blog post from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here and here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

News for Week Ending 4/18/2011

Dioceses decide against Covenant

Two widely spaced dioceses have decided to oppose adoption of the Anglican Covenant in their respective churches.On April 13, 2011, the General Convention deputation of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, citing extensive discussions in the diocese, issued a statement saying that its members had decided “to recommend that The Episcopal Church not endorse the final draft of the Anglican Covenant,” but that they support continued conversations within the Anglican Communion. (A report from the diocese can be found here.)

On April 18, 2011, it was announced by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia that a diocese, the Maori diocese of Te Manawa o Te Wheke, has rejected the Covenant as a threat to Maori sovereignty. This is the first diocese in the church to decide against adopting the Covenant. More information can be read here.

Diocese regroups after chancellor loss

The death of a chancellor would be an occasion of sadness in any diocese, but it is especially worrisome in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, which returns to court in its long-running property dispute April 25, 2011. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Bishop Shannon S. Johnston wrote to his diocese April 15 in the wake of the unexpected death of Chancellor Russ Palmore. The bishop indicated that attorney Henry Burt will continue the work of Palmore in the litiagation around parish property, and that J. P. Causey Jr. is being appointed acting chancellor. The bishop’s letter can be found on the diocesan Web site here.

San Joaquin moves toward blessing same-sex unions

While acknowledging that same-sex marriage is not presently legal in the state of California, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has issued a document titled “Some Questions and Answers: The Sacramental Blessing of a Sacred Union.” The eight-page document was prepared by the Commission on Equality of the diocese, based on work originally done by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. The document begins with this introduction:
The Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin is authorizing the use of a rite for the “Sacramental Blessing of a Sacred Union.” This sacramental rite maybe used to bless the union of a man and a woman or it may be used to sacramentally unite persons of the same gender.
San Joaquin, is one of the four diocese, including Pittsburgh, that split over issues related to sex.

Monday, April 11, 2011

News for Week Ending 4/11/2011

Wales solicits opinions on Covenant, issues briefing paper

The Church in Wales has solicited opinions from its members on whether the Anglican Covenant should be accepted or rejected. Its Web site now includes a page with links to the Covenant text and to a briefing paper about the Covenant, as well as an on-line form for submitting questions and comments. The briefing paper, prepared by the Doctrinal Commission,is an apology for the Covenant. The final section of the 12-page document includes this statement:
The Doctrinal Commission of the Church in Wales commends the Anglican Communion Covenant to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales. We regard it as a theologically coherent description of the nature of the Church and the form of the Christian life as expressed in Scripture and Church tradition. The Covenant falls within a discernable trajectory in the development of Anglican identity.

Nigerian delegation pleads for concessions in England

Thinking Anglicans reported April 6, 2011, on an episcopal delegation from Nigeria that visited England in February to argue for allowing Nigerians in England to worship in Church of England buildings in “the Nigerian way,” rather than in the prevalent “cold” worship style. Nigeria, of course, sponsored the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which, although it originally was touted as a haven for Nigerians in America, is now largely a church of disaffected Episcopalians. It is not clear what plans the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, might have for England.

Chicago Consultation analyzes Covenant

The Chicago Consultation, which advocates for full inclusion of LGBT persons in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, issued a 67-page document April 5, 2011, that analyzes issues related to the Anglican Covenant. “The Genius of Anglicanism: Perspectives on the Proposed Anglican Covenant” is descibed as “Essays and Study Questions.” “The Genius of Anglicanism” treats issues related to the Covenant that are often overlooked in discussions about whether the pact should be adopted. The essays take no position on the covenant, and each is followed by study questions. The essayists are all prominent Episcopalians.

West Texas endorses Covenant

The Living Church reported April 5, 2011, that the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has urged the 2012 General Convention to adopt the Anglican Covenant. The endorsement came at the February diocesan convention, after widespread study of the Covenant in the diocese. (West Texas produced a study guide generally seen as favorably disposed to Covenant adoption.) The statement from the diocese, which is not unreservedly positive regarding the Covenant, can be read here.

Texas judge facilitates appeal to Fort Worth Decision

On April 5, 2011, Judge John P. Chupp granted the defendants’ motion to sever the February 8, 2011, decision granting the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth custody of church property from other issues in the dispute between the dioceses claiming to be the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.” Litigation on other issues will be put on hold while the group that left The Episcopal Church appeals directly to the Texas Supreme Court. (See the statement by the defendants here.) Comments on the April decision by the two parties can be found here and here. A transcript of the March 31 hearing that led to Judge Chupp’s order can be found here. For additional background, see the Pittsburgh Update story here.

Presiding Bishop to visit Pittsburgh

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will participate in two events in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. At 7 PM, she will preside at a brief worship service at Trinity Cathedral, followed by a question and answer session and book signing. Earlier in the day, she will participate in the annual renewal of vows for diocesan clergy. Details are available in the diocese’s electronic newsletter here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

News for Week Ending 4/4/2011

Standing Committee meeting ends

As we reported last week, the Standing Committee, which includes representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ Meeting, has concluded its business. In addition to the news releases reported last week, Anglican Communion News Service has issued two additional reports on the meeting here and here. We cannot improve on the characterization of the meeting offered by Anglicans Online, which we reproduce below:
30 March 2011: Some important meeting ends
We have dim memories that there’s a Standing Committee meeting going on somewhere. They never have told us where, nor just what the goal of these meetings was, nor what the authority of the Standing Committee might be. But the Anglican Communion News Service has faithfully released the fourth and final despatch from that committee, the bulk of which seems to be announcements of future meetings of that and other committees. A lot of people are going to earn Gold Tier status in their Flying Clubs.
It is now clear that our own Presiding Bishop did not attend the meeting because it conflicted with the meeting of the church’s House of Bishops. (See next story.)

House of Bishops meets

Bishops of The Episcopal Church met for six days in North Carolina, concluding their work on March 30, 2011. Episcopal News services has issued a number of stories on the event here, here, here, here, and here. Primate visitors from three Anglican churches—Congo, South Korea, and Canada—attended the meeting. The visitors participated in a discussion of the proposed Anglican Covenant, which offered a rare window into episcopal conversations because Arizona’s Bishop Kirk Smith was tweeting during the discussion. (Neither the visitors nor the moderator of the panel discussion, Bishop Neal Alexander, was very enthusiastic about the Covenant.) Alas, the window did not stay open for long out of concern for “confidentiality.”

In a post-meeting news conference, the Presiding Bishop, ducking the question of whether the Covenant will “have a prayer” of being approved by the 2012 General Convention, suggested that the Windsor Process has “deepened and expanded” relationships within the Anglican Communion.

Readers are referred to the aforementioned ENS stories, particularly the final one, for more details about what the bishops discussed.

Washington nominates five episcopal candidates

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington has nominated five candidates to replace retiring bishop John Chane, who is widely considered to be one of the more liberal bishops of The Episcopal Church. The Living Church ran a story March 31, 2011, that includes brief quotations from candidate statements and links to the diocese’s Web site. Candidates can also be nominated by petition through April 15. The episcopal election is scheduled to be held June 18 at Washington National Cathedral.

Fort Worth parties back in court

The contending Fort Worth dioceses were back in court March 31, 2011, before Judge John P. Chupp in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas. At issue was the order in which decisions would be made by the court, when appeals could begin, and whether additional evidence could be introduced. Those parties who left The Episcopal Church want to halt additional proceedings and appeal the court decision that declared that the Episcopal Church diocese is the proper custodian of church property. (Their motion is here.) Both sides have offered their view of what happened in court (see here and here). The judge made no immediate decision.

Even as the parties were stating their case before the court, the Episcopalians were introducing additional evidence and complaints. In particular, they asked that Jude Funding, Inc., be added as a defendant, and that additional judgments and injunctions be forthcoming. In other words, the Episcopalians are trying to move the case along and keep the so-called Southern Cone parties from misusing the property in dispute. In another explanation on its Web site, the Episcopalians noted that Jude Funding was formed only last year and granted the diocese run by Bishop Jack Iker a $3.5 million loan by mortgaging diocesan real estate. (See deed of trust here.)

See Pittsburgh Update story here for more background on the Fort Worth litigation.

Commonwealth Court nixes Duncan appeal

To the surprise of no one who knows the Pennsylvania court system, Commonwealth Court rejected the request of Archbishop Robert Duncan to rehear the appeal of the lower-court decision awarding diocesan property to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The March 29, 2010, court decision was announced April 1 on the diocesan Web site. According to an April 4 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Duncan will appeal the March 29 decision.