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.

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A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Monday, June 27, 2011

News for Week Ending 6/27/2011

Anglican Mission in England announced

On June 23, 2011, GAFCON reported the formation of a new missionary society called the Anglican Mission in England (AMIE). The goal of the new organization is explained this way:
AMIE has been established as a society within the Church of England dedicated to the conversion of England and biblical church planting. There is a steering committee and a panel of bishops. The bishops aim to provide effective oversight in collaboration with senior clergy.
The society appears to have no official connection to the Church of England nor to have coördinated its initiative with the English church.

CoE participant/observer attends ACNA meeting

Anglican eyebrows were raised when blogger Mark Harris observed that a representative of the Church of England attended Archbishop Robert Duncan’s State of the Church address in Long Beach, California, on June 21, 2011. The speech of the head of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) included this line:
It is also a privilege to welcome Fr. Thomas Seville, CR, of the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England here as participant and observer, in partial response to the action of the General Synod of the Church of England in February 2010 regarding consideration of an appropriate form of recognition or relationship with the Anglican Church in North America.
Of course, ACNA is not a member of the Anglican Communion, and the Church of England rejected a resolution promoting communion between the two churches. Why, people are asking, was Seville in Long Beach?

Executive Council task force releases report

The report from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons that the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church planned to make public nearly four months from now has been released by the Council’s D023 task force. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The report suggests that substantial changes would need to be made to the church’s constitution and canons to comply with provisions of the Anglican Covenant, should that document be adopted by the General Convention. Pressure from bloggers and from General Convention deputies themselves caused the task force to reconsider its decision to issue the report it had commissioned in October of this year. The story was covered by Episcopal News Service. The report itself can be found here.

New York bishops applaud state gay marriage law

Episcopal News Service, in a June 27, 2011, story, indicated that four of the six diocesan bishops in New York state have expressed approval of the state’s new law allowing for same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island is expected to allow churches to conduct same-sex marriages as soon as the law allows. At least some other New York dioceses are expected to follow. Additional details can be found in the ENS report.

Quincy group to explore future of diocese

The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, one of the four Episcopal Church dioceses that experienced a split in recent years, is exploring possibilities for its future. Beginning July 5, 2011, members of the Committee on the Future of the Diocese of Quincy will be visiting every parish and mission of the diocese and exploring what sort of future Quincy Episcopalians want. Quincy had been a small diocese, and is now smaller still. It may choose to remain a diocese or may consider merging with an adjacent diocese. Announcement of the forthcoming meetings is on the diocesan Web site. A two-page description of the current situation in Quincy can be found here.

Fort Worth litigation takes interesting turns

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has posted a pair of reports on the property litigation with the breakaway “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.” In the first report, the diocese reported on briefs filed with the Texas Supreme court to which the breakaway diocese has appealed. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) For reasons explained by the diocese, a successful appeal seems unlikely. In the same report, Fort Worth includes this information:
The evidence against the breakaway defendants is mounting: in May, defendants’ Director of Business and Finance admitted under oath that the breakaway defendants transferred funds across state lines, specifically to make these funds harder for a court to reach, and that these secret account(s) were kept off the books and not disclosed to the Court in prior sworn statements. In addition, despite their attorneys' assurances to Judge Chupp that the bank accounts subject to the lawsuit have grown since the schism, newly disclosed financial documents reveal that defendants have in reality dissipated extraordinary amounts of Church funds and that they selectively told the Court about only 6 of 18 accounts when wrongly suggesting that the bank account balances had gone up, not down.
In the second report, the diocese explains that the Episcopal parties have proposed that defendants put up a $950,000 bond pending appeal of the decision that diocesan property belongs to the Episcopal diocese. The defendants want to post no bond at all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

News for Week Ending 6/20/2011

Departed New Westminster congregations denied final appeal

According to Anglican Journal, the Supreme Court of Canada, on June 16, 2011, denied four congregations that left the Anglican Church of Canada for the Anglican Network in Canada permission to appeal the decision that awarded the parish property to the Diocese of New Westminster. (See previous Pittsburgh Update story here.) It is estimated that the congregations will have to pay legal costs of as much as $175,000. With this decision by the Supreme Court, there is no pending property legislation involving the Canadian church. Thinking Anglicans has links to a good deal of material related to the latest court decision.

Canada issues report on Covenant; Episcopal Church doesn’t

On June 17, 2011, the Anglican Church of Canada announced the publication of a report by the Governance Working Group (GWG) on the legal and constitution issues related to the adoption of the Anglican Covenant. Both the report and a brief executive summary are available on-line. While taking no position on whether the church should adopt the Covenant, the report criticized the Covenant for both vagueness and unfairness. The GWG found the constitutional issues unclear but potentially serious, while suggesting that the consequences of rejecting the Covenant might be minor. A report from the Faith, Worship, and Ministry Committee of the Canadian church on theological and ecclesiological matters related to the Covenant is expected to be released later.

The same day the Canadian report was released, Episcopal News Service issued a story on the discussions of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, which met in Maryland June 14–17. The story noted that a report on the legal implications to The Episcopal Church of Covenant adoption had been received by the Council’s Anglican Covenant Task Force. The report was prepared by the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons. The ENS story offered this explanation from Task Force chair Rosalie Ballentine as to why the report is not being released now:
“We’re reluctant to have it out there” because some people may assume that decisions have already been made, she said. The report will eventually be appended to the task force report to General Convention. Council will receive a draft of the Blue Book report in October, according to Ballentine.
The Lead is demanding that the report be released immediately.

Executive Council concludes meeting

As indicated in the story above, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church met at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, June 14–17, 2011. Much of the conversations seems to have been about church administration in a time of shrinking resources. Resolutions were also passed on a number of national and international issues. Additional financial help was voted for the dioceses of San Joaquin and Quincy, which continue to struggle in the aftermath of the departure of members who became part of the Anglican Church in North America. Details of the meeting are available in three Episcopal News Service stories here, here, and here.

Maryland church to join Roman Catholic archdiocese

The Living Church reported June 15, 2011, that St. Luke’s Church in Bladensburg, Maryland, and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington have agreed to terms allowing the congregation to remain in its building while taking advantage of the Ordinariate for Anglicans offered by the Vatican. Members of the parish will become Roman Catholics and join the Archdiocese of Washington. St. Luke’s will lease their present facility with an option to purchase.

Monday, June 13, 2011

News for Week Ending 6/13/2011

Second Maori diocese rejects Covenant

A second Maori diocese of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has rejected the Anglican Covenant. (See Pittsburgh Update story on the first rejection here.) Individual dioceses are voting on the Covenant in the South Pacific church in preparation for a final General Synod vote. The diocese of Te Hui Amorangi o Te Tairawhiti passed a resolution unanimously June 11, 2011, stating that it is “opposed to the adoption of The Anglican Communion Covenant.” The resolution cited not only the substance of the Covenant but also “the context in which it was proposed.”

There are five Maori dioceses in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and they can veto an adoption motion in the church’s General Synod.

This story was reported by blogger Bosco Peters here.

Two dioceses ordain first women

Because the ordination of women priests is not universally accepted in the Anglican Communion, it is still news when women are ordained in places women have not been ordained before. This happened in two dioceses recently. Joy Online reported June 7, 2011, that Ghana’s Diocese of Accra, in the Church of the Province of West Africa has ordained its first three women priests.

Gulf Daily News reported June 6, 2011, that the first Anglican female priest in the Middle East has been ordained. The Rev. Catherine Dawkins was ordained in Bahrain on June 5, after the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf was given permission to do so in February by the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Canadian bishops pledge ‘gracious restraint’

According to a June 10, 2011, report by The Living Church, six bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada have pledged to observe the three moratoria of the Windsor Report. In a statement dated April 2011, the bishops declare their loyalty to the Anglican Church of Canada and to the Anglican Communion and their intention to uphold the requested bans on the consecration of partnered gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions, and the crossing of diocesan boundaries. “Between ourselves,” the bishops say in their statement, “we agree to observe the discipline of the Windsor moratoria until such time as there is clarity in the Communion about the final status of the Anglican Covenant and our mutual obligations.

San Joaquin authorizes blessing same-sex unions

Episcopal News Service reported June 8, 2011, that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin will allow its priests to “perform blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships characterized by ‘fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.’” The permission given by Bishop Chester Talton is effective June 12. The authorization can be read here. A liturgy, “Service for the Blessing of a Sacred Union,” has been made available by the diocese.

Trial phase ends in Virginia

A letter posted by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia indicates that the trial phase of the litigation seeing the return of parish property was completed on June 7, 2011. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Additional briefs will be submitted by both sides, and a decision of the retrial will be rendered sometime after October 2011.

Monday, June 6, 2011

News for Week Ending 6/6/2011

Priest says 13 gay bishops in CoE

As if the Colin Slee memo was not embarrassing enough for leaders in the Church of England—see Pittsburgh Update story here—on May 26, 2011, the Rev. Colin Coward wrote on the Changing Attitude Web site that he knows of gay bishops in his church. “I could name a number of bishops who are gay, including several appointed in the last 12 months,” he declared. Although Coward has not outed any English bishops, he did elaborate in a subsequent comment that he knows of 13 homosexual bishops in the church, which, he observed, is more than 10% of all bishops in the Church of England.

Diocese in Europe approves Covenant

According to The Living Church, the Diocese in Europe, one of 44 dioceses of the Church of England, voted May 31, 2011, in favor of approving the Anglican Covenant. A majority of the church’s dioceses must approve the Covenant if it is to have an up-or-down vote in the General Synod. The diocesan synod heard a presentation from the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of the Anglican Communion Office’s Department of Unity, Faith and Order. The Living Church did not report that any address was given by an opponent of the Covenant. A brief audio interview with Alyson Barnett-Cowan is available here.

Episcopal Church gets new CEO

According to Episcopal News Service, Bishop Stacy F. Sauls will become the new chief operating officer of The Episcopal Church on September 1, 2011. He replaces Linda Watt, who is scheduled to retire this month. Watt has been CEO since November 2006. Sauls, who is presently Bishop of Lexington, served on the House of Bishops Task Force on Property Disputes, which produced the so-called Sauls Report. That April 2007 report declared that “TEC is dealing with a well-thought-out, well-organized, and well-funded strategy designed to enable and justify the removal of assets from use for the Church’s mission and ministry in the world.”

Breakaway Fort Worth diocese appeals to Texas Supreme Court

According to a news release on the Web site of the ACNA-affiliated “Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth,” the diocese, on June 1, 2011, appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court regarding its property dispute with the Episcopalians representing the continuing Episcopal Church diocese. A lower court had earlier ordered the ACNA diocese to surrender property to the Episcopal Church diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The ACNA diocese seeks to bypass appeals with an argument that the trial court erred so as to affect the rights of non-profits throughout Texas.