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, July 25, 2011

News for Week Ending 7/25/2011

Nigeria releases consultation communiqué

Pittsburgh Update earlier reported that Nicholas D. Okoh, primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), has called for Nigeria to resign from the United Nations because of the UN’s stance on gay rights. The Church of Nigeria has now released the communiqué from a National Consultation on Human Rights sponsored by the Nigerian church from June 27 to July 1, 2011. The communiqué does not call for Nigeria to withdraw from the world body and does not deal at length with homosexuality. It does, however, contain the following:
The Church must stand in the vanguard to resist any attempt to establish local or international platforms to foist societal vices e.g. homosexual behaviour, prostitution, etc as rights on others. These are redeemable conditions, by the power of the Gospel.

Gays under siege in Ghana

The Independent reported July 22, 2011, that a government minister has called for the arrest of all gays and lesbians in the country. The call from Paul Evans Aidoo, minister for the Western Region of Ghana, is seen as being related to upcoming elections in 2012. Other politicians and religious leaders have added their voices to the anti-homosexual rhetoric. According to the Web site Ghanamma.com, “Christian leaders are threatening to mobilize their congregations against politicians and political parties who defend homosexuality and lesbianism.” Ghanan bishop Matthias Modedues-Badohu of the Diocese of Ho in the Church of the Province of West Africa is quoted as saying, “We speak against acts that go against the word of God. It is abnormal and not good. Our objective is to condemn it so that people will not get involved.”

ENS reports on status of same-sex marriage in NY

Episcopal News Service has published a story that gives a more detailed account of how dioceses have responded to the new same-sex marriage law of New York state than have secular news accounts. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to ENS, priests in four of the six dioceses in New York state have permission from their bishops to officiate at weddings of same-sex partners. Bishop Mark Sisk, of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, will allow priests to bless same-sex unions but not to officiate at actual weddings, arguing that the General Convention has not authorized such activities. (His explanation can be read here.) Bishop William Love, of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, generally considered to be the most conservative diocese in New York state, has explained his position in a pastoral letter. In 2008, Albany adopted two canons that reaffirm heterosexual marriage and ban use of Episcopal Church facilities for celebrating other unions.

Fort Worth hearing postponed to July 28

A 10-minute Tarrant County court hearing originally scheduled for July 21, 2011, has been rescheduled for July 28. As explained in an earlier Pittsburgh Update story, the breakaway Fort Worth faction wants the court to delay implementation of its decision in favor of the Episcopal Church parties while it appeals to the Texas Supreme Court. Moreover, it wants to do so without posting bond. The Episcopal Church parties will argue that a bond of $950,000 should be posted. Notice of the rescheduled hearing can be found on the Web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth here. The issues involved are explained in an earlier post here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

News for Week Ending 7/18/2011

NZ church to study gay and lesbian ordination

On July 12, 2011, Episcopal News Service reported that the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is about to embark on a study to determine the appropriateness of ordaining gay and lesbian persons in the New Zealand church. A commission is to be set up to explore the issue and to report to the 2014 General Synod/te Hinota Whanui. A recent legal opinion suggested that bishops ordaining gay or lesbian persons would be on canonical thin ice. Additional details can be read in the ENS story here.

Explanation offered for formation of Anglican Mission in England

The Rev. Richard Coekin, Director of Co-Mission, has published an explanation of what the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) is intended to be and how it came about. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) His apology is titled “We rejoice in the emergence of the ANGLICAN MISSION IN ENGLAND.” The essay is best understood after reading “Co-Mission Plays Role in AMiE’s Launch” from The Living Church. Coekin’s essay is not easily summarized, but it is fair to say that it asserts that the AMiE is the result of Church of England bishops’ failing to view “homosexual practice” as a “salvation issue.” It remains to be seen how the Church of England will treat this incursion into its jurisdiction. Coekin repeatedly describes the AMiE as “Anglican,” but does not strongly identify it with the Church of England.

Status of gay weddings varies by diocese in NY

The recent legalization of gay marriage in New York—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has led to a patchwork of decisions by Episcopal bishops in the state. According to a July 18, 2011, story in The New York Times, “gay and lesbian Episcopalians will be allowed on Sunday to get married by priests in Brooklyn and Queens, but not in the Bronx or Manhattan or on Staten Island; in Syracuse but not in Albany.” General Convention, of course, has not approved same-sex marriage, though it has given bishops latitude in dealing with the matter in their jurisdictions. An AP story offers another analysis of the situation in New York. Whereas some stances were predictable—no one expected gay marriages in Episcopal churches in Albany—some are surprising. According to Rachel Zoll, “gay priests with partners in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island will head to the altar. They have to. Their bishop set a nine-month deadline for them to marry or stop living together.”

Church restarts in Northern Cambria

St. Thomas Episcopal Church of Northern Cambria was scheduled to reopen July 17, 2011. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown published a story on the event July 16, 2011. It can be read here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

News for Week Ending 7/11/2011

Canterbury reacts to Anglican Mission in England

In a mildly worded statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams responded July 5, 2011, to the announcement of the formation of the Anglican Mission in England. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The statement says, in part
The Archbishop of Canterbury has had the opportunity to speak with the Archbishop of Kenya about the situation: the good faith and fraternal good intentions of our Kenyan colleagues are not at all in question, but it seems that there were misunderstandings of the precise requirements of English Canon Law and good practice as regards the recommendation of candidates for ordination and deployment in mission.
A Church Times editorial observed that “Dr Williams is no wiser about the intentions of the new Anglican Mission than the average observer.” Observers, apparently, are having a hard time determining just what AMiE is up to and, mentioning the Anglican Mission in America, the editorial suggests that the organization may be up to no good.

Church Pension Fund grants spousal rights to same-sex married partners

The Church Pension Fund has announced the decision taken at its June 16, 2011, board meeting “to amend the rules governing retirement benefits for spouses of eligible participants in the Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan (Clergy Plan), the Episcopal Church Lay Employees’ Retirement Plan (Lay DB Plan), and the Church Pension Fund Clergy Post-Retirement Medical Assistance Plan (Medicare Supplement Benefit) to provide parity of benefits for legally-married same-gender spouses.” The decision apparently was a response to legislation in the state of New York. The Living Church ran a story on the change, which is explained on the Fund’s Web site. Episcopal priest and blogger Mark Harris has raised questions about the status of partners in civil unions in light of the action by the Fund.

Disciplinary Board for Bishops established

As of July 1, 2011, a new version of Title IV, the disciplinary canons for The Episcopal Church, takes effect. In particular, allegations of misconduct against bishops will now be handled differently, and the new Disciplinary Board for Bishops will have an important part in the process, as it has original jurisdiction. The Board has 18 members: 10 bishops, 4 clergy, and 4 laypersons. Additional details, including the names of the initial Board members, can be found in the Episcopal News Service story here.

Rio Grande settles dispute with breakaway El Paso congregation

Last week, El Paso Inc. reported that the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande has reached a settlement with the congregation occupying the parish property of St. Francis on the Hill Episcopal Church of El Paso, Texas. The congregation, which broke away from The Episcopal Church in 2008, lost a court action to the diocese last December. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Parishioners who remained in The Episcopal Church have been meeting in an El Paso synagogue. The current occupiers of the property have decided to forgo further litigation. They will leave the building by the end of July and style themselves St. Francis Anglican Church. Additional details can be found in the El Paso Inc. story, as well as a story from Episcopal News Service.

St. Philip’s agreement OK’d by court

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh announced July 7, 2011, that the agreement between the diocese and the congregation of St. Philip’s, Moon Township—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has been approved by Judge Joseph James. Details can be found on the diocesan Web site here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

News for Week Ending 7/4/2011

English bishops to review homosexuality issues

In a statement released July 1, 2011, the House of Bishops of the Church of England announced two initiatives dealing with homosexuality. The bishops last made a statement about homosexual clergy in 2005 in response to civil partnerships being approved in the U.K. A review scheduled to be completed in 2012 will review the 2005 statement and consider, specifically, whether clergy in civil partnerships should be considered as candidates for bishop. Pending that review, such persons will not be eligible for appointment to episcopal posts. A broader re-evaluation of homosexuality is to be completed by 2013.

Jonathan Wynne-Jones of The Telegraph reported July 2 that conservatives have threatened schism if the review liberalizes the church’s attitude toward homosexuality.

Pittsburgh to restart parishes

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that three parishes will be restarted. The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh congregation has left St. James, Penn Hills, and the first Episcopal service since the diocese split in 2008 was held there July 3, 2011. St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Barnesboro, which has been shuttered since 2004 will begin offering services on July 17. Episcopal services will also begin at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Warrendale, soon. Details are available from the diocese here. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a story on St. James June 30.