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, October 29, 2012

News for Week Ending 10/29/2012

Standing Committee meets in N.Z.

The Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee met in Auckland, New Zealand, October 25 and 26, 2012. Anglican Communion News Service reported on the relatively brief meeting, whose primary business seemed to be reviewing the agenda of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting (see next story). Two Episcopalians are members of the Standing Committee, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop of Connecticut Ian Douglas. Information about the Standing Committee can be found here.

ACC-15 begins in N.Z.

The fifteenth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (AAC-15) is taking place in Auckland, New Zealand, from October 27 to November 7, 2012. The Episcopal Church is represented by Bishop of Connecticut Ian Douglas; the Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies; and Ms. Josephine Hicks, an attorney on the board of Episcopal Relief and Development. (A complete list of current members of the AAC can be found here.) The agenda for ACC-15 is here. Anglican Communion News Service will be posting dispatches from ACC-15 here.

Pastoral letter issued after FCA Primates’ Council meeting

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) Primates’ Council issued a pastoral letter October 29, 2012, at the conclusion of the Primates’ Council meeting in Dar es Salaam. Much of the letter describes the ongoing work of GAFCON/FCA. Wabukala reported
As a result of the increased aggressiveness of the revisionists there are now those in every province and beyond who wish to stand with us and who need our help to stand for Christ: in Recife (Brazil), in South Carolina, in the Church of Scotland, in Ireland, in England, in Australia and many more. We received reports from various FCA affiliates and rejoice in their faithful witness in the face of tremendous pressure and were delighted to receive an application for the establishment of an FCA affiliate in Australia.
Wabukala welcomed the Most Reverend Henri Isingoma, Primate of the Anglican Church of the Congo, as a new member of the Primates’ Council. He also announced that the next global meeting of the GAFCON movement (GAFCON2) will be in  October 2013.

Another video becomes part of Archbishop of Canterbury’s campaign to pass women bishops legislation

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ campaign to assure that the General Synod of the Church of England will approve the legislation to provide for women bishops—see Pittsburgh Update story here— has added a YouTube video from the Rt. Rev. Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. The vote is to take place on November 20, 2012.

Situation in S.C. remains uncertain

Events in the Diocese of South Carolina continue to develop. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Bishop Mark Lawrence, who has been inhibited by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, seems not to have renounced his position in The Episcopal Church but claims that his authority cannot be restricted because of the actions taken by his diocese. Whether he will be deposed by The Episcopal Church presumably will be decided when Episcopal bishops meet March 8–13, 2013. (A special meeting of the House of Bishops could be called earlier, but that is unlikely.)

Because the actions of the Diocese of South Carolina and its bishop have been different from what was done in other dioceses that attempted to separate from The Episcopal Church (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and Quincy) it is unclear how events will play out. It is clear, however, that the diocesan leadership and at least some of the loyal Episcopalians in the diocese have quite different models of what is happening. (Compare the FAQ from the diocese  and the FAQ from South Carolina Episcopalians. See also the topmost post dated October 26 from South Carolina Episcopalians.)

Thinking Anglicans offers a page with links to previous posts on the Diocese of South Carolina, as well as links to statements supporting the diocese from the Global South and the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop of Georgia Scott A. Benhase has expressed a desire for reconciliation between the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church. Note that South Carolina has not indicated a desire to join any existing Anglican church.

Pre-convention information sessions to be held this week

As previously announced by the diocese, pre-convention information sessions will be held this week on Tuesday, October 30, 2012; Thursday, November 1; and Sunday, November 4. Deputies to the November 9–10 convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh should plan to attend at least one of the sessions. Additional details, including locations and times, are available here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

News for Week Ending 10/22/2012

Archbishop of Canterbury launches campaign for women bishops

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has, according to his Web site, begun a campaign to pass the legislation authorizing women bishops when the measure comes before the Church of England’s General Synod next month. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In an essay titled “Women Bishops: Enough Waiting” first published in Church Times October 19, 2012, Williams calls the prohibition of women bishops in the Church of England a “theological inconsistency.” He warns that neither those who want stronger nor those who want weaker legislation can be certain of what will happen if the currently proposed legislation is rejected.

ACNA to study women’s ordination

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is about to undertake a study of women’s ordination. When ACNA was formed, some of its components ordained women and some did not. None had women bishops. The church agreed to tolerate the existence of “two integrities” respecting women’s ordination while prohibiting women from being consecrated bishops throughout the church. Archbishop Robert Duncan has appointed the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, Bishop of the REC Diocese of the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic to head a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. No schedule has been announced for completion of the task force’s work. An undated announcement about the task force can be found on the ACNA Web site here.

South Carolina threatens to become fifth Episcopal diocese to attempt succession

Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence was notified October 15, 2012, that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops has determined that he has abandoned The Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.” This story was reported by Episcopal News Service on October 17, but more information has been made available from the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina than from ENS. In particular, the Certification of Abandonment, dated September 18, has only been made available by the diocese. Read it for an explanation of the charges. (This page on the diocesan Web site contains documents from The Episcopal Church, as well as documents from the Diocese of South Carolina.) The Presiding Bishop has inhibited Bishop Lawrence pending final action by the House of Bishops. On October 18, ENS ran a story on the people who made the original complaint against Lawrence. The diocese has complained that his accusers are all members of Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, like Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, a founding member of Via Media USA.

The Standing Committee and Board of Directors of the diocese passed a secret “poison pill” resolution, apparently on September 18, that dissociates the diocese from The Episcopal Church should the church act against the diocese or its bishop, which, of course, it now has. In a post on its Web site, the diocese asserts that The Episcopal Church has abandoned the Diocese of South Carolina and its bishop. According to that post, a special convention of the diocese will be held November 17 to decide on further action by the diocese.

The Canon Theologian of the diocese, the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon, has posted a defense of his bishop and diocese on the diocesan Web site. Bishop Daniel Martins of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield has also posted an essay in defense of Lawrence, asserting that the South Carolina bishop has not abandoned The Episcopal Church.

Those outside the Diocese of South Carolina are trying to make sense of the situation. The Post and Courier of Charleston tried to answer many of the obvious questions in an October 21 article. The Washington Post has published a helpful story from Religion News Service. A Google search will uncover many other newspaper stories. Comment on Episcopal blogs has been slow to appear, but one from Mark Harris is notable.

This is a developing story about which we will hear more in the coming weeks. It is likely, however, that South Carolina will join San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and Quincy as dioceses that have split over theological disputes with the wider church. Like those dioceses, issues of control and property in South Carolina are likely ultimately to be determined in court.

Texas Supreme Court hears two property cases

On October 16, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court heard two appeals regarding Episcopal Church property. Case No. 11-0265, The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church was appealed directly to the Supreme Court and is the case that will decide the proper custodian of the property of the Forth Worth Diocese. (The “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” of the title is actually the breakaway diocese led by Bishop Jack Leo Iker. See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Video of the October 16 presentation to the court can be seen here.

Case No. 11-0332, Robert Masterson, et al., v. Diocese of Northwest Texas, et al., was argued immediately after the Fort Worth case and involves a single congregation in a different Texas diocese. This case has been through the appellate court, and, like the Fort Worth case, is an appeal from a decision in favor of The Episcopal Church. Video of the proceedings can be found here.

Dorsey McConnell consecrated bishop

In a ceremony lasting three hours, the Rev. Dorsey Winter Marsden McConnell was consecrated the 8th Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh October 20, 2012, at Calvary Church. More that 700 people were in attendance. (A variety of numbers have been reported.) The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a long story on the event. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran a more modest story, but one with some good pictures. The entire service can be viewed on the Web here. Stills of the event can be found here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

News for Week Ending 10/15/2012

Final judgments entered in two L.A. cases

On October 12, 2012, Episcopal News Service reported that the Orange County Superior Court  has entered final judgments in favor of  the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in the property disputes between the diocese and the congregations of All Saints’, Long Beach, and St. David’s, North Hollywood. Members of the two churches, as well as those of St. James’, Newport Beach, voted to leave The Episcopal Church eight years ago. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The court will take up the case of St. James’, Newport Beach, on October 24. The ENS story includes links to the judgments.

Omaha church ordered to surrender assets

The Omaha World Herald reported October 9, 2012, that St. Barnabas Church, a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska located in Omaha, has been ordered by Douglas County District Court Judge Joseph Troia to surrender its property by the end of October. Members of the Anglo-Catholic parish voted in 2007 to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Church in America. The congregation is now planning to join the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which has been established by the Vatican to accept U.S. Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church. (See Pittsburgh Update Story here.) The diocese sued to retain the property following the 2007 vote. The congregation may appeal the court order, but the two sides are discussing an agreed-upon resolution of the dispute.

In a message on the home page of the the church, St. Barnabas’s rector, the Rev. Robert Scheiblhofer, disputes that the congregation objected to the Episcopal Church’s position on homosexuality. He writes, “St. Barnabas severed its connection with TEC because the Episcopal Church had over time departed so far from the historic Catholic Faith (some would say “Christian Faith”) as to become unrecognizable as a part of the Church.”

Bennison to Retire

The Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, the controversial bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, has announced his intention to retire at the end of 2012. After surviving an ecclesiastical trial in 2010, the bishop and Standing Committee continued to fight over financial and other issues. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Standing Committee expects the diocese to select a provisional bishop early next year. The Living Church has published an exchange of letters between the bishop and Standing Committee here.

Diocese, Shepherd’s Heart announce deal

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship issued a joint statement October 9, 2012, detailing a resolution of property and other issues. Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, formerly part of the Episcopal diocese, is now associated with the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, though a number of Episcopal churches have continued to support its ministry to the homeless, veterans, and others in need. The statement says, in part, “Key features of the agreement pave the way for Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship to take full title to all property at its present location at Pride Street and Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, including the portion of that property currently held by the Episcopal Diocese, and allow Shepherd’s Heart to seek a more favorable financing of its debt on this property.” The diocese has allowed its equity in the property to become an investment in the homeless ministry, thus giving it a formal stake in the outreach to the homeless. The release noted that “the parties have agreed that this agreement should not be interpreted as a model for resolving other property disputes.” The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas will have to approve the agreement.

McConnell consecration to be Webcast October 20

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that the consecration of the Rev. Dorsey McConnell as the next Bishop of Pittsburgh will be Webcast October 20, 2012. Those who want to watch the ceremony but who cannot attend can view the proceedings on their computers by going to http://www.episcopalpgh.org/webcast/. The schedule for the day can be found here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

News for Week Ending 10/8/2012

Curaçao ordains first woman priest

According to Episcopal News Service, the Rev. Alma Louise De bode-Olton became the first woman priest to be ordained in Curaçao on September 21, 2012. The ordination took place on the 60th anniversary of the Anglican Episcopal Church in Curaçao.

Second female African bishop elected

All Africa reported October 4, 2012, that a second female Anglican bishop has been elected in Africa. Canon Margaret Vertue will become the bishop of the Diocese of False Bay, a poor suburb of Cape Town. Vertue was ordained by Archbishop Desmond Tutu 20 years ago. She will be consecrated by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at the same time as the first woman bishop elected in Africa, the Rev. Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Selection of next Archbishop of Canterbury remains stalled

No conspicuous progress in selecting candidates to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury was made in the past week. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The London Evening Standard reported October 1, 2012, that Prime Minister David Cameron, who formally transmits the names chosen by the Crown Nominations Commission to the Queen, is eager for the Church of England to select those names. The Living Church reviewed the situation on the same day.

Church Times suggested in an October 5 editorial that the delay in naming candidates for the Canterbury see is caused in part by the impossible demands of the office itself. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Independent editorialized October 7 that the deadlock is rooted in divergent views on the role of the Church of England—should the church re-imagine itself to become more relevant to the 21st century or should it bide its time, waiting for old differences to “dissolve.” It may be best to select a “caretaker” archbishop. Andrew Brown, writing for The Guardian, argued that differences are indeed dissolving. “The sexuality wars are coming to an end,” Brown wrote, “and the liberals have won.” Changing Attitude, which works for the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Anglican Communion, has written to all English bishops, encouraging them to be honest about issues around sexuality, asserting that “over 50% of bishops dissent from the current teaching and practice of the Church of England on homosexuality.” (The Changing Attitude press release can be found here. The Guardian covered the story here.)

The Telegraph has published a list of the members of the Crown Nominations Commission along with some indication of their backgrounds and leanings.

Monday, October 1, 2012

News for Week Ending 10/1/2012

UAE ordains woman priest

Jo Henderson, 49, became the first Anglican priest to be ordained in the United Arab Emirates on September 28, 2012. Henderson, from Surrey, England, has lived abroad with her civil engineer husband for nearly two decades. The Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf received permission only last year from the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East to ordain women. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The story was reported by Abu Dhabi’s The National on September 29.

N.B.The news story on which the above report was based was in error. Henderson was ordained a deacon, not a priest. See the Pittsburgh Update story here concerning Henderson’s ordination to the priesthood.

Selection process for next Archbishop of Canterbury appears stalled

The Crown Nominations Commission, the 16-member body tasked with selecting a replacement for Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, issued a cryptic press release September 28, 2012, after what was supposed to be its final meeting. The declaration that “the work of the Commission continues” was interpreted as indicating that the Commission had been unable to select a candidate and alternate candidate. (Eleven votes were need to select each candidate.) Thinking Anglicans offers links to commentary following the press release here, here, and here. Ruth Gledhill of The Times reported October 1 that the Commission has, in fact, selected Justin Welby, a former oil company executive and now Bishop of Durham, as its first choice but has been unable to select an alternate candidate.

BBC Radio 4 offers an audio profile of Justin Welby, the apparent next Archbishop of Canterbury, here. Rowan William leaves his post at the end of the year.

Va. Supreme Court to hear Falls Church plea

According to a September 25, 2012, letter from Henry D.W. Burt, Secretary and Chief of Staff for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, the Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments from attorneys for The Falls Church on October 16 asking the court to hear an appeal from the lower court decision awarding the parish property to the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

As we noted earlier, the breakaway group in Fort Worth is going before the Texas Supreme Court on October 16 as well.