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, March 25, 2013

News for Week Ending 3/25/2013

Justin Welby enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury

Justin Welby was enthroned (consecrated) as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral March 21, 2013. Anglican Communion News Service reported on the service, noting that all but one of the primates of the Anglican Communion traveled to England for the ceremony. The ACNS story includes links to the archbishop’s inaugural sermon and to photographs of the service. Video highlights of the ceremony from the BBC can be found on YouTube. (The entire ceremony is available on the Web for a limited time from the BBC, but only for UK viewers.) The 44-page order of service can be found here.

David Virtue reported March 20 that a number of Global South primates intended to avoid gatherings after the enthronement in which they might encounter Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Standing Committee meeting

Anglican Communion News Service has reported on the first day of the meeting of the Standing Committee. The 15 members of the Standing Committee include Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop of Connecticut Ian Douglas. The ACNS story on the first day of the meeting, March 23, can be found here. The story neither tells how long the meeting will last nor where it is being held. The meeting location presumably is in the London area, since the five primates on the committee were already there for Justin Welby’s enthronement.

Bishop charges hypocrisy in CoE regarding same-sex blessings

The Telegraph, in a story dated March 23, 2012, reported that the liberal Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, has charged the Church of England with hypocrisy regarding the blessings of same-sex unions. Such blessings, though formally banned by the church, are proceeding regularly in a number of parishes, and bishops are turning a blind eye to it. Meanwhile, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has reiterated the church’s position against proposed marriage equity legislation. He has, however, remarked favorably on the relationships of some gay couples. Wilson is quoted on the new archbishop’s position:
Underlying the crisis there is believed to be a need for the archbishop to say to conservative elements in the Anglican Communion, “Oh no, we don’t do that sort of thing. It’s only the naughty Americans do that.”

Radner complains of harassment

The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner has written the the Texas Supreme court charging that he has been subjected to “intimidation and vindictive behavior” by members of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth for his signing an amicus brief in the Fort Worth property litigation. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) His letter of March 2, 2013, charges that he is being unfairly punished for his actions. (Complaints have been brought against Radner and the Rev. Dr. Philip Turner, both of whom are associated with the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI), though no action has been taken on the complaints. Charges against bishops who signed the Fort Worth brief have recently been resolved—see Pittsburgh Update story here.)

A March 9 entry on the ACI Web site articulates the views of the ACI on the controversy. That essay argues, among other things, that Canon IV.19.2 “makes it a violation to seek the secular court’s ‘interpretation of the constitution’ and polity of our church.” It suggests, further, that the Fort Worth Episcopalians should have been charged under this provision for bringing the matter to the courts. No doubt the Episcopalians would argue that they were only bringing the polity of the church to the attention of the court, not asking the court to interpret it.

The case before the court is an appeal from a decision in favor of the Episcopal diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Documents relating to the case can be found here.

Daniel Martins, Bishop of Springfield and one of the bishops involved in the conciliation that resolved charges against them, has reflected on the experience in an essay for The Living Church. Like Radner, he is unapologetic.

Monday, March 18, 2013

News for Week Ending 3/18/2013

Anglicans welcome new pope

It is unlikely that readers are unaware that Roman Catholic cardinals elected a new pope this past week. Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected March 13, 2013, after just five ballots and took the name Pope Francis I. (See, for example, this story from The Washington Post.) Anglican Communion News Service reported on good wishes sent to the new pontiff by various Anglican leaders. Episcopal News Service ran a story on the same subject. Our own Bishop McConnell offered his congratulations to the new pope.

We won’t try to link to even a small number of the many stories about Pope Francis. Of particular interest to Anglicans, however, is an article from Christianity Today. In it, the former primate of the Southern Cone, Argentinian Gregory Venables, is quoted as as saying that Bergoglio once told him that the Ordinariate created under Pope Benedict to bring disaffected Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church is “quite unnecessary.”

A number of news stories have suggested that the new pope has maintained very good relations with other those of other faiths. A notable example of such a story was published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 18.

Anglican Church of Canada to vote on resolution to delay decision on Covenant

The Rev. Alan T. Perry reported on his blog March 16, 2013, that the General Synod will be presented with a resolution that would have the Anglican Church of Canada study the Anglican Covenant and monitor its reception, reporting to the next General Synod, which meets in 2016. Perry’s post, which includes relevant links, can be found here. The Canadian Anglican Journal also posted a story about the Covenant on March 16. That story suggests that the Covenant is not of much concern in Canada. (Ottawan Ron Chaplin is quoted as saying, “I’ve tried to begin conversations in Ottawa and its neighbouring dioceses, but there’s simply no interest.)

Colorado legislature passes civil unions bill

The Colorado legislature has passed a bill allowing for civil unions for same-sex couples in that state. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill within two weeks. An AP story on the bill can be found here. The Washington Post published a story on the bill’s passage that includes a map indicating the status of same-sex partnership laws by state. The Denver Post published a story March 17, 2013, reporting that many gay couples have a wait-and-see attitude about the new law, particularly in light of the cases now before the Supreme Court.

Episcopal bishops write to church

We noted last week that the bishops of The Episcopal Church were conducting their spring retreat March 8–12, 2013. The report on the final day of meetings can be found here. As usual, the bishops wrote a letter to the church at the conclusion of their meeting. The letter urges Americans to have a conversation about guns, but it does not take a position on gun legislation.

Virginia friendship comes to abrupt end

Pittsburgh Update took note last week of the somewhat unlikely friendship between Bishop of Virginia Bishop Shannon Johnston and Rector of Truro Anglican Church Tory Baucum. According to The Living Church, that friendship has come to an abrupt end at the insistence of Bishop John A. Guernsey of the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. Guernsey objected to the recent visit of theologian John Dominic Crossan as a clergy day speaker at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Dunn Loring, Virginia. Crossan is best known as co-chair of the Jesus Seminar. Bishop Johnston issued a statement March 15, 2013, indicating that he disagrees “with many facets of Dr. Crossan’s theology.” He went on to say that “I will not be a censor of ideas, a roadblock to inquiry that is grounded in a search for ‘God with us.’” (Note that the link to the bishop’s statement in the Living Church story is incorrect.) The Lead has also written about this story, and the post there has attracted some interesting comments.

Oral arguments heard in San Joaquin case

According to Anglican Curmudgeon, a hearing was held March 13, 2013, in Fresno County Superior Court before Judge Jeffrey Hamilton on the  judge’s tentative ruling against the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin entered earlier this month. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The judge can affirm, modify, or vacate his previous ruling. Note that the author of Anglican Curmudgeon, A.S. Haley is an attorney involved in the litigation on the side of the self-styled Anglicans.

In separate developments in the San Joaquin diocese, The Modesto Bee reported March 7 that two incorporated parishes that split from The Episcopal Church are negotiating the return of their properties to the Episcopal diocese. The parishes are St. Francis, Turlock, and St. James, Sonoro.

PEP donates courses to Resource Center

In a March 15, 2013, press release, Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh announced its donation of nine courses on DVDs to the Resource Center, which is shared by Southwestern Pennsylvania Lutherans and Episcopalians. Topics represented among the courses are the Old and New Testaments, non-canonical texts, mysticism, and the relationship of science and religion. The press release is here, and the list of courses is here. Any congregation in the diocese can borrow these courses or other material from the Resource Center.

Monday, March 11, 2013

News for Week Ending 3/11/2013

Blog is Archbishop of Canterbury’s latest outlet

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s Web site now includes a blog. The first post, titled “Moving the Frontiers,” was made March 7, 2013. The essay suggests that Welby may assume a different attitude toward Anglican conflicts than did Rowan Williams. It remains to be seen how active the archbishop will be as a blogger. (As of this writing, he has made two posts.)

In his post, Welby referred to the recently held Faith in Conflict Conference held last month at Coventry Cathedral. (Audio and transcripts of presentations at the conference can be found here.) Of particular interest to Episcopalians is a panel discussion with Bishop of Virginia Bishop Shannon Johnston and Rector of Truro Anglican Church Tory Baucum. Although these two men are on different sides of the conflict in the Diocese of Virginia, they have been meeting on friendly terms. Audio of the panel is here. The American Anglican Council has used the audio to prepare a transcript.

Bill to be introduced in Parliament to allow women bishops

Thinking Anglicans reported March 8, 2013, that Member of Parliament Diana Johnson intends to introduce a bill in the British Parliament March 13 that would allow women to become bishops in the Church of England. The bill will be introduced under the so-called “10-minute rule.” Passage is unlikely, but, according to a press release from Women in the Church (WATCH), the bill “will remind the Church of England that it lies within Parliament’s power to legislate for this, if the Church cannot do so quickly and in a way that is acceptable to Parliament.”

Reports available on meeting of Episcopal bishops

As noted last week—see Pittsburgh Update story here—bishops of The Episcopal Church are having their spring retreat March 8–12, 2013. Episcopal News Service has been reporting daily on the event, which has not yet proven very newsworthy. The ENS stories reported so far can be found here, here, here, here, and here. One or more additional stories can be expected March 12.

Nominating committee for next presiding bishop seeks advice

The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Presiding Bishop is asking for comments on a set of questions relating to the process of identifying candidates. If possible, advice is sought before the next meeting of the committee, which will occur on March 18. 2013. Details can be found here.

San Joaquin diocese fails to obtain summary judgment

The Fresno Bee reported March 6, 2013, that Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton has rejected a request for summary judgment against John-David Schofield and his Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin that would have delivered property in the diocese to representatives of The Episcopal Church. Although the courts have accepted that Bishop Jerry Lamb is now the legitimate bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, the judge determined that the Episcopal diocese failed to establish that the 2008 vote to remove the diocese from The Episcopal Church was indeed improper. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The judge’s tentative ruling can be appealed, but a trial may be needed to adjudicate the remaining issues of the case. Judge Hamilton’s ruling can be found here, beginning on page 4.

Bishops escape serious sanctions

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs issued a press release March 8, 2013, announcing the outcome of a conciliation conference held January 8 and 9 in Richmond, Virginia. Complaints had been brought against nine active and retired bishops who had submitted amici curiae briefs (or their equivalent) in the litigation in the Fort Worth and Quincy dioceses by members of those dioceses. Those briefs undermined the legal position of The Episcopal Church by disputing the nature of the church’s polity. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The conciliation meeting was held in accordance with Canon IV.10. The meetings were attended by, among others, representatives of both complainants and respondents.

Few details of the meetings themselves have been provided to the public, but the complete accord resulting from the conciliation is available in the aforementioned press release. The nine bishops did not admit that what they had done was contrary to canon, but they did admit to damaging the legal position of the church. They also admitted that the 2009 “Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of The Episcopal Church” published by the Anglican Communion Institute and endorsed by seven of the bishops “is likely a minority opinion.” The bishops will not be subject to further disciplinary liability. Additional details can be read in the press release.

Bishop vonRosenberg files federal suit against Mark Lawrence

The provisional bishop of what is having to be called The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has filed suit against former Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence and unnamed defendants in federal court. On March 7, 2013, the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg entered a complaint with the Charleston Division of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. In it, he asks for injunctive relief from the use of the name and marks of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina by the breakaway group led by Lawrence. Ironically, this is much the same action requested recently by Lawrence, et al., of a South Carolina court. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The action is described in a story on the Web site of the South Carolina Episcopalians who remain in The Episcopal Church.

Breakaway South Carolina diocese holds convention

The schismatic South Carolina diocese headed by Mark Lawrence held its diocesan convention March 8 and 9, 2013. The convention seems not to have produced any major news. It did, however, remove all references to The Episcopal Church in its constitution. Lawrence noted that his diocese is currently independent, but a task force has been created to look into possible affiliations. Lindsay S. Buchanan of the Florence, South Carolina, Morning News wrote about the convention here.

Episcopal diocese in South Carolina also holds convention

On the same days, March 8 and 9, 2013, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, what Episcopalians believe to be the real Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, held its annual convention. The new provisional bishop, the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, addressed the convention on the subject of gratitude. The convention welcomed a new congregation, St. Mark’s, Port Royal. It also approved canonical changes and began the process of adopting a number of constitutional changes. (Certain constitutional provisions adopted under former bishop Mark Lawrence were deemed improper, and therefore null and void, by the special convention held January 26.) A balanced budget was presented, albeit one dependent on a $175,000 grant from The Episcopal Church. The convention also transacted other usual business, such as electing people to various offices. Details, as well as a transcript of Bishop vonRosenberg’s address, can be found here.

Note: The story on the Episcopal convention was corrected 3/12/2013. South Carolina Episcopalians did indeed deal with the constitution they inherited in a manner similar to that employed in Pittsburgh after its 2008 schism.

Monday, March 4, 2013

News for Week Ending 3/4/2013

Nigerian primate: homosexuality and gay marriage the work of the Devil

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), preached March 3, 2013, against homosexuality and gay marriage. According to Gay Star News, Okoh made his remarks at a service ordaining three new Nigerian bishops. He spoke against the “homosexual agenda” originating in the “Western world.” “The Biblical understanding of marriage,” he asserted, ”will continue to be the basis of our teaching; we will not change that position. So … please, resist the Devil and all his works, and he will flee from you.” Additional remarks of Okoh may be found in the March 4 Gay Star News article.

The Peter Tatchell Foundation issued a press release March 4 about Okoh’s remarks. It includes links to additional press reports.

Additional contributions made to CoE women bishops consultation

Thinking Anglicans has published information on a number of submissions commenting on how the Church of England should proceed with legislation to provide for women bishops. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Interested readers should consult Thinking Anglicans posts here, here, here, and here.

Welby continues to consolidate his position as Archbishop of Canterbury

Episcopalians can be forgiven a degree of amazement at the number of steps a new Archbishop of Canterbury must take before he has fully established himself in his new post. For example, it was announced on his Web site February 26, 2013, that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has “made an oath to acknowledge Her Majesty [Elizabeth II] to be Supreme Governor of the Church of England.” This ceremonial action dates from the sixteenth century. The post includes pictures.

In a more practical action, Archbishop Welby has appointed a woman, the Rev. Dr. Jo Bailey Wells, as his chaplain at Lambeth Palace. This was also reported on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Web site.

House of Deputies officers write to deputies on gun violence

According to a press release, the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, and the Vice President of the House of Deputies, the Hon. Byron Rushing, wrote to deputies February 28, 2013, informing them that the Executive Council passed a resolution on February 27 “that reaffirms the General Convention’s longstanding support of restrictions on the sale, use and ownership of guns and its commitment to adequate funding for mental health services.” The resolution advocates making gun trafficking a federal crime. The letter writers ask deputies to “help lead the church to fulfill this resolution.”

Episcopal bishops submit amici curiae briefs supporting marriage equality

Episcopal bishops have submitted amici curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in the two same-sex marriage cases before the court. In a brief filed in connection with Hollingsworth v. Perry, California bishops are joined by an ecumenical collection of religious groups arguing the unconstitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which rescinded same-sex marriage in California. (Proponents of Proposition 8 are asking the court to overturn a lower-court decision that found the ballot measure improper.) In a brief filed in connection with United States v. Windsor, 29 Episcopal bishops joined other groups in arguing for the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Oral arguments in the two cases will be conducted later this month.

Both the Episcopal Diocese of California and Episcopal News Service reported this story. The brief in the Proposition 8 case can be read here; the DOMA brief can be read here. Other briefs in the two cases may be found here and here, respectively.

Episcopal bishops to meet March 8–12

Episcopal bishops will meet March 8–12, 2013, at a retreat held at the Kanuga Conference Center, near Hendersonville, North Carolina. The theme for the spring gathering of the bishops is “Godly Leadership in the Midst of Loss.” Additional details are available in the Episcopal News Service story reported on February 28, 2013.

Report on church headquarters presented to Executive Council

The 2012 General Convention passed Resolution D016, which, as passed, declared:
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That it is the will of this Convention to move the Church Center headquarters away from the Church Center building at 815 2nd Avenue, New York City.
In light of this resolution, there was, no doubt, substantial consternation over a report presented to Executive Council February 26, 2013. The report, “Locating the Episcopal Church Center For Missional Strategy,” is the product Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls and the Executive Oversight Committee. “Locating the Episcopal Church Center For Missional Strategy” recommends against moving the headquarters of the church. The authors assert
We believe the real answer is not in relocation but in reorientation of the DFMS [Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society] staff to supporting mission at the local level, regardless of where the Church Center itself is located.
The story was reported February 27 by Episcopal News Service.