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, June 24, 2013

News or Week Ending 6/24/2013

Hong Kong adopts Covenant

Anglican Communion News Service reported June 20, 2013, that Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Hong Kong Anglican Church, has adopted the Anglican Covenant. ACNS counts this as the seventh Anglican church to adopt the Covenant. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition counts it as only the sixth church to adopt the Covenant unambiguously and without special provisions.

Rowan Williams accepts new academic position

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who resigned to take a position at Magdalene College, Cambridge, barely half a year ago, is on the move again. Williams, now Lord Williams of Oystermouth, is returning to his native Wales to become chancellor of the University of South Wales. Anglican Communion News Service reported the story June 19, 2013.

South Carolina delegation attends ACNA gathering

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) held its Provincial Council at Nashotah House June 18 and 19, 2013. ACNA’s College of Bishops met there June 20 and 21. Archbishop Duncan’s opening address can be read here, and the communiqué from the College of Bishops can be read here. Of greatest interest to Episcopalians is the fact that a delegation from Mark Lawrence’s breakaway South Carolina diocese attended these meetings, apparently in search of a nominally Anglican church to which the diocese can attach itself. Lawrence reported on the attendance in a letter to his diocese June 21.

In other South Carolina news, South Carolina Episcopalians reported June 17, 2013, that clergy who left The Episcopal Church with Mark Lawrence may be subject to deposition in August. Bishop Charles vonRosenberg has been working to determine which clergy members are remaining in The Episcopal Church and which are not.

Presiding Bishop criticized for sermon

When conservatives criticized Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeffers Schori for a sermon she delivered on May 12, 2013, in Steenrijk, Curaçao, it seemed unnecessary for Pittsburgh Update to mention it, since Jefferts Schori is criticized by conservatives for just about anything she does. The New York Times recently took note of the controversy, however, so perhaps we should also. In her sermon, the Presiding Bishop suggested that the Apostle Paul was wrong in depriving a slave girl of her gift of divination, which was viewed by some as a serious theological error. Interested readers should read the Times article about the resulting controversy.

Bishop of Milwaukee will not allow same-sex blessings

Bishop of Milwaukee Steven Andrew Miller wrote a letter to his diocese June 7, 2013, to announce that he would not allow the provisional liturgy for blessing same-sex unions to be used in the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. Miller’s objections to resolution A049 of the 2012 General Convention seem largely procedural, and the bishop has encouraged couples wanting to take advantage of the new liturgy to do so in the adjacent Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. This story was covered by The Living Church, as well as the Wisconsin State Journal.

Sonora, Bakersfield churches returning to Diocese of San Joaquin

We noted earlier—see Pittsburgh Update story here—that St. James, Sonora, was going to be returned to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. According to a notice on the home page of St. Mary in the Mountains, Jamestown, the Sonora church, the so-called Red Church, will be returned July 1, 2013. The St. Mary congregation, which was the product of the 2007 schism, will move into the Red Church, which will again become St. James Episcopal Church.

Grace Episcopal Church, Bakersfield, another product of the 2007 schism, is expected to take possession of St. Paul’s, Bakersfield, probably on July 1. (See notice in the church’s May 22 newsletter.) That date was suggested in a May 12 Bakersfield newspaper article. The departing Anglican congregation is moving to a new location and becoming Trinity Anglican Church. Note that Mark Lawrence was once rector of St. Paul’s, Bakersfield, though he left before the diocese voted to leave The Episcopal Church.

Albany changes bishop search rules

The Albany Times Union reported June 14, 2013, that the conservative Episcopal Diocese of Albany voted to change its procedures for determining episcopal candidates, removing the responsibility from a Profile and Search Committee and giving it to the Standing Committee. The change was opposed by progressive elements of the diocese, but the ultimate effect of the change is uncertain. The diocese is not currently seeking a new bishop.

Personnel changes in Pittsburgh diocese

Lionel Deimel has reported two significant personnel changes in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. He reported that treasurer and director of administration Carl Hockenberry has resigned. In a separate post, he noted that Cathy Brall, Trinity Cathedral’s provost, is leaving her position to become canon missioner of the diocese, effective July 1. A letter announcing the changes at the cathedral can be found here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

News for Week Ending 6/17/2013

Archbishop of Canterbury visits Pope

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid a visit to Pope Francis and the Vatican June 14, 2013. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Anglican Communion News Service ran a long story on the visit here.

Anglican Communion News Service debuts new Web site

Anglican Communion News Service, which reports on developments throughout the Anglican Communion, announced its new Web site June 13, 2013, which is distinct from the Anglican Communion Web site, of which ACNS material had been a part. The URL for the new site is http://www.anglicannews.org/. Lionel Deimel, reviewing the new site, reports that most links to the old site continue to work. The new site is more interactive and attractive than the old site, and includes multimedia elements.

Archbishop of Sydney to retire

ABC News (the Australia one, not the U.S. one) reported June 15, 2013, that a retirement party was held for Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen, who will step down from his post on his 70th birthday next month. The prominent evangelical archbishop was among the organizers of the Global Anglican Futures Conference.

Falls Church request for rehearing denied

The request of The Falls Church Anglican for a rehearing by the Virginia Supreme Court was rejected June 14, 2013. The court had earlier refused to reverse a lower court decision awarding real and personal property held by the breakaway congregation to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Fairfax County Circuit Court can now enter a final judgment in this last case involving the 11 congregations that withdrew from the Episcopal diocese in 2006. Episcopal News Service covered this story. The diocese issued a statement on the court decision. A response to the Supreme Court decision by the Falls Church Vestry was posted June 17 on VirtueOnline.

South Carolina litigation returned to state court (update)

Last week, Pittsburgh Update reported that, on June 10, 2013, Federal Judge C. Weston Houck ruled that the dispute between South Carolina Episcopalians and the group led by former Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence should be returned to state court. In his opinion, Judge Houck emphasized the high bar for removing a case from a state to a federal court. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (i.e., the group the church believes is the proper Diocese of South Carolina) issued a press release about the development. The group that left The Episcopal Church and that first brought the case to a state court commented on the decision, which can be read here.

San Joaquin Update

Several San Joaquin properties have recently been returned to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin from the breakaway Anglican diocese. Pittsburgh Update reported earlier that St. Francis Episcopal Church, Turlock, was returned. The Modesto Bee covered a Festival Homecoming Eucharist at the church June 9, 2013. St. Michael’s, Ridgecrest, has also been returned, and has announced that a similar celebration will take place at that church on June 23.

The name of St. Michael’s, Ridgecrest, crops up in a post by A.S. Haley on his Anglican Curmudgeon blog. Haley, an attorney representing breakaway congregations in church property litigation, asserts that different judges have reached different conclusions regarding similarly situated churches that chose to leave the San Joaquin diocese. Haley raises some interesting points that we will not try to analyze here. Readers should know, however, that there are multiple cases in the courts trying to resolve the property disputes in San Joaquin, with no end to the process in sight.

Monday, June 10, 2013

News for Week Ending 6/10/2013

Welby to visit Pope

Vatican Radio has announced that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will pay an “informal, brief courtesy visit” to Pope Francis on June 14, 2013. Details can be found here.

Effort to kill gay marriage bill fails in House of Lords

Despite negative votes from a number of Church of England bishops, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the same-sex marriage bill—see Pittsburgh Update story here—was approved on second reading in the U.K. House of Lords. The critical vote was on an amendment by Lord Dear that would have killed the bill. The vote against the amendment was 390 to 140. According to Thinking Anglicans, of 14 Church of English bishops present, 9 voted for the amendment; none voted against it. (The current Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech is here. Lord Carey, who held the office before Rowan Williams and one who seldom fails to offer his opinion, suggested that passage of the bill would lead to sibling marriage and polygamy.) The BBC has published a helpful story on the vote.

Both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the U.K. have conceded passage of the same-sex marriage bill and have vowed to work toward making it more acceptable.

There has been much commentary following the June 4, 2013, vote, and, as usual, Thinking Anglicans has done a fine job of tracking it, beginning with a post here.

Executive Council meets in Maryland

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council met June 7–10, 2013, at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, near Baltimore. Episcopal News Service has reported opening remarks by President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings and by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. It has also posted Jefferts Schori’s Sunday sermon.

On June 10, ENS posted a number of stories on the results of the meeting. Among the actions reported was the expansion of lines of credit offered to the dioceses of San Joaquin and South Carolina. Executive Council also selected a new representative to the Anglican Consultative Council, Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, a former Executive Council member from the Diocese of the Virgin Islands. She replaces Josephine Hicks, whose term has expired.

Of particular interest to Pittsburgh Episcopalians was the awarding of a $30,000 Constable Grant to the Diocese of Pittsburgh for its sexuality dialogue.

The ENS stories posted late June 10 are the following: “Ballentine named lay representative to Anglican Consultative Council,” “Executive Council awards Constable Fund Grants,” “A summary of Executive Council resolutions,” and “Council members expand support to South Carolina, San Joaquin.”

Villanova to host Episcopal Youth Event

Villanova University in suburban Philadelphia has been selected to host the 2014 Episcopal Youth Event, scheduled for July 9-13, 2014. The five-day event is open to students in grades 9–12 during the 2013–2014 academic year and their adult leaders. Episcopal News Service made the announcement June 8.

Quincy and Chicago dioceses agree to merge

Meeting in separate conventions June 8, 2013, the dioceses of Quincy and Chicago agreed, as expected, to reunite with the Diocese of Chicago absorbing the schism-diminished Diocese of Quincy. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Episcopal News Service covered the story here.

South Carolina litigation to proceed first in state court

The two sides in the South Carolina property dispute resulting from the schism of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina argued about the venue for the next round of litigation in federal court June 6, 2013, before Judge C. Weston Houck. At issue was whether the suit brought by the Episcopalians in federal court will be litigated or whether legal maneuvering will return to the state court where Mark Lawrence and his dissident followers have sued those who chose to remain in The Episcopal Church. The Associated Press reported the story, which suggested that Judge Houck would likely issue a written opinion within a week. In fact, the opinion came in four days, and Houck returned the dispute to state court, which likely is unfavorable to the cause of The Episcopal Church. SCNow reported that story here.

Church Pension Group responds to South Carolina complaints

The Church Pension Group has responded to complaints about delays in allowing pension rollovers by lay employees who left Episcopal Church employment when the Diocese of South Carolina split. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Citing “the complexity of the current situation,” the CPG, in a statement on its Web site, has indicated that it is working to avoid “any adverse consequences for the participants in the plans” and should complete its work shortly.

Omaha church dispute nears resolution

The property dispute involving the former St. Barnabas Episcopal Church of Omaha, Nebraska, appears to be approaching its conclusion. The Anglo-Catholic congregation voted to leave The Episcopal Church in 2007 and was sued by the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska for return of the property. In October 2012, a judge ordered the property returned to the diocese. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) A June 3, 2013, report by Sean W. Reed, president of the St. Barnabas Church Parish Council and senior warden of St. Barnabas Parish, indicates that the congregation and the diocese agreed on a sale of the property to the congregation last December. The congregation has raised the necessary funds to buy the church, and the sale is expected to be completed soon. St. Barnabas anticipates becoming part of The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. Reed notes in his report that the church is awaiting approval of the sale by The Episcopal Church.

PEP to sponsor panel on the state of the diocese

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh will meet at Calvary Church June 17, 2013. The 7:00 PM program is a panel discussion on the state of the diocese. All are invited. Details can be found here.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

News for Week Ending 6/3/2013

Canada resolution to delay Covenant consideration published

As we noted here earlier, a resolution will be introduced to delay consideration of the Anglican Covenant until at least 2016 when the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meets in July. The resolution may be read here.

Nigeria passes anti-gay bill

According to a May 31, 2013, report from Reuters, Nigeria’s House of Representatives has passed an anti-gay bill that calls for penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment for violators. The bill not only outlaws entering into any sort of same-sex partnership, but even makes public display of affection between members of the same sex illegal. To become law, the bill must be signed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Gay marriage bill being considered by House of Lords

As reported here last week, the U.K. House of Lords is considering the bill to authorize gay marriage that has already cleared the House of Commons. The bill is to be considered June 3 and 4, 2013, with a vote taking place on June 4. The upcoming vote is not a final one, but one that allows the measure to move forward. As it happens, even if the bill is blocked by the Lords, it is still possible for the Commons to pass it. Some Church of England bishops who are allowed to vote in the House of Lords may try to derail the legislation, but there is concern that this will further injure the already damaged reputation of the established church, possibly even encouraging a movement to ban bishops from the House of Lords. A good deal has been written about the current debate, and it is difficult to fairly summarize. Interested readers should look at Thinking Anglican posts here, here, and here.

As this is being written, reports on Monday’s debate are beginning to appear. Notable is the Guardiam’s report on what Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said. Welby spoke in opposition to the bill, asserting that, theological considerations aside, the innovation would be bad for society. Welby’s full speech is available on the archbishop’s Web site.

Supreme Court declines to hear Planned Parenthood case

The Los Angeles Times reported May 28, 2013, that the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear an appeal by the state of Indiana to a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision blocking the withdrawal of Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. Indiana had passed a law blocking funds to any organization providing abortions, even though the funds did not themselves fund abortions. A similar measure in Arizona has also been blocked by a federal judge.

Illinois House fails to pass marriage equality bill

It came as something of a surprise May 31, 2013, that the Illinois House failed to vote on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Apparently, the votes were simply not there to pass the measure that had already cleared the Senate. The story was reported by the Huffington Post, and an analysis was posted by The New Yorker.

ELCA elects first openly gay bishop

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elected the first openly gay bishop in the ELCA May 31, 2013. The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin is interim pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Canoga Park, California, and Gerhard & Olga Belgum Professor of Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. Erwin is described as a “partnered gay man” by the synod and as the “first Native American to be elected in the ELCA.” Additional information about Erwin can be found here.

Quincy and Chicago to vote on reunification

According to a Facebook post from the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, the dioceses of Qunicy and Chicago will meet separately in convention on June 8, 2013, to approve a plan to reunite the dioceses. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Quincy diocese, which was small by Episcopal Church standards, was reduced further in size by the schism that occurred in 2008. That split made combining with the Chicago diocese attractive.

Property returning in San Joaquin

St. Francis Episcopal Church in Turlock, California, was returned to Episcopalians and the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin May 31, 2013, allowing for the return of Episcopal Church services on Sunday, June 2. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) When the Diocese of San Joaquin split in 2007, a majority of parishioners of St. Francis chose to leave The Episcopal Church and retain the property. Parishioners loyal to The Episcopal Church continued to meet elsewhere. What is being described as a Festival Homecoming Eucharist will be held at the returned church Sunday afternoon, June 9. A story in the The Modesto Bee not only reports on the changed status of the Turlock church but also reviews the status of property litigation throughout the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Georgia church experiences amicable split

VirtueOnline reported May 29, 2013, that the priest and most members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Douglas, Georgia, have left The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. The former Episcopalians are meeting as St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in a Roman Catholic church that had long been unused. The church and its contents were surrendered to the diocese. The Anglican congregation has not yet associated formally with a larger church body.

Note that the Web site of the continuing Episcopal Church appears to be that at http://standrewsdouglas.georgiaepiscopal.org/.The Web site at http://www.saintandrewsdouglas.org/, which is still branded “St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church,” represents those who have left the church.

Departed South Carolina group complains about Church Pension Group

The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, which split from what was the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, complained on its Web site June 3, 2013, that the Church Pension Group is dragging its feet regarding rollovers of pension funds for lay employees who are no longer employed in Episcopal Church positions. No information is available from the Church Pension Group.