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 31, 2014

News for Week Ending 3/31/2014

Same-sex marriage becomes legal in England and Wales

On March 29, 2014, marriage between same-sex couples became legal in England and Wales. Couples began immediately taking advantage of the new law. (See, for example, this story from The Observer.) Shortly before the new law went into effect, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told The Guardian, “I think the church has reacted by fully accepting that it’s the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being.” Nevertheless, same-sex marriages cannot be performed in churches, nor can such marriages be “blessed” by Church of England clergy. That has not not stopped clergy from announcing their attention to marry or to bless the marriage of other same-sex couples.

There has been a good deal of commentary about the new law and the CoE’s dealing with it. Bishop Alan Wilson accused other bishops of hypocrisy, suggesting that many of them are themselves gay. He urged clergy to work around the guidelines promulgated by the House of Bishops. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Paul Vallely, writing for The Independent, offered this amusing (if depressing) comment:
But the loudest clerical voices are opposed. The executive secretary of something which likes to call itself Anglican Mainstream was darkly blogging last week to the effect that recent floods and storms are God’s verdict on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. If that’s the mainstream, it doesn’t bear thinking about what might be found on the C of E’s wilder shores.
Thinking Anglicans, in its usual fashion, has collected links to many commentaries and news stories too numerous to enumerate here. See this post and earlier ones.

Poll: gays more popular than Evangelical Christians

Gay Star News reported March 31, 2014, that a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and TargetPoint Consulting has found that gays and lesbians are viewed more favorably than Evangelical Christians. The poll was commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Marriage Equality. Overall, the research finds positive trends for acceptance of marriage equality. An introduction to selected results by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner can be found here, which contains a link to a PowerPoint presentation offering more detailed information. A PDF version of the PowerPoint file can be found here. (Data on favorability ratings for gays and lesbians versus Evangelical Christians can be found on page 6 of the presentation.)

Church releases financial report

On March 31, 2014, the Episcopal Church Office of Finance issued information about 2014 finances, as well as preliminary data for operating income and expenses for calendar year 2013. The news is generally good. Details can be found here.

House of Bishops meeting concludes

The five-day spring meeting of the House of Bishops concluded March 25, 2014. (See Pittsburgh Update story here for reports on the first four days of the meeting.) The story on the final day of the retreat was reported by Episcopal News Service here.

San Joaquin gets another provisional bishop

The Rt. Rev. David Rice was elected and installed as the provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin at a special convention held March 29, 2014. He thus becomes the third provisional of the diocese since much of the diocese left The Episcopal Church, led by then bishop John-David Schofield. Property litigation continues in San Joaquin, and the diocese has yet to elect a permanent bishop. Rice is an American who was serving in New Zealand. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Episcopal News Service covered the story here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

News for Week Ending 3/24/2014

GAFCON chairman: GAFCON rescue mission for Communion

GAFCON chairman, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, has issued a Lenten message in which he calls GAFCON “a rescue mission for a Communion threatened by rebellion against the biblical gospel.” Predictably, Wabukala attacks the Continuing Indaba project and The Episcopal Church. He also praises Mark Lawrence’s Diocese of South Carolina for joining the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Michigan closer to marriage equality

A Michigan federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional March 21, 2014. Judge Bernard A. Friedman declared the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional and called witnesses for the state in the case brought by two female nurses “unbelievable.” He issued an immediate order to allow same-sex marriage, and hundreds of couples immediately availed themselves of the opportunity to marry. (See New York Times stories here and here.) The Episcopal bishops of Michigan issued a statement applauding the legal development. The next day, a federal appeals court issue a temporary stay of Judge Friedman’s order. USA Today reported on the situation in Michigan here and here.

Alban Institute to fold

The Alban Institute, a source of congregational support for 40 years, announced March 19, 2014, that it is going out of existence. It has arranged to transfer its publications to Rowman & Littlefield, and negotiations are ongoing with Duke Divinity School to assume its remaining assets. Details can be found in the story from Religion News Service. Alban issued issued this press release.

Archbishop of Canterbury to attend Oklahoma conference

According to Episcopal News Service, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be a speaker at a conference titled “Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence” to be held April 9–11, 2014, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Additional details can be found in the ENS story.

House of Bishops meet at Camp Allen

Episcopal Church bishops are meeting at Camp Allen Conference & Retreat Center in Navasota, Texas, March 21–26, 2014. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s sermon at the opening Eucharist (on Thomas Cranmer) can be found here. Episcopal News Service has thus far reported on the first four days. (See stories here, here, here, and here.) Actual news from the meeting has been in short supply. On the first day, however, the bishops were briefed on the work of the task forces on marriage and on reimagining The Episcopal Church.

Klusmeyer added to PB nominating committee

Bishop of West Virginia William Klusmeyer has been added to the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. He replaces Bishop of Central Pennsylvania Nathan Baxter, who resigned from the committee. Klusmeyer thus becomes the episcopal representative of Province III on the Committee. (The Diocese of Pittsburgh is also in Province III.) Episcopal News Service covered the story. Members of the committee can be found here.

TREC meets in Maryland

The Task Force on Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) met in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, at the Maritime Institute of Technology March 13–15, 2014. TREC issued a brief report on its work. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

Episcopalians suffer another reversal in S.C.

According to the breakaway Diocese of South Carolina, the South Carolina Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and The Episcopal Church March 18, 2014. At issue was access to legal correspondence prior to the diocesan split. (See discussion on the Web site of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.) To date, no statement on the legal development has appeared from the South Carolina Episcopalians.

Texas rulings goes against Episcopalians

According to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Texas Supreme Court, on March 21, 2014, denied requests for rehearing in the Fort Worth and Masterson cases. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Supreme Court action sends the cases back to their respective trial courts. A.S. Haley, not a friend of The Episcopal Church, discussed the recent court actions in South Carolina and Texas here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

News for Week Ending 3/17/2014

Same-sex marriage continues to be hot topic in wake of bishop’s pastoral guidance

The hornets’ nest of commentary stemming from the pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage from the Church of England’s House of Bishops continues. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The latest collection of links to related material from Thinking Anglicans can be found here and here.

Conservative group asks for investigation of presiding bishop’s actions

An obscure Anglican group that recently changed its name to American Anglican Fellowship Inc. (AAF) has asked The Episcopal Church that its charges against Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori be investigated. Apparently, the group used to be the Washington chapter of the American Anglican Council (AAC), a group long critical of The Episcopal Church. The group’s Web site and its December 19, 2013, letter to the intake officer of The Episcopal Church, as well as its Internet domain registration reveal none of the names of AAF members or officers, but George Conger has provided information about the group here. According to AAF, its letter to Bishop Clay Matthews was circulating on the Internet, which made it necessary to make it public.

The AAF letter alleges six charges against the presiding bishop, all of which are involved with defections from the church by disgruntled conservatives. The AAF charges that (1) property litigation by the church is improper, that (2) abandonment canons have been improperly used, that (3) clergy have been construed as renouncing their vows in the absence of written statements to that effect, that (4) the San Joaquin Standing Committee was improperly dismissed and replaced, that (5) the conservative bishops were harassed who submitted affidavits in legal proceedings contradicting the legal theory propounded by Episcopal Church attorneys, and that (6) Mark Lawrence, of the Diocese of South Carolina, was improperly deposed and replaced. The letter relies heavily on arguments from the Anglican Communion Institute, Inc., a conservative group with no official standing in the Anglican Communion, and the AAC. There are several references to the AAC report “The Episcopal Church: Tearing the Fabric of Communion to Shreds,” which is no longer available on the AAC Web site. (It is available on the PEP site here.)

It is fair to say that the complaints of AAF are not new. They are largely, though not completely, without merit, though it is doubtful that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will actually face charges. In any case, AAF freely admits that it is “an organization of current and former members of The Episcopal Church.”

Breakaway S.C. diocese accepts Global South oversight

At its March 14–15, 2014, convention, the group that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina agreed to accept “provisional primatial oversight” offered by the Global South Primatial Oversight Council. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The schismatic diocese led by Mark Lawrence claims that it “has been formally recognized as a member in good standing of the Global Anglican Communion” by accepting the proffered oversight. The claim will not be universally accepted. The story was covered by the Charleston Post & Courier.

Ga. bishops oppose guns-in-church bill

The Episcopal bishops of Georgia have written a joint letter opposing HB875, a bill that has been passed by the Georgia House and is expected to come before the Georgia Senate later this week. The bill would allow guns in churches, bars, and schools. The letter from the Rt. Revs. Robert C. Wright and Scott Anson  Benhase can be read here. Other faith leaders have also opposed the bill, as explained in an Episcopal News Service story of March 14, 2014. The status of the bill can be tracked here.

Presiding bishop visit to Nashotah House expanded

Episcopal News Service reported March 13, 2014, that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will visit Nashotah House Theological Seminary on May 1, 2014. Of course, the visit was already publicly known; the invitation from the school’s president and dean, Bishop Edward Salmon Jr., led to the resignation of a Nashotah House board member, Bishop Jack Leo Iker. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The ENS story did not report the protests from board members. It does note that the presiding bishop will offer an encomium homily for the Rev. Terry Star, a deacon from the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota and a member of the church’s Executive Council who was attending Nashotah House when he died of a heart attack on March 4. (See ENS story here.) Ironically, Star was largely responsible for the invitation to the presiding bishop. (See explanation by Bishop Salmon in his YouTube video.)

Episcopal and Lutheran bishops to participate in vow renewal

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have announced that the two judicatories will hold a joint service of renewal of vows and blessing of oils at Trinity Cathedral on April 14, 2014. The service is traditional in Lent, and this is the third time that the Episcopal service in Pittsburgh has been held jointly with the ELCA, a church with which The Episcopal Church is in full communion. Details can be found on the diocese’s Web site.

Monday, March 10, 2014

News for Week Ending 3/10/2014

CoE pastoral guidance continues to attract comments

The Church of England’s House of Bishops pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage has attracted more commentary. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Thinking Anglicans has collected links to to the latest reactions here and here.

Costa Rica church sponsors forum on faith, sexuality

In what Episcopal News Service called a “first step toward welcoming the LGBTQ community,” the Episcopal Church of Costa Rica sponsored a March 4, 2014, “forum on faith, the Bible, sexual orientation and gender identity.” Other sponsors were the Lutheran Church of Costa Rica and human rights groups. Details can be found in the ENS story here. Note that the Costa Rican church is actually a diocese of the Anglican Church of Central America, which also includes the churches of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Errant South Carolina diocese may accept oversight offer

The breakaway Diocese of South Carolina will consider a resolution at its March 14–15, 2014, convention to accept an offer of “provisional primatial oversight” offered by the Global South Primatial Oversight Council. The council was created at the Global South Primates Steering Committee meeting held in Cairo last month. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The plan is to accept oversight by the Global South Primates temporarily until the diocese settles on a permanent affiliation. An explanation of Resolution R-3 by Bishop Mark Lawrence can be found here. The resolution itself is here.

Conflict over The Falls Church comes to an end

On March10, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States dismissed without comment the request from The Falls Church Anglican to review to ruling of the Supreme Court of Virginia awarding property of The Falls Church to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. (The most recent Pittsburgh Update story on the litigation is here.) This brings to an end the seven-year-long litigation occasioned by the defection from the diocese of 11 congregations. All the buildings involved have been returned to the diocese. Episcopal News Service ran a story on the Supreme Court decision that includes relevant links to additional information.

Woman minister chosen to lead Christian Associates

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported March 9, 2014, that the Rev. Liddy Gerchman Barlow of St. John United Church of Christ in Larimer, Pa., has been elected executive director of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania. She will replace the Rev. Dr. Donald B. Green, who is retiring next month. (Many Pittsburgh Episcopalians know Green from his attendance at diocesan events.) Barlow will become the first woman to become permanent executive director of Christian Associates.

Diocese embraces ashes-to-go

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh celebrated Ash Wednesday by taking to the streets and offering the imposition of ashes to passersby. Bishop Dorsey McConnell and the Rev. Timothy Hushion offered ashes in Market Square. (Pictures are available on the diocese’s Facebook page.) The Rev. Michelle Boomgaard of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, offered ashes at the Mt. Lebanon T Shop. (See KDKA-TV and Post-Gazette stories.) The Rev. Leslie Reimer of Calvary was imposing ashes on Walnut Street in Shadyside. Both she and Bishop McConnell were featured in a report from WTAE-TV. (See also pictures here.) The Rev. Jonathon Jensen, Calvary’s new rector, offered ashes at Shady Avenue and Walnut Street near Calvary Church. The AP also offered a story about ashes-to-go in Pittsburgh. Episcopal News Service ran a story about ashes-to-go elsewhere in The Episcopal Church.

Monday, March 3, 2014

News for Week Ending 3/3/2014

More fallout from African anti-gay legislation

Recent anti-gay legislation in Nigeria and Uganda is causing friction within the Anglican Communion. On February 24, 2014, Integrity USA issued a press release condemning the new anti-gay law in Uganda. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) On February 28, New Zealand archbishops asked for prayers for Uganda in light of the new law. On March 3, Kampala’s Daily Monitor reported that Church of Uganda’s Archbishop Stanley Ntangali has indicated that “Uganda is ready to break away from the Church of England if its views on homosexuality are not respected.” The exact nature of Ntangali’s threats are unclear, as the story suffers from somewhat garbled English. Ntangali managed to criticize both the Church of England and The Episcopal Church, however. The Guardian ran an Agence France-Presse story on the same topic that was more coherent, though less comprehensive.

The Church of Nigeria, in whose country an anti-gay law was also passed—see Pittsburgh Update story herewrote to Ntangali commending him for upholding “the authentic Gospel and historic heritage of our Church, by rejecting the erroneous teaching and practice of homosexuality.” According to Nigeria’s DailyPost, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has instituted an anti-gay oath for anyone, including laypersons, holding positions in the church.

Update, 3/6/2014. Archbishop Stanley Natgali [note spelling difference from the Daily Monitor story] has “clarified” what he said about the relationship of the Church of Uganda and the Church of England. His statement can be read on the Church of Uganda Web site.

More commentary on CoE bishops’ pastoral guidance

The pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage from the Church of England’s House of Bishops—see Pittsburgh Update story here—continues to draw commentary. Of particular interest is the latest press release from the LGB&TI Anglican Alliance, on which Savitri Hensman has commented for Ekklesia. Also notable is the February pastoral letter from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council. After the obligatory broadside against The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, Wabukala attacks the House of Bishops’ guidance. Somewhat ironically, he writes
The lesson I believe we have learned from the failure of institutional attempts to restore unity by accommodation is that we must be more radical. We must return to the ‘narrow gate’ and come together on a strong and clear doctrinal basis. The GAFCON movement has been able to act as an instrument of unity in the Communion because it has the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which together give us a clear, faithful and contemporary statement of Anglican identity.
 Thinking Anglicans has collected links to additional commentary here and here. (There is too much material to cover in this post.)

TREC releases second study paper

The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued a second study paper for public comment. (TREC has been inconsistent on whether “Reimagining” should be hyphenated or not. TREC’s output has included other editorial inconsistencies. See Pittsburgh Update story on the first paper published here.) The new paper is titled “Study Paper on Reforms to Church Wide Governance and Administration.” The paper offers recommendations for modifying the General Convention and general church organization. The paper can be found on TREC’s Web site. The Lead has published several posts about the new study paper. Both the posts and the comments they have attracted are worth reading. You can find the posts here, here, here, and here. The Lead also published links to other commentaries, which can be found here. Mark Harris has taken a step back and offered an interesting take on the latest study paper here.

Presiding Bishop offers message for Lent

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has offered a Lenten message for The Episcopal Church. It can be read here, or viewed as a video here.

South Carolina Episcopalians hold convention

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) held its annual convention February 21–22, 2014. At that gathering, it accepted five missions into union with the diocese. In a March 1 story, The Post & Courier of Charleston noted: “The new worship communities formed mostly by groups of Episcopalians who wanted to remain loyal to the national church but whose home parishes opted to disassociate from it.” Additional details about the convention can be found on ECSC’s Web site. As had to be done in Pittsburgh, the diocesan convention is in the process of undoing some of the constitutional changes made under its former bishop (Mark Lawrence, in this case).

Consecration of Barbara Harris celebrated

It has been 25 years since Barbara Harris became the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion. On February 11, 1989, she was consecrated a suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Massachusetts celebrated that event on February 16, 2014. In its story on Harris, the diocese reviews the somewhat disappointing progress of women bishops in the Anglican Communion. The Church of England is moving closer to authorizing women bishops, albeit with some “protections” for those who have theological objections to the innovation. On March 1, the Rev. Dr. Sarah Macneil became the first female diocesan bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia—see story here—though not before the Anglican Church League complained that “there has been no publicly available provision by the Grafton diocese for those who cannot in good conscience accept her episcopal ministry.”

Arkansas priest transitions from male to female

The Rev. Greg Fry announced to his Pine Bluff, Arkansas, congregation February 23, 2014, that he is now Gwen Fry. Fry, who is married to the Rev. Lisa Fry, who serves at a Little Rock church, had informed his bishop, the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield, months ago of his intention to become transgendered. It is unclear what the future holds for the Rev. Gwen Fry, as Bishop Benfield dissolved the relationship between Fry and Grace, Pine Bluff, three days later. (Fry was priest-in-charge.) The Lead covered the story here and here. A TV report on the situation can be viewed here.

Priest questions ashes-to-go

In light of Bishop McConnell’s interest in public gospel, an essay published by Episcopal News Service from a Brooklyn priest should be of interest. The Rev. Michael Sniffen questions whether the increasingly popular practice of offering the imposition of ashes on city streets on Ash Wednesday really sends the right message. His essay is “Ashes to Go or not to go, that seems to be the question….”

Lenten Preaching Series details announced

Journeying Together Through Lent” is the theme for this year’s Lenten Preaching Series sponsored by East End churches. The preachers will be new priests in the diocese, including new rectors from Calvary, Redeemer, and St. Brendan’s. With the exception of the first dinner and service, events are held on Tuesdays in Lent. (The first event is held on Wednesday, March 12, 2014.) The Rev. Michael Foley, the new rector of Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, will preach on March 25. Foley is the subject of a new story on the diocesan Web site.