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, May 26, 2014

News for week ending 5/26/14

Pennsylvania and Oregon dioceses begin responding to court decisions on same-sex marriage

The Federal Court decisions on May 19 and 20 declaring unconstitutional Oregon and Pennsylvania laws banning same-sex marriage, and the announcements in both states that there would be no appeals have resulted in a variety of responses from Episcopal bishops in the two states. Two of the four bishops leading the five Episcopal dioceses in Pennsylvania have issued statements. Bishop Sean Rowe, bishop of Northwest Pennsylvania and provisional bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem, issued a statement noting his approval of the decision, but recognizing that Episcopalians in his dioceses are not united on this matter. He has promised after “reflection and consultation” to issue guidelines for clergy wishing to officiate at same-sex marriages. According to David Virtue, the provisional bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania has given his approval to clergy to preside at same-sex marriages. The diocesan Web site has no information confirming this. No statement has been forthcoming from Bishop Nathan Baxter of Central Pennsylvania, and the guidelines he set a year ago remain in place. Bishop Dorsey McConnell of Pittsburgh has issued no formal statement. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article indicates that he plans to “consult with clergy and lay leaders on the implications of the court ruling.”

Bishop Rickel of Olympia had set policy in 2013 that allows clergy to both perform the civil marriage and church blessings. He made no statement following the court decision. Bishop Hanley of the Diocese of Oregon has issued a pastoral letter authorizing clergy to sign marriage licenses for same sex couples and to use the authorized rite of blessing with two changes which explicitly separate clergy’s civil and church roles.

San Joaquin Episcopal and ACNA leaders meet following court opinion

Bishop David Rice and attorney Michael Glass from the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have held an initial meeting with Bishop Eric Vawter Menees and his attorney Russell VanRozeboom on May 22 following release of a preliminary court decision awarding all diocesan property to the Episcopalians. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The discussions were exploratory, and both groups need to discuss matters with their dioceses. They plan to meet again soon. Presumably, the matters under discussion will include the timing and details of transfer of diocesan property.

Voting concludes on Church of England legislation allowing women to become bishops

All Church of England dioceses except the Diocese in Europe (which was unable to meet during the three-month period set for voting) have voted in favor of legislation that will allow women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England. The matter will now return to the Church of England General Synod in July for final approval. The House of Bishops met on the 19th and 20th of May and amended their rules to make it harder to change the Standing Order implementing provisions for parishes unwilling to accept a woman as bishop, and voted to explore ways that the rules governing bishops in the House of Lords might be changed to allow women bishops to take seats in that house sooner than current rules would allow.

Archbishop Welby joins in call to prevent execution of pregnant woman in Sudan

Archbishop Justin Welby has endorsed the Christian Muslim Forum call to prevent execution of Mariam Yahya, a pregnant woman convicted by a Sudanese court of adultery and apostasy for marrying a Christian in 2011. Yahya had a Muslim father and Christian mother and was raised a Christian. Sudanese law forbids Muslim women from marrying Christians and assigns children to the religion of their fathers. Mariam’s husband, also originally from Sudan, became an American citizen in 2005. He is trying to document that their 20-month-old son, who is in prison with his mother, is a U.S. citizen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

News for Week Ending 5/19/2014

England’s last religion reporter leaving The Times

Ruth Gledhill, the last reporter exclusively on the religion beat in England, is leaving The Times after 27 years. Gledhill was a respected religion journalist, though, in her final years on the paper, her columns had disappeared behind a pay wall, making them unavailable to most readers. It is perhaps a matter of perspective whether Gledhill’s departure signals a recognition of the waning significance of religion in the U.K. or whether consideration of religion has been woven into general reporting, thereby making a religion reporter unnecessary. Gledhill’s departure was first revealed by The Tablet, a Roman Catholic publication. The Press Gazette story includes quotes from Gledhill.

Tengatenga appointed to Sewanee post

The University of the South’s School of Theology announced May 13, 2014, that the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, Ph.D., has been appointed distinguished visiting professor of global Anglicanism, effective July 1. Tengatenga, a former bishop of Southern Malawi, had accepted a position at Dartmouth College last year, but his appoint was withdrawn after questions were raised—unfairly, perhaps—about his views on homosexuality. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to the Sewanee press release, Tengatenga “will teach courses in missiology, contemporary global Anglicanism, and related subjects.”

Anglican Church in Aotearoa, N.Z. and Polynesia recommits to gender balance, moves forward on same-sex blessings

Anglican Taonga reported May 14, 2014, that the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia passed a resolution strengthening the existing standing resolution concerning gender balance on decision-making church bodies. The church will now strive to have equal numbers of men and women on governing and consultative bodies and will seek balanced representation in public worship and official gatherings.

Also on May 14, the General Synod passed a resolution that moves the church closer to regularizing the blessing of same-sex unions, while affirming what is usually called traditional marriage. The actual resolution can be read here. Anglican Taonga reported on the adoption here. Readers can rightly be confused, so we won’t offer a full description of what the resolution means here. Bosco Peters has written about the resolution and finds it less progressive than it might seem.

The archbishops of the church have written a pastoral letter about what was done. Perhaps of greatest interest is this line: “We also are apologising unreservedly to the LGBT community where the church has not acted in a loving way.”

Church of Norway rejects same-sex marriage

We are reporting somewhat belatedly that the Church of Norway (not an Anglican church) rejected a move to allow same-sex marriages to be conducted in churches, even though such marriages are legal in Norway. Paradoxically, the church synod also reject a reaffirmation of the traditional view of marriage. The story was covered here.

Gay marriage advances fitfully across nation

Same-sex marriage in the U.S. made advances this past week, but it did so in fits and starts. We begin by recognizing that the first marriage license to a same-sex couple in the U.S. was issued in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004, a full decade ago. Los Angeles Times published a story on the anniversary about the couple that was the recipient of that license.

On May 13, U.S. District Judge Candy Dale declared Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and the state would have to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples May 16. On May 15, however, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay pending further consideration of whether the stay should be continued while the state appeals the district court ruling. No same-sex couples have been married in Idaho. The story was covered by CNN.

In Arkansas, same-sex marriage has been on and off again. A county judge struck down the state ban on same-sex marriage, and some marriage licenses were issued. The state Supreme Court then stopped the issuance of licenses because another law prohibited their being issued. The original judge than struck down all related laws, but the Supreme Court on May 16 temporarily halted gay marriage in Arkansas by issuing a temporary injunction. This is all very confusing, of course, but Los Angeles Times has done a fair job of explaining everything. Its stories are here, here, and here.

The cause of marriage equality was doing better in Oregon. On May 19, a federal district judge struck down a voter-approve ban on same-sex marriage. (The opinion is here.) The state’s attorney general had declared in February that she would not defend the ban. The National Organization for Marriage, however, has apparently asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the ruling. Stay tuned. The story was covered by CNN here.

Proposed San Joaquin ruling could be total victory for Episcopalians

After years of legal wrangling, property issues in San Joaquin following the schism of the diocese appear to be nearing an end. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) On May 5, 2014, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald S. Black issued a tentative and proposed statement of decision that, though subject to modification, is likely to be essentially similar to the final judgment. Although the judgment can be appealed, many of its premises are not subject to further dispute. The proposed decision asserts that a diocese cannot leave The Episcopal Church as Bishop Schofield and his supporters claim to have done, and it grants to the Episcopal diocese everything it asked for. Essentially, the judgment will return all diocesan property to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Episcopal News Service covered the story. The breakaway diocese, apparently seeing little chance prevailing in the long-running litigation, issued this letter.

Episcopalians suffer another loss in South Carolins

Litigation is going less well in South Carolina. The South Carolina Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) seeking access to legal correspondence prior to the diocesan schism (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to a press release from the ECSC, the Supreme Court action did not address whether ECSC is actually entitled to the correspondence. Litigation now returns to the trial court.

Monday, May 12, 2014

News for Week Ending 5/12/2014

Communion’s Standing Committee meets

Anglican Communion News Service has reported on the four-day meeting of the Standing Committee (members listed here), which met in London May 7–10, 2014. (Dates are inferred; reports from ACNS failed to provide them.) Descriptions have been issued of days 1 and 2, day 3, and day 4. Much of the work described is the reception of reports from various Anglican bodies. On day 4, it was announced that the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan has adopted the Anglican Covenant. The official tally of adopters is here.

David Virtue interviews Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali

Recently, David Virtue, who runs VirtueOnline (“The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism’), interviewed former evangelical Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali in Wayne, Pa. Nazir-Ali is a big fan of GAFCON and ACNA and does not seem to have high hopes for the future of the Church of England. You can read the interview here.

Brian Seage elected Mississippi coadjutor

The Very Rev. Brian R. Seage was elected bishop coadjutor for the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi May 3, 2014. As we reported earlier, the field included two candidates who had also been candidates in the most recent episcopal election in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Rev. Dr. R. Stan Runnels and the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley. Seage was elected on the fifth ballot from a field of five that also included the Very Rev. Michael J. Battle and the Rev. Marian Dulaney Fortner. Seage will eventually succeed the current diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray, III. Episcopal News Service reported the story. The vote tallies can be found here.

Upper S.C. releases same-sex blessings material

According to Episcopal News Service, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina released a collection of materials on same-sex blessings on May 8, 2014. At the 2012 General Convention, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo voted against use of a provisional liturgy for blessing same-sex blessings because he believed the authorizing resolution offered insufficient theological rationale. The newly released materials include a theological reflection from Waldo, a curriculum for parish conversation developed by a task force created by the bishop, and rules and procedures for blessing same-sex unions in Upper South Carolina. The diocesan Web site includes an summary of the material. The full report is here.

Bishop Bruno calls for unity, lists outcomes of litigation

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, wrote a letter to be read in all churches May 11, 2014. Bruno called for unity and described the outcome of property litigation in the diocese, which has finally come to an end. His letter can be read here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

News for Week Ending 5/5/2014

Movie, book explore homophobia, sexism in Africa

The full-length documentary God Loves Uganda will be released on DVD on May 19, 2014. The Web site for the movie describes it this way:
The feature-length documentary God Loves Uganda is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right.
Political Research Associates (PRA) has announced that the book American Culture Wars in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of  Homophobia and Sexism will be published the same day. Author of the new book is the Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who earlier wrote Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, & Homophobia for PRA.

March celebrates 20 years of women priests in England

According to the BBC, hundreds of woman priests in the Church of England marched from Westminster Abbey to St. Paul’s Cathedral on May 3, 2014, to celebrate 20 years of women’s ordination in the English church. At the cathedral, Archbishop of Canterbury told the woman that they still have “a long way to go.” (His sermon is here.) It is expected that women will be allowed to become bishops within a year, but woman priests hold fewer paid positions than men, and the number of women entering the priesthood in the Church of England has diminished in recent years.

Thinking Anglicans offers links to related material here.

Thinking Anglicans launches liturgy blog

Thinking Anglicans, the English blog with a progressive perspective that has become one of the best sources of news concerning the Anglican Communion, has announced the launch of a new blog, Thinking Liturgy. The initial post on the blog can be found here. The follow-on post “Liturgy Matters,” offers this succinct description of the purview of Thinking Liturgy:
We shall try not to be overly concerned about doctrine and dogma. Doctrine and dogma have their place; but here we want to think about what we say and what we do, and how by saying and doing, both in worship and in life, we proclaim and live where God’s kingdom is at hand.

Supreme Court again blurs church-state separation

On May 5, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 5–4 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, reversing a Seventh Circuit decision that found the practice of allowing sectarian prayers before local government meetings unconstitutional. The divided court thereby has dealt another blow to church-state separation in the U.S. A detailed analysis is available on SCOTUSblog.

Pastor explains N.C. lawsuit

Bishop of North Carolina Michael Curry has interviewed the Rev. Nancy Petty on video concerning the federal lawsuit recently filed against the state of North Carolina. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The suit, targeting Amendment One and initiated by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, has been joined by Jewish, Unitarian, and Baptist clergy. Petty, a Baptist pastor explains the nature of the legal argument in the interview, which is available on The Lead.

Amendment One makes it a misdemeanor for clergy to perform the marriage of any couple who do not have a marriage license, which the state does not grant to same-sex couples. The lawsuit bases its complaint on freedom of religion, rather than on equal protection, which potentially makes this a landmark suit. The suit relies on the distinction between religious and civil marriage, which is often missing in discussions of marriage equality.

PB visits Nashotah House

On May 1, 2014, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made what had become a controversial visit to Nashotah House Theological Seminary, the nominally Episcopal Anglo-Catholic seminary with a board of directors that includes bishops of the schismatic Anglican Church in North America. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Living Church reported on the story, and Episcopal News Service published Jefferts Schori’s Evensong sermon.

Gene Robinson to divorce

Retired Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson has announced that he and his partner of 25 years, Mark Andrew, will divorce. The two were formally married in 2008. Robinson informed the Diocese of New Hampshire of the decision May 3, 2014. Religion News Service reported the story the same day. Robinson wrote of the decision for the Daily Beast, for which he is a columnist. He has resisted offering any details, however. Episcopal News Service also has a story on the impending divorce.

Conservatives will, no doubt, revel in the news about the first openly gay bishop of The Episcopal Church. (See, for example, this piece from RedState, which describes itself as “the most widely read right of center [sic] site on Capitol Hill.”)

Georgia bishops ban firearm

According to Episcopal News Service, Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright and Diocese of Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase have decreed that firearms will not be allowed on any Episcopal Church property in Georgia. On-duty law enforcement officers are not covered by the policy, which was necessitated by a new Georgia law that takes effect July 1. The law allows firearms to be carried in such places as churches and taverns, but individual establishments can ban guns from their premises. Wright and Benhase publicly opposed the legislation. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

S.C. conference rallies Episcopalians

Episcopal Forum of South Carolina sponsored a conference titled “Enthusiastically Episcopalian in South Carolina” on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, on May 3, 2014. More than 300 people attended the event. The program included Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings, and former Provisional Bishop of Pittsburgh Ken Price. The event was intended to help Episcopalians move forward despite the schism which is still being litigated in the courts. Provisional Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg announced that one church that had left with Mark Lawrence has returned and another is considering doing so. The event was covered by The State. Additional information can be found on the Web site of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and in the May 3 post of South Carolina Episcopalians.