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 30, 2014

News for Week Ending 6/29/2014

CoE bishops issue plan for ‘shared conversations’

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has released its plan for “shared conversations on sexuality, scripture and mission.” The plan, described in GS Misc 1083, a paper prepared for the upcoming General Synod, is intended to implement the call for “facilitated conversations” on sexuality made in the Pilling Report. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Church of England has issued a press release concerning the plan. Pittsburgh Episcopalians, particularly those who participated in our diocese’s own discussion of sexuality, will find GS Misc 1083 to be of great interest.

Supreme Court rules for Hobby Lobby

On June 29, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in favor of craft store Hobby Lobby in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. As has become common in big court decisions, the vote of the justices was 5–4. The privately held Hobby Lobby (and also Conestoga Wood Specialties) wanted to be exempted from the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that it provide free conception for its female employees. Hobby Lobby claimed a religious exception, which is not provided for in the legislation. The decision turned on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has been repeatedly used by the religious right to argue for special treatment. The decision can be read here. It is too early to offer links to definitive commentary on the Hobby Lobby decision, but the analysis from Politico seems a good place to start.

‘Social Media Sunday’ sees #Episcopal trending on Twitter

The Episcopal Church declared June 29, 2014, to be “Social Media Sunday.” According to Episcopal News Service, Carolyn Clement and Laura Catalano, church social media administrators, came up with the idea of devoting a Sunday to highlighting activities of The Episcopal Church on social media using the hashtag #Episcopal. Episcopalians throughout the church posted photographs, videos, comments, etc., on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. On June 29, #Episcopal was trending on Twitter as a result of the activity. Conventional news outlets seem to have taken little notice of this effort, but there was a smattering of local stories such as this one from The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina.

Marriage task force issues resources

The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has released materials providing an interim report on its work—it is to produce a final report for the 2015 General Convention—and helping to facilitate discussion of marriage throughout the church. More information and links to the task force materials are here.

EDS to reconsider planning strategy

The Living Church reported June 26, 2014, that Episcopal Divinity School is reconsidering how to conduct a study of how it can serve the needs on the church in the 21st century. The board of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, school had hired consultants to study governance of the institution. When faculty members wrote a letter complaining that they were not adequately consulted regarding the project, the consultants withdrew from the project. EDS is not in immediate financial distress, but the increasing cost of a seminary education suggests that new models of clergy training may be necessary. Among the issues of concern to the faculty is tenure.

S.C. Episcopalians file appeal to add individuals to lawsuit

According to a June 25, 2014, press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC), Episcopalians have asked the South Carolina Court of Appeals to overturn trial judge Diane Goodstein’s refusal to allow four individuals, including Mark Lawrence, to be added to ongoing litigation resulting from the split of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. ECSC argues that the four ordained clergy had taken oaths to uphold the rules of The Episcopal Church but instead engaged in a conspiracy to leave the church and take its property with them. A.S. Haley has represented the position of those who left the church in a June 27 essay on his Anglican Curmudgeon blog.

Bishop McConnell’s cancer video gets church-wide exposure

Drawing on his own experience and the recently released movie The Fault in Our Stars, Bishop Dorsey McConnell has made a video about faith and cancer. Episcopal News Service published a story about the video on its Web site.

Monday, June 23, 2014

News for Week Ending 6/23/2014

Church of Sweden installs first female archbishop

On June 15, 2014, Antje Jackelén was installed as the first female archbishop in the Church of Sweden. She was elected to the post last October. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Jackelén is now the primate of a church of the Porvoo Communion, which is in communion with the Church of England. The story was reported by the Swedish edition of The Local.

Moravians vote to ordain gay and lesbian pastors

Meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on June 22, 2014, the 2014 Synod of the Moravian Church, Northern Province, authorized the ordination of gay and lesbian pastors “whether single, married or in covenanted relationships.” Synod delegates also called for the creation of a rite for solemnizing covenanted same-sex relationships. Details are provided in a press release from the Moravian Church, Northern Province.

Although Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had intended to address the Moravian synod on June 19, she was unable to do so. Episcopal News Service reported that her remarks were read instead by Neva Rae Fox, the Episcopal Church’s public affairs officer.

Presbyterians vote to divest holdings in companies doing business with Israel, allow same-sex marriages

Meeting in Detroit, the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian body in the U.S., voted to divest its holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. The church asserts that the corporations are facilitating the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel through their sales of equipment to the Jewish state. Divestment has been debated by the Presbyterians for years, and the vote, taken June 20, 2014, passed by a vote of only 310 to 303. Advocates of the action said that the move is intended to put pressure on Israel to stop building settlements and to end the occupation.

Jewish groups reacted angrily to the vote. For example, the Anti-Defamation League expressed disappointment and accused the PCUSA of “years of hostility.” The Jewish reaction was not universal, however. Jewish Voices for Peace applauded the vote and encouraged its supporters to express their gratitude to the Presbyterians.

The story was covered by The New York Times.

In other action by the General Assembly, the Presbyterians voted to authorize pastors to use their discretion to officiate at same-sex marriages in jurisdictions where such unions are legal. The decision is effective immediately. Additionally, a proposed change to the denomination’s Book of Order will be sent to the 172 presbyteries. If adopted, it will change the definition of marriage, replacing the words “between a man and a woman” with “between two people, traditionally between a man and a woman.” The story was reported by Episcopal News Service.

Mormons excommunicate advocate for women’s ordination

The Washington Post reported June 23, 2014, that a Mormon woman activist has been excommunicated by an all-male panel in Northern Virginia. Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, which advocates for the ordination of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received a letter informing her of the church’s penalty. The letter said, in part: “The difficulty, Sister Kelly, is not that you say you have questions or even that you believe that women should receive the priesthood. The problem is that you have persisted in an aggressive effort to persuade other Church members to your point of view and that your course of action has threatened to erode the faith of others.” Kelly has been enjoined from a variety of both private and public activities but has been told that, in the future, her church membership can be reconsidered if she has refrained from “actions that undermine the Church.”

Women in the episcopate to be main business of CoE General Synod meeting

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in York from July 11, 2014 to July 15. The main order of business will be perfecting and approving legislation designed to allow women to become bishops in the English church. Among the other items on the agenda is an address on July 12 by the Rev. Jim Wallis, the American president and founder of Sojourners magazine. Anglican Communion New Service has described the work of the forthcoming General Synod and provided links to the agenda and to working papers for the meeting.

Second CoE priest marries same-sex partner

In defiance of the Church of England leadership but in conformance with English law, a second English priest has married his same-sex partner. The Rev. Andrew Cain, vicar of St. James church in West Hampstead, London, married Stephen Foreshew on June 21, 2014. According to Andrew Brown, writing in the The Guardian, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first CoE priest to defy the ban on clerical same-sex marriages, has been “stripped of the permission to work as a priest in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.” (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) It appears that neither Cain nor Pemberton face imminent unemployment, but the status of clergy marrying their same-sex partners is complicated, as explained in the Guardian story.

ACNA archbishop gives final interview

Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (and deposed bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) Robert W. Duncan gave what has been billed as his final interview as archbishop to Kevin Kallsen of Anglican TV recently. (Video of the interview was posted June 19, 2014.) Although there are no bombshell revelations in the interview, it is interesting that Duncan claims to have built ACNA by bringing churches together, not by splitting them apart. Pittsburgh Episcopalians may disagree with this analysis.

Foley Beach chosen to succeed Bob Duncan as ACNA archbishop

On June 22, 2014, the Rev. Foley Beach was chosen at a conclave of bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to succeed Archbishop Robert W. Duncan. The conclave was held at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe. Although Duncan will step down as archbishop at the expiration of his five-year term, he will remain the head of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Foley will also serve a five-year term and will be eligible for re-election.

Beach heads the Diocese of the South in suburban Atlanta. A former priest in The Episcopal Church who became increasing dissatisfied with the church following the consecration of Gene Robinson, Beach left St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Monroe, Georgia, in 2004 and resigned his orders. He then founded Holy Cross Anglican Church in nearby Loganville under the oversight of Bishop of Bolivia Frank Lyons. He became an early player in the so-called Anglican Realignment.

Foley Beach writes a blog, called The Beach Blog. He is opposed to the ordination of women, in contrast to the views of Duncan, the founding archbishop of ACNA. Women’s ordination continues to be a matter of contention in ACNA. It remains to be seen how the ongoing controversy will be affected by the selection of Beach.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covered this story. ACNA’s announcement is here, dated, apparently erroneously, June 21. Additional information in this report came from VirtueOnline here and here.

Transgender priest preaches at Washington National Cathedral

In celebration of Pride Month, the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, preached at Washington National Cathedral June 22, 2014. For once, Bishop Gene Robinson, the celebrant for the service, got only second billing to the transgender Partridge in news stories. WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C., covered the story and has posted video on its Web site.

Scruton added to PB nominating committee

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs announced June 17, 2014, that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has appointed the Rt. Rev. Gordon Scruton, retired bishop of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, to the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. Scruton replaces the Rt. Rev. Thomas Shaw, bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, who has resigned from the committee as episcopal representative of Province I.

SCLM reports on same-sex marriage meeting

The church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music hosted a meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, June 3–5, 2014, to discuss same-sex marriage and to gather feedback on “I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing,” the collection of a rite for blessing same-sex unions and related materials. According to a June 19 report, the Indaba-style gathering “included leaders from across the Anglican Communion, ecumenical partners, and lay and clergy representatives from Episcopal dioceses where civil same-sex marriage is legal.” Details can be found here.

ERD celebrates anniversary with photo exhibit

Episcopal Relief and Development is beginning the celebration of its 75th anniversary. It began as the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief in 1940. As part of the celebration, ERD has unveiled a traveling photography exhibit illustrating its work around the world. More information can be found here.

Bishops file amici curiae brief in same-sex marriage appeal

The Living Church reported June 19, 2014, that 13 Episcopal Church bishops filed an amici curiae brief with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in support of same-sex marriage. (The story contains the text of the brief.) The court document notes that the bishops “lead ten of the eleven dioceses of The Episcopal Church located within the territory of the Sixth Circuit.” According to the Associated Press, the court will hear arguments August 6 in same-sex cases originating in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Fort Worth Episcopalians file Supreme Court appeal

As expected—see Pittsburgh Update story here—Episcopal parties have requested that the U.S. Supreme Court review the decision of the Texas Supreme Court that ruled that lower-court decisions favoring Episcopalians in Fort Worth and Northwest Texas must be re-litigated on the basis of neutral principles of law, rather than on the basis of deferring to the highest authority in a hierarchical church. A press release from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth explains the issues and provides links to relevant documents, including the petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court.

Fourth Circuit hears oral arguments in Quincy case

A.S. Haley reported June 20, 2014, on the June 18 oral arguments before the Fourth District Court of Appeals in the Quincy diocese case. The breakaway diocese prevailed in the trial court. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Note that the small Episcopal Diocese of Quincy has been incorporated into the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Haley did not participate in the argument, though he has worked on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy. Audio of the oral arguments can be heard here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

News for Week Ending 6/16/2014

Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope meet in Rome

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has visited Rome and, among other things, met with Pope Francis. (Welby also met with the Vatican cricket team.) The meeting, which was notable for the unanimity of the two leaders on the subject of modern slavery and human trafficking, is described on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Web site. Welby’s address to Francis is here, and Francis’s address to Welby is here.

Executive Council completes June meeting

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church met in Phoenix June 10–12, 2014. The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs released the opening remarks of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings. A summary of Executive Council resolutions can be found here. Among the actions of the Executive Council was the authorization of two lines of credit to be extended to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

South Carolina property trial nears

As we reported earlier, the lawsuit brought by the breakaway group led by former Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence against loyal South Carolina Episcopalians is scheduled to go to trial on July 7, 2014. Ronald J. Caldwell, Ph.D., Professor of History Emeritus at Jacksonville State University has written a blog post suggesting that the Episcopalians are likely to lose at the trial court level but will likely prevail eventually. He finds the recent tentative decision in the San Joaquin case and the discussion between the two sides to be especially encouraging. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) You can read the Caldwell post here. Caldwell has also published a helpful chronology of events related to the schism in the South Carolina diocese.

Sewanee allows same-sex ceremony

The Tennessean reported June 10, 2014, that Sewanee: The University of the South will allow a commitment ceremony to be celebrated in its chapel for the newly married couple of Kathryn Kendrick and Eva Walton. (Kendrick is a Sewanee alumna.) The university at first rejected the request of the lesbian couple. Its position was reversed after a social media campaign was initiated to get the university to reconsider. (See Facebook group Rethink this, Sewanee.) According to The Tennessean, “the ceremony will be slightly revised to further differentiate it from marriage.”

Filmmaker seeks to make Clemente a saint

According to the Los Angeles Times, Richard Rossi, the director of the film Baseball’s Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories, is seeking to have former Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Clemente, who was involved in various charitable causes, lost his life in 1972 in a plane crash while taking relief supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua.

Monday, June 9, 2014

News for Week Ending 6/9/2014

Canada gets new indigenous diocese, bishop

The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) created a new diocese on June 1, 2014. According to the ACC, the creation of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh “marks a major milestone in the journey of establishing of a self-determining, self-sustaining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada.” Anglican Journal reported June 6 that the first bishop of the new diocese, Lydia Mamakwa, was installed on June 4 in Kingfisher Lake, Ontario.

Same-sex marriage litigation moves through courts

The U.S. Supreme Court June 4, 2014, rejected without explanation a request by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to halt the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Oregon while that group asks the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a court finding that the Oregon ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ruled against the state’s ban on May 19. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum did not defend the ban and is opposing the NOM appeal to the Ninth Circuit. AP covered the story, as did SCOTUSblog.

On June 6, according to CNN, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Although many marriage licenses were issued following the decision, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals June 9 to stop the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but, according to the Chicago Tribune, the move by Van Hollen was rejected.

Commentator Sally Kohn has posted a brief history of the push for marriage equality titled “Marriage equality is unstoppable.”

In Pennsylvania, Federal District Judge John Jones III discussed his decision striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban on a WITF-FM talk show. In response to a question about Roman Catholic Bishop David Zubik’s suggestion that the judge’s decision will have a negative effect on the strength of families, Jones asserted that no evidence was presented suggesting that was true. The AP reported on the interview, as did WITF on its Web site. The program can be heard here. (The response to the Zubik quote can be found on segment C at about 6 minutes, 50 seconds in.)

S.C. case to be argued July 7

According to a May 31, 2014, report from South Carolina Episcopalians, S.C. Circuit Court Judge Diane Schafer Goodstein has told attorneys that the litigation between Episcopalians and former Episcopalians of the Diocese of South Carolina will return to her courtroom July 7 “ready or not.” (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) It is anticipated that whatever the outcome in the circuit court, the losing side will appeal.

A June 8 post by South Carolina Episcopalians provides a useful status report on the litigation as the trial date nears.

New petition launched to stifle Episcopal lawsuits

VirtueOnline reported June 9, 2014, that Bradley Hutt and “Laymen of the Church” have created an on-line petition targeted at the church’s Executive Council. The petition is titled “End the Madness of Christians suing [sic] Christians.” The text of the petition says, in part, that signers “call upon the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church to end the persecution of Christians and immediately seek a peaceful solution with an Accord agreeable to all parties.” The petition does not address the fact that some of the litigation in which The Episcopal Church is involved was initiated by parties who left the church and took church property with them.

According to Anglican Ink, Maryland resident Bradley Hutt is a trustee of the American Anglican Fellowship (AAF), a conservative group that earlier this year requested that its charges against Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori be investigated. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The AAF appears to have neither a Web site nor a Facebook page.

Transgender priest to preach at Washington National Cathedral

Huffington Post reported June 6, 2014, that, on June 22, the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge will become the first transgender priest to preach at Washington National Cathedral. Bishop Gene Robinson will preside at the service.

Monday, June 2, 2014

News for Week Ending 6/2/2014

Bishops in Dialogue reaffirm Communion as family of churches

Meeting for the fifth time since the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the so-called Anglican Bishops in Dialogue released a statement following their May 22–25, 2014, convocation in Coventry, England. Anglican Communion News Service reported on the meeting and provided background here. The statement has much to say about reconciliation within the sometimes contentious Anglican Communion. Most noticed has been this declaration: “We are family. The Anglican Communion is a family of churches. It is not a Church itself. There is much we have in common as Anglicans, which is
evidenced in mutuality in mission, but we remain independent and diverse provinces.” Mark Harris took special note of this statement on his blog.

ECW requests survey responses

The Episcopal Church Women (ECW) National Board has created an ad hoc committee to advise it on the future of the ECW. According to a letter to Episcopalians from that committee, “We are attempting to determine how the organized ministry of women, known as ECW, will have a continuing role and impact on the life of The Episcopal Church.” The committee is asking Episcopalians—there is no suggestion that only Episcopal women are being asked—to respond to a brief survey. The letter and a link to the on-line survey can be found here.

Chicago Standing Committee expresses support for marriage equality in Illinois

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago issued a statement on June 1, 2014, “to express its strong support” for the advent of legal same-sex marriage in Illinois on that date. The statement asserts that “as Episcopalians, we have seen the joy and blessing that same sex marriages have brought to our communities.”

Crusty Old Dean makes General Convention predictions

The next General Convention is still more than a year away, but blogger Tom Ferguson, Dean of Bexley Hall Seminary, has posted some predictions about what he thinks will and will not happen in Salt Lake City. Some of his predictions are credible, but, even if Ferguson is off-base, his blog post, like most of his posts, is amusing.

Movie preview has Episcopal connection

The movie The Fault in Our Stars, which is based on the bestselling John Green novel of the same name, will be the focus of a June 5, 2014, red-carpet preview at Carmike Galleria Cinemas at 1500 Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon. The Fault in Our Stars enters general release on June 6. The movie is a love story involving teenagers who meet in a cancer-support group that meets in an Episcopal church. The movie was partially filmed in Pittsburgh, and one venue used is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon. (Click here for ticket information.) Lisa Brown, Director of Children’s Ministry at St. Paul’s wrote about the movie here.