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, July 28, 2014

News for Week Ending 7/28/2014

Kenya nearly ready for first woman bishop

According to Anglican Ink, the Anglican Church of Kenya, in the wake of the approval of women bishops in England—see Pittsburgh Update story here—is preparing to change its constitution to clarify that women can become bishops in the Kenyan church, which has had women priests since 1990.

More rulings go against same-sex marriage bans

USA Today reported July 28, 2014, that a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court ruling that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The judgment is stayed pending appeal.

Meanwhile, Federal District Judge Raymond P. Moore issued an injunction July 23, 2014, prohibiting Colorado from enforcing that state’s same-sex marriage ban. That order, too, is stayed pending appeal. According to USA Today, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is asking the state’s Supreme Court to enjoin the the Boulder County clerk from issuing same-sex marriage licenses, arguing that doing so is “causing Coloradans to lose faith in their government.”

TREC plans churchwide meeting

The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) has announced a churchwide meeting at Washington National Cathedral on October 2, 2014. The meeting, intended to gather opinion from across the church regarding possible changes to the church, will be Webcast. Representatives from all Episcopal Church dioceses are encouraged to attend in person. Details can be found here.

Churches file amicus brief in support of Fort Worth

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has joined with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s appeal for a review of the recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court. This is explained in a press release from the South Carolina Episcopalians. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

40 years of women’s ordination celebrated

July 29, 2014, will be the 40th anniversary of the first ordinations of women priests in The Episcopal Church. Eleven women were ordained July 29, 1974, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a ceremony not sanctioned by church canons. The historic event was celebrated July 26 at North Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate. The sermon given by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the occasion can be read in the Episcopal News Service story here, which includes a link to video of the entire service. ENS has also provided this story on the celebration, as well as an interactive timeline of women’s ordination. Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe Pierre Whalon wrote a helpful meditation on women’s ordination for the Huffington Post.

South Carolina trial ends

After three weeks, the trial resulting from the lawsuit brought by former bishop Mark Lawrence and the South Carolina parishes that left The Episcopal Church against the continuing Episcopalians and The Episcopal Church ended in Judge Diane Goodstein’s courtroom July 24, 2014. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Mark Lawrence himself was the final witness, called in rebuttal by the plaintiffs. Throughout the trial, Judge Goodstein has appeared to favor the plaintiffs, and, on Thursday, July 24, Goodstein went on a tirade against mild-mannered defense lawyer Mary Kostel. The judge indicated that the parties should not expect a decision before 90 days, and it seems fair to say that the Episcopal parties are expecting to be handed a defeat at the trial court level.

The State reported on the completion of the trial. As reported earlier, daily summaries of the trial are available from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, South Carolina Episcopalians, and the breakaway plaintiffs.

Monday, July 21, 2014

News for Week Ending 7/21/2014

Welby writes ecumenical partners

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has written to ecumenical partners, including Anglican Communion churches, on the subject of the Church of England’s approval of women bishops. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Of course, Welby had no need to offer any reassurance to churches that accept the concept of ordained women. To everyone else, he apparently wanted to send the message that (1) the Church of England would be kind to those within the church who oppose women bishops, and (2) there are more important issues that unite the Church of England with ecumenical partners. Episcopalians may find that the English bishops are “committed to enabling [opponents of women’s ordination] to flourish within its life and structures” of the Church of England troubling. The letter can be read on the archbishop’s Web site.

Of course, ecumenical partners are not necessarily happy. (It is impossible to review all reactions here.) The Russian Orthodox Church, for example, accused the Church of England of surrendering to “the secular idea of gender equality in all spheres of life and the increasing role of women in the British society.” The Anglican Ordinariate established by the Roman Catholic Church is hoping to attract more disaffected Anglicans. (See story here.)

Oklahoma same-sex marriage decision affirmed

NPR reported July 18, 2014, that a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling declaring Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The court stayed its ruling pending appeal.

Presidential order bans LGBT discrimination

President Barack Obama took action July 21, 2014, to ban discrimination against LGBT in hiring by the federal government or by federal contractors. The New York Times provides background here. The AP story on the signing is here. In the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, there was a question as to whether President Obama would allow a religious exception to his new orders. Conservative religious and civic leaders wrote to the President July 1 urging him to allow such an exception. Liberal religious and civic leaders, including former Integrity president Susan Russell and retired bishop Gene Robinson, wrote a letter urging the opposite policy July 8. (More details about the policy conflict can be read here.) Both the Rev. Canon Susan Russell and the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson attended the White House signing ceremony.

PB Nominating Committee issues second essay

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has issued its second essay. This essay enumerates the duties and powers of the Presiding Bishop. (See Pittsburgh Update story here concerning the first JNCPB essay.) A forthcoming essay will document how the office of Presiding Bishop has changed over the years.

South Carolina trial continues

Although Judge Diane Goodstein had originally expected the trial in South Carolina—see Pittsburgh Update story here—to last two weeks, two weeks of testimony have now been completed, and the trial has entered its third week. The Episcopal defendants began presenting their case last week and continue to do so this week. It seems fair to suggest that, although lawyers for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and The Episcopal Church have scored some points, Judge Goodstein has not been receptive to the church’s position. In particular, she has blocked the entrance of evidence of the hierarchical nature of the church. Readers who want to follow the trial closely can read daily summaries from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, South Carolina Episcopalians, and the breakaway plaintiffs.

Dallas begins search for new bishop

The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas has formed a search committee to find a replacement for Bishop James Stanton, who has retired. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The diocese describes the search process on its Web site.

Diocese announces personnel changes

Two weeks after personnel changes at Trinity Cathedral were noted here, the diocesan office has made those and other changes public. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Jean Chess is now Archdeacon and Director of Administration. Although he is no longer Canon to the Ordinary, Scott Quinn retains the title of Canon Pastor. According to a story on the diocesan Web site, “[t]he duties of Canon to the Ordinary will be assumed by Archdeacon Jean Chess, with support from Canon Missioner Cathy Brall and Canon for Formation Jay Geisler.” Additional details can be found here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

News for Week Ending 7/14/2014

CoE General Synod OKs women bishops

Less than two years after a plan to allow women bishops in the Church of England was narrowly defeated by the church’s General Synod—see Pittsburgh Update story here—a revised plan was approved by the General Synod July 14, 2014. Additional approvals are required, but it is anticipated that one or more woman bishop will be appointed before the end of 2014. The previous plan was derailed by Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics in the House of Laity. Apparently, Anglo-Catholics who opposed the first plan decided to support the most recent one; Evangelical opponents did not.

An essay from The Telegraph offers a view of the issues as the vote neared. Anglican Communion News Service announced the positive vote in this story, which also reviews the state of women bishops throughout the Anglican Communion. A piece for The Guardian by Andrew Brown provides useful analysis on the General Synod action. In the legislation that passed in the General Synod, accommodation is made for those who cannot accept a woman bishop, although it apparently does not guarantee oversight by a male bishop. Kelvin Holdsworth, writing from Scotland, suggests that that celebrations occasioned by the vote should be tempered by the fact that women bishops will not be quite the equivalent of male bishops in the Church of England.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has been a strong supporter of women bishops, was interviewed by the BBC following the vote by the General Synod. Video of that interview can be found here.

First CoE priest to have gay marriage denied license for new job

According to a July 9, 2014, story from The Guardian, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first Church of England priest to marry a same-sex partner, in defiance of rules laid down by the church’s bishops, has been denied the license needed for him to take up his new job as chaplaincy and bereavement manager at the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Pemberton is considering legal action.

Same-sex marriage headed for Supreme Court—maybe

The district court opinion striking down the Utah same-sex marriage ban—see Pittsburgh Update story here—became the first to be upheld by an appeals court. The state of Utah has now decided to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, passing up an appeal to the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, it is not at all clear whether the high court will want to deal with same-sex marriage now. If it does, however, CBS News has reported that the Justice Department will file a brief in support of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, same-sex marriage may be coming to Colorado. On July 9, 2014, a district court judge struck down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The decision has been stayed, however, pending appeal. Details are here.

Alito nixes Pa. same-sex marriage appeal

It was generally assumed that marriage equality was secure in Pennsylvania when Governor Tom Corbitt announced that he would not appeal the decision of the federal district court that struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in the commonwealth. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Theresa Santai-Gaffney, Schuylkill County Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court petitioned the district court to stay its judgment pending appeal. District Judge John E. Jones III rejected the plea, saying that Santai-Gaffney did not have standing. An appeal to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Jones’s decision. Undeterred, Santai-Gaffney appealed to the Supreme Court. On July 9, 2014, conservative justice Samuel Alito, who handles appeals from the 3rd Circuit, rejected the appeal. Details can be found here.

Episcopal Church gains ECOSOC status at U.N.

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs has announced that The Episcopal Church was granted special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at the United Nations in May. The status will give the church greater influence in its advocacy efforts. Additional information about the ECOSOC can be found here.

Parish properties returned to Olympia diocese

In 2004, two congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia chose to remove themselves from The Episcopal Church and to take their parish property with them. That property has now been returned to the diocese. The churches began as St. Charles, Poulsbo, and St. Stephen’s, Oak Harbor. The departed congregations now constitute St. Charles Anglican Church and Grace By the Sea. The two congregations were featured in the video “The Decison,” which appeared on the DVD “Choose This Day,” which was distributed at the “Hope and a Future Conference” at Pittsburgh’s convention center in November 2005. “The Decision” urged Episcopal Church congregations to leave The Episcopal Church and put themselves under the authority of foreign Anglican bishops.

The resolution in Olympia was effected without resort to courts. Details can be found in the story here.

First week of South Carolina concludes

As reported last week—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the trial resulting from the lawsuit brought by deposed bishop Mark Lawrence against South Carolina Episcopalians began July 8, 2014, in St. George, South Carolina. Daily summaries of the proceedings are being published by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and by South Carolina Episcopalians. Lawrence’s Diocese of South Carolina has also been posting stories on the trial as it unfolds. The first week of the trial—the trial was supposed to end this week, but, on July 14, Judge Diane Goodstein admitted that another week will likely be necessary—was largely taken up with testimony from departed congregations describing their path to schism (not their term). At the end of the week, Judge Goodstein instructed attorneys on both sides to work out a stipulation over the weekend to avoid more repetitive testimony. Such a stipulation was offered on July 14, and the testimony of parish representatives is now moving along at a faster pace.

Both the plaintiffs and the judge seem determined to make this case strictly about secular property issues, rather than about church polity. This does not bode well for the Episcopalians.

Episcopal Church in South Carolina to allow same-sex blessings

As the property trial began in South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, provisional bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, announced that clergy will be allowed to bless same-sex unions using the provisional rite authorized by the 2012 General Convention. Same-sex marriage, however, is not legal in South Carolina. Episcopal News Service reported the story July 8, 2014.

Harold Lewis honored by Union of Black Episcopalians

The Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis was honored July 2, 2014, by the Union of Black Episcopalians at the organization’s 46th Anniversary Annual Meeting and Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Lewis, who received the Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper Honor Award, was one of four honorees. The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the Episcopal Church’s (and the Anglican Communion’s) first female bishop, was also honored on the 25th anniversary of her ordination. Additional information is here.

EYE14 concludes at Villanova

The 2014 Episcopal Youth Event was held July 9 through July 12, 2014, on the campus of Villanova University near Philadelphia. The theme of EYE14 was “Marked for Mission.” The event involved 786 youth from across The Episcopal Church, in addition to 263 adult leaders. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh sent youth directors Brent Hansen and Vicki O’Brien, Bishop Dorsey McConnell, and five teens (2 boys and 3 girls) to the event. A number of pictures of the Pittsburgh delegation can be found on the diocese’s Facebook page. Episcopal News Service’s coverage of the Episcopal Youth Event, which is held every three years, can be found here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

News for Week Ending 7/7/2014

KJS: No justification for distinguishing priest from bishop ordination

Presiding Bishop Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was interviewed by Church Times in anticipation of the Church of England’s General Synod that is expected to vote to allow women bishops in that church. According to the primate of The Episcopal Church, “There is really no theological justification for dividing access to ordination as a priest and ordination as a bishop. It was very unfortunate that the Church of England took that decision to divide them early on.” More surprising is this comment: “I think you’re more fortunate in the UK, in that you don't elect your bishops.” The interview can be read here.

The General Synod meets in York, England, from July 10 through July 15, 2-14.

Hobby Lobby fallout continues

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision—see Pittsburgh Update story here—there have been several important developments. Over the vigorous objections of the women justices, the court granted an injunction preventing conservative Wheaton College from being forced by the Affordable Care Act to provide contraceptive services to its female employees pending adjudication of its objections to the act. The significance of this development is in dispute and is discussed in an essay from The Washington Post. Also, immediately after the Hobby Lobby decision was announced, a number of conservative Christian leaders wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to allow for a religious exception in the yet-to-be issued presidential directive regarding nondiscrimination against LGBT persons by government contractors. (See story by PoliticusUSA.) It is unclear just how far-reaching the Hobby Lobby decision will be.

Mid-year report shows substantial support of church by dioceses

A report from N. Kurt Barnes, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of The Episcopal Church, shows that nearly all dioceses are supporting the church in 2014, though not necessarily at the 19% level requested by the General Convention. Of dioceses within the United States, 42 have committed to sending the full 19% of their income to the general church. There is a good deal of non-obvious differences in support provided by dioceses, however. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, support ranges from 21.4% by Central Pennsylvania to 4.8% by Pennsylvania. (Pittsburgh has committed to sending 11.1% of its income to the church, Bethlehem 5.9%, and Northwestern Pennsylvania 19%.) Springfield, a diocese that has exhibited a good deal of hostility toward the church, is contributing only 1.9%. Dallas, another conservative diocese, has sent no money to The Episcopal Church in recent years. It is contributing 0.7% in 2014, however, and intends to contribute 10% by 2022. Of the other dioceses that have experienced schisms, Fort Worth and South Carolina are committed to 19% contributions. San Joaquin, whose finances are strained, is contributing 3.9%. (Quincy, of course, has been united with Chicago, which is contributed 16.6%) Episcopal News Service covered this story here.

PB nominating committee describes process

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop issued a brief report July 2, 2014. In it, the committee described three brief essays it will offer in the coming weeks. The first essay is included in the press release from the committee and describes the process that will lead to the election of the next presiding bishop.

S.C. Episcopalians again loose round in court

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina was rebuffed on July 3, 2014, by the South Carolina Court of Appeals. The Episcopalians wanted to add four individuals, including Mark Lawrence, to the lawsuit brought against the Episcopalians by those who left the church and claimed real and personal property of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein denied a request by the Episcopalians for a court delay and ordered that trial begin July 8, 2014. Details are given in a press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

Scott Quinn is new interim dean at Cathedral

Without fanfare, the Rev Canon Scott Quinn, who serves as rector of Nativity, Crafton, has been installed as interim dean of Trinity Cathedral and has given up his position as canon to the ordinary. The Rev. Tim Hushion, Jr., who had been priest-in-charge at the cathedral, is now vicar. The changes appear in the recently released diocesan directory. Although the changes have not appeared on the cathedral’s Web site, a Facebook post welcomed the new interim dean July 6, 2014.

Bishop allows same-sex marriages in Pittsburgh churches

Bishop Dorsey McConnell issued a letter July 3, 2014, indicating that Pittsburgh clergy can perform same-sex weddings that will fulfill the requirements for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He has issued guidelines for such ceremonies and has published a letter from the chancellor setting out the rationale for the legality and canonicality of such ceremonies. Everything can be found here.