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, August 25, 2014

News for Week Ending 8/25/2014

Statistics released on same-sex marriage, civil partnerships in England and Wales

Thinking Anglicans has published excerpts from and links to statistics on same-sex marriage and civil partnerships in England and Wales. (Recall that same-sex marriage has only been possible since March 29, 2014.) Without repeating those statistics here, it is fair to say that people are taking advantage of new legislation for same-sex couples in large numbers. Interested readers should consult the Thinking Anglicans post.

Ecumenical groups, bishop, and black youth air views on Ferguson shooting

The National Council of Churches issued a statement August 18, 2014, concerning the police killing of Michael Brown and the recent police killing of other black men. In the statement, NCC president and general secretary Jim Winkler is quoted as saying
The NCC remains committed to addressing the legacy of racism, to ending gun violence in our nation, to responding to the scourge of mass incarceration, and through our local congregations to providing Christ’s healing touch.
On August 21, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, wrote a letter to the Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis supporting local efforts “that have called for prayer, calm, peaceful protest, and open and honest dialogue on racism and issues of class.” Tveit called for a reform of police practices and expressed concern about “the militarization of the police.” A WCC press release describes the letter and contains links to related material.

The Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, wrote to his diocese about the Michael Brown shooting and subsequent events August 13. That letter can be read here.

On August 20, the Young Adults of the Union of Black Episcopalians issued a statement on the death of Michael Brown. The statement includes a long list of bad things that have happened—some of these may come as a surprise—and calls on the National Board and local chapters to pray for the repose of the soul of Michael Brown, reaffirm the Baptismal vow to “strive for justice and respect the dignity of every human being,” and take other actions.

Supreme Court stays Virginia same-sex marriage decision

On August 20, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of the order of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Supreme Court decision was not unexpected, as a similar stay was granted in the Utah same-sex marriage case. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) NPR’s Nina Totenberg discusses the reasoning behind the stay and possible further actions of the court here. Her story includes the brief order by the court.

Bishop of Virginia Shannon S. Johnston wrote to his diocese just before the court announced the stay. In his letter, he asserted that diversity of opinion is one of the strengths of The Episcopal Church.

Global South welcomes breakaway South Carolinians’ acceptance of oversight

On August 21, 2014, Mark Lawrence’s Diocese of South Carolina announced receipt of a letter from the Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis and the Most Rev. Ian Ernest, representing the Global South. Anis, Chairman of the Global South Steering Committee, and Ernst,  Hon. General Secretary of the Global South Primates Steering Committee, welcomed the diocese’s acceptance of pastoral oversight by the Global South Primatial Oversight Council. The Global South leaders welcomed the diocese “as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.”

The Post and Courier of Charleston dutifully covered this story, but the “news,” in this case, is less than it seems. According to an earlier story by The Post and Courier, oversight was offered explicitly by Global South primates prior to the diocese’s unanimous acceptance of such oversight at its March 15, 2014, convention. Anis even traveled to the diocese to promote the relationship. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Light at end of the tunnel for San Joaquin litigation may not be so bright

Pittsburgh Update reported May 19, 2014, that Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald S. Black issued a tentative and proposed settlement of decision that likely would be very close to the final judgment in the San Joaquin property litigation. In an August 18 letter to his diocese, however, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Eric Vawer Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin indicated that a final decision from Judge Black is expected soon, and that judgment, which will represent a significant victory for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, will be appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Menees also asked for contributions to the “legal defense fund.” The Modesto Bee, in an August 3 story, had suggested that Menees expected to appeal at least some elements of the final judgment from Judge Black.

Washington National Cathedral expands rental program

In an effort to increase the revenue available to Washington National Cathedral, the cathedral church of the presiding bishop has announced that areas of the cathedral will be available for rent by corporations and non-profit organizations, though not by individuals. The cathedral will draw up strict guidelines for rental of the facility and retains the right to reject any request. Rentals will not be allowed that interfere with church activities. The church has already begun charging a $10 admission to visitors, though not to worshipers. The Aquila Report, a conservative Web site, reported this story August 21, 2014.

Monday, August 18, 2014

News for Week Ending 8/18/2014

Female priest named to head South Africa theological college

Anglican Communion News Service reported August 12, 2014, that the Rev. Dr. Vicencia Kgabe has been named Rector of the College of the Transfiguration, thus becoming the first woman to hold such a post in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Transformation is described as the only provincial residential college of the Southern Africa church.

Court refuses to stay decision in Virginia same-sex marriage case

The Washington Post reported August 13, 2014, that the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to stay its decision invalidating Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. The Supreme Court has been asked to override the refusal to stay the opinion pending appeal. (See story here.)

Tennessee judge upholds same-sex marriage ban

Roane County Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr., ruled August 5, 2014, that Tennessee’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional. If upheld on appeal, this could force the Supreme Court to deal with the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans sooner than it might otherwise. SCOTUSblog covered this story. An article from The Washington Post explains how a 1972 case the Supreme Court refused to hear supports the argument that states are free to ban same-sex marriage.

Questionnaire available on 2015 UNCSW

The Episcopal Church is asking Episcopalians to respond to a questionnaire regarding the church’s participation in the 2015 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) meeting that will take place in New York City March 9-20, 2015. Details of the request can be found in this press release. The questionnaire itself, which must be completed before September 15, 2014, is here. The church is also seeking applicants to participate in the UNCSW. Details are here. Applications are also due by September 15.

Applications being accepted for Constable Fund grants

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs has announced that applications are being accepted for Constable Fund grants. These grants are given for mission initiative not provided for the triennial Episcopal Church budget. The application deadline is November 1, 2014. Note that an earlier Constable Fund grant of $30,000 was made to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh for its sexuality dialogue. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Bishop Seabury Church sold to Baptist congregation

Bishop Seabury Church of Groton, Connecticut, has been sold by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut to the congregation of Stedfast Baptist Church, which was seeking a larger church home. Bishop Seabury was the subject of litigation after its congregation and that of five other Connecticut churches left The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to an August 18, 2012, press release, proceeds from the sale will be used to support a new missionary effort in Connecticut.

Bishop asks prayers for St. Louis/Ferguson, Pittsburgh

Bishop Dorsey McConnell has written the diocese to communicate the prayer request from Bishop of Missouri George Wayne Smith for the city and county of St. Louis and for the town of Ferguson, Missouri, which has experienced strife following the police killing of unarmed black youth Michael Brown. Our bishop has also asked prayers for Pittsburgh, which has had its own racial conflict. Bishop McConnell’s letter can be found here.

Future of Episcopal Café uncertain

The collection of blogs known as Episcopal Café may shut down. Editor Jim Naughton raised that possibility in “A letter to our readers about the future of Episcopal Café” August 14, 2014. The Café has been a major part of the Anglican blogosphere for eight years. It began as a project of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington but is now independent. A staff of Episcopal volunteers contribute its content. Pittsburgh Update relies heavily on The Lead, arguably the flagship blog of the Café, for stories. The Naughton letter cites finances, changing technology, and personnel burnout as reasons for closing shop. News of The Episcopal Church and, to a lesser degree, the Anglican Communion, will become less readily available if this important resource is lost.

Monday, August 11, 2014

News for Week Ending 8/11/2014

Ebola fears inspire liturgy changes

According to Anglican Ink, Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in Nigeria are making changes to their services to guard against the spreading of the Ebola virus. Passing of the peace and drinking wine directly from a common cup have been banned. Ebola, which is often fatal, has recently made its appearance in Africa’s most populous country. The virus is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids.

Anglicans, Oriental Orthodox near agreement on nature of Jesus

Anglican Communion News Service reported August 8, 2014, that the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission is nearing agreement on a joint statement on Christology. The Commission, meeting in Lebanon, reviewed responses, which were overwhelmingly positive, to the “2002 Agreed Statement on Christology” dealing with the human and divine natures of Jesus. The Commission will meet again in Cairo October 13–17, 2014.

Uganda archbishop decries loss of anti-gay law

Religion News Service reported August 4, 2014, that Primate of the Church of Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, has expressed disappointment that Uganda’s constitutional court struck down on a technicality Uganda’s recently passed anti-gay law. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to RNS, Ntagali declared, “The ‘court of public opinion’ has clearly indicated its support for the Act, and we urge Parliament to consider voting again on the Bill with the proper quorum in place.”

Italy recognizes Church of England in Italy

According to the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, Italy has now officially recognized the 20 CoE churches in Italy as an official denomination. Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano signed a decree recognizing the CoE on July 17, 2014. Gaining official recognition took seven years.

Departed New Zealand congregation may not remain Anglican

The former vicar of West Hamilton Anglican Church in Dinsdale, New Zealand, who removed his congregation from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, has indicated that his new church may not even remain Anglican. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Rev. Michael Hewat has spoken to representatives of the GAFCON-sponsored Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, but has not—not yet, anyway—cast his and his congregation’s lot with that group. He advised, however, that his new church, West Hamilton Community Church, will not remain independent and could align with the Methodists or Baptists. The story was covered by Anglican Ink.

Michigan bishop accused of mistreating clergy, laypeople, congregations

According to an “exclusive report” from conservative journalist David Virtue, the Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, has been accused of abusing clergy, laypeople, and congregations. Charges come in the form of a 400-page document from an “Ad Hoc Committee of 23 people including three priests.” The authors want the bishop to embark on a 6-month sabbatical, so that he can undergo a psychological evaluation leading to a dissolution of the bond between bishop and diocese. The Virtue report is long and detailed, but it contains no links to external documentation, news reports, or the report from the committee itself. It can be read here.

Black Jesus inspires controversy

The Union of Black Episcopalians launched a petition drive August 4, 2014, urging Cartoon Network to drop the 30-minute series Black Jesus, even before it first aired on August 7. Based on a trailer, UBE declared that the show “denigrates Jesus, the faith AND [sic] our race.” The UBE “Call to Action” is here, and the petition itself, whose Web page incorporates the Black Jesus trailer, is here.

The Cartoon Network show, which is part of the network’s late-night Adult Swim offerings, is decidedly irreverent, profane, and played for laughs. Jesus—seemingly the real article—is a black man living in Compton, California, who exhibits attitudes that should be familiar to Christians. The sitcom comes from Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder.

Time reviewed the show August 7, asserting that it does not engage in “mockery of Jesus, but “mockery with Jesus.” Reviewer James Poniewozik points out that the Jesus of the Bible was criticized “for hanging out with sinners, partiers and prostitutes (not to mention tax collectors).” Christian viewers may well find Black Jesus thought-provoking. The show airs at 11 PM Thursdays.

Franklin Graham coming to Pittsburgh

Controversial evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, is the headliner for the Three Rivers Festival of Hope, which is being held in the Consol Energy Center August 15–17, 2014. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, supporters of the event view it as “something of a Super Bowl of spiritual life” in Pittsburgh. Although Graham’s visit may not interest many Episcopalians, it is receiving substantial support from Protestant churches, and, perhaps surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Calvary to host one-day retreat

Calvary Episcopal Church will host a free, one-day retreat, “Is your image of God too small?” on September 13, 2014. Leader for the event will be the Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre, rector of Holy Cross, Homewood, and former board member of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. Details can be read here.

Episcopalians invited to attend Pirates game

Sheldon Calvary Camp and the diocese’s Pittsburgh Youth Initiative are sponsoring an outing to PNC Park to see the Pittsburgh Pirates’s final home game Sunday, September 21, 2014. The Pirates will be playing the Milwaukee Brewers, who, as of this writing, remain in first place in the National League’s Central Division. Tickets are only $14 and may be ordered from the diocese. Details can be found on the diocesan Web site.

Annual PEP picnic set for next Monday

The annual picnic of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh will be held in Aspinwall on Monday, August 18, 2014. All are invited. Information, including a flyer and map, can be found here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

News for Week Ending 8/4/2014

Ugandan anti-gay law struck down on technicality

According to The Wall Street Journal, Uganda’s anti-gay measure signed into law in February—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has been struck down by the country’s constitutional court. The court ruled that the bill was passed in parliament without the necessary quorum present. The fate of the controversial law remains in doubt, however, as the attorney general may appeal to the Supreme Court, or the parliament may try to pass the popular legislation again.

Covenant rejected by Australian church

The Anglican Church of Australia, at its recent General Synod, has apparently rejected the Anglican Covenant. The page on the Anglican Communion Web site “An Anglican Covenant – Responses” contains this item: “The Anglican Church of Australia declined to adopt the Covenant but adopted a resolution affirming its commitment to the Anglican Communion. July 2014.” Details can be found on the blog of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

Hamilton vicar leads congregation out of New Zealand church

The Rev, Michael Hewat, vicar of West Hamilton Anglican Parish in Dinsdale effectively resigned from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia in a 10-page letter to Bishops Philip Richardson and Helen-Ann Hartley. According to Stuff.co.nz, “Hewat and his wife Kimberley Hewat forfeited their licences when they refused to adhere to General Synod, the governing body of the church in New Zealand/Aotearoa and Polynesia.” The presenting issue for Hewat was Motion 30, which was adopted by the General Synod in May. According to Anglican Taonga, Motion 30 “will create a pathway towards the blessing of same-gender relationships—while upholding the traditional doctrine of marriage.” Anglican Ink also covered this story and reproduces Hewat’s letter. Hewat and his congregation have formed a new church, West Hamilton Community Church, which is meeting in a funeral home.

Married gay priest vows to challenge denial of license

According to The Guardian, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first Church of England priest to marry a same-sex partner in defiance of rules laid down by church bishops, has had the job offer as a hospital chaplain withdrawn after Bishop Richard Inwood denied him a license. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Pemberton plans to challenge the decision that denied him employment. He noted that he has not been subjected to a formal disciplinary process and that many chaplains are gay or lesbian.

Alabama abortion clinic law struck down

AL.com reported that U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled August 4, 2014, that a year-old Alabama law requiring abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital is unconstitutional. In a 172-page opinion, Thompson wrote that the law would close three of the five abortion clinics in the state. The provision requiring admitting privileges had not yet gone into effect.

PB nominating committee issues third and final essay

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has issued its third and final essay on the office of Presiding Bishop. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update stories here and here.) The latest essay is titled “The Evolving Role and the Changing Selection Process of the Presiding Bishop” and can be found here.

Committee solicits responses to disability survey

The sub-committee on Full Inclusion of People with Developmental Disability has issued a survey on inclusion of people with developmental disability. Episcopalians are asked to complete the survey by August 17, 2014. A story about the survey is here; the survey itself is here.

Quincy case goes against Episcopal Church

On July 24, 2014, the Fourth District Appellate Court for the State of Illinois upheld the lower court decision awarding property of the former Episcopal Diocese of Quincy to the breakaway Anglican Diocese of Quincy. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to a story from Episcopal News Service, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, into which the remnant of the Quincy diocese was merged, is considering its next move.