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, September 29, 2014

News for Week Ending 9/29/2014

GAFCON chairman: struggle for biblical faithfulness has shifted to England

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, published his September pastoral letter September 23, 2014. In it, he asserts that “the Great Commission is at risk through the promotion and toleration of false teaching and immorality in the Anglican Communion.” He notes, ominously, that “the struggle for biblical faithfulness has shifted from North America to England,” where the GAFCON primates have authorized the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) “to work within and, where necessary, outside the structures of the Church of England as a missionary society.” (See also Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Welby supports military action by U.K., calls for more positive vision than that of ISIL

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby addressed the House of Lords September 26, 2014, as it considered military action against ISIL Welby acknowledged that there is justification for military action against ISIL for humanitarian reasons. There is, however, a global threat, of which ISIL is only an instance. Welby said, “We must demonstrate that there is a positive vision far greater and more compelling than the evil of ISIL and its global clones.” His speech can be read on the Archbishop of Canterbury Web site.

English bishop claims many colleagues likely gay

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, has charged that 1 in 10 of his fellow Church of England bishops may be gay. The claim comes in Wilson’s new book, More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-sex Marriage, which argues that the church should embrace same-sex marriage. Readers may be familiar with Wilson from his blog, Bishop Alan’s Blog. You can read about Wilson’s book in a piece from The Telegraph.

Gay couple told to divorce by Catholic priest

On September 26, 2014, The Lead reported on a Montana gay couple who recently married in Washington, though they had been partners for much longer. The priest at the Roman Catholic church they have attended for 11 years has barred the couple for any position in the parish and prevented them from receiving communion. Parishioners seem largely to be supportive of the couple.

Plea to end priestly celibacy comes from unusual source

Religion News Service reported September 25, 2014, that a group of 26 Italian women are calling for the end to mandatory priestly celibacy. What is surprising is that the women are either married to or in relationships with Roman Catholic priests. According to RNS, the women are upset by Pope Francis’s failure to respond to their letter setting out their plea for a change in church policy.

Dispute stops teaching at GTS; majority of faculty apparently fired

A majority of the regular faculty at The General Theological Seminary announced in an e-mail message to students that they “will not be teaching, attending meetings, or attending common worship” pending resolution of an unnamed “serious conflict.” The Lead published the letter September 26, 2014. It also published a subsequent letter from the same faculty members that provides some explanation of the “serious conflict.” The dispute is with the dean and president of GTS, the Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle, who has been in office just under a year. The dissident faculty members are apparently protesting the authoritarian style of Dunkle and are appealing to the Board of Trustees to help resolve the situation. Tensions have been building for some time. On September 27, Andrew Gerns posted an essay on Daily Episcopalian providing more details about the strife at the seminary. Dunkle wrote to the seminary community on September 28. (The Lead published the letter here.) His letter is largely about schedules—what classes will met and not, etc.—and only indirectly deals with the chaos at the school.

This is a rapidly developing story. Late in the day September 29, The Lead reported that the eight faculty members who had been seeking a meeting with the Board of Trustees have apparently been fired. The future of the seminary at this point is uncertain. Jennifer Reddall, a GTS alumna, has offered a report on an afternoon meeting at the seminary. A Board of Trustees member’s view has also been posted on The Lead.

Update: The Lead has posted another letter from President Dunkle. It is mostly about administrative matters, such as what classes are meeting when. Dunkle notes that the presiding bishop will be present for the Preaching in the Liturgy class (PR-1), will attend chapel, and will have time with students. It is unclear whether this is a long-planned visit or whether the presiding bishop is on campus to address the current crisis. In the afternoon on September 30, The Lead published a communication from the Board of Trustees. ENS has now posted a story about the GTS situation. Supporters of the now fired professors have created a Facebook page and Twitter account. A statement from the GTS 8 on Facebook provides historical context for the ongoing dispute. No such chronology has been forthcoming from the Board of Trustees. There is now a Web site for the GTS 8.

TREC churchwide meeting this Thursday

The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) is sponsoring a churchwide meeting October 2, 2014, at Washington National Cathedral and on the Web at 7:30 PM EDT. It is said that the purpose of the meeting is “to receive responses to the proposed recommendations to be brought forward to the 78th General Convention.” TREC has made it clear, however, that we have not seen their actual recommendations. The announcement from the church’s Office of Public Affairs states that there will be “short concise presentations followed by substantive question and comment periods.” Questions can come from the audience, from e-mail, and from Twitter. Participants are asked to register, though this is not necessary for Web participants. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story here.)

PB will not seek a second term

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced September 23, 2014, that, after a period of discernment, she has concluded that she should not serve another full nine-year term as presiding bishop. She said that she believes, however, that there is no prohibition against a presiding bishop serving two terms. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings issued a statement the same day in appreciation of the ministry of Jefferts Schori. Although her statement was widely taken to mean that she would not be a candidate for presiding bishop at next year’s General Convention, Mark Harris has pointed out that she did not actually say that.

Bishops reflect on Taiwan meeting; Lambeth Conference likely to be postponed

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs issued a press release at the end of the recent meeting of Episcopal bishops in Taiwan. In it, the impressions of various bishops are offered concerning the September 17–23, 2014, meeting of the House of Bishops. There is no real news here—bishops learned much of the church in the Far East and appreciated the hospitality shown them. There was news, however, in an Episcopal News Service story on the end of the Taiwan meeting. The presiding bishop was asked about the next Lambeth Conference, which would normally be held in 2018. She answered that the conference was unlikely to happen in 2018 and might not happen until 2020. According to the ENS story
No planning or fundraising has taken place for a 2018 meeting, she said. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby “has been very clear that he is not going to call a Lambeth [Conference] until he is reasonably certain that the vast majority of bishops would attend. It needs to be preceded by a primates meeting at which a vast majority of primates are present,” she said.

More papers filed in Texas cases

The breakaway Diocese of Fort Worth and the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo have each file briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing against a review of the Texas Supreme Court that threw out decisions of lower courts in favor of the Episcopalians. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Those lower court decisions were based on deference to church authorities in hierarchical churches—legal reasoning allowed by the Supreme Court since 1871. The Texas Supreme Court insisted that the cases should be decided on a neutral-principles-of-law basis—an alternative way of deciding church properties issues allowed by the U.S. high court since 1979. Details and the filings themselves can be found here. The Supreme Court may decide as early as October 31, 2014, whether to hear the Texas cases.

Bishop McConnell continues blogging

As we noted last week, Bishop McConnell has been blogging about his trip to Taiwan for the House of Bishops meeting. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) He has also written a good deal about his subsequent trip to the Philippines. He offers many human interest stories, but has nothing to say about the more interesting topics discussed by the bishops. You can find Bishop McConnell’s blog here.