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, November 24, 2014

News for Week Ending 11/24/2014

New anti-gay law proposed in Uganda

Although Uganda’s draconian anti-gay law was struck down for having been passed by Parliament without a quorum having been present—see Pittsburgh Update story here—new legislation to replace the popular measure is up for consideration. A bill has been introduced in Parliament that targets the “promotion” of homosexuality. Penalties are reduced in the new bill, but it also broadens defined offences. The Lead described the bill and summarizes comment on it.

Seizure of Bibles in Malaysia resolved

Last January, Islamic authorities in Malaysia seized 321 Bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia because the bibles used the word “Allah” to refer to God. (The seizure was reported January 2, 2014, by Reuters.) Such usage among Malaysia Christians is not new, but a Malaysian court had ruled several months earlier that the word could only be used by Muslims. The Malaysian Insider reported November 20, 2014, however, that the Bibles had been delivered to the Association of Churches of Sarawak, an arrangement devised by Sultan of Selangor Sharafuddin Idris Shah. The Bibles are only to be distributed in Sarawak, which was the destination intended by the Bible Society in the first place.

Male evengelical clergy are a block to CoE unity

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has a vision of a Church of England that is tolerant of divergent views, particularly on issues of sexuality. A recent survey commissioned by the Westminster Faith Debates, however, suggests that male evangelical clergy may be a roadblock to unity. The survey found that, although most clergy are willing to tolerate opposing views, this is not true of male evangelicals. (Women evangelicals are considerably more tolerant.) A majority of male evangelicals believe that there should be greater uniformity in the church or the church should divide over strongly held beliefs. Details are at Thinking Anglicans.

ACNA archbishop asks bishops and clergy not to sign Marriage Pledge—at least not now

Anglican Church in North America’s Archbishop Foley Beach has asked his bishops and clergy not to sign The Marriage Pledge pending a review of its legal, theological, and sociological ramifications. The Pledge is the brainchild of the Rev. Ephraim Radner and the Rev. Christopher Seitz of the Anglican Communion Institute, which has no official connection to the Anglican Communion. It asks clergy to not perform marriages as a representative of the state. Ironically, this has long been an idea of the Episcopal left, but the rationale of The Pledge is to avoid any endorsement of the civil “redefinition” of marriage. VirtueOnline reported this story November 22, 2014. Jim Naughton has provided useful background on the authors of The Pledge at The Lead.

Presiding Bishop issues statement on Obama immigration plan

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a statement November 21, 2014, in response to President Obama’s action on immigration. She wrote
Permanent and comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system through congressional action is still urgently needed, but the President’s action is a constructive step toward a system that honors the dignity and intrinsic value of every human being.
Her complete message can be found here.

16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence begin on November 25

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence begins November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and runs through December 10, 2014, Human Rights Day. This year, a video has been made of male Anglican leaders urging the elimination of violence against women. The video includes 10 men, including bishops from Canada, the U.S., Wales, Zimbabwe, and Brazil. ENS covered the Days of Activism last month. The video can be seen here.

Episcopal priest arrested in Ferguson

Mail Online reported November 20, 2014, that an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Rebecca Ragland, was arrested in Ferguson, Missouri, where she was trying to defuse tensions as residents awaited the decision of the grand jury considering whether to indict Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August. Ragland clearly believes she was treated badly by police. The Mail Online story includes numerous pictures.

Church creates Department of Public Engagement and Mission Communication

Episcopal Church Chief Operating Officer, Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, announced the creation of a new Department of Public Engagement and Mission Communication. The department will be headed by Alex Baumgarten, Episcopal Church Director of Government Relations/Justice and Advocacy Ministries. According to a press release, there will be four teams in the new department. The teams and their leaders are:
  1. Communication (Anne Rudig, Director of Communication)
  2. Public Affairs (Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer)
  3. Justice and Advocacy Ministries (Alex Baumgarten)
  4. Episcopal News Service (Alex Baumgarten)
Additional details are in the press release.

Minnesota, Bexley Seabury form partnership

On November 19, 2014, a partnership was announced between the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN) and Bexley Seabury Theological Seminary Federation that will bring the resources of Bexley Seabury to ECMN in the areas of Christian formation and leadership development. Details can be found here.

The new partnership appears part of a new emphasis on mission in Minnesota. (See, for example, the ENS story on new deans for Minnesota cathedrals.) It is not clear what the significance is of dioceses beginning to call themselves the Episcopal Church in Wherever, Minnesota and Connecticut have re-branded themselves voluntarily. South Carolina was forced to do so by a court.

Logistics Committee formed at GTS

The General Theological Seminary announced the first meeting of the Logistics Committee, a group representing stakeholders at the seminary. The committee’s job is to help with some of the mechanics of the reconciliation process being managed by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Details can be found in a press release from GTS.

Fort Lauderdale mayor caught in lies about feeding homeless

Fort Lauderdale’s attempt to discourage feeding of the homeless out of doors—see Pittsburgh Update story here—took an odd turn when a local television station investigated the mayor’s claim that there are multiple feeding stations available to the homeless every day. Reporters discovered that Mayor Jack Seiler’s claim is simply not true. The Lead covered this story, which includes video of the TV report.

Monday, November 17, 2014

News for Week Ending 11/17/2014

General Synod gives final approval for CoE women bishops

On November 17, 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England took the final step to allow women to become bishops. The event was announced in a church press release. The BBC noted that women likely to be appointed to the episcopate are being given special training to be prepared for the selection process. It is anticipated that the first female diocesan bishop will be appointed early next year. More on the vote and the long road to a mixed-gender episcopate can be found here.

Archbishop of Canterbury address reviews state of Communion

Archbishop of Canterbury delivered his presidential address to the meeting of the Church of England General Synod November 17, 2014. Little of the address related directly to the English church, excepting the comment that “nothing we say is heard only by us.” The full address can be read (or seen) here.

Welby’s address was essentially a report on the state of the Anglican Communion, a report he is in a particularly appropriate position to deliver, having now visited all the churches of the worldwide fellowship. Welby sees the Communion as flourishing, but extremely diverse and beset by conflict. The challenge is to find unity within the extraordinary diversity.

Welby indicated that the next meeting of the primates will be scheduled and its agenda set by the primates themselves. Whether and when there is to be another Lambeth Conference should, ideally, be decided by the Primates’ Meeting. He noted that the conference of Anglican bishops “is so expensive and so complex that we have to be sure that it is worthwhile.”

Texas senator introduces amendment to enshrine the ability to discriminate in state constitution

Texas state senator Donna Campbell (R) has proposed an amendment to the Texas constitution that would allow Texans to refuse to provide goods or services to anyone if they believe that to do so would violate their religious beliefs. Although enacting the amendment would largely harm sexual minorities, the wording is broad enough to justify discrimination against almost anyone for any reason. This story was reported November 12, 2014, by Raw Story.

Washington National Cathedral hosts Muslim prayer service

Washington National Cathedral hosted a Muslim prayer service November 14, 2014. According to The Washington Post, there were several hundred invited attendees to the first-ever event. The idea for the service grew out of the relationship developed between the cathedral’s director of liturgy, the Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell, and Muslim scholar and South Africa’s ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool, who worked together on a memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Rasool preached a sermon urging Christians and Muslims to fight together against Islamic extremism. Despite heavy security, the service was disrupted by a white Christian woman who shouted, “America was founded on Christian principles … Leave our church alone!” before being escorted out of the cathedral. The story of Christine Weick’s protest is told at WND.com

Presiding Bishop names delegates to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has named Episcopal Church delegates to the 2015 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting, which will be held March 9–20, 2015. The list of delegates, who will be led by the Rev. Joan Grimm Fraser of the Diocese of Long Island, can be found here. Among the delegates is Erin Morey, a parishioner of St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon. (Morey is miss-identified as “Erin Morey-Busch” in the Office of Public Affairs press release.)

Florida priest vows to fight for right to feed homeless

The Rev. Canon Mark H. Sims, an Episcopal priest who was arrested in Fort Lauderdale for violating a new ordnance while feeding homeless people, has vowed to fight the ordnance, which he calls unconstitutional. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) An already large homeless population in Florida swells as winter approaches and the homeless flee colder climes. Sims has hired two attorneys to help him maintain his ability to feed the homeless. Details can be read in a story from Episcopal News Service.

Cranksgiving supports Episcopal food pantry

Episcopal churches find many ways of supporting their charitable efforts. Cranksgiving, described as “part bike ride, part food drive, part scavenger hunt,” began in New York City in 1999 and is held there annually. The 2014 Cranksgiving in Hartford, Connecticut, will support the Grace Episcopal Church Food Bank. The event has a Facebook page, and information about it can be found on its registration page.

Incoming editor describes changes coming to Episcopal Café

The Rev. Jon M. White, who will shortly assume editorial duties at Episcopal Café from founder Jim Naughton, has written a description of the changes coming to the popular collection of Episcopal blogs. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) White also notes that the Café will be soliciting funds to keep it going. White’s remarks can be found here.

Advent resources available

The Episcopal Church is offering a variety of resources for Advent 2014. The resources, which include Advent calendars and devotions, are described here. The complete list of resources is here.

Convention voting posted

The results of the voting at the November 7 & 8, 2014, diocesan convention are now online. A list of winners of elections can be found here. All resolutions were adopted as presented.

Monday, November 10, 2014

News for Week Ending 11/10/2014

Results from survey of Episcopal churches released

The Office of Public Affairs of The Episcopal Church released a collection of documents November 7, 2014, resulting from a recent survey of Episcopal congregations. (See press release here and list of materials available here.) Much of the information involves size, attendance, and finances of churches. An attempt is made to identify characteristics of Episcopal churches that are correlated with growth. The documents make interesting, if largely depressing, reading.

GTS and fired faculty reach agreement allowing teachers to return

An agreement between the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary and the eight striking faculty members who were fired on September 29, 2014, was announced on November 5. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Seven of the GTS professors will return to the classroom; one of the eight has chosen to leave the seminary. The agreement—the official announcement is here—does not guarantee the remaining GTS professors employment beyond the current academic year, and their exact duties during the current term are unclear, given that replacements have been hired. This story was covered by The New York Times, Religion News Service, and elsewhere. An e-mail message sent to students by Dean and President Kurt Dunkle concerning the agreement has been posted by The Lead. Dunkle sent another e-mail message on November 10.

Integrity celebrating 40th anniversary

Integrity, the advocacy organization for sexual minorities in The Episcopal Church is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2014. The Lead noted the anniversary and offers a link to a brief history of the organization and a video interview with Vivian Taylor, the executive director of Integrity USA.

Clergy arrested while feeding the homeless

An Episcopal priest, another clergyman, and a 90-year-old advocate for the homeless were arrested in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, park on  Sunday, November 2, 2014, while providing food for homeless people. The Rev. Mark Sims, rector of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs; the Rev. Dwayne Black of The Sanctuary Church, a Presbyterian church in Fort Lauderdale; and Arnold P. Abbott president of the Maureen A. Abbott Love Thy Neighbor Fund, Inc., were charged with violating a recently passed ordnance restricting how food can be distributed in public. In particular, the food distribution event failed to provide an outdoor toilet, as required the ordnance. The citations could result in fines and jail time. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler has been quoted as saying, “Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle [of homelessness] on the street is not productive.” Black, on the other hand, said, “But let's just feed them and then deal with other issues.” Abbott was again arrested while feeding the homeless on November 6.

This story receive a good deal of attention in the press, including from Christian Today, Reuters, and The Washington Post.

Monday, November 3, 2014

News for Week Ending 11/3/2014

Anglicans, Oriental Orthodox agree on Christology statement

Theologians representing the Anglican Communion and the Oriental Orthodox Churches have reached agreement on a common statement of Christology, that is, on the nature of Jesus Christ. The 7-page statement is the culmination of work begun more than two decades ago, but the divide between the the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Western and Eastern Orthodox Churches traces its beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE. The statement will now be considered by “the responsible authorities” in the various churches for their considerations. Anglican Communion News Service reported this story on October 27, 2014.

Episcopal Church, African bishops declare friendship, co-operation

All too many stories in recent years have involved the hostility of African primates toward The Episcopal Church. In light of that, many will find it refreshing that an October 8–10, 2014, New York City meeting of bishops from The Episcopal Church and several African churches resulted in a communiqué expressing friendship and co-operation. The meeting was attended by the primates of Burundi, Central Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, and Tanzania, in addition to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and four other Episcopal Church bishops.

GTS conflict remains unresolved

The five-week-old conflict at the General Theological Seminary in New York City remains unresolved. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The biggest sticking point in the negotiations between the dismissed faculty (the GTS 8) and the seminary’s Board of Trustees continues to be the professors’ demand for an ombudsman, an issue about which they issued a clarification on October 28, 2014. The Living Church also reported on this aspect of the conflict on October 28 in a story that added new information about faculty complaints against dean and president Kurt Dunkle.

Fort Worth diocese rebuffed by Supreme Court

On November 3, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the Texas Supreme Court decision to send the Diocese of Fort Worth property litigation back to trial court to be re-litigated  on the basis of neutral principles of law. The Lead’s story contains a number of helpful links concerning this development. The most recent Pittsburgh Update stories about the long-running litigation can be found here and here.

Diocesan convention meets this weekend

The 149th annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be held Friday and Saturday, November 7 & 8, 2014, at Trinity Cathedral downtown. Information and relevant documents can be found on the diocesan Web site. If you are attending the convention, be sure to visit the Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh table.