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, December 29, 2014

News for Week Ending 12/29/2014

Scottish bishops offer controversial guidance on same-sex marriage

On December 31, 2014, same-sex marriage will become legal in Scotland via the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) earlier this month issued a four-page “Guidance for Clergy and Lay Readers in the light of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.” The document points out that canons of the SEC have not been changed and, pending discussion and change, neither same-sex marriages nor registration of religious civil partnerships may be performed by SEC clergy or in SEC buildings. “Guidance” further states that clergy, lay readers, and those seeking ordination should not enter same-sex marriages. This provision is largely responsible for a protest by a substantial number of SEC clergy and lay readers, who sent a letter to the bishops expressing their dismay over the bishops’s missive.

Gurindji priest appointed assistant bishop for Adelaide

The Rev. Chris McLeod has been appointed an assistant bishop for the Diocese of Adelaide and will be consecrated in 2015. McLeod comes from the Gurindji people, one of the groups of indigenous people in Australia. According to a story from the diocese, McLeod “will be responsible for developing and overseeing ministry among Aboriginal people,” described as “an important step by the Anglican Church on the walk to reconciliation.” Details can be found on the Diocese of Adelaide Web site.

Md. suffragan on administrative leave after fatal traffic accident

Bishop Suffragan of  Maryland Heather Elizabeth Cook was placed on administrative leave by Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton after Cook’s car struck and killed a bicyclist December 27, 2014. Cook left the scene of the accident but returned 20 minutes later. As of this writing, no charges have been brought against Cook, but she faced drug and drinking and driving charges in 2010. The Episcopal Café story includes links to press accounts.

Connecticut moves diocesan headquarters to former ball bearing factory

The Episcopal Church in Connecticut has moved its offices from a century-old Hartford mansion to the top floor of a former ball bearing factory in Meriden, about 20 miles away. Bishop of Connecticut Ian Douglas described Meriden as a “broken down mill town.” The diocese has lost both people and churches in recent years, and the new headquarters has made good use of architectural materials salvaged from closed churches. The Hartford Courant described the move and the new diocesan offices.

Eastern Michigan diocese forgives debt of independent church

The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan has forgiven a $93,000 debt owed by the independent Christ Image Community Church in Saginaw. The debt represents a balloon payment due in 2015 on a $125,000 sale of the property of the closed Calvary Memorial Episcopal Church. Worshipers at Christ Image Community Church are largely African-American, a demographic not well served by the Episcopal Diocese. According to the MLive.com story about the debt forgiveness, Bishop of Eastern Michigan Todd Ousley “wants to see Saginaw flourish through a relationship with God, regardless of religious denomination.”

Episcopal Café reviews 2014

Episcopal Café has published a review of the major stories it covered in 2014. Many of these stories were also covered by Pittsburgh Update.

Monday, December 22, 2014

News for Week Ending 12/22/2014

Christian-Muslim summit held in Rome

A summit of Christian and Muslim leaders was held in Rome December 2–4, 2014. This was the third of four such meetings emphasizing dialogue and reconciliation. The program was launched by Washington National Cathedral in 2010. The theme of the recent meeting was “Christians and Muslims: Believers in Society.” Roman Catholic, Anglican/Episcopalian, Sunni, and Shi’a representatives participated. Details can be found on the Washington National Cathedral Web site.

First CoE female bishop chosen

The Church of England has chosen its first female bishop a month after final approval of changes that opened the episcopate to women. The Rev. Libby Lane, as 48-year-old mother of two will become the next Bishop of Stockport in Greater Manchester, a suffragan bishop post. Lane is a well respected priest but was a surprise pick as the first woman bishop. The Telegraph covered this story.

In a related move, a bill has been introduced in Parliament to allow women bishops to serve in the House of Lords sooner than would otherwise be possible. (Seniority largely determines which bishops become Lords Spiritual, which would ordinarily put women bishops at the end of the line.) Details and related links can be found in a post on Thinking Anglicans.

Green Report released

The Green Report, which maps out a program to develop clerical talent in the Church of England—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has been released earlier than expected. A press release about the report dated December 16, 2014, can be found here. The 34-page report itself is here. Thinking Anglicans has collected a good deal of commentary on the report.

Diocese of Peshawar cancels Christmas celebrations after school attack

The Bishop of Peshawar, Humphrey Peters, has announced that the usual Christmas celebrations have been cancelled in light of the December 15, 2014, Taliban attack on an army-run school that resulted in the death of 132 children and 9 adults. The church will instead emphasize visiting victims in hospitals and supporting the bereaved, whatever their religious affiliation. Anglican Communion News Service covered this story.

IASCUFO pressures Canadian Church to continue marriage discrimination

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO), the body that has become the chief cheerleader for the Anglican Covenant, has exhorted the Anglican Church of Canada to forgo changing the church’s marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage when the General Synod next meets in 2016. Such a change would “cause great distress for the Communion as a whole, and for its ecumenical relationships” according to the IASCUFO. The advice came as a response to an inquiry from the ACoC’s Commission on the Marriage Canon. Details on this story were reported by Anglican Journal.

Australian Anglican church proposes generous program for sex abuse victims

Australia is seeking a plan for the treatment of victims of sex abuse at the hands of churches. The Anglican Church of Australia has offered a generous plan that would provide medical and psychological help, remove abusers, offer financial compensation, and not preclude using the courts to seek restitution. Details can be read in a story from The Sydney Morning Herald.

U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations holds promise of expanded possibilities for Cuban church

Anglican Journal published a story December 17, 2014, suggesting that the resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba may open up unanticipated possibilities for the Episcopal Church of Cuba. Prior to the Cuban Revolution, Cuba was part of Province IX of The Episcopal Church, a relationship that quickly became untenable as relations between Cuba and the U.S. soured. As explained in the Anglican Journal story, the Cuban church separated from The Episcopal Church and is now overseen by the Metropolitan Council of Cuba, which consists of the primates of The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Province of the West Indies. Because Canada never broke relations with Cuba, the Cuban church has had particularly close ties to Canada. Anglican Journal also ran a story of a statement by the Episcopal Church of Cuba on the occasion of the resumption of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba.
the Metropolitan Council of Cuba
the Metropolitan Council of Cuba

Supreme Court refuses to stay Florida same-sex marriage decision

On December 19, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from the State of Florida to extend the stay of a federal district court order striking down the ban on same-sex marriage in the state. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The effect is to allow such marriages beginning January 6, 2015. The Miami Herald covered this story. Additional details can be found in a SCOTUSblog post.

More commentary on final TREC report

Last week, the final report of the Task Force on Reimagining The Episcopal Church had just been released, and not much response to the 73-page report had been published. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Episcopal Café has collected excerpts of and links to later commentary, which can be found here.

JNCPB issues another progress report

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) issued another progress report on its work December 16, 2014. Interviews with candidates have been conducted electronically, and the JNCPB will conduct in-person interviews with a selected group of bishops in the spring. The JNCPB will meet in January.

S.C. provisional bishop admonishes retired suffragan

Bishop William J. Skilton, retired suffragan bishop of the formerly unified Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has released correspondence between the provisional bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, Charles G. vonRosenberg, and himself, along with an introduction to the correspondence. Skilton, apparently, had undertaken the project of trying to reconcile the two sides in the diocesan schism. Bishop vonRosenberg, in a letter dated December 2, 2014, called such a role confusing and advised Bishop Skilton that he should neither function as a bishop in the diocese nor represent himself as speaking for the diocese in any official capacity. (Skilton perhaps saw his role as akin to that of Pittsburgh’s Trinity Cathedral during the period during which it attempted to be the cathedral for both sides of the diocesan schism.) Skilton replied to vonRosenberg on December 11, denying that he had attempted to represent the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and agreeing not to function sacramentally in the diocese. Oddly, although Skilton describes himself as a bishop of The Episcopal Church, his posting appears on the Web site of Mark Lawrence’s breakaway diocese.

Monday, December 15, 2014

News for Week Ending 12/15/2014

CoE set to implement talent development plan

According to Church Times, “A RADICAL[sic] overhaul of the Church of England’s leadership is under way.” What is being called the Green Report proposes the identification of high-potential clergy and development of a program that grooms them for high office in the Church of England. The report was produced by a group led by Prebendary the Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint and has the blessing of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The report is to be made public in January but is already attracting serious criticism. The same day Church Times published the story referenced above, it also published a highly negative evaluation of the proposed program by the Very Rev. Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. Church Times also published a skeptical editorial on the subject of the Green Report. Thinking Anglicans is collecting additional commentary on the report’s business-school approach to leadership development in the church.

TREC issues final report

The Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church issued its final report to the 2015 General Convention on December 15, 2014. (The press release about the report is here, and the 73-page report itself is here.) Among other things, TREC recommends making General Convention a unicameral legislature and electing the Presiding Bishop from the single house consisting of bishops, clergy, and laypeople. No doubt, commentary on the report will be forthcoming from various groups shortly.

Presiding Bishop offers Christmas message

On December 8, 2014, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori released her Christmas message, which can be found here.

EPF calls for prosecutions of those responsible for torture

In response to the so-called torture report from the U.S. Senate, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship has called “for the prosecution of those responsible on all levels.” The press release from EPF can be read here.

Bishop Bruno calls for coadjutor

Bishop of Los Angeles Jon Bruno, generally recognized as one of the more liberal Episcopal Church bishops, has called for the election of a bishop coadjtor to be elected at the 2016 diocesan convention. Bruno must retire in 2018, when he reaches the manditory retirement age of 72. Episcopal News Service covered this story, and a letter distributed by the bishop can be read here.

Charges against GTS dean dropped

Episcopal Café has published a letter from Bishop Mark Sisk, Bishop of New York and President of the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary. He explains in the letter that charges that were brought against Dean and President of GTS Kurt Dunkle have been dismissed. The nature of the charges and the reason for dismissal are not given. Sisk says, in part,
This brings to a close a difficult chapter in the history of the General Theological Seminary that has caused great distress to everyone who loves this Seminary, including Dean Dunkle and his family.
The truth of this statement is not totally obvious.

Monday, December 8, 2014

News for Week Ending 12/8/2014

World faith leaders pledge to end modern slavery

Religious leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, met in Rome December 3, 2014, to sign a declaration pledging to end forms of modern slavery by 2020. The declaration was signed by Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish leaders. It says, in part
Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking, and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.

We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored.
Additional details about the declaration can be found here.

Women’s conference in Uruguay focuses on gender-based violence

Episcopal News Service reported November 25, 2014, on a November 8–9 conference of primarily Brazilian and Uruguayan Anglican women that was held in Uruguay. The annual gathering was also attended by representatives of The Episcopal Church. The conference focused on violence against women and children that is common in Latin America.

Standing Committee meets in London

The Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee met in London from November 29 to December 2, 2014. According to a bulletin issued about the November 29 session, the meeting was moved up from April in order to discuss the next Secretary General. The current Secretary General, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Kearon, has been elected Bishop of the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe in the Church of Ireland. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) From The Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts and Bishop Ian Douglas attended. Anglican Communion News Service covered Day 1 and Days 2–4. ACNS also published another story about Day 4. The work of the Standing Committee, except for the matter of the Secretary General, was largely taken up with reports of various Anglican initiatives. Notably, Director for Unity, Faith and Order Alyson Barnett-Cowan indicated that the IASCUFO is still waiting to hear from churches about their acceptance (or not) of the Anglican Covenant. She expects the Covenant to be on the agenda of the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, ACC-16, in Lusaka, Zambia in 2016.

Welby sees possible Communion split

The Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee seems to be pursuing business as usual, but Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is warning—likely to the surprise of no one—that a split may be in the Communion’s future. This came out in a piece in The Times of London, which, unfortunately, is behind a pay wall. (VirtueOnline reproduced a related story from The Times.) The Independent has covered Welby’s remarks, however. The archbishop admitted to having profound disagreements with other communion churches, although he seems not to have named the churches or the disagreements. Welby did not characterize a split as likely and suggested, optimistically perhaps, that there could be “a sort of temporary separation.”

CoE agrees to appoint bishop with headship views

According to a Church of England press release of December 4, 2014, the Dioceses Commission agreed to accept a proposal from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to fill the see of Maidstone, vacant since 2009, with “a bishop who takes a conservative evangelical view on headship.” That is, a male bishop will be chosen who believes that clergy and bishops must be male. Such an appointment is part of the price women have had to pay to win permission for women to become bishops. Women and the Church (WATCH), which campaigned for women bishops, called the development “un-Anglican and unorthodox.” The Very Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland,  remarked that the result of the appointment will be that some bishops “will not be in full communion with other bishops within the same church.” His commentary on the innovation is here. Holdsworth had raised questions about the arrangement months before.

L.A. passes marriage equality resolution

On December 6, 2014, the diocesan convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles passed a resolution requiring a resolution to be presented to the 2015 General Convention urging “the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church to take any and all steps necessary to make the Rite of Holy Matrimony available to same-sex couples throughout The Episcopal Church immediately.” The Rev. Susan Russell wrote about the passage of this measure on her blog.

Same-sex marriage coming to Florida, maybe

Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled Florida’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage unconstitutional on August 21, 2014. The judge stayed his ruling until January 5, 2015, to give the state time to appeal. A request to extend the stay was rejected recently by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, paving the way for same-sex marriages to begin in the state early next month. It is unclear, however, whether same-sex marriages can proceed throughout the state, as explained in this story from the Miami Herald.

Episcopal leaders continue to comment on police killings

In the Pittsburgh Update post for December 1, we listed commentary from Episcopal leaders concerning the grand jury decision concerning police officer Darren Wilson. Alas, there are now additional related matters requiring comment.  Episcopal News Service has published recent reflections by Bishop R. William Franklin (Western New York), Bishop Nathan D. Baxter (Honorary National Chair of the Union of Black Episcopalians ), Bishop Andy Boyle (Texas), and Bishop Andrew M. L. Dietsche (New York).

South Carolina convention welcomes three new mission congregations

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) held its annual convention November 14 and 15, 2014. Three new mission congregations were welcomed at the convention. A story from Episcopal News Service describes the convention and the progress that Episcopalians have made since the departure of former bishop Mark Lawrence and many of the people of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The ENS story includes an inspiring video concerning one of the new missions, the Episcopal Church in Okatie. ESCS reported on the convention here.

Church in S.C., insurance company settle; judge awaits proposed orders

Episcopal News Service reported December 4, 2014, that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) and The Church Insurance Company of Vermont have reached a settlement in the federal suit brought by ECSC in response to the insurance company’s refusal to pay for ECSC to defend itself against the suit brought by schismatic bishop Mark Lawrence. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

The ENS story also notes that Judge Diane S. Goodstein, who presided over the July trial—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has asked ECSC and the breakaway group led by Mark Lawrence to submit proposed orders by December 10.

Papers filed in Fort Worth case

Following the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of the Texas Supreme Court to remand the Fort Worth property dispute to the trial court to be re-litigated on the basis of neutral principles of law—see Pittsburgh Update story here—both sides have now submitted motions for partial summary judgment. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth describes its motion and links to the motion here. The motion from the breakaway group led by former Episcopal bishop Jack Leo Iker is here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

News for Week Ending 12/1/2014

Same-sex marriage bans struck down in Mississippi, Arkansas

On November 26, 2014, federal district judges struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Mississippi and Arkansas. Orders in both cases where put on hold, giving defendants time to appeal. (SCOTUSblog reported on this and related cases.) According to an AP story, Mississippi’s attorney general quickly filed a notice of appeal. The Freedom to Marry Web site tracks cases involving same-sex marriage across the country and includes information about the Mississippi and Arkansas decisions.

Episcopal Church appeal rejected in Quincy case

On November 26, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from The Episcopal Church to the appellant court’s upholding a trial court decision concluding that the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy could leave the church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seems unlikely. Anglican Ink’s story on the court decision includes the court opinion.

Trinity, Wall Street, prevails in Wal-Mart Case

Fortune reported November 28, 2014, that a U.S. District court ruled that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., must allow a proposal from Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, to come before stockholders at the company’s 2015 annual meeting. The proposal would require the company to exercise tighter control over the sale of high-capacity guns and other potentially offensive merchandise. Wal-Mart views the proposal as interfering with its normal business operations. Trinity, Wall Street, filed suit after the Securities and Exchange Commission refused to require the company to put the proposal before stockholders. The court’s decision can be found here.

Church prepares for and reacts to Darren Wilson grand jury decision

The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri announced that many churches would be available for prayer and refuge once the grand jury decided whether Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson would be indicted for the killing of Michael Brown. Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, for example, offered this description of its preparations for the grand jury decision.

Episcopal News Service has collected statements from a number of Episcopal Church bishops on the failure of Darren Wilson to be indicted. You can read statements on the ENS Web site from: Bishop Mark Beckwith (Newark), Bishop Marc Andrus (California), Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Wayne Smith (Missouri), Bishop William Stokes (New Jersey), Bishop Lawrence Provenzano (Long Island), and Bishop Dean Wolfe (Kansas). Other resources have been provided by ENS here, and here

Episcopal Café returns, sort of

Epsicopal Café has resumed activity on the Web after its promised makeover. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The collection of related blogs is particularly notable for its flagship blog The Lead, which has been a major source of news of interest to Episcopalians. Unfortunately, at least for now, links to older stories—Pittsburgh Update frequently links to The Lead—are unavailable. It is to be hoped that this situation will be corrected, but no promises have been made to that effect. Some, but not all, stories from Episcopal Café can be retrieved from the Internet Archive.