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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

News for Week Ending 9/22/2014

African theologians, scholars declare support for LGBT equality

MambaOnline reported September 12, 2014, that an August 28–31 gathering of African theologians and scholars has called for the protection of sexual minorities in Africa. The call to protect the human rights of sexual minorities came in the form of a statement dubbed the KwaZulu Natal Declaration.

Church in Wales issues Code of Practice for Women bishops

The Church in Wales, which approved women bishops last year—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has announced a Code of Practice that purports to allow women bishops to be fully bishops while making provision for those who cannot accept women bishops. The development is described on the Web site of the Church in Wales, where links are provided to the Code of Practice itself and to an explanation of it.

CoE College of Bishops begins ‘shared conversations’

The Church of England’s College of Bishops, in its meeting from September 15 to September 17, 2014, began the shared conversations on Sexuality, Scripture, and Mission, which are to continue throughout the church for the next two years. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to a press release, the conversations are not designed to reach consensus regarding contentious issues of human sexuality, but are to address how the gospel can be proclaimed in a changing culture. A second objective is “to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another.” Church Times covered this development in a September 18 story.

Archbishop of Canterbury admits to doubts

Archbishop Justin Welby has admitted that he sometimes doubts the existence of God. The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion declared that he never doubts the existence of Jesus, however. Details can be found in a story from The Guardian, which includes video. Andrew Brown has suggested that Welby’s admission isn’t as bad as it sounds.

AMiE as conservative escape plan?

We don’t often refer to speculative essays, rather than actual news, but a piece from Isabel Hardman in The Spectator provides an excuse for an exception. In “Conservative Anglicans’ emergency plan to escape women bishops,” Hardman suggests that the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE)—see Pittsburgh Update story here—could become a lifeboat for conservative Evangelicals who cannot accept a woman bishop. If so, the Church of England could experience the sort of schism that has plagued The Episcopal Church in recent years, a schism aided and abetted by ultraconservative foreign Anglican bishops.

Scottish bishops call for reconciliation

In response to the historic vote in Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church has called for reconciliation and healing. Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, spoke on behalf of the bishops, acknowledging the disappointment felt by many Scots and offering resources for reconciliation. The story was covered by Anglican Communion News Service September 19, 2014. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also issued a statement in response to the Scotland vote, which can be read here.

Church of England overpowers Vatican

A Church of England cricket team bested a team fielded by the Vatican September 19, 2014, at the Kent County Cricket Ground. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby presented a trophy to the winning cricketers. The match was in support of the Global Freedom Network, a joint Anglican–Roman Catholic effort to eliminate modern slavery and human trafficking. Additional details can be found here.

Episcopal Church bishops meet in Taiwan

Episcopal Church bishops are meeting in Taipei, Taiwan, September 17–23, 2014. The September 17 sermon of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the bishops’ meeting can be read here, and a description of the first day of the meeting is here. Jefferts Schori also preach on September 21, and her sermon is here. The meeting is being held in the Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan, and Episcopal News Service ran a story September 19 about challenges to the church in Asia. Daily accounts of the bishops’ activities are being posted on the ENS Web site. To date, summaries have been posted for September 17, 18, 19, 20–21, and 22. ENS has also published sermons delivered in Taiwan by the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, chaplain to the House of Bishops, and by Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce.

Bishop McConnell blogging from the Far East

Pittsburgh bishop Dorsey McConnell is attending the House of Bishops meeting in Taiwan. Our bishop has been a desultory blogger, but he seems intent on documenting his Far East travels on his blog, Iron City Bishop. His September 17, 2014, post begins with his arrival in Taiwan. You can find that post here and follow newer posts by clicking on the links below each post.

South Carolina Episcopalians accept returning priest through reconciliation process

The Rev. H. Dagnall Free, Jr., a priest who left The Episcopal Church when Mark Lawrence and much of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina split from the diocese, has been accepted back to the church by Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg. Bishop vonRosenberg formally removed Free, along with scores of other clergy, from The Episcopal Church in April 2013. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In allowing Free to return to the church, vonRosenberg created a reconciliation process that is potentially a model for re-integrating other clergy who left with Lawrence. Episcopal News Service offers details here.

SCLM seeks input for new publication

In response to comments received about Holy Women, Holy Men, the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has proposed a new publication under the title A Great Cloud of Witnesses. According to a story from the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs, the SCLM is attempting to respond to “the desire of General Convention for a revision of the calendar of the Church that reflects the lively experience of sainthood, especially on the level of the local community.” Comments on the project are being solicited either by e-mail or from the SCLM blog. The blog offers an extended post about the project here.

Marriage task force issues report

The Task Force on the Study of Marriage issued a report on its work September 22, 2014. The report does not reveal any conclusions of the task force, concentrating instead of the nature of its work. The report includes links to various resources related to the study, which was required by General Convention 2012 Resolution A050.

Monday, September 15, 2014

News for Week Ending 9/15/2014

Kearon elected bishop in Church of Ireland

The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion—technically, of the Anglican Consultative Council—has been elected Bishop of the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe in the Church of Ireland. Details can be found on the Anglican Communion News Service Web site here.

Pemberton takes legal action

As he vowed to do—see Pittsburgh Update story here—Canon Jeremy Pemberton filed an Equality Act claim in the Employment Tribunal September 8, 2014, against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. Pemberton was the first Church of England clergyman to marry his gay partner after such unions became legal in England, and sanctions against him led to a job offer being rescinded. Details and links to commentary have been provided by Thinking Anglicans.

CoE Shared Conversations nearing kickoff

The Church of England’s College of Bishops will be meeting September 15–17, 2014. The bishops are to shape the forthcoming Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission. Those conversations, which seem to have much in common with the sexuality dialogue conducted in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, have attracted a good deal of commentary. The LGBTI Anglican Coalition has expressed support for the project. Changing Attitude, however, has called for an immediate change in the bishops’ position regarding marriage for homosexual clergy. Thinking Anglicans has reported on additional commentary here and here.

Rutherford Institute amicus brief available; AME Church files amicus brief

In a recent Pittsburgh Update story, we mentioned that the Rutherford Institute had filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the appeal of Episcopalians from the decision of the Texas Supreme Court in the Fort Worth and Masterson cases. That brief has now been posted on-line by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. It can be found here.

On August 27, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Inc., also filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court. The AME brief refers to pending case in which members of an AME church have attempted to leave and take church property with them. The brief can be found here.

Western Massachusetts takes stand for renewal energy

The Trustees for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts passed a resolution August 27, 2014, that will result in divesting from fossil fuel investments and investing in renewal energy. Details can be read here.

Trinity conference to examine Christian faith and “same-sex attraction”

Trinity School for Ministry is sponsoring a conference October 10 and 11, 2014, titled “Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction.” (“Same-sex attraction” is a favorite conservative alternative to “homosexuality,” as it suggests a problem, rather than an orientation.) According to the TSM announcement:
How can our churches speak the Good News of Jesus Christ to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer neighbors? And how can their faith and discipleship be nurtured so that they, in turn, can use their gifts and exercise their ministries in our churches? “Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction” is a conference designed to explore these questions.

Monday, September 8, 2014

News for Week Ending 9/8/2014

Episcopal bishop is first woman bishop to preside at Welsh cathedral

According to Episcopal News Service, Gayle Harris, suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, became the first female Anglican bishop to preside at a Welsh cathedral August 31, 2014. The Church in Wales has voted to allow women bishops, but has postponed the effective date of the decision to allow time for the church prepare a Code of Practice.

Courts go in opposite directions on gay marriage front

After so many federal court decisions declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, such decisions seem to be becoming routing. On September 4, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled bans in Indiana and Wisconsin unconstitutional. Details can be found here.

The day before, a federal district judge, Martin L.C. Feldman, ruled that the state of Louisiana could indeed ban same-sex marriage. The decision will, no doubt be appealed to the 5th Circuit. The Washington Post covered the story here.

Same-sex blessings approved in two dioceses

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported September 3, 2014, that Bishop of Milwaukee Steven A. Miller has approved use of a blessing rite for same-sex couples that have already been married in a civil ceremony. The move comes after the courts struck down Milwaukee’s same-sex marriage ban, though the decision is stayed pending appeal. Miller’s August 29 letter to his diocese sets out his guidelines and a rite different from the one approved by the 2012 General Convention. Miller acknowledged the contribution to his thinking of Bishop Dorsey McConnell’s letter to the Pittsburgh diocese.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth reported August 29, 2014, that Bishop Rayford B. High, Jr., has also written a letter setting forth conditions for using what he calls “Covenant Blessings.”

TREC issues letter to church, elicits flood of comments

The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued a letter to the church suggesting changes to the way the church is governed. The letter has been met with rather non-specific praise and with vigorous denunciations. The letter appears on the TREC Web site and has attracted numerous comments on the Episcopal News Service site. The Lead published the letter under the title “TREC recommends a powerful Presiding Bishop, weakened Council and Convention, replacing much staff with contractors,” which communicates a sense of the content of the TREC letter. The Lead has also published a story summarizing and offering links to comments in the blogosphere. Lionel Deimel has also written about the letter and suggests specific essays that might be of interest to Pittsburgh Episcopalians.

TREC is holding a churchwide meeting on October 2, 2014. People can attend the meeting at Washington National Cathedral or participate via the World Wide Web. TREC meets for the final time immediately the October 2 meeting to work on its final report, which is due in November.

Yale chaplain resigns over letter to NY Times

The Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale, resigned his post September 4, 2014, following a firestorm of criticism occasioned by a letter he wrote to The New York Times. The letter asserted that the rising tide of violence against Jews in Europe has been encouraged by Israel’s dealings with Palestinians. Shipman wrote that “the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.” The Lead covered this story extensively here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

News for Week Ending 9/1/2014

Decision striking down bigamy law finalized

According to Religion News Service, Federal Judge Clark Waddoups has finalized his decision of last December striking down part of Utah’s bigamy statute as unconstitutional. The family in the TLC reality show Sister Wives challenged the statute after they were investigated following the debut of the show. Waddopups found that the law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. He upheld the provision that no one can be the beneficiary of more than one marriage license at a time. The decision is expected to be appealed.

Supreme Court urged to take up same-sex marriage cases

According to The Washington Post, winning plaintiffs in same-sex marriage cases in Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the same-sex marriage question in the coming term. The decisions from the three states have been stayed pending appeal. The plaintiffs argue that the present uncertainty about same-sex marriage should removed sooner rather than later and that same-sex marriage should be available everywhere in the country.

Okoh visits D.C., concurs with Anglican dissidents

David Virtue, in an essay titled “The State of the Anglican Communion: Midterm Report,” noted that Archbishop of Nigeria Nicholas Okoh visited Washington, D.C.,  the week of August 17, 2014—Virtue was vague about the exact dates—to meet with the new leader of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Foley Beach, and other dissident Anglican leaders. The visit seems to escaped the notice of all regular news outlets. The Virtue “report” occasional makes for interesting reading, but it is more useful for illuminating the thinking of the radical Anglican right than it is for providing actual facts.

More developments in Fort Worth case

There have been more developments in the appeal of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to the decision of the Texas Supreme Court. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The U.S. Supreme Court is to consider whether to accept the appeal in its September 29, 2014, conference. An amicus brief was filed July 21 by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and by the Rutherford Institute on August 27. The deadline for briefs in the case has been extended to September 26. Details can be found on the Supreme Court Web site here.

Diocese of Pittsburgh announces new resources for disaster preparedness

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has created a collection of Web pages offering resources related to disaster preparedness. According to a story on the diocese’s Web site, the new material is “designed to help parishes plan so they can recover from disasters, reach out to help their own parishioners and be a resource to other areas when a major disaster occurs.” The new Web pages can be found here.