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, October 27, 2014

News for Week Ending 10/27/2014

Anglican churches doing what they can to deal with Ebola in West Africa

Two stories surfaced this week of Anglicans in West Africa helping their countrymen deal with the Ebola epidemic. NPR reported on the work of the Very Rev. Herman Browne in Monrovia, Liberia, who has preached about how to avoid Ebola and who was nearly infected himself.

In Sierra Leone, meanwhile, the Anglican church has provided land for the construction of an isolation unit. The request for the land was made by a German NGO. The building will be razed and the land returned to the church when the isolation unit is no longer needed. The story was reported by Awoko Newspaper.

Women bishops bill gains Royal Assent

To the surprise of no one, Queen Elizabeth II has given her Royal Assent to the legislation that will allow the Church of England to begin creating women bishops. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The final step in the approval process comes next month at the General Synod. Details can be found in a post by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes.

CoE bishop allowed to marry following divorce

It may not seem remarkable that a divorced bishop plans to remarry. The case of the Rt. Rev. Jonathan Baker, however, a bishop of the Church of England, is special. The Bishop of Fulham is also the chairman of Forward in Faith (UK), the Anglo-Catholic organization whose public position is contrary to Baker intends to do. Anglican Ink explains this odd situation in a October 26, 2014, article.

Canadian primate suggests a postponed Lambeth Conference

Following the normal schedule, a Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world would be held in 2018. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made news last month when she suggested that a 2018 conference was unlikely. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Earlier this month, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was less than forthcoming regarding the Lambeth Conference schedule and seemed to put the issue in the hands of the Primates. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Now, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has declared that it is “pretty obvious” that a 2018 conference will not be held. His comments came in an interview published by Anglican Journal October 23, 2014.

In his October Chairman’s Pastoral Letter, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, seemed to relish the apparent postponement “perhaps indefinitely” of the Lambeth Conference. He declared it a sign that “the old institutions of the Communion no longer command confidence.”

Former Connecticut Episcopal church sold to Muslim Center

Episcopal News Service reported October 23, 2014, that a closed Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Connecticut—the diocese styles itself as the Episcopal Church in Connecticut these days—has been sold to to the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center, Inc. (FVAMC). In a meeting of community leaders seeking a use for the shuttered former Christ Episcopal Church in Avon, it was learned that the local Muslim community needed a gathering place for its programs, including ecumenical efforts. The property was first leased to the Muslims a year ago and was sold on October 21, 2014. ENS quoted Bishop of Connecticut Ian Douglas: “I thank God that through the stewardship of our property in Avon we have come into relationship with our Muslim neighbors in the Farmington valley. Together we are learning about what it means to be people of faith working together for peace and understanding. It is a blessing to cooperate with the FVAMC in the development of their new home.”

Executive Council meets October 24–27

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council met in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, October 24–27, 2014. A summary of the resolutions passed by Executive Council can be found here. Opening remarks by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies are also available.

GTS situation still unsettled

On October 21, 2014, it appeared that arrangements had been made to reinstate the eight faculty members of the General Theological Seminary who had been dismissed by the seminary’s Board of Trustees on September 30, 2014. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Lead published a post that suggested that cooler heads had prevailed, and the so-called GTS 8 would soon be back to work. That optimism was apparently premature, however. An October 24 statement from the board made it sound as though agreement had been reached between board and faculty. In truth, however, negotiations were continuing, and, on October 27, it appeared that negotiations had stalled.  (See post on The Lead.)

New editor named for Episcopal Café

The future of the popular Episcopal Café collection of blogs is apparently secure. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Rev. Jon White was named editor to succeed Jim Naughton on October 23, 2014. White will assume his post on November 25. The announcement was made on The Lead, the flagship blog of the Café.

PEP to screen documentary on income inequality

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) announced October 27, 2014, that it will offer a free screening of the award-winning documentary on income inequality in America, Inequality for All. The showing will take place at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, at 7 PM on Friday, November 14, 2014. The Social Justice and Outreach Committee and the Commission on Race and Reconciliation of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh are co-sponsors. PEP’s press release and flyer for the event can be found here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

News for Week Ending 10/20/2014

Vatican gathering backpedals on gays, divorce

On October 18, 2014, Pope Francis’s Synod on the Family, a two-week-long gathering, stepped back from the earlier draft report that had been released to the public five days earlier. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) A conservative backlash led to weakening overtures to gays and divorced Catholics. Because actual vote tallies were disclosed, it has become obvious that there were significant disagreements among participants. A follow-up meeting will be held in a year. Detail can be read here.

Women bishops measure passes parliament

The Church of England is closer to consecrating women bishops. The measure to allow women bishops was approved by the House of Lords on October 14, 2014. Similar action was taken by the House of Commons on October 20. The measure now goes to the Queen for the Royal Assent. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has indicated that there will be a plan to fast-track women in order to put female bishops in place as soon as possible. Details can be found in posts on Thinking Anglicans here and here.

Beckwith accepted into ACNA College of Bishops

The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, was received by the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) at its October 10, 2014, meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, according to the ACNA Web site. Beckwith became an assisting bishop in the ACNA Great Lakes diocese in May. (See post on Robert S. Monday’s blog.) Seemingly, however, Beckwith is still considered an Episcopal church bishop, an anomaly  that needs to be corrected. (Beckwith is listed here among Episcopal clergy.)

General Seminary upheaval continues

As reported by Pittsburgh Update last week, the so-called GTS 8 met with members of the General Theological Seminary’s Board of Trustees October 16, 2014. The eight faculty members had been fired September 30 for asking the seminary’s Board of Trustees for a meeting to discuss grievances against the school’s dean and president, the Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle. The full board conducted an open meeting October 17, which resulted in a press release that asserts that
  1. Since there is insufficient evidence to fire Dunkle, the board reasserts its support for him.
  2. The Executive Committee will “hear requests of any of the eight former faculty members for reinstatement and to negotiate the terms of their provisional employment for the remainder of the academic year.”
  3. The board commits “to foster greater accountability, repentance, reconciliation, and healing” in light of the damage that has been done.
The GTS 8 issued a statement indicating that they need to consider their next move.

Public reaction to the decision of the board has been exceedingly negative, and the fund to support the fired faculty has raised more than $41,000 as of October 20. The Lead collected some of the early reactions to the board’s decision. Episcopal News Service has collected reaction from several bishops, some of whom are on the Board of Trustees and are having buyer’s remorse. One member of the board has resigned.

Interesting commentary on the GTS situation continues to appear, e.g., here, here, and here.

Pre-convention journal available, just in time for information sessions

At long last, the pre-convention journal is available from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site. It is, of course, background material for the information meetings being held October 21, 23, and 26, 2014. The schedule for the meetings, as well as links to the entire journal and parts thereof can be found here. The full journal can be downloaded here.

Changes coming for Grace Happens

In a recent but undated post on the Web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Ven. Jean Chess, who is now Director of Administration, has declared her attention to publish Grace Happens, the diocesan electronic newsletter, on an announced and regular schedule, with submission guidelines and fixed deadlines.

Monday, October 13, 2014

News for Week Ending 10/13/2014

CoE as family with disagreements not going well

The Church of England, which is embarking on church-wide conversations on sexuality, is off to a rocky start. In a press release, the conservative evangelical group Reform has advised members not to participate. Reform Council chairman Prebendary Rod Thomas is quoted as saying
The shared conversations must acknowledge that Scripture remains authoritative for the Church of England and that the outcome of the conversations is genuinely open-ended. Unless that is clarified and the recently announced new objective is withdrawn, we cannot see a way forward.
Reform is particularly upset by the recent statement made by the church’s College of Bishop, which declares that an objective of the shared conversations in the Church of England on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission—Reform’s “new objective”—is “to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another.” (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Reform, apparently, is not interested in polite disagreement and is insisting that the church must maintain “its present, biblical, understanding of marriage.”

On another front, Archbishop of York John Sentamu was accosted by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell near Southwell Minster last week. (See BBC coverage here.) It is widely believed that Sentamu was ultimately responsible for Jeremy Pemberton’s being blocked from a hospital chaplaincy job as a result of his recent marriage to his male partner. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

Andrew Brown has written a helpful commentary on both these developments for The Guardian.

Women bishops measure to go before Parliament

The Church of England is coming ever closer to providing for women to become bishops. Thinking Anglicans has noted that a measure to allow for this innovation in the church is to come before the House of Lords October 14, 2014. (Debate in the House of Commons has not yet been scheduled.) Both Houses of Parliament must pass the measure before it can receive the royal assent and become effective. The measure itself can be read here.

Preliminary Vatican report suggests new tone for Roman Catholic Church

A preliminary report has been released from the meeting of Roman Catholic bishops in the Vatican that was convened by Pope Francis to discuss abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and divorce. The report, which has come midway through the two-week meeting, acknowledges the gifts of gay Christians and, without calling for any change in church doctrine, seems to distance the church from viewing homosexuality as being “intrinsically disordered.” The report has been hailed as a “breakthrough” on one hand and condemned as “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history” on the other. The report, released October 13, 2014, is described in a story by The New York Times. A BBC story is accompanied by helpful commentary.

AAAS launches Science for Seminaries

The Washington Post reported October 8, 2014, that the American Association for the Advancement of Science has launched a program to promote science at seminaries. Grants amounting to $1.5 million have been distributed to a diverse group of seminaries in a program labeled Science for Seminaries. According to the Post,
The grants will cover faculty, events, science resources, guest speakers and other related costs. Seminaries could incorporate applicable issues of modern technology, methods of science or the history of science into courses seminary students already take, such as church history, ethics, pastoral counseling or systematic theology.
No Episcopal seminaries are involved, and it is not known if any applied for a AAAS grant.

Gay marriage comes to additional states

Fallout from the Supreme Court’s refusal to review same-sex marriage cases—see Pittsburgh Update story here—continues. NPR reports that licenses for same-sex marriages are now being issued in North Carolina and Alaska. Boise Weekly reports that, due to the action of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, marriage licenses in Idaho will be issued beginning October 15, 2014. The October 7 Ninth Circuit ruling is expected eventually to make same-sex marriage available in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. (See Freedom to Marry story here.)

Foley Beach invested as ACNA archbishop

The Rt. Rev. Foley Beach was invested as the new archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) before 1500 people in a suburban Atlanta church October 9, 2014. Ten Anglican primates from the Global South or their representatives were on hand for the service that saw Beach become the official successor to Robert W. Duncan. Perhaps because of the recent declaration by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby that ACNA is not in the Anglican Communion—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the primates did not declare otherwise, though their support of ACNA was clear. (The story was covered by Anglican Ink on October 10.) An Australian diocese was not so reticent. The Diocese of North West Australia of the Anglican Church of Australia passed a synod motion declaring ACNA to be in the Anglican Communion. (See Stand Firm story here.) Moreover, The Telegraph reported that Pope Francis sent a message to Beach through Gregory Venables, the Anglican bishop of Argentina, offering “prayers and support.”

GTS 8 remain jobless

The eight faculty members of the General Theological Seminary who were fired on September 30, 2014—see Pittsburgh Update story here—have been given little hope by the Board of Trustees that they might get their jobs back. They will, however, meet with members of the board on October 16. (See updates from the GTS 8 on their Web site here.) In other developments, the on-line fundraising for support of the fired faculty members is getting closer to its goal of $40,000. (As of the evening of October 13, more than $33,000 has been raised.) An on-line petition asking for reinstatement was posted October 13 on Change.org. Over 900 scholars have signed a statement of support for the GTS 8. Ekklesia has described this and other developments. Ekklesia has also published a personal note on the situation from Simon Barrow, which includes a link to an FAQ file on the GTS crisis.

Bruce Shipman interviewed

The Rev. Bruce Shipman, the Episcopal Yale University chaplain who was forced to resign after he wrote a letter to The New York Times that many considered antisemitic—see Pittsburgh Update story here—was interviewed recently by the on-line Jewish magazine Tablet. In it, Shipman describes the events that led to his departure from Yale. His story, if true, paints neither Yale nor the Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut in a very favorable light.

Diocesan Convention Coming Soon

The annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be held at Trinity Cathedral November 7 and 8, 2014. A pre-convention journal has not yet appeared, but the report of the Nominating Committee is posted on the diocesan Web site. Registrations are due by October 17. (Registration costs $30 this year.) Information sessions will be held October 21, 23, and 26. Complete information is here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

News for Week Ending 10/6/2014

Church of Kenya delays decision on women bishops

Bill Atwood, a bishop of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), reported September 29, 2014, on the recent meeting of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Kenya. His title, “Kenyan House of Bishops Embrace GAFCON, Reject Indaba” seems to apply to the consensus of the gathering, rather than to formal decisions taken. According to Atwood, however, the bishops did adopt a five-year moratorium on consecrating women bishops pending “a prayerful theological study and conversation with GAFCON partners to seek a theologically sound consensus.” Atwood’s report can be read here.

Archbishop of Canterbury gives interview to Church of Ireland Gazette

The Church of Ireland Gazette interviewed Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby October 3, 2014. Audio of the interview can be found here, on a page that also indexes the topics covered in the 21-minute interview. Anglican Ink ran a story on the interview, though its headline is over-dramatic. Welby made it clear that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is an ecumenical partner, not a member of the Anglican Communion. He explained that he was able to appoint ACNA priest Tory Baucum to be one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral by virtue of his having been ordained originally by The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) He remarked that, in his travels around the Communion, he learned that it is commonly believed that Communion membership is determined by communion with Canterbury. Welby was also asked about the Lambeth Conference, which would normally happen in 2018. (Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori suggested that the conference would almost assuredly be postponed—see Pittsburgh Update story here.) He answered that a decision about the conference would be made by the Anglican primates.

The Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson from the Diocese of Sydney, a diocese perpetually at odds with the Anglican Church of Australia, has taken exception to the remarks of Justin Welby in a post on Sydney Anglicans. Thompson argues that the Anglican Communion is determined by theology and, in the process, refers to the Presiding Bishop as “Ms.” and misspells her name.

Bishop Wilson book review on Thinking Anglicans

We noted last week that the Rt. Rev. Alan Wilson’s new book, More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-sex Marriage suggests that many Church of England bishops are gay. The main purpose of the book, however, is to promote the extension of the church’s understanding of marriage. Thinking Anglicans has published a review of the book, which can be read here.

Supreme Court declines to review gay marriage cases, extends marriage equality

In a move that surprised both friends and foes of marriage equality, the U.S. Supreme Court, on October 6, 2014, declined to review the seven cases before it that have overturned gay marriage bans. The effect is to allow stays to be lifted by several circuit courts. Rulings against bans will then be extended to other states in those circuits. The Chicago Tribune covered the story, and USA Today offers reactions to the court’s actions, as well as a helpful map. On the other hand, the failure of the high court to take up the marriage equality question leaves bans in place in much of the country and has failed to establish a constitutional right to marry.

For those desiring a more technical analysis, SCOTUSblog offers posts here, here, and here.

Bloy House, CDSP announce new partnership

Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, and Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), have announced a program that will allow Bloy House students to earn an M.Div. from CDSP, while taking most of their courses at Bloy House. According to its Web site, Bloy House conducts classes every other weekend on Friday evenings and Saturdays. Details of the new partnership are described here.

Volunteers being solicited for 2015 General Convention

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs issued a press release September 30, 2014, soliciting volunteers to work for the 2015 General Convention that takes place June 25–July 3, 2015, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Volunteers can sign up here. Note that one has to create an account at this site before learning what volunteer opportunities are available.

Nominations closed for next Presiding Bishop

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has announced that nominations for the 27th Presiding Bishop, who will be elected at the 2015 General Convention, are now closed. Potential candidates must submit materials to the nominating committee during the month of October. Details are contained in this press release.

TREC meeting available on-line

Video of the churchwide meeting sponsored by the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) held at Washington National Cathedral October 2, 2014, can be viewed on-line here. The video is just under 2½ hours long. (See Pittsburgh Update story on the meeting here.) Surprisingly, there has been relatively little commentary on the meeting, but interested readers find reactions on The Lead and Daily Episcopalian. A reflection by a deputy who attended the meeting in D.C. can be found here. On October 6, TREC issued a press release tanking people for participating in the meeting and asking them to pray for the continued work of the task force.

GTS crisis still unresolved

The crisis at General Theological Seminary continues. As reported here last week, a work stoppage by a majority of the faculty to protest the behavior of the president and dean led to the firing of the disaffected faculty on September 30, 2014. The Lead has published a number of posts about the situation at GTS, but the best source of information is probably the Facebook page GTS8 Safe Space. Unfortunately, one has to apply to join the conversation there, and it is difficult to follow the story. The Lead has published posts here, here, here, here, here, and here. It appears that some of the Board of Trustees will meet with the so-called GTS8 once an investigation into the behavior of the president and dean is completed and before the full board meets. Meanwhile, alumni have called for reconciliation and are raising money to support the fired faculty members.

The most recent update from the GTS8 suggests that the meeting scheduled for October 16 may simply be window dressing.