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, January 26, 2015

News for Week Ending 1/26/2015

African Anglicans bicker over support for Episcopal Church

The October 2014 meeting of African primates and American bishops—see Pittsburgh Update story here—is causing a dispute among Anglican leaders in Africa. The meeting resulted in a communiqué expressing friendship and co-operation. According to Anglican Ink, that communiqué threatens to destroy the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA). GAFCON primates met in December in Nairobi and wrote to the CAPA chairman, the Archbishop of Burundi Bernard Ntahoturi, demanding that he repent of his endorsement of the communiqué or resign his position. The archbishop apparently has not responded to the GAFCON demand.

Justin Welby visits N.Y.C. for inequality conference

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was in New York City last week to participate in the Trinity Wall Street conference “Creating Common Good: A Practical Conference for Economic Equality.” His January 23, 2015, speech at the conference, “Is Inequality Sinful?” can be read here. The archbishop also preached that evening at Trinity Church. His homily is here.

Archbishop Welby was also interviewed by The New York Times. The interview was published January 23. The interview was titled “Inequality as a Religious Issue: A Conversation With the Archbishop of Canterbury,” but some questions strayed from that topic. The archbishop ducked such questions as “Do you think that the American Episcopal Church made a mistake in consenting to the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest who was elected bishop of New Hampshire?”

England consecrates first woman bishop

The Rev. Libby Lane became the first woman bishop in the Church of England January 26, 2015, more than 20 years after that church began ordaining women to the priesthood. She was made the Bishop of Stockport in a ceremony at York Minster. There were minor protests at the consecration. The British press gave this story extensive coverage.  See, for example, the stories from the Daily Mail, BBC, and the Church of England itself.

Philip North consecration sparks controversy

The consecration of Libby Lane (see story above) is intimately connected to the upcoming consecration of the Rev. Philip North as Bishop of Burnley. As part of the compromise that allowed for the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England, the church also committed to consecrating as bishop a priest committed to the Conservative Evangelical view on headship, that is, someone who believes that God’s will is to not have women in authority over men. North is such a priest, and a letter from Archbishop of York John Sentamu has increased the controversy attendant his consecration. Sentamu has asked bishops who have ordained women to exercise “gracious restraint at the laying-on of hands,” i.e., not do so. This is discussed in a January 20 Christian Today article and a January 22 Church Times article.

There has been much commentary about the North consecration. Two particularly interesting essays about it consider its theological and ecclesiastical implications, one from Bosco Peters in New Zealand and one from Kelvin Holdsworth in Scotland.

CoE diocese seeks online pastor

The Church of England’s Diocese of Lichfield is seeking an “online pastor.” This is a first for the Church of England. The goal is to find either a lay or ordained person to engage young people on line. (See job description here.) A Christian Today story about the personnel search notes that that the Anglican Church of Australia had a priest with a digital ministry more than a decade ago. A story about the efforts of the Evangelical Church of Finland to create on-line communities can be found here.

Marcus Borg dies

Marcus J. Borg, well known New Testament scholar whose work centered on the historical Jesus, died at age 72 on January 21, 2015. Borg was the author of 21 books and was a leader of the Jesus Seminar. His work with the Jesus Seminar made him unpopular among conservative Christians. Details of his life and death were reported by Episcopal News Service.

Virginia missionaries return from week in Cuba; Sewanee continues relationship with Cuban seminary

Thirteen missionaries from St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, returned to the U.S. January 17, 2015, following a week’s stay in Cuba, during which they worked with the Episcopal Church of Cuba (ECoC). Their main project was the development of a rural retreat that will provide a central meeting place for the ECoC’s scattered 44 churches. That retreat is named for Bishop Alexander Hugo Blankingship, a Virginia native who was the diocese’s bishop from 1939 until the Cuban Revolution. Details can be found here.

The School of Theology of the University of the South (Sewanee) is also involved in the Cuban church. A delegation left for Cuba on January 5 for a five-day visit to the Seminario Evángelico de Teología in Mantanzas, Cuba. Information about the trip and the ongoing relationship between the two seminaries can be read here.

VTS receives preaching grant; chapel workers win awards

Virginia Theological Seminary announced January 22, 2015, that it has received a $500,000 award from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund a program called “Deep Calls to Deep: A Program to Strengthen Episcopal Preaching.”

VTS also made news related to the rebuilding of Immanuel Chapel. The 1881 chapel was destroyed in an October 2010 fire. (See Episcopal News Service story here.) Washington Building Congress is awarding two Craftsmanship Awards related to the construction of Immanuel Chapel: one for plaster finishing and one for millwork. Details can be found in a VTS press release.

Parties return to federal court in South Carolina case

South Carolina Episcopalians reported January 20, 2015, that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina will return to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals January 28 to argue that Judge Weston Houck improperly failed to assert federal jurisdiction in the church’s claim against Mark Lawrence and his breakaway group regarding, among things, a claim of false advertising under the Lanham Act. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Lawyers for Lawrence will also participate in the oral arguments. South Carolina Episcopalians notes that a decision in the state litigation over diocesan property has still not been handed down.

Maryland congregation sues over seizure by Maryland diocese

The Baltimore Sun reported January 24, 2015, on a suit against the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland by former parishioners of a small suburban church that was closed two years ago by the diocese. The Church of the Ascension, near Martin State Airport, was locked and seized by the diocese after having been declared “imperiled.” The church was not in debt, but it had less than two dozen parishioners and could not support a full-time priest. The property dispute has nothing to do with theological matters, and the facts of the case are probably unique. Details can be found in the Baltimore Sun article.

Atlanta bishop makes plea to stay execution

Bishop of Atlanta Rob Wright sent a letter January 23, 2015, to to the chair and members of Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles asking them to spare the life of Warren Lee Hill, who is scheduled to be executed January 27. Hill, who is described as having an intellectual disability, will have his case considered by the Board of Pardons and Paroles on January 26. His final hope for a stay of his execution after that meeting will be in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. Wright’s action is described in a story on the diocesan Web site.

Episcopalians contribute to book against gun violence

A new book, Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence, will be released by Morehouse February 10, 2015. The book grew out of an Oklahoma City conference that attracted more than 300 Episcopalians in April 2014. Contributors include Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Anglican Communion News Service ran a story on the new book January 22, 2015.

Bishop McConnell writes pastoral letter on race

Bishop of Pittsburgh Dorsey McConnell wrote a letter to the diocese titled “The Long Moment” January 23, 2015. In it, he urges the people of the diocese to attend this year’s Absalom Jones Day on February 7, asks churches to initiate conversations on race with a church of another denomination, and challenges individuals to begin praying and talking with a stranger of a different race. “The Long Moment” is also the subject of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on January 24.

Monday, January 19, 2015

News for Week Ending 1/19/2015

South Dakota same-sex marriage ban struck down

AP reported January 12, 2015, that U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier sided with plaintiffs in striking down legislative and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in the state of South Dakota. The state plans to appeal the decision, which has been stayed pending appeal. More significantly, the U.S. Supreme Court has moved to take up the matter of same-sex marriage this term. (See next story.)

Supreme Court to consider gay marriage cases

The United States Supreme Court, following its partial rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has stood by as federal courts struck down same-sex marriage bans in state after state. Unlike appeals courts in other circuits, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has upheld state bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. This has required the high court to agree to consider appeals from cases in those states. Oral arguments will be held in April. The court will consider whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and whether a state must acknowledge a same-sex marriage performed in another state where such unions are legal. This story was covered by The Washington Post. SCOTSblog is posting a collection of essays in connection with legal questions related to same-sex marriage.

Bishop Cook makes bail

Maryland’s Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook who was recently jailed in connection with the traffic accident that resulted in the death of bicyclist Thomas Palermo—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has been released on bail and is resuming treatment for substance abuse. The $2.5 million bail was paid by a bondsman who received $35,000 from Mark H. Hansen and a promissory note for an additional $215,000. Hansen, described as a friend of Cook, first meet her when they were attending the General Theological Seminary. Hansen became an Episcopal priest and was a member of the “Connecticut Six,” priests who objected to the consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. He was eventually deposed for taking an unauthorized sabbatical.The Hartford Courant covered this story. Some background on Mark Hansen can be found here.

Wichita church targeted for ‘Chili for Choice’ event

The Wichita Eagle reported January 13, 2015, that a fund raiser for Planned Parenthood to be held at Wichita’s St. James Episcopal Church may draw protesters. The event, “Chili for Choice” is being held at the church for the fourth straight year and is supported by other area churches as well. “Chili for Choice” is scheduled for January 22, the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. The church has received threats from anti-abortion activists even though Planned Parenthood does not perform abortions in Wichita. The bigger protest may take place on the Sunday following the fund raiser.

Monday, January 12, 2015

News for Week Ending 1/12/2015

Religious leaders respond to Charlie Hebdo attack

Prominent Anglicans responded to the fatal attack on the Charlie Hebdo staff. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby commented, as did Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. (Whalon is headquartered in Paris.) Episcopal News Service ran a story on commentary by religious leaders, including Muslim leaders, here. Episcopal Café also published commentary on the terrorist attack.

Church releases “Report to the Church 2015”

On January 9, 2015, the church issued a 200-page Adobe Flash document titled “Report to the Church 2015.” Details about the document and a link to it can be found here. “Report” emphasizes the work done by the churchwide staff, consistently referred to as “the Missionary Society.” A new Web site also appeared this week, with the rather cumbersome name of “Mission Centered Episcopalians Networking for Mission.” This site, too, is attributed to “The Missionary Society of The Episcopal Church.” Details about the new site can be found here.

Executive Council meets in Maryland

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council met in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, January 9, 10, and 11, 2015. Opening remarks by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori can be read here, and opening remarks by House of Deputies President Gay Jennings are found here. Carole Pryor, of the Diocese of West Missouri, has replaced the resigned Vycke McEwen as Province VII representative on Executive Council. (See story here.) Episcopal News Service summarized the work of Executive Council here. Council also announced Constable Fund Grants. Perhaps of greatest interest to the church at large is the fact that Council approved a draft triennial budget that reduces the asking of dioceses in each on the next three years. Details can be found here.

Curry named board chair of Episcopal Relief & Development; lenten booklets available

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has named Bishop of North Carolina Michael Curry Chair of the Board of Directors of Episcopal Relief & Development. Curry succeeds Bishop Robert J. O’Neill, who has served since 2009. Details are found in this press release.

Episcopal Relief & Development has also announced that its 2015 Lenten Meditations are now available in English and Spanish. The annual booklets should be ordered by February 4 for delivery for Ash Wednesday. The booklet is also available on-line and in the form of daily e-mail messages. Details can be found in the Episcopal News Service story here.

Bishop Cook jailed

Maryland’s Suffragan Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook has been jailed on a long list of charges related to the December 27, 2014, accident in which the car she was driving hit and killed a bicyclist. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) It appears that Cook was driving while drunk and texting, causing her car to veer into the bicycle lane and strike 41-year-old Thomas Palermo. Cook is being held on $2.5 million bail. The latest details can be found in this story from The Baltimore Sun. Even before Cook was charged and arrested, disciplinary proceedings were begun against her. (See story here.)

Diocese of Maryland clergy met privately January 6, 2015, to discuss Bishop Cook’s situation. The diocese issued a statement after the meeting. Details were reported by Episcopal Café. The diocese also issued a statement after Bishop Cook was charged.

Churches claim JPMorgan mishandled trust funds

A January 8, 2015, Bloomberg story reports that two church organizations have sued JPMorgan Chase & Co. in separate suits claiming that the bank put its own financial interests above those of its clients by investing trust funds in financial instruments offered by the bank itself. Christ Church Cathedral of Indianapolis and the Sandscrest Foundation, which benefits the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, have each accused JPMorgan Chase of conflict of interest.

Registration deadline nears for “Creating Common Good”

This year’s conference sponsored by Trinity, Wall Street, will be held January 22–24, 2015. The theme this year is “Creating Common Good: A Practical Conference for Economic Equality.” St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon, will be acting as a satellite location for the conference, which will be delivered over the Internet. Registration for the full conference costs $50, but single-day registrations and scholarships are also available. The registration deadline is January 15. Details can be found on the diocesan Web site.

Monday, January 5, 2015

News for Week Ending 1/5/2015

Colin Coward: Role of Women could fracture GAFCON, ACNA

The Rev. Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude, writing January 5, 2015, on the Changing Attitude Web site, suggests that the role of women in the church is likely to become a serious impediment to unity within GAFCON and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Now that the Church of England allows for women bishops, it seems likely that the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) will soon follow suit. Clerical opinion within ACK is mixed, but he primate of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, who is also chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, supports the move in Kenya to allowing women bishops. Coward suggests that the role of women in the church could be divisive in GAFCON, particularly because the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) does not ordain women at all. Moreover, it is possible that ACNA might abandon the ordination of women, which could cause dissension within GAFCON and result in ordained women leaving ACNA.

Deadline looms for TEC budget comments

January 7, 2015, is the deadline for Episcopalians to submit comments on the preliminary draft Episcopal Church budget for the 2016–2018 triennium. The budget will be considered by Executive Council when it meets January 8–11. Executive Council will present the budget to the Program Budget and Finance Committee (PB&F), which will produce the budget that will be presented to the 2015 General Convention. A link to the budget and to a comment form is here.

Same-sex marriage beginning in Florida

As expected—see Pittsburgh Update story here—same-sex marriage is coming to Florida. The stay of the effect of Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel’s ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban was to expire at the end of January 5, 2015, but the judge lifted the ban at 11 AM, allowing her to perform two marriages that afternoon in Miami, as reported by the Miami Herald. According to the Tampa Bay Times, marriage licenses will be issued and marriages performed throughout the state beginning January 6, though not with the same enthusiasm everywhere.

EDS dean to step down

The General Theological Seminary (GTS) has lately been the Episcopal seminary most in the news. Episcopal Divinity School (EDS), of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has also seen conflicts between faculty and administration, however. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) It has now been announced that the school’s president and dean, the Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, will not seek renewal of her contract. Ragsdale explained her decision to leave not later than June 2015 on the EDS Web site, which also carries an appreciative statement from EDS’s Board of Trustees.

It is not clear what role faculty-administration conflicts played in Ragsdale’s decision. In any case, those conflicts seem to lack the personal issues that have been front and center at GTS. Useful background on the EDS conflict can be found in the June 26, 2014, story from The Living Church (see Pittsburgh Update story cited above), in a letter of resignation from consultants hired by the Board of Trustees, and in a letter from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Ongoing faculty concerns are expressed on the EDS Faculty News Facebook page.

Priest offers helpful material to understand TREC recommendations

The final report of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC)—see Pittsburgh Update story here—proposes a number of constitutional and canonical changes. What the report did not do, however, is show just how the proposals would change existing provisions. This lapse has been remedied by the Rev. Michael Hartney, who has provided copies of the provisions involved with proposed strike-outs and additions. He work has been published by Episcopal Café.

Bicycle accident spurs discussion

The December 27, 2014, accident in Baltimore in which a car driven by Suffragan Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook hit and killed 41-year-old bicyclist and father of two Thomas Palermo—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has received a good deal of comment. Details of the incident are still sketchy, but there has been much speculation, given the bishop’s 2010 guilty plea to DUI charges. Concerns have been raised about bicycle safety and about the vetting process by which Cook was selected as an episcopal candidate. Episcopal Café has summarized what little is known about the accident and provided an updated list of links relevant to this story. Much of the discussion has involved the relationship, if any, of forgiveness and accountability. Ironically, this was the subject of a sermon by Cook in which she used the example of a vehicular accident. The Baltimore Sun reported January 4, 2015, that Bishop of Maryland Eugene Taylor Sutton has called a meeting of clergy for Tuesday morning to “allow clergy time to process the tragic events of the past week that involved a colleague.”

St. Mark’s, Johnstown, to celebrate new ministry

At 3 PM on Sunday, January 11, 2015, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Johnston will celebrate the new ministry of the Rev. Nancy Lee Threadgill. Bishop McConnell will preside. Details are listed on the diocesan Web site.