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.

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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.