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, February 23, 2015

News for Week Ending 2/23/2015

Anglicans worldwide express agreement on gender-based violence

In its Erasmus blog, The Economist, reported on a February 11, 2015, Webinar sponsored by Anglican Alliance on sexual and gender-based violence. The Economist story asserted that opposition to gender-based violence is something that both liberal and conservative Anglican churches can agree on. The Webinar was conducted in conjunction with a meeting in London on gender-based violence. Details can be found here.

CoE bishops issue letter on upcoming elections

On February 17, 2015, Church of England bishops issued what they described as a pastoral letter regarding elections scheduled for May. The letter, officially titled “Who is my Neighbour? A Letter from the House of Bishops to the People and Parishes of the Church of England for the General Election 2015,” is actually 56 pages long. While ostensibly nonpartisan, the document urges Christians to consider their vision for society and suggests that the major political parties have failed to articulate the sort of vision that most people would welcome. Not surprisingly, the advice of the bishops has proven controversial. Thinking Anglicans has covered both the letter and comment on it here, here, here, and here.

New Zealand same-sex blessing motion challenged

Anglican Ink reported February 20, 2015, that three clergymen of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have filed an official challenge to a motion passed at the church’s General Synod in May 14, 2014. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Motion 30, while affirming the churche’s traditional view of marriage, nonetheless allowed clergy “to recognise in public worship a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community.” The church’s Judicial Committee is expected to take up the challenge in its March 2 meeting.

Ugandan president calls for day to honor Anglican martyr

Anglican Communion News Service reported February 16, 2015, that Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni pledged to declare February 16 a national holiday to honor Janani Luwum, the second archbishop of the Church of Uganda. The pledge came at a rally honoring the martyred archbishop and after a call by Archbishop Stanley Ntagali for such a declaration. Luwum was critical of the policies of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He was accused of treason and killed, possibly by Amin himself.

Two Episcopal seminaries named as seminaries that change the world

For the second year, the Center for Faith and Service at Chicago’s McCormick Theological Seminary has released its list of Seminaries that Change the World. Two Episcopal seminaries, Virginia Theological Seminary and the University of the South’s School of Theology, made the Center’s list. According to the February 23, 2015, press release from the Center for Faith and Service, the list “represents a collection of institutions that came forward on their own initiative and who have demonstrated that they welcome idealistic and committed individuals who have demonstrated their engagement in the world or who seek to gain experience in justice work.” Additional information is here. The Living Church also covered release of the list.

Phase I earthquake repairs completed at Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral hosted a press conference February 18, 2015, to announce that phase I earthquake repairs have been completed on the cathedral. The 5.8 magnitude earthquake of August 23, 2011, did an estimated $32 million damage to the church. The phase I repairs were concentrated in the nave and on the flying buttresses around the apse. Details, including video of the press conference, can be found on the Washington National Cathedral Web site.

Central Gulf Coast passes prison resolution, elects new bishop

The Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast met in convention February 19–21, 2014. AL.com reported that the convention passed a resolution unanimously to end abuse in Alabama and Florida prisons. (The diocese spans the two states.) Specifically, the resolution urged officials in both states to “continue to take necessary actions to end all forms of abuse in prisons, and to uphold the fundamental dignity of every human being.” The 44th annual convention of the diocese also elected the diocese’s fourth bishop, the Rev. James Russell Kendrick, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Kendrick will succeed the retiring Bishop Philip M. Duncan. AL.com covered this story as well.

Fort Worth case returns to Tarrant County court

A 90-minute hearing was held in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, on February 20, 2015, in the Fort Worth property case. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Although the Episcopal diocese prevailed at the original trial, the Texas Supreme Court ordered that the case be reconsidered on a neutral-principles-of-law basis. According to a letter from Bishop Rayford B. High, Jr., Judge John P. Chupp asked both sides to submit proposed orders.

Episcopal Church admonished by Illinois judge

After The Episcopal Church and the successor to the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, lost the legal battle to prevent the departure of most of the diocese and its property—see Pittsburgh Update story here—the church made a claim on some of the funds the court had awarded to the Anglican Diocese of Quincy. On February 20, 2015, Judge Mark A. Drummond ordered all the funds to be distributed to the Anglican diocese and for The Episcopal Church to cease and desist from further legal action. The judge also required The Episcopal Church to pay the legal costs of the Anglican diocese resulting from the recent action. Anglican Ink covered the story and published Judge Drummond’s order.

South Carolina judge denies motion to reconsider her decision

According to Anglican Ink, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein, on February 22, 2015, denied the motion of Episcopal defendants to reconsider her decision in favor of the breakaway group headed by Mark Lawrence. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The denial was expected; the motion had to be filed in order to appeal Judge Goodstein’s decision to a higher court.

Bishop McConnell offers Lenten message

Bishop Dorsey McConnell has posted a Lenten message on the Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site. It is a meditation on sin and repentance, based on the story of Joseph and his brothers. You can read it here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

News for Week Ending 2/16/2015

Barbara Darling, Anglican pioneer, dies unexpectedly in Australia

The Rt. Rev. Barbara Darling, 67, died February 15, 2015, in Australia after suffering a stroke. She had been a pioneer in the campaign for a larger role for women in the Anglican Church of Australia. She began service in the church as a layperson, and, as opportunities opened up to her, she became a deacon, then a priest, and then a bishop. She became the Bishop of the Eastern Region of the Melbourne Diocese only days after the first woman bishop was consecrated in the Australian church. Details of her life in the church can be read in this appreciation from The Sydney Morning Herald.

New book of prayer available

A new book of prayer, Daily Prayer for All Seasons, is now available. It contains short prayer services suitable for personal or group use and is designed with modern, busy lives in mind. The book is described in a press release and can be downloaded here.

Navajo woman is latest priest in Navajoland

Episcopal News Service reported February 9, 2015, that the Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton was ordained a priest February 7 by Navajoland Bishop David Bailey. The ceremony included both English and Navajo elements. Eaton, a Navajo, or Diné, is only the fourth Navajo to become a priest.

Presiding Bishop issues Lenten message

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has released her 2015 Lenten message to the church. It is available here in both text and video. Other Lenten resources are listed here. Episcopal Relief and Development offers a booklet of Lenten meditations available as a PDF file here.

Bishop Cook’s ministry restricted by PB

As a result of the Title IV charges brought against Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook—see Pittsburgh Update story here—Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has restricted Cook’s ministry, saying, in part
You shall not exercise or engage in the ordained ministry of this Church in any respect, shall not participate in any functions of the House of Bishops, and shall not hold yourself out as an ordained person of this Church in good standing, until such time as all matters relating to you that are pending before a panel of the Disciplinary Board of Bishops shall have been finally resolved.
As noted in a story from Episcopal Café, the formal restriction appears to add a new charge against Cook, namely, having misrepresented her relationship with alcohol.

S.C. Episcopalians ask for reconsideration of decision

The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) have petitioned Judge Diane S. Goodstein to reconsider her decision awarding real and intellectual property to the breakaway group headed by former Episcopal bishop Mark Lawrence. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to the press release from ECSC, a motion for reconsideration “must be filed within 10 days of the order, and the judge must respond to it, before an appeal can be filed.” Judge Goodstein’s final order was issued February 3, 2015, and the 182-page motion for reconsideration was entered February 13.

South Carolina Episcopalians, writing on February 13, described the motion for reconsideration as a “blistering attack on [the] Goodstein ruling,” which alleges many factual and legal errors. Goodstein is not expected to rule favorably on the motion. 

New Haven church worships on Facebook due to winter weather

Episcopal Café pointed out that the Church of St. Paul and St. James in New Haven, Connecticut, decided to offer the February 15, 2015, service on Facebook. New Haven had implemented a travel ban because of the severe winter weather. Even the collection was held on-line. The New Haven Register also wrote about this unusual response to inclement weather.

Southwestern Pennsylvania has had severe winter weather, of course, but not nearly as severe as weather elsewhere. St. John’s Episcopal Church of Hingham, Massachusetts, has nearly been buried in snow. (See picture here.) Episcopal News Service surveyed the responses to winter weather by northeastern churches February 16.

Diocese of Atlanta joins with others to protest Georgia administration of death penalty

In an earlier story, we noted that Bishop of Atlanta Rob Wright lobbied against the execution of Warren Lee Hill, who reputedly had an IQ of 70. Unfortunately, Hill was executed anyway. On February 11, 2015, Georgians, including representatives of the Diocese of Atlanta, called for ending executions of the intellectually disabled. Whereas the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the intellectually disabled, the state of Georgia makes it particularly difficult to establish such a disability. Details can be found on the Diocese of Atlanta Web site.

Pittsburgh diocese much in the news

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and its bishop Dorsey McConnell, have been much in the news of late. On February 11, 2015, the five bishops of Episcopal dioceses in Pennsylvania called on the state legislature to pass legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBT persons in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Episcopal News Service, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Living Church picked up the story.

Episcopal News Service also ran a story February 10 about the Rev. Ann Staples and Coal Country Hangout in Northern Cambria. The story includes a brief video of Staples.

Details of East End Lenten Preaching Series announced

For the 14th year, East End Episcopal churches will be offering dinner and Eucharist on five weekday evenings during Lent. Priests from various churches preach at other East End churches. The schedule is published on the diocesan Web site.

Monday, February 9, 2015

News for Week Ending 2/9/2015

Same-sex marriage comes to Alabama accompanied by drama

On February 9, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request by the state of Alabama to stay an earlier federal court ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage in the state, a move widely seen as suggesting that the court will soon make same-sex marriage legal throughout the country. Marriage licenses began to be issued to same-sex couples the same day. The situation was complicated by Alabama’s Chief Justice, Roy Moore, who has ordered probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore has a history of defying federal rulings. Episcopal Café links to various stories about the Alabama situation. Additional stories can be found on the Web sites of The Washington Post and Politico.

Blue Book available (sort of)

The bible containing all the information and reports needed by deputies to this summer’s General Convention in Salt Lake City, the so-called “Blue Book,” is now available. Well, it is sort of available. The church has decided that it will not print copies of the Blue Book and will distribute it only in electronic form, making it available piecemeal as material becomes available. The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs explained this new procedure February 5, 2015. The developing Blue Book can be found here.

Task Force on the Study of Marriage issues report

One of the reports that has recently become available and is available as part of the Blue Book (see story above) is the final report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. That group is proposing two resolutions, one to revise the marriage canon and one to extend the work of the task force.There is no attempt to revise the prayer book marriage rite.

Communication commission wants to go out of business

Another report in the Blue Book (see story above) is that of the Standing Commission on Communication and Information Technology. The commission proposes a single resolution that would do away with the commission or direct another church body to continue its work. (One might have expected that “or” to be “and,” but that is how the resolution is phrased.) The commission argues that any recommendations it might have take too long to implement through General Convention given that the communications/IT world changes so fast.

South Carolina judge rules against S.C. Episcopalians

To hardly anyone’s surprise, Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the church property dispute brought by the breakaway group led by former Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence against Episcopalians choosing to remain in The Episcopal Church. The judge issued her ruling more than half a year after the trial. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina issued this press release in response to the February 4, 2015, ruling. Bishop Charles vonRosenburg wrote to his flock the same day emphasizing that the definitive legal determination will be at a higher level. There will be an appeal. The Mark Lawrence faction also issued a press release, of course, and Mark Lawrence wrote a pastoral letter. Judge Goodstein’s ruling can be found here. The Post and Courier covered the story and reviewed the state of church property litigation involving The Episcopal Church February 7.

Bishop Cook charged with 13 counts

Episcopal News Service reported that Maryland’s suffragan bishop Heather Cook was charged with 13 counts by a grand jury February 4, 2015, related to her December 27 fatal automobile accident. She has been advised to resign and is undergoing disciplinary proceedings in The Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, has written to deputies discussing the Cook situation and steps she is taking to avoid such problems in the future. Her letter can be found here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

News for Week Ending 2/2/2015

Philip North consecrated by CoE

The Rev. Philip North was consecrated Bishop of Burnley, a suffragan bishop position, February 2, 2015. As was previously announced, only three bishop, not including the Archbishop of York, participated in laying hands on North in a celebration held at York Minster. North’s consecration was covered by the BBC. The consecration is controversial because of North’s belief in the doctrine of male headship. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Photos of the event are here. Women and the Church (WATCH) issued a statement January 29 asking that, in light of the North consecration, the Five Principles that have allowed for the consecration of women bishops be carefully thought through. (Editorial note: “PEV” in the WATCH statement refers to Provincial Episcopal Visitors, otherwise known as Flying Bishops.)

Prominent CoE evangelical comes out

Christian Today reported February 2, 2015, that influential evangelical Jayne Ozanne, who has struggled with her sexuality for years, has publicly acknowledged that she is a lesbian. Ozanne will become the new director of Accepting Evangelicals. She is a founding member of the Archbishops’ Council and has had a successful charitable and business career. Although Ozanne once held typical evangelical views on homosexuality, she has come to accept her own sexuality and now believes that homosexuality is compatible with Christianity. According to Christian Today, she wants the church to end its infighting over sexuality and concentrate instead on mission and social justice.

LDS offers limited support for gay rights

CNN reported January 28, 2015, that leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) have declared their support for anti-discrimination laws for sexual minorities, as long as the “rights” of religious groups are also respected. (The LDS has published a transcript of their news conference.) This has generally been seen by the LGBT community as a step forward, though no change is being made in church doctrine. The Los Angeles Times has published helpful background articles on the Mormon announcement here and here. World, however, reported that the Mormon announcement angered many LGBT advocates and religious conservatives alike. Bishop Gene Robinson, writing for Huffington Post, argued that the LDS announcement makes no sense. In a January 30 essay, he wrote, “The Mormons’ ‘new’ stance merely proclaims that they now favor bills which would bar discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as long as those who discriminate against them are given protection for doing so.”

Georgia bishop suggests additional way to fund the church

Bishop of Georgia Scott Anson Benhase, in an essay on the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia Web site, observes that current funding sources that support the work of The Episcopal Church, its dioceses, and its congregations is increasingly inadequate. In “Resourcing God’s Mission in the 21st Century: Going Back to the Future,” Benhase suggests that the church might return to a funding source used in times past—profit-making enterprises.

Appeals court oral arguments available in S.C. case

As reported last week—see Pittsburgh Update story here—parties in the litigation in South Carolina were to go before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals January 28, 2015, to argue the claim by the Episcopal parties that the district court erred in not accepting the case brought by Episcopalian Bishop Charles vonRosenberg. Audio of that argument is now available on the Web here. (See additional information here concerning Charles vonRosenberg v. Mark Lawrence.) Plaintiff’s attorney argued that the state and federal cases are not parallel and that the district court relied on the wrong case law in making its decision. Defendant’s attorney argued that using either of the cases considered as precedent would have led to the same conclusion and that, moreover, the false advertising claim turns on the question of who is the proper bishop in South Carolina, a matter currently in dispute.

Baltimore Sun offers background on Maryland church property dispute

The Baltimore Sun published a follow-up story on the dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and the former congregation of the Church of the Ascension in Middle River, a small suburban community east of Baltimore, Maryland. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Sun piece reviews the legal context of church property disputes in the nation generally and in Maryland.

More briefs filed in Fort Worth case

Parties for both the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the breakaway group lead by former Episcopal bishop Jack Leo Iker have been filed with the 141st District Court of Tarrant County. Both groups are seeking summary judgment and return to court on February 20, 2015. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The filings from the Episcopal Diocese are here, and the filings from the breakaway diocese are here.

Bishop Heather Cook asked to resign

To no one’s surprise, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has sent a letter to Suffragan Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook January 26, 2015, calling for her to resign. The letter asserts that Cook can no longer function effectively as suffragan bishop. She has been charged with manslaughter and other violations in connection with a December 27 traffic accident that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Episcopal Café story of January 28 about the letter includes a link to the letter itself.

The Diocese of Maryland has established a page on its Web site related to the Cook affair. A recent addition to that page  is a timeline that suggests that there were more warning signs about Heather Cook’s behavior than were previously acknowledged.

Warren Hill executed by Georgia

Despite a plea by Bishop of Atlanta Robert C. Wright to spare the life of death row inmate Warren Lee Hill—see Pittsburgh Update story here—Georgia executed Hill January 27, 2015. A story on Episcopal Café noted that Hill suffered from intellectual disabilities, a diagnosis that Georgia, unlike other states, requires be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jim Naughton recognized

On January 31, 2015, Jim Naughton, founder and recently retired editor of Episcopal Café, was awarded the House of Deputies award for his groundbreaking work. Episcopal Café covered the story.

Absalom Jones Day celebration scheduled for Feb. 7

The annual Absalom Jones Day celebration will take place at Trinity Cathedral on Saturday, February 7, 2015. The program begins at 10 AM. The guest preacher will be the Rev. Kim Latice Coleman, the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia. Details can be found on the diocesan Web site.

PEP meeting focuses on prayer

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh will meet at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, on Monday, February 2, 2015. The event begins with a potluck supper, followed by a discussion titled “Prayer: Me? You? We?” led by Beth Stifel and Diane Shepard. More information for the event is found in this flyer.