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         

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

News for Week Ending 3/30/2015

Bishops speak out on environmental issues

Anglican Communion News Service reported March 30, 2015, that Anglican bishops from 17 provinces met in South Africa in February to address climate matters. They issued a declaration, “The World is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice.”

On March 24, The Episcopal Church held a form on the climate change crisis in North Hollywood, California. Episcopal News Service reported on the event, which is now available for viewing on the Web. The event was a kickoff for 30 Days of Action, which concludes on Earth Day, April 22. In her keynote address, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori attacked climate change deniers as sinful. Huffington Post reported on her address.

CAPA issues communiqué after meeting

The primates of CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) met in Cape Town, South Africa, March 9 and 10, 2015. The group issued a communiqué, which has been published by Anglican Ink. The African group seems less than united, except for their opposition to The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

CoE appoints first female diocesan bishop

The Church of England’s Diocese of Gloucester has announced that its next diocesan bishop will be the Ven. Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney in the Diocese of London. Treweek thus will become the first diocesan bishop in the Church of England. Details can be found on the Diocese of Gloucester Web site. According to a March 26, 2015, Church of England press release, the Lords Spiritual (Women) Act has received the Royal Assent, and Treweek will become the first woman bishop in the House of Lords.

The appointment of Treweek comes shortly after the second woman English bishop was appointed. The Rev. Canon Alison White will become Bishop of Hull, which is not a diocesan position. White, however, will become half of the first husband-and-wife episcopal team. Her husband, Bishop Frank White, is an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newcastle. The Telegraph covered this story March 25.

Indiana ‘religious freedom’ bill becomes law, ignites controversy

As expected, Republican Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law March 26, 2015. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Although there has been a firestorm of criticism of the new law—The Atlantic, among other media outlets,  has pointed out the uniquely objectionable features of the new law—the governor has defended it and refused to admit its potential for mischief. On March 31, the Indianapolis Star printed a front-page editorial urging repeal of the Indiana law. Bishop of Indianapolis Catherine Waynick has written a pastoral letter about the new law.

PB&F seeking budget comments

According to a March 23, 2015, press release, the church’s Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance is seeking comments on the proposed triennium budget that will be presented to the 2015 General Convention. Comments must be received by June 21, 2015. The budget and related information is available here.

Blue Book continues to expand

Reports for the 2015 General Convention continue to appear on-line. Episcopal Café has reported on the latest batch of reports.

Northern Indiana bishop to retire

Bishop Edward S. Little II, who has served the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana for 16 years, has announced that he will retire next year. Little has been one of the church’s more conservative bishops and is a member of the Communion Partners. Episcopal News Service covered this story March 27, 2015.

South Carolina Episcopalians appeal to Supreme Court

As expected, the Episcopalians left behind when Mark Lawrence and most of the Diocese of South Carolina split from The Episcopal Church have appealed the court decision that found in favor of the breakaway group. (See Pittsburgh Update story here. A request had to be made to reconsider the original decision before that decision could be appealed.) The Episcopalians have appealed directly to the South Carolina Supreme Court rather than going through the usual appellate court process. This is explained in a March 24, 2015, press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Perspective on the current litigation landscape is provided by South Carolina Episcopalians in a March 24 post.

Second departed priest returns to S.C. diocese

Episcopal News Service reported March 27, 2015, that a second priest who departed with Mark Lawrence has returned to The Episcopal Church. The Rev. H. Jeff Wallace has returned to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, following procedures set out by the diocese.

St. David’s to host breakaway conservative Presbyterians

St. David’s, Peters Township, a parish that joined Robert Duncan when the diocese split but whose congregation eventually abandoned the property to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, has agreed to provide temporary facilities for the congregation of Peters Creek Evangelical Presbyterian Church beginning May 3, 2015. Peters Creek was once Peters Creek United Presbyterian Church, but the congregation voted to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) for a more conservative Presbyterian denomination. Alter a long legal battle, the Washington Presbytery and the remnant congregation were granted the church property on appeal. (Earlier victories by the breakaway congregation were reported by Pittsburgh Update here and here.) The Almanac covered this story March 26.

Monday, March 23, 2015

News for Week Ending 3/23/2015

Institution created to study lead books

A collection of seemingly ancient books with lead pages were said to have been discovered in a cave in Jordan several years ago. The authenticity of the unusual volumes has been the subject of controversy, however. Some authorities believe that the books may shed light on Christianity’s early history. The Centre for the Study of the Jordanian Lead Books was launched March 17, 2015, to authenticate and study the books. Details can be found in a March 20 story from Church Times.

First female CoE bishop interviewed

The Rt. Rev. Libby Lane, the Church of England’s first female bishop was interviewed recently by The Guardian. The interview reveals something of Lane’s background and, because of her circumspection, suggests a reason she may have been chosen as the pioneer woman bishop. In the interview, which can be read here, Lane avoids expressing any significant personal opinion on same-sex marriage, which continues to be a controversial issue within the Church of England.

Indiana religious discrimination law headed for governor’s signature

Episcopal Café called attention to Indiana’s Senate Bill 101, a “religious freedom” bill that would protect business’s ability to discriminate on the basis of religious belief. When that post was written, the Republican-backed bill was headed to the Indiana House. On March 23, the House passed the controversial bill 63–31. The bill is expected to be signed by Indiana’s governor. Details can be found in a story from BuzzFeed News.

Presbyterians allow same-sex marriage

The Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S., has approved a change in its constitution that will define marriage as “between two people,” rather than “between a woman and a man.” The change required that a majority of presbyteries (judicatories) vote in favor of the change. That majority was achieved March 17, 2015. The change takes effect on June 21. The church had already given clergy permission to perform same-sex weddings in states where they are legal. Additional details can be found in the March 17 Washington Post story.

Presiding Bishop issues Easter message

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has released her message to the church for Easter 2015. Her essay can be found here.

Episcopal bishops complete retreat

The spring retreat for Episcopal Church bishops ended on March 17, 2015. The press release describing the final day of the retreat can be found here. (See Pittsburgh Update story here on the opening days of the meeting.) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached on the final day of the retreat, and her sermon can be found here. Episcopal Café has published a post on the retreat, which includes links to commentary by blogging bishops. Episcopal News Service also posted a summary of the meeting.

Executive Council meets in Salt Lake City

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council conducted its last meeting before the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 19–21, 2015. The opening remarks from the President of the House of Deputies and Presiding Bishop can be found here and here, respectively.The sermon preached by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on March 21 can be read here. Episcopal News Service covered the Executive Council meeting here and here.

Church Archives produces anti-racism report

The Archives of The Episcopal Church has produced a report for the Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism on the response of the church to the problem of racism. The eight-page report, “The Church’s Contemporary Response to Racism,” contains an extensive collection of links to General Convention and Executive Council resolutions going back to 1979. The press release about the report is here, and the report itself is here.

Blue Book contents continues to grow

The so-called Blue Book, the collection of background material prepared for the upcoming General Convention, continues to grow. (See most recent Pittsburgh Update story on the Blue Book here.) Episcopal Café has summarized the newly included reports from the Joint Standing Committee on Nominations  and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM). The latter report is not yet complete, with additional material to be made available in May. Most notable in the SCLM report is the proposal of four marriage-related liturgies. According to Claiming the Blessing, adoption of the SCLM proposals “would end the defacto [sic] sacramental apartheid of ‘separate but unequal’ liturgies for same-sex couples/marriages in the Episcopal Church.”

Breakaway S.C. diocese to allow only opposite-sex marriages

The above headline should come as no surprise to anyone. Mark Lawrence’s breakaway South Carolina diocese went through the trouble of passing a resolution at its March 13–14, 2015, convention, however, asserting that “God's good intention for us is that sexual intimacy is to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other.” Resolution R-4 also says that member churches will not host same-sex ceremonies. The Christian Post reported this story and links to the resolutions presented at the convention.

Monday, March 16, 2015

News for Week Ending 3/16/2015

Final approval given to bill to allow women to enter House of Lords soon

The Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill passed its final hurdle in the House of Lords March 12, 2015. The bill provides for women bishops to take seats in the British House of Lords sooner than they would have under normal circumstances, since women bishops will have little seniority for some time. Details are explained in a post on Thinking Anglicans.

Delegates from across Communion participating in U.N. Conference on the Status of Women

The 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is meeting in New York City March 9–20. Delegates from across the Anglican Communion will be participating. For the first time, The Episcopal Church will be sending its own delegation to the commission meeting, including a representative from the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Details can be found in this press release from The Episcopal Church and a story from Anglican Communion News Service.

Episcopal Church of Cuba votes to return to The Episcopal Church

Anglican Journal reported March 16, 2015, that the Episcopal Church of Cuba Synod, in a close vote, decided to return to its former relationship with The Episcopal Church. Affiliation with The Episcopal Church became unworkable after the Cuban Revolution, and the Metropolitan Council of Cuba was developed to provide oversight of the Cuban church. The thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations is again making affiliation with The Episcopal Church viable.

Episcopal Urban Caucus meets in Connecticut

The Episcopal Urban Caucus met in Meriden, Connecticut, February 25–28, 2015, a location chosen because of the Sandy Hook tragedy. The Caucus had a particular focus on gun violence, but also discussed other issues, such as income inequality. Episcopal News Service reported on the annual meeting.

Iker tries to strong-arm parish

As Pittsburgh Update reported last week, the new trial in the Fort Worth case granted partial summary judgment to the breakaway faction led by Jack Leo Iker. The court’s action did not apply to All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, however. According to a story on the Web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, Iker wrote a letter to All Saints’ March 6 announcing a meeting at the church March 26 and asserting that a Canon 32 process would be used to resolve differences between the parish and the breakaway diocese. In response, Tom Leatherbury, attorney for the Episcopal Parties, wrote to David Weaver, attorney to the Iker faction, on March 9 indicating that Iker had no authority to initiate a Canon 32 process, that the parties had agreed to mediation with a neutral mediator—Canon 32 gives Iker extraordinary power over the final result—and that no meeting would take place on March 26. Additional details can be read in the letter reproduced in the aforementioned story.

Direction of Lawrence’s S.C. diocese uncertain

South Carolina Episcopalians posted two reports/commentaries March 13, 2015, on the convention of Mark Lawrence’s breakaway South Carolina diocese. In a convention workshop, Mark Lawrence and his longtime Canon Theologian, Kendall Harmon, hinted that the Lawrence group might become an independent church and accept parishes into the fold from outside South Carolina.

San Joaquin appeal to proceed

The breakaway Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin is appealing its apparent loss in the litigation with the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In a February 23, 2015, letter, Anglican Bishop Eric Vawter Menees noted that an opening brief in the diocese’s appeal to the Fifth District Court of Appeal will be filed April 2. The Episcopal diocese, meanwhile, is trying to move ahead with reclaiming its property, and a hearing is to be held at the trial court April 7. Menees expressed hope for the cause of the Anglican diocese, given the results in the Quincy and South Carolina cases, as well as a possible positive result in Fort Worth.

Another woman bishop elected in Episcopal Church

On March 14, 2015, the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania elected the Rev. Canon Audrey Cady Scanlan as its 11th bishop. Episcopal News Service covered this story March 15. Scanlan was elected on the second ballot from a field of three candidates, two of whom were male.

Integrity scales back

Integrity USA, the group advocating for LGBT people within The Episcopal Church, announced March 15, 2015, on its blog, that it has dismissed its two full-time employees as it re-evaluates its priorities. The blog post on Walking with Integrity emphasizes that its goals for LGBT people have not yet been met. The post notes that “much of the discrimination against LGBT people has shifted.”

Bishops meet in spring retreat

Bishops of The Episcopal Church are meeting in a retreat held at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, March 13–17, 2015. The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs is issuing daily press releases on the retreat. Press releases for the first four days of the retreat can be found here, here, here, and here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

News for Week Ending 3/9/2015

‘Traveling pastor’ to U2 dies

The Rev. Jack Heaslip, an Anglican priest and “traveling pastor” to Bono and U2 on the band’s tours, died in his home in Dublin on the weekend of February 21, 2015, a victim of motor neuron disease according to ChurchLeaders.comHerald.ie reported that his funeral in Howth, a suburb of Dublin, was attended by U2.

Gay Jennings among submitters of gay marriage briefs

USA Today reported March 6, 2015, on the flood of amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in opposition to state bans on same-sex marriage. (Such briefs were due by March 6. Amicus briefs in support of state bans are due by April 3.) The Rev. Gay Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, asserted in a brief that no religion should restrict people’s rights and that the issue at hand is about civil, not religious marriage. USA Today also reported that one brief supporting same-sex marriage was “signed by 303 Republican, conservative, libertarian and center-right political officials, past and present”:
Those signing included Republican industrialist and activist David Koch, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and others.

Rachel Held Evans defends move to Episcopal Church

Rachel Held Evans, who is perhaps best known for her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, is the subject of a March 9, 2015, interview published by Religion News Service. In the interview, Evans defends her leaving Evangelicalism for The Episcopal Church. She asserts that millennials are not leaving the church because they are not being sufficiently entertained. Instead, the church needs to do “the stuff the church has been doing for the last 2,000 years.” Evans also defends the orthodoxy of The Episcopal Church in the interview.

New survey results concerning Episcopal congregations available

Episcopal Café reported on the availability of a new report from the church titled “New Facts on Episcopal Church Growth and Decline.” The report is based on 2013 parochial reports and a 2014 survey. It is an update of the 2005 “Facts on Episcopal Church Growth.” The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release about the new report is here.

New Blue Book reports available

As noted in a previous story, background material for the 2015 General Convention, which is collectively known as the Blue Book, is being accumulated piecemeal. Two new reports are now available, one from Executive Council and one from the Committee on the State of the Church. The reports are described in a story from Episcopal Café, which contains links to the new material.

Rio Grande a changed diocese

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori  visited the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande this past weekend and preached at St. John’s Cathedral, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the diocese and The Episcopal Church as a whole are much less contentious as a result of Jefferts Schori’s tenure. Read details in the Albuquerque Journal story.

Episcopalians lose a round in Fort Worth

Episcopal Café reported that the Episcopal parties to the Fort Worth property dispute were handed a setback March 2, 2015, when John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, granted partial summary judgment to the breakaway group led by Jack Leo Iker. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) It is expected that the Episcopal plaintiffs will appeal. Statements were forthcoming from the leaders of the Episcopal and breakaway dioceses.

Calvary Church to host data security and recycling event

Calvary Episcopal Church, 315 Shady Avenue in Pittsburgh, will host a data security and electronics recycling event Saturday, March 14, 2015, from 9 AM to 1 PM. Electronic devices can be dropped off for recycling, and, for a fee, hard drives can be destroyed. Details are given in a Calvary press release.

Monday, March 2, 2015

News for Week Ending 3/2/2015

GAFCON leader criticizes Welby, Episcopal Church

In his Lent pastoral letter, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council, uses a book review to attack Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and The Episcopal Church. The subject of the review, written by Martin Davie, is the book Living Reconciliation, which contains a foreword by Welby and has been promoted in an Anglican Communion News Service story. Wabukala, echoing the Davie review, argues that reconciliation does not mean learning to live with diverse views. Instead, it asserts that “[t]he New Testament teaches that reconciliation with each other flows from reconciliation with God through repentance and faith in the gospel message.” Davie concludes:
A clear doctrinal framework, such as that provided by GAFCON’s Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, or the first part of the Anglican Communion Covenant, plus an agreed way of handling disputes and exercising discipline when required, would provide a better model for the Communion to follow.

New Zealand bishop demoted for remarks about Jews, Muslims

The Press, of Christchurch, New Zealand, reported February 25, 2015, that Bishop John Gray has been removed temporarily from his posts as bishop in one diocese and vicar general in another in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Complaints were lodged against Gray for remarks he made about Jews and Muslims. He told a group of visiting Jews that the Holocaust “should have taught you a lesson,” and he chided Muslims for not having done enough to counter the slaughter carried out by ISIS and al Qaeda.

Federal judge rules Nebraska same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

On March 2, 2015, Federal District Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled Nebraska’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, calling it an “unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens.” His ruling takes effect on March 9. The state expects to request a stay from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Reuters story about this development also noted that litigants from Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky seeking the expansion of same-sex marriage filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on same-sex marriages by the beginning of summer.

Priest and Café editor arrested in Virginia protest

The Rev. Weston Mathews, a Richmond, Virginia, priest and a contributing editor to Episcopal Café, was arrested with 9 others February 24, 2015, in conjunction with a protest of a proposed natural gas pipeline. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 550 miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Details can be read on Episcopal Café.

Malcolm Boyd dead at 91

The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, Episcopal priest, prolific writer, and advocate for civil rights and gay rights died in Los Angeles on February 27, 2015. Boyd was the author of 30 books, most famously the book of prayers titled Are You Running with Me, Jesus? which became a bestseller. Details of his extraordinary life are detailed in stories from Episcopal News Service and the Los Angeles Times. Additional information about Boyd can be found in Wikipedia.