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, August 24, 2015

Week ending 8/24/15

Evidence Uncovered of 1998 Bribes to Nigerian Church

The large contingent of Nigerian bishops who attended the 1998 Lambeth Conference apparently had financial support from the repressive regime then in control of the country.  Documents recently uncovered show more than $5 being transferred in person by high government officials to the Nigerian Church. Bishop Peter Akinola is directly linked to acceptance of more than $1 million of the illegal money.  It was supposedly to help the bishops attend the once-a-decade meeting of Anglican bishops from around the world.  The 1998 conference is most remembered for statements issued by the group that opposed ordination of LGBT individuals.  African bishops played a major role in amending the resolutions which were originally more affirming of LGBT individuals.  The current archbishop of the church in Nigeria has been supporting anti-corruption efforts and attempts by the current government to recover bribes. The Archbishop has not yet responded to the evidence that the church may have been the recipient of some of the bribes.

Rape at Prestigious Episcopal Prep School 

Owen Labrie's rape trial in Concord, New Hampshire, is putting a very uncomfortable spotlight on St. Paul's School, a private Episcopal academy that has a long list of distinguished alumni. The school, which has long marketed itself as a special place providing both a rigorous academic experience, and  a caring community that instills the highest values in its students, is now having to deal with court testimony showing a long-standing tradition in which senior men target younger students for sexual encounters. Labrie was a senior, headed to Harvard; the girl was 15 and thus below the age of consent. Some commentators are trying to tie this to a misogynous culture tied to its origins as a boy's school.  However, St. Paul's has been co-educational for more than 40 years.(The book Black Ice by Lorene Cary describes her coming of age as one of the first black women students at St. Paul's in the 1970s.) The outcome and publicity surrounding the trial are likely to have repercussions for other episcopal boarding schools.  The National Association of Episcopal Schools lists 33 Episcopal boarding schools on its website.

Dean of Washington National Cathedral Announces Resignation

 After only 3 years on the job, Dean Gary Hall has announced he will resign from his post at the Washington National Cathedral at the end of 2015, two years before the end of his contract.  Hall, known for his progressive moves had been brought in shortly after the cathedral had been badly damaged by an earthquake in 2011.  The damage, now estimated as taking close to $54 million dollars to repair came after a decade of financial challenges resulting in the cathedral cutting staff and clergy.  Hall has presented a balanced budget and raised over $15 million this year. That is still far short of what the cathedral needs for operations and rebuilding.  His letter of resignation stated that he thought the cathedral needed someone who could serve for a decade of rebuilding and fundraising.
The Washington Post broke the story and raises questions about other factors in Hall's resignation.

 From Cathedral to Museum on Slavery

The Diocese of Rhode Island is using its recently closed cathedral to bring its members and the larger public face to face with the complicity of the whole community in American Slavery.  In 2012 Bishop Knisely closed the cathedral in Newport because of a dwindling congregation, but the diocese will transform the space into a museum about slavery. The museum is scheduled to open in 2017. Newport was a major port sending ships into the slave trade.   Knisley wants to document both Episcopalians and the church's support of slavery and its role in ending slavery.  One of Rhode Island's bishops, and the first to use the current structure as a cathedral, came from a family who made its fortune in the slave trade.  The plans for the space and interim programing are covered in this story in the New York Times.

Diocese of Puerto Rico Helps Community During Economic Crisis

Drought and a territorial government responding to overwhelming debt and unemployment are creating real hardship in Puerto Rico.  While government has been cutting programs in a process of retrenchment, the Diocese of Puerto Rico (part of TEC)  has been expanding its social service programs trying to address the needs of the community.  Bishop Wilfrido Ramos Orench issued a pastoral letter outlining the economic crisis and calling on Episcopalians to address the needs of those who have been hard hit in the crisis.  The Diocese operates four day care centers, a home for boys, sponsors a program for pregnant teens and has announced a groundbreaking in September for a home for homeless teens.