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, September 29, 2015

Week Ending 9-28-15

South Carolina Supreme Court Hears Property Arguments

The SC Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the church property cases on September 23. Both sides faced numerous questions from the judges.  Several justices made comments suggesting that the original trial court had been less than balanced.  Both sides have issued press releases about the hearings.  Those who remained in the Episcopal Church stated that they finally felt as if they had been able to present their case. The group following Bishop Lawrence used much of their press release to restate their case. While those supportive ( see September 23 post on scepiscopalians.com) of TEC were generally pleased with what happened in court, opponents of TEC’s legal position have raised issues of bias, asking why justice Kaye Hearn had not recused herself since she is a member of the Episcopal Church. The day before these hearings, the federal judge who was supposed to hear the federal trademark case again stayed the case until after the state court issues had been resolved.He had already ruled this way once and had been ordered by the appeals court to hold the trial.

Conciliation Fails in Los Angeles 

The conciliation process asked for by the panel of review in the Charges filed against Bishop Bruo of Los Angeles for actions taken to close the parish of St. James in Newport Beach and sell the property to a developer was unable to resolve the issues. The parish continues to meet on the grass in a park across from the church. Bishop Bruno’s lawyers continued to depose people throughout the process, despite orders from the panel to both sides to do nothing that would further inflame the situation. The matter goes back to the panel or review which can either dismiss the case or proceed towards further gathering of information and a full hearing by the panel elected at General Convention to hear bishop’s cases.

Anglican Communion Loses Two Prominent Lay Members

Death has claimed two lay members of the Anglican Communion who had made prominent contributions to religion. Choir members around the world are familiar with the many arrangements, compilations and choral works by David Willcocks who died September 17 at age 95. Willcocks had a long association with Kings College, Cambridge serving for many years as organist and choir director. He also headed the Royal College of Music. Phyllis Tickle, an active lay member of the Episcopal Church, founding editor of the religion department for Publisher’s Weekly and author in her own right of numerous books on theology , faith and spirituality died from lung cancer on September 22. Tickle, frequently sought out as a speaker for retreats, and for comments on religious issues by the media, had spent her last several years exploring emerging churches.

Rwandan Churches in USA Affiliate with ACNA

The border-crossing efforts in North America by the Anglican Church of Rwanda have now been officially released by that province to be part of ACNA. Rwanda is one of the provinces in the Anglican Communion that has rejected the Episcopal Church and supports making the Anglican Church in North America a member of the Anglican Communion. PEARUSA formed in 2012 from parts of the Anglican Mission in America who remained attached to both ACNA and Rwanda following a split in group.  (See Update story from 2012.)

Top Level Talks

Several different meetings concluded this last week which involved the Episcopal Church and leaders of other denominations. The International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue met in Buffalo, New York September 19-25. The Church of the Annunciation (Greek Orthodox) served as host. Although there is no member of TEC on currently on this commission, the group attended evensong at St. Paul’s cathedral and received a greeting from Bishop Franklin of Western New York. Top Evangelical Lutheran bishops met in Washington, D.C. with their counterparts in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Their main topic of conversation was lay presidency. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has recently made limited provision for this in remote parishes. (see Update Story here.) This meeting coincided with an ecumenical meeting on faith and the environment being held at the National Cathedral in Washington at which Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori also spoke.

Anglican Communion Continues to Explore Global Warming Issues

The provincial council of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has voted to study divestment from fossil fuel companies. The study is to result in a report to the Provincial Synod in 2016. In their discussion, they noted that churches in Britain, New Zealand and the U.S. had already divested. In England, Archbishop Justin Welby endorsed the United Nations goals for a sustainable environment.

European Churches Continue to Deal with Refugee Crisis

While a gathering at St. Michael’s College in Cardiff, Wales of the Anglican Communion bodies in Europe were grappling with the refugee crisis, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he would host two refugee families at Lambeth Palace in London. The regional meeting of Anglican leaders from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England (and its churches in continental Europe) was looking for ways to cooperate in dealing with a variety of social justices issues, of which the refugee situation loomed large. The meeting was the first regional meeting of the churches.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Week ending 9/21/15

South Carolina Diocese Returns to Court on Wednesday

Oral arguments in the South Carolina Supreme Court by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina will be heard at 10:30 EDT on Wednesday, September 23.  The SC Supreme Court  has a live feed available for those who would like to watch the arguments.  A recorded version of the arguments will be available later.  So far the South Carolina Courts have sided with those who left the Episcopal Church, giving them rights to all property including the diocesan name and seal as well as the endowments and real estate.  The Episcopal Church in South Carolina provided background and information on how to watch the live or recorded arguments here.  Background on the appeal can be found in Update stories  here and here.

Speculation Rife About January 2016 Primates Meeting

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby's announcement that invitations had gone out to a special meeting of the leaders of the 38 churches and several extra-provincial leaders that are part of the Anglican Communion, and also an invitation to the ACNA Archbishop, Foley Beach to attend part of the meeting has had bloggers and church watchers from all sides speculating about who will actually go and what the meeting means. The specified topic of the meeting is the structure of the Anglican Communion.  GAFCON leaders are "prayerfully" considering their attendance because Welby did not fully embrace their position.  They had earlier told Welby they would not attend unless the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada leaders were excluded and the ACNA Archbishop fully included. Beach is treating the invitation as evidence he has been fully invited into the group.  The Archbishop of Kenya, current chair of the GAFCON group, is sending some mixed signals. Welby's comments included suggestions of a much less structured Anglican Communion.
Response has ranged from predictions that the Anglican Communion is dead, to those saying that the communion was returning to its roots.

Church in Wales Takes Straw Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

More members of the governing body of the Church in Wales in each of its three houses (bishops, clergy and laity) voted in favor of changing the canons to allow same sex marriage than those who opposed marriage voted to make no change to the canons. A small group in each house voted to allow blessing of civil marriages or unions.  Thus the vote was supportive of gay marriage but not strong enough for the bishops to go forward with drafting any legislation. It would require a two thirds supportive vote in each house to pass a change in canons.  Archbishop Dr. Barry Morgan noted that a majority was in favor of change, but any action at this time could polarize the church.  He did predict continuing discussion. You can find different takes on this vote here and here.

Tanzania Installs First Woman as Head of Theological College

The Rev. Hilda Kabia has been installed as Principal of the Msalato Theological College of St. John's University in Tanzania.  She is the first woman to head a theological college in the country.  Kabia, who has taught at the College for nine years and has served as Dean of Students, has a distinguished career, serving as the first woman to head the House of Clergy and to serve as General Secretary to the synod.  She also served as Secretary of the Mother's Union.

White House Guest List for Pope's Visit Includes Bishop Robinson

The inclusion of catholic dissenters, and gay activiists including resigned Bishop Gene Robinson on the guest list for those to gather on the White House lawn for the visit  of Pope Francis has made some Vatican officials unhappy.  Bishop Robinson has written an open letter in response.  Approximately 15,000 have been invited to be part of the crowd on the White House lawn.  Vatican officials expressed concern that photos showing the pope and the activist invitees might be interpreted as Pope Francis endorsing their views.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Week Ending 9/14/15

South Carolina Groups Prepare for Supreme Court Hearing

On September 23, the parties in the legal battle over Episcopal Church property in South Carolina will once again return to court.  This time they will be doing oral arguments before the SC state Supreme Court.  The web site scepiscopalians has recently posted  a detailed overview of legal issues and previous cases and decisions involving property.  The breakaway group led by Bishop Mark Lawrence which courts so far have granted ownership of the title Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, has posted a plea for prayers for their lawyers as they head into court.   Those loyal to the Episcopal Church, which have had to use the name, "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina" have made no special requests at this point.

Albany Parish Seeks Way to Offer Same-Sex Marriage Rites

Several parishes in the Diocese of Albany have been living under a Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) arrangement for several years.  These parishes wanted to work with bishops who were more inclusive on social issues and theology than the diocesan bishop, William Love. Bishop Love was among those who signed the Communion Partner's statement at General Convention, saying that they opposed any provision for blessing or officiating at same-sex marriages.  Love issued a pastoral letter (see Update article) saying he would not authorize same-sex rites within the diocese, but he was in conversation with neighboring bishops to find the required alternative option for those same-sex couples who wished to marry.  Now St. Andrew's Parish in Albany, which is openly inclusive and is among the parishes visited by Bishop Adams of  Central New York under the DEPO arrangement has asked Bishop Love to allow them to host same-sex marriages as an extension of their DEPO arrangement.  They suggest that this would be a way to fulfill the alternative requirements.  Bishop Love has not yet responded.

Progress on Release of Nigerian Bishops by Kidnappers

On September 3, the bishop of Gwagwalada in Nigeria was kidnapped while traveling to a church meeting and held for ransom. (See Update story).  Five days later, the second most senior leader of the Nigerian Church, Ignatius Kattey was also kidnapped, along with his wife and driver. The three were released a week later.  Now David Virtue has published a statement from the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, Foley Beach, that he has been informed that Bishop Moses Bukpe-Tabwayen of Gwagwalada has also been released.  Nigerian news has not yet confirmed this second release.

Anglican/Episcopal Bishops Call for Response to Refugee Crisis

Anglican Leaders in both England and New Zealand have called on their countries to take more refugees from the Middle East.  Archbishop Philip Richardson of New Zealand joined with the Roman Catholic Cardinal, John Drew in a statement saying that their churches could sponsor 300 families (1200 people)  if the government would clear the way for their entry. New Zealand currently only accepts 750 refugees a year.  The Dioceses centered in the cities of Aukland and Christ Church voted to accept an even higher number of refugees.  The Anglican Communion news service reported that Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney, Australia, called on his country to raise their refugee quota above its current level of 20,000 and in Canada, the Anglican Archbishop, Fred Hiltz, called on his church to provide resettlement for 10,000 refugees. Episcopal Church bishops are also speaking out.  The Bishop of New York, Andrew M. L. Dietsche, has asked his parishes not only to contribute funds to relieve the suffering of refugees, but for each parish to offer to sponsor a refugee family.

Former Bishop Heather Cook Pleads Guilty

  The former suffragan bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook has plead guilty to a variety of charges stemming from her killing of a bicyclist while driving intoxicated and texting while driving. (See update stories here, here, and here.) She also left the scene.  The judge has not yet pronounced sentence, but her guilty plea cut short any formal trial.  The charges could bring a sentence of 20 years, with up to half of that served on probation. A number of news agencies have tracked this story, and provide different pieces of background.  See the following for a good sampling: Episcopal News Service, Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Post.

Retired English Bishop Admits Guilt in Sex Abuse Cases

The retired Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball has admitted his guilt in a series of sexual abuse incidents that first came to light more than 22 years ago.  At that time, Church officials chose not to prosecute him, but rather issue a caution and allowed him to retire. Two of the boys that the bishop abused had recently filed charges against him.  By pleading guilty to 18 charges of sexual abuse, and other charges of misconduct in office covering actions going back 35 years, Ball has headed off the current trial.  The  lead person for the Church of England on safe churches issued a statement saying that the Church always had taken accusations of misconduct seriously, but the Crown Prosecution Service says the evidence was strong enough warrant prosecution when they first came to the attention of the Church.  You can read the Sussex Police Report for more details.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Week Ending 9/7/15

Church of the Redeemer Hosting Climate Change Presentation

 Church of the Redeemer, Squirrel Hill, will host a presentation by Mark Dixon, the filmaker and climate activist who represented Pittsburgh's Mayor at the recent World Summit Climate and Territories meeting on September 24, 2015 at 7 p.m.  This is one of three presentations Dixon is giving in the area as people prepare for the upcoming negotiations in Paris in December on Climate.  You can get more background on the events and Dixon here and here.

Nigerian Bishop Kidnapped

Kidnappers have demanded $40 million (Nigerian) ransom for Right Rev. Moses Tabuwaye, the bishop of Gwagwalada Diocese.  The bishop was kidnapped September 4 on his way to a church function. The kidnapping was announced by Archbishop Okoh of Nigeria. There is no word yet on where the bishop is being kept or of a response to the kidnappers. 

Church of England Appoints a Second Woman as Diocesan Bishop

The Diocese of Newcastle will be the second diocese in the Church of England to be headed by a woman as bishop.  Christine Hardman, married and a grandmother, formerly Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich and now Honorary Assistant Priest in the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie Southwark, will take over when the incumbent bishop retires November 30.  If her appointment is approved before the retirement, she will also be in line for a seat in the House of Lords.  Hardman's appointment is especially appropriate since she was one of the major drafters of the various pieces of legislation for the Church of England Synod paved the way for women to be bishops. 

Barna Group Survey Shows Polarization on Same Sex Marriage

 The Barna Research Group regularly provides information on religious groups.  They have recently released the results of a survey of  1012 people taken on June 27-28 exploring issues related to religion and same sex marriage.  The survey results distinguish between those who identify with a religious group and those who actively participate in it.   Two clear divides based on religious perspective were evident.  The 20 million Americans who meet the Barna group's definition of active participating evangelicals  were strongly opposed and saw the supreme court decision as unconstitutional.  Participating mainline Christians were much less opposed, and a majority saw the outcome as a civil rights issue.  The biggest gap, however, was between those who identified as Christian, but were currently not actively involved in a religious group.  This group was the most accepting of same sex marriage.  The research also confirmed that there was a generation gap for Americans in general, and for all groups except evangelicals.  Evangelicals under 40 showed the same patterns as those over 40.  You can find the whole set of results here.

Archbishops Take Opposing Stances on End-of-Life Bill in England

A bill submitted by a member of Parliament that would allow a limited form of assisted suicide to terminally ill people has resulted in a letter opposing the law signed by all the leaders of various British religious groups.  Archbishop Welby not only signed that letter but has published an opinion piece in the Guardian stating his moral objections to the law. The Guardian published  a counter opinion piece from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and its own editorial in support of the law.  The bill is very similar to one introduced in the House of Lords last year, and is seen as having a fair amount of support. 

Anglican Communion Commissions New Secretary-General

About 135 dignitaries, staff, and family attended the commissioning of Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon as the new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.  Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby presided at the service and preached.  Participants in the service included the the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC); Canon Elizabeth Paver, ACC Vice-Chair Canon John Rees, Provincial Registrar; the Venerable Thomas J. Furrer, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Tariffville, (Conn.) USA; and His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, as well as Anglican Communion Office staff members. Furrer has close ties with the new Secretary-General, and was made Archdeacon of Kaduna Diocese by Bishop Idowu-Fearon in 2013 in honor of his many mission trips to the area.

Trinity Cathedral Hosts Major Overdose Awareness Day Event

 Monday, August 31 was International Overdose Awareness Day.  In Pittsburgh two major events marked the day.  The first was a noon prayer service and reception at Trinity Cathedral.  Bishop McConnell participated in the ecumenical event, and offered individual prayers and anointing to those seeking healing. The second was a rally at Market Square later in the afternoon.  Both the Tribune Review and the Post Gazette covered the events and published pictures taken during the Trinity event.  Trinity's bells rang 31 times at noon in honor of the more than 300 individuals who died in Allegheny County from drug overdoses in the last year.  Almost 1400 have died in the region in the last 5 years. Broadcast media covered only the Market Square event.

Archbishops Urges Compassion and Aid to Refugees 

 Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby urged the British to respond with compassion consider the human face of the refugee crisis facing Europe and stated that the millions in aid given by Britain to aid refugees is not enough, and that this was a moral crisis that required extraordinary leadership.  Archbishop Sentamu of York, himself a refugee from Africa, has been holding a prayer vigil for the past week, and he also stated in a BBC interview that the British government must offer asylum to many more refugees "because we may end up with a Rwanda" [mass killings].

Fort Worth Episcopalians Post Bond and Continue Legal Action

In a terse posting this week on the "Legal News" section of the diocesan web page, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth confirmed that it had posted the requisite bond stipulated in Judge Chupp's recent order, and confirmed that they would appeal the ruling.  When last week's update was posted that had been no confirmation that bond had been posted by the loyal Episcopalians who had recently received an adverse court ruling.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Week ending 8/31/15

Diocese of San Joaquin Sponsors "Tour Against Trafficking"

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has announced aspecial event in October involving all of their parishes.  A team of 5 to 8 bicyclists will ride 750 miles throughout the diocese making 26 stops along the way.  All of the dioceses parishes will be on the route.  Local bicyclists and groups will join them for each leg.  The team will have opportunities at each stop to talk to the press and publicize the problems with human trafficking in their region.  Ten pre-tour events scattered through the diocese will sponsor showings of a film followed by a panel on human trafficking.  The riders are looking for sponsors with proceeds going to local charities. For more, read the press release here.

China Continues Campaign Against Churches

Angry about the protests of their actions to remove crosses from over 1200 churches and their demolition of three buildings, Zhejiang Province officials have warned Christians not to speak to the press or resist official actions.  (Update's earlier story is here.) They have also begun arresting protesters. Amnesty International is now monitoring the situation. Christians have vowed to continue to object and organize peaceful protests.  Episcopal Cafe has picked up the story here.

St. Paul's School Rape Case Ends With Mixed Verdict

Owen Labrie, the graduate of St. Paul's School who was on trial for raping a 15 year old freshman shortly before graduation received a mixed verdict that could send him to jail for 11 years. The jury found him not guilty of felony sexual assault, but guilty of having sex with a minor and of using the computer for immoral purposes. With not guilty verdicts on the charges of non-consensual sex,  Labrie still could receive 7 years for the computer charge and up to one year for each of the three charges involving sex with someone under the age of consent. New Hampshire law has special lesser penalties for sex with a minor when both parties are close in age.  The computer charge conviction will require Labrie register as a sex offender. This charge is likely to be appealed once the judge issues a sentence.  The Bishop of New Hampshire has issued a pastoral letter in response to the verdict.

Breakaways Require Five Episcopal Churches To Post Bonds

Judge John Chupp has issued a final supersedeas order August 18, 2015 in the case involving church property in Fort Worth. The order suspends his original order, and allows five loyal Episcopal parishes to remain in their buildings through all appeals even though Chupp awarded their church properties to the breakaway group led by Bishop Iker. (see Update stories here and here.) The breakaway diocese has issued a statement noting that the order requires the parishes to post $100,000 bond, and all will be required to submit monthly financial statements to the breakaways.  One parish had announced a capital campaign, which has now been put on hold.

Attempts to Modernize Changing Church of England Canons Raises Controversy

Making changes to canon law and church structures is a complex process involving both the Church of England Synod (which meets several times a year) and Parliament.  While there is widespread agreement that reforms are needed to simplify the process, the latest proposal has raised objections that this is an attempt to increase the power of bishops at the expense of the synod.  An article in the Christian Today made the controversy public.  A response has been issued by the Ecclesiastical Law Society here.http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2015/08/25/henry-viii-powers-for-the-bishops/.

The Sacred Circle in Canada Requests Consideration of Province in Church of Canada for Indigenous People 

At the eighth annual national meeting of the Sacred Circle, the group heard several presentations about a separate independent province within the Church of Canada for indigenous peoples.  The meeting endorsed the idea and has sent the proposal to Anglican Council on Indigenous People.  The proposal came from the Canadian Primate's Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice.  The long-term goal is possibly a fifth province with its own primate operating much the way the interdependent provinces do in New Zealand.  A full discussion of the proposal and the many steps that might precede such a province is found in the Anglican Journal.

Ten Facts About American Religion

The Pew Center has released an article by Michael Lipka that claims 42% of Americans have switched religions at some point in their lives, and shows that evangelicals, Catholics, and mainline Protestants have all lost members.  The second largest religious group in the United States is now the "Unaffiliated." The same study shows that 55% of Americans now support same-sex marriage, and views have also changed on global warming since the pope's statement.  The full article includes information on the views of various groups and the composition of Congress.