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, December 29, 2015

Week Ending 12/28/15

Church of England and Church of Scotland Sign Historic Agreement 

On Christmas Eve the national churches of England and Scotland jointly announced an agreement that brings close cooperation, including some recognition of each other's clergy.  The agreement, however, left the Scottish Episcopal Church (the Anglican Communion body in Scotland) wondering if the agreement compromised their position. Especially galling was the fact that the agreement did not even use the correct name of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The Church of Scotland is presbyterian in structure. You can read the agreement and the response from the Scottish Episcopal Church here.

Christmas Eve Under the Stars Brings St. James Newport Beach New Attention

Although St. James, Newport Beach has a temporary home, the congregation opted to hold its Christmas Eve service in the park across from the building they want the Diocese of Los Angeles to reopen for them rather than sell.  Also bittersweet was the fact that locked in the building were all the decorations and pageant props the parish usually used for Christmas.  However, the service outside energized the congregation, and brought out the Los Angeles Times reporters to cover the event.

Rebuilding the Cathedral Building at Christ Church, New Zealand Still Delayed by Disagreements

Ever since the 2011 earthquake and aftershocks rendered Christ Church Cathedral in New Zealand unusable, the diocese has been locked in controversy and legal actions, first over the building of a temporary worship space, and then over whether the cathedral should be rebuilt as a replica of the original, or a modern structure. (See the update story here.)  Recreating the old building (with new engineering for earthquake protection) was a hugely expensive proposition, but favored by the historic preservationists.  The diocesan decision to build instead a new, modern design building on the site raised legal action.  The Government finally weighed in, appointing a mediator, and the diocese has now agreed to give another look at rebuilding the old structure.  The Episcopal Cafe has pieced together the current status of the controversy.

Fort Worth Group Gets Extension on Filing Response to Appeal

The break-away diocese in Fort Worth headed by Bishop Iker had originally announced that they would be filing their legal responses to the briefs filed with the appeals court by Episcopalians at the beginning of December. (Pittsburgh Update covered the earlier filing here.)   However, on December 21, Iker's group posted a short update on their website that said they had quested a filing extension and will file their briefs on or before February 4, 2016.

Best Wishes to All For 2016

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Week Ending 12/21/15

Presiding Bishop Curry Appoints Law Firm and Two Staff Members

This week Presiding Bishop Michael Curry appointed the law firm Curley, Hessinger & Johnsrud LLP to conduct the special investigation related to the suspension of The Episcopal Church Center COO Bishop Stacy Sauls, and two others.  Curry's letter announcing the appointment was brief and gave no additional information on what is being investigated.  The firm, however, specializes in employment and labor law.  The two attorneys identified in the letter (Michael Curley and Lindsay Vest) have impressive qualifications, especially in discrimination issues.  On a more upbeat note, the Presiding Bishop filled two senior staff positions.  The Rev. Stephanie Spellers was appointed Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation.  Spellers is currently on the staff of General Theological Seminary and has a strong reputation in evangelism. Tara Elgin Holley, currently the Vice President for Advancement at Southwestern Theological Seminary, was named Director of Development.

Christmas News Around the Anglican Communion

Severe flooding in the region around Chennai in the Anglican Diocese of Madras has led the local  bishop to ask parishes to cancel carol services and other "exuberant" Christmas celebrations in favor of reaching out to those whose lives have been devastated by the floods.  Meanwhile, the tiny Christian communities in Pakistan have announced that for the first time in several years they will celebrate Christmas with "pomp and show."  Natural disasters and attacks on Christians had resulted in very quiet Christmas observances for the last several years, but the actions of the Pakistani government and military has restored enough of a sense of security that Anglicans in Peshwar are once again celebrating Christmas joyously. These contrasting responses to Christmas were covered in a single Anglican Communion news story found here.  A third piece of Christmas news comes from Ireland where the primates of the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church issued a jointly signed Christmas letter. The letter reminded readers that Christ brought new hope into the world, and that today "Around us in this country, there are those who can feel no hope for themselves or their families, whether through deprivation or because they are refugees from violence. We can become envoys of hope in the name of the Christ, who was born in a stable in Bethlehem."

The Episcopal Church Was Active at Climate Summit

 Among the more than 40,000 who attended the Global Climate Summit Activities, was a deputation sent of eight sent by Presiding Bishop Curry.  ENS reports that the group was active in the forums, and showcases offered in addition to the diplomatic negotiations, including offering a worship service each day.  At the end of the two week summit, the deputation sent letters to the government representatives of the U.N. nations where the Episcopal Church has a presence.  The letters thanked them for their work in reaching an agreement, and included a statement of Episcopal Church positions on the issues of climate change.

Augusta County, VA Schools Closed Over Controversy in World Religion Class 

A teacher following an approved world religions curriculum and using assignments from a teacher's guide found herself the center of controversy after an angry parent claimed that she was indoctrinating her class in the Moslem faith.  In order to experience the complexity of arabic calligraphy, students were asked to copy one of the key phrases in Islam.  They were not given a translation of it or asked to repeat it.  Girls also were encouraged to try wearing a scarf as many Muslim women do.  The angry parent organized a protest meeting and set up a web page, but found that the web page was soon filled with staements of support for the teacher.  School and police officials however, decided that there was enough anger being expressed in the community to close all the schools in the district several days early for Christmas.  There have been numerous news stories on this.  The local Staunton newspaper followed the controversy closely.  The Associated Press ran a story that put this controversy in a larger context of anti-muslim reactions. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Week Ending 12/14/15

Presiding Bishop Puts Three Senior Administrators on Administrative Leave

In a letter dated December 11, 2015 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry informed the Executive Council that the Chief Operating Officer of the Church, Bishop Stacy Sauls; the Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Sam McDonald; and the Director of Public Engagement, Alex Baumgarten had been placed on administrative leave during an investigation of possible misconduct.  The kind of misconduct was not stated. (See Stories on the Episcopal Cafe and the Living Church.) McDonald had been the Canon to the Ordinary for Bishop Sauls in the Diocese of Lexington, and Sauls brought him on to the staff at the Church Headquarters. Baumgarten's background was in social and economic policy advocacy and he had worked for the Episcopal Church in those areas before Sauls promoted him in to head Mission work at the Church Center.  A year ago Sauls added all of the public relations and news divisions to Baumgarten's charge. In many cases his appointment placed him above long-serving women heads of divisions.   Several conservative sources are linking the investigation of misconduct to tensions about the division of power and duties between Sauls and Executive Council. (See the Living Church and also here and Anglican.Ink).

Inclusive North Dakota Parish Asks for DEPO

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Fargo is the first North Dakota parish to request Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight following Bishop Smith's October 22, 2105 letter (see Update story) announced that he would not allow parishes or clergy to use the same sex marriage ceremonies approved by General Convention.  The parish has announced that they accepted the offer of Bishop Smith  to have Bishop Carol Gallagher provide pastoral oversight.  The parish, in a unanimous vote accepted the offer, seeing it as "an extension of a ministry based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Baptismal Covenant of respecting the worth and dignity of all people, as we see it and have discerned it for ourselves."

Revision of Last Week's Report on St. James

Pittsburgh Update reported last week that St. James Newport Beach had come up 24 votes shy in passing the legislation and resolutions supporting their fight to regain control of the church property Bishop Bruno is trying to sell.  The parish has now posted their own reflections on the diocesan convention.  Apparently one of their measures did succeed -- a committee has been appointed to review the properties currently held by the bishop as Corp Sole to see if any should be returned to oversight by the Corporation of the Diocese.

Lambeth Palace to Build New Library

The Lambeth Palace Library is the oldest public library in England, and is second only to the Vatican in the size and value of its holdings on church history. However, the holdings are scattered among several buildings which are not all able to meet high standards for climate control and preservation.  The Church Commissioners of England have announced that they have picked an architectural firm to work with them in designing a new library building which will not only bring the scattered collections together in a secure facility, but have a zero carbon footprint.

Equality and Human Rights Commission Weighs In on the Church of England Ad Controversy

Pittsburgh Update reported in November on the controversy that occurred when the two largest movie chains in England refused to run a Church of England advertisement featuring the Lord's Prayer.  Now the major organization working for human rights in England, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has issued a statement noting that "There is no right not to be offended in the UK" and saying they were available as a resource on legal issues.  The commission will conduct its own investigation of events. 

Minnesota Parish Builds "Tiny House" for Homeless

A year ago the Diocese of Minnesota decided to forgive a million dollars in outstanding loans to parishes in the hopes that this would free those parishes to use their funds in innovative ways for mission.  St. John's Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, did just that, partnering with a local agency and finding funds to build a "tiny house" to house a homeless person through the winter.  The house, which will be located on the church property, follows a trend for "living small" that has been featured on the HGTV network.  The parish has reorganized their ministry, relying on laity to lead the parish and using supply clergy for sacramental needs. The house is one of several ways they are opening ministries to the homeless.  The full ENS story is here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Week Ending 12/7/15

Episcopal Briefs filed in Fort Worth Appeal

On December 3, lawyers for the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth filed briefs appealing the decision by Judge Chupp awarding all property to the breakaway group in Fort Worth.  Notice had been filed in August promptly after Judge Chupp issued his final decision. (See Update Stories here, here, and here.)  Both briefs stress that the court violated the First Amendment because it decided ecclesiastical questions (determining membership in the Episcopal Church) without deferring to the church's own determinations.  The clock now starts ticking for filings from the breakaway group.

Diocese of Uruguay Ordains Three Women as Priests

When Bishop Pollesel of Uruguay ordained deacons Audrey Taylor Gonzalez, Cynthia Myers Dickin, and Susana Lopez Lerena as priests on November 22, his diocese became the second in the Province of South American (formerly the Province of the Southern Cone) to have women serving as priests.  The Diocese of Bolivia ordained the first women anywhere in the province earlier this year.  The Province of South America has seven dioceses, two in Argentina and one each in Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia. Uruguay has wanted to ordain women as priests for sometime, and had even sought a means of joining another Latin American province that was more open to women's ordination. (see Update Stories here and here.)  Those who have followed closely the battles within the Anglican Communion will remember that the province under its old name and previous primate had tried to extend membership to the breakaway dioceses in the Episcopal Church, four of which opposed women's ordination as well as inclusion of LGBTQ individuals in ordained ministry. 

St. James, Newport Beach Comes Up 24 Votes Short at Los Angeles Convention

Supporters of St. James the Great, Newport Beach came within twenty-four votes at diocesan convention of passing a series of canonical changes designed to prevent future sales of property by a bishop acting as corporate sole. In the week leading up to convention, the parish published both a Thanksgiving statement and a direct open letter to convention deputies.  The convention has over 500 voting members.  Bishop Bruno's attempts to sell the property of St. James and the lock-out of its parishioners prompted the proposals and several resolutions being offered at convention.  What this vote outcome will mean for the parish, the presentment against Bishop Bruno, and the on-going legal action concerning the title of the property is unclear. Pittsburgh Update has been following the St. James story closely.  The most recent story is here.

Japanese Episcopal Church Joins In Statement Urging an End to Racism and Discrimination in Japan

The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Episcopal Church in Japan) has joined with 20 other churches in calling on the government to end practices of racial discrimination.  The most pressing concern in Japan was the unequal treatment of those of Korean descent living in Japan.

Free On-line Resource Available for New Marriage Rites

Church Publishing has released on-line the revised rites for marriage approved by General Convention in July.  The resource is free. The ceremonies, designed to be inclusive of same-sex unions, were approved by General Convention on a trial basis beginning in Advent.  A handful of diocesesan bishops have refused to allow use of the rites in their diocese.

Sudan Episcopalians in the News

While the House of Bishops in the Sudan was deciding to cut ties with The Episcopal Church and recognize ACNA instead, one of the Sudanese "Lost Boys" was being ordained a deacon in Utah.  The deacon in Utah has been acting as lay minister to a congregation of Sudanese in Salt Lake, leading services in their native Dinka language.  The most immediate impact of the action by Sudan's bishops may be felt at the January meeting of primates called by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The vote in the Sudanese House of Bishops is not the last word, however,  their vote was a recommendation to the Church Synod which has not yet voted on severing ties with the Episcopal Church because of General Convention's vote to allow same-sex marriages.