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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, May 25, 2015

Neweek Ending 5/25/2015

Ireland votes to approve same-sex marriage

In an historic referendum on May 22, 2015, the Republic of Ireland voted by an overwhelming margin to allow same-sex marriage. Ireland thus became the first country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage by popular vote, rather than through legislation or court action. Reuters reported this story May 23. The (Anglican) Church of Ireland issued a statement that the referendum does not change the stand of the church on gay marriage (it’s against it). Thinking Anglicans reported voting statistics here.

Zvala visits breakaway S.C. diocese; nothing of substance changes

Bishop of Chile and Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of South America Hector “Tito” Zavala visited the unattached “diocese” that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina on May 20, 2015.The next day, the “diocese” issued a press release suggesting that Zavala was an emissary of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and would be under the oversight of the South American church. Neither of these things is strictly true, according to a blog post by Ronald Caldwell, who explains a private communication from Lambeth Palace. Pittsburgh Update has obtained a similar statement from Lambeth Palace and believes the explanation of Caldwell is correct.

Boy Scout president calls policy against gay leaders unsustainable

Former Secretary of Defense and President of the Boy Scouts of America Robert Gates has told a national meeting of the organization in Atlanta that “the current rules ‘cannot be sustained.’” Presently, gay boys can be scouts but gay leaders are not allowed. Episcopal Café covered this story.

Entire Blue Book available in one file

The so-called Blue Book reports for the 78th General Convention can be found here. Most of this material is now available in a single PDF file. That file does not include supplementary liturgical materials from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. Other resources, including a draft schedule and draft triennium budget can be found here.

Same-sex marriage study guide available

Claiming the Blessing has issued a study guide promoting same-sex marriage aimed at General Convention deputies. The 16-page document, “The Case for Marriage,” can be found here. More information about the document is available in a story from Episcopal Café.

PEP board member analyzes TREC report

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh board member and independent blogger Lionel Deimel has just completed a series of essays analyzing the report to the General Convention from the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church. Generally, the TREC report, which is expected to be a major topic of discussion at the General Convention, has not been well received. Deimel is going with the crowd in this case. His six essays are titled “Analyzing the TREC Report.” An index to all six essays can be found here.

Newport Beach sold

St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California, was the subject of a long-running property dispute that ended in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in 2013. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Anglican Ink reported May 18, 2015, that the diocese is selling the property. The fate of the remaining Episcopal congregation is unclear.

Diocese to return to Trinity Cathedral

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that it will complete a move from its Monroeville offices to refurbished offices in Trinity Cathedral downtown. The announcement was made on the diocesan Web site, and the story was picked up both by The Living Church and Episcopal Café.

Indiana rector to run for Episcopal Relief & Development

The Rev. Bill Geiger, rector of Christ Church, Indiana, will take part in a 194-mile relay race in Utah before the beginning of the General Convention. The event is a fund-raiser for Episcopal Relief & Development, and Geiger is looking for sponsors. Details can be found on the diocesan Web site.

Monday, May 18, 2015

News for Week Ending 5/18/2015

Archbishop Isingoma deplores Florida consecrations

Archbishop of the Congo Henri Isingoma has repudiated the consecrations of two bishops in Florida as “Bishop Emissaries” to dioceses in Congo and Tanzania. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) According to a May 12, 2015, story at Anglican Ink, the consecrations were carried out by “the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, the former primate of Rwanda, and the Most Rev. Yong Ping Chung, the former primate of South East Asia, the Rt. Rev. Charles Murphy, the former leader of the AMiA [Anglican Mission in the Americas] assisted by three Congolese bishops, a Tanzanian bishop and a Ghanaian bishop.” Isingoma sees the consecrations as an interference in his own church.

Bishop of Maidstone: 10% of CoE members oppose female bishops

The newly appointed Bishop of Maidstone, the Rev. Prebendary Rod Thomas, has estimated that 10% of Church of England members oppose female bishops. He has suggested that there are 300 individual parishes that cannot accept the authority of a woman bishop. Thomas was selected for his opposition to female ordination and his ability to minister to those who hold similar views. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Premier reported this story May 11, 2015.

Independent group writes memorial and offers alternative resolutions to General Convention

On May 14, 2015, Ascension Day, a group of seven Episcopalians unveiled a new Web site carrying the title “Episcopal Resurrection: Calling the 78th General Convention to Proclaim Resurrection.” Anyone who follows Episcopal discussion on the Web will recognize the names of at least some of the authors: Susan Brown Snook, Tom Ferguson, Scott Gunn, Frank Logue, Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, Steve Pankey, and Adam Trambley. The site contains a memorial addressed to the General Convention and a collection of proposed resolutions. The memorial is not very different in spirit from the the introductory material in the report from the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church, but the resolutions offer a different view of how the church can be revitalized.

The Web site includes a brief description of how it came to be, and at least two of the authors have blogged about the development (here and here).

Episcopalians are invited to endorse the memorial, though not the resolutions. To date, endorsers include 25 bishops, including Bishop Dorsey McConnell. Of the Presiding Bishop candidates, only Ian Douglas has signed on. Deputy and alternate deputy endorsers include Bruce Robison and Lou Hays from Pittsburgh. People can sign on as endorsers by sending their name and status (bishop, deputy, alternate deputy, or other) to endorse@episcopalresurrection.org.

Pew Research Center paints dim picture of Christianity in America

On May 12, 2015, Pew Research Center released a report titled “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” As might be expected, the message from Pew is not encouraging for mainline churches. Fewer Americans are calling themselves Christian. Non-Christian faiths are growing, as are the ranks of the unaffiliated. The Pew report has lots of tables and graphs.

Number of PB candidates fixed at four

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) announced May 13, 2015, that no additional candidates have been submitted to stand for the election as the next Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Therefore, the next leader of the church will be selected from among
  • Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal of Southern Ohio
  • Bishop Michael B. Curry of North Carolina
  • Bishop Ian T. Douglas of Connecticut
  • Bishop Dabney T. Smith of Southwest Florida
The election will take place on June 27 at the General Convention in Salt Lake City.

Dean reports on state of GTS

Dean and President of the General Theological Seminary Kurt H. Dunkle has written to the seminary community offering a rosy view of the state of the institution that began the academic year with something of a faculty strike. Students and alumni are inclined to believe that the state of the seminary is not so good. No one is saying how many students GTS will have in the fall. Episcopal Café published Dunkle’s letter.

Fort Worth elects new provisional bishop; Dallas elects new bishop

As expected —see Pittsburgh Update story here—the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth elected its latest provisional bishop, the Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer, on May 16, 2015. The Living Church reported this story. Episcopal News Service reported that, on the same day, the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas elected a successor to Bishop James Stanton. The Rev. Canon George Sumner, principal of Wycliffe College in Toronto, was elected on the fourth ballot.

Maryland chooses replacement for disgraced Bishop Cook

The Baltimore Sun reported May 11, 2015, that the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has chosen Bishop Chilton R. Knudsen, retired Bishop of Maine, as assistant bishop, replacing the disgraced and deposed Heather Cook. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Knudsen is herself a recovering alcoholic and expert in addiction recovery. Episcopal News Service reported on Knudsen, pointing out that much of her education was obtained in Pittsburgh.

S.C. Episcopalians make submission to S.C. Supreme Court

On May 18, 2015, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina announced that it had submitted a 51-page brief to the South Carolina Supreme in support of its appeal of the trial court decision that put deposed bishop Mark Lawrence in control of most of the assets of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The brief itself can be found here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

News for Week Ending 5/11/2015

Female Archbishop of Uppsala visits Pope

Episcopal Café has reported on the May 5, 2015, visit of Archbishop Antje Jackelén to Pope Francis in the Vatican. Jackelén, the first woman to head the Church of Sweden, was apparently received in a manner that might be expected of a visiting male church head. According to Vatican Radio, the purpose of the visit was “to highlight the common commitments and shared witness of Catholics and Lutherans preparing to mark the anniversary [in 2016] of the Reformation together.”

ARCIC reports on latest meeting

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) issued a communiqué describing its latest meeting. The document does not address the substance of discussions between representatives of the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. The Commission will hold its next meeting in Toronto in 2016. There are 7 Anglicans on the Commission, four of whom are from the Church of England. The Episcopal Church is not represented on the Commission.

Opponent of women’s ordination made CoE bishop

The Rev. Prebendary Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative evangelical group Reform, has been appointed Bishop of Maidstone. This development is nicely explained by the title of the May 5, 2015, story from The Telegraph: “Leader of campaign against women bishops is made a bishop in bid to avert CofE split: Welby’s olive branch to opponents of women bishops with new flying bishop-style post for traditionalist.” Thomas has asserted that he is a bishop for all of the Church of England, not simply those who believe in “male headship.” That the bishop has been associated with the GAFCON-supported Anglican Mission in England suggests that his commitment to the CofE is less than absolute, however. Thinking Anglicans covered the announcement of Thomas’s appointment and reactions to it here and here.

Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada to hold joint assembly

Anglican Journal announced May 6, 2015, that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada will meet in a joint assembly in Vancouver in 2019. This is the second time such an assembly has been held, the first having been held in Ottawa in 2013. The churches, which have been in full communion since 2001, vote separately on issues affecting the individual churches in such assemblies.

Religious conservatives campaign against anticipated gay marriage decision; threaten resistance

It is widely assumed that, before its current term ends, the U.S. Supreme Court will render a decision requiring greater acceptance of same-sex marriage or even making the availability of same-sex marriage the law of the land. Religious conservatives are trying to head off such a development and are suggesting that they may react to a high court decision with civil disobedience.

One of the cases before the Supreme Court is from Michigan, and a group called Restrain the Judges is erecting billboards in the state asserting that homosexuality is not inborn but is simply a behavior. The group’s Web site asserts that “[i]f federal judges won’t honor state marriage amendments, then we must reign [sic] in their jurisdiction through our elected representatives in Congress.” Raw Story reported this story.

Of more concern is a story from Political Research Associates. which reports on a project promoting a Defend Marriage Pledge. The backers of this initiative have created a Web site that encourages visitors to sign a pledge that has been endorsed by a number of prominent conservatives, including Rick and Karen Santorum, Tom DeLay, Alan Keyes, James Dobson, William Franklin Graham III, Mike Huckabee, Foley Beach (ACNA archbishop), and Mark Tooley (Institute on Religion and Democracy president).

The “Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage” ends with this:
We will view any decision by the Supreme Court or any court the same way history views the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions. Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.
One can only guess what that will mean in practice.

Another GTS-8 faculty member leaving seminary

On May 6, 2015, Episcopal Café reported that another of the faculty members who participated in a work stoppage last year—see Pittsburgh Update story here—will be leaving the General Theological Seminary. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy, Professor of Liturgy, will leave GTS to become the interim dean at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver. He thus becomes that fourth member of the so-call GTS-8 to leave the seminary.

Parties file motions in All Saints’, Fort Worth case

Both Episcopal parties and the breakaway Fort Worth group have filed motions for partial summary judgment with the District Court of Tarrant County with regard to the property of  All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Although the Vestry of the church voted to say with The Episcopal Church when the diocese split, the group headed by former bishop Jack Leo Iker is attempting to claim the property. A press release from the Episcopal diocese reported the filings and contains a link to that of the plaintiffs. The defense motion does not appear to be posted on the Web.

Baptism flap apparently resolved

The unfortunate “misunderstanding” regarding the postponement of the baptism of the child of a gay couple in the Diocese of Central Florida—see Pittsburgh Update story here—is apparently in the process of being resolved amicably. The parents met with Bishop Greg Brewer May 7, 2015, and it was decided that Jack will be baptized in the cathedral, as originally planned, sometime this summer. Episcopal Café covered the story and provides links to statements by the bishop and the parents. Bishop Brewer also issued a pastoral letter on the baptism skirmish. Canon for Pastoral Care of the Cathedral of St. Luke, the Rev. Canon J. Gary L’Hommedieu, on the other hand, preached an angry, self-serving sermon about the situation on May 10.

Many have expressed their opinions regarding the baptism of baby Jack via social media. Notable among this commentary is an essay by Bishop Gene Robinson for The Daily Beast. Meanwhile, the unaffiliated and invariably negative Anglican Communion Institute expressed theological misgivings about such a baptism.

Leadership Day open to all May 16

Diocesan Leadership Day, to be held at Calvary Church on May 16, 2015, is open to all Pittsburgh Episcopalians. Two major topics will be discussed: parish compliance with the updated Pennsylvania child protection laws and General Convention issues. Details can be found on the diocesan Web site. Advance registration is requested.

Monday, May 4, 2015

News for Week Ending 5/4/2015

Josiah Idowu-Fearon: Job is to help Africa understand Europe and Europe to understand Africa

The recently named Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council, Nigerian Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has given an interview to The Guardian of Lagos, Nigeria. In it, he declares, “My ministry is to help Africa understand Europe and Europe to understand Africa. Because of my education, I am opportuned to understand both Europe and America.” (Idowu-Fearon’s English is a bit shaky.) Episcopalians are likely to be concerned about his view that the infamous Lambeth resolution of 1998, I.10, is the established position of the Anglican communion, that polygamists should be denied communion, and his statement regarding a person in his own diocese who disagrees with Lambeth I.10  (“We have a psychologist that is working on that person now.”).

Kenyan archbishop opposes registration of gay group

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council, has called on the Kenya Registrar of Societies to ignore a court order requiring that a organization for gays and lesbians be registered. Wabukala said, “The judgement was made on very narrow considerations and it is not only against Christianity but also against the Muslim teachings and traditions.” Episcopal Café covered this story.

Prominent Catholic apologist joins Anglican Church of Canada

Toronto’s National Post published an interview May 1, 2015, with a well known former Roman Catholic apologist discussing his departure from the Catholic church to join the Anglican Church of Canada. Broadcaster and columnist Michael Coren explained that it would be hypocritical to remain in a church espousing positions he no longer agrees with and that “has an obsession with issues [gay marriage, contraception, etc.] that Jesus never mentioned.” Catholic bloggers and the Catholic press have not been kind to Coren. (See, for example, this item from The Catholic World Report.)

Congo archbishop protests consecration plans of AMiA bishops

VirtueOnline reported April 29, 2015, that Archbishop of the Congo Henri Isingoma has written to the Anglican primates and to Partners in Mission of the Province of the Anglican Church of Congo deploring proposed episcopal consecrations sponsored by the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA, now usually calling itself The Mission—see Pittsburgh Update story here). Isingoma considers the consecrations an interference in the Congo church. It appears that the AMiA has trouble getting along with any of its reputed friends. It has had conflicts with the church in Rwanda, with the Anglican Church in North America, and now with the Anglican Church of Congo.

Court rejects Lawrence request for reconsideration

On April 29, 2015, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected the request by Mark Lawrence for a rehearing of the March 31 decision that sent the case filed by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina back to the U.S. District Court in Charleston. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The suit alleges that Mark Lawrence is violating trademark law by portraying himself as the Bishop of South Carolina, whereas The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion only recognize Charles vonRosenberg as Bishop of South Carolina. The instructions from the Fourth Circuit are likely to result in the lawsuit getting a hearing on the merits in District Court. Details can be found in the April 29 press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The breakaway diocese led by Mark Lawrence commented on the latest legal development here.

Breakaway S.C. ‘diocese’ confers with ACNA leaders

Leaders of the breakaway “Diocese of South Carolina” led by Mark Lawrence met with leaders of the Anglican Church in North America at South Carolina’s St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center April 28 and 29, 2015. Since its departure from The Episcopal Church, the Lawrence group, while representing itself as Anglican, has avoided attaching itself to any actual Anglican church. The April meeting was presumably intend to exploring the possibility of uniting with ACNA. Details of the meeting can be found here.

Cook no longer a bishop

Heather Cook is no longer a bishop—or even a priest. Episcopal News Service reported May 1, 2015, that the Maryland suffragan bishop arraigned April 2 on charges resulting from an accident that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has agreed to deposition and has resigned her position with the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. No particular canonical charge against the former bishop was disclosed.

Bane returns to Episcopal Church as bishop

David Bane, the former Bishop of Southern Virginia and who left The Episcopal for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in 2009—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has been restored as a bishop in The Episcopal Church by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The April 28, 2105, Episcopal News Service story indicates that Bane had been “released” in 2009, not “deposed,” as was indicated in the story on which the Pittsburgh Update story cited above was based. This allowed for a simpler return to the church by Bishop Bane.

Priest calls for General Convention resolution on General Seminary

The Rev. M. Sylvia O. Vásquez, Rector St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek, California, has lamented the lack of response of The Episcopal Church to recent events at the General Theological Seminary (GTS) and proposed that the upcoming General Convention request formation of a task force to investigate those events. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Vásquez wrote a letter that was posted on Episcopal Café. (Her proposed resolution is here.) Vásquez admitted that the situation at GTS has been the subject of spirited discussion on social media, and her letter has likewise occasioned much comment.

PB candidates announced

On May 1, 2015, the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop released a report listing information about the four bishops being nominated to succeed Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. The nominees are the Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio; the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina; the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut; and the Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, Bishop of Southwest Florida. The election, by the House of Bishops, will take place on June 27 at the General Convention in Salt Lake City.

Baptism of child with male parents delayed

Episcopal Café reported a story May 4, 2015, that has been the subject of much discussion on social media. Rich McCaffrey and his husband Eric planned to have their son Jack baptized April 19 at the the Cathedral of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida, cathedral church of the conservative Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. The baptism was postponed (and has not yet taken place), seemingly because of opposition of some members of the congregation. In fact, the reason for the delay has not been made clear. Dean Anthony Clark has spoken of “a very regrettable misunderstanding regarding Jack’s baptism,” and the family is to meet with Bishop Greg Brewer to resolve the matter.