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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week Ending 8/17/15

Panel Recommends Conciliation Process in St. James Controversy

The Review Panel for the complaint filed by members of St. James the Great in Newport Beach, California, (and others) against Bishop Jon Bruno for his attempted sale of the parish property—see Pittsburgh Update story here—has issued a formal letter saying they will be setting up a Conciliation Process as described in Episcopal Church canons, and warning all parties to do nothing that would undermine this effort. Earlier in the week the panel appointed an advisor to the parish.

Diocese of Albany Divided by Bishop Love’s Stance on Same-Sex Marriage

The Albany Times Union has carried a story about the negative reaction of portions of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany to Bishop William Love’s pastoral letter forbidding any clergy or parish involvement in or outside the diocese in a same-sex marriage. The news story interviewed people at several parishes including the cathedral parish who were protesting by staying home from church or driving to another diocese to worship in a welcoming parish. To read the story on the newspaper site, you need a subscription, but David Virtue has reprinted it.

Anglican Archbishop of Hong Kong Protests Removal of Crosses

Since 2013 more than 1200 crosses and several churches have been destroyed in China’s Zhejiang Province. Anglican Archbishop of Hong Kong, Paul Kwong, who sits on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, announced that last October he had written to the director of China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs in protest and was drafting another protest letter to send to state leaders because actions continued. The Chinese authorities are using the pretext of unsafe structures to remove crosses and are tearing down churches as unauthorized construction. The Roman Catholic news agencies covered the Anglican Archbishop’s actions.

Assignment of Women Priests Still Raising Issues in England

The Church of England’s process for accommodating both those supporting and opposing women as priests includes an “Independent Reviewer” to rule on complaints. The Reviewer recently ruled against a complaint by an organization supportive of women priests. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) His second report, published this last week, dealt with a complaint filed by Forward in Faith that a woman was inappropriately licensed to a multi-parish ministry in the Diocese of Gloucester including one parish opposed to women priests. Since the bishop issued a similar license to another woman for the same parish grouping, the Reviewer’s comments covered both. He ruled that part of the Forward in Faith complaint was incorrect, but that the bishop should reissue the licenses so that they are specific about what duties and where the women would serve within the cluster.

Church of England Reader Loses License for Same-Sex Marriage

Archbishop Sentamu of York has revoked the license (as of September) for lay reading that he gave Jeremy Timm, the National Coordinator of Changing Attitude, because Timm has married his same-sex partner. Timm studied for the ministry at Cramner Hall in Durham, but chose to not be ordained. He has been part of the Howden ministry team in the Diocese of Hull. He received the license after registering for a civil partnership in 2009, but his decision to marry, following legal changes in England, put him at odds with the official Church of England position. The parishes in the cluster are planning to protest the revocation. Timm is planning to find a home in Contemplative Fire, a “Fresh Community” recognized by the church. Timm’s statement is here. The Church Times story with comments from parishioners is here, and comments by Timm and a church spokesperson as part of a BBC broadcast are here.

Diocese of Melbourne Launches Plan for Reconciliation

In a concerted effort of the Anglican Church in Australia to face up to its past actions and build a new relationship with aborigines in Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier has announced the launch of a plan of reconciliation for the Diocese of Melbourne, his home diocese. The plan includes a variety of steps that will foster reconciliation with aboriginal peoples in Australia, better understanding and trust.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week ending 8/10/15

Gun Violence

Bishop Mark Beckwith in a blog entry has called on the parishes of his diocese to mark Gun Violence Sunday (December 13) by participating in the "memorials to the lost" project.  Participating parishes would display outside on poles t-shirts marked with the pertinent information for each individual killed by guns in the last year in their community. The bishop believe this would be a way for parishes to reach out to their communities, witness about violence and serve as an invitation to come into the churches for prayer and meditation.

The bishop was among the participants in an morning march against gun violence at the General Convention in Salt Lake.  Bishops United Against Gun Violence sponsored the march, which  attracted more than 1500 participants from those attending the convention. Beckwith is a co-convener of the group and see the "memorials to the lost" as a way to extend efforts to end gun violence by involving his entire diocese.

Remembering the Atomic Bomb

The Anglican Church in Japan (Nippon Sei Ko Kai or NSKK)  has been taking a leading role in witnessing for peace.  Not only has the primate of the church sent a strongly worded letter opposing use of Japanese troops outside of the country (see the Pittsburgh Update here), but the church took a lead in organizing  an ecumenical church service on the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  The Anglican-Roman Catholic service was held at the Catholic Peace Memorial Cathedral in Hiroshima.   A deputation from the World Council of Churches was present and participated.  Notably, the primate of the Anglican Church in Korea was invited to attend and participated in the services.  This marked a new step in the efforts of the NSKK and the Korean Church to further reconciliation of the breach caused by World War II between the two countries.

Legal Action Over New Zealand Cathedral Ends

The earthquake that devastated Christ Church, New Zealand in 2011 damaged the Anglican cathedral beyond use.  Controversy has complicated the process of rebuilding or restoring the cathedral and resulted in lawsuits over the use of funds to build a temporary cathedral using an innovative construction process based on cardboard.  After three years, litigation over the use of the funds has finally been resolved. The High Court ruled that Trustees should not have used insurance money to build the temporary structure.  Those funds were awarded for the permanent structure.  However, because the Trustees paid back the insurance money from another trust fund, the court ruled on August 5, that there was no reason to assess any punitive damages or other measures. The diocese expects to make a decision about the future cathedral in the next several months.

Canadian Lutherans Approve Lay Presidency

The National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada approved a measure that would allow lay ministers to preside at Eucharists in congregations that had no way to ensure regular service from an ordained minister.  A congregation would need to be unable to secure regular supply, participate in a multi-point parish  the services of a minister from one of the Churches in full communion with the ELCIC.  Implementation policies are still being devised, but in an interview reported in the Anglican Journal, the Lutheran Presiding Bishop suggested there would be a number of restrictions.  The lay president would not be allowed to dress as a clergy person, or perform other duties or rites (pastoral work, baptisms, marriages, etc.) and would be supervised by a mentoring pastor. A similar measure had been proposed at the Episcopal Church General Convention in Salt Lake, but  Resolution A044 was edited before passage to be only a statement that bishops should discern and implement ways that to ensure that all congregations will have access to the sacraments.

Pew Research Center Documents Changing Views on Same-Sex Marriage

Since 2001 American attitudes towards same-sex marriages have changed greatly, according to the Pew Research Center. Their most recent poll showed 57% of Americans supporting same-sex marriage.  In 2001 only 35% of Americans did. A majority of mainline, unaffiliated, and catholic respondents to their polls now favor same sex marriage. The attitude changes cross gender lines with a majority of both women and men supporting marriage. Women are slightly more favorable.The groups showing the least change are blacks, where a majority still disapproves, and white evangelicals where only a quarter approved. All four demographic age groups showed increased support, but age mattered. While 70% of Millennials and 59% of those polled in Generation X approved, the Baby Boom generation showed a smaller increase in support with a majority still opposed. Only 39 % of the Silent Generation approved, but this represented an 18% increase in support. The full study results are here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Week ending 8/3/15

Consecration of Three Peruvian Bishops Is First Step to Formation of a New Anglican Province.

The Diocese of Peru in the Anglican Church of South America has taken a major step towards eventual autonomy as a separate province in the Anglican Communion. In a service attended by representatives from around the Anglican Communion, three missionary bishops who are Peruvians have been consecrated. They will serve missionary districts in north Peru, south Peru and the central highlands. The Diocese of Peru originated as a mission to provide services to ex-patriot English speakers in Lima. The Cathedral in Lima still offers English language services. However, there are now more than 50 Spanish-speaking congregations in the diocese. The missionary bishops will work with these missions and help them grow into full parishes. When the missionary districts are strong enough to be full dioceses, the Diocese of Peru will become the Diocese of Lima, and the four dioceses will seek autonomy as the Church in Peru.

Site Preparation Begins to Rebuild Cathedral in Haiti

 Nearly five years after an earthquake devastated parts of Haiti and destroyed the Episcopal Cathedral, site preparation has finally begun to rebuild the cathedral. Because the building will incorporate latest engineering to protect against both hurricanes and earthquakes, and because the new cathedral will be large than the old, costs are estimated at more than $25 million. The full plan includes a worship space and three chapels along with other meeting space. One of the chapels will include three murals salvaged from the ruins of the old cathedral. Costs considerations will require building in stages with the worship space to be phase one.

Charges Against Bishop Bruno Escalate

 Bishop Clay Matthews, serving as intake officer for Title IV issues involving bishops has referred the charges filed against Bishop Bruno of Los Angles for the manner in which he is attempting to close and sell St. James the Great in Newport Beach. The Review Panel consists of the Presiding Bishop, the Intake Officer, and the Chair of the Disciplinary Committee for Bishops (Bishop Catherine Waynick of Indianapolis). The parishioners have sent further documentation and new evidence of conduct unbecoming a clergy person to the panel. The charges include claims that Bishop Bruno violated instructions by Matthews to not contact those who had signed the complaint.  Bruno's lawyer has now threatened civil action against those who signed the complaint. 

Organization Supporting Women Clergy in England Challenges Special Chrism Masses

 WATCH, a major organization supporting women clergy in England filed a formal complaint with the person charged with serving as an arbitrator/reviewer/ombundsman for issues related to women clergy in the Church of England. The complaint argued that 16 separate chrism masses and renewal of vows offered by bishops for those male clergy who cannot accept women's ordination violated some of the legislation passed as part of the approval of women bishops. The reviewer issued a 30 page report in response. The report concluded that the masses did not violate the clauses in question, but also raised concerns about how clergy with different positions on women's ordination could best express mutual support. 

Gender Equality Is Focus for Anglican Mission Group

Founded in 1701 as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the British charity now know as Us chose the theme of Gender Equality for its annual conference. The Anglican Communion website covered the conference.  Speakers for the conference came from Pakistan, India, South Africa as well as England. Their presentations covered a variety of issues around the globe related to women as well as theological exploration of the topic. More information on the presenters and their actual presentations can be found here.

Fort Worth Trial Judge Issues Final Decree

The breakaway diocese in Fort Worth has announced that Judge Chupp has now signed his final decree in the Fort Worth church property case.  Originally the Judge had ruled in favor of faithful Episcopalians, but when the state supreme court ordered a re-trial using "neutral principles" he ruled in favor of the break-away diocese, including a separate hearing on the property of All Saints Church. Signing the final decree now opens a the possibility of appeal of his decision. Pittsburgh Update has followed this case in detail. The most Update story is June 15, 2015.

Toronto Cathedral Hosts Exhibit as Part of Truth and Reconciliation Work

The Toronto Cathedral of the Anglican Church in Canada has been hosting a special exhibit on the experience of people at Canadian Indian Schools and in church missions. The exhibit explores the ways that church-run schools and missions for native peoples in Canada were sites of of pain both culturally and physically, the eventual apology the church has made for the conditions and its efforts at reconciliation. It also celebrates the resiliency of native cultures. The exhibit has attracted wide attendance because its opening coincided with the start of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto. A more detailed description of the exhibit is available on the Anglican Church of Canada website.

Primate of Brazil Supports Actions of Episcopal Church General Convention

Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, Primate of Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil has issued a statement supportive of The Episcopal Church's actions on marriage at General Convention. This is not unexpected given that Brazil has allowed civil marriage for same sex couples since 2011 and the church in Brazil has already made changes to its prayer book that would accommodate same sex marriage. The Brazilian church, however, has not formally come to agreement on the matter and discussions continue. He affirmed the continuing friendship of his church to The Episcopal Church. An English translation of his full statement is here.http://ns.ieab.org.br/2015/07/22/a-message-from-primate-of-brazil-related-to-decisions-taken-by-tec-on-marriage-understanding/