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, January 26, 2016

Week Ending 1/25/16


House of Lords Seats Second Woman Bishop

The House of Lords has just seated the Rt. Rev. Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle.  She is the second woman to be seated among the 26 bishops in the House.  Traditionally the 26 seats are held by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester and the 21 most senior bishops in the Church of England.  However for the next 9 years under special transitional provisions, the most senior women bishops will take any openings that occur. 

Bishop vonRosenberg of South Carolina To Retire (Again).

Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, provisional Bishop of South Carolina has announced he will retire after June 26, 2016.  The retired bishop of East Tennessee stepped forward to lead the rebuilding effort for Episcopalians in the coastal half of South Carolina after Bishop Mark Lawrence led a majority of parishes in the diocese out of the Episcopal Church.  Bishop von Rosenberg and his wife were living in South Carolina at the time of the split.  Instead of a quiet life in a warm climate, vonRosenberg has had to deal with multiple lawsuits, recreating a church infrastructure, and nuturing clusters of loyal Episcopalians who have formed congregations in areas where parishes sided with Lawrence.  For more on his accomplishments and background, see the ENS story on his announcement.

Reaction Continues to Primates Meeting

The commentary and interpretation of the Meeting in Canterbury of Anglican Primates (and the ACNA Archbishop) continues.  Episcopal Cafe has a summary prepared by Andrew Gerns of statement from around the globe here and the Cafe also has a chart of comments by Episcopal Bishops which is updated by additional links in the comments section.  The latest from Presiding Bishop Curry stresses the independence of the Anglican Consultative Council which meets in April and that the primates have no authority to dictate who may vote at that meeting. Interestingly, Norman Doe the Church of Wales canon lawyer who helped write the Anglican Covenant makes the same point. Those who have been unhappy with the direction the TEC has taken, continue to insist that the primates issued sanctions and to suggest that in three years further punishment could be forthcoming, which led blogger Mark Harris to call the Archbishop of Kenya  who is chair of GAFCON, a bully.  The Anglican Church in North America issued a statement on their Archbishop's participation (was he supposed to vote or not?) That takes his participation as a step towards full recognition as a member of the Communion.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Week Ending 01/18/16

Anglican Primates Draft Communique and Statements

The conclusion of the recent meeting of Anglican Primates fully pleased no one, and has led to numerous responses and commentaries on two of the documents drafted by those at the meeting.  The third, a statement on evangelism, has been lost in the focus on the statement aimed at the Episcopal Church (which also sends a message to other provinces of the communion who might be thinking of allowing same sex marriage or blessings of unions) and the final "Communique" which appeared the day after the statement on the TEC was leaked.  Justin Welby opened the meeting with a message that tried to make room for disagreement with the Anglican Communion while stressing the importance of remaining in that communion. After the meeting Welby tried to draw a distinction between "sanctions" which he said were beyond the power of the primates and "consequences." Despite much talk about a walkout by primates from the "Global South," only one, the Archbishop of Uganda, left.  He did so when a vote requesting the primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada "voluntarily" to withdraw from the meeting until their churches repented of their positions on GLBTQ inclusion failed decisively.  (The Ugandan version of this event is here and other news stories on his departure are here and here.) Although the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America participated in the meeting as a guest, ACNA was not admitted to the Anglican Communion.  The primates have referred that decision to the Anglican Communion Council.

The ACNA archbishop, Foley Beach, was disappointed in the final statement of this meeting as well as by the lack of action on his denomination's request for membership, but he characterized the outcome as a "step forward." TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement reiterating the church's inclusive nature and focusing TEC on moving forward.  A number of diocesan bishops have also made statements on this meeting including the Bishops of Pittsburgh, New York,  and Washington.  Support for TEC has also come from bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communion, including Westminster, Canada. Other Anglican primates have issued statements showing a range of reactions. Those include New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, and Rwanda.  For thoughtful commentary, consider Mark Harris (and his previous post) and Lionel Deimel.

Update on St. James Newport Beach

The St. James Newport Beach congregation, locked out of their former building by Los Angles Bishop Jon Bruno, has announced that their priest, the Rev. Cindy Voorhees, has been named one of  Newport Beach's 4 most influential people for the past year .  The congregation has also filed further charges with TEC in the ongoing complaint against Bishop Bruno.  These document a series of real estate dealings planned and under-way by the bishop which are inconsistent with his public statements.  Much of the information came from a discovery process that is part of a legal suit filed as a result of the efforts to sell the building.

Fixed Date for Easter?

The BBC and Christianity Today have reported that Archbishop Welby is in conversations with Pope Francis,  the leader of the Coptic Church and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew to see if it is possible to create a fixed date for Easter.  The recent meeting of Anglican primates lent their support to this effort.  Welby would like to see an agreement reached before his term as Archbishop of Canterbury is over.  There have been previous attempts to do this, but none have been accepted by all the major Christian traditions.   One major divide is between the orthodox churches still using the Julian calendar and the western churches using the Gregorian calendar.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Week Ending 01/11/16

Primates Meeting Underway

As the meeting of the Anglican Communion primates neared, various groups tried to influence the meeting with advance statements.  More than 100 senior Church of England leaders, including a number of bishops, sent an open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York asking that the Anglican Communion acknowledge that they had caused great hurt to LGBTQ people and repent of those actions.  Signatures continue to be added to the list. Countering that, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda, sent a pastoral letter to his parishes demanding that "godly order" be restored to the Anglican Communion by ending all ordination of LGBTQ people, and disciplining the Episcopal Church.  Apparently trying to put his own interpretation on the signs that some of the primates attending the meeting were not open to dialogue, the Archbishop of Canterbury stated in an interview that schism would be a failure, not a disaster. The meeting has its own web site which seems designed to be a public relations vehicle for the communion.

Sexual Abuse Investigation at St. George's 

For the second time in less than twelve months, a prestigious private Episcopal school is in the news for sexual offenses committed at the school.  The first case, at St. Paul's in New Hampshire, resulted in a trial and conviction of a young man who sexually assaulted another student. (See Update story here.)  Now St. George's School in Rhode Island is faced with a case that has expanded to include more than 40 students who were assaulted by several staff members.  The school dismissed some of the staff, but did not report the assaults until a student filed a lawsuit. The abuse incidents span more than 30 years, and several headmasters failed to of report incidents to the police as required by law.   Now there are issues about the independence of the investigator the school has brought in to explore the situation.   

San Diego Diocese Selling North County Churches

North San Diego County included several congregations that either left the Episcopal Church and tried to take their property with them, or left the property behind in a hands of a remnant of the parish.  The diocese recovered the properties through legal action, but has decided that at least one of the restarted parishes has not been able to grow enough to be self-sustaining after 6 years of trying. Thus the congregation of St. Anne's in Oceanside has held its last service in their building, and the diocese has listed it for sale.  Part of the 127 year old parish may continue sans building as a non-traditional worship group.  All Saints Church in Vista, the town next to Oceanside, is a candidate for a similar fate, but the diocese is still studying the situation.  All Saints has been rebuilding since its rector left the Episcopal Church along with a good part of the congregation and formed a competing congregation.  The San Diego Union-Tribune covered the sale. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Week Ending 01/04/16

Church of Ireland Bishops Issue Pastoral Letter on Same Sex Marriages

The Church of Ireland includes both the Republic of Ireland where civil marriage for same sex couples is legal and Northern Ireland where it is not.  The Bishops of the Church created a common pastoral letter to be issued by each individual bishop.  The letter notes that the church has no authorized liturgies for blessing same sex unions or for same sex marriage and thus clergy may not preside at marriages.  It notes, that priests can certainly attend weddings or offer a couple blessings in a pastoral setting.  Clergy thinking of seeking a civil marriage with their same sex partner are urged to discuss the matter with their bishop and consider forbearance in the interests of unity.  The letter is not likely to settle issues for the church.

Local Parish Caught Up in Oregon Protest

Burns, Oregon, currently in the news because an armed group has occupied a building at the nearby National Park is home to a joint Episcopal/Lutheran parish. (The New York Times has a good background piece on the situation in Burns.)  Parishioners were very uneasy when a member of the occupying group attending Sunday services walked out in the middle of the sermon.  The priest had just criticized the use of guns against other humans.  Episcopal Cafe became aware of the situation when Provisional Bishop Nedi Rivera passed along an "urgent" prayer request to the "Daily Office" Blog from the parish pastor.

Kentucky Priest Resigns Parish Rather than follow Vestry's Wishes to Allow Same Sex Marriages

The rector of Calvary Church, Louisville, Kentucky resigned December 23 because of pressure from his vestry to allow same sex marriages at the church. The rector, Jonathan Erdman,  directed same-sex couples to the cathedral in Louisville if they wished to marry.  This did not satisfy the vestry.  Erdman's resignation letter also criticizes Bishop Terry White for not supporting him.  Conservative blogs and the Living Church are using the incident to suggest that the statements in the General Convention legislation passed this summer ensuring no one would be punished or forced to resign because of their position on same sex marriage were a sham.   What is clear is that there was an irreconcilable difference between a vestry and a rector.

Scottish Episcopal Church Voices More Dismay Over Agreement Between Churches of England and Scotland

Last week's Pittsburgh Update carried a story on an agreement between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), and concern voiced by the Episcopal Church of Scotland which was blindsided by the announcement of the agreement. Now the Episcopal Church of Scotland has articulated its concerns more fully.  They feel that the Church of England over-reached its authority in making an agreement in Scotland. You can read their full statement here.

Tensions On the Rise As Meeting of Primates Nears

As the January 16 date nears for the meeting of primates called by Archbishop of Canterbury, posturing and speculation about what will happen has grown.  This last week the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom carried a piece highlighting threats of the primates associated with GAFCON to walk out if the meeting does not denounce same sex marriage and throw out the Episcopal Church and the Anglican church of Canada.  They have rejected Archbishop Welby's idea of an Anglican Communion with much looser ties between members.  Christopher Brittain, a Scottish professor, weighed in with a piece on the ABC network using game theory to suggest that the outcome of the meeting will probably result in a minor stop-gap type proposal, and Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, has published a piece in the Modern Church suggesting the GAFCON position commits a semi- Pelagian heresy.  This is just a sampling of what has been published already.  Expect more in the coming week.

Sign of the Times in Texas

In wake of the Texas laws approving both open and concealed carrying of weapons, the break-away diocese in fort Worth headed by bishop Iker has issued a policy on open carrying of weapons.  All Churches are to ban open carrying and post a sign forbidding it.  The policy does not address concealed weapons except to say that people with concealed weapons permits should not be considered a private security force for churches.