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, February 23, 2016

Week Ending 02/22/16

W. Lee Hicks of Calvary Dies

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other news sources carried an obituary of the Rev. W. Lee Hicks on February 22, 2016.  The stories rightly emphasized Hicks role in starting Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Although an ordained Baptist minister, Hicks was a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, and in the early phases of rebuilding after the 2008 schism, he stepped forward to help.  Elected to the  diocesan Standing Committee at the special convention of 2008, Hicks served as secretary for the body.  He also later served as the diocesan representative to the Episcopal Appalachian Ministries.

Dublin Churches Closed for Easter

It will be a real challenge for the Anglican Cathedral and six other Anglican Churches in Dublin to celebrate Easter this year.  Because it is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising, which marks the beginning of a long struggle for Irish independence, the government has closed the Anglican Churches Easter for fear of violence.  Huge crowds are expected in the city for the parade marking the uprising, and all vehicle traffic in to the city center has been banned for the day. The closure does not affect services on Easter Eve, such as the vigil, and Anglican churches outside the city core are inviting those affected to worship with them.

Virginia House of Deputies Passes "Religious Exception" Law

The Virginia House of Deputies has passed a law shielding those with religious objections to LGBTQ people from legal action should they refuse service or otherwise discriminate against same LGBTQ people, or have sex outside of marriage.  The Virginia Governor is expected to kill the bill.  The bill bars state agencies from taking any financial action (such as imposing tax penalties or excluding business from government contracts) against those who discriminate against LGBTQ people for religious reasons.   The legislature may want to take a look at the survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute that shows a majority of Americans from all religious groups (including 55% of Virginians) are in favor of laws barring such discrimination.

More Fallout from the Primates Gathering

This last week both the Archbishop of  York and the Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, Right Reverend James Tengatenga,  both agreed that the Episcopal Church was still in the Anglican Communion, and that the Communion had no power to enforce anything on one of the independent provinces that make up the Anglican Communion.  Tengatenga went further, saying he expected the delegates from the Episcopal Church to come and participate fully in the ACC meeting. The Archbishop of York responded to a letter asking if those provinces that supported criminal action against LGBTQ people would also be asked to stand aside.  His reply listed every instance that the Anglican Communion and the Church of England had made a statement about welcoming or understanding LGBTQ people, but stopped short of answering the question.  Thinking Anglicans has published a transcript of the questioning of the Archbishop of Canterbury on whether the Primates gathering's "consequences" for TEC was an attempt to implement the Anglican Covenant which had never been approved by the Church of England.  Meanwhile, the Episcopal Cafe published a statement by the only person directly affected by the Prinates' "consequences" - the Rev. Amy Richter, who serves on The International Reformed and Anglican Dialogue, and has been informed that it is likely the ACC will suspend her participation in that body.  She is the only Biblical Scholar and woman participating in the dialogue.

New Zealand Study Group Publishes Proposed Blessing Liturgies

A study group authorized in 2014 has published their final report on same-sex union blessings and related issues. As a result, the Anglican Churches in New Zealand will be voting on two new liturgies, one for blessing same sex couples who have opted for a civil marriage, and one for opposite sex couple who have done the same.  The study report makes clear that this does not change theological positions, but rather takes a generous reading of the phrase "rightly ordered relationships."  The same language also provides a path for same sex couples including an ordained person, or a person desiring ordination, to be allowed to serve in the church.  The proposal includes a number of "opt out" provisions, both for individuals and dioceses.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Week Ending 02/15/16

The Diocese of Texas Changes Canons to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, the largest of the five dioceses in Texas, has changed its canons by eliminating a section that defined a marriage as between a man and a woman.  This opens the way for willing congregations to offer ceremonies for same-sex couples.  The vote at the diocesan convention in favor of removal of the section of canons was 499 to 144.  

Two Studies Released on English and Church

The Barna Group has released a study of what English people believe about Jesus.  The survey was conducted across the public at large, including a sample from Muslim and Hindi populations.  Sixty-five percent believed that Jesus was a real historic figure.  Some of the other fascinating findings include the fact that one-third of those surveyed did not know a Christian, and 44% believed in the resurrection.  The full survey results are here.  Meanwhile,  the independent group WATCH (Women and the Church) in England released its annual report on the status of women in the Church of England.  The biggest developments were, of course, the consecration of women bishops and the seating of two in the House of Lords. Around 13% of English parishes still do not accept women clergy, but women are now almost half of all full-time paid clergy.The full report is here.

Welby Unpacks the Primates' Gathering 

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby used his address to the Church of England Synod to provide an extended unpacking of the recent primates gathering.  During that talk he stressed that the communion has no biding force except bonds of mutual respect, but made it quite clear that
ACNA was not recognized as a part of the Anglican Communion.  His displeasure with the early and misleading  press coverage and release of parts of the Communique was evident. He stressed that the Anglican Communion is a relationship and that agreement and disagreement is approached through the idea of reception, using examples of past disagreements such as divorce to illustrate his point.

Historic Meeting Between Pope and Russian Patriarch

The meeting between Pope Francis and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Havana, Cuba,  was historic in the sense that it was the first ever meeting between leaders of these two bodies, but it also raised concerns among other leaders of Orthodox traditions that somehow this would upstage their own roles in the cluster of churches that are part of the Orthodox world.  CNN and the Episcopal Cafe provide good perspectives on the meeting.

St. James Newport Beach Updates

The congregations locked out of its building by Los Angeles Bishop Bruno who is trying to sell the property released a status update letter this last week.  In addition their parish Facebook site had numerous posts on the opening of a local fire station for their Shrove Tueday pancake supper, and other signs of support from the Newport Beach community. 

Church of Ireland Unveils Study Curriculum on Sexuality

The Church of Ireland has begun a period of study on issues related to sexuality, especially same-sex relations, bisexuality and transgender.  A group including a broad spectrum of people from the church, including those from the LGBT community put the study guide together.  The announcement of the guide and a link to the full document are here.  Comments by Changing Attitude, the British group advocating for LGBT people are here.

Church in Brazil Joins in Battle Against Zika Virus

The Episcopal Church of Brazil is using Lent as a time to launch a major initiative in cooperation with other churches aimed at control of the Zika virus.  The effort is encouraging basic sanitation and mosquito control actions.  They are concerned because half the population of Brazil lives in conditions that are unsanitary and very vulnerable to the spread of the disease.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week Ending 02/08/16

Presiding Bishop Speaks at the National Press Club

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke for more than 20 minutes on evangelism and racial reconciliation at the National Press Club on Monday, February 8 and then fielded questions on those topics as well as the recent meeting in Canterbury and the issue of past sexual abuse at St. George's School in Rhode Island (for more on St. George's see the story below.  Episcopal News Service has provided both a summary of his talk and a full video of the presentation and Q & A period.  The Living Church also carried a story focused on the main points of Curry's talk.  Religion News Service carried an account that dealt only with the Questions and Answers on Canterbury and St. George's School. Jeff Walton, who writes for the ultra conservative Institute for Religion and Democracy  focused almost exclusively on the less that five minutes Curry used to answer a question on the status of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion following the primates meeting.

Ecclesiastical Proceedings Started Against Clergy Involved in St. George's School Abuse Scandal

Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisley has called for disciplinary actions against 3 men who have been accused of sexually abusing children at St. George's Episcopal School.  One of the three, Frank Coleman,  is a lay person and not subject to church discipline.  The other two, the former chaplain at the school, Howard White, and the school's headmaster, George Andrews II (who dismissed Coleman when accusations of abuse originally surfaced, but failed to report the accusations to civil authorities) are now under ecclesiastical review.  White is also being investigated by the Diocese of Western North Carolina following a charge of abuse while he served a parish there.  Pittsburgh Update carried a story in January when the story first broke.

Episcopal School Cancels Class To Feed the Poor

On a more positive note that the previous story, Holy Innocents School in Atlanta cancelled the physical education classes for their third graders and one class of eighth graders so that they could pack 10,000 plastic bags of protein, rice and dried vegetables for the "Stop Hunger Now" program which will distribute them to needy families in some of the poorest nations of the world.   Each bag held six meals.  As the children packed the food, they learned more about world hunger from Stop Hunger Now's program manager.  Holy Innocents, with 1360 students in age 3 to grade 12, is among the largest Episcopal day schools in the country.  The school chaplains said the event was a way of putting faith into action.

Church of England Again in the News

Christiantoday.com an on-line evangelical newspaper based in London had two stories of possible interest to Update readers.  The first reported on a survey showing that  six out of ten adults in England actually visited a church or chapel in the past year.  Four out of five of those visiting went to a religious service as opposed to a cultural event such as a concert.  Comfortable pews and access to wi-fi were high on the list of things that those surveyed said would encourage them to return for another visit.    The second story is about the formation of a new, broadly based pressure group focused on full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church of England.  This latter group intends to see that the church follows up on the Archbishop of Canterbury's apology to LGBTI people with actual action.

Ethiopian Anglicans Acting as Peacemakers

Tribal conflicts have led to increased violence in Ethiopia, and the church there has asked for prayers for an end to violence.  The church has tried to be a witness for reconciliation, even having some of its members act as a human shield to escort students through hostile tribal areas to their homes.

Sydney Breaks New Ground With Installation of Cathedral Dean

The installation of Kanishka Raffel as dean of the cathedral in Sydney, Australia marked the first time that a person other than someone from European ancestry has held that role.  The dean was raised a Buddhist by his Sri-Lankan immigrant parents.  He converted to Christianity while in college in Sydney. He is hopeful that his election will serve as a symbol of inclusion and welcome to Asians and South Asia in Sydney where 56 percent of the people were born outside of the country. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Week Ending 2/1/16

St. James Newport Beach Back in Court

Last week the trial judge in the property disputes around the sale of the parish property for St. James in Newport Beach heard arguments and made rulings on a number of motions.  The "Save St. James" group posted some comments about what went on in court on their Facebook page.  The judge ruled against Bishop Bruno on several issues in these preliminary skirmishes and deferred others to a later hearing.  A trial date has now been set for August. For a quick refresher on this on-going saga, look at the Update story here.

Emanuel AME Church Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

The way Emanuel AME Church in Charleston responded to the slaughter of members attending a Bible study class was impressive and measured.  At the instigation of a group of Illinois lawmakers, church members and others around the country, a nomination has been submitted to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee as a candidate for the Peace Prize.  The competition will be stiff.  Pope Francis is another of the nominees.  The Charleston Post and Courier carried a good story on the nomination.

Latest Revelations Raise Question About "Unity" at Primates Gathering

As more and more information trickles out about the gathering of Anglican primates in Canterbury, there is less and less certainty that the meeting accomplished anything.  It is now clear that a number of the GAFCON primates left Thursday night (supposedly to catch planes, although the meeting had always been scheduled to run through Friday).  They left after the group did not get as strong a statement against the Episcopal Church as they wanted, and when Presiding Bishop Curry would not disavow the actions taken at General Convention.  This meant that the GAFCON archbishops were not present when the sections of the "Communique" that apologized for ill treatment of LGBTQ people and promised to work against punitive measures were passed.  As commentators continued to point out that this was not even an official meeting of the primates, and that the primates had no authority to set any kind of "consequences,"  the Executive Secretary of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Josiah Fearon was telling people that the "consequences" were a done deal.  The Episcopal House of Deputies has issued a statement noting that the primates gathering was not binding and that TEC representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council were planning to go and participate in the April meeting.  The "Old Crusty Dean," Tom Ferguson (Academic Dean at Bexley Seabury Seminary) has an insightful blog on the governance issues raised by the primate's gathering.  A group of 55 Irish Anglican clergy sent a letter to Presiding Bishop Curry offering their prayers and support for TEC and repudiating the "Communique."  Meanwhile in England, Archbishop Welby was not only dealing with pressure from liberals demanding he hold African provinces accountable for their treatment of LGBTQ people, but with a survey that showed growing support by Church of England members for same-sex marriage, with 72% of members under 35 years of age supporting same-sex marriage.

Southern California Dioceses and Western Mexico Plan Joint Way of the Cross Service

Once again, the Dioceses of San Diego, Los Angeles, and Western Mexico shall come together for a joint stations of the cross service held in Friendship Park which straddles the Mexico U.S. border.  As part of the day, a motorcade will come from Los Angeles led by a vehicle with a six foot high statue of Jesus at the front. The final station of the cross, will be at the border itself with a eucharist celebrated by the bishops from both countries.  Because there is no border crossing in the park, they will celebrate at altars divided by the wire fencing of the border.  The service began in 2012 as a joint way to call attention to border and immigration issues.

Latest Statement Reveals How the Episcopal Church of Scotland Was Left Out of Ecumenical Agreement

Pittsburgh Update carried an earlier story on the way an announcement of an agreement between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland surprised the Episcopal Church in Scotland.  The Episcopal Church of Scotland has now issued a formal statement outlining why they dropped out of talks several years ago, and how they will now try to work with the agreement between the Church of England and the (presbyterian) Church of Scotland.  At issue is whether an ecumenical agreement was even appropriate given the fact that this involves a form of border-crossing in the Anglican Communion.