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, April 26, 2016

Week Ending 4/25/16

Property Cases in Fort Worth and San Joaquin Continue

The Fort Worth Episcopal Diocese had its day in court, April 19 when it presented oral arguments in its appeal of a lower court decision awarding all property to the break-away group. The trial court had originally awarded everything to those who stayed in the Episcopal Church.  The break-away group, also claiming to be the Episcopal Diocese, appealed and the Texas Supreme Court ordered a re-trial using so-called "neutral principles." (See the Update Story here).  This time the same judge awarded everything to the break-away group, declaring them to be the continuation of the original diocese. (See Update story here.)   The Episcopal Church and the loyal diocese then appealed.   The short article about the hearing on the site of the diocese in the Episcopal Church includes a 39 minute recording of the arguments. The break-away group issued only a short statement.  Meanwhile the break-away group in San Joaquin has announced it is going to ask for both a rehearing and file an appeal to the California Supreme Court after the appeals court issued a preliminary opinion awarding all diocesan holdings to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Former Presiding Bishop Has New Post

The Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts-Schori, the former Presiding Bishop, has accepted a visiting professorship at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, which was where she studied for the priesthood.  She is the third occupant of the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry chair. St. Margaret's was the name of the church training school for women which merged into CDSP.  She will teach  a course on the role of religious leaders in public issues, especially those related to the sciences.

North Carolina Episcopalians Among Leaders Opposing North Carolina Law on Transgendered People

The Star-Tribune of Wilmington, NC has published a story showing that while Baptists and Roman Catholics have issued no official statement on the so-called "bathroom" law passed in North Carolina, Episcopalians have been among those speaking out in opposition.  So far North Carolina is the only state to have a law go into effect requiring transgendered people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender designation on their birth certificate.  The Episcopal Cafe has a good graphic showing the status of such laws in the various states.

More Reaction to the Anglican Consultative Council

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the GAFCON bishops from Africa traded contradictory assessments of the recently concluded Anglican Consultative Council meeting.  GAFCON primates complained that the ACC had failed to follow up or enforce the "sanctions" that the Primates meeting in January had outlined. (See both the Episcopal Cafe story and the GAFCON bishop's communique.)  Archbishop Welby countered with an Facebook post saying that while the ACC did things in its own way,  those in attendance had followed and implemented the "consequences" outlined in the Primates' communique.  Meanwhile, the three American members of the ACC issued their own statement stressing the wonderful spirit they had found at the meeting, and that they had participated fully in the meeting, although Bishop Douglas had withdrawn from consideration as president of the ACC.  The Church Times article also stressed the unity felt by those in attendance, although it ended with the information on the GAFCON leadership meeting held just after the ACC concluded.

Pittsburgh's ACNA Diocese Chooses Successor to Bishop Duncan

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh met on Friday and Saturday of this last week to choose a successor to Bishop Robert Duncan who is retiring in June.  The search committee had announced 8 candidates, but 3 dropped out before the special convention convened.  At the convention, things also took a different turn when the rector of Ascension Parish in Pittsburgh, Jonathan Millard was nominated from the floor.  Bishop Duncan warned those attending that Millard's divorce might well prevent his approval by ACNA bishops.  Millard was the early front runner on the first three ballots. He withdrew after the fourth and the Rev. James Hobby was elected.  Hobby currently serves both as the congregational development officer for the ACNA diocese serving the south east corner of the U.S. and as rector of a parish in Georgia, just a short drive from Tallahassee, FL where Hobby was serving when he left the Episcopal Church in 2005. He and his wife were among the 22 clergy deposed by Bishop Howard in 2008 for abandonment of the communion.   For those who are interested, his written candidate statements are here, his parish biography is here, and the Episcopal Cafe story includes the actual vote totals for each round. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Week Ending 4/18/16

Long Island Bishop Asks Diocese to Join Protest Against Trump Rally

Bishop Provenzano of Long Island has sent a pastoral letter to his diocese asking them to join him and others in a demonstration of anti-racism during a Trump rally.  The presidential candidate is holding a fundraiser next to a site where a man was killed in 2008 because he was Hispanic immigrant.  The bishop explained that his call was for people to witness to their Christian commitments and not as political activism.  The full letter is here, and the Episcopal Cafe story is here.

Possible Light Shed on Church Center Dismissals

Ever since the Presiding Bishop announced the suspension of three senior Church Center staff members, and then the firing of two and discontinuance of the position of the third, there have been questions about what kind of wrong doing was involved.  The dismissal referred to violations of  "established workplace policies," failing to"live up to the Church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees," and creating "a workplace environment often inconsistent with the values and expectations of The Episcopal Church."  (See update story here.) Religion News has published an interview with a former staffer that suggests that gender bias may have been a part of the toxic working environment that Presiding Bishop Curry is now addressing.  Bob Honeychurch says that during his time working for the center, female employees voiced to him concerns about being left out of decision-making and their advice and skills being ignored.  The whole interview is here. 

The Anglican Consultative Council Winds Up Business with Focus on Social Justice Issues

The ACC has finished its meeting by passing more than 40 resolutions without further discussion.  Most dealt with issues related to ecumenism,  the environment, wealth disparity and income inequality, violence (especially against women), relief efforts, youth and evangelism.  They declined to further the "consequences" affected the Episcopal Church which were outlined in the January Communique from the primate's meeting.  Other than voting that they wished to continue walking together, the one resolution covering the communique simply "received" the message.  Another resolution saying they "welcomed" it was withdrawn.  The ACC also chose its leaders for the next three years, choosing the Archbishop of Hong Kong as their chair and Church of England laywoman, Margaret Swinson, as vice-chair.  While the new chair, Archbishop Kwong thought that being a primate could be helpful to the ACC, others were concerned that bishops now headed all four of the instruments of communion.  The other candidate for ACC chair had been a lay person.  Five new members were elected to the Standing Committee - one each from Scotland, Canada, Central America, North India, and Kenya.  Two are bishops (one of those a woman), two are lay and one a clergy person.  In the end, all but Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria of the 38 provinces had members present. 

Archbishop Welby Continues His Witness

While in Africa, the Archbishop of Canterbury took time to visit with the heads of two African countries.  The most important was his meeting with President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  Welby used the conversation to explain that the Anglican Communion had diverse opinions on same-sex marriage, but that the majority still saw marriage as an institution for one man and one woman. But then Welby went on to speak against legislation criminalizing LGBT people or their supporters.  The Archbishop appears to be trying to live up to the numerous Anglican Communion documents including the recent primates Communique which condemn civil penalties placed on LGBT people.
On a different front, Welby continued his support for economic justice, launching a new series of four videos, each 10 minutes long and looking at theological perspectives on money and debt.  The first of the videos has just been released.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Week Ending 4/11/16

ACC Meeting Generates News and Comment

The Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia is generating news and comments as it goes.  In the end, the Archbishop of Egypt and the Middle East did not attend the Standing Committee gathering that preceded the ACC meeting because Bishop Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Church did attend.  On the other hand, the Kenyan deputation did attend, ignoring the announcement of their archbishop that they would not. The Executive Secretary of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Joseph Idowu-Fearon has issued a defensive statement denying some rumors and pointing out that in fact, people were respecting the wishes of the Primates as expressed in their January statement. The meeting presentations by  the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Steering Committee,  the ACC chair, Bishop James Tengatenga, and Executive Secretary Idowu-Fearon all walked a fine line stressing both the independence of the ACC from the primates, and the need to respectfully honor the statement made by primates at their January meeting (for the January Statement, see this Pittsburgh Update). The latest development is that Bishop Ian Douglas, who was widely expected to run for ACC chair, announced at the meeting that he would not be a candidate, although claiming it was not a response to the primate's communique, but rather a desire to maintain collegial relations within the ACC, his withdrawal from consideration has the effect of implementing the communique requirement that TEC members step down from Anglican Communion posts dealing with doctrine and polity for three years.

Archbishop Welby Gets a Surprise

Archbishop Welby has gotten more press than the ACC with his announcement that he was surprised to find out through DNA testing that his biological father was not the man married to his mother.  His mother, who served as secretary to Winston Churchill, had a brief affair with a Churchill aide, Sir Anthony Montague Browne before eloping with Frank Welby.  His announcement has generated tons of press, most of it sympathetic to Welby.  For a sample of stories, look here and here.

Appeals Court Issues Preliminary Decision in San Joaquin Case

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin came another step closer this week to recovering diocesan property that the break-away Anglicans took with them in 2007.  The state appeals court in Fresno issued a unanimous opinion upholding the trial court's award of all property to those who had stayed in the Episcopal Church.  The court did rule against some parts of the lower court ruling, but the outcome was the same.  There is a 30 day comment period during which the break-away group can try to change the court's mind, and then another 120 days during which the break-away Anglicans could  file an appeal to the state supreme court. The Episcopal bishop urged prayer during the waiting period, and the break-away Anglican bishop expressed his disappointment and said they were going to make a careful assessment of next steps.  The Fresno Bee carried a full story with background, and you can find links to previous Update Stories here and here.

Federal Court Says "No" to Cross on County Shield

A federal court judge issued a permanent injunction against the Los Angeles County supervisors putting a cross back into the county seal.   Episcopal priest Ed Bacon was one of the respondents in the ACLU case. Bacon argued that the decision recognized that the cross was a religious symbol belonging to Christian Churches and thus did not belong on a secular seal.  The ACLU has filed numerous suits trying to keep state and church separate.  After a successful suit a decade ago, the county supervisors had removed a cross placed above the Hollywood Bowl on the seal and put in a picture of San Gabriel Mission (without a cross).   In 2014 commissioners tried to slip a cross on top of the mission, even though that was not historically accurate. The Los Angeles Times has the details.

St. James the Great Gets Community Support

In the on-going battle between the congregation of St. James the Great in Newport Beach and Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, things are not going well for the bishop.  This last week a vote of the residents in the immediate area of the Church was overwhelming that the property should not be converted to other use.  The congregation also issued its own update letter which has been re-posted on the web to all General Convention Deputies. 

Support for Same Sex Unions Inches Forward in Wales and Puerto Rico

Actions in Wales and in Puerto Rico reveal the continuing slow movement towards marriage equality.  In Wales, same sex couples can legally marry in a secular service.  A straw vote in August 2015 revelaed that while a majority of the clergy, laity and bishops in the Anglican Church in Wales supported gay marriage, but they did not have the super majority needed in the House of Bishops to change their canons.  The House of Bishops of the Church of Wales, has however issued a set of "prayers" (not blessings) that can be used by a clergy person following a secular marriage. The measure is seen as slight progress, but has been criticized for being a half-way measure that is a form of blessing under another name. 

When the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down laws banning same sex marriages was issued in 2015, it was not clear if the ruling applied to Puerto Rico, a U.S. Commonwealth.  The governor of Puerto Rico issued an executive order requiring governmental employees to treat same sex couples the same as heterosexual couple, but on March 8, 2016 a  a Puerto Rican judge ruled that the court decision did not apply to a commonwealth.  That decision has now been overruled by the First U.S. Court of Appeals. The appeals court extended all constitutional rights to citizens of Puerto Rico, including the right to marry.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Week Ending 4/4/16

Presiding Bishop Issues Statement on Staff Investigation

The Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has issued a statement on the results of an investigation of charges against the Chief Operating Officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls; Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, and Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communications.  He announced that charges of misconduct had been confirmed against McDonald and Baumgarten and they had been terminated.  The investigation by an outside law firm found no reason to consider any action against Bishop Sauls.  However, Sauls will be leaving  because the Presiding Bishop is defining a different set of needs and priorities for senior leadership.  The announcement also included steps that are being taken to change the workplace culture at the Church Center and improve interpersonal relations.

Bishop Seage Issues Statement in Response to Passage of Bill Granting A Right to Discriminate 

Passage of a so-called "Freedom of Religion" law by the Mississippi legislature prompted the Episcopal Bishop of Mississippi, Brian Seage to issue a statement urging the governor to veto the law.  The Bishop's statement stressed the welcoming nature of the Episcopal Church for all and cited the church's baptismal covenant. Governor Phil Bryant, however signed the law today.  The law is broadly worded and will allow anyone who wishes to refuse services based on a religious belief.  It also added "In God We Trust" to the state seal. 

Women Walk Out of Polish Church As Bishops Issue Statement Calling for Stricter Abortion Laws

Poland already has the strictest abortion regulations of any EU country, but the Catholic bishops there have called for a total ban on abortion, even to save the life of a mother, and punishment of women who seek abortions or who appear to have intentionally miscarried.  Women got up and walked out of church as the letter from the bishops was read.   In a news story carried by the Guardian,  the leader of the majority party in the Polish parliament said he had enough support  to pass a bill enacting their requests.  The conservative party in power also plans on introducing legislation to ban into-vitro fertilization and to require a prescription for the "morning after" pill.

Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt Insists That Primates do Have Authority 

In an essay published on the David Virtue website, Archbishop Mouneer Anis insists that the various resolutions of Anglican Communion bodies did confer special powers to the Primates Meeting. He interprets resolutions saying that there should be "consultation" as giving the primates a veto over action of any province in the Communion, and changes the three so-called "instruments of communion" (the Anglican Consultative Council, the Lambeth Conference, and the Primates Meeting) so that the Archbishop of Canterbury replaces the ACC as an instrument.   Anis has made his opposition to the Episcopal Church actions known in a number of ways, including refusal of all funds from any part of the Episcopal Church.  However, given that he is a member of the Standing Committee of the ACC, readers should be alert to how this might affect events at the upcoming ACC meeting. For more on the ACC meeting beginning April 8, see this Episcopal News Service article.