Week Ending 4/11/16
ACC Meeting Generates News and CommentThe 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 SurpriseArchbishop 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 CaseThe 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 ShieldA 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 SupportIn 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.
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.
Support for Same Sex Unions Inches Forward in Wales and Puerto Rico
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.