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, August 30, 2016

Week Ending 8/29/16

Churches Support Pipeline Protest

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles North and South Dakota is leading a protest against an oil pipeline that will cross the Missouri River just north of their reservation.  They are concerned both because the land involved is considered sacred (and they own the mineral rights to it) and because a leak would potentially destroy the source of water for the reservation.  Some leaders of the protest have been arrested; other tribes have gathered in support of the protesters, and there have demonstrations of support in various locations around the country. A number of the protesters are members of the Episcopal Churches on the reservation. The Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota issued an early statement supporting the protesters, and they were soon joined by the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, and now the Anglican Church of Canada.   The situation is still ongoing.

Episcopal Schools Remain in the News

Two Episcopal Schools continue struggle with issues related to sexual abuse on campus.  Legal issues continue surrounding conviction last year of a senior student who raped an underclass woman as part of a contest among graduating men at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire. The young woman's lawyers have now filed a complaint because some parents raised money to help pay the senior's legal fees.  They are holding the school responsible.  Meanwhile in Boca Raton, the Board of St. Andrew's School has announced the dismissal of a second senior administrator at the school for mishandling two complaints about possible sexual abuse. They had terminated the head of school in May and hired an outside investigating team to explore a report of abuse. The team's report uncovered a second case.  The terminated officials failed to follow state law requiring them to report possible abuse.  Earlier update stories on these schools can be found here and here

Church of England Conservatives Start Down Path to Schism

The most recent interview with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, where he commented on the awful way gays and lesbians have been treated by the church,  was one more piece of evidence for clergy from 12 parishes who have begun preliminary steps to set up their own "church within a church" shadow synod.  They are upset by what they see as the Church of England's softening stance against homosexuality, same sex marriage, and ordination of those in a same sex relationship. Episcopalians will recognize the similarity to the first actions and rhetoric taken by those who eventually left the church to form the Anglican Church in North America.  In fact, ultra-conservative bloggers are already noting the parallel.   Like ACNA the group has announced adherence to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, and like ACNA the Church of England group looks to GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) for support. In return GAFCON has issued a statement supportive of the Church of England group, while carefully noting they did not initiate the meeting.

U.S. Government to Work with Church in Ghana to End Child Slavery

The diocese of Accra in Ghana has launched a major effort to redeem children caught in child trafficking and slavery, and they have secured the U.S. government as a partner.  Ambassador Jackson was present last week at the launching of a five year program to create a "City of Hope," a refuge for trafficked children and those in forced labor developed by the Diocese of Accra in the Anglican province of West Africa. With more than 22% of Ghana's children in the labor force and 14% dong hazardous labor, the church has begun a widespread initiative that includes not only rescue and rehabilitation of children, but affordable education, sustainable employment that will eliminate the need for child labor, and changes to public policy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Week Ending 8/22/16

Copenhagen Lutherans and Anglicans Cooperate in Same Sex Wedding 

The Church of England does not allow its clergy to preside at same sex marriages nor to bless same sex couples married in civil ceremonies.  However, the Lutheran Church of Denmark does, and that church is in full communion with the Church of England.  Thus when Nigel Rowley and his partner Mikel wanted to marry, Nigel (a long-time active member of the Church of England's Diocese of Europe Parish, St. Alban's in Copenhagen) arranged a unique cooperation between the Lutheran cathedral and St. Alban's. The two were married at the Lutheran Cathedral with the Lutheran archbishop presiding.  St. Alban's choir joined with the Cathedral singers at the service.  The Diocese of Europe has posted a press release on the service that was picked up by Anglican.Ink.

Diocese of Los Angeles Committee Issues Critical Report on Property Issues

Both Anglican.Ink and Episcopal Cafe carried stories this week on the report of a committee set up to explore issues of the way Los Angeles Bishops hold title to property as Corporate Sole.  Anglican.Ink has more background, and Episcopal Cafe a better link to the actual report.  The issue is intimately tied to issues surrounding the decision a year ago by Bishop Jon Bruno to sell the property of St. James the Less in Newport Beach.  (Update has followed the St. James story in detail.  The most recent post is here.)  The corporate sole holdings by a sitting bishop was developed at a time when state law did not allow a religious organization to own property.  That law changed and dioceses created diocesan corporations.  The committee criticized the lack of transparency, inadequate auditing and records of the corporate sole and has recommended that the corporate sole turn over all property that it can without tax liabilities to the diocesan corporation.  It also recommends subordinating the corporate sole to the diocese and requiring reports.  The canons of the Episcopal Church in general are set up assuming a diocesan corporation holds property.   

Episcopal Church Encouraging Participation in Upcoming Election

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued a video appeal to Episcopalians to participate in the coming elections and to do so in light of the gospel.  The interest of the presiding bishop in living the gospel is evident in the new look of the Episcopal Church web pages which right now feature links to the Episcopal Policy Network and a whole variety of election resources including information on elections in every state.  Without endorsing a particular candidate or party, the Episcopal Policy Network provides information on positions taken by the Episcopal Church on major issues including foreign policy, global warming, racial reconciliation, and economic justice.  

Two Long-Serving Anglican Archbishops to Retire in 2017

This last week two of the longest serving archbishops in the Anglican Communion announced their retirements.  Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales will retire in January 2017.  Morgan has been a voice for inclusion and support of  women as bishops during his 14 years as archbishop.  He was part of the commission that drafted the Windsor Report in 2004.  Just two months after Morgan retires, Archbishop Brown Turei will retire.  He was consecrated as a bishop in the Maori section of the New Zealand Church in 1992 and became its Archbishop in 2005.  The New Zealand Province of the communion has a unique governing arrangement with three co-equal ethnic strains, each with its own archbishop. 

South African Church to Vote on Blessing Same Sex Unions

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa Synod meeting next month will deal with a proposal that would allow blessing of civil same sex unions while explicitly saying that no clergy would be required to do so.  The proposal also endorses the ordination of those clergy in civil unions.  The measures will be controversial.  Besides South Africa the province includes Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia,  Angola, and two small British territories.  South Africa is alone among African nations in having legally recognized unions for same sex couples, although a few French, Spanish, and British-ruled territories or cities also have recognition

Episcopal Church of Brazil Speaks Out in Support of Indigenous People's Land Rights

The Church in Brazil has joined a coalition of churches working to prevent the takeover of indigenous people's land by large agri-business corporations intent on exploiting the resources of the Amazon.  At least 390 natives have been murdered and another 500 committed suicide in the last 12 years as a result of land takeovers. The coalition has met with top governmental officials and is supporting efforts to train community organizers to help indigenous people resist the open violence driving people from their lands.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week Ending 8/15/16

Presiding Bishop Announces Appoint of Director of Government Relations

One of the positions vacated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's suspension and eventual firing of three senior administrators was the Director of Government Relations.  Alexander Baumgarten had held that position along with others.   (See Update story here and here). This week the Presiding Bishop filled that post by appointing Rebecca Linder-Blatchley as Director of Government Relations.  The new director has extensive experience in foreign relations with a special focus on Africa.  Most recently she served as Senior Policy Advisor for Africa for the Office of Religion and Global Affairs in the United States Department of State.  In her new role she will be responsible for making the positions of the General Convention, Executive Council, and Presiding Bishop known to members of the U.S. Government, in ecumenical settings, and to other policy makers.

Lutheran Synod Takes Major Decisions

The Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America meeting in New Orleans last week took several steps that should interest Episcopalians, especially since The Episcopal Church and the ELCA are in full communion.  The Synod took a firm stand against Israeli settlements in occupied territories of Palestine, including abstaining from investment in firms working in Israel.  The Synod also endorsed a program that aids migrants from Mexico and Central American, and approved at path-breaking joint agreement with the Roman Catholic Church called "Declaration on the Way" that outlines additional areas of agreement between the Roman Catholics and Lutherans in ministry.

Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa Elects New Leaders

The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa has elected the Archbishop of the Province of Central Africa, Albert Charma as its new chair, replacing the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Burundi.  Charma most recently served as the host of the Anglican Consultative Council this spring.  Vice Chair will be the Archbishop of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali.  CAPA tries to bring together all of the African Provinces, including more liberal South Africa to work on joint projects.  In recent years the leadership has pulled CAPA closer to the Global South. 

Two Parishes Reach Out

Stories published by the Episcopal News Service and And Anglican Communion News Service highlighted the efforts of two Episcopal Parishes.  The ENS carried a story about a Westchester County, NY parish's efforts to aid refugees, efforts that culminated in a furniture drive for refugees being settled in the Diocese of Connecticut.   The Anglican Communion News Service highlighted a local mission effort in the community of Jersey Shores, PA that attracts ecumenical support and completed over 90 projects done during a mission week coordinated by Trinity Episcopal Church.  Projects including painting, building handicap ramps, neighborhood clean-up and more.

Australian Church Service Disrupted by Right Wing Activists

Gosford Anglican Church in New South Wales, Australia has taken strong stands in favor of refugees and same sex marriage.  These stands made it a target of a right wing group known as the Party for Freedom who masqueraded as muslims and disrupted the parish Sunday service using a bullhorn to shout anti-muslim slogans and play recorded parts of the Koran.  Their actions terrified some members of the congregation who thought they were muslim terrorists.  The protestors left without incident and then later bragged about their actions on their Facebook page.   The rector of the parish continued with his sermon after they left, but later said that the actions had traumatized some members of the parish who thought they were going to be blown up.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Week Ending 8/9/16

St. George's School Reaches Settlement

The parties involved in a sexual abuse lawsuit at St. George's School have announced a settlement.  The charges brought by former students involved several staff and the events dated back to the 1970s.  (See Update Story here.)

EDS Alums Respond to Trustees

The Episcopal Divinity Alumni/ae Association has issued a letter expressing regret and disappoinment that the seminary's board of trustees announced cessation of the granting of degrees after 2017.  The letter noted that the process short-circuited work being done by a trustees-appointed "Futures" committee. The board of trustees has now issued a response.

News of Women Bishops

In the first of several elections for a diocesan bishop where women candidates outnumber men, the Diocese of Central New York has elected the Rev. DeDe Duncan-Probe as the replacement for Bishop "Skip" Adams who is retiring.  Duncan-Probe, a priest in the Diocese of Virginia, was the leader on the first ballot, and was elected on the second.  The election now must be confirmed by the bishops and standing committes of dioceses in the Episcopal Church. Meanwhile in England a group supporting women priests has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to stop facilitating formal protests during consecrations The archbishop has now responded that conversations are underway to ensure no further disruptive protests.

Church of England Fastest Growing Church in Finland

Refugees from the Sudan and South Sudan have turned the Anglican Church in Finland into that country's fastest growing church. Many of the refugees were members of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and South Sudan.  They are finding their way to conregations of the Diocese of Europe in Finland.  For more see this article.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Week Ending 8/1/16

Belfast Anglican Cathedral Adds Roman Catholic Canon

The Northern Ireland city of Belfast was a center of strife between Catholics and Protestants for years.  Now St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast has appointed a Roman Catholic priest as one of three ecumenical canons permitted by its charter.  The ecumenical canons are allowed to say Morning or Evening Prayer, the litany, and to serve as a reader.  The man appointed, the Very Rev Edward O’Donnell, has 40 years of service as a Roman Catholic priest and is currently serving as a parish priest in the Roman Catholic diocese.

Oregon Parish Plans Tiny House Village for Homeless

The Church of the Resurrection in Eugene, Oregon has been active in ministry to the homeless for a number of years.  For the last three years it has used part of its parking lot as a site for a cluster of Quonset huts 6 ' x 9' providing basic, shelter (without utilities) for the homeless.  Now it has announced a plan to replace these with a cluster of "tiny houses" that are slightly bigger (12' x 8'),  taller, and complete with utilities.  They are seen as transitional housing and the formerly homeless residing there will have access to services and a mentor to help them make steps towards permanent housing.  Resurrection is not alone among churches in looking at transitional housing in Eugene, but this will be the largest and most permanent set of structures.  Each tiny house will cost between $5000 and $10,000, and the parish is working with the local high school and a community college to have classes fund and build the units.