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, September 27, 2016

Week Ending 9/26/16

Standing Rock Is the "New Selma"

As announced last week, the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry spent the weekend at the Standing Rock Reservation meeting with many of those gathered to protect the reservation's water supply and sacred sites nearby from construction crews working on a pipeline.  He stressed the sacredness of water in his sermon at the Sunday service at the reservation's Episcopal parish, St. James,  and characterized the protectors struggle as the "new Selma," a reference to the site of a major Civil Rights struggle.  

Dissident Anglicans Launch Effort to Form New Congregations Outside of Church of England

Several weeks ago, Church of England evangelicals announced the first steps towards creating a "church within a church" because of their unease with the theological directions of the established church, especially its accommodations towards same sex couples and clergy in such relationships. (See Update story here.)  Although the Church of England positions fall far short of an open welcome, most commentators saw this as first steps down the same road taken by dissidents in the U.S. that ended in schism.  Now the Anglican Mission in England has announced an effort to found hundreds of new congregations, some within and some outside of the Church of England.  This again parallels actions taken in the U.S. that prepared the way for schism.  

New Zealand Bishops Weigh in on Proposed Euthanasia Legislation

In response to a petition early in 2016, the Health Select Committee of New Zealand's parliament is investigating the possibility of an assisted suicide and euthanasia bill.  The InterChurch BioEthics Council quickly filed a statement against a measure allowing euthanasia and last week three members offered an oral submission at hearings. The commission  referenced the experience in the Netherlands of a broadening over time of the situations covered by that country's laws allowing assisted suicide and euthanasia. Backing up that submission, two retired bishops and seven active bishops from New Zealand have issued their own statement opposing legislation.  All but one of the bishops are from the North Island, home to five of the six largest cities in New Zealand, including the capitol, Wellington.  The one South Island bishop serves the northern part of that island, closest to Wellington. One of the North Island bishops is part of the indigenous branch of the New Zealand Church.  The nuanced bishop's statement argues for palliative care and acknowledges the many pastoral concerns involved in end-of-life decisions. 

Three Indigenous Bishops Protest Decision in Canada to Change the Canon on Marriage

The Anglican Church in Canada has been working to give indigenous peoples more say and independence within the larger church.  Three bishops of indigenous background and serving in dioceses of indigenous people have objected to both the process by which the marriage canon was changed and the actual change at the meeting of the Synod in August. (For what happened at the Synod see the Update story here.)   The whole process, they claim lacked consultation with the indigenous community and the application of standard western rules at the synod "silenced" an elder.  The bishops, however also object to the change made which will allow dioceses to opt in or out of allowing same-sex marriages.  The experience with this change has led them to focus even more on bringing greater independence to the indigenous dioceses. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Week Ending 09/19/16

Presiding Bishop Heading to Standing Rock

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is heading to the Standing Rock Reservation to offer further support to those opposing construction of an oil pipeline that threatens the reservation water supply and cuts through places that the reservation has documented include sacred sites.  Curry has already issued a statement of support (See Update here) and a number of Episcopal parishes and dioceses have issued statements of support (see here).  Curry will preside at a service at the Episcopal Church on the reservation during his visit.

Report Issued on Hostile Working Environment at Church Headquarters

At the time Presiding Bishop Curry fired three senior staff members in April 2016, he announced that an outside consulting firm would be providing a detailed study on the work culture at the Church Headquarters.  The consultants' report was released on September 15 at the House of Bishops meeting by a panel including the consultants and the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop.  It was webcast so that members of the House of Deputies could also hear the report.  The Living Church's report on the presentation focused on the report's documentation of an atmosphere of fear and mistrust that discouraged employees from making suggestions or reporting problems. The comments from the panel, however,  and the Episcopal Digital Network emphasized the steps being taken to build of a healthier way of working, including the transparency being offered by the webcast, and the appointment of a new leadership team.

Episcopal Seminary Board Letter Stirs Further Controversy

When Bishop Gary Hall, Chair of the EDS Board issued an update letter on the process of closing the seminary, critics quickly pointed out that his version of events was at odds with those cited in a letter by Bishop Carol Gallagher who had resigned from the Board in protest over the way things were handled.  Hall characterized Gallagher's resignation as a result of a busy schedule.  Hall's letter is here.  Pittsburgh Update covered Gallagher's resignation here

Australian Church Leaders Take Issue with Archbishop's Letter

Last week the Update reported on a letter from the Melbourne Archbishop saying that the Anglican Church would support having a plebiscite sponsored by the government on the issue of same-sex marriage.  That letter has prompted other Archbishops and bishops in the Church to issue their own statements, several claiming that such a vote would be hurtful and encourage division.   The newspaper, the Guardian, has covered the responses.

Church Attorney Rebuts Bishop Bruno's Filing to Hearing Panel.

The Church Attorney,  who represents the Episcopal Church in the proceedings against Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles in a case springing from his attempt to shut and sell St. James the Great in New Port Beach,  has filed a response to Bruno's request that the Hearing Panel dismiss all charges. Anglican Ink has a story on the filing and a more readable copy of the complaint is found on the "Save St. James" website.  The response outlines why there is a substantive case against Bruno and denies the Bishop's claims that the proceeding is irregular.  Parties are now waiting for the Hearing Panel to present its findings. The Update covered Bruno's filing and the original post-hearing filings of the Petitioners and Church Attorney here

Welsh Anglicans to Open Communion to Baptized

The bishops of the Anglican Church in Wales have agreed to allow  baptized people to take communion beginning in 2017. The church has had communion open only to those confirmed by a bishop.   The announcement was made in a letter from Archbishop Barry Morgan.  A number of Provinces in the Anglican Communion already follow this practice including The Episcopal Church, and the Churches in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, but the announcement provoked some negative response from conservatives.

Canadian Church and Bishop's Elections

While the Diocese of Toronto was celebrating the election of three suffragan bishops (two of who are women), the Bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia called off the election of a bishop coadjutor after someone raised a canonical objection.  The suffragans in Toronto will actually serve as regional bishops with the diocesan delegating authority for most matters to them in their region.  The aborted election in Caledonia was part of events surrounding the retirement at the end of 2016 of  Bishop William Anderson who opposed ordination of gays and same-sex marriage.  An objection was raised to a synod he had called for October to elect a coadjutor.  The concern was that he would try to influence the voting to elect another conservative.  Now the synod will meet in April 2017.  Anderson got in trouble in 2004 for  accepting into his diocese a priest who had renounced his Episcopal ordination and set up a competing congregation in Wyoming because the priest opposed ordination of gays.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Week Ending 09/12/16

Los Angeles Diocesan Council Returns Report of Property to Task Force

The Council of the Diocese of Los Angeles received and then returned to the authoring Task Force the draft report on corporation sole property mandated by the last diocesan convention.  The Council returned the report to the Task Force stating it needed to be more specific on individual properties, the tax status and the financial impact on the Diocese of receiving the property currently held by the bishop in a corporation sole. The draft report noted that there were no controls or transparency on the actions of the corporation sole, and that this was not in line with best practices of the Church.  This report is one of the outgrowths of the ongoing struggle between Bishop Bruno and the Congregation of St. James Newport Beach over whether he could close and sell the property out from under a restart congregation about to become completely self-sufficient financially. The Update story on the original report is here.

Bishop Carol Gallagher Resigns from EDS Board

Bishop Carol Gallagher, one of four Episcopal Divinity School Trustees who was not convinced that seminary needed to close, has resigned from the board citing several irregular actions. She especially objected to a public announcement that decision of the board was unanimous when she had not been polled on the matter, and the fact that the acting president was given less than 24 hours notice that he had to vacate his office for a new president.  She also raised issues of race, noting that none of the persons of color had supported the decision cease granting decisions.

Australian Primate Makes Statement Supporting National Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

The current Prime Minister of Australia is taking steps to make good on his campaign promise to hold a national vote on whether to allow same-sex marriage. Australian newspapers report that in response the Anglican Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier wrote the country's bishops urging them to help keep the discussion civil and noting that he did not expect the church to change its definition of marriage should the plebiscite be favorable,  although the church would need to welcome those who chose civil marriage.  He stated that Anglicans should be urged to vote their conscience.  The idea of the plebiscite is controversial among those working for marriage equality, some favoring the vote and others afraid that it will simply divide the country more and hurt LGBT individuals.  The bishop's full letter is here.

Task Force on Mending Anglican Relations Holds First Meeting

Archbishop Justin Welby is proceeding to implement things requested at the January meeting of Anglican Primates.  One of the things primates specified was a task group to explore how the Communion could mend relations and better walk together.  That request was endorsed at the April meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.  The task force has now met, and it is a broadly based group including TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry,  a Canadian bishop supportive of same-sex marriage, and Australian Archbishop Philip Freier (see preceding story).  The task group also includes former Global South chair, Archbishop Ian Ernst, and the highest ranking woman in the Kenyan Church, Canon Rosemary Mbogo, who is known for interdenominational work and advocacy for women and girls. The former ACC vice-chair, Elizabeth Paver, Archbishop Sarker of Bangladesh, Archbishop Clarke of Ireland, and Archbishop Hing of SE Asia also are part of the group.  The ranking Bishop from India will not be participating.

Standing Rock Protesters Gain Support from Obama, But Not the Courts

In the on-going protests against a gas pipeline in North Dakota led by Sioux from the Standing Rock reservation, the courts continue to support the company building the pipeline, refusing to halt construction, except for a temporary stay on a small area near the reservation.  However, President Obama ordered the Federal Agencies to deny permits for construction on lands they control.  Meanwhile, following the lead of the Presiding Bishop and the Diocese of North Dakota,  numerous Episcopal dioceses and organizations have announced their support for the protesters.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Week Ending 9/5/16

Same Sex Couples in the News in Europe

The Church of England cannot escape the reality of same sex couples and marriage.  This week the Church was hit with two pieces of headline news and a third emerged in the Finnish Lutheran Church which is in full communion with the Church of England.  Pressured by a British newspaper, The Bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain, acknowledged that he lived in a committed, celibate relationship with a male partner.  He had never hidden the fact, but it was also not publicized.  Predictably the GAFCON leadership denounced the relationship and raised questions of secrecy when Chamberlain was consecrated last year.  The Executive Secretary of the Anglican Communion on the other hand, issued a statement saying that since the Bishop was following carefully the Church protocols on matters of sexuality, there was no problem.  While these statements were flying back and forth, a group of Church of England clergy signed a public letter saying that they had married their same sex partners despite church rules opposing same sex civil marriage. There are asking for a more inclusive policy that will allow individual parishes to be openly affirming of their marriages.  To top off the week the Church of Finland issued guidelines saying that when civil same sex marriage becomes legal in Finland later this year, the church teaching will not change, and the church will continue to provide marriage only to couple comprising a man and a woman.  They did say the civilly married couples would be welcomed and blessed at church.  The Finnish Lutheran Church position contrasts with that of the Church in Denmark, where the head of that church recently performed a wedding for two Church of England men with the help of the men's Anglican parish in Denmark.

Episcopalians Continue Supporting Standing Rock Protests Against Pipeline

During the last week the number of oil pipeline protesters in North Dakota continued to grow as various interdenominational and indigenous groups rallied to the support of the Sioux who are trying to stop an oil pipeline from being constructed on land that contains sacred burial sites and jeopardizes their water supply. (See the Update from last week.)   When the oil company suddenly switched its construction to a site specifically identified the day before in court filings by the Standing Rock tribe as filled with burial cairns, protesters rushed to the site only to be met by private security guards with pepper spray and dogs.  Several of those in the crowd, including a young child needed treatment for dog bites.  Episcopalians can follow all the news, which is not getting much press attention, at a Facebook site, Episcopalians Stand With Standing Rock.

St. James in Newport Beach Files Motion to Recover Property

Last week the Petitioners who filed the original complaint against Bishop Bruno with the Episcopal Church filed a motion with the Hearing Panel asking to be allowed access to what had been their church property before Bishop Bruno locked them out as part of an attempt to sell the property to developers. The Church Attorney,  who serves the Episcopal Church during the Hearing Panel process (not one of the parties) filed his own motion supporting the return of the property to the parish.  Both of these were filed August 26.  Two days later Bishop Bruno filed his response asking that the case be dismissed and charges dropped because of errors in the process, and because legal papers and letters were shared in public forums.  In the bishop's motion, he denies any recognition to the parish or its rector. The most recent previous Update story on this ongoing saga is here.

After a Year, South Carolina Still Waits for Decision from State Supreme Court

It is now a full calendar year since the oral arguments were made before the South Carolina Supreme Court in the case originally brought by the parishes that left the Episcopal Church to defend their claims to Episcopal Property.  After the trial court favored the seceders, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina appealed.  The reason for the long delay in issuing an opinion is not clear, but the chief justice at the time has retired (but remains a part of the court for this decision) and the court apparently is having trouble agreeing on an opinion.  Journalist and blogger, Steve Skaradon has gone out on a limb and speculated the court members may have rejected an opinion written by the retired Chief Justice upholding the lower court and have had it assigned to another judge.  Links on this site do not got to individual stories, so look for the September 3 posting.

News Around the Anglican Communion

Christians in the Peshwar region of Pakistan are praising a Muslim security guard who died preventing four suicide bombers from entering a church in a Christian colony.  He raised the alarm, summoning other security forces and then started firing at the bombers. All four bombers were killed short of their target.  Five other security people were injured.

Meanwhile, Anglicans in Seoul, South Korea are celebrating the opening of a women's ministry center  that has been in planning or building stages for 20 years.  It is a full service women's center offering a variety programs which should appeal to women and families.  These will include religious and leadership programs,  provide support for women facing a number of life stresses or who are recently released prisoners or defectors from North Korea.