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, October 25, 2016

Week Ending 10/24/16

Executive Council Adds Its Voice to Standing Rock Protest

This last week police arrested large numbers of people trying to protest the building of a pipeline that may endanger the water supply of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota,and is destroying sacred burial sites.( For previous Update articles, begin here.)  The Episcopal Church Executive Council, meeting in New York City has adopted a resolution submitted by the Episcopal priest serving at St. James Episcopal Church in Canonball on the Standing Rock Reservation.  It calls for both federal and state authorities to deescalate the policing tactics being used, and calling on Episcopalians to offer both prayer and financial support as the protest encampment prepares for winter.  The resolution also commended the actions being taken by the Dioceses of North and South Dakota to support the protesters. 

 South Sudan Priest Killed by SPLM/A Forces

The ongoing unrest between factions in the South Sudan has claimed as one of its casualties a priest of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan who served in the diocese of Mudri.  The Rev. Lino Appollo remained behind when most civilians fled his community because he thought the troops would not hurt a priest.  The army arrested him, tortured and executed him.  Four civilians were also executed at the same time.  The Sudan news source Nyamilepedia has the more detailed story, but a second site, the Sudan Tribune includes a helpful map.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Week Ending 10/17/16

California Bishops Speak Out On Death Penalty Ballot Issue

California is known for having many propositions on its ballot.  Proposition 62 would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole.  Seven Episcopal bishops from all six California dioceses have signed a public statement stating the ballot issue presents "profound moral choice," and state their support for the measure. The statement also notes that the Episcopal Church as a whole has long been on record as opposing the death penalty.

Episcopal Dioceses Survey the Damage from Hurricane Matthew

Dioceses in the Southeastern part of the U.S. were trying to assess damage in their own bounds, help those in need in their communities, while also keeping in mind the even larger devastation faced by Haiti (which is also a Diocese in the Episcopal Church).  The Episcopal News Service has an article providing an overview.  Eastern North Carolina which is dealing with massive flooding has posted a survey of church facilities hurt by the storm and flooding, and also a plea for help for individuals and families.  Their sister diocese, the Diocese of North Carolina has set up major collection points for supplies and money and begun funneling them to distribution points in the state.  South Carolina has issued a preliminary survey of damage to their buildings and begun more general relief for their communities. The Diocese of Florida is directing people to the ERD for recovery grants.  Episcopal Relief and Development has launched a major effort to help Haiti as well as responding to needs in the U.S. 

Property Transition Quietly Beginning in San Joaquin

Since the California Supreme Court refused to take the break-away group's appeal of the decision granting all diocesan property to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, the two parties have been quietly effecting a property transition.  (The Update story on the conclusion of the lawsuit is here.)  The Episcopal diocese's chancellor, Michael Glass outlined transition progress in a report in September.  The Episcopal Diocese now has full control of ECCO  (the diocesan camp/retreat center) and will hold its diocesan convention there. The diocese is working with Merrill Lynch to transition ownership of the endowment.  The turnover of the Cathedral in Fresno is beginning.  The diocese has had planning under way for five years to determine what to do with the 26 other properties covered by the law suit.   

Episcopal Comings and (Possible) Goings

The Diocese of Spokane, which includes 40 parishes in eastern Washington and part of Idaho elected its first female diocesan this last week from a field of four, including three women and one man.  On the sixth ballot, the Rev. Gretchen Rehberg, of Lewiston, ID received the required majority from both lay and clergy.  A former professor of organic chemistry and EMT/firefighter, Rehberg attended General Seminary and has had several diocesan leadership roles. Assuming consents are granted by a majority of bishops and standing committees, she will be consecrated in February. 

Meanwhile, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Lexington, KY, has sent notification to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry that they and their suspended bishop, Douglas Hahn, are in disagreement over his return.  The Standing Committee voted unanimously that they did not want Bishop Hahn to return to diocesan duties at the conclusion of his mandatory leave.  The Presiding Bishop had placed Hahn on leave for a year when it became public that he had had an affair with a parishioner and deliberately had not disclosed this when he became a candidate for bishop in 2012, despite being asked several times whether he had had a sexual relationship with a parishioner.  Hahn, however wants to return.  The Standing Committee has issued a letter to parishes informing them of the situation and that they had notified the presiding bishop as required by Episcopal Church Canons, Title III.12.10 and III.12.12.  The process outlined there allows for mediation and/or dissolution of the relationship between the diocese and bishop. 

Pew Research Center Releases Report on Religious Landscape of America

The Pew Research Center has released the results of the survey of Americans on religion done in 2014.  The previous survey was done in 2007.  The survey offers information on everything from theological views, worship patterns, social and political beliefs and a range of demographic information broken down by individual religious tradition and grouped into categories.  The Episcopal Cafe article focuses on the income and education levels of major religious groups.  The survey showed 35% of Episcopalians had household incomes of $100,000 or more.  Educational level tracked closely with income thus raising a question about correlation between the two.  The full study had much besides wealth to reveal.  The data showed that acceptance of homosexuality among Episcopalians grew from 66% in 2007 to 80% in 2014.  The surveyed Episcopalians in 2014 supported same-sex marriage 71% to 22%.  The majority of Episcopalians also supported abortion choice, stricter environmental controls.  In fact, slightly more Episcopalians identified as Democrats than Republicans.

Cathedral at York Dismisses All Its Bell Ringers

The abrupt dismissal of all 30 bell ringers for the tower bells at the Cathedral of York has become a public controversy.  Things went seriously out-of-tune following the arrival of a new cathedral dean, and worsened after one member of the ringers was dismissed last summer after being accused of sexual misconduct.  The abuse charges were later dropped.  Communication between the dean and cathedral chapter on one side and the ringers on the other seems to have become nearly non-existent.  The bell ringers were highly skilled volunteers, some of whom had moved to the area in order to work with one of the most famous set of bells in England.  It will take months to recruit and begin training a new set of ringers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Week Ending 10/10/16

Clergy Face Consequences in Sex Abuse Cases in U.S. and Australian Churches 

The Rev. Howard White, one of the central figures in the sexual abuse cases at St. George's School has been deposed by Bishop Scanlon of Central Pennsylvania on October 10.  White, had been named by a number of former students at the St. George's School, as a staff member who had abused them during his tenure there in the 1970s and 1980s, had retired and was serving as supply in the diocese of Central Pennsylvania.  Bishop Scanlon had placed him on leave in January and began the process leading to his deposition.  White also had complaints filed against him for abuse from Western North Carolina.. (See an earlier Update report here.)  Meanwhile, in Australia, the Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, has stepped aside from all duties following his appearance before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  He admitted that he had not done enough to respond to reports of sexual abuse by clergy in his diocese while serving as Bishop of Newcastle.  Herft made his announcement this week in a public letter, explaining he would spend his time focused on the matters before the Royal Commission.

San Joaquin Chancellor Receives House of Deputies Medal

Michael Glass, who stepped in as Chancellor for the Diocese of San Joaquin as the diocese began reorganizing, was honored recently by House of Deputies President, Gay Jennings.  She awarded him the House of Deputies Medal at the September Episcopal Chancellors' Meeting.  Glass led the legal efforts that resulted in the diocesan property of San Joaquin being awarded to those who remained in the Episcopal Church. The litigation took more than 8 years. Three individual parish cases remain to be argued, but the title to 28 properties in the diocese, including the diocesan offices and camp are no longer at issue.

Historic Meeting Between Rome and Anglicans Results in Joint Statement and a New Phase of Cooperation

The gathering of 36 bishops from the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion that met first in Canterbury and then Rome to commemorate the 50th anniversary of an accord between the churches has resulted in an joint statement signed by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  It also resulted in the commissioning of 19 pairs of bishops (one from each tradition) to explore new ways for the churches to work together on mission.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was among the Church those that were part of the official delegation, and others from the Episcopal Church came as part of his entourage. The press releases from the Anglican Communion focused the symbolic gestures, services and the statement.  The Episcopal Digital Network release included a wider range of reaction, including comments by  Bishop Catherine Waynick, who serves on the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission,  was present at the meeting, but not part of the official deputation, stated that she hoped future meetings would be more inclusive of women.  No women bishops were among the official deputation appointed by Archbishop Welby, nor were any included in the 19 pairs commissioned at the meeting. 

Same-Sex Marriage Continues to Rile Anglican Communion

The Global South Meeting of mostly African bishops and the GAFCON primates issued a joint statement on same-sex issues at the conclusion of their meeting in Egypt last week.  The statement began with statements about the need to welcome and recognize LGBT people as part of the body of Christ, but then went on to list a group of sins that humans commit: "
slander, greed, malice, hatred, jealousy, dishonesty, selfishness, envy and murder, as well as fornication, adultery and same-sex unions."  The statement then went on through another four bullets to insist that such unions were contrary to Christian belief and that any church response and support needed to begin with people in such unions repenting and refraining from further sin. Meanwhile in Canada, three conservatives appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene after the Diocese of Toronto elected a bishop who is in a same-sex partnership, and Canadian Archbishop Hiltz published a formal response to the seven Canadian bishops who had protested the narrow passage this summer  by the  Anglican Church's General Synod of the first step in changing their marriage canons to include same-sex relationships (see Update story here).

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Week Ending 10/03/16

Date Set for Bishop Bruno Hearing

The Hearing Panel in the complaint filed by members of the St. James the Great congregation and others against Bishop Bruno has scheduled October 26, 2016 as the date to hear arguments on motions filed by the congregation and church attorney to allow the congregation to resume use of the building they have been locked out of for over a year and also a counter motion by Bishop Bruno to dismiss the whole case.  The hearing will be held in Chicago.  Pittsburgh Update reported on the motions in question last month.

Nigerian Church Rejects Order to Restore Three Priests

Three priests removed by the Anglican Church of Nigeria because they were supposedly homosexual have won a series of secular legal actions to restore their status.  Nigeria has strict laws penalizing homosexuality.  The three men proved to the satisfaction of the secular courts that they were unjustly accused and the courts ordered their restoration and awarded them both back pay and compensation for pain and suffering.  The Church, however, has refused to restore the men or pay them, and is appealing the decision.  The details are in the Kenyan news source the Daily Nation.

National Cathedral Removes Confederate Flags from Stained Glass Windows

After a period of controversy, the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. has quietly replaced the image of a confederate flag in two windows with red and blue glass matching the backgrounds.  The windows were dedicated in the 1950s and honored Robert E. Lee and Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson. A renewed discussion over confederate symbols in Episcopal Churches was sparked by the June 2015 murder of 8 African Americans at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.  The Update earlier reported on the removal from the sanctuary of numerous memorials invoking the Civil War or confederate symbols at St. Paul's in Richmond.  In that case, many more items were removed than at the Cathedral, but they were placed in another area of the church complex as part of a historical display with appropriate interpretation. 

Church in South Africa Votes Against Blessing Same Sex Unions

South Africa is the only African nation that has legislation permitting civil unions for same sex couples. The Anglican Church of Southern Africa includes not only South Africa, but Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and the Island of St. Helena. Laws in some of these countries criminalize some homosexual acts. For the first time, resolutions were brought to the provincial synod to bless sames sex civil unions and to allow clergy in such unions to serve in parishes.  The measure affecting clergy was withdrawn, but the synod discussed and voted on blessing civil unions.   Majorities in each of the three orders (bishops, clergy, and lay)  rejected a motion to allow blessings of such unions.  The official press release on this matter from the church is here. The Archbishop of the Province supported the measure and issued his own statement saying that the conversation around this issue had just begun in the South African Church and would continue.  He also raised the possibility of another vote at the next synod in 2019 or at the recently announced Lambeth Conference of 2020.