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, December 27, 2016

Week Ending 12/26/16

Merry Christmas!

As we all celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, the Diocese of San Joaquin was celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2007 in the diocesan Cathedral.  Their facebook page had two series of pictures, one taken of the building just before the service, and one during the service.  Meanwhile in Melbourne Australia, people were happy to be celebrating Christmas in an intact cathedral.  Police had announced the arrest of 5 self-radicalized terrorists who had been planning to blow up the Cathedral on Christmas.  Because of ISIS threats to that and other Anglican Churches, there was heightened security at many places.  In England despite fears that York Minister bells would not ring out at Christmas, a group of Yorkshire ringers volunteered to step in as the Cathedral continues to be at odds with its former bell-ringers. (See update story here.)  Meanwhile Church of England parsons scurried from parish to parish trying to cover Christmas services despite a shortage of clergy for rural parishes. The shortage is forcing the Church of England to do things that have long been the practice in the Americas, such as giving more power to vestries, renting out church buildings, and using lay-led services.

Latest Appointment to Special Task Force Brings Controversy

One of the things that the January 2015 primates gathering requested was a special task Force to try to heal the divide among Anglican Communion Churches.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has filled a vacancy created by the stepping down of a bishop from India by appointing the Dean of the Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt.  The Task Force membership has created controversy because Welby did not allow GAFCON to dictate its membership.  The latest appointment has led to criticism by the Bishop of Egypt (who is also the primate of Egypt and the Middle East), Mouneer Anis, a strong supporter of GAFCON.

National Cathedral to Host Post-Inaugural Service for Trump

The National Cathedral is hosting a prayer service on January 21 for the newly sworn-in president.  Planning of the ecumenical service is still under way.  They have done this for each inauguration since FDR in 1933.  The decision has led to criticism, however, by those who feel he embodies the opposite of Christian values.  Episcopal Churches seem to figure prominently in Trump's recent plans.  He attended Christmas Eve services at the Episcopal Church in Palm Beach near his estate; and is also planning to attend service at St. John's Episcopal Church, as have other presidents, on the morning of the inauguration.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Week Ending 12/19/16

Chief Operating Officer Nominated for Church Headquarters

The Executive Committee has approved the candidate nominated by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies as the new Chief Operating Officer for the Episcopal Church.  It is a deacon, Geoffrey T. Smith,  currently serving on the diocesan staff in New Hampshire.  He has previously served as a deacon in the Dioceses of Chicago, Maine, and Massachusetts.  He has a long career in the insurance field as a risk management officer, and has served in all four dioceses as a safe church trainer.  

Bell Ringer Controversy Continues

In October the Cathedral of York fired all of its bell ringers and announced it would be holding interviews to create a new group to ring the changes.  At the time there was a lack of communication between the cathedral dean and ringers, and an issue related to dismissal of one member suspected of sexual impropriety with a child.  The cathedral has been having difficulty in recruiting a new set of ringers and is now complaining about intimidation of candidates by the old ringers.  Thinking Anglicans has a good summary of the current flap, statements and counter-statements.

Lexington Bishop to Resign

Pittsburgh Update reported earlier on the unwillingness of the Diocese of Lexington to allow Bishop Douglas Hahn to return after a leave imposed because a past sexual affair  became public. Now there has been a joint announcement by the Standing Committee of the Diocese and Bishop Hahn that he will resign March 10, 2017.  Bishop Bruce Caldwell who has served as provisional bishop during Hahn's year-long leave, will continue in that role.

Church of England Appoints Second Black Bishop

When John Sentamu was chosen as Bishop of Stepney in 1996, he became the first black bishop in the Church of England.  He was still the only black bishop in 2005 when he became Archbishop of York.  Now, twenty years after he was consecrated a bishop, Sentamu will be joined in March by another African-born priest, Dr. Woyin Karowei Dorgu.  Dorgu has been chosen Bishop of Woolwich, a suffragan see in the diocese of Southwark.  Woolwich is an area of London with a large Nigerian population.  Before ordination, the newly nominated bishop served as a medical doctor.  His service as a priest has been entirely in the Diocese of London and he is the current president of AMEN (Anglican Minority Ethnic Network). The Guardian reports that Dorgu hopes to encourage more ethnic minorities to enter the Church of England ministry. The Episcopal Cafe also has a story on his appointment.

Famine in Africa

The Canadian Church's Anglican Journal reports that famine in Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe is forcing starving people to eat locusts which are toxic in large quantities.  The famine is a result of crop failures at least partially caused by climate change.  A bishop in Madagascar reported that one man collapsed from hunger as he was being confirmed, and that church officials had confirmed that some others had been too weak to come to the service.  Although the UN is providing some relief and the Anglican diocese are working with farmers to mitigate crop damage in the future, there is a need for immediate relief.  

Communion Secretary-General Fears African Churches Manipulated by American Conservatives

Bishop Joseph Idowu-Fearon, the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion gave an extensive audio tape interview to the Church of Ireland Gazette last week.  His comments on GAFCON and the role of American conservatives in creating the African anti-gay issue drew the most attention.  Idowu-Fearon stressed there was more diversity in Africa than the primates would admit. The real pressure was from American conservatives who have manipulated African Church leaders. The Church Times has a full story on the interview, Episcopal Cafe has a shorter one.

Standing Rock Chaplains Provided a Needed Service After Army Corp of Engineers Denies Pipeline Permit

An ecumenical group of 30 trauma chaplains, recruited to work during the witness of several thousand veterans at the site of pipeline protests in Standing Rock had to quickly switch their focus after arrival.  The 10 Episcopalians, 3 Buddhists, 6 Disciples of Christ, 4 Lutherans, 5 Unitarians, and 2 UCC ministers had just arrived when the Army Corps of Engineers announced it was denying a building permit for the pipeline on the last crucial segment.  The chaplains quickly switched gears to help the veterans present process their own reactions to the changed situation and a fast approaching blizzard.  The chaplains had come in response to an invitation issued by the Rev. John Floberg, priest of the Episcopal congregation at Canon Ball on the Standing Rock Reservation.  They left feeling part of a team and convinced an ecumenical group of chaplains had much to offer in other crisis situations. The Episcopal New Service story has interviews and comments from the group.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Week Ending 12/13/16

Massachusetts Bishop Ask Trump to Reconsider EPA Head

Five Episcopal Bishops from Massachusetts, including the current diocesans of the Dioceses of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts, and the current and two retired suffragan bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts have all signed a letter to President-elect Donald Trump requesting that he rethink his appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  They also stated that they would write their representatives in Congress urging them to block Pruitt's appointment.  Both dioceses currently feature the letter on the home page of their diocesan web site.  

South Carolina Episcopalians Back in Federal Court

Episcopalians in South Carolina made oral arguments in their second appeal to the Federal Appeals Court in Richmond Virginia.  They are hoping to get the appeals court to tell the retired federal judge in S.C. he can no longer delay in hearing the suit brought originally by Bishop von Rosenberg against Mark Lawrence for fraudulently claiming he is an Episcopal bishop.  The local judge had originally stayed the case until the State law suits over property had been settled.  SC Episcopalians appealed the stay and the court sent the case back to the retired judge to hold the trial.  He again issued a stay.
You can find a summary of the arguments on the December 9, 2016 blog posting on  scepiscopalians.com.  The actual oral arguments are available from the diocese. .  Pittsburgh Update covered the filing of the second appeal here.

Anglicans Take Action Against Gender Violence

The Update carried the announcement that the Anglican Communion was sponsoring a sixteen day focus on actions against gender violence.  In response the Anglican Church of Burundi has established a shelter for victims of Gender violence and trained 126 volunteers to offer support to victims of violence.  The province has made the issue of gender violence a major part of its ministry and has a coordinator for gender violence issues. In Fiji (part of the Province of  Aeotaeroa, New Zealand, and Polynesia), Anglicans worked with other Christian groups to produce a 60 second advertisement that ran in movie houses and national television.  The video stressed that Gender-based violence was a sin. Sixty-four percent of Fiji women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been the victim of intimate partner abuse. 

Former St. George's School Chaplain Arraigned

Howard White, the former Chaplain at St. George's School in Rhode Island has now been arraigned on criminal charges of assault and battery in Massachusetts concerning incidents that took place in the 1970s when he was in Massachusetts on a school trip.  White has already been deposed from the priesthood based on the charges of sexual abuse of children both at the school and in a parish in North Carolina.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Week Ending 12/5/16

Standing Rock Celebrates Decision

The decision by the Army Engineers to deny approval for the last piece of the Dakota pipeline brought cheers and celebrations at the camp on the Sioux Reservation, and a statement from the Episcopal Presiding Bishop.  The announcement brought relief on the eve of what had been feared would be another confrontation if law enforcement moved on the camp to enforce an order to vacate the water protectors camp on land controlled by the army, but claimed under an 1851 treaty by the Sioux.  Episcopalians have been involved in the protests from the beginning. The situation had been considered grave enough that Presiding Bishop Curry had written to the North Dakota Governor and  the local sheriff asking them to not use water canons or rubber bullets and to de-escalate the law enforcement response. He noted that there were 30 chaplains present to counsel any of the veterans planning to serve as a non-violent shield between law enforcement and the protectors. The construction company's hard-line response, however, means that the struggle has not yet reached a conclusion. Pittsburgh Update has carried numerous stories on the Standing Rock situation.  The most recent is here.

Church Troubles in Haiti

This last week Presiding Bishop Curry released a letter outlining problems dividing the Diocese of Haiti.  The letter notes that the Bishop Duracin and the Suffragan Bishop Beauviour are at odds, that there are charges pending that may result in a Title IV hearing, and that the turmoil is affecting clergy and laity in the diocese, including the filing of a Title III request to separate the suffragan from the diocese.  Curry has already sent representatives who negotiated a new memorandum of understanding on the processes for joint development projects between the diocese and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (i.e. the missionary arm of the Episcopal Church).  Bishop Curry is now sending a three person team to open conversations with the two bishops and others to see if there is a way forward towards reconciliation.

Los Angeles Diocese Votes to Be a Sanctuary Diocese

At a convention dominated by the election of a bishop coadjutor, the Diocese of Los Angeles also passed a significant resolution committing the diocese  to be a sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation, to network with other groups making similar declarations, to encourage its parishes and schools to declare themselves sanctuary sites and to provide training for parishes and individuals to be effective sanctuary sites. The resolution was proposed by All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, but co-sponsored by 90 people.  All Saints is on record as supporting immigration reform.

Gatlinburg Parishes Helping Fire Recovery

Recovery from the fires in East Tennessee that destroyed over 1600 buildings and killed 14 people and injured 134 will be a long process. (The numbers keep rising on destruction and deaths as officials are able to get into areas affected by the fire.)   Trinity Episcopal Church in Gatlinburg was spared, but parishioners were not allowed into town for Sunday services so as many as could met a at member's house in nearby Sevier for a service.  Seven families from the parish lost their homes.  The parish and others in the area are now assessing how best to help in the recovery.