Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Week Ending 4/18/16
Long Island Bishop Asks Diocese to Join Protest Against Trump RallyBishop Provenzano of Long Island has sent a pastoral letter to his diocese asking them to join him and others in a demonstration of anti-racism during a Trump rally. The presidential candidate is holding a fundraiser next to a site where a man was killed in 2008 because he was Hispanic immigrant. The bishop explained that his call was for people to witness to their Christian commitments and not as political activism. The full letter is here, and the Episcopal Cafe story is here.
Possible Light Shed on Church Center DismissalsEver since the Presiding Bishop announced the suspension of three senior Church Center staff members, and then the firing of two and discontinuance of the position of the third, there have been questions about what kind of wrong doing was involved. The dismissal referred to violations of "established workplace policies," failing to"live up to the Church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees," and creating "a workplace environment often inconsistent with the values and expectations of The Episcopal Church." (See update story here.) Religion News has published an interview with a former staffer that suggests that gender bias may have been a part of the toxic working environment that Presiding Bishop Curry is now addressing. Bob Honeychurch says that during his time working for the center, female employees voiced to him concerns about being left out of decision-making and their advice and skills being ignored. The whole interview is here.
The Anglican Consultative Council Winds Up Business with Focus on Social Justice IssuesThe ACC has finished its meeting by passing more than 40 resolutions without further discussion. Most dealt with issues related to ecumenism, the environment, wealth disparity and income inequality, violence (especially against women), relief efforts, youth and evangelism. They declined to further the "consequences" affected the Episcopal Church which were outlined in the January Communique from the primate's meeting. Other than voting that they wished to continue walking together, the one resolution covering the communique simply "received" the message. Another resolution saying they "welcomed" it was withdrawn. The ACC also chose its leaders for the next three years, choosing the Archbishop of Hong Kong as their chair and Church of England laywoman, Margaret Swinson, as vice-chair. While the new chair, Archbishop Kwong thought that being a primate could be helpful to the ACC, others were concerned that bishops now headed all four of the instruments of communion. The other candidate for ACC chair had been a lay person. Five new members were elected to the Standing Committee - one each from Scotland, Canada, Central America, North India, and Kenya. Two are bishops (one of those a woman), two are lay and one a clergy person. In the end, all but Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria of the 38 provinces had members present.
Archbishop Welby Continues His WitnessWhile in Africa, the Archbishop of Canterbury took time to visit with the heads of two African countries. The most important was his meeting with President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Welby used the conversation to explain that the Anglican Communion had diverse opinions on same-sex marriage, but that the majority still saw marriage as an institution for one man and one woman. But then Welby went on to speak against legislation criminalizing LGBT people or their supporters. The Archbishop appears to be trying to live up to the numerous Anglican Communion documents including the recent primates Communique which condemn civil penalties placed on LGBT people.
On a different front, Welby continued his support for economic justice, launching a new series of four videos, each 10 minutes long and looking at theological perspectives on money and debt. The first of the videos has just been released.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
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.