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, February 28, 2017

Week Ending 02/27/17

Federal Appeals Court Tells Judge to Hear Bishop's Law Suit

Judge Houk, the senior federal judge assigned the lawsuit filed by South Carolina Bishop vonRosenberg, who has refused twice to go forward with the case involving damage done to the Bishop by the schismatic Bishop Mark Lawrence claiming to be an Episcopal diocese has been told a second time by the Federal Appeals Court that the issues are different enough from the state court suit to justify going forward with a separate hearing.  You can find the previous Update story from March 2016 when the bishop filed an appeal of Houk's second refusal to move forward here, and a summary by the Church in South Carolina with a link to the full appeals court opinion from this last week here

St. Paul's Cathedral, London, Breaks Thousand-Year Tradition by Hiring a Woman as a Singer with Boy's Choir

The St. Paul's Cathedral in London has had a Boys Choir for 1000 years.  The choristers sing the soprano line and 12 professional adult singers supply the Bass, Tenor and Alto parts.  All of these have been men until now. St. Paul's has announced that Carris Jones, a graduate of the University of Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music will begin working as an Alto Vicar Choral in September, after the birth of her second child (due in May).  Jones has an impressive career as a soloist and singer with prestigious ensembles doing classic and music from the Renaissance and Baroque Periods. 

New York's Union Theological Seminary and Boston's Episcopal Divinity School Explore Merger

In a controversial move last year, the Episcopal Divinity School Board decided to cease offering degrees in 2017.  That move led to the resignation from the Board of Trustees of Bishop Carol Gallagher and protests by a number of alumni.  Update covered these events here and here.  The Board has been exploring how to best continue the school's tradition and use its remaining endowment.  The announcement this last week of merger talks with Union Theological Seminary provides a possible answer.  It may also put additional stress on General Theological Seminary in New York which is recovering from its own controversy that resulted in an almost complete turnover of faculty and reduced enrollment.

Appointment of New Bishop of Sheffield Stirs Protests

The Diocese of Sheffield has long been accepting women as priests and women hold over 30% of parish appointments.  However, the selection process for their new bishop has resulted in the appointment of the Suffragan Bishop of another diocese who does not ordain women.  He has promised to help all priests in his diocese reach full potential of their ministries, but there is a considerable outcry that he should refuse the appointment and is not an appropriate match with the diocese.  Traditionalists see this as a test of whether the Church of England is really still open to male clergy who do not accept women's ordination.  Thinking Anglicans has a good summary of the various positions and statements.

Winthrop University Poll Shows Great Divides Among South Carolinans on Trump

A recent phone poll of over 700 people has resulted in fascinating evidence of the differing perceptions of men and women, whites and blacks, and Republicans and Democrats on how they think things are doing both in the nation under Donald Trump and in their state.  The most telling statement is that South Carolinans had warmer feelings towards Muslims, Hispanics, refugees, the police,  blacks, President Obama than they did towards Trump.  Women and blacks were much more dissatisfied, and the group most satisfied with Trump were white male Republicans.  The whole survey is well worth pondering. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Week Ending 02/20/17

Standing Rock Faces New Deadline

Officials have give water protectors at Standing Rock until today to leave camps because melting snow has caused flood conditions.The Episcopal News Service carried a story about the tribe's efforts to clean up and evacuate the camps, but the internet was carrying a plea from women at the camp for more volunteers to arrive because they were not leaving and militarized law enforcement had them surrounded. The most recent Update story is here.

Maryland Parish Increases Commitment to Immigrants

The Maryland parish whose signs were defaced by vandals the day after the election has redoubled its efforts with immigrants.  The parish's sign for its popular Spanish language service had drawn the attention of the white supremist vandals, but this 380 member parish with members from over 50 countries has responded by additional outreach to immigrants and is considering declaring itself a sanctuary site. The latest Episcopal Church to declare sanctuary status is in Buffalo, NY.

Americans Hold Double Standard on Religious Violence

A new survey show that Americans are much more willing to believe that violence claimed to be done for religious reasons is a correct interpretation of that religion when that violence is done by Muslims than when it is done by Christians.   There are some differences by political part and church membership  You can find the survey here.

Church of England Synod Fallout

It is becoming increasingly clear that what the clergy and laity at the just concluded Church of England Synod did by rejecting the bishop's report on marriage of same sex couples was to say "stop stalling and do something."  News sources carried links to stories of the response of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, statements by individual bishops looking for an approved form for blessing civil marriages, and news commentary.

Officials and Church Still at Odds on Rebuilding Cathedral

Six years after the devastating Christ Church earthquake, the Anglican Cathedral still sits a crumbling ruin, unsafe to enter.  People worship meanwhile in a temporary "cardboard cathedral" on another site.  The situation does not seem likely to change soon because government and church cannot agree on demolition or rebuilding despite grants to proceed. The previous update story is here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Week Ending 2/13/17

Executive Council takes Strong Stands on Pipeline and Refugees

As Update reported last week,  work on the Dakota pipeline has resumed following clearance by the Army Corps of Engineers, and so have protests at the site.  At its meeting last week,the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church reaffirmed its opposition to the pipeline and called on Episcopalians to support the Standing Rock Sioux in their protests, including a March 10 march on Washington.  The Council also took action to support Episcopal Migration Ministries with $500,000 to help with their immediate needs as funding for the ministry's work normally comes from government contracts that provide funds when new refugees enter the country. 

Council also directed the Presiding Bishop to investigate if it was "advisable" to file suit challenging the changes in refugee policy by the new administration in Washington.  The Diocese of Olympia has already filed suit.  The Episcopal Church was not the only religious body making statements in response to the recent executive order on entry into the U.S.  The Methodist Bishop of New York (formerly Bishop in Pittsburgh) Thomas Bickerton has also urged Methodists to take a stand, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out against a cancellation of an agreement that allowed refugee children to be settled in Britain.  The agreement was cancelled immediately following the announcement of the U.S. executive order.

Sauls Lawsuit Claims Conspiracy to Oust Him

Last week's Update carried the link to a letter issued by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies on a lawsuit filed by former church Chief Operating Officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls.  The contents of his filing are now available, and Sauls is asking for damages because his reputation has been so seriously damaged by a multi-year conspiracy led by Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies and others inside and outside the Church Center, that Sauls is now unemployable.
According to the former COO, the purpose of the conspiracy was to increase the power of the office of President of the House of Deputies so that it would overshadow the Presiding Bishop.  Alex Haley has some pointed, if one-sided comments on the filing here.

Whither General Convention 2018?

Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings have sent a letter to Texas officials opposing passage of a law requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender assigned on their birth certificates.  The letter pointedly notes that the 1955 General Convention had been scheduled for Houston but was moved to Hawaii when it became clear that the civil rights of some of those who would attend General Convention would not be honored.  The letter makes clear that the church will not allow rights of any who attend General Convention, including transgendered people, to be restricted.  This was clearly a veiled threat that if the proposed bill passes, the church may well go elsewhere.

New Survey Shows Religious Divide on Same-Sex Marriage  and Little Support for Laws Allowing Denial of Service

A new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute using a data base of over 47,000 respondents shows that a majority of Americans, including those from most churches now support same-sex marriages.  Only three groups (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and White Evangelical Protestants) had majorities disapproving of same-sex marriage.  Three more categories -- black protestants, hispanic protestants, and muslims -- had results showing both supporters and opponents in the mid-forty percents with those who offered no opinion keeping totals for either position below a majority.  Catholics (hispanic and white), white mainline protestants, orthodox Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarian Universalists, other religions, and the non-religious all now have majorities accepting same-sex marriage. On a question about  whether small businesses should be able for religious reasons to deny products or services to LGBTQ, every group except for white evangelical protestants had a majority disapproving a denial of services.  The percentages were not even close. The white evangelicals were nearly split in half, with 50% supporting the right to deny services and the other 50% either not responding and opposing the denial.

Church of England Archbishops Recognize Validity of ACNA Orders

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a statement saying that they recognize the ordinations of members of the ACNA clergy as valid (i.e. comikng from the historic episcopate).  This is the same status accorded clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa, and The Free Church of England. Because this is a status awarded others not part of the Anglican Communion, it is not a back door admission of ACNA to the Communion.  In fact, it can be interpreted in the reverse, a recognition that ACNA is a separate denomination. 

Archbishop Welby Draws Parallels Between Trump, Brexit, and Neo-Fascism

In his opening speech to the Church of England Synod meeting, Archbishop Welby drew parallels in an unflattering way between the election of Donald Trump and the decision to leave the European Union, suggesting both are drawing on a vein of Neo-Fascism in society.  A full discussion and a link to his talk his here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Week Ending 2/6/17

Anglican Communion News Service Caught Rewriting Facts

It doesn't happen often, but the Rev. Mark Harris and GAFCON Executive Secretary Peter Jensen both agree that the Anglican Communion News Service is trying to rewrite what happened at the meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council last year.  The ACNS published a recent story claiming that the Episcopal Church members of the Council had abided by the conditions in a communique issued at the close of a gathering of Anglican Communion primates last January.  First claiming the TEC members did not vote on issues and then that since matters were done by consensus, not votes were taken, both Harris and Jensen have labelled that false.  Jensen remains upset that the TEC members participated and thus ignored the primates.  Harris applauded their participation.  You can find the original update stories on the confusion surrounding the primate's gathering here and the account of the ACC meeting here.

Presiding Bishop Draws Crowds in Pittsburgh

Originally invited to be the preacher at the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh's Absalom Jones Day Service, Presiding Bishop Curry turned the trip into the initial launch of his Jesus Movement revival.  Billing it as a Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism, Curry met with groups and preached four times in three days, gathering crowds for each.  The initial interdenominational service of repentance involved a number of religious leaders in Pittsburgh and  was held Friday night at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Over 200 attended it.  Saturday there was a breakfast for youth, the Absalom Jones service and afternoon workshops. The service and breakfast, held at Holy Cross in Homewood had a standing room only crowd.   On Sunday Bishop Curry first preached at Calvary Church in Pittsburgh  to a crowd of nearly 500 and then at St. Stephen's McKeesport.  The McKeesport service attracted a worshipers from nearly every parish in the diocese with attendance near 400.

Bishop Sauls Sues Presiding Bishop and Church

Last spring, the Presiding Bishop announced that three senior staff members at the Church Center had been asked to leave.  All three had been placed on administrative leave in December 2015 pending an investigation.  While two were let go for cause following the investigation, the third,  Bishop Stacy Sauls, was cleared, but was let go in April  because the new Presiding Bishop was reorganizing his staff.  Apparently they were unable to agree on a termination compensation package and now Sauls has sued.  Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings jointly issued a statement on the litigation this week.

Long Island Priest Arrested for Drugs and Child Porn

Bishop Lawrence Provanzano of Long Island moved quickly to withdraw the license and remove the Rev. Christopher King from St. James of Jerusalem in Long Beach, NY following King's arrest on drug charges and for possession of child pornography.  Various drugs were found at King's residence and the porn was on his computer.

Army Corps Announcement Brings Vows of Continued Resistance at Standing Rock

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that they intend to issue the permits needed for the completion of the Dakota Pipeline without completing the environment impact studies.  The Standing Rock tribe has vowed to continue to fight construction which threatens its water supply.  There are protests planned around the country against the Army's decision. Update had just reported on a new round of arrests of protesters in Standing Rock last week.

Diocese of Georgia Plans Student Residence at Chapel Site

The Diocese of Georgia has started the permitting process so it can build a multi-use building on the site of its current chapel at the University of Georgia.  The site would include retail, a private dorm, and a chapel.  It is not clear how long the permit process might take, but as the local news story indicates, local residents, students and the university all have questions about the project.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Week Ending 1/30/17

Standing Rock Heats Up Again

Just when it appeared that things were cooling down as Standing Rock tribal leaders appeared to be ready to use other means of protest of the pipeline being built across sacred land which threatens their water supplies, the North Dakota governor ordered mass arrests of those remaining at the water protectors camp.  The arrests of 76 individuals took place on February1, 2017 which after the official close for this week's news, but before posting and so are included here.  You can find the most recent past update story here.

Episcopalians Respond to the Executive Order on Immigration

The Executive Order banning immediately the entrance into the U.S. of people from 7 countries, including those holding green cards and refugees with visas provoked not only major demonstrations at a number of airports and cities, but numerous statements from religious leaders.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had sent a public letter to Donald Trump urging that the Episcopal Church's ministry of refugee resettlement not be disrupted just two days before Trump signed the E.O. Since then numerous Episcopal Bishops and officials have gone on record denouncing the order.  The Episcopal Cafe gives a listing of the statements.  Be sure to also look in the comments because they include updates.  In addition, there has been a petition circulating about refugee resettlement ministries that had garnered the signatures of more than 3500 religious leaders from many different faith traditions, including a number of Episcopalians.

Sudan Sends Christians to Jail for Trying to Help a Badly Burned Refugee

Petr Jašek, a Czech national with a background in medical administration was arrested on his arrival in Sudan.  He was bringing $5000 to help with medical expenses for a student badly burned during a 2013 protest.  Charged with spying, defaming the government, and bringing money to finance rebels, 
Jašek and two Sudanese Christians who were seen on a video Jašek had on his computer have received long sentences.  The government is also taking action to have numerous Christian churches demolished.

Trump's Supreme Court Nominee is an Episcopalian

Neil Gorsuch, nominated on Monday to the U.S. Supreme Court may be a conservative, but he attends a downtown Episcopal Church in Boulder, CO, according to the Religion News Service.  St. John's web page description of the parish refers to itself as "inclusive" and has this statement: "We are formed and strengthened through a variety of worship services, traditional music, contemplative prayer, spiritual and social justice formation programs, as well as meaningful service within the parish, the local community and in the larger world."  The parish is listed as a Jubilee ministry by the Episcopal Church because of its long history of outreach.  

Judge Withdraws from Consideration for South Carolina Supreme Court

Judge Diane Goodstein whose originally banned loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina from using the name of their diocese, and who issued the original trial decision that awarded all property to the schismatic group had put her name forward for consideration as a South Carolina Supreme Court Judge. Episcopalians appealed that decision in a filing highly critical of Goodstein, but have been waiting over a year and a half for the Supreme Court to issue its opinion on that appeal.  Steve Skaradon who edits the blog scepiscopalians.com reported the withdrawal and explains the politics of South Carolina judge selection.  His blog does not have internal bookmarks, so look for his February 1 entry.