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         

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Week Ending 05/29/17

New Zealand Cathedral Controversy Continues

Christ Church Cathedral in New Zealand was nearly destroyed in the 2011 earthquake that destroyed much of Christ Church's center.  An historic landmark, the cathedral's fate has been caught in a political and legal struggle between those who want to restore and rebuild it and those who want to tear it down and start again.  A major trust supporting restoration now has begun a major public relations campaign to sway those who will vote at the diocesan synod this fall.   The diocese has put off the decision on its fate until fall, but now the city mayor has weighed in with a pronouncement that the city should buy the building if necessary to keep it from being torn down.  Update has been following this debate.  The most recent past story is here.

Presiding Bishop Promotes Healing in Haiti Church Rift

The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Haiti had been divided as clergy and laity took sides and filed charges and counter charges in a split between the diocesan and suffragan bishops.  In April, a team sent by Presiding Bishop Curry worked out a covenant signed by both Haitian bishops.  This last week Presiding Bishop Curry was in Haiti to formally confirm the covenant and help the Diocese move towards reconciliation and healing.  The suffragan has resigned.  The diocesan is soon retiring and a new bishop will be elected.

Bishop Robinson To Head Religion Department at Chautauqua

Bishop Gene Robinson, the resigned Bishop of New Hampshire will become the Vice President and Senior Pastor of Chautauqua Institution this fall when the current director retires.  He will provide leadership for the Religion Department and chair a new advisory council.  The Chatauqua Institution, on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in Western New York, is famous for its extensive programs in music, arts, and a wide range of lecture series.  Beginning as a Methodist summer education camp in 1874, the Chautauqua Institution has become ecumenical and welcomes more than 100,000 people during its 9 week summer program. Bishop Robinson served as a Chaplain of the week and lecturer in 2011.  He is expected to help the institution strengthen its role in interfaith dialogues and understanding. 

Anglicans Offer Support to Copts Following Latest Terrorist Attack

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the new Primate for the Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East have both issued statements of support and sympathy to the Egyptian Coptic Church following the terrorist attack on a bus loaded with families who on pilgrimage to an historic monastery.  News stories cite different numbers of dead (28-30), a number of whom were children.  Many others were injured.  This is the latest in a series of attacks by Islamic extremists on the Coptic Church.

Church of Scotland Takes Step Towards Same Sex Marriages

As expected, last week the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) moved one step closer to allowing same sex marriage. The Assembly voted to apologize to gays for past discrimination, and approved a report saying that there was "no sufficient theological reason" to prevent authorizing specific clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings.  They also voted to continue exploring ways to ensure clergy also had a right to not officiate at such services.  A premature leaking of the report before the General Assembly planners were ready to release all documents created some controversy in April.  The Church of Scotland is following in the steps of the much smaller Scottish Episcopal Church which took the first of two votes to approve allowing clergy to perform same-sex marriages a year ago.  Their final vote will be before the synod next month.

Secretary of State Tillerson Ends Hosting a Ramadan Event

Beginning in 1999, the Department of State has hosted an annual event during Ramadan.  The event, usually a dinner on the first night of Ramadan breaking the daytime fast, or sometimes an Eid al-Fitr reception celebrating the end of Ramadan, usually had a guest list including members of Congress, diplomats from Muslim Countries, society and religious leaders, and senior U.S. officials. Secretary of State Tillerson did not host anything at the beginning of Ramadan, although he did issue a short statement noting the start of Ramadan. While Tillerson was still considering an event for Eid al-Fitr, no invitations have been issued and the 30 days of Ramadan have begun.  The Department of State normally hosts an event for one major holiday a year for a variety of religions. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Week Ending 5/22/17

Ecumenical Week for Episcopalians

Three separate events this last week put The Episcopal Church in an ecumenical mode.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a joint call to prayer and fasting for hunger awareness.  Episcopalians and Lutherans are called to fast on the 21st of every month from now through December when the current U.S. Congress will conclude its session. The date for the fast was chosen because that is the date each month that 90% of food stamp benefits have been used. 

A second major announcement was issued by the joint committee of Episcopalians and United Methodists working on full communion.  They have issued a full proposal for approval by both the Methodist and Episcopal Church governing bodies.  An interesting commentary by a member of the committee can be found here.

The third ecumenical event was the announcement of a signed agreement between Episcopal Divinity School in Massachusetts and Union Theological Seminary in New York.  Trustees had announced the closing of EDS and held its last commencement this last week.  At that time they announced that EDS would become a school within Union and the trustees named a new Dean, Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, for the EDS School.  Mark Harris, who graduated from ETS and was being honored at the last graduation posted his reactions to the arrangement between EDS and Union.

Report Issued on St. Paul's School Scandal

The final investigative report has been published on the scandal that has engulfed St. Paul's School in Conway, New Hampshire.  The report makes clear that earlier attempts by alumni and students to have school take action on the sexual abuse of students by staff had been buried.  The report substantiates that 13 members of the staff sexual misconduct.  Complaints against another 11 could not be proved and another 10 staff were named in anonymous complaints that could not be investigated.  The incidents occurred over a 40 year period, from 1948 to 1988.  The Episcopal school is one of 67 private schools in the Northeast that are dealing with  long-buried sexual abuse complaints.  The Washington Post carried a story focused on the report.  The Boston Globe had a story that gave more background.   One of those named at St. Paul's was the former priest Howard White who had just pleaded guilty to abuse at St. George's School in Rhode Island.  White was a chaplain at St. Paul's before going to St. George's.

Contrasting Studies on Religious Beliefs and Membership in the US and UK 

A new report, The “No Religion” Population of Britain, based on wide surveys of social attitudes in Britain and Europe in 2015 and 2014 shows that the Church of England may be losing members, but those that are remaining in the Church are more committed and active.  While only 43 percent of the British population claim a Christian affiliation and 48.6% claim no religion, the good news was that the percentage of non-affiliated had not increased.  The 17% of British Christians who claim membership in the Church of England seems to have stabilized and over two-fifths of the non-religious actually still have some religious practices and pray on occasion.  Some church commentators think that the situation will be ripe for dedicated Christians to foster a revival in the coming years. The Church Times carried the story.  

In the U.S. the evangelical research organization, the Barna Group has released its latest study on the intersection of religious beliefs and public policy.  Barna's study grouped those surveyed in five categories: evangelical, non-evangelical born-again Christians, notional Christians, adherents of non-Christian faiths, and religious skeptics.  The evangelical and born again groups showed high support for Trump in the last election.  The non-Christians and skeptics largely voted for Clinton.  The swing group was the "notional" category where people expressed a belief in Christ but were split on social issues.  Barna researchers thought this large center group (42% of Americans) had a larger than usual influence in the election.  Some of their definitions and questions may sound odd to Episcopalians, but the study has some interesting findings.

Conservative Reaction Continues to Rejection of Canadian Bishop Elect

The decision (see the Update story here)  of the Canadian bishops to not approve the election of the Rev. Jacob Worley as bishop of Caledonia because he approved priests from one jurisdiction serving in another without the bishop's permission has provoked conservative protests.  The retired Bishop of Caledonia has protested the decision, and so has the Bishop of the Arctic, who asked for a reconsideration.  But the House of Bishops of British Colombia and the Yukon  has refused to reconsider.   It seems they took seriously the Worley's deposition by the Diocese of Rio Grande when he left the Episcopal Church, and expect conservatives to support the clauses in the Canadian canons against jurisdiction violations.

Faith in Public Life Offers Training to Those Supporting Social Justice

Faith in Public Life, an ecumenical group formed by progressive Catholics to promote turning faith into action in support of liberal social policy is now offering training for those who wish to be more active in opposition to immigration raids and deportations, and to help undocumented aliens.  You can learn more about this organization and its latest training module here.

New Primate Chosen for Middle East

Archbishop Mouneer Annis is retiring as the Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East after holding that office for ten years.  His replacement for the next two and a half years will be Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem who will then be followed by Bishop Michael Lewis of the Diocese of the Cyprus and the Gulf for the next two years and a half years.  Annis has participated very fully in GAFCON meetings.  Dawani has been more circumspect since his diocese depends heavily on western support.  The Anglican Communion announcement did not explain why the Synod selected two men to split the five year term.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Week Ending 05/15/17

Canadian Bishops Block Consecration of Former AMiA Priest as Bishop

The Update recently reported on the election of the Rev. Jacob Worley as Bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia.  Worley is currently serving a parish in the diocese.  Worley was ordained in the Episcopal Church, but left the church in 2007 to form a new congregation which eventually affiliated with the Anglican Mission in America.  The Canadian Bishops blocked his consecration because he continues to believe it is permissible for a priest from one Anglican jurisdiction to create a ministry in the bounds of a different jurisdiction without permission of the bishop of that jurisdiction.  This is against Canadian canons. During the bishops' interview with Worley had confirmed his belief in border-crossing.  They then voted to withhold approval of his consecration.  The Diocese of Caledonia has had trouble electing a successor to the Rt. Rev. William Anderson who retired in December 2016.  Anderson had originally called for a synod meeting to be held October 14, 2016, but cancelled the synod because of a canonical objection.  Now selection will be delayed even further.

Former Presiding Bishop Adds Her Voice to Those Opposing Drilling in National Preserves

Former Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori has published an opinion piece in the Reno Gazette-Jounral urging the protection of wilderness areas from gas and oil drilling.  She spoke specifically about  the need to protect Alaskan caribou who roam the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Her piece  picks up many of the same concerns Bishop Carol Gallagher raised in her opinion piece in a Helena, Montana paper a few weeks ago. Are more statements forthcoming?

Diocese of Washington Showcases Its Work with Immigrants

The web site of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has an article showcasing the efforts of a number of parishes to work with and welcome refugees including muslims.  The diocese thus joins a growing list of dioceses with active programs supporting immigrants and refugees.  Update has carried stories on Los Angeles' efforts. Episcopal News Service has carried stories on actions in  Seattle, San Diego, Minneapolis, and the amica brief filed by 14 Episcopal bishops which challenges the second Executive Order banning travel from 6 middle eastern countries  to the United States.

Episcopal Schools in the News Again

Two very different stories brought attention to Episcopal Schools this last week.  St. Andrew's School in Potomac, Maryland has announced that Baron Trump will be a student there in the fall.  Founded in 1978 the day school has an impressive record in in academic rankings and in diversity. It is about a 35 minute drive from the White House to the school.   Meanwhile in Rhode Island, Howard White, Jr., one of the men accused of sexually abusing students at St. George's School has pleaded guilty, and has reached a plea agreement with and 18 month sentence, thus avoiding a trial.  Update has carried previous stories on the St. George's cases. The most recent is here.

ACNA Task Force on Ordination of Women Recommends Further Discussion

A Task Force that was supposed to provide guidance on how ACNA could resolve the differences among its members over women's ordination has punted the ball.  The Task Force produced a more than 300 page report, that details the theological positions of all parties, voices a desire for unity, but can only recommend that discussions continue in  order to eventually find some route to unity.  It noted that both supporters and opponents are fervent in their beliefs, and outside of making a distinction between ordination as a priest and service as a bishop comes to no resolutions.  The Task Force did agree that women were barred from being bishops because bishops are supposed to be symbols of unity, and a woman bishop would be divisive. For those who want to read the whole report, it can be found here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Week Ending 5/8/17

Heather Cook Denied Parole

Former Suffragan Bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook, was denied parole at a hearing this last week.  Cook is serving a term in prison for killing a bicyclist in a hit and run incident while driving under the influence.  At her first chance at parole the deposed bishop gave no statement of apology or remorse and was denied parole.  She will continue to serve her  seven year sentence, but is likely to serve only half of it in prison. 

Splinter Group Consecrates Church of England Traditionalist as Bishop

A conservative evangelical curate at Jesmond Parish in Newcastle surprised both GAFCON and the Church of England by being consecrated a bishop in the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA) which is a break away body from the The Church of Southern Africa. The news of Jonathan Pryke's consecration caught the various GAFCON groups by surprise. GAFCON had just the previous week agreed to consecrate a bishop to provide an alternative to bishops of the Church of England in Europe. The UK branch of GAFCON noted that REACH-SA had ordained several clergy serving in the Jesmond region, but made no other comment.  Orders in REACH-SA are recognized as valid by the Church of England, but the REACH-SA is not in communion with the Church of England.  Pryke intends to continue as curate in in Jesmond while also serving REACH-SA.  He took vows that said he would follow directions of bishops of the Church of God, not REACH-SA.  Bishop Christie Hardaman issued a statement saying that neither Pryke or the REACH-SA bishops had permission to function within her diocese of "England, and that this was contrary to Church canons. The situation may remind Americans of what David Moyer tried to do in Rosemont, PA after being consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Church in America. Moyer was deposed and the parish eventually reclaimed by the Diocese of Pennsylvania.   For more commentary on GAFCON and its strategy to take over the Anglican Communion, take a look the most recent blog entry by Mark Harris.

Parish Organist Arrested for Vandalizing Church

Just days after the 2016 presidential election two Episcopal parishes, one in Maryland and one in Indiana,  dealt with hate graffiti that seemed aimed at their inclusive positions.  Both incidents attracted national attention and support.  Presiding Bishop Curry celebrated communion in the Indiana parish in Bean Blossom while in Indiana for consecration of their new bishop.  Now the parish is shocked to find out that their own organist was the source of the graffiti in a misguided attempt to mobilize people for inclusion in the wake of the election. Police have arrested and charged Nathan Stang with vandalism.  Bishop Baskerville-Burrows' statement is here.  She promised full co-operation with the police, issued an apology, asked for prayers for all involved and urged Christians to resist the polarization of society.  Update's earlier coverage of the event is here

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Week Ending 5/1/17

Women Continue Breaking New Ground as Bishops

While churches in England and Wales were reacting to the appointment of June Osborne, the Dean of the Cathedral in Salisbury as the 72nd Bishop of Landaff in Wales, The Episcopal Church was celebrating the consecration  of Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows as the first African-American woman to serve as a diocesan Bishop. Osborne's appointment must still be ratified by the Bishop of the Church of Wales, but it seems to quiet much of the controversy that arose when the church did not muster the super majority of votes needed to elect a bishop, and complaints were filed that discrimination against gays had played a part in that outcome.  There was little controversy, but much celebrating as Baskerville-Burrows's consecration as the Eleventh Bishop of Indianapolis set a second precedent.  She became the first woman bishop to follow another woman as bishop in the same see. Bishop Catherine Waynick is retiring after 20 years as Bishop of Indianaoplis.  The first woman consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Communion, retired suffragan bishop of Massachusetts, Barbara Harris served as one of the consecrators for Baskerville- Burrows.

Both Parties File Final Statements in Bruno Hearing

Both the Church Attorney representing the Episcopal Church and those who signed the original complaint and the counsel for Bishop Bruno filed their closing arguments in the disciplinary hearing that arose from Bruno's efforts to sell St. James the Great in Newport Beach.  There had been no closing statements at the hearing itself, and final statements could not be filed until a transcript of the hearing testimony was available.  The Bruno defense asked for the case to be dismissed and submitted a suggested order to that effect along with a long list of exhibits filed in the case.  Church Attorney Raymond Coughlin argued that Bruno had committed serious offenses that could justify his suspension, but suggested a better way forward would be to craft an agreement that would put the displaced congregation back in their building while keeping Bruno from having any control over the parish.  Coughlin also submitted a statement of proposed facts including a time line of events. Coughlin's solution would require agreement from Bruno to not pursue an appeal. The five member panel has not set a date for issuing an opinion. After it is issued, there is a 90 day appeal period. Bruno's posture towards the congregation has hardened over time.  After the lockout in 2015 he allowed use of the building for a wedding and a funeral.   This last week, however, he denied use of the building for the funeral of a woman who had been an active member for 61 years.  Update has carried many stories on the proposed sale, dispossession of the parish, and charges against the bishop.  The most recent one is here.

Church Use of Tiny Houses to Address Homeless Continues to Spread

The Deseret News in Salt Lake published a story featuring the several projects being sponsored by Episcopal parishes around the country to use "tiny houses" to provide homes for the homeless.  Update has carried stories on three projects already, with the most recent one being here.  The Salt Lake article has additional information on the Montana project and adds another location to the list -- four tiny houses being built on parish property adjacent to St. James Episcopal Church in Canon Ball on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.

GAFCON Announces It Will Send a Missionary Bishop to Scotland

GAFCON leadership decided at their meeting last week to send a missionary bishop to Scotland because the Scottish Episcopal Church is moving towards permitting same sex marriage. They had previously announced that they would be considering this action.  The GAFCON group in the United Kingdom responded to the announcement with pleasure, and the Scottish Church primate objected to the move both as it would be a deliberate violation of the integrity of each province, and secondly because the church's synod had not yet met and it was not clear what the actual decision would be.  It is possible to read the GAFCON announcement as a threat designed to keep the synod from moving forward on this issue.  Update's previous coverage of the report issued for the synod on same sex marriage and reactions to it are here.

Anglican Women Around the Globe Speak Out on Women's Issues

The seven women serving as bishops in the Provinces of Australia and of New Zealand, Aotearoa and Polynesia met for three days in Australia. It was the first such meeting for the bishops. They used that meeting to explore the experience of women in the church including the episcopate.  At the conclusion they issued a communique expressing their concern for the well being of women and girls throughout the Anglican Communion. The communique expressed concern that there were no women on the Lambeth Conference planning committee and noted that the meeting of  Oceania primates was a single sex gathering (i.e. all male).  Less than a week earlier, the Mother's Union which represents Anglican women in 83 different countries issued a statement expressing concern that government support for the empowerment of women is weakening and that countries are not doing enough to end violence against women and challenge the stereotypes and assumptions about gender roles that hold back women.

Bishop Gallagher Urges Senators to Protect Alaskan Lands

Bishop Carol Gallagher, Assistant Bishop of Montana, authored an opinion column carried in the Helena, Montana newspaper stating the case for protection of lands in Alaska that are currently threatened by executive orders and congressional legislation. Gallagher, a member of an indigenous group, stressed that protection was necessary to ensure that the caribou migrations which indigenous  peoples depend upon would not be affected.  She called on Montanans, especially Episcopalians to urge Montana's senators to vote against any repeal of protection.