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, August 30, 2017

Week Ending 8/28/17

Episcopalians Ready Help to Victims of Hurricane Harvey

As Hurricane Harvey pounded coastal towns in Texas and then stalled inland where it is continuing to cause massive flooding in Houston and surrounding areas,  Episcopal Relief and Development began providing aid to the devastated areas and the thousands who had to leave their homes.  Presiding Bishop Curry has issued a statement and video urging Episcopalians to pray and support relief efforts, especially through ERD.  The dioceses of Texas and West Texas had disaster plans in place which they are beginning to implement and are providing on-site assessment and coordination of the church's relief efforts.  The Episcopal Church plans to be there for the storm victims for the long haul as rebuilding begins.  Those interested in helping can donate and sign up with ERD.

Clergy March for Social Justice

In the wake of the violence, protests and counter-protests that gained national attention in Charlottesville, VA, clergy have been demonstrating their support for social and racial justice.  This last week in August marks anniversaries of the March on Washington, the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (granting women the vote), and the lynching of Emmet Till.  A march by over 1000 clergy in Washington D.C. for social justice was in part a marking of these past events and also a protest against the recent statements by the president, his executive order banning transgendered people from the military, and his pardon of the notorious Phoenix area former Sheriff Arpaio.  Here in Pittsburgh, the Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania worked with Pittsburgh Jewish leaders to organize a gathering and march for justice and against hate. A number of Episcopalians took part.

Date Set for Arguments in Federal Court for South Carolina Trademark Case

Progress has finally been made in the trademark case filed in South Carolina by the Episcopal bishop in 2013 against the break-away group.  He claimed damages because the break-away faction under Mark Lawrence continued to claim that it was the "real" Episcopal Diocese, and use its seal and other insignia.  The judge now assigned to the case set arguments for March 2018 and admitted the Episcopal Church as a party to the suit along with the Bishop Adams of South Carolina. The judge brushed aside arguments from the break-away group claiming that adding the Episcopal Church to the suit would cause a harmful delay in the case.  The judge noted that the defendants had been quite happy to delay the case for four years until the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled against their property suits. The federal judge originally assigned to the case had sided with the break-away group requests that trial be delayed until the property law suit had been settled. He had twice defied orders from the federal appeals court to go forward with trial  Steve Skaradon has a number of entries on these matters at scepiscopalians.com.  You can read the TEC filings in the case here.

Australia Has First Female Archbishop

Bishop Kay Goldsworthy has broken another glass ceiling barrier for Australian Anglicans by being chosen Archbishop of Perth. The previous Archbishop stepped down in December after admitting he had not properly handled cases involving clergy sexual abuse of children.  Goldsworthy was among the first women ordained as a priest in Australia, and was the first elected to be a bishop.  She is currently Bishop of Gippsland in Victoria.  She is familiar to those in Perth because she formerly served as Assistant Bishop of Perth and as chaplain at a Perth College. 

Bells Will Ring Out Again in York

After the sudden dismissal of the entire bell-ringing crew for York Minster last October, the bells have been silent except for one special occasion.  The cathedral's bells were even silent on Christmas Day,  the first time in 600 years because ringers refused to fill in for the dismissed group.  Now new ringers have been recruited, a new head bellringer is in place and York will have its chimes back next month. 

Sauls Case Thrown Out of Court

The lawsuit filed in Alabama by Bishop Stacy Sauls against the Presiding Bishop and a number of staff from the Church headquarters has been thrown out of court by the judge. The judge had ordered parties into mediation, before he would hear arguments, but when the parties came before him he declared he did not have jurisdiction and dismissed the suit.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Week Ending 8/21/17

Fate of New Zealand Cathedral Continues to Perplex Everyone

Christ Church Cathedral, destroyed six years ago in a major earthquake has proved to be a political football.  The diocese is weighing options for rebuilding on site, building new on another site, or possibly donating the site to the government and letting them restore the building. The issues around the cathedral's fate involve cost, diocesan needs, and historic value.  The Cathedral was a national historic site before its destruction.  Now a fourth option, leaving it as protected ruins and possibly building an underground cathedral with skylights to the ruins has been proposed.  Update has been following this discussion and the most recent previous posts are here and here.  The issues around the cathedral's fate involve cost, diocesan needs, and historic value. 

Tennessee Parish Inspiration for Movie

After most of its members and priest left to form an ACNA congregation, All Saints Parish in Smyrna, TN seemed destined for closing.  However, the priest sent to the tiny congregation instead saw a rebirth as the parish was approached by Christian Burmese refugees who wanted a place to worship and then asked to use church land to farm.  The story has now been made into a movie which has been released this month.  The Anglican Communion News gives good detail on the movie and Episcopal Cafe provides some of the background on the parish.  The movie uses many of the local refugees and church members in their cast.  There were earlier news stories on this parish as it began to be successful.  The Voice of America one is relatively complete.  The minister also turned the experience into a book published this year. 

English Church Boots Musicians

 St. Sepulchre's Church in London has been one of the favorite sites for choral and orchestral group concerts and recordings because of its flexible space, seating for an audience of 400, and good acoustics.  It is known as the National Musician's Church and Henry Wood, the founder of the "Proms" concerts is buried there. Several years ago the congregation became part of an evangelical network that leans towards contemporary praise music.  The priest has now sent a letter telling all secular groups using the space that it will not be available beginning in 2018, supposedly because of increased church activity.  In the future all music will be part of worship services.  This has kicked up a major row in England, drawing comments from composer John Rutter and a petition with more than a thousand signatures.  The church seems to be backing off slightly, but the musicians are not finished protesting.  The Church Times and the Telegraph are among the newspapers that have carried stories.  The comments on the slippedisc.com web site are very revealing about some of the tensions between competing cultures that led to the row. 

Southern Africa Continues to Struggle with Same Sex Marriages

 The Anglican Province of Southern Africa includes most of the countries in the Southern part of Africa.  Of these only South Africa recognizes civil unions of same-sex couples.  The Church in South Africa has failed to convince the rest of the province to allow blessings.  Motions that would have supported this have failed at two previous synods (2011 and 2016).  The Archbishop set up a bishops committee to study sexuality and to begin conversations, but any change has been slow. The province affirms LGBTIQA people as baptized members, but does not allow clergy to be in same-sex relationships. Cape Town has been a leader affirming homosexuals for a number of years. (See update story from 2009)  However, the diocesan synod meeting at Cape Town held last weekend tabled a blessings resolution despite strong support from several clergy including the Dean of the diocesan cathedral. 

New York City Parish Provides Sanctuary to Immigrant 

Holyrood Episcopal Church in Washington Heights not only talks the talk, but walks the walk as a sanctuary church.  They announced at a press conference on August 18, that they now were providing sanctuary to Amanda Morales Guerra from Guatemala who has been an undocumented immigrant in the United States since 2004 and has 3 American-born children that she does not want to leave. She originally left Guatemala to avoid the violence there, and has gone to every appointment with immigration officials except for the last one. She was told by ICE officials that she faced immediate deportation, and should buy a one-way ticket to Guatemala.  She and her three children have found sanctuary at Holyrood Church, where the rector is from Puerto Rico and the congregation is bilingual.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Week Ending 8/14/17

Episcopalians Witness Against Racism in Charlottesville

The three Episcopal parishes in Charlottesville were very active in helping to organize the ecumenical response in Charlottesville which formed when word of the planned march of White Supremacist and Nazi groups became public.  One of the parishes, adjacent to the campus and very close to the statue of Lee which was the focal point hosted the evening prayer service that was nearly surrounded by tiki torch-bearing Supremacists Friday night.  The three Episcopal bishops from the Diocese of Virginia issued a pre-protest call to clergy to gather as a peaceful, powerful witness against the Supremacist protesters.  After Supremacist attacks resulted in deaths and injuries on Saturday, the bishops issued another statement and suggestions for next actions.  Other Episcopal leaders have also condemned the attacks, especially after the first statement by President Trump spoke of violence from "many sides." (See the Episcopal Cafe and Episcopal News Service stories.)  Bishop Dorsey McConnell's statement is here. Trump has finally issued a second statement specifically condemning the Nazi and White Supremacist groups.

St. James the Great Church Heartbreak

 Celebrations of the Hearing Panel recommendations (See the previous Update) concerning Bishop Bruno and his attempts to sell St. James the Great property in Newport Beach came to a crashing end with a letter from Bishop Coadjutor Taylor saying that the diocese was bound by the sales agreement Bruno negotiated in secret after his first deal fell through. It means that almost certainly Bruno will be suspended from all clerical activities for three years.  Taylor did say that the commercial developer intended to preserve the worship space part of the property and would make it available to community groups including the dispossed congregation.

Break-Away Diocese in South Carolina Asks for Rehearing

The split decision, largely favoring the loyal Episcpalians in South Carolina, has encouraged the schismatic diocese's Standing Committee to ask the state supreme court to rehear the case.  Three of the five justices now serving were not on the court when it heard the case two years ago.  This may delay the hearing of the trademark case filed by the Episcopalians in federal court since the state court decision had left this issue to the federal court rather than rule on it.  Should the SC Supreme Court deny a rehearing, the schismatics will need to decide if they want to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

New Zealand Anglicans May Consider Local Option for Blessing Same-Sex Marriages

Last year the Anglican Church in New Zealand, which operates under a unique blend of three ethnic archbishoprics, found a report supporting blessing of same-sex marriages, was dividing the church.  Rather than vote on the propsals, they created a committee to study how the church could stay together while accomodating different theological positions on the issue.  The province includes pacific island countries where same-sex marriage is not legal, as well as New Zealand where such marriages have been legal since 2013.  The new report propses a form of local option, at a bishop's discretion, with promises of no penalties for those on either side of the issue, and possbly a separate track for dissenters.  The Church Times in England covered this, but a more detailed version of proposals can be found in New Zealand coverage, and the full report is here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Week Ending 8/7/17

South Carolina Supreme Issues Decision

The South Carolina Supreme Court finally issued its opinion in the appeal of the trial court award of Church property to the schismatic parishes and diocese.  The opinion makes clear why there was a two year wait following final arguments and filings.  The five judges each wrote their own opinion.  The result was a mixed opinion, granting the diocesan property, and  most of the parish properties to the group that remained in The Episcopal Church. A handful of schismatic parishes that had never acknowledged the Dennis Canon in their governing documents were able to keep their property.  The justices punted on the issue of diocesan name, seal, and identity.  Both sides are now waiting next steps.  The schismatics have to decide if they want to ask for a rehearing in front of a court that has had substantial personnel changes, appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, or just call it a day.  So far they have issued a pastoral letter.  The ACNA presiding bishop has also issued a statement. Not surprisingly,  the schismatic group in Fort Worth which is awaiting a Texas Supreme Court decision, weighed in to distinguish their case from South Carolina's.  Alex Haley, the lawyer who represented the San Joaquin schismatics in their unsuccessful attempt to keep property has raised conflict of interest charges against the South Carolina judges.  The schismatics did not raise the issue when the court heard the case. The loyal Episcopalians have to decide what they want to do with properties which would be returned.  They issued an initial pastoral letter and have held a meeting of clergy to begin sorting out their response.  The Post and Courier in South Carolina carried an initial article and a follow-up article on the decision.  The scepiscopalians.com blog has a number of postings on the legal issues.  read back to July 20 for a full picture. The Update has followed the case from the begining.  The most update coverage of the supreme court hearing is here.

Major Gender Wage Gap Documented Among English Clergy

A national study in England has documented a wage gap between male and female Church of England clergy with women making 40% less than men. This is much worse than the national average for all occupations. 

Kenyan Appeals Court Orders Reinstatement of Three Clergy

 Three Kenyan Anglican clergy who were removed as clergy on charges that they were gay, have not only prevailed a second time in court, but have been awarded compensation.  All three claimed the charges were false.  Both the trial and appeals courts ruled the Church had no evidence to support charges that the men were gay.

Final Recommendations Issued in Bishop Bruno Case

The Hearing Panel has issued its final order in the case against Bishop Jon Bruno, and as in the draft order, has recommended a three year suspenion from all clerical and episcopal actions.  It is now up to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops to affirm that order.  Because Bruno can appeal, the Presiding Bishop issued an expanded restriction on Bruno that removed him from any actions related to the property, members or clergy associated with St. James the Great in Newport Beach, CA.  Presiding Bishop Curry's restriction turned these matters over to the new Coadjutor in Los Angeles, John Taylor and the standing committee.  They have now issued a statement accepting that responsibilty.

 First Episcopal Wedding of Same Sex Couple in Scotland

We reported recently2 that St. Mary's Cathedral in Scotland was the first Parish in the Episcopa Church of Scotland to be approved to do weddings of same-sex couples.  However the first wedding was done in a small chapel not at the cathedral.  The two men have been together for 24 years.  It is expected that many couples from England will seek a Scottish wedding.  The wedding puts great pressure on the Church of England,

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Week Ending 7/31/17

Presiding Bishop Issues New Partial Restriction on Bruno

Presiding Bishop Curry has expanded his original partial restriction on Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno.  The original order forbade Bruno from taking any action on the sale of St. James the Great until after that Hearing Panel completes its work on the case brought by members of St. James against the Bishop.  The new restriction expands the prohibition of action to include any dealings with the parish in exile, its members, the priest serving that group or other property owned by the parish and extends to any subsequent appeals.  It specifically gives care of the congregation and its rector to Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor and the Standing Committee.  The latest restrictions comes after the Presiding Bishop read the draft decision.  The congregation of St. James the Great made the draft decision public, but there is a period for comment from those who filed the complaint and the Church Attorney before a final version is issued.

Church Stands with Transgender in Military

President Trump's overnight tweet announcing he was banning all transgendered people from service in the military, including those already in the service, has met with a a number of condemnations from those supporting military service by transgender people.  Presiding Bishop Curry issued a statement supporting transgender service as have a number of other Episcopal Church leaders, including the Dean of  Washington Cathedral, the Bishop for the Armed Forces.  The Episcopal News Service article carries links to all of the statements issued so far.

Joint Statement by Archbishops Provokes Response

The 50th anniversary of decriminalization of homosexual acts in Britain was marked by a joint statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.  That statement has been the subject of a wide range of commentary and criticism from both progressives and conservatives.  Progressives were critical of the way the statement moved from support for civil equality to a discussion of sin, coming close to a statement that while legal all such acts are sinful.  Conservatives were unhappy that the statement was too accepting of same sex people.  Others commented that the statement seemed a typical Anglican muddle in the middle.

New GAFCON Bishop Denied License in English Diocese

The plans of GAFCON to send a missionary bishop consecrated outside the Church of England to minister to traditionalists in England has met with resistance in England.  The new Bishop, consecrated by ACNA at its recent synod in Chicago, is a priest licensed in the Dioceses of Sheffield and Canterbury.  The Bishop of Sheffield did not renew the license for Andy Lines to serve in any capacity in his diocese.  All clergy in the diocese have annual licenses that expire on June 30.  Without that license Lines cannot provide any services in a parish in the diocese. Because the Church of England is an established church, Lines could find himself subject to legal penalties. The story was originally carried by the Church of England Newspaper which limits on-line viewing to subscribers.  David Virtue, however, picked up the story.

Cabinet Members Meeting for Bible Study

A core group of Trump cabinet officials has been meeting regularly with Ralph Drollinger for Bible study.  Drollinger runs Capitol Ministries, an ultra conservative group with branches in 40 cities.  He is claiming that he sees the cabinet members have been applying his lessons in their policies statments.  Drollinger is a climate change denier, who has argued that God only hears the prayers of the righteous.  For more on his views see this article.

Australian Court Reverses Deposition of Bishop and Priest Who Abused Children

A recent court ruling in Australia has abuse victims and Church official upset.  Church courts under disciplinary procedures created in 2004 had deposed Bishop Keith Slaver and priest Patrick Comben for their handling of sexual abuse complaints 1940-1980 at a children's home.  On appeal, however the courts ruled that the church courts did not have jurisdiction and thus restored the men's orders.  However, it appears they will not be given a license to officiate and thus will be unable to act in any official capacity.  The Australian Church has proposals coming before its next synod to tighten and strengthen the disciplinary procedures to avoid a repeat of this appeal outcome.