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.

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A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Week Ending 9/25/17

Disciplinary Board Activates Suspension of Bishop Bruno

The Disciplinary Board for Bishops has confirmed the recommendation of the Hearing Panel that Bishop Jon Bruno be suspended from all actions as an ordained person, and has directed that the suspension begin January 1, 208 rather than waiting for Bishop Bruno's appeals to be heard.  The Hearing Panel had found Bruno guilty of conduct unbecoming an ordained person as he went about selling the property of St. James the Great Parish in Newport Beach.  His appeal of the Hearing Panel recommendation originally stayed the suspension, but Presiding Bishop Curry issued his own directive on August 1 temporarily suspending Bruno.  The Disciplinary Panel added even more restrictions in the suspension it issued.

Primates Meeting to Begin Next Week

The Primates of most the Churches within the Anglican Communion are beginning to gather in England for the Primates' meeting scheduled to begin October 2.  The Archbishop of Canterbury seems energized by the knowledge that 16 of the leaders are new in that role since the meeting in 2016, and thus there will be fresh voices at the table.  Thirty-three of the 39 primates are expected to come. A few primates are staying home because they are miffed that the "consequences" on the Episcopal Church urged by the primates in 2016 were not acted upon, and  instead the provinces in Scotland and Canada have moved to join the Episcopal Church in allowing blessings of same-sex unions.  Several others are ill or were unable to travel. Welby is predicting that the primates will discuss "mission and evangelism; reconciliation and peace-building; climate change and environment; and migration and human trafficking,” and that issues around sexuality will not dominate the conversations.

Latest From Episcopal Relief and Development on Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

Episcopal Relief and Development has issued a release outlining the work they are beginning in response to the earthquakes in Mexico, and the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  The release includes information on conditions on site and the steps now being taken through ERD to begin addressing people's need.

Newest Developments in South Carolina Legal Battles

Last week the South Carolina Supreme Court received three new filings in the continuing legal battle over church and diocesan property.  In the last edition of the Update, we reported that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina had filed its response to the break-away group's request for a rehearing and the recusal of Judge Hearn on grounds that she is an Episcopalian. On the 19th, two retired judges filed a motion requesting that they be allowed to submit an Amici brief opposing recusal of Judge Hearn.  On the 25th the break-away group filed their responses to the Episcopal Church filings (and the proposed Amici brief).  They can be read here and here.  The break-away group has hired a public relations firm with connections to alt-right news circles which has launched a series of attacks on the Episcopal Church and the  character of Judge Hearn, according to blogger Steve Skardon.  According to Skardon, these attacks helped prompt the filing of the brief by the two retired judges, who are not Episcopalians and have no previous ties to the the litigation.

Bishops Speak Out on Two Issues

Groups of Episcopal bishops made two very public statements on hot topic issues this last week.  More than 125 bishops signed an open letter to the president and congress asking for continuation of the DACA program. Some bishops responded too late to be included.  The letter was published as a full page ad in the New York Times. In addition, six bishops issued a letter  addressed to their senators opposing the latest Republican bill on health care. The bishops were from areas that would be greatly affected were the bill to pass.  

Bishop Rowe Finds Another Partner Diocese

In 2014 Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania was elected Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem.  Since then he has split his time between the two diocese on opposite ends of Pennsylvania.  Now the Diocese of Bethlehem is in the midst of a search for a new Diocesan and is scheduled to hold an electing convention in the spring on 2018.  Rowe has now found another Diocese interested in sharing a bishop.  The Diocese of Western New York is directly to the north of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and driving from one diocese's cathedral to the other is less than two hours on I 90.  The clergy of the two diocese were meeting together last week when Bishop Franklin announced he would retire in April 2019.  The two dioceses are planning a joint convention for  October 2018, which, if conversations go well, will be when Western New York elects Rowe as their Bishop Provisional. While Rowe already has experience in juggling roles in two dioceses, there will be one additional complication.  Bethlehem and Northwestern Pennsylvania are both in Province III.  Western New York, however, is in Province II. 

Church Named for Robert E. Lee Changes Its Name

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee settled in Lexington, Virginia where he served as a college president and helped a small Episcopal congregation by serving as senior warden until his death in 1870.  He and his immediate family are buried in a crypt under the church.  Grace Memorial Episcopal was informally known as Lee's Church until 1903 when the vestry officially changed its name to Robert E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church.  After the church shooting in Charleston, the parish began discussing if they should change the name of the parish. Recent events in Charlottesville put more pressure on the parish to consider a change.  Last week in a 5-7 vote the vestry decided to find other ways to honor Lee, and to return to the parish's original name, Grace Episcopal Church.  You can read more about the vote and the process leading to the change here.  This decision comes in the wake of the decision of the National Cathedral to remove windows honoring Lee and Stonewall Jackson, who also has close ties to Lexington.

Canadian Archbishop Hopes For Self-Governing Indigenous Structure by 2019

The Anglican Church of Canada  just finished another round of discussions with indigenous peoples.  Archbishop Hiltz is hopeful that there may be canon changes proposed by 2019 that will create a self-governing structure within the Canadian church for indigenous peoples. The Anglican Church made self-determination for the indigenous members of the church a goal more than 20 years ago, but implementation has been slow  because the Church is trying not to impose a structure on native peoples. There is no set timeline, but Hiltz feels that a possible way forward is beginning to be shaped from the ongoing discussions.  Although the unit would have self-determination, the church as a whole will need to provide at least partial financial support for the unit.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Week Ending 09/18/17

Survey Shows Americans Have Poor Grasp of First Amendment

A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania done annually in honor of U.S. Constitution Day (September 17) reveals that nearly 20% of Americans do not believe that Muslims are covered by the First Amendment. Over 14% thought atheists were not covered.  Over a third of Americans could not name any of the rights guaranteed in the first amendment (religion, press, speech, assembly, and petition).  Those who were surveyed  were more likely to know about protections of religion than any other First Amendment rights. Over half of Americans surveyed thought undocumented immigrants had no constitutional rights, despite the U.S. Supreme Court having said that all those within the bounds of the U.S., including non-citizens, are covered by the equal protection of the laws clause of the 14th Amendment. 

Archbishop Appoints Committee to Propose Enlargement of Anglican Consultative Council

Justin Welby has appointed a committee to present a report on how to reshape the Anglican Consultative Council to be more reflective of the Communion's membership.  Members of the Committee include primates, bishops, clergy, and laity, all of whom are members of the ACC.  Although no members of the Episcopal Church are on the committee, the membership is not likely to warm the hearts of GAFCON.  The African members are from Burundi, South Africa, and Kenya.  The Kenyan is the bishop who led his deputation to the last ACC meeting over the objections of his archbishop who wanted them to boycott the meeting.  Others are from India, Scotland, Ireland, Central America, Canada, Brazil, and England.

Church Starts Rebuilding Plans for Christ Church Cathedral

Having finally made a decision to rebuild and restore their earth-quake damaged cathedral, Anglicans in Christ Church New Zealand have wasted no time in beginning the process of restoration and of raising the money needed to complete the work.  They have signed an agreement with the government to help in the process and people began calling asking how to donate before they could even fully set up a fund to receive the money.

Hurricane Recovery Updates

Episcopal Dioceses continue to struggle with the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  In Florida and Texas the dioceses are now in recovery and rebuilding mode, operating as relief centers even when their own buildings are damaged.  The diocesan offices in Southwest Florida were flooded and they are now operating out of temporary quarters. See the Episcopal News Services stories here and here and the Anglican Communion news story here.  In the Caribbean including Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Virginia Islands recovery is being hampered by the threats caused by hurricane Maria. All of the island nations are still dealing with food and supply shortages and trying evacuate people.  Now they are hurriedly trying to dispose of debris that Maria's strong winds could turn into deadly missiles. For more information, the diocese of Southwestern Florida, Southeastern Florida, West Texas, and Central Florida have more on their web pages. Texas has a simple form to fill out to offer help, but the ENS article has more on what they are doing. 

Anglican Church in Southern Africa Begins Conversations on Same Sex Marriage

Although the Church of Southern Africa Synod recently made no decision on a proposal to allow blessing of same sex marriages, the Archbishop is going forward with conversations on Human Sexuality which he hopes will prepare the way for the churches in South Africa, if not the rest of the province, to provide blessings in the future.  The conversations are seen by conservatives as the first step in a process that will allow blessings.  The Church of England Newspaper article that reported on the conversation used the second half of the article to report on conservative reaction and the ordination by Uganda's primate of a missionary from Uganda to serve inside South Africa, in other words starting the road to an ACNA-type counter church.  

Episcopalians File Response in South Carolina Case

The break-away group in South Carolina filed their briefs during the first week in September asking the South Carolina Supreme Court for a rehearing of their decision awarding most property to those who remained in the Episcopal Church. They also filed a request that one justice recuse herself because she was an Episcopalian.  The Episcopal Church in South Carolina was given 10 days to respond to this request, and they filed their answer this last week.  You can read it here.  Now the  matter is back in the hands of the state supreme court.

English Priest Accused of Sex Abuse Kills Self

Despondent over charges recently filed accusing him of sexual abuse 20 years earlier, the Rev. Martyn Neale, vicar of Hawley in Hamshire, England doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire.  His sister found his remains the the vicarage garden.  Reports say he was very troubled about the charges. The death in July is just being reported.  

Hearts Triumph Over Hate

When the members of St. James Episcopal Church in Bozeman, Montana came to church last week they found a Nazi symbol sprayed on their church sign.  The response has been to plaster the sign with paper hearts on which were written messages of love. The church calls itself the "stone church with a warm heart."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Week Endimg 9/11/17

Bishop Bruno Files Appeal of his Suspension

Bishop Jon Bruno has filed an appeal of the Hearing Panel finding that he should be suspended from the ministry.  He claims the Panel itself violated Church Constitution and Canons, too easily accepted the Church Attorney's Statement of Facts, ruled on measures not in the original complaint, and exceeded their authority.  You can read his appeal here.  Bruno's objections in part refer to the fact that the Panel was not pleased when it learned of his secret sale negotiations while the Panel was deliberating and added some findings based on his disregard for the process under way.

South Carolina Litigants Active Despite Mediation

The September 10, 2017 entry in the blog written by Steve Skaradon has a good summary of the status of both the state court and federal court proceedings in South Carolina concerning church property and identity.  The Pittsburgh Update has covered this litigation fully with our most recent post here.

Marriage Equality Continues to Rile Some Provinces

Not surprisingly the recent meeting of the Global South group of Anglican Provinces issued a Communique expressing its displeasure with those Anglican Provinces now allowing same-sex marriage or blessing of civil unions.  Two primates have decided not to attend the October meeting of Primates.  This is one more than reported on earlier.  Meanwhile, the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Australia, also passed a measure expressing its displeasure with the Episcopal Church of Scotland for voting to allow same-sex marriage.  The Synod vote came as a poll of all voters ordered by the Australian parliament to discern support for civil same-sex marriage began nation-wide. Opinion polls suggest a majority of Australians are supportive. The Synod vote as reported by Anglican.ink was 60 to 45 among the laity, 68 to 42 among the clergy, and 12 to 6 among bishops. What that article does not note is the disproportionate influence of the diocese of Sydney in the Synod.  Sydney has 35 clergy and 35 lay deputies, and the province of New South Wales, headed by the Sydney Archbishop has 43% of the members of the  General Synod.  Sydney has recognized ACNA as the real Anglican presence in the U.S.  Of course, as the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, pointed out last week in an official statement, ACNA is not a part of the Anglican Communion.

Status Updates on Dioceses Affected by Hurricanes

  Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left a wide swath of damage across the American South and the Caribbean.  The Episcopal Church has dioceses in the affected parts of the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and is oversees the Church in Cuba.  The Anglican Communion has a presence in all the affected Caribbean Islands.,  For those wising to help in the rebuilding and relief efforts or check the status of Churches in these areas, Update is providing links to web sites in most of the dioceses and overseas that will provide that information.  The Diocese of the Virgin Islands does not have a web site; Cuba's was inoperative, but there has been a message from the Bishop in Cuba.  The Anglican Communion News Service carried an update on the Caribbean with information on how to help.  Here are links for the U.S. dioceses:  Texas, West Texas, Central Florida, Southeastern Florida, Southwest Florida, Florida.  

National Cathedral Removes Lee and Jackson Windows

The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. deconsecrated  the windows installed in the 1950s honoring Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  The Lee window included images of him on horseback at the battle of Chancellorsville as well as other parts of his military career and his service as a college president after the war.  The Jackson window showed him reading the Bible at a Civil War encampment, his earlier career, and his triumphant entry into heaven after being killed during the war.  The cathedral will find a way to display the windows in an historic context away from the worship space. The Cathedral has been discussing the windows removal for nearly a year.

New Zealand Cathedral to Be Restored

  After years of controversy, the Episcopal Diocese in Christ Church, New Zealand, has chosen to restore their cathedral which was severely damaged in the Christ Church Earthquake.  The synod was presented with three options, rebuild the cathedral elsewhere, demolish the damage building and build new on site, or restore the original historic building. Now the synod is faced with the challenge of raising the money that restoration will require.  The most recent Update post on the controversy leading to this vote is here.

Mainline Churches and Millennials - Some Good News

 A recent in-depth study of church membership across all American denominations had one bit of good news for mainline protestant churches.  They are doing better than evangelicals or Roman Catholics in attracting Millennials as members.  The liberal stances of mainline protestant denominations has often been cited as a reason for their membership decline.  However, those stances seem to be part of what is making the mainline more attractive to Millennials.  In fact the survey showed that the age demographics of the various segments of church membership had shifted so that evangelical and Roman Catholic groups had an older membership than the mainlines.  

Women's Ordination Still a Sticking Point

Four of the  denominations that broke from the Episcopal Church over women's ordination and the replacement of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer have signed an agreement of full communion. The Anglican Church in America, The Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of America, and the Diocese of the Holy Cross had interest in working with ACNA as it formed, but they instead formed a group called FACA and remained separate.  The full communion agreement brings these small denominations with a total of about 300 congregations into much closer cooperation with each other.   The remain adamant in reserving ordination for men. The fact that ACNA was divided on women's ordination was one of the reasons they did not affiliate with it.  The division in ACNA seems unlikely to be resolved.  The ACNA House of Bishops held conversations on the ordination of women and then issued a statement saying there are strong theological arguments for ordaining women and for not ordaining women, and this would remain a matter to be settled by each diocese.  The bishops unanimously reaffirmed the position that women would not be joining their ranks.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Week Ending 9/4/17

South Carolina Litigants Ordered to Mediation

Not only did the parties in the South Carolina church trademark case agree to an order for mediation issued by the judge overseeing the federal suit involving trademarks, but they agreed that the issues covered by both the state supreme court property decision would also be part of the mediation.  A senior federal judge, Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. was assigned as mediator. Apparently, the announcement of mediation took parishes on involved on both sides in the state court by surprise.  If the mediation is unsuccessful, the litigation will proceed with argument in the federal case set for March.  In the meantime, the State Supreme Court rejected a request from the breakaway group for a second extension of the deadline for filing a request for rehearing. The breakaway group then met the original deadline and filed a brief for a rehearing.  They also filed an unprecedented request that one of the justices recuse herself because she was Episcopalian.  That judge had been one of the two justices willing to settle all disputes in favor of the Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, Nigerian Archbishop Okoh announced he would not attend the October primates meeting.  His statement returned multiple times to the legal decisions in South Carolina and San Joaquin, characterizing the legal outcomes as "aggressive legal actions" by the Episcopal Church which resulted in "orthodox" parishes being "stripped of the churches that have helped form their spiritual lives." 

Hurricane-Battered Dioceses Dig Into Relief Work

As noted in last week's update, the Episcopal Relief and Development and Episcopal dioceses in the path of Hurricane Harvey began plans for relief and recovery work as the storm bore down on Texas.  Now the battered dioceses have become part of the relief and recovery work.  A blog entry by the Dean of Houston's Episcopal Cathedral recounts work done during the storm and how they are now reaching out to victims.  An ENS story highlights the work of other parishes in the path of the storm.  Because ERD has worked for a number of years to encourage disaster planning in all parishes and dioceses, churches in Texas and Louisiana were able to respond quickly.  Pittsburgh has a disaster response planning team which has been trying to get parishes to do the planning necessary to be effective in local disasters or provide aid to other dioceses.

Australian Bishop File Complaint on Participants in ACNA Consecration of Extra-Provincial Bishop

Four Australian bishop have filed a complaint asking the provincial synod legal committee to explore possible charges against the Australian bishops who participated in the GAFCON requested-ACNA facilitated consecration of a bishop to serve "orthodox" Anglicans in England and Scotland.  The charges are based on ACNA not being part of the Anglican Communion and for the border-crossing nature of the new bishop's charge. Interestingly, one of the four signers of the complaint was Bishop Goldsworthy who signed as Bishop Gippsland, but who has just been elected Archbishop of Perth.

Church Speaks Strongly in Support of "Dreamers"

President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has left its particpants (often called "Dreamers") fearing deportation within six months.  The Episcopal Church is among the many religious bodies taking strong stands to support the Dreamers, some of who are serving as clergy in the Episcopal Church.  The bishop in Washington DC joined with the Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders to sign an appeal last week to the president to keep the program.  Following the announcement today, Presiding Bishop Curry and House of Deputies President, Gay Jennings issued a strong statement of support for DACA participants.  The ENS is documenting statements and reactions throughout the church.  

More Concern about England's "National Musicians' Church."

Petitions continue to roll in and negative comments abound in the reactions to news that St. Sepulchre Church in London has begun telling the musical groups that have long used its space for rehearsals and concerts that beginning in 2018 the space will not be available. (See Update story here.)  The church, long known as the National Musician's Church, is now being managed as part of a cluster of parishes run by Anglican evangelicals.  The latest thoughtful article on the controversy, written by the person who was the music director at the church until a year ago, suggests that some of the groups may not have fit evangelical theological positions, including those related to LGBTQ. 

Evangelical Statement Evokes a Strong Rebuttals

Two Church of England evangelicals were among the people who signed the so-called "Nashville Statement" a theological document that argued for complementary gender roles, and insisted all sexual orientations other than heterosexual were sinful and against God's in tent in creation.  The document claims sexual orientation is a choice and that  celibacy is the only proper action outside of heterosexual marriage.  The statement was met immediately with a number of counter statements issued by a variety of religious organizations and coalitions. Richard Gagnon, who has recently left Pittsburgh Theological Seminary was another signer.

Issue of Women's Ordination Surfaces Again in ACNA

Since its founding, ACNA has been divided over women's ordination, with a majority of bodies that came together to form the diocese opposing women's ordination to the priesthood.  The report submitted to the synod this spring by a study committee summarized the arguments made by all parties, but made no recommendations other than to keep talking.  Now the ACNA House of Bishops has decided to hold conversations on the issue.  Where these conversations will lead is uncertain, but those opposed are adamant, and even with the addition of the Lawrence faction from South Carolina as a diocese, the fate of women clergy in the church remains tenuous and the issue divisive.