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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, October 17, 2017

Week Ending 10/16/17

Controversy Continues Over Sydney Diocese's Contribution to Antis in Australian Referendum

An earlier Update story covered the announcement by Archbishop Davies of Sydney, Australia that he had given $1 million to the "Vote No" group in a voter poll being conducted by the Australian parliament on the question of civil marriage for same sex couples. Critical comments rolled in from a wide range of Australians, including the Archbishop of Perth, conservative groups worried about entanglement of church and state, and even some members of Davies own diocese.  Davies has issued a statement defending his use of church funds.  

Response to Abuse an Issue for Both English Archbishops

Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York were dealing with controversies regarding abuse of young people by clergy many years before.   The issue for Justin Welby was whether he personally had ignored charges that the major benefactor of a camp for young boys had abused youths at the camp.  Welby worked at the camp as a young man, and later was a member of the board when action was taken that forced the benefactor to leave England for Africa, where he again was charged with abuse.  The New York Times carried the story.  Archbishop of York, John Sentamu and the current bishop of Chester had to issue a statement that they were cooperating with the police in the investigation of charges of abuse of both young men and women by a former bishop of Chester during the 1960s and 1970s.  The statement also included an apology.

Sale Falls Through at St. James, Newport Beach 

The Diocese of Los Angeles made a brief announcement that purchaser for the property of St. James the Great in Newport Beach had backed out, leaving the property in the hands of the diocese.  However, the announcement held little good news for the congregation forced out of the building.  The diocese considers the congregation an unrecognized body that must apply for membership in the diocese.  The announcement also stated that the building would be opened as a bishop's chapel with no set congregation, and with services provided by visiting clergy.  While the Rev. Cindy Voorhees, the priest who had gone to St. James to build a congregation in a building returned to the diocese after a long legal battle with schismatic members, and who has continued to minister to the congregation in exile, is eligible to be invited to conduct services there, there was no guarantee she would be invited.  Much of the comment on the internet has been critical of the diocese for not returning the building to the parish. (See the articles and comments on the Episcopal Cafe, the Facebook page "General Convention" and Anglican.ink website for a sample.)The Hearing Panel which heard the case the congregation brought against Bishop Jon Brumo the way he treated the congregation and his attempts to sell the property had recommended return of the property to the congregation.  The congregation's response to the announcement was, not surprisingly, critical.

City Starts Looking for Funds Promised in Rebuilding New Zealand Cathedral

The Update has provided continuing coverage (most recently here, here and here) of the controversy surrounding the earthquake damaged cathedral in Christ Church New Zealand, and of the final decision by the diocese to restore the building, considered a national treasure.  Because the general public wanted the site preserved, both government and private philanthropists have offered financial help.  The city of Christ Church, which has had to rebuild much of its downtown destroyed by the earthquake in 2011, now has started the process of figuring out where it will find the $10 million dollars it has promised for the restoration/rebuilding of the cathedral.

Churches in Fire Zone Offer Help While Themselves at Risk

Episcopal News Service posted two stories on the response to and impact on parishes in the northern California wine country that was devastated by fire this last week.  Firefighter have now gotten most of them largely contained, but with the deaths of over 40 people and loss of more than 6400 buildings, recovery will be a long process.  Churches in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Kenwood all survived the fire, but parishioners lost their homes.  The ENS stories from October 10 and October 12 show how the members of the parish tried to serve their community under very trying circumstances.

Episcopal Church Offers Home for Arts Festival Kicked Out by Roman Catholics

When the Roman Catholic diocese found out that one of its Manhattan parishes was hosting an arts festival that included an improvisional play about LGBTQ people coming out, the  diocese wanted those performances with LGBTQ themes cancelled.  Instead organizers of the International Human Rights Art Festival withdrew the whole festival on the eve of its opening.  St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, a 239 year-old Episcopal parish in Brooklyn Heights stepped forward to host the event.  Most of the news coverage focuses on the Roman Catholics rescinding permission to use their building for a  performance titled "“Thank You for Coming Out.” The new host, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity is the oldest parish in Brooklyn, dating back to the colonial period.  Since the parish web site explicitly states that the parish offers marriage ceremonies for LGBT couples, the festival's improvisional play on coming out was not an issue at the new site.

South Carolina Break-Away Group Continues Media Campaign

As both parties wait to see if the South Carolina Supreme Court will rehear the church property case brought originally by the break-away diocese and 39 of its congregations, and prepared for a round of mediation ordered by the federal judge who will hear a companion case on the name and trademarks of the diocese in early 2018, a media campaign against Episcopalians and one of the Supreme Court judges who ruled for the Episcopal Church has grown in fury.  Blogger Steve Skaradon, posted a long piece on October 16 about  the media campaign.  You can read it here. Update has information on the cases and  an earlier Skaradon piece on the company behind the media campaign here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Week Ending 10/09/17

Federal Court Again Rules Against Tax Exemption for Clergy Housing

Having had an appeals court throw out an earlier suit for lack of standing, those challenging the standard tax-exemption given by the IRS for clergy housing allowances, tried again, this time ensuring that they did have standing by having been denied a requested exemption.  The Federal District Court in Wisconsin that heard the first case, ruled on Friday, October  6, that the 1954 federal law granting an exemption to clergy housing was unconstitutional by granting privileges to religious organizations not offered to other philanthropic groups, thus creating an establishment of religion.  Religion News carried the story.

Primates Meeting Concludes with No Surprises

The primates meeting went pretty much as expected, helped in part by the absence of three primates most hostile to the provinces who are supportive of LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. The first two days were spent largely in discussion of the 2015 vote by the Episcopal Church General Convention to allow same sex marriages, and the more recent decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The Church of Canada's vote to change their canons seems to have slipped by.  The result has been that the primates have asked for the same "consequences" for Scotland as were requested by the primates in 2016 for the U.S.  Since the Anglican Consultative Council refused to confirm these consequences, any implementation is up to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.  The Scottish primate does expect Canterbury to refrain from appointing members of their province to leadership and ecumenical matters for three years. Most of the meeting dealt with other issues faced by primates around the world, such as global warming, hunger, and evangelism. During the meeting, the primates heard the announcement of the new Anglican Inter Faith Commission (requested by the Anglican Consultative Council)  to be chaired by Bishop Mouneer Anis.  By video he invited every province to send representatives ot an initial meeting of the commission in Cairo in February.  At the conclusion of their meeting, the primates issued a Communique covering all of the issues and stressing their desire to continue to walk together.  Other positive assessments of the meeting, can be found in reports printed in the Canadian Church's Anglican Journal, in the statement by Presiding Bishop Curry, and the story in the Church Times.

The first two days were interrupted by the news of the Las Vegas shootings, and Presiding Bishop Curry was asked to do a special prayer at the beginning of their evening worship.  This resulted in the ACNA media head, Canon Andrew Gross, making some comments about how it was inappropriate for Curry to lead any prayers at the meeting.  Gross's comments backfired.  Archbishop Welby noted he was "taken aback" by the criticism, and even conservative primates found the remarks uncalled for.  The remarks may have had a further consequence in that Gross was denied press credentials and barred from the final news conference for the meeting. 

GAFCON and ACNA were certainly not happy with the outcome of the meeting.  During the meeting Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Nigeria confirmed that he had not changed his opinion that conservative money from the U.S. had manipulated African Church leaders into making sexuality a major issue. The Communique included statements confirming that ACNA is not a member of the Anglican Communion, and a section condemning cross-border incursions by other provinces.  GAFCON and ACNA are responsible for most such incursions. Not surprisingly, GAFCON issued a statement critical of the meeting, as did Archbishop Venables, primate of the Province of South American, and a GAFCON leader, who left the conference on Wednesday noon.

St. James the Great in Newport Continues as Congregation Without a Building

Although bitterly disappointed by the decision of the Los Angeles Diocese to go ahead with the sale of their church property secretly negotiated by Bishop Jon Bruno, St. James the Great has not folded up shop.  Their latest Facebook page links to a You-Tube video of their recent blessing of the animals to commemorate St. Francis Day. If the great variety and number of animals is a sign, then this congregation is continuing a vibrant ministry.

Diocese of Sydney Funding Opposition to Australian Same-Sex Marriage Vote

Business Insider reported that the conservative Sydney Diocese in Australia had contributed $1,000,000 to the "Vote No" campaign to defeat a comprehensive voter poll the Australian parliament has ordered on the subject of  same sex marriage. Archbishop Davies announced it in his talk at the Sydney diocesan synod. The Guardian's story on the donation notes that the church is divided on this issue. The Sydney Diocese had a large impact on the  Anglican Church of Australia's recent Synod vote expressing displeasure with the Scottish Episcopal Church's decision to allow same-sex marriage.  (See Update story here).  Sydney Diocese is the only active member of GAFCON, among Australian dioceses.    

Date for Mediation Set in South Carolina

The mediation requirement set by the Federal judge in the ongoing trademark lawsuit in South Carolina resulted in a meeting October 4 of legal representatives of both the break-away group and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  They agreed that all issues in both the state and federal suits might be discussed in mediation set for November 4-6, 2017.  The mediation does not affect preparations for both the hearing scheduled for 2018 on the Federal suit or the South Carolina Supreme Court's deliberations on a  request for rehearing of the property lawsuit settled largely in favor of continuing Episcopalians. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Week Ending 10/2

Church Responds to Las Vegas Shootings

The response to the death of more than 58 people in Los Vegas and the injuring of more than 500 more has provoked responses from around the world, including the Anglican Communion. Not only did the Anglican primates meeting in Canterbury stop for prayers and issue a statement.  Meanwhile the Diocese of Nevada has been offering counseling in several of the medical facilities and to first responders, and planned a prayer service open to all this evening.  The liturgy they will use is here.  Episcopal Churches around the country were participating in commemorating the dead by ringing their bells at noon EDT on October 2.  The Bishops Against Gun Violence have also issued a statement

Third Missionary Bishop Consecrated for English "Traditionalists"

A third breakaway group has now consecrated a missionary bishop to serve "traditionalists" in the Church of England. The Christian Episcopal Church, founded in 1992 from a remnant group objecting to liturgical changes and the ordination of women, is a small group with parishes in the Pacific Northwest, Canada and the Cayman Islands.  They consecrated Gavin Ashenden, one of five Church of England members to sign a letter  calling on people to come together to form a "faithful" alternative option to the Church of England.  The other eighteen who signed the letter represented other separatist "traditional" organizations.  Ashenden is a former chaplain to the Queen.  Some expect him to work closely with Bishop Andrew Lines, consecrated by ACNA bishops for GAFCON in late June. GAFCON issued a supportive statement on the Ashenden consecration.  The first group to consecrate someone to border cross in England was the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa.  They consecrated Jonathan Pryke in May. Interestingly, comments critical of the latest consecration from a conservative perspective has appeared in a Hong Kong on-line paper.

Primates Begin Meeting in Canterbury

The meeting of 33 of the 39 Primates of Member Churches of the Anglican Communion has begun.  One of the group's first acts was to respond with prayers for the shooting in Nevada.  While conservatives are hoping to have the primates demand "consequences" for the Scottish Episcopal Church and Canadian Anglican Church opening their doors to same-sex couples wishing to marry, There are a number of other pressing social and economic issues of interest to all attending.  Calling attention to the sexuality issue, is the announcement of the second marriage of a same-sex couple in Scotland presided over by a priest and using church liturgies has occurred, this time in a church building. The same priest presided at the first such wedding on August 1, 2017, but that was in a hotel chapel.  This time, one of the bridal couple is a prominent member of the Anglican Consultative Council. The primates meeting includes 16 primates not in office when the group issued its 2015 demand for "consequences" against the Episcopal Church for the vote of the General Convention allowing same-sex marriage.  In 2016 Ireland began allowing pastoral blessings of same-sex civil unions, and the primate of Southern Africa is trying to find a path for South Africa to bless unions.   Three of the primates most adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage are not in attendance, thus the context is quite different from 2015. The Pittsburgh Update began covering the meeting in the last update and next week will have its outcome.

London Bishop Responds to Ending Outside Group Usage of "National Musicians' Church

The ongoing controversy caused by the decision of the evangelicals now running St. Sepulchres Church in London to end use of the church by outside groups, most of which were musical, has hit an impasse. The rector of the parish has issued a statement clearing limiting musical activity to those tied to church activities and worship.  After the Bishop of London failed to change the rector's mind, the bishop announced that the diocese in November will launch a new web page listing and allowing easy booking of all the possible venues for music in the diocese, thus providing the groups with a number of other options.

Updates on South Carolina Legal Issues and Puerto Rico Relief

For all of you following the litigation on church property and identity in South Carolina, the Charleston Post and Courrier has published a convenient summary of the whole controversy here.  The most recent Update to the federal and state cases is here.  The Puerto Rico hurricane relief story has been all over the papers, but they are not covering what Episcopal Relief and Development is doing there and in the Virgin Islands.  Pittsburgh Update has been trying to fill that gap.  This Episcopal News Service story from September 27 provides some update.  The supplies mentioned were finally released on September 29.  ERD's own detailed press releases are here.

ACNA Bishop from San Joaquin Objects to Nashotah House Award for Presiding Bishop Curry.

Bishop Menees, the ACNA bishop of the diocese of San Joaquin has written a letter to Bishop Dan Martins, who serves as Chair of the Board of Directors at Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin objecting to the choice of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as recipient of the Archbishop Ramsey award for excellence in the areas of Ecclesiology, Ecumenism and Liturgy.  Menees objected basically because Curry has not repudiated the actions of the last several General Conventions to be more inclusive of LGBTQ people and has continued the litigation to recover church property.  Martins was not happy that the letter had been leaked to the internet and has said he will answer privately.