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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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.