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, March 28, 2018

Week Ending 03/26/18

Church of England Responds to the Sexual Abuse Hearings

Three weeks of testimony (see Update here) on the ways the Church of England failed to take appropriate action against sexual abusers has led to a number of comments. It also led the Archibshops of Canterbury and York to issue a pastoral letter which was read in parishes on Sunday. The blog, Thinking Anglicans has compiled a number of the responses to the hearings and to the joint pastoral letter issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.  The full pastoral letter may be found here.

Diocese of Los Angeles and St. James on Long Path to Reconciliation

Update reported recently on the hearings held about St. James the Greater in Newport Beach.  This week the Living Church has a story on the hearings, but also on the long process now beginning of reconciliation for the whole diocese.  The two-year struggle of St. James to regain its property  that resulted in suspension for a set time of retired Bishop Bruno left many throughout the diocese in need of healing. 

Episcopalians participate in March For Our Lives

Episcopalians participated in the marches around the country organized by students to protest Gun Violence. As the Update has reported, Episcopalians have been protesting gun violence for quite a while.  In a number of locations, church members and clergy marched as identifiable groups with banners. In many places bishops marched in clothes designed to visually make the point that the church was there.  The Religion News article quotes people from a number of different denominations, including the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Cafe article focused on Episcopal groups and was collecting images from the marches where activities were supported by the diocese. An earlier Cafe article listed dioceses that were planning to participate as a group.  While Episcopalians were at the march in Pittsburgh, there was no visible Episcopal church presence. 

Sewanee Trustees Rescind Honorary Degree

The Regents of the University of the South proved that they could change their minds and follow advice given to them by faculty and students.  Last Tuesday the Regents voted to rescind the honorary degree they had awarded journalist Charlie Rose in 2016. They also approved a policy and procedure for reconsidering a degree after it has been awarded.  Recently accusations of sexual harassment  had led a number of people to press for the recision.  Initially the Trustees had resisted the pressure, but detailed letters from both the School of Theology faculty and students , and an internal discernment process resulted in the decision to revoke the award. Update had been following the controversy.  The latest previous post is here.

Conservative Diocese Votes to Support Local Option Same-Sex Marriage.

New Zealand has been struggling to find a way to allow blessing of same-sex marriages while also embracing those who oppose it..  A special task force has issued its report in anticipation of discussion at their national synod meeting. The report argued that the church should allow local option and affirmed the Church should hold multiple teachings. Update reported recently on the vote by the Diocese of Christchurch to support the report.  Now, the most conservative diocese in New Zealand has voted to do the same.  That diocese also voted that the diocese would not be blessing same sex marriages.  At least one of the more conservative news sources has cast the "two teachings" vote as a referendum on staying in the Anglican Church of New Zealand.

General Convention Gets Recommendations on Rules for Dealing with Substance Abuse

The special committee charged with bringing recommendations to General Convention on the treatment of  substance abusers, especially those who are clergy has issued its report. The report notes that the Episcopal Church has in place procedures that encourage people to overlook the issue. A Baltimore publication has interpreted the report to mean that the church is in denial.  The special committee was crated following the trial of the then suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Maryland for the killing of a bicyclist while driving under the influence. The bishop, Heather Cook, resigned and was deposed.  She recently was denied parole.

Anglican Communion Conversations Continue

The special task force created by the Archbishop of Canterbury to develop a way for all the Anglican provinces to work together despite divisions over issues related to LGBT people and same-sex marriage has met for a second time.  The task force is hoping to structure a way to reconciliation at the Lambeth meeting in 2020.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Week Ending 3/19/18

Episcopalians Speak Out on Gun Violence

Episcopalians have been making a strong stance against gun violence.  The latest was a call by the Bishops Against Gun Violence for a day of lamentation to coincide with the national March 17 school walkout against gun violence planned  by the students from the Florida High School most recently hit by a mass shooting.  There have been numerous other events and protests.  Update has covered many of them.  See these five posts (here, here, here, here, and here) for a sampling.

Possible Split in ACNA

William Ilgenfritz, rector of  St. Mary's Charleroi in the ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh and Bishop of the Forward in Faith dioceses in ACNA has begun exploring with other traditional groups the possibility of creating a new denomination that will be clear in its position that only men can be priests. Both the conservative news source Anglican.ink and David Virtue's web site interpreted this as first steps in a possible schism within ACNA.  Several traditional groups that had originally considered joining ACNA did not and instead formed FACA.  Like Bishop Iker of the ACNA diocese in Fort Worth, Ilgenfritz is unhappy with the ACNA local option compromise that allows some dioceses to ordain women.  Both also were upset by the discovery that the Anglican Province of South Sudan had consecrated a woman as bishop, contrary to a voluntary moratorium agreed to by GAFCON province heads.

Richmond Church Leads in Racial Reconciliation

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, once known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy, went through a several year discernment about what to do with Confederate symbols in their stained glass and on plaques in the church.  Eventually plaques were removed or replaced and new contextual interpretations created for the those that remained. The rector who began the conversation has since left.  Now another of the priests at the parish has been named by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as Director of Reconciliation, Justice & Creation Care. The parish just finished hosting a national event on racial reconciliation.  RVAMag.com just published a story featuring the conference and the REv. Melanie Mullen.  Episcopal Cafe also picked it up.

Latest Comments on South Carolina Property Cases

The Living Church has published an article interpreting the request by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina to broaden the scope of the federal law suit and include additional parishes as increasing the conflict.  The Update covered the initial announcement of the request here.  Blogger Steve Skaradon has added to that perception by posting on March 15 a set of answers to FAQs he says have been sent him by members of congregations participating in the schismatic group.  His answers are based on the position that the parishes have not left and are now back in TEC, and that the only legitimate leadership are clergy in good standing with TEC or willing to abide by TEC canons.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Week Ending 3/12/18

St. James Moves Step Closer to Return to Building

The congregation of St. James Newport Beach which has been worshiping outdoors and then in rented space since the former Bishop of Los Angeles decided to sell their building to developers in 2015, has moved another step closer to returning to their beloved building.  The sale fell through, the congregation successfully brought charges against Bishop Bruno, but the new Bishop and Standing Committee of the diocese did not immediately allow the congregation to return to the building.  Bruno had also officially closed the parish during the controversy. This last week there was a hearing about whether the congregation should be reinstated in the diocese.  Other Episcopal Churches in the area testified that they supported the return of the building to the congregation, noting that the congregation had managed to maintain itself and sustain important community outreach in the intervening years.  The Orange County Register carried the story.  The Update has followed every twist in the three year controversy. The most recent post is here.

General Convention to Address Sexual Harassment

The recent focus on sexual harassment, rape, and gender discrimination has led to a new awareness of problems for women within the church.  Presiding Bishop Curry and Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies issued a statement earlier this year.  Jennings followed  by appointing a large committee to explore the subject and report to General Convention.  The House of Bishops at their meeting last week issued their own statement and have cleared a two hour block of time to listen to women's stories at General Convention.  There has been some discussion about the time chosen (the evening break for dinner) and that the time overlaps with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Union of Black Episcopalians.

Women's Meeting at UN Again Has Church Presence

The annual meeting the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women began March 12.  Attending are delegates from 45 member nations and a number of non-governmental organizations.   Among the largest and most consistent NGOs present are representatives sent by Provinces of the Anglican Communion, including the Episcopal Church.  The focus is on rural women, and Presiding Bishop Curry submitted a statement to the Commission expressing the Church's concern and presenting a four step action plan for the Episcopal Church which has congregations in rural areas in every diocese.  The Anglican Communion provinces include women concerned about violence against women, women's literacy and empowerment in rural areas around the world.  Articles by the News Services of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion provide more details on hopes and concerns of those attending. 

Episcopal Women's Caucus Saying Good-Bye

The Episcopal Women's Caucus, formed in 1971 to press for women's ordination and to improve women's status within the Episcopal Church announced on International Women's Day, that the organization was closing down because its primary objectives had been met and they wished to step aside to let new organizations come forward to advance women in other arenas.  The EWC will celebrate its accomplishments with a farewell at General Convention, and has opened its Facebook page to postings about the ways EWC impacted individual women's lives.  A new page for women clergy has already appeared. 

Around the Anglican Communion

There's a new Archbishop for the Maori wing of the Anglican Province of New Zealand, Bishop Don Tamihere.  New Zealand has three archbishops, one for each ethnic strand in the province.  The Anglican News Service has a profile of the new archbishop.

The Archbishop of Canterbury met with the Saudi Crown Prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz who is visiting England. Archbishop Welby raised concerns about Christians in that country, and also discussed the situation in Yemen.

Desmond Tutu, the retired archbishop and the current archbishop in Southern Africa both issued apologies for not paying enough attention to a complaint of sexual misconduct that occurred when Tutu was in office.

The Anglican Province of Canada is still receiving push-back for its removal of  the Rev. Jacob Worley, whose election as bishop was rejected and license to preach was removed based on his previous participation in a schismatic group in the U.S.  Now a clergy person has written a public letter of protest and is urging others to do the same, to sign a petition, and demand that Worley and his family receive compensation.

The Religion News Service carried a good background story on the controversy over taxing Churches in Jerusalem.  The Update covered the initial controversy in past weeks.

Laywoman Honored for Work with Immigrants

The Update has been posting stories about the advocacy work done by various Episcopal dioceses, parishes, and organizations in support immigration reform, undocumented immigrants, and DACA.  The latest news is the Church honoring an Aurora, Illinois laywoman who over 30 years has helped more than 1000 immigrants become citizens and has turned her Episcopal parish into a leading resource for immigrants and immigration law.  You can read more about Linda Barber and her role as Jubilee Minister at Trinity Episcopal Church here.

Diocese of Olympia Recording Stories of WWII Internment

The Diocese of Olympia is recording the stories of Japanese-American Episcopalians who were sent to internment camps during the Second World War. The interviews of seventeen survivors have been edited into a series of five videos each 10 to fifteen minutes long.  The first  was released on February 22.  The Episcopal News Service article on the videos mentions the west coast congregations of Japanese American from Washington state and California who were sent to internment camps in 1942, and the Episcopal priests (also Japanese-American) who accompanied them.  For some reason the article does not mention Deaconess Margaret Peppers who also ministered in the camps. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Week Ending 03/05/18

Much Reaction to the Property Settlement in Pittsburgh

The property settlement reached by nine ACNA parishes with the Episcopal Diocese has been widely covered, making front page news in Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette and the Tribune Media,  and in stories by Anglican.ink, Christian Today two in the Living Church,  and both the Episcopal News Service and the Anglican Communion News Service.  Most have hailed the announcement as being a path towards reconciliation and avoidance of further expensive lawsuits. The Post-Gazette made the agreement the subject of a positive editorial. The agreement covered the property and endowments of nine parishes whose titles ran in the name of the parish rather than the Board of Trustees and thus were not covered in the court decision of 2009 and implementation decision of 2010.  Comments on some of the more conservative sites (such as Anglican.ink) have noted that the agreement requires payment in perpetuity to the Episcopal Diocese of a small percentage of operating income.

Special Committee Appointed on Gender Equality and Sexual Harassment

The Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies has appointed a committee of 47 to look at all aspects of sexual harassment and exploitation within the Episcopal Church.  Jennings will chair the committee, which has been divided into 5 separate sub committees, looking at theology and language, truth and reconciliation, structural equity, social justice, and Title IV (disciplinary canons).  The committee is tasked to bring matters to the House of Deputies and General Convention.  All members are women of whom 31 are clergy.  The composition of the committee has raised some comment, including a piece by the Rev. Mark Harris.

Another Nudge in New Zealand to Allow Church Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

The General Synod for the Anglican Province of New Zealand has on its agenda a revised report recommending local option in the matter of Church blessings of Same-Sex Unions.  The Diocese of Christchurch held a special synod to on the subject to inform the representatives they will send to that synod.  After a full discussion, a majority of the synod voted that it supported the local option approach.  They are the first regional synod to do so.  The decision was reported widely in the New Zealand press including here and here, and with less enthusiasm in Anglican.ink.  

Church of England Begins Tough Scrutiny on Cover-Up of Child Abuse

Hearings on the mishandling of reports on child abuse within the Church of England have begun with some very critical statements using words such as "amateurism", "cover-up," and "excessive deference to those at the top" and more.  The hearings are on-going and are causing considerable commentary and follow-up stories in the media in England.  Thinking Anglicans has a set of links to all aspects of the hearings. 

Church of England Attracting Middle Eastern Immigrants

The Church of England is reporting a source of new members - immigrants from the Middle East, especially Iran.  Some were born into Christian families in Iran but were never baptized due to the persecution of the church there.  Others were members in Christian churches in the Middle East, and still others are finding their way to Church from other faiths.  Many of the immigrants are still in the process of applying for permanent residency, but have responded to the help given immigrants by the Church.  For more, look here

ACNA Bishop Riles GAFCON Waters

Bishop Jack Iker of the ACNA diocese in Fort Worth is a determined opponent of women's ordination.  The recent ACNA decision to continue to allow local option of women's ordination to the priesthood provoked Iker in November 2017 to vow to work to reverse that decision and declare impaired communion with those dioceses that do ordain women.  Now nearly a year after the event occurred, it is becoming public that the Province of South Sudan had consecrated a woman as bishop.  The province participates in GAFCON (originally Global Anglican Futures Conference), but now the shadow Anglican Communion created by dissidents within the Anglican Communion.  GAFCON primates had agreed on a voluntary moratorium on consecrating women as bishops. Iker is now demanding an explanation from the Sudanese and GAFCON.  The letter hints that there should be some form of disciplinary action or non-recognition of the consecration.  

More Federal Court Developments in South Carolina Property Suits

 The Episcopal litigants in the federal case on trademark infringement have just filed papers to broaden the issues.  In a series of filings the Episcopal Church and the local diocese merged their suits, asked the court to include within its jurisdiction all remaining matters concerning parish property, including appointing parish trustees/vestry members who are willing to act as fiduciary agents for the Episcopal Church, and inclusion of the parishes that are participating in the break-away diocese, but did not become plaintiffs in the state property suit.  Meanwhile the U.S. Supreme Court has under review the appeal by the break-away group of the South Carolina Supreme Court decision awarding diocesan and parish property to the diocese participating in the Episcopal Church.  The court may delay a decision on whether to hear the case, however because they have asked the Episcopal Church and participating diocese to file responses to the appeal filed by the break-away group.  That response is not due until March 27, after the date the court originally was going to take up review.