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         

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Week Ending 4/23/18

New Jersey Supreme Court Nixes Grants to Churches

In a case brought by an individual and the Freedom From Religion against Morris County, New Jersey for awarding historic preservation grants to churches, the New Jersey Supreme Court  has ruled that the grants violate the language of the state constitution guaranteeing that no tax payer will be forced to support a church whose beliefs they do not support.   Two Episcopal parishes were among those receiving the challenged grants which were designed to cover the extra costs incurred to do the work in an historically accurate way. The court did not make the ruling retroactive, and no one will have to pay back grant money, but they are barred from all future grants.  Morris County officials are reviewing the ruling because it seems that it may contradict the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Missouri case involving a challenge to grant for a playground at a Lutheran church.  The court ruled in that case that barring churches from applying for grants with a secular purpose was contrary to the freedom of religion clause in the the First Amendment. The New Jersey Court drew a distinctions between the two cases because the Morris County grants would have helped parishes continue to worship in the buildings. 

British Police Drop Abuse Case Against Bell

Church of England Bishop George Bell has been dead for 60 years, was beloved by many for his work to rescue Jews from Nazi Germany, and most recently is the subject of mishandled charges of sex abuse brought three years ago.  A special task force has severely criticized the Church of England handling of the case.  In the latest development, Sussex police announced they had finished their investigation of the case, and given the length of time and death of the accused had closed the matter. The church launched a new investigation in January which continues. Update has covered the charges and the botched investigation in multiple posts.  See here for an introduction.

Marriage Liturgy Report Provoking Comment

The General Convention "Blue Book" report from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage has been provoking comment based on the responses received to a request for comment on a question about the 2015 Trial Use authorization of several rites to solemnize or bless a same sex union. Most have focused on a response by William Nye for the Church of England's Archbishop's Council of Advice.  Nye admits in the beginning that  the Council itself did not discuss the matter and he is responding on his own.  Thinking Anglicans has a good summary the discussion of Nye's letter hereThis article is typical of the the conservative British news stories.

GAFCON Continues Creating Alternative Anglican Communion

GAFCON was originally the acronym for the Global Anglican Futures Conference which was started by those unhappy with those provinces in the Anglican Communion which were welcoming to LGBTQ people.  Populated mainly African and Southeast Asian provinces with some participation from the Americas.  It sponsored an alternative to the 2008 Lambeth Conference and began acting more and more like an psuedo Anglican Communion, including the Anglican Church in North America as a member.  In the last two years it has sponsored consecrations of border-crossing bishops offering an alternative to Anglican provinces it deemed too liberal. ( See here, here, and here)  The latest GAFCON leadership meeting continued the trend, recognizing a province of Recife as an alternative to the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. In a pattern familiar to Episcopalians, Recife claimed to have broken away from Brazil in 2005; Brazil deposed the bishop and successfully sued for return of property.  Like ACNA, the Recife group is now claiming membership in the "real" Anglican Communion. The also recognized a GAFCON group has been formed in Ireland as an alternative to the church there.  The GAFCON primates also declared a moratorium on consecration of women as bishops in response to the complaint by ACNA Bishop Iker from Fort Worth against South Sudan which recently announced a woman had been made a bishop in late 2016.  Even more notable, however, was the news that GAFCON was restructuring to create a council that would include one bishop, one priest, and one layperson, their answer to the Anglican Consultative Council.

Moravians Add Agreement with Methodists

The Southern Moravians, who already are in full communion with The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have now approved a full communion document with the Methodists. The Northern Convention is expected to approve the same agreement when it meets in June. The ELCA is also in full communion with the Methodists, and the Episcopal Church has conversations underway to a similar arrangement.  Update reported on the latest report from those conversations here.

Nashotah House Calls Reformed Church Pastor to Endowed Chair

A noted Reformed Church minister, Hans Boersma,  who has written extensively on Catholic thought and sacramental theology will be the next Order of St. Benedict Servants of Christ Endowed Professorship in Ascetical Theology at Nashotah House.  His appointment will begin in 2019. He has been teaching at seminaries in Canada.  Nashotah House has been undergoing a major transformation in faculty due to deaths and departures.  The nine full-time faculty are all male, and while seven are Episcopalians, only two studied at Episcopal seminaries and both of those were at Nashotah. 

Mainstay of Episcopal Cafe Dies

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, who was a major guiding force for Episcopal Cafe, and who spoke out in favor of liberal causes has died. A familiar face to General Convention goers, Fontaine had served parishes in Wyoming and Oregon.  She also served as a  list usher on the House of Bishop's and Deputies listserve.  The listserve was open to all to read, but only bishops, alternates and deputies to recent General Conventions could post.  She posted many a comment for PEP members in the years before the 2008 schism in Pittsburgh.   Having chosen hospice care for an increasingly debilitating respiratory illness, she used her Facebook page and blog to model dying with grace.  The last several entries were by her daughter when Ann no longer had strength to do so. The Episcopal Cafe has a fitting tribute.