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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         

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Week Ending 5/7/18

South Carolina Files Reply in U.S. Supreme Court Appeal

The Episcopal Church has now filed its answer to the request for certiorari filed by the break-away group in South Carolina.  The South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that all but 9 of the church properties belonged to those who remained in the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopalians are arguing that the state court judges who made up the 3 person majority had used state law to determine ownership and thus there was no federal issue to resolve.  As a back-up, they also argued that the break-away group had not raised federal first amendment issues in the earlier rounds and had  misinterpreted the U. S. Supreme Court opinion that they were now citing. Steve Skaradon has an interesting commentary in his May 7 blog

Former Bishop Asks to Serve Rest of Sentence in House Detention

Heather Cook, the former suffragan bishop of Maryland, has asked that the court allow the remainder of her seven-year sentence to be served in house detention. The Baltimore Sun covered the request here, and Anglican.ink here. She has served 3 years of the sentence.  Cook was denied parole a year ago when the family of the bicyclist she killed (in a hit and run while driving drunk and texting) opposed parole, and because she seemed unrepentant.  The family is also opposing this motion, feeling that she should serve her entire sentence in prison.  Cook received a lighter sentence than a Wisconsin Lutheran bishop who is serving his full sentence after killing a runner under similar circumstances.  

Chili Takes Steps to Become Anglican Province

On May 12 members of the Diocese of Chili will gather to affirm a synod vote made in 2015 that would be a major step in the process to create an autonomous Anglican Communion province.  It is currently a part of the multi-national Province of South America (formerly called the Province of the Southern Cone).  Assuming that the special synod on May 12 agrees, adopts canons and a constitution, creates 4 dioceses within its bounds, and elects a primate and 4 bishops, Chili will receive a visit from a special delegation of the Anglican Consultative Council in about 6 months.  That group will then make a recommendation to the ACC about admitting Chili to the Anglican Communion.  The Archbishop of Canterbury also needs to formally recognize the Province.  This careful process is in contrast to the unilateral decision of the GAFCON primates recently to recognize a break-away group in Brazil as a province and to claim it is part of the Anglican Communion. Mark Harris  comments on the GAFCON claims.

New Twists in Abuse Cases

Police in North Carolina say that two more people have come forward to accuse Howard White, a deposed Episcopal priest.  White pled guilty to charges of sexually abusing a boy from St. George's School (R.I.) while on a trip to Massachusetts, and is now charged in North Carolina for abuse of two children while serving a parish there.  The new accusations bring the number of victims in NC to four.   Meanwhile, St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, has been sued by two former students for failing to protect them from sexual abuse by staff when they were students at St. Paul's in the 1960s.  The suit includes 10 different charges.

Over 350 Sign Letter in England Countering Negative Comments on TEC Marriage Task Force Report 

The reaction in England over the letter William Nye, Secretary to the Archbishop's Council wrote in response to a request for comment on proposals from the Episcopal Church task force dealing with marriage continues. Nye stated that, if adopted, the proposals would bring "stringent consequences" for the Episcopal Church .  A new public letter which began as a blog entry by Jayne Ozanne has been  signed by 350  people, including many clergy, two bishops and several deans. Thirty-nine are voting members of the Church of England Synod.   The signers are all communicants of the church, and come from 41 of the 42 Church of England dioceses.  Its content is brief, thanking the Episcopal Church for leading the way on this issue and disassociating the signers from Nye's comments.

New Steps Taken to Bring Diocese of NW Pennsylvania and Western New York Together

Pittsburgh Update reported earlier that the Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Sean Rowe, who was serving also as the provisional bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem in PA,  had begun conversations with the Diocese of Western New York to serve as provisional bishop there when Bishop Franklin retires in 2019.  Bethlehem elected a new diocesan last week and so Rowe no longer has duties there. The standing committees of Western New York and Northwestern PA have now both voted to share a bishop and administration for five years beginning  when Franklin retires. The two diocese share a border, but are in different Provinces.

Women Continue to Press Churches on Abuse Issues

Women continue to hold American churches accountable for church complicity in abuse and harassment.  Baptist women are pressing hard for the resignation of Paige Patterson, one of the most senior Baptist pastors, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and one of the architects of the 10 year conservative movement within the church.  Patterson's opposition includes some of the most prominent women of the church, and has resulted in numerous public statements and a petition by over 1000 women asking for him to step down because of statements he has made in the past condoning some domestic violence, and other sexist statements.

The Episcopal House of Bishops has announced that it will make time at General Convention to read written statements about the effects of sexual abuse and harassment suffered within the church.  This is a partial response to a Task Force on these issues appointed by the President of the House of Deputies and to the #MeToo movement in general.  Even though women bishops planned the event, it has draw considerable criticism because the statements will be read by someone in the House of Bishops and will be anonymous.  They are not allowed to name abusers or go into details on the actual abuse.  Only a sampling of the statements will be read.  The concerns about the format have been discussed in a Facebook posting on the page set up for discussion about General Convention.

ELCA Elects Two African-American Women As Bishops

With roots in the Scandinavian immigrant communities, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is among the "whitest" of mainline churches.  Within 24 hours, regional synods in South Central Wisconsin and Southeastern Pennsylvania both elected African-American women as their bishops, the first black women to be chosen as bishops in their denomination.  Both The Rev. Patricia A. Davenport and Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld have held major leadership roles as clergy.  The ELCA is in full communion with the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Church consecrated the Rev. Barbara Harris as suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts in 1989.  Harris, who is African-American, was the first woman to serve as a bishop anywhere in the Anglican Communion.  Not until 2017, with the consecration of Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows as the eleventh bishop of Indianapolis, did the Episcopal Church have an African-American woman serving as diocesan bishop.