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, June 26, 2018

Week Ending 6/25/18

Church Continues to Speak Out on Immigration

The recent Executive Order supposedly ending the policy of separating children from parents has not slowed members of the church from speaking out.  The local vigil sponsored by the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Temple Sinai, and 6th Presbyterian all in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh drew over 800 people despite flash flood warnings and heavy rain that meant crowding into the Presbyterian Church at the last minute. The Pittsburgh crowd was larger, but the vigil shorter, than the one held the next day  in Washington, D.C.  The Presiding Bishop made a statement, and General Convention is planning a prayer service at one of the detention sites during the July 3-13 meeting. The protests by church members are having an effect on Washington politicians.

Canadian Deacon Arrested at Pipeline Protest

Environmental issues were at the forefront of the protests led by Native Americans at the Standing Rock Reservation last year.  Environmental issues remain in the forefront of protests by Indigenous Peoples.  At one of the more recent demonstrations, in Canada, an Anglican Church of Canada Deacon was among those arrested for blocking a site. He has pled guilty to the charges filed against him.

Church Has Visible Presence at "Poor People's March"

Episcopal News Service highlighted the participation of at least 100 Episcopalians in the "Poor People's March" held June 23 in Washington D.C.  The march was organized by the Rev. William Barber of  North Carolina, the Disciplies of Christ minister who leads the movement "Moral Mondays" and the ecumenical "Repairers of the Breach" foundation.  The Episcopal Church was the second denomination to sign on as a sponsor of the Poor People's Campaign.

GAFCON Conference Continues Divisive Ways

The third Global Anglican Futures Conference has concluded its meeting, ACNA's Archbishop Foley Beach is the chair of the GAFCON Primates' Council. The official Communique was mostly rhetoric with only one demand, that the Archbishop of Canterbury revoke any invitation to the bishops from the churches that are now blessing or allowing marriages of single-sex Couples (The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil) and replace them with invitations to the bishops of ACNA, and the recently created alternative province in Brazil.  The communique did not threaten a boycott of Lambeth if their wishes were not met, but urged bishops to stay home. Several of the primates originally scheduled to come stayed home.   The commentary includes articles noting that a majority of the new officers are white males from "western" countries; discussion that the lack of a boycott suggests disagreement among the primates on leaving the Anglican Communion behind; article on Kenya questioning how they will participate in GAFCON in the future; and public criticism of two Irish bishops who participated.  Before the meeting, the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion wrote to express concern that GAFCON seemed to be setting up parallel committees to those already existing in the Anglican Communion, and got a tart reply from GAFCON leadership that dismissed the concerns as evidence of "colonialism."  

Investigations of Church Involvement in Sexual Abuse Bring New Controversies

While Pennsylvanians are debating the decision last week of the state Supreme Court to delay publication of a Grand Jury report on the complicity of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in sexual abuse cover-ups,  Church of England members are dealing with the Singleton Report.  The Singleton Report is highly critical of a church investigation done two years ago on the complicity of Anglican bishops and other officials in cover-ups of sexual abuse committed by clergy and/or at church institutions.  The web site "Thinking Anglicans" is keeping tabs on all of the commentary and related stories on the Singleton Report. 

South Carolina Break-Away Wardens Turn to Newspaper

As the Update noted, South Carolinian break-aways are refusing to call it quits in the legal fight over church property.  The latest salvo came in the form of a letter to the editor signed by the senior wardens of historic parishes in Charleston that were leaders in the break-away movement.  Blogger Steve Skaradon provides perspective on their letter, and on the break-aways attacks on the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Week Ending 6/18/18

Churches Condemn Policy to Separate Children from Parents at Border 

The policy of separating children from their parents when undocumented immigrants arrive at the U.S. border has been meeting with growing outrage.  That outrage grew louder when Attorney General Jeff Session tried to justify the policy using Chapter 13 of Romans. Sessions may not have realized that he had chosen a favorite passage used by slaveholders, Nazis, and other totalitarian regimes.  One after another, churches have countered that claim and spoken against the policy, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Presiding Bishop has appeared on news shows as one of several leaders countering that claim. (See here and here for videos)  And to top if off, over 600 United Methodists clergy and laity have signed a formal request asking for disciplinary proceedings against Sessions (a Methodist) for conduct that includes racism, child abuse, and false teaching.  On Wednesday June 20, there will be a vigil protesting the treatment of children separated from their parents at the border in Pittsburgh.  The vigil is at 9 p.m. at Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill.  Church of the Redeemer is one of the organizers.

Connecticut Parish Challenging Bishop Again

 When the Rev. Christopher Leighton was rector or St. Paul's Parish in Darien, Connecticut, the parish distanced itself from the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Connecticut.  It was one of the six Connecticut Parishes that tried to break free of the Dennis Canon so it could leave the Epsicopal Church with its property.  St. Paul's, however, withdrew its lawsuit and stayed officially in the diocese but barely.  In 2016 they called a new rector.  He was originally from India, and had impressive credentials.  A year later the parish vestry voted to remove him. Bishop Ian Douglas informed them that there was a canonical process that parishes had to follow when a vestry and rector were at odds, and he invoked it.  After nearly a year or meetings, Douglas picked a date to inform the parish of his decision on whether the rector would go or stay.  The vestry responded by threatening to change the locks, and Douglas stepped in again.  His decision was that the rector should stay and all parties to be part of a reconciliation effort.  The vestry boycotted Douglas's meeting with the parish, and it is not clear what will happen next.

South Carolina Churches Planning Next Steps After SCOTUS Denies Appeal

 In the wake of the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear the appeal filed by the South Carolina break-away group, both the Episcopalians and the break-away group have been taking first steps in response.  Bishop Skip Adams appointed the Rev. William Coyne as Missioner for Returning Congregations whose job it will be to handle all the transitions of property and people in the parishes covered by the state Supreme Court opinion.  How soon this will occur is not clear, because the break-away bishop, Mark Lawrence issued a letter to his clergy and parishes just before leaving to attend the GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem (see article later in this update).  The letter said that they would continue to fight the decision.  Blogger Steve Skaradon gives more details on Adams's plans for the diocese notes that Lawrence's response has left most SC lawyers puzzled as to what grounds exist for a review.

Church of England Synod Has Other "Hot" Issues

The Church of England Synod next month will not be discussing issues of sexuality.  All resolutions have been taken off the table until a theological report from the bishops is ready in 2020.  However, the announcement this week that a high-visibility Christian pop-singer had decided not to pursue ordination because as a lesbian she feels unwelcome in the church did not help to smooth the waters.  Meanwhile synod will be addressing other issues including a vote on a resolution asking Britain to end  nuclear proliferation.  There will also be votes on resolutions endorsing an investment policy that is environmentally sensitive and includes divestment as an option. 

Church of England Trying to Leverage Curry's Popularity

The Presiding Bishop's celebrity status continues in England. The Guardian has linked the invitation to preach at the royal wedding to efforts by the Church of England to "unstuffify" itself.   Black majority congregations have been growing rapidly in England, most are pentacostal and not affiliated with the Church of England. In a move called the "Michael Curry effect," the Church of England Synod meeting next month will be discussing resolutions that would ease ecumenical relations so that Church of England parishes could more readily cooperate with these black churches.

Anglican Communion Meetings in the News

GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference), the alternative organization created by those unhappy with the inclusive direction of some members of the Anglican Communion is holding its third conference.  Although claiming to be the real Anglican Communion, and attended by many of the African, Latin American, and  Asian Provinces of the Anglican Communion, the conference denied press credentials to the Anglican Communion News Service.  They also have welcomed and seated as provinces break-away groups they helped create in parts of the Anglican Communion deemed too liberal. Those attending the meeting in Jerusalem are divided between groups wanting to continue to set up an alternative Anglican Communion, and others simply looking for fellowship and renewal.  In the past the conferences served as an alternative to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion, but Archbishop Welby delayed the once-a-decade meeting of the bishops in the Anglican Communion until 2020 hoping to use the time to build bridges and create greater understanding among provinces before the Lambeth Conference convenes.  Welby was able to take some thunder away from GAFCON by announcing a major grant to help bishops from financially strapped dioceses make the trip to England in 2020.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Week Ending 06/11/18

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Break-Away Appeal

Among the Monday decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court was a denial of Certiorari  of the appeal filed by the break-away group in South Carolina.  This leaves the South Carolina Supreme Court decision in favor of the Episcopal Church in place.  The press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina explains what will happen next.  The break-away group led by Mark Lawrence  has said that they will appeal the implementation orders in state court.  Not surprisingly, Alan Halley (lawyer for the losing ACNA diocese in the San Joaquin property litigation) thinks the U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong.  For a thorough review of the implications from the Episcopal perspective, go to Steve Skaradon's blog, scepiscopalians.com.

"Vicar of Baghdad," Andrew White, Cleared of Charges

Two years ago, the Rev. Andrew White, who had been staffing the Anglican Church in Baghdad, was charged by the British with unlawful dealing with a terrorist group.  White, "the Vicar of Baghdad" had followed his parishioners to Jordan whichen they fled Iraq.  He was charged with paying ISIS for the return of young women kidnapped and used as sex slaves by the terrorists.  The charges were filed by the board of the Foundation For Reconciliation and Relief in the Middle East,  a group White had founded.  As a result he was forced to resign and undergo psychiatric evaluation.  White remained in the Middle East and has been working with a school and clinic for refugees in Jordan and has set up a new charity in Jerusalem that is working for reconciliation among the religious groups there.  He has now been notified that all charges have been dropped after a full investigation.  

Pride Week News

In this week of marches and celebrations of "Pride" by the LGBTQ community in many parts of the world, sexual politics has been much in the news. 

Bishop of Guyana Speaks Out Against Discrimination of LGBTQ People

As Guyana LGBTQ people celebrated their second "Pride Week,"  Charles Davidson, the Bishop of the Diocese of Guyana spoke out in favor of ending discriminatory laws aimed at  LGBTQ persons. As part of Pride week the bishop hosted a forum on faith for the LGBTQ community.  He also expressed an interest in meeting with the Transgender sex workers who work the area around the Anglican Cathedral in Georgetown.

Church of England Diocese of Lichfield  Faces Controversy Over Inclusion

When the bishops in the Diocese of Lichfield (Church of England) issued a letter directing their parishes to be welcoming and open to LGBTQ people, including welcoming them hold church offices and come to communion, the Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas took them to task, and with them the Church of England's whole effort towards "radical welcome."  Thomas is no stranger to controversy having been the Church of England's leading opponent of women bishops.  In fact he is one of the "flying bishops" who provide services for those parishes who do not accept women's ordination.  Thomas issued a highly critical letter insisting that LGBTQ people would have to confess their "sin" and then reform their sexual lives before being admitted to communion, and insisting that LGBTQ people would need to remain celibate in order to seek ordination.  The English press has been filled with commentaries and responses countering his claims. The blog Thinking Anglicans is keeping track of the whole debate.  Start here and here to see what has been printed.

Pittsburgh Parishes March in Pride Parade

Several Episcopal Parishes marched in the Pittsburgh Pride Parades, including St. Brendan's Parish from Franklin Park, and Church of the Redeemer from Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh.  St. Brendan's posted pictures on their Facebook page.  The Church of Redeemer had representatives in both parades on Sunday. Redeemer has had a group in the Pride parade for a number of years. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette had an article on the two marches.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Week Ending 06/04/18

Another Anglican Province Makes Statement on Same Sex Marriage

The Episcopal Anglican Church in Brazil, is the latest Province in the Anglican Communion to make a statement on same-sex marriage.  Theirs was a nearly unanimous vote to approve canonical changes that will permit same-sex marriage.  The liturgy for marriage is already worded in a way that requires no changes.  They join the Episcopal Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church in permitting such services.  New Zealand has approved blessing of same-sex civil marriages.  Canada has taken the first of two required votes on a resolution that would permit same-sex marriage.  Australian bishops recently issued a statement saying there was a moratorium on blessings, but three clergy recently participated in a ceremony held for two parishioners in a welcoming Baptist congregation.  The Bishop of Melbourne has announced that the recent action of three clergy at the wedding of two of their parishioners in another church did not violate the moratorium.  It suggests a way that Australians will work around the moratorium.

Haiti Elects New Bishop

The Diocese of Haiti, part of The Episcopal Church, has elected the Ven. Joseph Kerwin Delicat, dean of the cathedral, as their new bishop to follow Bishop Duracin, who long term as bishop ended in controversy  and division between the bishop and suffragan bishop.  The Episcopal Church stepped in to negotiate an agreement requiring Duracin's retirement and the resignation of the suffragan.  Delicat was elected in a run off election held after the first attempt to elect a bishop ended without a firm choice. There is more on the first election here.   He faces a difficult task in reuniting the diocese, given that even his election was controversial.  As is the case for all episcopal elections in the Episcopal Church, the choice will not be final until approved by a majority of Standing Committees and Diocesan Bishops in the Episcopal Church.

Massachusetts Bishops Join in Climate Change Statement

All the bishops from the Dioceses of Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts joined in issuing an appeal by a new colaition of religious leaders in Massachusetts.  The  Faith and Science Joint Appeal for Climate Action has been signed by more than 500 religious leaders.  The coalition is working with scientists in addressing the impact of climate change. 

Plans for Center for Reconciliation Shelved in Virginia

A year ago Truro Parish, part of ACNA, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced an innovative agreement that included lease arrangements allowing Truro to continue to use the facility that the courts had returned to the Episcopal Diocese and a joint center to be developed on Peace and Reconciliation.  That announcement did not set well with ACNA leadership, and after a year of talks, the ACNA bishop, John Guernsey has announced that the lease has been renegotiated and plans for a joint center have ceased.  Truro will continue some aspects of that ministry through existing ministry.

Parish Takes Central Role in Maryland Flood Relief

Two years ago, St. Peter's Episcopal Church Ellicott City, Maryland found itself helping in flood relief after flooding ravaged their town.  Ellicott City was hit again this last month and St. Peter's sprang into action, taking a leading role in relief.  The Episcopal News Service has a good report on the efforts.

Follow-Ups to Recent Stories

The Presiding Bishop's celebrity status following the royal wedding has continued to attract attention, including a blessing of the final contestants on one of Britain's main television talent contests.  He also continues to draw commentary on his social activist role.  Religion News has an interesting commentary here.

The Update reported recently that the American Baptist leader and seminary president had been forced to resign, but was given a "soft" landing with perks following pressure from women upset by his tolerance of domestic abuse.  That situation has now changed, and following reports that he had tried to cover-up rape charges brought against someone at the seminary, the Rev. Paige Patterson has been fired and all perks revoked.  He is still scheduled to give a major address at the denominational annual meeting,  but even that is in question