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, July 31, 2018

Week Ending 7/30/18

Attorney General Announces New Religious Liberty Task Force

Attorney Jeff Sessions has announced formation of a Task Force to monitor and protect religious liberty which Sessions thinks is under attack by groups pursuing women's and civil rights.  Law suits by a group asking for removal of the Bible from "empty chair" displays on military bases used to honor those who have died or gone missing in action will undoubtedly be on their agenda.  The suit has resulted in the removal of the Bible from several base displays.  Those pushing to suit argue that many have been persecuted in the military for "not being Christian enough" and inclusion of the Bible is an incursion on their rights.

Presiding Bishop Undergoes Prostate Cancer Surgery

Despite his usual energetic preaching and participation, and other duties at General Convention, the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry was quietly dealing with a diagnosis of prostate cancer.  He announced last week that surgery for the cancer was scheduled for July 31, 2018.  The Episcopal News Service posted this afternoon that the surgery was successful and he was resting quietly.  The expected healing period will have the presiding bishop taking more time to rest for the next 6-8 weeks.  Given his high press profile, the announcement made news around the world.  The UK Daily Mail story was typical. 

Bishop Gallagher Accused of Anti-Semitism

Statements that Bishop Gayle Harris, Suffragan Bishop in Massachusetts, made while at General Convention about ways that Israel policing of Palestinians have resulted in a charge from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that she engaged in anti-semitism by propagating false stories. Harris has led church trips to the Holy Land, and has been outspoken in support of justice for Palestinians.  The Wiesenthal Center characterized the resolutions discussed and voted on at General Convention as a demonstration of the Episcopal Church's anti-Israeli stance. Harris has not at this time issued any reply.

British Bishop Steers Measure on Marriage Through House of Lords

For the first time in 20 years an English Bishop took the lead on shepherding a bill through the House of Lords.  Bishop Alan Smith of St. Albans took the lead on a bill designed to correct a legal requirement that marriage registers of the Church of England only take note of the fathers of the couple.  The requirement was put in place in 1827 and reflected the then prevalent idea that children were the property of their fathers.  The new law will ask for the mother's names as well.  Episcopal Church registers have long had space for all parents to be listed.

South Carolina Schismatics Go on the Attack

The schismatic group led by Bishop Mark Lawrence in South Carolina has gone on the attack as Episcopalians in South Carolina have started to reach out to those in parishes not participating in the Episcopal Church. They apparently fear that the efforts of Episcopalians to reconcile with those in parishes where property is now owned by the Episcopalians may be having some effect.  As reported earlier, Members of the group have published  attacks on Bishop Skip Adams, and Lawrence has announced a series of 5 meetings to counter the 3 successful "conversations" held by the Episcopalians last week.  In addition the schismatic group's web site now hosts a series of videos supposedly for adult education that rehearse all the old claims of that the Episcopal Church espouses a non-Christian God and Gospel.

Judge Holds Conference with Parties in SC Legal Case

The state judge charged with implementing the South Carolina court decision met with all parties last week.  He has asked everyone to submit issues that he needs to decide.  The schismatics are pushing a related suit under a "betterments" claim that is asking for compensation for any and all improvements every made to any of the parish buildings now ruled to belong to the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopalians are eager to have a special master appointed to deal with the  property transitions and to conduct audits of the finances.  The judge is eager to move the case along and has given the parties a reasonably short period of time to make their lists.  The Episcopal Church describes the meeting here, and blogger Steve Skaradon adds additional insights here.

Updates on Previous Stories

Bishop Defends Decision on Allowing Former Archbishop to Conduct Services

  Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury resigned an assisting bishop position a year ago after he was cited for actions covering up clergy sexual abuse.  Recently the Bishop of Oxford gave Carey "permission to officiate" in the diocese of Oxford.  This has been criticized by survivors of sexual abuse.  Bishop Croft issued his defense of the action here.

Former Bishop Asks for Work Release

Heather Cook, the former suffragan bishop of Maryland who is serving a prison term for a hit and run that resulted in the death of a bicyclist, was recently denied parole.  Now she has filed a request for work release which would allow her to leave the prison during the day.  Many are unconvinced that Cook has truly come to terms with the enormity of her actions and are opposing the release.

Fort Worth Schismatics File Appeal

As previously announced, the schismatic group in Fort Worth claiming to be the Diocese of Fort Worth has filed an appeal to the Texas State Supreme Court of the Appeals Court ruling that went in favor of the Episcopal Diocese.  The group led by Bishop Jack Iker made their announcement here and the actual filing is here.  The premise of the entire petition is that their group is the legal diocese and the appeals court used "deference" to decide that the Episcopalians were the real diocese.

Task Force Appointed in Claims of Illegal Actions During Haiti Bishop Election

During General Convention the House of Bishops received a petition claiming irregularities that tainted the election of a new bishop for Haiti.  The challenges are part of on-going conflict between the retiring bishop and the suffragan bishop.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has implemented a rarely used canon to ask the Province II Court of Review to do a fact finding on the election and report back by August 15.  Curry then has another 15 days to come to a decision. 

Rejected Candidate for Bishop Lands in Fort Worth

The Rev. Jacob Worley, whose election as bishop of the Canadian Diocese of Caledonia was rejected by the other bishops of the region and subsequently told to leave his parish by the bishop elected in his place, is going to serve a parish in the schismatic diocese of Fort Worth.  Worley originally was rejected for stating his belief in support of border crossing into another bishop's diocese.  Now he is going to one of the lonely low church outposts in a group that left the TEC in part because it continues to reject women's ordination.   

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Week Ending 7/23/18

Conversations in South Carolina Reach Many

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina had three "conversations" last week hoping to get its message out to members of the congregations who have been participating in the schismatic diocese. Update carried the pre-meeting announcements here.  Mixed crowds of those participating in the Episcopal Church and of those from the schismatic groups filled each site.  The meetings were organized with opening statements, including a video message from the Presiding Bishop, and then a chance to circulate among 4 stations to get different kinds of questions answered.  Bishop Lawrence and the schismatic group pushed back by announcing a set of 5 meetings all being held at properties covered by the law suit and now officially owned by the Episcopalians.  Comments on this announcement from blogger Steve Skaradon are here.

Chile Moves Closer to Anglican Province Status

The consecration of two additional bishops for Chile and its division into four dioceses has moved Chile one step closer to becoming the 40th province of the Anglican Communion.  Chile has received permission to become a separate province from its current provincial home, the Province of South America and now await approval from the Anglican Consultative Council.  Should the ACC approve, Bishop Zavala will become the new province's primate and also shepherd one of the 4 dioceses.  His current assisting bishop will cover the 4th diocese.  Don't expect the new province to be a friend of the Episcopal Church. Zavala, who studied at Trinity School for Ministry,  served as Primate for the South American Province from 2010-2016. In 2010 his province was disciplined for Zavala's border crossing.  He has also sided with the schismatics in South Carolina, visiting that  group after the schism. More details on the process for approval as a province are in this article posted by the Episcopal Cafe.   

Path Forward Outlined by Three More Bishops

The response of the Communion Partner Bishops to passage Resolution B012 on marriage liturgies byGeneral Convention continues to take shape.  Update carried the first several statements issued last week.  Now another 3 bishops have weighed in, although one has not fully announced what he will do.  The Bishop of North Dakota has announced  priests or rectors in charge wishing to preside at a same-sex marriage should contact him so he can assigned pastoral oversight for the marriage.  He invoked the process outlined for DEPO as the way they would move forward, but his announcement suggests that DEPO would be very temporary and the option applies to priests-in-charge (which would include missions.  Bishop Bauerschmidt of Tennessee issued a letter that follows the letter and spirit of the resolution, saying that any priest who wished to preside at a single-sex marriage should contact him and he would provide the name of a bishop to counsel on that wedding. Bishop Love of Albany opposed B012 and has now issued a statement saying the resolution provides major conflicts with the diocesan canons.  He has called a conference of all clergy for September 6, 2018 to discuss the resolution, and that he wants to consult with the diocesan Standing Committee before making an further statements.

ACNA Picks Up Another Retired Bishop

The retired Bishop of the Yukon, Terry Buckle has resigned his membership in the Anglican Church of Canada and affiliated with the Anglican Network in Canada, which is a diocese of the Anglican Church of North America. He will be the 7th bishop affiliated with the diocese which spans all of Canada and also covers churches in Vermont and Massachusetts.  Buckle has long been prominent in conservative circles, facing charges at one point for taking 11 churches from the Diocese of New Westminster under his oversight without permission of the bishop of that diocese.

New Saints for Lesser Feasts and Fasts

General Convention had trouble agreeing on a finalized list of those Episcopalians would commemorate with special days in our liturgy.  The situation had gotten increasingly complex with different lists in the official Lesser Feasts and Fast and two later expansions, Holy Women, Holy Men (2012), and Great Cloud of Witnesses (2015).  The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music had made a recommendation to convention of a single pared down and revised list and the Convention Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music had amended that list, but duplication of names resulted in the House of Deputies challenging authorization.  The result was continuation of Lesser Feast and Fasts (2006), the Great Cloud of Witnesses remains "available" and the new list prepared in 2018 for Lesser Feasts and Fasts is approved for trial use. [The Episcopal News Service has several details wrong.  The Update editor was at the General Convention sessions for the discussion and checked the official documents for this report.] The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is charged with coming in with a combined, final list in 2021.   None of that, however, stopped three names from being added to the official Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Two were African Americans and one Chinese, two were women (a priest and a deaconess) and one a layman. And Thus Pauli Murray (a poet, author, civil and women's rights advocate and the first African American Woman ordained priest), and Florence Li Tim Oi (a deaconess in Hong Kong who was ordained to the priesthood during World War II thus becoming the first woman priest in the Anglican Communion), and Thurgood Marshall (civil rights lawyer and first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court) were added to lesser Feasts and Fasts.  Among those carried over from Great Cloud of Witnesses to the trial use calendar in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 is Deaconess Anna Alexander, the only African American woman set apart as a deaconess in the Episcopal Church.  She served in rural Georgia for 53 years, forming and African American parish, a school and an orphanage.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Week Ending 7/15/18

South Carolina Diocese Asks for Audit

While General Convention was meeting in Austin, Episcopalians in South Carolina continued to Move forward on both the legal front and in outreach. On July 10 the diocese filed papers requesting a full forensic audit of the break-away group's finances to determine what property the Diocese held before the schism, what property it has now, and how those assets had been used by the group led by Bishop Lawrence.  The brief argues it is necessary in order to determine what compensation might be owed for funds used in ways not to the benefit of the Episcopal Church.  The audit request also covers the finances of those parishes whose property was covered by the court decision.  The July 15 edition of the Charleston Post & Courier carried an open letter from Bishop Skip Adams inviting members of the parishes to open meetings at three locations this week.  The diocese is hoping to retain members in the parish properties the courts have declared belong to The Episcopal Church.  The scepiscopalians.com blog has coverage of both the audit request and the open letter. The Update  carried a story on the announcement of the open meetings here.

Cuba Rejoins Episcopal Church

 From 1903 to 1966 Cuba was a missionary diocese of The Episcopal Church.  Then the House of Bishops voted to end ties with Cuba.  Since then Cuba has been an extra-provincial diocese overseen jointly by The Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, and The Province of the West Indies.  That came to an end at General Convention 2018 when the House of Bishops unanimously welcomed and seated the Cuban bishop, Griselda Delgado del Carpio as a full member. The next day the House of Deputies approved the resolution and then welcomed  the Rev. Gerado Logildes Coroas and Mayelin Águeda, president of Episcopal Church Women of Cuba who had accompanied the Cuban bishop to the convention. They were given seat and voice in the House of Deputies. The Canadian Church's Anglican Journal   reported on the reunification while measures were still in committee.  At that point it appeared a constitutional amendments was needed to admit a unit outside the Episcopal Church. In the end the Convention followed the process for readmission used in 2003 when Puerto Rico rejoined the Episcopal Church after a proposed Anglican Communion Province for several Caribbean Islands fell through.  Executive Council will make the final determination of the exact date for Cuba's return after receiving a number of required documents, including a new constitution and canons.  The Canadian Church's Anglican Journal   reported on the reunification while measures were still in committee.  At that point it appeared a constitutional amendments bwas needed to admit a unit outside the Episcopal Church. 

General Convention Makes Social Justice Statements

Almost lost among the focus on revision of the Book of Common Prayer and policies on same sex marriage, were a number of resolutions in which progressives have an interest.  Episcopal News Service has articles on most of them including the environment (support for Paris Climate Accord, ocean health, clean water and more), racial reconciliation (a major effort backed by a budget allocation, and revamped requirements for anti-racism training), expressing concern about the humanitarian crisis in Palestinian territories, and policies countering sex discrimination and harassment in the church. 

Implementation of Compromise on Same Sex Marriage at Issue

Two of the hardest issues to sort out at General Convention were revision of the Book of Common Prayer and the response of the church to the dioceses where bishops had refused to allow clergy to preside at same sex marriages or use the trial liturgies for marriage that were gender neutral. Both ended in compromises.  The 1979 Prayer Book is to be kept as it is, but a modestly edited expanded language trial liturgy for Prayers A, B, and D of the Rite II Eucharist were approved for use as of January 1 2019.  The church is further encouraged to develop new liturgies and submit them to a task force for possible approval at the next General Convention as part of a fully authorized collection of supplementary texts. 

As for the same sex marriage issue, three bishops, including Bishop McConnell of Pittsburgh submitted a resolution B012 as a compromise way of moving forward. This resolution went through multiple revisions, first in committee and then on the floor of both houses before a version acceptable to all was reached.  The original version required bishops opposed to same sex marriage to offer Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) to those clergy and parishes wishing to offer same sex marriage. Under DEPO another bishop provides all visitation and episcopal services to the parish. The term DEPO did not appear in the final version, but bishops were required to offer pastoral services of another bishop to support the couple, priest and parish if requested, and to act in cases where one of the couple was divorced. 

How this is to be carried out by the bishops in the 8 U.S. dioceses is now at issue.  Two, Bishop Sumner of Dallas and Bishop Martin of Springfield have issued letters (here and here) that specify that parishes will be placed in DEPO if they with to offer same sex marriage.  (You need a Facebook account to see the Dallas Letter.)  Bishop Brewer of Central Florida seems to be suggesting in his statement that the parish would be assigned another bishop only for matters related to marriage. Episcopal News Service has been contacting the bishops to get their interpretation of what they can do in implementing the measure.  Several are still formulating their policies. 

Fun at General Convention

General Convention 2018 will be remembered as the "Pigeon Convention."  The House of Deputies was visited every legislative day by a pigeon who swooped over the deputies, strutted on the floor, perched on railings and the speaker stands, and was generally embraced by the whole house.  The bird had twitter accounts, and there was periodic merriment with bad bird puns, limericks, and more each day.  The pigeon ruffled enough feathers that  Religion News, the Episcopal News Service, and Episcopal Cafe all  covered it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Week Ending 7/9/18

General Convention Round-Up

Convention Goers Witness Against Gun Violence and For Detained Refugees/Immigrants

Sunday at Convention was a morning filled with witnessing on major issues.  At 9:30 several hundred gathered across from the convention site for an event sponsored by Bishops Against Gun Violence.  Several Bishops spoke, but the main addresses were by the parents of Carmen Schentrup, one of those killed at Stoneman High School and a very articulate 14 year-old who organized one of the larger school walkouts in Texas.  At the conclusion, the crowd joined others boarding busses to go to a prayer service at the Huto detention Center where women refugees/immigrants are detained, including at least 40 who had been separated from their children.  Nearly 1000 Episcopalians gathered in direct sun for a prayer service in Spanish and English. Local news outlets and the Living Church covered the two events.

Language a Major Issue at Convention

Language - what to say and when is a major theme at the convention.  There have been problems with providing translating for those testifying at convention and with getting materials on the floor of the House of Deputies  available in a timely manner for the Spanish speaking members of convention.  There are proposals being put forward that would require church organizations and institutions to use inclusive and non-gendered language in all settings, and revision of the Book of Common Prayer with a focus on non-gendered language and expanding the imagery used for God.  None of the measures have of yet passed both houses although the House of Deputies passed a Prayer Book Revision resolution that has some nod towards being sensitive to the historic formularies of the church and traditional language, but with no guarantees.  This provoked concern from conservatives. It is not clear what the House of Bishops will do.

Convention Debates Socially Responsible Investment Options

The House of Deputies has sent a resolution that asks for the development of social justice criteria relating to the Palestinian crisis be developed to guide church investments.  The measure was amended on the floor to include language that referenced a 1991 General Convention resolution stressing the difference between disagreeing with Israeli governmental policy and anti-semitism.  Just out of committee and going to the House for votes are resolutions on socially responsible investing.  The house has already passed a resolution and sent it to the bishops on using their clout as investors to change policies of companies, especially in relation to gun violence.

Women's Status Addressed in multiple Ways

The special task force on women's status has brought several issues to General Convention.  The convention began with a special listening liturgy planned by women bishops of the church. On Monday the 9th many members wore purple scarves to raise the question of why there are so few women bishops and encourage election of more. There are major proposals working their way through the committees and two houses for a task force to study sex bias, discrimination and harassment in the church, and require inclusive language and others to study the barriers discouraging women church musicians.

Church of England Synod Takes Stands on Nuclear Weapons and Divestment

The Church of England Synod is meeting at the same time as General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  The Synod went on record as supporting total nuclear disarmament.  It also has ordered that the church divest itself of stock in companies, including fossil fuel companies,  that cannot show they are addressing issues of global warming. The Church Times has good stories on the Nuclear resolution here and the Divestment one here.

Election of Haitian Bishop Challenged

The Living Church reports that the House of Bishops went into an executive session in order to discuss a complaint challenging the election of a new bishop for Haiti.  The Update has reported on the divisions in the Haitian diocese that are the background to this challenge.  The hope was that electing a new bishop would end the controversy that had pitted the suffragan bishop and bishop against each other.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Week Ending 7/2/18

South Carolina Hosting Open Information Sessions to Help Returnees

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has scheduled three information sessions in locations around the diocese to reconnect with those whose parishes have not been participating in the Episcopal Church. The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by the break-away group means that the Episcopal Church is now reaching out to those in the parishes affected by the property ruling.  They are offering discussions of reconciliation to those who have not been participating in the Episcopal Church for the last five years. Each session will be led by the new Missioner for Returning Parishes and will begin immediately following General Convention.  The press release from the diocese offers more details

General Convention Faces Multiple Proposals on Revision of the Book of Common Prayer

General Convention 2015 charged a special task force with coming up for a recommendation on how to revise the Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal.  That committee has come back with two options: move forward with drafting a revision for trial use or delay writing a draft while the Church intentionally studies the 1979 BCP.  In the meantime a separate task force on liturgies for same sex marriage came in with its own proposal for revision of the BCP.  A third proposal for revision emerged from a special task force on gender Equity.  There are also requests for better translations of Spanish, French, and other languages used by members of the Episcopal Church.  Eight resolutions on revision came in from bodies who filed reports in the Blue Book (the collection of official reports from task forces, commissions and committees meeting between sessions of General Convention). Two more have been offered by Bishops, three filed by dioceses, and one by a Deputy.  You can see them all here.  One of the ones filed by bishops offers an alternative approach to amending the Book of Common Prayer (which would take two General Conventions).  One of the three proposers is Bishop McConnell of Pittsburgh. This proposal leaves the same sex and gender neutral liturgies in a "trial" liturgy category indefinitely (which means the bishop does not permit its use, but requires bishops to offer Delegated Pastoral Oversight to parishes that wish to use the liturgies. This is an attempt to find a middle way for conservative bishops and dioceses in countries where same-sex marriage is not legal. Committee hearings on revision of the BCP begin at 8 a.m. on July 4.  Social media sources have already hosted widespread and heated discussions of these measures. What comes out of committee could be very different from what goes in.

English Trying to Assess Impact of Court Decision on Civil Partnerships

The British Parliament crafted a civil partnership law in 2004 that gave same sex couples a route to legal recognition of their relationships. In 2013 they made same sex marriage legal without repealing the civil partnership act.  Recently a heterosexual couple challenged their exclusion from the law wishing the benefit of a civil partnership without the patriarchal" baggage of a marriage. They argued it was unjust that same sex couples could choose between civil partnerships or marriage, but they had only the option of marriage.   The English Supreme Court has decided that the situation is unequal and violates the European Court of Human Rights standards.  The matter is thus thrown back to parliament to deal with the inequality.  While some church groups see civil partnerships as an attack on church marriage, the Church of England has supported civil partnerships because it meant clergy could use its provisions to regularize a relationship (presumably celibate) without the church needing to come to terms with same sex marriage.  The court summary of its opinion is here.  A piece explaining implications appeared here.

Same Sex Marriage Riles the Waters "Down Under."

The New Zealand Anglican Church (with its three separate strands) recently approved a local option measure allowing parishes to bless same-sex civil marriages.  That decision has led four parishes in the Diocese of Christchurch to enter conversations with church leaders on how they disassociate from the church. A separate memo outlines a 3 month period of negotiations that will cover assets, real property, and faithful remnants.  Presumably, the disassociators will then become part of a new GAFCON sponsored group.  Meanwhile in Australia, the Diocese of Wangaratta overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging the Bishop to begin a process that will provide a liturgy to use to bless civil marriages, which are now legal in Australia for same-sex couples. Although presented by the Archdeacon and lay leadership, the resolution had the support of their bishop.  This puts the bishop at odds with the statement he signed with the other Australian bishops a year ago agreeing to a moratorium on such blessings.  It also puts Archbishop Philip Freier in a bind because the diocese is part of the province he heads within the Australian Church.

Alternative Proposed to Salary for President of the House of Deputies

Another of the measures before General Convention wi whether the President of the House of Deputies ought to be paid.  The requirements for action have made it difficult to find candidates free and with sufficient financial resources to take on the role as a volunteer.  Issues about whether a salary would make the President of the House an employee rather than an elected head have surfaced.  Now a resolution has been put forward from the House of Bishops offering an alternative way to characterize financial support for the PHoD.  The person would be compensated as an Executive Director and paid "fees" set by a special commission that covered expenses for the time consuming tasks now part of the PhoD duties. The Living Church has the story