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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         

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 Ɓgueda, 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 Socialy 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 repsponsible 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 questionof 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