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, August 28, 2018

Week Ending 8/27/18

Mixed Report on Election of Haitian Bishop

For the last several years the Episcopal Church in Haiti has been divided into two factions pitting its diocesan bishop against its suffragan bishop.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry intervened and negotiated a covenant agreement that was to allow the church to reconcile and included both men stepping down.  Electing a new bishop  for Haiti took two conventions and is still not settled because a formal complaint of irregularities in the election was given to the House of Bishops during General Convention.  The Presiding Bishop appointed the Court of Review Committee from Province II to investigate.  Their report has just been issued and it is a mixed bag.  It seems clear that the diocese did not follow through on all of the actions required in the reconciliation agreement, and that both sides tried to influence the episcopal election.  The committee cleared the bishop elect of the one charge issued against him directly, but the rest of their report concludes the process was a mess. They also recommend further investigation into the ways the Covenant Agreement was not honored.

National Service for McCain  at National Cathedral 

Senator John McCain was raised in the Episcopal Church and was known to use the Episcopal liturgy (which he had memorized) to conduct services for others while a prisoner of war.  For the last 25 years he has worshiped at a large Southern Baptist Church with his wife and daughters who were members.  In death, both of these religious affiliations are being honored.  The North Phoenix Baptist Church will hold a memorial service on Thursday before McCain's body is moved to Washington to lie in state at the Capitol.  The Saturday service will be at the National Cathedral.  The Presiding Bishop issued this statement on McCain's death. The article in the Living Church includes a statement from the cathedral dean, Randy Hollerith.

Another Round in St. Paul's School Abuse Scandal

The law firm hired by St. Paul's School to investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct by faculty and staff has issued a follow-up report.  The report provides additional incidents against 7 adults at  St. Paul's already named in the earlier report, and adds two more faculty to the list of those against whom there are substantiated incidents of misconduct.  In addition, there were unsubstantiated incidents involving and administrator who remained unnamed.  The law firm is still open to receiving reports and will follow up on any incidents former students bring to them.  A further report is possible.  The school is interested in uncovering all incidents because leaders believe only full disclosure will let them move beyond these matters and begin healing for all involved.  The full report is here.   St. Paul's is involved in a lawsuit filed by two former students and there has also been a criminal investigation of the misconduct. 

University of the South Confronts Its Confederate Past

The University of the South at Sewanee was founded by Episcopalians to ensure that Southern white males could study in a culture fully supportive of slavery and Southern culture.  It became the bastion of the "Lost Cause" after the Civil War. In more modern times it has tried to be a supportive environment for young men and women of diverse ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds.  The challenge is how to do that without rewriting or totally denying its history.  Debate over memorials to those who served the confederacy and confederate imagery has been going on at Sewanee for more than a decade. The university has quietly removed Confederate banners from the chapel and moved a monument to a confederate general to a cemetery.  There are still more memorial stones on campus, something hard to avoid when many of the university's faculty in the late 19th century were confederate veterans, and a stained glass window with the confederate seal worked into its design. The Episcopal Cafe has reported on a recent Wall Street Journal Article that discusses Sewanee and other southern schools dealing with this issue.  Pittsburgh Update has reported on other Episcopal sites that have been dealing with controversy over Confederate memorials. The most recent are here and here.

Bishop Harris Apologizes

The Update reported on accusations of anti-semitism leveled against Bishop Gayle Harris, suffragan of Massachusetts for comments at General Convention she made about a visit to Israel and conditions faced by Palestinians there. Bishop Harris has now issued an apology, admitting her comments made events she had been told about seem as though she had witnessed them personally.  Her apology is here.

Australian Archbishop Meddles in New Zealand

The Bishop of Sydney (and Archbishop of the Province of New South Wales in the Anglican Church of Australia has decided to meddle in the affairs of the Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand,
and Polynesia (ACANZP) because of its recent decision to allow clergy to bless same sex unions.  Sydney has been the conservative gadfly in Australia and its Archbishop Davies participates in GAFCON.  The ACANZP synod decided this spring, after several years discussion, to allow priests to use a non-formulary blessing for same-sex couples.  This Anglican Province is organized into three "streams" that are ethnic in origin, each with its own archbishop, but united in a general synod and under one Primate.  A handful of congregations in the New Zealand stream have announced their decision to leave the church because of the decision, and have declined an offer of oversight by the Polynesian stream Archbishop.  Bishop Davies of Sydney has now proposed what amounts to re-organizing ACANZP so that it has concurrent jurisdictions that are independent of one another.  He claims to be trying to prevent the scene of "greed" that happened in North America where churches and dioceses have been stripped of their property for leaving the Episcopal Church.  He is suggesting that this would also require some restructuring of the Lambeth Conference in 2020.  What he is actually proposing would divide ACANZP and provide a back door eventually allowing ACNA to be recognized as a concurrent jurisdiction in North America.   

New Jersey Episcopal Priests Join Suit Against County for ICE Contract

Four New Jersey Episcopalians are among seven religious leaders challenging the Hudson County Board of Freeholders for illegally signing a contract with ICE. Under the contract, they house immigrants detained and awaiting deportation hearings. It is very profitable for the county. However, the renewal of the contract was done behind closed doors in violation of the state's sunshine laws. The seven believe that the reasons for holding the detainees in a correctional facility notorious for its poor conditions are indefensible.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Week Ending 8/20/2018

Schismatic Bishop to Retire

Jack Iker, the bishop of the schismatic group in Fort Worth, has asked for the election of a bishop coadjutor because he wants to retire in 2019.  Iker's time in Fort Worth has been marked by controversy.  Opposed to women's ordination, Iker was one of the last holdouts among Episcopal diocesans, and after he was removed from the Episcopal Church ministry for abandonment of the communion, Iker  unsuccessfully agitated within ACNA to end the policy allowing each diocese to make its own decision on women's ordination. Because Iker retained control of the property of the Episcopal Church when he left, he has been embroiled in litigation for the last decade. The most recent decision favors the Episcopalians, but Iker has appealed that to the Texas Supreme Court.  He may be returing just ahead of his diocese losing access to most financial assets.

New Hampshire Episcopalians to Walk 40 Miles for Immigrants

New Hampshire Episcopalians are participating in a 4 day 40 mile walk from Manchester to Dover to show solidarity with immigrants who are processed in Manchester and then detained in Dover.  The pilgrimage is sponsored by the New Hampshire Council of Churches.  The current president of the Council is an Episcopal priest.

All Candidates for Kansas Diocesan Are Women

The three final candidates for Diocesan bishop of Kansas are all women.  Since the nomination process is closed, the Episcopal Church will soon have another woman diocesan.  An all female  slate has occurred only once before and that was for a suffragan bishop.

The editor apologizes for the lateness of the update.  A family vacation this week created conflicts and limited internet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Week Ending 8/13/18

Parishes Work on Voter Registration

While separation of church and state means that churches are not supposed to endorse candidates or direct members to vote in particular ways, it does not limit them from encouraging people to participate in the electoral process.  Although voter suppression and issues of ballot access have taken on partisan cast, working on voter registration drives is not necessarily partisan.  A number of Episcopal congregations are committing major time and effort to ensuring that not only their own members are registered to vote, but they are reaching out to register all eligible people in their communities.   Episcopal News Service has the story here

New Central American Primate Calls for Social Activism 

The Anglican Province of Central America has a new primate. Bishop Julio Murray  of Panama was elected in April and installed as Archbishop this last week.  At the installation, he articulated a broad vision of social justice for the church, specifically mentioning youth and women.  He sees the church as called to walk those on the margins of society. The message he delivered at the dedication service came as no surprise.  Murray has been talking about this vision in interviews since his election.  The other nations that are part of the province include Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatamala, and El Salvador.  It will be interesting to see how the new Archbishop deals with the Costa Rica Supreme Court's decision last week striking down the laws barring same sex marriage. The court has given the legislature 18 months to amend the laws.  If the legislature does not act, the court's decision will nullify them.  Although several South American Countries have recently opened marriage to same sex couples, Costa Rica will be the first in Central America.

Church Marks with Prayer the Anniversary of Charlottesville Demonstrations 

One year after churches in Charlottesville countered the large demonstrations organized by neo-Nazis and White Supremacist groups by a silent and prayerful witness of clergy, and workshops on anti-racism, Episcopalians joined with other Charlottesville churches to organize workshops meetings remembering those killed and continuing their witness of peace, faith, and unity. The Episcopal News Service covered the anniversary gathering.

Scottish Episcopal Church Loses Another  Parish

The decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church to allow same sex marriage has had internal consequences.  When the church elected its first woman bishop, a supporter of same sex marriage, a small parish in her diocese voted to leave the church for a splinter organization created by GAFCON.  Now one of the largest parishes in Edinburgh has voted to leave.  Although founded in the mid 19th century, it has only been affiliated with the Scottish Episcopal Church since 1991.  The congregation has not determined whether it will return to functioning as an independent evangelical church or join the GAFCON group.  The full article from the Telegraph is here.  The Episcopal Cafe article has additional information on the parish.

Presiding Bishop Sends Letter to Virginia Diocese

The Update reported last week that Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virginia had resigned. Now Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (who doesn't seem to be able to take time off even after surgery) has sent a letter to members of the diocese about that resignation.  The letter notes  Bishop Johnson made his decision after a full period of discernment and lists the many positive things accomplished during Bishop Johnson's time as bishop.

Another Parish Removes Confederate Symbols

Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati became the latest Episcopal parish to remove Confederate-related memorials from their building.  A descendant of the Lee family had given a stained glass window showing Lee receiving a blessing from Virginia Bishop William Meade.  That will be replaced by a window honoring Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.  A plaque commemorating Christ Church as the site of the consecration of Leonidas Polk as Missionary Bishop of the Southwest in 1838.  Polk later served as a Confederate General while serving as the Bishop of Louisiana.  For reasons unstated, the parish also removed a plaque honoring Bishop Charles Henry Brent, who is honored in Lesser Feasts and Fasts as one of the great missionary bishops of the church. Update reported on the decisions of other churches and the aftermath here.

South Carolina Federal Suit Arguments Delayed 

The judge overseeing the federal trademark suit filed by Episcopalians against the schismatic group led by Mark Lawrence has delayed the arguments from September 2018  to March 1, 2019.  the extension was granted because the judge granted a motion by Episcopalians to enlarge the suit and include all the parishes and church related institutions. Update has been following this litigation which was intended to recover the name, seal and other identifying marks of the diocese since it was filed.  This is separate from the case concerning church property which was decided by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Break-Aways Continue in Alternate Reality

As Update reported earlier, the schismaric group led by former Bishop Mark Lawrence in South Carolina has been trying to counter the efforts of Episcopalians to reach out to those in the parish properties that the South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled belong to the Episcopalians.  Blogger Steve Skaradon attended the last of the Lawrence sessions and filed this description. It suggests that the schismatics have constructed an alternative reality.  The same is true of the version of Frequently Asked Questions posted this week by the schismatics.  You can compare the FAQ documents.  The Episcopal one is here and the Lawrence one is here

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Week Ending 8/6/18

Virginia Bishop Announces Retirement

Recently Bishop Shannon Johnston cancelled a search for a suffragan bishop because he was rethinking his own status with the diocese of Virginia.  He has now made his decision.  Johnston will retire as of November 3, 2018 but will act as a consultant for a transition up to July 1, 2019.  In the last several months Johnston has acknowledged that there are serious questions about leadership  and the "culture" among the senior staff.  Johnston has served as Bishop of Virginia for nearly 12 years. During his time as bishop the diocese has successfully concluded the legal actions needed to return church property to the Episcopal Church, moved to welcome LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage, and become vocal on a number of social justice issues.

Latest Developments in South Carolina

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the schismatic group headed by Mark Lawrence continue to be at odds.  The two sides were unable to agree on a list of the matters the state judge must decide as part of implementation of the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of a year ago.  Both sides submitted separate lists.  South Carolina Episcopalians submitted a list that asks the judge to take steps implementing the decision, to appoint a special master, and to order forensic audits of the parishes covered by the lawsuit and of the diocesan funds and assets that have been managed by the Mark Lawrence group since 2008.  Lawrence's group continued to try to get the substance of the case reopened, and pushed for a hearing on the "Betterments" suit they have filed.  Meanwhile, reports have come in from the first two of the five "Mission" meetings Lawrence is holding.  The approximately 200 in attendance heard a long harangue from Lawrence reprising his complaints against the Episcopal Church, insisting that the law suit is not settled and that he needs more money to pursue it, and painting himself as a victim.  The blog scepiscopalians.com has links to summaries of the meeting by Ronald Caldwell and the issues raised.  There is a commentary on the "Betterments" suit here, and on Lawrence's claims of victimization here

Churches Face Fire Threats in California

As California faces a large outbreak of fires, including the Mendicino Complex Fire and the Carr Fire which have displaced thousands of people and are still largely uncontained, the Episcopal Churches in the area are serving as disaster relief shelters and centers.  The parish most directly affected was
All Saints Episcopal Church in Redding.  The fire came within 4 blocks of the church.  As the larges facility close to the fire, the church is now serving as a disaster center.  Episcopal Churches near the Mendicino Fires are also serving as centers.  The Episcopal News Service has a good overview, including an interactive map that shows the location of all the fires burning in California.