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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, September 19, 2018

Week Ending 09/17/18

St. Paul's School Signs Agreement Ending Criminal Investigation

The criminal investigation of sexual abuse at St. Paul's School in Conway, New Hampshire has ended with a formal agreement signed by school and the New Hampshire Attorney General. According to the Concord Monitor, the agreement creates the position of independent monitor, paid for by the school, but reporting to the Attorney General.  The monitor will ensure that the school is meeting all reporting requirements.  After 3 years there will be a review to see if the position should be continued.  This agreement contains similar language to an agreement signed with the Roman Catholic diocese in 2002.  The Boston Globe coverage notes that the school is also paying for the costs of the investigation and reports the term of the independent monitor as 5 years. Both accounts note the agreement  is hailed as providing some oversight of private schools, which have operated outside any governmental review in the state.  The Update has regularly covered the investigations at St. Paul's.  The most recent story is here.   

Dioceses Respond to Natural Disasters

This last week east coast residents were dealing not only with the massive flooding from Hurricane Florence but gas explosions that destroyed over 70 homes and caused evacuations in three Massachusetts towns. In addition, the country received new reports on the slow recovery of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico from last year's double hits by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and the large death toll resulting from the storm damage in Puerto Rico.  The Episcopal Church bishops in areas affected by Florence issued this statement, and the Episcopal News Service had this story on relief efforts.  The Massachusetts bishop also issued a statement about efforts to help those affected by the gas explosion.  Almost appearing as a cautionary tale given the latest storm destruction, the ENS also filed two stories (here and here) on the slow pace of recovery in the Virgin Islands. The Diocese of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have been working with Episcopal Relief in rebuilding.  Update has carried earlier stories on the relief efforts from Maria and Irma.  You can find some here, here, here, and here.

Same-Sex Blessings Get Another Hearing

Bishops in the Church of Wales voted last week on a resolution that declared it "pastorally unsustainable" to not provide some form of recognition for same sex couples who have married or registered civil unions. The vote was positive and at future gatherings the bishops will look at proposals on what "formal provision" will look like.  The bishops are looking for a way forward that will allow the church to recognize the couples without causing schism.  The primate of the Episcopal Church in Scotland was invited to the meeting to give insight on the path the Scottish church took to authorizing celebrations of same sex marriage in its churches. In Australia, where the large bloc of votes from the Sydney area has prevented the Anglican Church of Australia from responding positively to the recent legislation allowing civil marriages for same-sex couples, the Dean of the Cathedral in Brisbane has proposed a measure to the synod of the diocese of Brisbane that would allow individual parishes go ahead with blessing civil marriages. Brisbane refused in 2017 to endorse a statement of the Australian church that marriage was limited to couples composed of a man and a woman.  The Diocese of Wangaratta in Australia has already approved a similar measure.

GAFCON Chair Pushes Concurrent Jurisdictions

The current head of GAFCON, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria issued a letter supporting the proposal from Archbishop Davies of Sydney, Australia that the province of New Zealand recognize concurrent jurisdictions (see Update coverage here) in New Zealand where GAFCON is recognizing as a separate province  a handful of parishes unhappy with the recent decision of New Zealand to allow local option of blessing same sex marriages. The whole letter is an admission that GAFCON is creating a separate version of the Anglican Communion. It also is a tacit admission that GAFCON has failed to replace the provinces it considers heretical (such as The Episcopal Church) with the schismatic groups it has recognized.  The letter has a very skewed version of the schism in North America, focusing on the cost of "aggressive"litigation over church property in the US.  GAFCON apparently intends to push for concurrent jurisdictions at the  upcoming meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council, Primates meeting and 2020 Lambeth Council as a means of getting groups such as ACNA a seat in the Anglican Communion.  Mark Harris has a good commentary on Okoh's letter.

Schismatic Bishop Announces He Has Cancer

Bishop Jack Iker of the schismatic group in Fort Worth has sent a letter to his diocese saying that he has a rare cancer embedded in his chest wall and will be undergoing surgery.  He intends to remain as bishop until his recently announced retirement date in 2019.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Week Ending 9/10/18

English Survey Shows Drop in Church of England Membership

Results of the latest British Social Attitudes Survey shows a substantial drop in the number of people in Britian identifying as members of the Church of England.  The Presbyterian Church of Scotland also showed a large drop.  What was most worrying was that 70% of  18-24 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland said they had "no religion" and only 2% identified with the Church of England.  The number of Britons of any age identifying as members of the Church of England was 14%.  In 2002 it was 35%.  The summary of the results by the center conducting the survey is here.  The Guardian carried a story on the results of the survey.

Episcopal Church Moves Forward for New Lakota Prayer Book

General Convention 2018 heard complaints from a number of groups about the lack of good full translations of the Book of Common Prayer 1979 into the other languages used by congregations within the The Episcopal Church.  The Lakota peoples have been working with a partial translation at their parishes on various reservations in Minnesota and the Dakotas.  The United Thank Offering has granted funds for a full translation.  It is an important commitment to preserving Lakota culture and making the church accessible to those for whom Lakota remains the first language.

Colorado Drops One of Three Candidates for Bishop

The search for a new bishop in Colorado had resulted in three final candidates after a fourth dropped out to participate in another episcopal election. Now one of the three is no longer a candidate given that there have been complaints lodged against him in his home diocese.  The Colorado standing committee decided to remove Canon Michael Pipkin of Minnesota from the search because of the seriousness of the charges and that it would not be possible to resolve these questions before the date of the election.  The election will thus go forward with two candidates, both women, the Rev. Kimberly Lucas and the Rev. Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley.  Those in Pittsburgh will remember Woodliff-Stanley as one of the candidates in the Pittsburgh episcopal election in 2012.  The Living Church carried a story that included the statement by the Bishop of Minnesota on the Pipkin charges.  Bishop Prior noted that Minnesota was just beginning and investigation and that no charges had been proved at this time.

South Sudan Church Youth Leader Killed

The energetic and young national coordinator for all youth programs in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan has been killed in an ambush attack on a car in which he was riding. He was heading to Yei to deliver reports to the offices of the NGO he also worked for.  The driver escaped by  leaping from the car, but Joseph Kiri was killed instantly.  There have been other gunman attacks on vehicles identified as NGO cars. 

Updates on Ongoing Stories

Presiding Bishop Curry Returning to Full Schedule 

Presiding Bishop Curry released a video on his Facebook page announcing that he was back on the job following recuperation from cancer surgery.  That same day the city of Atlanta honored Curry by declaring September 6 "Michael Curry Day", and giving his Atlanta's highest honor, the Phoenix Award. . 

Albany Still Waiting for Bishop Love to Outline Response to Resolution B012

The Diocese of Albany clergy held a meeting on September 6 with Bishop Love to discuss General Convention Resolution B012 which requires all bishops to provide a way for same sex couples to be married locally.  The Bishop however is still not ready to make any announcement on how that resolution will be implemented in Albany, or if he will try to resist it in some way.  Love has been a vocal opponent of the resolution.  It appears that nothing will be forthcoming from Bishop Love until much closer to the required date the resolution takes effect in early December.

More on the Controversy Over the Election of a New Haitian Bishop

The Update recently carried a commentary by Mark Harris on the contested bishop's election in Haiti.  The Living Church has now published an article covering the controversy and a rebuttal of Harris by a Long Island priest from Haiti. The Episcopal Cafe reprinted the full rebuttal to Harris by the Rev. Pierre-Andre H. Duvert.,  The rebuttal gives the flavor of the conflict as seen by those who are contesting the election.  Harris quickly offered a response.  It appears there will be more to come. 

South Carolina Judge Sets October Date for Arguments

The various motions filed by Episcopalians in South Carolina and the schismatic group in the local South Carolina court charged with implementing the state Supreme Court church property decision will be heard at court sessions set in late October.  Deadlines for any additional filings were set for late September and early October. Since the motions filed by the Episcopalians are proposed steps for moving forward with property recovery and the ones by the schismatics are attempts to rehear the whole case, the ruling on these motions will be a good indicator on how rapidly Episcopalians might begin getting access to endowments, the church camp, and parish properties.Update carried a story in August that noted the Court would set hearings in October, but now more specific deadlines have been issued.

Chile Passes Another Step in Provincial Approval Process

The executive council of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) has now approved recognizing Chile as a new province in the Anglican Communion.  The ACC will consider adding Chile as a separate voting member at their Hong Kong meeting this spring, assuming that two-thirds of the primates have provided their approval.  A quarter have already done so. The ACC will also consider this spring a new, simplified process for adding members to the Communion given that the number of such requests has been on the increase.  The update has carried previous stories on steps in Chile's approval process.  The most recent is here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Week Ending 9/3/18

Senior Editor for ENS Goes on Leave

Mary Frances Schjonberg, the senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Services is beginning a three month leave.  In May, after Neva Rae Fox was let go, Schjonberg took on the additional assignment of acting Director of Communications for the Episcopal Church.  While Schjonberg is on leave her ENS duties have been assigned to the managing editor, Lynette Wilson.  The news staff will simply be shorthanded.  The church web site  also lists no new Communication Director, just managers of various areas of communication. 

Two Pittsburgh ACNA Parishes Merge

Tow of the congregations that chose to leave their buildings and worship in shared space with other denominations have closed and reinvented themselves as a new organization, Reconciliation Anglican Church.  St. James Anglican in Penn Hills and All Saints in Rosedale (a section of Penn Hills close to Verona) are the two combined groups.  The old congregations were having trouble sustaining themselves separately.  The "new" parish is located in shared space with the Methodist Church in Rosedale that has been providing space to All Saints.   The Pittsburgh ACNA diocese has a feature about  the "new" parish on its web site.

Welby Speech to U.N. Stresses Role of Church in Reconciliation

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, made a strong case to the United Nations for the role of the Church in reconciliation and mediation in cases of civil strife. One of his examples was the role Anglican leadership played in South Sudan.  The ENS covered his speech at the United Nations, and the Anglican Communion web site has the full text of his speech.

Government Closes Over 8000 Places of Worship in Rwanda

Citing health and safety issues, the Rwanda government shut down more than 8000 places of worship from a number of different faiths with no warning.  The government believes that many of the congregations were scams, had poorly trained leaders, and engaged in practices  (such as extreme fasting) that risked the lives of their followers.  The Anglican primate of Rwanda defends the government actions in a piece in the Church of England's Church Times this week.

Further Thoughts on the Contested Episcopal Election in Haiti

Last week's Update carried the story about the Review Committee report on the contested election in Haiti.  Now the Rev. Mark Harris, who has spent a considerable amount of time in Haiti, suggests that the Review Committee report exceeded its authority and got the context wrong.  Harris casts the strife in Haiti as a struggle between the bishop and those who challenge the canonically given powers of the Haitian bishop and standing Committee.  The system, according to Harris is much more centralized than in American dioceses.  He urges the Church to let Haiti work out its own differences.

Follow-Up on the McCain Funeral

Last week the Update covered items related to Senator John McCain's death and ties to the Episcopal Church.  On Saturday, the national cathedral put on a grand show as John McCain's official "national" memorial service.  The Episcopal staff and bishop of the cathedral were there in full garb, for a service based on the Book of Common Prayer (sans communion).  The speakers were bi-partisan but highly political in their remarks. The cathedral  scrambled to deal with all of the security for the McCain service, and a wedding scheduled for later that same day.  Most media covered the remarks of the speakers.  This account has slightly more on the liturgical event.

Is Albany Diocese Walking Towards Schism?

Later this week, the clergy of the diocese of Albany are meeting with Bishop Love to hear his thoughts on the General Convention vote requiring every diocese to make provision for same sex couples to marry within their diocese.  Bishop Love was the most adamant opponent of the compromise  resolution B 012.  Other conservative bishops began announcing how they would comply, but Love refused to make a statement until he held this clergy meeting.  The Times-Union interviewed him this last week.  The bishop told them that the church was in the midst of schism.  For more, the full article is here.

Tallahassee ACNA Dean Resigns

The ACNA bishop of the Gulf Atlantic has announced that the cathedral dean, the Rev. Eric Dudley has resigned from his posts in response to complaints filed against him while he was on sabbatical.  The complaints included inappropriate physical displays of affection abuse of alcohol, and anger management that deeply wounded several individuals.  Dudley will not function as a priest and has admitted that both he and his family need long-term counseling.