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, October 31, 2018

Week Ending 10/29/18

Responses to the Shooting in Pittsburgh

The murder of 11 individuals (and injury to 6 more including 4 police) at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue in the part of the city known as Squirrel Hill has sparked a strong response around the world, including statements from the Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry and the group Episcopal Bishops United Against Gun Violence.  While Squirrel Hill is known as the heart of Pittsburgh Jewish Community, it is a very diverse community.  (See this essay by a former black Squirrel Hill resident.) The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer is one of 3 christian churches in Squirrel Hill and its rector issued this statement. Pittsburgh Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell issued this statement immediately upon hearing the news, and later urged the diocese to attend a Sunday interfaith gathering.  He also issued a statement urging Episcopalians not do anything (such as join in protests during the visit by Donald Trump) that would turn the focus away from the funerals of the victims.

Sydney Makes Moves Towards 20th Century

The Sydney Province within the Anglican Church of Australia is a conservative, low-church bastion that does not allow women's ordination, is opposed to LGBTQ rights and not joined much of the rest of the Anglican Communion on allowing remarriage of divorced persons.  The synod meeting this week voted in favor of a proposal that will allow dometic abuse survivors to remarry after divorce. The vote passed by a wide margin, but it only asks bishops to consider the issue.

Updates on Previous Posts

Tiny House Movement Continues to Spread

Episcopoal Church of the Advocate in Raleigh North Carolina has decided to use part of its land as a site for three tiny homes to shelter homeless. Advocate is a relatively new parish, having purchased land in 2011 and recycling an old historic church as their sanctuary.  The parish has teamed with community groups including Habitat for Humanity provide housing stability for three poior or homeless individuals until they can put their lives back together and move on to other housing options.  Episcopal Churches in several other dioceses have already joined in the movement to create tiny house options for the homeless.  The most recent Update post was here

Sydney Backs Down on Part of Church Use Restrictions

Update reported last week on a proposal to the Sydney Synod that would restrict use of all church property to those who follow church positions on a variety of issues. One part of that hit a snag.  The ban on indigenous smoking ceremonies on church property, including schools, evoked a major outcry from those who argued that the church was being culturally insensitive and that the ceremonies were compatible with church beliefs.  As a result the resolution was amended to remove the ceremonies.  The measure, however passed with the clauses forbidding any group advocating LGBTQ rights or same sex marriage from using church property.

Virginia Unable to Select a Provisional Bishop

In August Bishop Shannon Johnson of Virginia announced an early retirement and the following week the Presiding Bishop sent a letter to members of the diocese explaining some of the reasons.  The intent was to have the name of a provisional bishop candidate presented at the Virginia annual diocesan meeting this coming weekend, but the Standing Committee has announced that they have been unable to arrange for a suitable candidate.  In the meantime Suffragan Bishop Susan Goff will continue to provide Episcopal leadership for the diocese.

More on Elections of Women as Bishops

The Diocese of Colorado has chosen the Rev. Kym Lucas as its next bishop.  Colorado had only two candidates, both women after a third candidate was dropped because of a pending investigation in his home diocese.  Lucas is the first African-American and the first woman elected diocesan bishop in Colorado.  Assuming her election is approved by the requisite number of bishops and standing committees she will join two other African American women serving as diocesan bishops, Bishops Carlye Hughes of Newark and Jennifer Baskerville-Burroughs of Indianapolis. Lucas joins two other women elected as diocesans within the last month. The number of possible women diocesans also increased this week when the San Diego Standing Committee announced that a slate of only one candidate for bishop, the Rev. Susan Snook.  The process of nomination by petition could add more candidates, and their current Assisting Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori also sent a letter explaining that although rare, there were precedents for a single candidate.  Given that one of the precedents is the schismatic bishop, Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, the precedents may not inspire confidence.  The candidate, however, is a priest well-known and respected by members of General Convention.

Irish Voters Approve End to Blasphemy Laws

As reported last week, the Anglican Church of Ireland supported a referendum in Ireland that would strike a blasphemy clause from the Irish Constitution. The results of the referendum are now in, and over 70% of Irish voters supported removal of the clause.  The Irish Parliament will take that as a mandate to remove blasphemy laws and by the absence of any laws grant full religious freedom in Ireland. 

South Carolina Judge Sets Date for Hearing

South Carolina District Judge Dickson has set November 19, 2018 as the date for a hearing on the implementation of the property decision in South Carolina.  He wasted no time to set the date following final filings of arguments by the Episcopal Diocese and the schismatic group in South Carolina.  It has now been over a year since the South Carolina Supreme Court issued its opinion granting almost all the parish and all of the diocesan property to those who stayed in the Episcopal Church.

Western New York and Northwest Pennsylvania Make Bishop Sharing Official

Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwest Pennsylvania is now also the provisional Bishop of Western New York following official votes by both diocesan conventions. The arrangement is for 5 years. Sharing duties is nothing new for Rowe, who served as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania while also continuing as Bishop of Northwest Pennsylvania.  What makes the new arrangement path-breaking is that the two dioceses are in different Provinces. 

Connecticut Convention Puts Warring Parish Under Direct Control of Bishop

Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut intervened when St. Paul's Parish in Darien, CT tried to fire their rector without going through the canonical processes.  The vestry continued to defy the bishop, Douglas went to the parish insisting that the rector remain. Update carried the story of the struggle in June 2018.   The Connecticut diocesan convention has now voted to make the parish a "worshipping community" under the direct control of the bishop.  This vote ends any legal authority of the recalcitrant vestry.  The Episcopal News Services gives more of the details on the events and vote.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Week Ending 10/22/18

Brazilian Bishops Oppose Election Lies and Appeals to Hatred

The run-off election for  President of Brazil has grown heated with a far right candidate coming out as the top vote-getter in the preliminary round. That candidate is recovering from a stab wound inflicted by someone claiming to act in the name of religion and liberty.   The campaign generally has been marred with violence, racism, and false claims.  The Bishops of Episcopal Church of Brazil  have issued a statement condemning violence, racism, and lies, and urging their members to  read their Bibles deeply and consider the teachings of Jesus, when they vote.  The statement endorses no specific candidates.  The English version of the statement is is summarized by the Anglican Communion News Service. .

Church of Ireland Supports Removal of Blasphemy Laws 

Irish voters will soon decide whether to remove the anti-blasphemy clause from their country's constitution.  The Anglican Church of Ireland is supporting removal.  While church leaders would have preferred replacing the clause with a statement guaranteeing freedom of religion, they are supporting the removal of a clause which limits free speech and thought. 

Sydney Synod Closes Church Doors to Many

The super-conservative Province of Sydney within the Anglican Province of Australia has passed a resolution at its synod that forbids the use of any church property (including schools or other public facilities) by groups who are not in agreement with church pronouncements.  It forbids clergy or others for advocating for same-sex marriage, blessing of partnerships, or ordination of LGBTQ individuals on church property, and a number of practices, such as the use use of church halls by those of other faiths, yoga groups, or for local indigenous ceremonies.  The vote has provoked several  critical stories in the Sydney papers such as this and this.  The Guardian also has a story here.

Updates on Continuing Stories

South Carolina Filings Now Posted

Last week the Update carried a story about the final set of filings before oral arguments in the South Carolina District Court proceedings to implement the opinion awarding Episcopalians control of church properties.  The Episcopal Church in South Carolina web site has now posted the actual documents from schismatics and the Episcopal response. (A reminder: the schismatic group and parishes participating in that group are the plaintiffs, and the Episcopalians are the defendants in these documents.)  

Episcopal Elections Increase Number of Women Diocesans

This last weekend three dioceses elected new bishops, assuming approval by the requisite number of diocesan standing committees and bishops, the House of bishops is adding two women (Kansas and Arizona) and a man (Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe).  Kansas was one of three dioceses whose final slates were composed entirely of women. The other two (Tennessee and Colorado) have not yet held their conventions.  Counting the October 2, 2018 consecration of Carlye Hughes as Bishop of Newark, the church is on track to add 5 women diocesan bishops one calendar year.  They will join 7 other women currently in charge of dioceses.  There is still a long way to go since these additions will only bring women's share of diocesan episcopates to 10%.

Letter from English Evangelical Bishops Provokes Responses

Last week Update reported on a letter sent by 11 evangelical bishops to the commission working on measures for the next Church of England Synod.  The letter urged the commission to not propose any changes in the church's current stand that marriage is only permissible between a man and a woman. Since then there have been a number of letters and statements posted countering their letter, including a series of three essays, two by retired evangelical English bishops (here and here) and the third by a noted layperson.  Another public letter addressed to GAFCON  (and responding to GAFCON's latest statements) by 13 evangelical bishops announced the intent of the 13 to remain inside the Church of England working within its structures and while praising GAFCON's goals, criticizing GAFCON for going outside the structures of the Anglican Communion.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Week Ending 10/15/17

The editor apologizes for the delay in publishing, but international travel and a power outage delayed preparation of the Update.

Matthew Shepherd Ashes Find Home at National Cathedral

The family of Matthew Shepherd, who was beaten and left for dead in Wyoming in a vicious hate crime against gays in 1998, has decided to bury their son's ashes at the National Cathedral.  There will be a public service of remembrance at the cathedral on October 26 followed by a private committal service. The family had hesitated to bury the ashes before for fear that the burial site would attract  vandals and protests. Shepherd was an Episcopalian.

Hurricane Michael Does Major Damage to Churches

The Dioceses of the Central Gulf Coast and Georgia are still assessing damages and gathering information so they can begin relief and rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Of the 11 directly affected churches in the Central Gulf Coast, 10 managed to hold Sunday services, although the services were held out doors.  All are dealing with damage, not only to their buildings, but to those of parishioners and the community.  The bishops of both dioceses have toured the affected areas, and Bishop Kendrick of the Central Coast made a second trip with others to distribute generators and supplies. Michael also created new damage in the diocese of East Tennessee, already reeling from the damage caused by Hurricane Florence.  That diocese has issued an appeal for support. 

Anglicans Present for Canonization of Archbishop Romero

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams headed a deputation of 10 Anglican bishops to the ceremony of canonization conducted by Pope Francis for Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who was assassinated in his cathedral in 1980.  Pope Francis  noted the presence of the deputation in his address following the ceremony. The  Anglican Bishop of El Salvador also issued a statement saying how important Romero was as a symbol to Anglicans in El Salvador.

Tennessee Episcopalians Witness Against Death Penalty

Tennessee Episcopalians not only provide witness against death penalty execution in their state, but they participate in a special death row ministry. With an execution scheduled for October  11 (but delayed at the last minute for further legal pleas by the sentenced man's lawyers)  Episcopalians participated in a vigil at the prison.  The Episcopal News Service has a full story on this ministry here.

Anglican School Opens in Baghdad

An ecumenical group gathered to celebrate the opening of The Anglican School of the Redeemer – al-Fadi in Baghdad. It is a project of  St. George's Anglican Church, the only Anglican parish in Iraq.  The parish already has a kindergarten.  The school will extend educational opportunities through the elementary grades.  Around 90% of those who attend come from Islamic families.  The church hopes that the school will help Christians and Muslims live together in peace.

English Evangelical Bishops Publish Warning on Same-Sex Marriage

Eleven evangelical bishops of the Church of England have issued a letter warning against taking any action to recognize or bless same-sex marriages.  It was sent to the Church of England planning group for the next Church of England Synod.  The group refers to both the efforts to accommodate conservative bishops at the 2018 General Convention and the New Zealand attempts to find a  compromise as examples of what could go wrong should the church make any moves to change its current position.  The Christian Today broke the story.

Updates on Continuing Stories

South Carolina Holds On-Line Conversation

The Update reported that the South Carolina Diocese was continuing its outreach to members of congregations who are participating in the schismatic group with an on-line "Conversation" held through Facebook on October 11. This was a follow-up to three on-site meetings held in July. The Diocese has now posted a full video of the on-line event, both on Facebook and You-Tube. There is also a link on the diocesan web page.  The video has been watched over 5000 times.  Blogger Steve Skaradon provides more details here.

South Carolina Schismatics File More Documents

In another set of filings with the state District Court charged with implementing the South Carolina Supreme Court opinion awarding almost all property to the Episcopalians,  the schismatic group in South Carolina has launched a full attack on the state supreme court opinion and is trying to prevent an audit of the diocesan finances. Blogger Steve Skaradon has more here. The actual documents have not yet been posted.

Another Oregon Episcopal Church Wants to Put In Tiny Homes for Homeless

The Episcopal Church in Silverton, Oregon is starting the process to add 4 basic "tiny homes" for homeless women on the back of their church parking lot.  The women will use the church bathrooms and kitchen.  They are following in the footsteps of a successful  effort by an Episcopal parish in Eugene.  Several parishes in other states also have tiny home projects.  The local Fox News station aired a story giving an update on the Eugene project and the Silverton plans.

Diocese of New York Opens Conversation on Abuse 

Following up on the liturgy and other events at General Convention which allowed those working within the church to air stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the Diocese of New York has opened a conversation. The Bishop has posted a letter to his parishes acknowledging that his predecessor Bishop Paul Moore had abused a number of clergy, postluants, and candidates for orders, and inviting others in the diocese to come forward if they have suffered abuse.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Week Ending 10/01/18

Bishop Sean Rowe Argues for Increased Power for Laity

The Bishop of Northwest Pennsylvania, Sean Rowe has published an essay in The Christian Century arguing that  the cycles of abuse and cover-up in the church will never end unless clericalism is reduced and the voice of the laity is increased at all levels of church governance.  Rowe draws on his experience in handling a major abuse case in his diocese, but the message is directed to all churches, not just Episcopal ones. 

Archbishop of York to Retire 2020

Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, The Ugandan-born primate of the province covering the northern part of England has announced his retirement.Church of England clergy are required to retire when they reach age 70, but the Queen exercised her privilege to extend the time before his retirement until he is 71, in June 2020.  This puts his retirement just before the Lambeth Conference scheduled for  July 24 - August 3, 2020.  It also gives more time to plan on how to select his successor.  There is already speculation that it would allow for the appointment of a woman as archbishop.

Updates on Continuing Stories

South Carolina Diocese to Continue Conversations Digitally with Returned Parishes

In July, 2018 the Episcopalians in the rebuilding diocese in South Carolina held three "Conversations" at different locations in the diocese to begin connecting with interested people in the parishes that the courts ruled belonged to the Episcopal Church.  These were true conversations, with multiple "stations" where people could ask questions and talk to leaders in the diocese.  Now they have announced that there will be a digital continuation of that conversation in October.  The process for return is still in the hands of a district court judge, but the diocese is trying to build relationships in advance of the official turnover of property.   Update carried an earlier mention of this announcement, but the diocese now has full details available.

GAFCON Primates Continue Separatist Ways

The announcement that the bishops in Wales were planning to move forward with providing a way for blessing of single-sex civil marriages has prompted evangelicals in that province to express their concern.  The GAFCON-selected, ACNA-ordained "Missionary Bishop to Europe," Andrew Lines, has already stepped up offering them his support, thus continuing the agenda of the GAFCON separatists to create a competing entity for their competing version of an Anglican communion.  In the same vein, the Archbishop of the Congo has just consecrated a new bishop for the Anglican Mission in Canada, which is the Canadian branch of the Anglican Mission in America, another separatist organization. This consecration did not have the approval of the GAFCON leadership

More on Churches in Aftermath of Florence

The Episcopal News Services has another update on the status of parishes, their members, and the outreach all are doing in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.  Episcopalians, even those who have lost their own homes, are busy trying to get the clean-up started.   The most recent Update story is here.