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         

Monday, December 31, 2018

Week Ending 12/31/18

Diocese of Florida Enrages Preservationists With Church Demolition 

The Diocese of Florida closed St. Michael's in Gainesville two years ago, and has been negotiating the sale of the property for redevelopment. Their efforts, however ran afoul of neighbors who opposed a change in zoning out of fear for increased traffic, and historic preservationists who considered the building a mid-century modern architectural gem.  It is the only building in the city designed by Nils Schweitzer, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  A hearing  at the city's historic preservation board was scheduled for  January 2, 2019, but what they will talk about is unclear because the diocese slipped a demolition permit through the city and tore the building down on December 27.  The Lead on The Episcopal Cafe has some additional backgroundYou can see multiple pictures of the building here

Mob Threatens Christmas Carolers in India

When a large group of families went out caroling on December 23 in Pathamuttam, Kerala, India they found themselves harassed and then attacked by a group they describe as members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India.  The DYFI is a leftist youth organization.  After their instruments were destroyed , the carolers hurried back to the Anglican Church where they sought refuge and were about to have some supper.  The mob then followed them into the church and continued the attack.  Five families ended up staying for 6 days, afraid to go home.  Officials are supposedly investigating.  As a province, Kerala has a Hindu majority, but is also home to long established Christian and Muslim communities dating more than 1000 years.  Kerala is the province with the largest Christian population in India.  

Marriage of Canadian Bishop a Landmark Event 

Kevin Robertson, Bishop of York-Scarborough, the Canadian Diocese of  Toronto married his partner Mr. Mohan Sharma at St. James Cathedral.  Among the family and friends present were Archbishop Colin Johnson and Bishop Andrew Asbil, coadjutor of Toronto, and Bishop Susan Bell of the Diocese of Niagara.  Robertson is an area bishop and has primary care for churches in the York-Scarborough area of the diocese.  The couple has been together since 2009, had their relationship blessed in 2016 and now were married under the newly passed rules of the Anglican Church in Canada.  Given the that this was a same-sex marriage of an Anglican bishop, the presence of the other bishops, and the location of the ceremony, it will be hard for the anti-LGBTQ faction in the Anglican Communion to ignore this in the lead-up to Lambeth 2020.

Owen Labrie Finally Begins Jail Sentence 

Owen Labrie, the senior at St. Paul's School who was convicted of raping a 15 year old student at the school in2015 has finally exhausted appeals and delays and surrendered to officials to begin his jail sentence.  His trial was the start of a long series of revelations about sexual misconduct at the Episcopal School in New Hampshire. Update covered them all. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Week Ending 12/24/18

Merry Christmas!  Tonight Update will begin and end with uplifting positive stories.  The other news is in the middle.

The Presiding Bishop's Christmas Message of Love

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry taped this Christmas message for us all.  Of course, there were many other messages from Church leaders, but Curry's sets the tone.  

Controversy at the Anglican Center in Rome 

Archbishop Ntahoturi, formerly of Burundi, stepped down as the director of the Anglican Center in Rome after only a year.  The archbishop has been accused of sexual misconduct.  Just a few weeks before, Michael Burrows, a bishop from the Church in Ireland had been named as the new Chair of the Board of Directors for the Center.  Conservatives, however, are raising a fuss because Burrows was the first Irish bishop to support repeal of the anti-abortion clause in the Irish constitution, and because he has come to support same-sex marriage. The ultra-right wing Catholic media source The Church Militant is questioning the appointment of Burrows as an affront to the Catholic Church.  However, Burrows, who was faced with the task of healing a diocese wounded by a sex scandal involving the previous bishop, may have experience that is sorely needed at the Center right now.

South India Bishop Arrested

The former moderator of the Church of South India has been arrested for theft.  Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam who has retired had been detained a year ago as state officials began an investigation of fraud and misappropriation of church funds after the sale of a church property for $32 million.  The bishop was accused of diverting most of the money into personal accounts. The Church of South India is a "united" church, combining Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodists.  It is recognized as a province in the Anglican Communion.  However, the province has a terrible reputation for corruption, with many of its leaders under investigation for diversion of church monies. 

Christmas Travel Restrictions in Gaza

Palestinian Christians living in Gaza traditionally visit family in the West Bank on Christmas.  But this year the Israeli government is only issuing travel permits to the very young and the very old, and even those have been very few in number and late arriving.  The result is that many families will spend Christmas  divided.

Updates on Continuing Stories

    The Episcopal Church Files a Response in the Fort Worth Appeal

The papers and filings are piling up as the two sides try to convince the Texas Supreme Court whether or not it should hear an appeal by the break-away group from the appellate court decision granting the Fort Worth church and diocesan property to the Episcopalians. The latest was filed by the Episcopal Church. It argues that the appellate court properly decided what matters were to be decided by "Neutral Principles" and which were ecclesiastical matters requiring a deferential approach.  

    The Latest in the Darien CT Church Saga 

The Update has been tracking the latest in a saga where St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Darien is out of step with the diocese.  The parish earlier had defied the diocese opposing LGBTQ inclusion, and tried to get the courts to rule Dennis canon invalid. The parish never left The Episcopal Church, but its rector moved on.  The parish found its most recent rector in England.  Within a short time, the parish and rector were at odds, and Bishop Ian Douglas intervened.  When parish leadership defied the bishop by locking out the rector, Douglas took control of the parish.  The ousted parish leadership went to court trying to remove their rector, but the diocesan convention stripped the congregation of parish status in October and made it a mission under the control of the bishop.  The suit filed by the former leaders is now being heard in the state courts. 

    Episcopalians Continue Outreach to Refugees

The Episcopal Church continues to reach out in various ways to Immigrants and refugees. Most recently the Update noted the statement by bishops in Central America, including those in the Episcopal Church, supporting the refugees then traveling towards the U.S. border. Now  all of the Episcopal bishops in the five dioceses in California have joined with the Episcopal Policy Network in a new statement in support of the refugees.  There have been numerous actions at detention centers and along the border, including periodic church services at the border in California involving people on both sides of the barrier.  The most recent service with an interdenominational service for Christmas.  Episcopalians helped organize it.  In Ohio, an Episcopalian couple took up the cause of a Haitian refugee who was being threatened with deportation, and have had him released from detention into their custody while awaiting his appeal for asylum.

Episcopalians Showing the Real Christmas Spirit

Many parishes around the country reach out at Christmas time.  Here is a sampling of parishes showing the true Christmas spirit.  In Pittsburgh,  several parishes do special meals or visits to those who may be hurting at Christmas.  One parish, Church of the Advent hosts a major free Christmas dinner, and delivers meals to many who can't come in.  This parish, with an average Sunday attendance of under 20, feeds over 200.  In Philadelphia, the oldest black Episcopal Church in the country continues to thrive and, as the story notes, provides a special Christmas for the families of those who are in prison.  In Atlanta, an outdoor church for the homeless, celebrates Christmas with their non-traditional congregation.  Bishop Mariann Budde of Washington, D.C. celebrated a special Christmas meal with families who had lost their homes in an apartment fire.  And there are more stories all over the country. . . .

May the blessings of Christmas be with you all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Week Ending 12/17/18

Oklahoma Interfaith Group Blesses Democrat Headed to Congress 

The moderate woman who turned a red congressional district blue in the midterm elections was sent to Congress with blessings by an interfaith group. The service was held at the Episcopal Church she attends.  The religious leaders participating included a wide cross section of the religious community including Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim leaders.  In a state where the "religion card" is played in favor of evangelical conservatives, Kendra Horn talked about faith as the source of shared values that informed her positions and attracted a diverse constituency, some of who crossed party lines to vote for her. 

Presiding Bishop Named Religion Newsmaker of Year

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was named Religion Newsmaker of the Year by the Religion News Association.  After stealing the show at the Royal Wedding in May, Curry has used his visibility to promote his message of love and speak out on social justice issues, thus keeping himself and the Episcopal Church in the news.

Archbishops of New Zealand and Polynesia Condemn Treatment of Papua New Guinea Indigenous People

All of the Bishops, the two Archbishops, and the Archbishop-Elect of the various parts of the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia signed a letter expressing concern over the Indonesian government's suppression or the indigenous peoples in West Papua.  They vowed to bring up the oppression at world gatherings and shine a spotlight on the actions of the Indonesia government in Papua New Guinea.

Statute of Limitations Suspended for Three Years on Clergy Sex-Misconduct Complaints 

The Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies sent out a letter announcing implementation of General Convention 2018 Resolution D034 which called for a three year suspension of the church canon providing for a statute of limitations on accusations of clergy sexual misconduct involving adults.  The 2018 General Convention engaged in a number of actions addressing hurt caused by sexual misconduct by church members.   There is no statute of limitations in church canons on misconduct involving minors.  The letter stresses that this is a part of the process of bringing healing to those wounded by the church.   The suspension is in effect from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2021 and covers action back to the beginning of 1996.  Allegations should be directed to the diocesan intake officer, or if involving a bishop, the Office of Pastoral Development for the Episcopal Church.

Conservatives Upset by Church of England Rite for Transgender Transitions

The Church of England's House of Bishops has issued guidance on how to handle religious services acknowledging the transition of a transgender person.  The guidance stresses that the person is not to be rebaptized, but that the affirmation of baptism rite  is appropriate in a celebratory context.  Not surprisingly, those who have been opposed to the church becoming more affirming of  LGBTQ have been reacting negatively, condemning the guidance.  The blog Thinking Anglicans has a good summary of the kinds of objections being raised, especially by those affiliated with GAFCON.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Approval from Court Seals Pittsburgh Property Agreement 

In early 2018,  the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh announced an agreement covering the parish property of 9 parishes.  The agreement provided a unique path breaking the legal impasse over ownership of parish property for parishes who had separated from the Episcopal Church and the trust claim on that property by the Episcopal Diocese and the Episcopal Church.  The agreement proposed a long term relationship between the parishes and the Episcopal Diocese while allowing the parishes to remain outside the Episcopal Church.  There were a number of steps before the agreement became final.  The last of these, court approval has now been met.  

Episcopal Church Weighs Using Stock Purchases to Influence Gun Makers

General Convention 2018 approved an investment resolution B007 asking the church to consider buying stock in gun companies so that the church could propose resolutions at shareholders meetings that would allow for various forms of gun control.  The proposal was one of several put forward by the group Bishops Against Gun Violence.  The Church is now studying what such purchases might look like and whether the strategy would be effective.  The Episcopal Church has been active for a number of years in support of gun control and large demonstrations against gun violence were held at both the 2015 and 2018 General Conventions.

Diocese of Albany Called Out by Southern Poverty Law Center

The conservative church news blog, Anglican.ink has published a report that the Southern Poverty Law Center did a story in a December 13 newsletter on Bishop Love of the Diocese of Albany because of his refusal to implement General Convention Resolution B012.  The Resolution required all dioceses to make accommodations so that gay couples may marry in a church within their diocese.  Needless to say, Anglican.ink was not amused.  However, the story in question is not anywhere on the Southern Poverty Law Center web pages.

South Carolina Schismatics File Their Petitions for Summary Judgement

Last week the update reported on the filing by the Episcopal Church and South Carolina Episcopalians a request for summary judgement in the federal trademark case. It was based on the decision by the Carolina Supreme Court that the legitimate continuation of the Diocese of South Carolina was the body recognized by the Episcopal Church. The the break-away group's claims to be Episcopal confused people and did damage to the church and the Bishop of the Episcopal diocese.  Now the schismatics have dumped a load of papers on the federal district judge asking that the case be summarily dismissed and the trademark of the Episcopal Church be voided. They also asked that all three expert witness filings of by the Episcopalians be thrown out. The break away group's announcement casts this as part of the "long road to freedom" for their group.  The break-away argument boils down to a claim that the Episcopal Church is a generic term and can't be trademarked, and the diocese of South Carolina should get to keep and use all the identifiers it claimed when it left the Episcopal Church.  You can find good comments on the filings by blogger Steve Skaradon here and by historian Ron Caldwell here.  

St. Augustine's College  Gets Full Accreditation

The last two historically black colleges affiliated with the Episcopal Church have struggled because they are small colleges with limited endowments, and are competing for students in an age when the number of college-aged students is declining and black students can now be accepted at any college in the U.S.  This last year the Presiding Bishop made several appeals for the two colleges. The efforts of the church have had positive results.  St. Augustine, which educated almost all of the early black clergy and church workers, and many of the black nurses and teachers in the South, had been in serious trouble with its accreditation agency.  The college has righted its finances, in part with the support from the Church, and has received word that it will receive a letter of full accreditation

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Week Ending 12/10/18

Bush Funeral Showcases Episcopal Rites

This last week, the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, more frequently referred to as the Washington National Cathedral, was the site of the national funeral for former President George H.W. Bush.  Bush was a lifelong Episcopalian.  A full complement of Episcopal leaders took place, including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Bishop Marion Budde of the Diocese of Washington, the cathedral dean, and the rector of Bush's parish in Texas.  The "national" service was followed the next day by a service for Bush in the Houston parish. Episcopal News Service provides all the details.

San Joaquin Celebrates First Ordinations in Reclaimed Cathedral

One of the many signs of healing following schism in the Diocese of San Joaquin occurred this last week when the Episcopal Diocese welcomed a new dean and celebrated the ordination of four deacons in the diocesan cathedral.  The building was one of the many that were returned to Episcopalians at the conclusion of legal action.  The cathedral is now in the process of reinventing its ministries.  The Episcopal News Service has a more detailed story on the ordination and the cathedral ministries here.

ACNA Offices in Pittsburgh Move

The ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh has left the offices they occupied in the former Allegheny Center Mall (now Nova Place) since 2009.  Their new location is still in the Allegheny Center area, but now occupying space in one of the Roman Catholic church complexes that have become parts of merged parishes.  Their new location is in Our Lady Queen of Peace on Middle Street. 

Latest on Ongoing Stories

Another Albany Parish Makes Statement

Christ Church in Hudson, New York has now issued a statement stating their disagreement with Bishop Love's decree that no parish in the Albany Diocese could use the fully authorized rites for same sex marriages. They thus join churches in Schenectady and Albany in opposing Bishop Love's stand.  The Christ Church statement was voted by the vestry and wardens and affirms the parish as a welcoming place for LGBTQ people. They published it on the parish Facebook pages which are open to the public. The statement does not, however, say they will defy the bishop's order. 

SC Episcopalians Ask Federal Judge for Summary Judgement

Episcopalians in South Carolina are still entangled in 3 separate legal fronts despite the  South Carolina Supreme Court decision  awarding property to them.  One of the suits is a trademark case being pursued in federal court. The Episcopal Church and South Carolina Episcopalians filed motions and memorandums this last week asking the federal judge to issue a summary judgement in favor of the Episcopalians.  The argument boils down to this: deciding who is a member and what bodies belong to the Episcopal Church is a first amendment right reserved to the Churches.  The courts must defer to the judgement of the Church.  You can read the announcement of the filing here, the Episcopal Church's argument here, and the documents filed by the South Carolina Episcopalians here.  The break-away group continues to drag its heels and resist the decisions already reached.  In fact one ACNA priest has said he would prefer God to tear down the historic St. Philips in Charleston rather than let it fall into the hands of the Episcopal Church. 

Consecration Delayed for Haitian Bishop

Diocesan Bishops are lagging in their responses to the election of a Haitian Bishop, so Presiding bishop Michael Curry has delayed the consecration.  The Presiding Bishop's announcement serves as a reminder to bishops with "Jurisdicition" that have only until January 3, 2019 to send in approvals.  Given that the announcement made no mention of approvals from Standing Committees, the Presiding Bishop must have the required approvals from diocesan Standing Committees. The Haitian election has been marred by controversy of the fairness of the election.  Update has reported on the controversy several times, most recently here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Week Ending 12/03/18

Primates from the Americas Meet ad Elect Anglican Communion Standing Committee Member

Canada hosted a regional meeting of primates from Anglican Communion Provinces in the Caribbean, and South, Central and North America.  All provinces were represented and they discussed a number of issues.  The primates also elected a representative to sit on the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry declined to be considered in order not to upset some members of the communion.  The Canadian primate also declined, noting he was due to retire within a year.  The group chose Archbishop Julio Murray of Panama, the primate for the Province of Central America.

Presiding Bishop Statement on Death of George H.W. Bush

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued this statement upon the death of former U.S. President, George H.W. Bush. The funeral will be at the National Cathedral.  Bush was a lifelong Episcopalian as was his wife.

Conservatives Upset by English Cathedral Dean

When a student organization wanted to hold an Carol Service at the Derby Cathedral, the Dean of the Cathedral agreed, but he refused their first choice of preacher.  That choice was a man whose parish has refused to pay assessments to the diocese because of its stand in favor of inclusion of  LGBTQ people and because a member was "insulted" when she tried to support conversion therapy at a diocesan synod meeting.  Those associated with GAFCON are raising a stink claiming he has banned the clergy person from the cathedral. Typical is this Anglican.ink story.  Dean Stephen Hance invited another leading evangelical conservative to preside instead.

New Zealand Church Issues Apology to Maori 

Archbishop Philip Richardson  of the "Settler" strand in the threefold structure of the Province of Aotera, New Zealand and Polynesia, led a deputation to Tauranga Moana iwi to apologize for the Church's failure to hold on to land entrusted to the Church Missionary Society in the 1830s.  In 1867 the Society protested but did not prevent the government from claiming 526 hectacres of ancestral lands of the Maori.  Maori leaders were on hand to welcome the deputation and receive the apology.  The loss of this land has long been a source of on-going pain for the Maori.

Church in Japan Begins Campaign to End Use of Nuclear Power

The Anglican Communion province in Japan, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai has announced a campaign to end the use of Nuclear Power stations worldwide.  Japan, of course has more experience than any other nation in the power of nuclear explosions, and following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has the most recent experience with a nuclear power station disaster.  The Anglican New Service has more details. 

Updates on Ongoing Stories

Another Filing in Fort Worth Appeal

The filings seem endless in the lawsuit over Episcopal Church property in Texas.  The latest filings are based on identity claims each side making the case that documents needed to be interpreted from a stance that their side was the real diocese of Fort Worth. You can read the latest filing by the schismatic group here.  Update provided links to the filings this latest brief references here

South Carolina Parish Defying Court Decision

 In August 2017 the South Carolina Supreme Court awarded the diocesan property and the property of 29 parishes participating in the schismatic group to the Episcopal Diocese.  Implementation of the decree was assigned to Judge Dickinson, a SC district court judge.  He has not yet made a ruling, although he has received filings and had a hearing on some of the issues.   St. Jude's parish in Walterboro, however has decided to act as if the supreme court decision had not been made and is listing for sale some of the church property.

Lawsuit by Bishop Sauls Postponed

Retired Bishop Stacy Sauls was put on leave during an investigation of working climate issues in December 2015, and  let go from his position at the Episcopal Church Center in April 2016 when the position was eliminated by Presiding Bishop Curry.  He has been frustrated in his search for a new position, so he filed suit against the Episcopal Church in Alabama where he was living in 2017, but the Alabama suit was thrown out of court,  and he filed a new suit in New York where the Episcopal Center offices are located. The hearing was scheduled for late this year, but has now been delayed for several months more.

More Commentary on the Albany Ban on Same Sex Marriages

Responses to Bishop Love of Albany's announcement that he would defy General Convention and forbid implementation of Resolution B012 in his diocese because it was part of a "gay agenda" that was the work of "Satan" have continued to surface.  St. Andrews in Albany invited everyone to attend their services on the First Sunday of Advent  when they had a visitation from their DEPO bishop, DeDe Probe of Central New York, and hung a rainbow flag as part of their Advent door decorations.  The rector of an inclusive parish in Schenectady responded in his parish's December newsletter by countering Love's statement and vowing the church would continue to be inclusive.  The Standing Committee of Albany put out a non-committal announcement that they had had a conversation with the Presiding Bishop, and Mark Harris wrote a scathing rejoinder in his blog.  

Another All-Woman Slate for Bishop Announced

Update has noted that in several recent episcopal elections dioceses chose from slates where all the candidates were women.  These were all for diocesan bishops.  Now the Diocese of Texas has announced the slate for their election of a suffragan bishop to replace Suffragan Bishop Dena Harrison, and it is three women, all of whom serve in the Diocese of Texas.