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, January 29, 2019

Week Ending 1/28/19

Pakistan Court Restores Recognition of Christian Marriages

Following a change from a central governmental registration system for marriages to a regionally based one in 2013, Christian Churches found that the regional registrars were refusing to recognize or record regional marriages. The lack of legal recognition of marriages caused couples and their childrn numerous legal problems.    The priest at an Anglican parish went to court, and the Pakistan Supreme Court has ruled that regional recorders must accept documentation from churches.  Christians in Pakistan have been facing increased persecution at the regional level. this decision provides some welcome breathing space.   

St. David's Recognized for Rebuilding Congregation 

St. David's Parish in Peters Township is the subject of a very positive Episcopal News Service story highlighting its congregational rebuilding from a tiny faithful remnant left behind after its ACNA majority relinquished the building to the the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The parish has grown from fewer than 20 members to over 300 in 6 years.  Read the full ENS feature here.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Albany Parish Announces Intent to Implement B012

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Albany was one of the parishes that had sought DEPO in order to have the services of a Bishop more affirming of the LGBTQ community than the Albany bishop.   Bishop Love of Albany announced his intent in November 2018 to ignore General Convention's Resolution B012.  That resolution created space for parishes and priests who wanted to provide marriage rites and blessings to all their parishioners, including same sex couples. Members of St. Andrews responded by burning the pastoral letter on the church steps. The Albany Bishop is under a partial inhibition preventing him from taking action against parishes or priests who implement B012.  Now  St. Andrews has taken the next step by passing a resolution at the parish annual meeting to implement B012.  

Episcopal Conference Centers Feed Furloughed Government Workers 

As federal workers are now heading back to work, the Episcopal News Service featured another group of Episcopal Church institutions reaching out to furloughed government workers.  A number of the Church camps and conference centers opened their doors to offer meals to furloughed federal workers and their families.  While workers are returning to work, the deal is temporary and the church groups may need to spring into action again.  The previous stories are here and here.   President Trump held a citizenship January 20, 2019 swearing-in at the Oval Office of five carefully chosen immigrants to try to indicate he didn't oppose immigrants who entered the U.S. legally.  One was an ACNA priest from England.

British Bishop Bell Gets Full Clearance on Charges

The Church of England made a mess of an investigation into charges of sexual abuse against the long-dead and previously much respected bishop, George Bell.  The charges surfaced shortly after George Bell was added to The Episcopal Church's  Holy Women, Holy Men.  Update covered the announcement of a new inquiry, a follow up report showing that the inquiry was terribly flawed and unfair to the dead prelate, the dropping of a police inquiry and now after a second investigation, the Church has cleared the prelate of new charges that arose when people stepped forward after 2015. 

Anglican Mission in America Splits Again

 Groups that left The Episcopal Church in the late 1970s over women's ordination and prayer book revision experienced their own repeated divisions and withdrawals.  The Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), which was formed in 2001 following the rogue consecration of American bishops by bishops from Rwanda and Southeast Asia, seems destined to repeat that history.  In 2012, the group split over ties to Rwanda and questions of internal leadership.  Update covered the development during that split in several stories including ones here, here, and here.  Some AMiA parishes joined ACNA and others stayed independent as AMiA.  The AMiA now lists only 19 parishes in 11 states, all in the South and Southwest. There were 20, but David Virtue reports that another parish has split off to form the Anglican Union For The Propagation Of The Gospel: A Confraternity Of Oratories (AUPG).  That congregation, Epiphany in Longmont, CO now claims affiliation through a diocese in  the Anglican Province of South Sudan. The AUPG incorporated in Florida in November 2018.  The incorporation documents lists several clergy.  None are now listed in the AMiA web pages, but they also are not yet claiming affiliation with AUPG, just with an African diocese or Anglican Mission International, one of the groups formed in the 2012 split.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Week Ending 01/21/19

Pittsburgh Diocese Begins Self-Study

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has issued an invitation to all laity and clergy to be part of a January 29 conversation which will explore ways of "Re-imagining" the Diocese.  It is an extension of a mutual ministry review.  The efforts will be led by an outside consultant with wide experience working with different Episcopal dioceses. There will be discussions around 4 themes,  including governance, new ministries, outreach, and communications. The conversations will be held at St. Paul's Church in Mount Lebanon at 7 p.m. on the 29th.  For more information, including how to participate, go here.

Episcopal Churches Lead Efforts to Buy Ambulance for Church Hospital in GAZA 

St. John's Church, Norwood Parish in the Diocese of Washington has led efforts to replace the ambulance of St. Luke's Hospital on the West Bank.  The hospital's only ambulance died in 2018 and without an ambulance, the hospital risked losing its accreditation. St. Luke's is a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.   St. John's led fundraising efforts that eventually involved other parishes and other denominations and successfully raised the money needed to replace the vehicle. The parish worked through the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in providing the vehicle.

South India Church Implements Green Rules for Weddings

 While the Update recently has been carrying reports of corruption in the Church of South India, not all the news coming from that Anglican province is negative.  The Church has created a set of guidelines designed to make wedding celebrations more environmentally friendly.  The "Green Wedding" guidelines are now beginning to take effect according to this story posted  by the Anglican Communion News Service.

Why Do Evangelical Youth Leave the Church?

A study based on a multi-year tracking of the religious beliefs of evangelical protestant young adults has found that the most telling reason that young people abandon churches is that the church seems to reflect social and  political beliefs that are at odds with those of the young person.  Another of the reasons often cited was the feeling that the church members were hypocritical.  Without actually saying so, it appears that the young people have become more liberal than there churches. Religion News summarizes the findings here.

Continuing Stories

Reaching Out During the Government Shutdown

As the partial U.S. government shutdown continues, Episcopalians  are finding  more ways to help those without paychecks.  Update noted some efforts last week.  The Bishops in the areas in and around Washington D.C. all signed an interfaith letter asking all involved  remember that "inventing a new crisis by closing the government and adversely affecting so many innocent people does not help to address border security."  The letter recast the border crisis as one of refugees needing humanitarian aid.  Signers included 5 Episcopal Bishops in Virginia (two retired and four assisting or active), Maryland, and Washington D.C.  Leaders of the area ELCA, Presbyterian, Methodist, AME, AME Zion, Community Churches, as well as Muslim and Jewish spokespersons were also signers.  Church of the Redeemer Parish in Mobile has opened a community dinner to Coast Guard families, and has also been collecting items like diapers, baby food and canned goods to help the families.  A local news station carried the story.  In South Carolina, Episcopalians are being urged to provide food and gift cards to local food shelves as food stamp money runs out.  They are also suggesting providing freezer and refrigerator space to small black churches that have no place to store food for community dinners.

Nevada Diocese Holds Rally to Support Immigrants 

In the latest demonstration of the church's support for immigrants, the Rev. Canon Catherine Gregg, Chief of Staff for the Diocese of Nevada, led interfaith vigils in Reno and Las Vegas on the theme of "Love Thy Neighbor."  Participants included a wide range of faiths, including Jewish, Muslim and Roman Catholic leaders, and speakers from the immigrant community including a well-known "Dreamer."  Update has posted many notices of Church support for immigrants, the most recent here

Scottish Episcopal Church Parish Withdraws

Westhill Community Church, an evangelical parish in the Diocese of Aberdeen & Okney has voted by a strong majority to withdraw from the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The parish was unhappy at the selection of Bishop Anne Dyer (the first woman to serve as bishop in the Scottish Church), but even more so at the 2017 decision of the Scottish Church to affirm and permit marriages of same sex couples. Bishop Dyer is not going to contest their leaving, and is allowing them to depart with their property.  The parish apparently will join the GAFCON sponsored organization in the British Isles. The departure of Westhill brings the total number of parishes that have left the Scottish Episcopal Church to three.

Diocese of Tennessee Implements B012

Last week proponents of marriage equality were protesting that Bishop Bauerschmidt of the Diocese of Tennessee had not yet issued implementation protocols for General Convention Resolution B012.  They have since been issued, and will allow parishes to celebrate marriages ofr all members if they inform him.  However, mission congregations and church institutions under the Bishop's direct care will not be able to extend marriage rites to same-sex couples. Bishop Cole of the Diocese of East Tennessee will provide any pastoral care associated with marriages in those parishes that go forward with B012.  Bauerschmidt made clear his own position, however, by urging members of his diocese to read again the pastoral teachings on marriage that he had issued earlier. The Episcopal News Service and the Tennessean both provided stories.  The cover letter to the protocols is found on the diocesan Facebook page, and the actual protocols are here

Latest Filings in South Carolina Federal Case

The break away group recently tried to drown the Federal Court Judge with 38 filings in the trademark lawsuit. The Episcopal Church and the loyal Episcopal diocese in South Carolina have responded with 11 filings, several of them done jointly to reduce the amount of paper.  Five of these are available on the web site.  They are direct answers to those filed by the break-away group.  Several defend the briefs filed by an expert in marketing surveys and the most respected historian of South Carolina.  The break-away group wants their briefs thrown out.  The new filings are linked to a announcement by the Episcopalians here.

ACNA Continues to Widen Split

Two announcements from ACNA may interest Update readers.  The ACNA House of Bishops has given its final approval to a new Book of Common Prayer to be available in print and as a link later this year.  Update has previously noted the announcement of trial versions.  Given that one of the claims put forward at the time of the Pittsburgh schism was that The Episcopal Church was going to revised the Book of Common Prayer into something unrecognizable, it is worth noting that the ACNA rewriting has now happened before The Episcopal Church has even approved a process for revision.  In a second announcement, the Archbishop of Nigeria has appointed 4 new bishops to serve the Nigerian congregations participating in ACNA.  He apparently made the appointments without consultation with ACNA's bishops.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Week Ending 01/14/19

Episcopalians Respond to Government Shutdown 

All over the country Episcopal parishes are trying to mitigate the damage and pain caused by the partial shutdown of government services ordered by President Trump.  The shutdown is the longest ever and has now gone on long enough that federal employees have missed paychecks and the loss of government programs has caused breaks in needed services.  Churches are reaching out to provide various forms of relief.  The Episcopal News Service has an article dealing with a number of these efforts. 

Updates on Continuing Issues

Presiding Bishop Issues Partial Inhibition of Albany Bishop

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has issued a partial inhibition that forbids Albany Bishop William Love from taking any punitive action against clergy or parishes who wish to preside at marriages for same-sex couples or bless their marriages.  Love had announced that he was going to defy General Convention Resolution b012 which made it mandatory that every diocese allow parishes and clergy wishing to use the authorized rites for same sex marriage to do so.  Love has stated that he will abide by the inhibition, but appeal it and challenge the legality of B012.  The conservative ACNA-friendly Anglican.ink posted a video commentary that suggested clergy would still be liable to charges because the disciplinary process for charging and hearing charges did not involve the bishop.  However, they forgot to note that only the bishop can impose sentence after such a trial. 

Tennessee Episcopalians Protest Delay in Issuing B012 Procedures

Bishop Bauerschmidt of the Diocese of Tennessee has publicly stated he will provide a way for same-sex couples in his diocese who wish to have a church service.  However, a group working for full inclusion in that diocese has now issued a statement pointing out that December 1 has come and gone, and there is still no set of procedures.  The question has arisen whether this is a subtle move to avoid providing any access. 

Bishops Against Gun Violence Offering Weekly On-Line Services

Bishops Against Gun Violence has been witnessing, praying and advocating for an end to gun violence since 2015.  Update has carried numerous stories on their activities. (See here and here for examples.)  The latest is an extension of the "pop-up" prayer meetings they held each day of General Convention at noon.  Now they have begun offering a weekly on-line prayer service every Friday from Epiphany through Easter on their Facebook page.  The bishop leading the prayers changes each week.  

Conservatives Organize Protest Against Oxford Diocese's "Guidance" on Transitions

 The  Diocese of Oxford bishops wanted to create some guidelines on responding to LGBTQ people, and transexual individuals wanting a liturgical acknowledgement of  their transition to their gender of identity.  The letter they sent to all clergy, however, sparked protest immediately from the GAFCON-friendly wing of the Church of England.  Now the one evangelical bishop who participated in drafting the guidelines and flipped sides and announced he no longer supports the guidelines.  Around 100 evangelical clergy from the diocese signed a letter protesting the document.  The guidelines were intended to be clarifications on a policy in place in the English church for decades. While 100 clergy may sound like a lot, the diocese has over 400 clergy and 800 parishes. While conservatives are calling this a "meltdown" of the diocese, the Church of England newspaper carried a more neutral assessment of the controversy. 

More Controversy at the Anglican Center in Rome

 The resignation in December of the Director of the Anglican Center in Rome because of sexual misconduct charges created a shock which was compounded when conservatives protested the appointment of a liberal Irish Bishop as Chair of the Center's Governing Board.  Now conservatives are upset that the liberal Australian picked to be interim head of the Center preached a sermon a decade ago that suggested the Resurrection might not have been a physical event.

More on Hurricane Recovery

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has made a practice of touring dioceses where there has been major damage from Hurricanes .  He visited both the Virginia Islands and Puerto Rico about 3 months after they were devastated by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.  He visited Houston less than a month later. He has now visited parts of Florida twice, once right after the September 2017 hurricane and most recently he was in Central Florida seeing the recovery efforts there from Hurricane Florence and Michael.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Week Ending 1/7/19

Episcopalians Continue to Have Disproportionate Influence in Congress

The Pew Research Center has issued its survey of the religious affiliations of the new Congress and Senate.  While the Episcopal Church membership is about 1% of our nation's adult population, Anglican/Episcopalians are 5.1% of  the House of Representatives and 4% of the Senate.  Lutherans and Presbyterians have about the same general membership, but are even more strongly represented in Congress.  Baptists are under-represented.  Overall, the Congress is more diverse, slightly less Protestant, and less Christian.  The Jewish traditions are over-represented, and the two houses have Hindu, Budhist, and Muslin members as well.

GAFCON Head Claims Being Anglican Doesn't Require Being in Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury

 Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria has issued an Epiphany letter as head of GAFCON.  He is clearly upset by the guidance for transition rites issued by the Church of England for transgender people.  It has caused him to now list the Church of England as another province that is no longer following what he considers Christian beliefs.  His statement is another sign that GAFCON is trying to set itself up as the "real" Anglican Communion.  The Update has carried a story previously on conservative criticism of the transition rite.

Episcopal Church Sells Austin Site for Archives

The Archives of the Episcopal Church have been short of space for a number of years.  Their host institution, the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin has other uses for the space occupied by the Archives.  After a thorough study, the Episcopal Church bought a property in Austin and began raising money for a new archives building.  While raising the money, the land was used for parking, which proved very profitable and the value of the land increased.  Now the Episcopal Church has sold the land at a considerable profit and will look for another site for the Archives.  The income from the sale is expected to move forward the process of building, assuming they find a new archives site at a reasonable price.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Israeli Christians Worry About New Legislative Threat to Church Land

Update reported in early 2018 that Christian churches in Jerusalem were concerned by what appeared to be a two-pronged attack on church properties by Israeli officials.  The mayor of Jerusalem was trying to collect taxes on church-run hospitals and schools which had long been tax exempt.  A bill filed in the Knesset was threatening government take-over of a larger range of church properties.  After a number of world and church leaders weighed in against these actions, and as the 3 denominations that jointly own the Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed the site in protest, the mayor backed off and the bill died.  Now churches have been warned that a new expropriation bill is likely to be filed in the Knesset.

Bishop's Talk Listed as the Eighth Worst Anti-Semitic Statement in 2018

Massachusetts Suffragan Bishop Gayle Harris related two examples of violent Israeli actions towards Palestinians while speaking in the House of Bishops last July at General Convention.  Critics pointed out that she related the examples as things she had witnessed  while in fact they were fiction, and she was criticized for promulgating anti-Israeli propaganda.  She apologized in early August saying the she had been told about the examples by a Palestinian and should have checked further, but that talk has landed her talk on  the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of the 10 worst anti-Semitic incidents of 2018.  The Center's list  places her talk in Massachusetts, but this error is most likely a result of trying to compress information. The number one incident listed was the Tree of Life shootings.

Diocese Buys Shares in Gun Manufacturer

The Diocese of Western Massachusetts has bought 200 shares in American Outdoor Brands, the parent corporation of Smith and Wesson gun manufactures.  The  diocese and  Smith and Wesson both have headquarter offices in Springfield, Massachusetts. The shares are just enough to allow the diocese to place initiative resolutions on the ballot at the shareholders annual meeting, and the diocese is planning on putting measures before the shareholders to propose measures to reduce gun violence and deaths.  General Convention 2018 voted to explore the possibility of this kind of action using Episcopal Church endowments. The Western Massachusetts action, however provides a test run for the church as a whole.

Bishop Elect in Haiti Fails to Receive Consents

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has announced that Bishop Elect of Haiti, Joseph Delicat, has failed to receive the requisite number of consents from both the bishops with jurisdiction (diocesan bishops) and diocesan standing committees.  Troubles and controversy in the diocese had resulted in two factions one aligned with the suffragan bishop and the other with the diocesan.  An intervention by the Presiding Bishop had led to an accord and the retirement of the bishops.  The election of a new bishop was fraught with controversy and challenged by one of the two groups. The Presiding Bishop has not yet announced the next steps for the diocese. 

Moving Forward to Implement Resolution B012 on Same Sex Marriage

Seven of the eight U.S. dioceses affected by General Convention 2018 Resolution B012 have begun implementing measures to allow some parishes to provide same-sex marriage rites.  The accommodations range from the Virgin Islands where the Bishop is simply allowing parishes to exercise local option to 3 where the bishops are using a full-scale Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) to allow a handful of parishes to move ahead with celebrations of same-sex marriages.  In these parishes the bishop has turned over pastoral oversight to another bishop although the parish officially remains in its geographic diocese.  The lone holdout is Albany where Bishop William Love has refused to allow any parish or clergy person to be involved in same-sex marriages, including the three parishes already using DEPO because of their disagreements with the bishop.  Love exacerbated matters by using part of his Christmas message to argue against same sex marriage and insist that he was showing love towards all members of his diocese by preventing them from endorsing what he sees as sin and heresey.  The parishes wishing to provide the rites to members are waiting to see if the Presiding Bishop can negotiate anything with Bishop Love.