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, March 26, 2019

Week Ending 3/25/19

Retired Bishop Martin Barahona of El Salvador Dies

Retired Bishop Martin Barahona of El Salvadorhas just died.  The Bishop was deeply respected for his commitment to the poor, for his work to heal divisions after the bitter civil war in El Salvador, and for his advocay for refugees. The bishop is best known in the U.S. for his participation in the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop, and for his recent statements on the refugee caravans seeking entrance to the U.S.  The death notice is in Spanish.  The Google translation gives the gist of it. Click on the word "translating" to see the article.

British Controversy Over Denial of Refugee Status to Middle East Christians

The Church of England was not happy to find that a British official had been denying entrance to refugees from Iran seeking asylum because they had converted to Christianity.  The officer cited passages from the old testament to prove that it was a violent religion and thus claims of conversion to Christianity because it was more peaceful were false.  The Bishop of Durham has called for better training and a review of the way the Home Office is handling asylum claims following publication by the asylum seeker's lawyer of the officer's explanation of the reason for refusal. 

Kenyan Archbishop Denounces Decision to Allow LBGTQ Group to Register with Government

African Anglicans often hold up a 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution on sexuality as though it were legislation in order to fault those members of the communion that allow LGTBQ people to serve as clergy and/or marry.  However that resolution also stated that churches were to "minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals . . ." The Archbishop of Kenya seems to have missed this part of the resolution.  He has denounced a recent Kenyan supreme court opinion that allows a  gay and lesbian rights organization to register with the government as an NGO.  This will allow the group to legally operate in Kenya.  Archbishop  Sapit announced the the Anglican Church in Kenya repudiated the ruling and would continue to "fight sin."

Continuing Stories

Bishop of Rio Grande on the Humanitarian Border Crisis

The Episcopal Church has been actively involved in advocacy and support for refugees and immigrants for a number of years.  Update has carried stories on this ministry a number of times, most recently here.  Bishop Michael Hunn of the Diocese of Rio Grande has produced the first of what promises to be a set of videos on what his diocese is doing to address the humanitarian crisis along the border.  The information on the current border situation that he gives in the first video is of interest for everyone.  It was published on Facebook.  You do not need an account to watch it.

Vermont Has All Female Slate for Bishop

All male slates for bishop have been common in The Episcopal Church,  but in the last year a string of all female slates has emerged.  The Diocese of Vermont is the latest to bring forward a set of choices for election as the next bishop which are all female.  Women are also winning election in some diocese where there were male candidates as well.  The result is that the entering class of new bishops looks very different than in past years. Update has been noting these elections.

More on the Lambeth Spouse Controversy

The announcement that same sex spouses were being excluded from the invitation of spouses to join bishops at the 202 Lambeth Conference continues to make waves.  Students at the University of Kent in Canterbury, which has traditionally served as the host site for the Lambeth Conference, have challenged the University officials to rethink hosting the event because it would be contrary to university values of inclusion.  The University of Kent issued this statement in response. The university is committed to providing housing for the spouses whether invited or not. Meanwhile criticism of the decision to exclude same sex spouses continues to be voiced. Thinking Anglicans has links to all of these. The Update has been following developments in this controversy.  The most recent previous report is here.

Latest Legal News from South Carolina

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has grown tired of waiting for the state district judge assign to implement the state supreme court opinion awarding control of most church property in the Diocese of South Carolina to the Episcopalians.  The Episcopal diocese has filed a request for a writ of mandamus from the state supreme court to direct the Judge to move forward with disposition of property, not re-try the case.  In a separate matter, the blog scepiscopalians.com published a story on March 25, 2019 saying the judge has ordered a hearing next week on the motion to  dismiss the "Betterments" suit filed by the schismatic group.  The "Betterments" suit is seeking payment for all improvements ever made on the properties of the parishes that tried to leave TEC.  Update has followed all the twists and turns of the South Carolina Church legal dispute. The most recent previous post is here.

Vigil for Gun Victims

On the anniversary of the Parkland Shooting, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, CA created a special Vigil for victims of mass gun violence.  It was open to the public.  The vigil was built around a litany of the names of those killed in mass shootings and set to a new musical composition. This is the latest  of many occasions the Episcopal Church has spoken about gun violence. The most recent previous story in Update is here.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Week Ending 03/18/19

Churches Respond to Mosque Shooting

The vicious murder of 50 worshipers at two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques, has elicited quick responses from a variety of places in the Anglican Communion. Interdenominational groups in the U.S. have offered their support for New Zealanders.  The Episcopal rector of Trinity Parish in the Lehigh Valley area of PA was one of the speakers at that area's interdenominational service. The House of Bishops was meeting at the time, and Bishop David Rice of San Joaquin had much to say since he spent much of his ministry before coming to San Joaquin in Christchurch.  The Episcopal News Service coverage of the House of Bishops meeting documented their responses. (See link below on Lambeth spouses.)  Bishop Rickell of the Diocese of Olympia issued a statement to his diocese in addition to what the House of Bishops did. 

Justice Ginsburg and Episcopal Church Women

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is known for the elaborate collars she wears with her judicial robes.  The women who run the thrift shop for the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Dunedin, FL (near Tampa) received a donation in November of a necklace that looked like the collars/necklaces that Justice Ginsburg wears.  So they sent it to her with a short note.  Ginsburg, recovering from cancer surgery, showed that she was a class act with a gracious response.  The Living Church has the details here

Wales Finds Use for Closed Chapels 

The Anglican Province of Wales has more than 800 small chapels that are closed or under-used. Many are centuries old.  They have now found a use for these buildings that will help preserve their appearance and raise funds to cover maintenance costs.  The Anglican Church has contracted with a tour provided to use a number of the buildings as overnight stops for touring bicyclists.  The agreement has also made the Welsh tourist board very happy. Bookings should start this fall. You can read more here.

Pittsburgh's Trinity Cathedral Has a New Provost

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh announced that the Rev. Aidan Smith, the Dean of Advancement and Church Relations at Trinity School for Ministry (TSM) in Ambridge, PA has been named the new Provost of Trinity Cathedral.  He will start May 1 for an initial term of two years. TSM issued its own press release with more personal details. He graduated from TSM in 2014 and was ordained deacon and priest in 2015 by Bishop Love of Albany, and where he has maintained clerical residency while working at TSM.  He came to Trinity from Alaska.  It is not clear what will happen at All Saints, Brighton Heights where Smith has been priest in charge for the last several months.

Ongoing Stories

Lawsuit by Sauls Dismissed

Bishop Stacy Sauls who was dismissed from his role as a senior administrator at the Church Center in 2016, and who filed a defamation lawsuit against the Presiding Bishop and other church officials, has come to the end of his legal challenges.  He originally filed suit in Alabama, but that case was dismissed as the wrong venue.  He then filed in New York where the church center is located.  Now the New York State Supreme Court judge assigned to the case has dismissed the suit for lack of evidence.  Pittsburgh Update has followed each step in this legal challenge.  The most recent previous coverage is here

House of Bishops Responds to Lambeth Exclusion of Same Sex Spouses

Meeting at Kanuga Retreat Center, the House of Bishops expressed its concern and disappointment that the Archbishop of Canterbury was excluding same sex spouses from the invitation list to Lambeth 2020.  The bishops are urged to go to Lambeth, however, and engage others while there explaining the Episcopal Church's position of same sex marriages.  Bishop Mary Glasspool, whose spouse of over 3 decades is one of those not invited, made a formal statement at the meeting. Update has been covering the responses to the Archbishop's decision.  In a close vote, the House of Bishops did not pass a related resolution asking Presiding Bishop Curry to make another appeal to Canterbury to change the Archbishop's mind.

Episcopalians Ponder Impact of Methodist Vote on Proposed Full Communion

The vote at the recent United Methodist conference to put stricter penalties and rules in place excluding LGTBQ clergy and making a statement against homosexuality is still being reviewed by the group within that church that rules on constitutionality of resolutions.   However, given that the Episcopal Church has affirmed the ministries of LGTBQ individuals and now requires every diocese to accomodate same sex couples wishing to marry in the church, people are wondering about the churches can move forward with a proposal for full communion that would allow clergy of either denomination to be recognized by the other group. Update noted this as a concern in its coverage of the Methodist meeting.  The latest speculation is here.

Appeals Court Upholds Clergy Housing Tax Exemption

Over a year ago, an atheist group scored a victory in with a Federal Court decision that granting clergy a tax exemption for their housing allowance violated the constitution by establishing a religion and not providing  equal protection of the laws to atheists.  However, the federal appeals court has overturned the decision, ruling that such an exemption is constitutional.  It is possible that the matter will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will even choose to hear it.  Both Anglican.ink and Christianity Today carried stories of the appeals court decision.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Week Ending 3/11/19

Presiding Bishop Branches Out

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had a busy Ash Wednesday.  In the morning he attended services at St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House in Washington D.C., and that evening he was the featured preacher at a large revival event sponsored by Harvest Assembly Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.  He used the occasion to elaborate on selflessness as a major component in love. Religion News made his talk a featured item. 

Sexual Harassment Victim Sues New Zealand Anglicans

A woman who sought counseling from an Anglican priest after the loss of her baby was instead faced with sexual harassment.  She has sued under a human rights law in New Zealand.  It would be the first time that the law was applied against a member of the clergy. The Church has argued it is exempt because clergy are providing a religious service rather than acting as secular counselors.  If the woman is successful in her suit, the Anglican Province will need to consider major changes in the way they hire and train clergy. 

House of Lords Debates (Again) Clergy Exemption

Current English law grants an exemption to clergy that means they are not required to preside at same sex couple blessings or marriages.  Removing the exemption was discussed about a month ago in the House of Lords and came up again.  The Bishop of Oxford shut down the discussion by requesting that the House drop the matter since it would set a very bad precedent if Parliament started interfering in theological differences.  Thinking Anglicans has all the details.

Updates on Ongoing Stories

Nashotah House Hires Ethics Professor

Nashotah House, which has been rebuilding its ties to the Episcopal Church after nearly being taken over by ACNA, has hired Elisabeth Rain Kincaid as ethics professor. Kincaid will only be on campus part of the year since her husband is a priest in Dallas. Nashotah has needed to fill several faculty spots due to deaths, new roles and a member leaving for another appointment. She will be the only woman on the faculty.  The seminary is definitely taken on a new image with a lay person as its dean and the hiring of a noted Dutch Reformed Church theologian recently.  Kincaid was granted the Ph.D. by Notre Dame University in 1918.

Schismatic Parish Bills Church Insurance 

St. Philips in Charleston was one of the parishes most actively involved in the property suit brought against Episcopalians. It is also one of the parishes included in the list of properties the state supreme court said actually belonged to the Episcopal Church. St. Philips' 2018 annual report had a curious line in its financial statements.  The parish has billed the Church Insurance Company of Vermont for $111,749 in legal expenses.  Those would be expenses incurred as it tried to leave the Episcopal Church and take its historic property with it.  The Episcopal Church in South Carolina won a lawsuit against the Church Insurance Company for partial reimbursement of its legal expenses.  The difference is that the diocese incurred its expenses while defending itself and the Church's Property from those trying to take it away.  The vestry that did the billing is, since the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court, not even the legal vestry of the parish of St. Phillips.

California Parish Helps Congolese Refugees

St. Luke's Parish in the North Park area of San Diego has adopted the cause of a Congolese refugee who is fighting deportation after his request for asylum was denied.  The church mobilized the community and has been able to help Constantin get a stay of deportation.  They have also adopted the wife and children of the refugee.  They came to the U.S. to apply for asylum and were separated at the border.  His wife was allowed to enter wearing an ankle monitor in order to care for the children.  The congregation, which has a number of members from the Sudan and Congo has welcomed the family.  Two of the children are now singing in the children's choir and have become acolytes. The Church has a web page devoted to Constantine.  The Episcopal News Service picked up the story. St. Lukes joins several other Episcopal parishes that have sheltered or adopted immigrants.  The Update has carried stories on parishes providing shelter or support for immigrants facing deportation in North Carolina, New York, and Ohio.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Week Ending 3/4/19

"Lego" Repair a Cathedral

What can a cathedral do when an earthquake does serious damage to your building?  Well, if you are the Washington National Cathedral, you start rebuilding as you seek funds.  The latest effort allows people to buy Lego building blocks and place them in a  Lego model of the Cathedral.  When the model is completed, it will be as large as a van.  For more on the launching of this fun fundraiser, see the report posted by a local Washington D.C. radio reporter.

Partnerships Announced in Seminary Education

Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) and Trinity Church Wall Street have announced what they are calling a partnership between the wealthy New York parish and the west coast seminary.  In reality, Trinity now owns CDSP and its vestry will double as the board for the seminary.  The new arrangement will bring an infusion of cash to the seminary and will facilitate educational programming that Trinity has long sponsored. The story (with different background information) is explored by Episcopal Cafe and by Anglican.ink.  A different kind of partnership was announced jointly by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, a seminary of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  The seminary has been adding courses on the Episcopal Church and Anglican theology, and has now created a formal program to train Episcopal clergy and laity in western Pennsylvania. It has programs for Methodists and Lutherans as well.

Schismatic Group in South Carolina Running Huge Deficit

Financial records published as part of the upcoming convention for the schismatic group in South Carolina show legal fees climbing to nearly a million dollars in 2018.   This created a major deficit in the budget.  However, the group is not cutting staff or salaries.  In fact, Lawrence and two other staff members are getting raises.  One has to wonder if the strategy is not to completely exhaust the endowments that they still control although the state supreme court has ruled they belong to the Episcopalians.  Blogger Steve Skardon  comments on the financial situation.

Updates on Ongoing Stories

More on Lambeth Spouses Controversy

Responses continue to the announcement that same sex spouses were not being invited to the Lambeth gathering of Anglican Communion bishops in 2020.  A bishop in England has announced he will attend without bringing his wife as a way of both protesting the exclusion of some spouses.  To further liven up the debate at least one member of Parliament has asked to have the omission investigated as a violation of equal employment laws in Britain. At least one of the uninvited spouses will be attending anyway.  Mary Glasspool, Assisting Bishop of New York intends to be accompanied by her spouse.  She has the support of the diocesan and suffragan bishops of the diocese, and all three signed a formal statement that the three and their spouses were looking forward to conversations at Lambeth.  The same-sex spouses were omitted from the list in hopes of placating those in the Anglican Communion who oppose same sex relationships.  The effort may be in vain because those bishops most adamantly opposed have said they are coming unless all the bishops in the "liberal" provinces are disinvited

Another All-Female Bishop Slate

Michigan has joined the list of dioceses with only women on the announced slate of nominees for bishop. There may still be other candidates added by petition, but the nomination committee has brought forward the names of four women.  Several other dioceses have already elected bishops from all women slates, most recently in Texas.  In case you are worried that men are being left out, the South Dakota nominating committee has proposed a slate of two for election as bishop.  Both are men. 

Disappointed Methodists Consider Next Steps

The majority of American Methodists were disappointed by vote at their international meeting last week.  The meeting turned away from a proposal that would have made ordination, hiring, and marrying people in same-sex relationship a matter of local option.  In stead by a 54 vote margin, they adopted a proposal that will strengthen penalties against LGTBQ clergy and same-sex marriages, anddenounces all homosexual activity.  There were open demonstrations of defiance at the convention and in United Methodist Churches throughout the U.S. this last week.  It is not clear if parishes or individuals will leave the church or stay to fight another day.  It is possible, that a new body will emerge, representing just Methodists in the U.S.  Update has been tracking this story, especially in light of the proposed full communion agreements being proposed between United Methodists and The Episcopal Church. 

Bishops Visit Congress to Urge Gun Control

Bishops Against Gun Violence continues to find new ways to urge action on gun control.  The latest was a well-publicized event with a deputation of bishops traveling to Washington D.C. to encourage members of the U.S. Congress to pass reasonable gun control legislation.  Formed after the Connecticut school shooting that left 26 dead, the Bishop's group has become increasingly active over the last several years as gun violence increased. Update has covered  other activities of the Church to witness against gun violence.