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Pittsburgh Update

Pittsburgh Update publishes weekly summaries of recent developments in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion that affect or could affect Pittsburgh Episcopalians. Emphasis is on reporting, not interpretation. This is a service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. This site is in no way affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh or the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.


A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice          

A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Week Ending 4/15/19

Cathedral Fires in the News 

On Palm Sunday, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York filled with smoke from a small fire.  The morning services were quickly moved outside while the fire department extinguished the blaze in a crypt under the main sanctuary.  The fire was a close call.  How much damage could result was illustrated the day after Palm Sunday when the medieval treasure of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris  suffered a fire in the part of the building being renovated.  In this case there was major damage to the building.  The roof and central steeple are gone and damage is still being assessed.

Presiding Bishop Issues Easter Message

The presiding bishop has a message of  hope for us at Easter, and an invitation to live-streamed Holy Week services for those who cannot get to a church.  

Pope Updates Anglican Ordinate Rules

The Anglican Ordinate, the special track that allows Anglicans converting to Roman Catholicism to continue to use Anglican liturgy and have married priests, has been revised to allow greater flexibility in who may serve those parishes and to allow some flexibility for former Anglican clergy to use their liturgies in churches outside the ordinate.  Most interestingly it provides a way for these churches to receive new members.

Bishop McConnell Reorganizes Central Office Staff

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of Pittsburgh has announced a reorganization of staff assignments to take effect at Judi Roger's retirement at the end of May.  Andy Muhl will combine his former duties as Webmaster with those of Executive Assistant to the Bishop.  The Rev. Kimberly Karashin, currently a part-time Canon Missioner will move to full time and work with Kathy Workman for seven months.  Then Workman will become part-time Diocesan Treasurer and Karashin will assume duties as Director of Administration.  Bishop McConnell also announced that he will be on a 3 month sabbatical from August through October and Bishop Kenneth Price will fill in for him during that time.  Price served as Bishop Provisional from 2009 to 2012 and is well acquainted with the diocese.

Ongoing Stories

Documents Filed in the South Carolina and Fort Worth Legal Battles

Two dioceses are still trying to wrap up legal issues arising out of schism in those dioceses. In both cases the schismatic group still claims to be the Episcopal Diocese.  In Fort Worth, property have gone through multiple stages leading eventually to the Texas State Supreme Court remanding the case to the district level for retrial.  The retrial at the district level resulted in an appeal by Episcopalians and an award of property to those in the Episcopal Church at the appeals level.  Now the schismatic group is trying to get the Texas Supreme Court to hear their appeal.  On the 10th of April both sides filed their briefs as to why or why not an appeal should be heard.  The schismatic group's brief is here, and the brief filed by the Episcopal church is here. 

In South Carolina, the State Supreme Court ruled that most property belonged to those who stayed in the Episcopal Church.  The court majority, however, did not sign a single opinion, but rather each judge issued an opinion.  The court agreed, however, that the case should be sent to the circuit court for implementation. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of this decision.  The schismatics in South Carolina thus have been trying to convince the Judge in the lower court to reopen and retry the case.  The judge has done little for more than a year.  Recently he cancelled a scheduled hearing on a related suit filed by the schismatics which requests compensation for all improvements made on every property to be returned to the Episcopal Church. South Carolina Episcopalians got tired of waiting for the judge to act and filed for a writ of mandamus to require the turn-over of property.  The schismatics have now answered with their brief supporting a reopening of the case supposedly because the state supreme court decision decision is too confusing to implement. the April 12 posting by blogger Steve Skardon has more commentary on these developments.

Same-Sex Marriage Continues to Surface as Issue in Anglican Communion

Both those opposed to and those in favor of same-sex marriage have been busy this week around the Anglican Communion.  The latest move by the opponents was in the Province of Southeast Asia where the Standing Committee and bishops declared that they were in a state of impaired communion with the Episcopal Church in Brazil.  The country of Brazil has recognized same-sex unions since 2011 and the church in Brazil removed canonical barriers to same sex-marriage.  In 2018 the church announced it would begin presiding at same-sex marriages.  Meanwhile those in Australia who would like to preside at same-sex marriages have been blocked by the large voting block of the diocese of Sydney. The Bishop of the Diocese of Newcastle has issued a very long pastoral letter  outlining the divisions in his diocese, in the Australian Church and in the Anglican Communion.  He is clearly looking for a way that will honor all positions.  It appears he is leading his diocese towards a local option position.  In England there is a press release announcing a campaign by a new group dedicated to opening the Church of England to same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile the Lambeth Conference grows ever closer. Archbishop Welby, under fire for un-inviting the same-sex spouses of three bishops, defended his position as necessary in order to get a number of bishops to come.  He argues that he pushed as far as he could by inviting all the LGBTQ bishops themselves. The Anglican Communion Office has announced that over 500 bishops from 39 provinces have already sent in registrations.  Given the position of GAFCON urging a boycott, the release made sure to include quotes from bishops in African countries about why they were attending.

Latest on Church Response to Refugees on Southern Border

The Episcopal News Service has issued a good comprehensive article on actions by Episcopalians in all the border dioceses to respond to the needs of the refugees entering the U.S. along the southern border.   The article also carries a good summary of the positions taken by the Episcopal Church in recent years. Update has been following the Episcopal response to the border issue for some time.  The latest post is here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Week Ending 04/08/19

Storied Civil Rights Center's Main building Destroyed 

The Highlander Center in Tennessee, founded in 1932, has been a major force for liberal causes, especially since 1950 in Civil Rights.  Almost all of the major Civil Rights figures including Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, James Foreman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. attended leadership workshops at the center. Episcopalians Carl and Anne Braden were associated with the center. Despite attempts by the segregationists to shut it down between 1958 and 1962, and the loss of its original site, the Center re-instituted itself and has continued its educational tradition.  However, on Friday, its main building was set on fire and a white power symbol painted in the parking lot.  The building was a total loss, but the programs will continue.  The on-line news service religionnews.com has the story.

Egypt Install First Female Canon

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa,  has announced All Saints Cathedral in Cairo will install its first female canon, Mrs. Alexandra Wakid on April 12.  Mrs. Wakid was born in Scotland, and has been a member of the cathedral for 28 years.  She and her now deceased husband were married at the cathedral.  For the last 10 years she has served the bishop as Consultant for International Relations.  In that role she was instrumental in negotiating the return of Church property in Algiers held by the British Foreign and Consulting Office. The Anglican Communion News Service has more.

CPG Invests in Renewable Energy

The Church Pension Group has announced that it will invest $40 million in the New Energy Captial Partners, LLC.  The company invests in clean, renewable energy sources including wind and solar power.  It is part of CPG's intent to invest in projects that have a positive social impact. The full release is here.

New Church Plant Upsets Church of Wales

The Bishop of Llandaff in the Church of Wales, June Osborne, has run into a snag by forgetting to consult the existing parish at St. Teilo's in Cardiff when it decided to use their building for a new evangelical church plant.  The bishop had created a partnership with a London evangelical parish to create a parish that would appeal to unchurched  and evangelical, low church students at the local university using the original campus church building. The new plant has a substantial grant to begin its ministry.  The problem is that the inclusive, but liturgically traditional Anglo-Catholic, parish that already occupies the space was not consulted.  The parish does have another building not far away, but that site also has a congregation and neither were consulted.  The bishop is now faced with a petition signed by 1500 residents asking that the original congregation remain in place.

Illinois Parish Retires Medical Debts for 3617 Families

Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Springfield has used the final $15,000 of money raised during a a capital campaign to leverage retirement of $4,000,000 dollars of medical debt owed by families in the bounds of the diocese.  The Champaign, IL parish raised the money as part of a capital campaign celebrating 100 years in their Ralph Cram-designed building.  Having met all needs for a refurbishing their building, and giving to local charities, the parish teamed with the non-profit RIP Medical debt for one last gift to the community.  The non-profit buys packages of medical debt on pennies for the dollar and then forgives the debt.  The $15,000 was enough to buy the medical debts of 3617 families living in the Champaign area and throughout southern Illinois.  The parihs does not know who has received the gifts and hopes that individuals will let the media or the parish know.

Ongoing Story

Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York Diocese Start Bishop-Sharing

On Saturday, Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania was installed as Bishop of Western New York.  The experiment of sharing will be re-evaluated after 5 years.  Because of the difference in state laws it would be difficult for the two dioceses to merge, but they will look for ways to pool resources and ministries.  Rowe has experience at leading two dioceses at once .  He served as Bishop Provisional for the Diocese of Bethlehem  from 2014 to 2018.  Update has followed this story beginning with the first exploratory talks, to the confirmation of the arrangement , and now its implementation. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Week Ending 4/1/19

Despite the date of today's posting, there are no "jokes" among the stories, just our usual summary of stories of interest to those in the Episcopal Church.

Virginia Theological Seminary to Make Attendance Nearly Free

One of the most frustrating things, and a deterrent for those considering entering the priest hood is the cost of attending seminary.  Clergy often face years of modest salaries with a large debt from seminary hanging over their heads.  Virginia Theological Seminary has decided to tackle this head on with offers of full scholarships to those attending that will cover not only tuition and books, but living expenses.  This is a game-changer for Episcopalian seminaries. The Episcopal Cafe story has the details.

New California Parish Names itself for Deaconess Alexander 

A new parish created from the merger of two parishes in the Diocese of California has decided to name itself after Deaconess Anna Alexander, the only African-American woman to enter the order of deaconesses.  The new parish has many members who are African immigrants and they were impressed to learn of the deaconess's ministry in Georgia, where she built up a parish and two schools to serve the rural black population of the area.  The Living Church has the story on the merger and the article from the Episcopal News Service has more on Deaconess Alexander. Episcopal Cafe provides some additional links with background on the Deaconess.

Parishes Offering Help in Nebraska and Dakotas Flooding

  Heavy snow, spring rains and frozen ground have created severe flooding in the midwest, with Nebraska, North and South Dakota being hit especially hard.  The Diocese of Nebraska has begun relief work, and Religion News carried a story on disaster responses in Nebraska from a variety of denominations, including the Episcopalians.  In North and South Dakota, Episcopalians on the Indian reservations are struggling to meet basic necessities for those on the reservations who are now cut off from all basic services including food, fuel, and power due to the collapse of roads and infrastructure from the flooding.  The Episcopal News Service has a story on the struggle there and how people may help.

ACC Agenda Includes Optional Session on Sexuality 

The Anglican Consultative Council will meet in Hong Kong beginning April 28.  The ACC is one of the 4 "Instruments of Communion"  that connect the various provinces of the Anglican Communion, and is the only one with representatives from all orders of ministry, including laity.  It is also the only body with a formal governing document.  The agenda for the meeting has now been published.  The Church Times story on the agenda noted that there will be an optional session for conversations on sexuality at the meeting.  You can find out more about the meeting and this special session here.

Bishop's Executive Secretary, Judi Rogers Retiring

Episcopalians in the Pittsburgh Diocese were surprised to learn last week that Judi Rogers, the Executive Secretary to Bishop McConnell will retire this spring.  Rogers has been a key member of the office staff since May 2009 and has handled many of the major events of the rebuilding diocese including 2009 release of more than 100 clergy who were no longer participating in the Episcopal Church, the production of the diocesan Convention Journals and many of the details of convention, the scheduling of special diocesan events, including the 1917 visit of the Presiding Bishop, and of course, support to the three bishops who have served in Pittsburgh since 2009, Visiting Bishop Robert Johnson (2009), Provisional Bishop Kenneth Price (2009-2012), and Diocesan Bishop Dorsey McConnell (2012-present).

Continuing Stories

Another Parish Provides Sanctuary 

St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle has joined the ranks of Episcopal Churches offering sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant facing deportation.  Jaime Rubio Sulficio has been in the United States for many years, married a U.S. Citizen and has a six-year-old son born in the U.S. and thus a citizen.  He also owns his own construction business.  Up until November 2018 he had a temporary stay on deportation because of the hardship it would cause his family, especially his wife who has epilepsy.  Sanctuary offers Sulficio a chance to work with his lawyers on a means of staying legally in the United States.  Episcopal Cafe has more on his story.  Update has been carrying notice of parishes providing sanctuary around the country.  The most recent is here.

Resistance to Methodist Vote Takes Shape 

The recent vote by the special United Methodist synod to enforce a traditional understanding of marriage and punish clergy who conduct same-sex marriages or are themselves members of the LGTBQ community, has resulted in numerous conversations by U.S. congregations on how to continue to be welcoming.  They have been joined by some more traditional congregations who believe that the Methodist Church needs to find room for more than one viewpoint.  The Washington Post has a feature story about these conversations and proposals for next steps.  From the west coast comes an opinion essay in northern California's Times-Standard with words of warning for other churches about how to support those shocked by the synod decision, especially Episcopalians given that the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2021 is scheduled to vote on a proposal for full communion with the United Methodists.  Update has covered reaction to the Methodist synod decision here.

Haiti Announces Next Step After Failed Episcopal Consent

Blogger Mark Harris has the latest information on steps being taken by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Haiti to move forward after the candidate elected bishop last spring failed to receive the necessary consents.  The Standing Committee has designated Bishop Eaton of Southeast Florida as their visiting bishop, have chose some of the top leadership, have begun activities for healing the divisions in the diocese, and have promised to act with transparency at all times. There are more details in Harris's post.  The Diocese in Haiti has been wracked by controversy that had divided the diocese into two factions.  Those divisions resulted in challenges to the election of a bishop and the failure to receive consents.  Update has been following the situation.  The most recent previous post is here.

University of Kent Will Welcome Same-Sex Spouses of Bishops Going to Lambeth 2020

Last week Update carried a story on how the decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury to not invite the same sex spouses of bishops to the 2020 Lambeth had resulted in voiced concern by University of Kent officials.  The university serves as the host for the large meeting.  The officials now have stated that they will provide housing to same sex spouses who choose to accompany bishops to the meeting. Religion News has now issued a story on the controversy here. 

Home Secretary Follows Up on Denial of Asylum in England

In another story carried last week, Update noted the displeasure of Church of England leaders who discovered a Home Office official had denied asylum to a Christian from the Middle East because, according to that official, Christianity is not a peaceful religion.  Now the Home Office Secretary has ordered an investigation

Hearing Cancelled

The hearing originally scheduled by the state judge charged with implementing the South Carolina diocesan property decision which was mentioned in last week's Update has been cancelled according to the March 26 posting on the blog scepiscopalians.com.