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, May 29, 2019

Week Ending 5/27/19

On a week ending on the United State's Memorial Day, it is fitting that there are no new news stories to report and only three continuing stories. It gives us all more time to remember appropriately those who have died in the service of our country. 

Continuing Stories

Anglican Center in Rome Has New Director

The Anglican Center in Rome was thrown into upheaval late last year when its director was forced to resign under charge of sexual misconduct, and then conservatives were upset by the choice of an Australian as interim head and the selection of a liberal Irish bishop as head of the center's board.  The new head of the center has now been announced and seems acceptable to all.  Archbishop Ian Ernest of Mauritius has a long history of working well with the Roman Catholics in Mauritius and elsewhere.  Bishop of Mauritius and former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, Ernest will assume his duties in Rome late in 2019.

Episcopal Church in South Carolina Updates FAQ 

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has updated its "Frequently Asked Questions" several times since originally posting it.  The handout answers questions about the diocese, with special attention to parishes affected by the lawsuit arising out of the schism led by former bishop, Mark Lawrence.  The latest version marks the growing realization of members of the 29 congregations that will be returned to the Episcopal Church once the state supreme court decision is implemented.  At least some members in the various parishes are organizing and identifying leaders willing to participate in the Episcopal Church.  the diocese is very clear that they will not sell church sites to the groups participating in the Lawrence organization.  The FAQ is worth a read for anyone wishing to understand what is going on there. 

ACNA Loses Two Dioceses as CANA Divides as Expected 

Update reported several weeks ago that an agreement between ACNA and the Nigerian-sponsored CANA would lead to a split in CANA.  The three dioceses had been part of both ACNA and CANA, but a unilateral action by Nigeria to appoint 4 bishops to a diocese in CANA without consultation and approval of ACNA had strained relations. As expected, the eastern diocese has chosen to remain a part of ACNA and withdraw from CANA.  The other two dioceses affected, one headquartered in Texas and the other in Indianapolis have chosen to remain in CANA and withdraw from ACNA. While all three dioceses will continue to have "special" relationships with the organization they have left, ACNA should no longer include these dioceses in their membership statistics.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Week Ending 05/20/19

Partnerships for Outreach in Navajoland

The Missionary District of Navajoland, which was formed from parts of 4 diocese in 4 states, and is generally contiguous with the Navajo reservation has underway a major project rehabilitating church properties so that they can better serve their communities.  A much-needed community health center is about to open in one.  Another is srving as a community center, and a third is being considered for a retreat center.  These projects have been helped by a long-term partner, the Diocese of West Texas.  Members from that team have come and done a number of work projects and also helped in planning.

Johnstown Parish Remembers 1889 Flood

St. Mark's Parish was hit especially hard in the May 31, 1889 flood that devastated Johnstown and killed more than 2000.  Nearly half of the parish membership, including the minister, his wife and two children were killed.  The church building and rectory were completely destroyed.  The parish, however, survived and rebuilt, and with the 130th anniversary of the flood fast approaching, set aside a Sunday to give special attention to the events. You can read more about the parish commemoration, and the original events here

Church Responds to Restrictive Abortion Laws

In the wake of the extreme anti-abortion law passed in Alabama, and the only slightly less severe ones passed in Georgia, Ohio, and Missouri, the Episcopal Church office of Governmental Relations has republished both the full 1967 General convention resolution, and subsequent statements on abortion and women's reproductive health.  In short the Episcopal Church has long declared that decisions about reproduction health should be made prayerfully by the woman in consultation with her doctor and should not be the subject of legislation.  For all the details, go here.

Arkansas Parish Creates Play About Death Row

St. Pauls' in Fayetteville Arkansa as a rpsion ministry.  After a listening project where parishioners listened to inmates on death row, these were shaped into a reader's theater style of drama and now they are taking their production, which is intended to show even death row inmates are humans.  The Episcopal Church has long taken a stand against the death penalty.  Two of the men were executed a few months taking part in the project. 

Pakistan Diocese Wins Case on Control of School

The Anglican Church's only college in Pakistan has won a court battle with local officials who wanted to assert control over the college.  The recent decision of the Pakistan Supreme Court has allowed the Diocese of Peshwar to fully reinstate the Governing Board of Edwardes College affiliated with the diocese to resume management of the college.  The Government of Peshwar had tried to convert it to a secular institution under control of the government. The Anglican Communion News Service has the details. Edwardes is the only Anglican school in Pakistan.

Continuing Stories

Heather Cook to Work with Prisoners and Addicts

As Update noted two weeks ago, the deposed suffragan bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook has secured release from prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a bicyclist in a DUI hit and run.  She will be on probation for the next 5 years.  She claims great remorse over her actions and has been working with addicts and women prisoners. The Baltimore Sun and Religion News both covered her release and her plans for what amounts to a lay ministry continuing her work in prison.

GAFCON Creates Diocese in New Zealand

 GAFCON has organized the handful of parishes which withdrew from the Province of New Zealand after the synod voted to allow same-sex blessings. After a scheme promoted by the Australian Archbishop of Sydney to create concurrent jurisdictions in New Zealand was rejected by leaders of the Province of New Zealand, GAFCON went ahead and created its own alternative diocese.  Anglican.ink covered the story as if the new diocese was a recognized part of the Anglican Communion.  It is not.

Diocesan Grants Fill Gap from Missing Hurricane Aid in Gulf Coast

 Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina all continue to struggle to rebuild after the category 5 Hurricane Michael devastated their areas last October.  Congress has not appropriated disaster relief for this and other recent natural disasters because Republicans have been trying to add funding for the border wall President Trump wants. A new bill, sans wall funds, is before Congress, but there is no guarantee that funds will be forthcoming.  As a result  The Diocese of the Central Coast has made grants to churches to help with relief and rebuilding.  Other dioceses are also fundraising.   There is more in the Episcopal News Service article.

ACNA Bishop's Statement on Arrival of a Bishop as Rector in Butler

Two weeks ago, Update carried a notice that St. Peter's Parish in Butler, an ACNA pairsh, had called as their new rector a bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church.  This week, Anglican.ink carried the response of ACNA Bishop Hobby to those events.

Vermont Adds Another Woman to List of New Bishops

The Diocese of Vermont elected its new bishop over the weekend.  It was one of the dioceses recently choosing from an all-female slate.  They chose Shannon McVean-Brown of the Diocese of Indianapolis, thus increasing not only the number of women in the "new bishops" list, but adding to the number of African-American women serving as bishop. Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis was the first African American woman elected to be diocesan bishop.  She issued a gracious statement on the election of McVean-Brown, one of her clergy. 

English Methodists Inch Towards Approval of Same-Sex Marriage

In a reversal of the situation in the U.S. Methodists in England will vote on a statement that would open the door to church blessings of same-sex marriages, and possibly church weddings.  Both the U.S. and the Church of England are in conversation with the Methodists bodies in their bounds, but positions are reversed when it comes to same-sex issues. The effect may be the same - slowing down talks on full communion.   In the U.S., the United Methodist Synod vote to strengthen statements against LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage has raised questions about proposals for full communion between The Episcopal Church and the United Methodists, although the proposal seems headed for a vote in both groups.  In England, talks about union have been very slow, and there is speculation that the Methodist's proposed statement on same-sex matters will slow talks even more since the Church of England synod cannot find the votes needed to pass policies that would allow same-sex marriage and affirm clergy in same-sex relationships. The Independence of the English Methodists may provide a model for Methodists unhappy with the  recent anti-LGBTQ synod vote.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Week Ending 05/13/19

ENS Senior Editor Retires

Mary Frances Schjonberg, the Episcopal News Service staff person who has covered many of the stories related to the 2008 schism in Pittsburgh and those in the other 4 diocese and is an expert on Episcopal polity is retiring at the end of June.  For more on her career see the ENS story here

Bishop Sutton Writes in Support of Reparations for Slavery.

Bishop Sutton of Maryland has written a  four page pastoral letter in support of reparations for wrongs done to black Americans during and after slavery.  He argues that reparations are an important step in accepting complicity as a countryand a church in the structural racism that continues to hold back the black population.  He is not suggesting paymments to individuals, but rather programs such as scholarships that help to level the modern playing field.  The Living Church story is here.  The full letter is here.

Continuing Stories

Presiding Bishop Wins Media Award for Royal Wedding Sermon

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's sermon at the Royal Wedding last year has won a prestigious British award for media impact on Religion, ethics, and spirituality.  The Sandford St.Martin Trustees Award has been made annually since 1978 by an independent panel to individuals or groups who have made the greatest positive impact through the media on the public perception of religion, ethics,or spirituality.  It was not only the size of the audience that impressed the panel, but his message.  The Episcopal News Service has more

Episcopal Parish has Provided Sanctuary for Two Years for One  Woman

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, NC has taken its responsibility as a sanctuary church very seriously.  In fact,  Juan Luz Tabor Ortega has lived at the church for two years as her familyh tries to find a way for the undocumented mother to stay in the U.S.  A documentary aired on many PBS stations on May 9, featuring her story.  Ortega, a Guatemalan, has been in the United States for over 26 years, and until 6 years ago thought she had been granted asylum.  You can read more in the ENS story here, or look for the PBS documentary, Sanctuario online.  Update has regularly tracked stories on The Episcopal Church's role in the sanctuarymovement. The latest story is here,

Wales Continues to Explore Way for Church to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Archbishop John Davies, head of the Church of Wales, reported to the Welsh House of Bishops on progress of the committee exploring implications of the Church authorizing presiding at marriages of same-sex couples.  In September the bishops had voted by a wide margin that pastoralconcerns meant that something needed to be done. The committee met with consultants from the Scottish Episcopal Church, and is now working on a theological document that will be presented to the bishopsfor discussion at their next meeting.  In the meantime a liturgical committee has been authorized to look for a way that such marriages might be blessed by those clergy willing to do do.  The Church Times has the full article.  Update has been following these Welsh talks for over two years,

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Week Ending 5/6/19

South Carolina Diocese Moves Towards Election of Bishop

Although no specific timetable has been set,  both the Bishop Provisional, Skip Adams, and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina have released letters to their diocese announcing that they are moving towards beginning the process for the election of a diocesan bishop.  Adams has remained longer as provisional bishop than the two year term he originally agreed to, and with legal issues seemingly in their final stages, South Carolina is poised to join San Joaquin and Pittsburgh in a step that signals their return to normal status as a diocese.

Popular Religious Writer Dies Suddenly

Rachel Held Evans, whose writings documented her transformation from literalist Evangelical to progressive Episcopalian died this last week. Author of 4 books, active blogger and influential social media poster, she was in a coma for several weeks following a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics used to treat an infection.  Evans had become a younger voice for progressive Christianity whose writing was know for its humor and incisive commentary on faith, evangelicals, and living as a Christian.  She was 37 and left a husband and young children.  The most complete news obituary is here.  

Continuing Stories

ACC Breaks Ground on Several Fronts

The meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council opened with several surprising statements which Update covered last week.  It continued to show that the meeting of the only Anglican body with lay, clergy and episcopal members, and the only Anglican body with official governing documents is ready to assert itself as leaders in the Anglican Communion.  The meeting heard reports and assented to resolutions related to the role of women in the Communion, among a number of other social justice issues. The ACC also flexed its muscles by approving a new process for the Anglican Communion to receive Ecumenical agreements and statements, a process that moved approval from the hands of bishops to the ACC. (See resolution B17-04.) This was a direct challenge to earlier statements by Archbishop Welby that the ACC did not have authority to deal with doctrine. The council also approved a new way to calculate how much money member Churches should contribute to the Anglican Communion based on a percentage of a member church's salaries for active bishops. This could raise the expectation for funds from TEC well above the amount budgeted by General Convention. Lay Deputy, from the TEC Rosalie Ballentine from the Virginia Islands, and a lawyer, was among those asking for more detail on the new formula.  TEC is already contributing over 21% of the Communion budget.  The clergy delegate from TEC was Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of General Convention. He posted interesting comments on the differences between the way the ACC functioned and the way TEC governs itself  on a Facebook page

But the biggest fireworks were provided around human sexuality and the upcoming Lambeth Conference 2020.  Archbishop Welby led off with an apology for those he has hurt with his decision to invite LGBTQ bishops, but not their spouses. But, despite the positive spin placed on this apology by the Episcopal News Service, it took a lot of hard work, complicated by language differences among the delegates present, before the ACC came to agreement.  A resolution supportive of LGBTQ people in the diocese submitted by Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny was rewritten entirely, but continues to commit the Communion to listening processes with the LGBTQ community, and affirms the Church should reach out to them. Bishop Konieczny also derailed a resolution supported by Archbishop Welby that would have allowed creation of a theological committee to “clarify the core identity and boundaries” of the Communion.  The measure was originally announced as adopted by assent without a vote, but Konieczny realized this could create a group able to read provinces in or out of the communion and asked for a formal vote.  The resolution then failed.  Three provinces did not participate in the 2017 ACC, all are African provinces active in GAFCON.  GAFCON, of course found nothing to like about the discussions at the ACC, and issued their own call for a meeting of Bishops in 2020 the month before  the Lambeth gathering. 

Former Bishop Heather Cook Leaving Prison

The former suffragan bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook, in prison for killing a bicyclist while texting and driving while drunk and then leaving the scene, has been trying to find a way to be released from prison early.  Her release is due in about a month and will be under provisions cutting prison time for good behavior.  Officials say she has been a model prisoner, running several recovery support meetings and events among other things.  After release, she will be on probation for 5 years.  The terms for the probation have not yet been released.

Dissident Group Files Appeal in Connecticut

The former vestry of St. Paul's Church in Darien, CT went to court to try to get back control of the parish building after Connecticut Bishop, Ian Douglas, intervened in a dispute between the parish and its rector, and the annual convention of the diocese voted to reduce the parish to the status of a worshiping community under the control of the bishop. The property-less dissident group has continued to worship together and is now acting as an independent congregation outside the Episcopal Church.  After multiple filings and legal maneuvers, the trial judge sided with the Episcopal diocese and dismissed the case in April since deciding the case would entangle the court in church affairs contrary to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  On the 25th of April, the disappointed former vestry appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court which has taken no action yet.  In a strange twist of alternative facts, the ultra conservative blogger David Virtue has published a story claiming that the legal outcome upheld the dissidents. He is also claiming the superior court opinion is actually the Supreme Court decision.   One would have to ask Virtue, "If the independent group won, then why are they appealing the judge's ruling?" 

Montana Joins Trend of All-Women Bishop Slate

The Diocese of Montana's search committee has announced their choice of three candidates for bishop.  All are women.  While it is possible that a slate including a male could result from the petition process, it seems likely that Montana is going to follow in the footsteps of Colorado,  Kansas,  Michigan, West Tennessee, Texas, San Diego, and Vermont.

Methodists Move Closer to Vote on Full Communion Agreement

The Episcopal Church- United Methodist Dialogue Committee met in Texas the last week-end of April and voted to send a resolution for full communion between the churches to the United Methodist Council of Bishops for approval.  If they approve, then it would go to the 2020 General Meeting of the United Methodist Church.  The statement of the group acknowledged the recent pain and turmoil caused by adoption of the resolutions against inclusion of LGTBQ clergy and against same-sex marriage by the special General Meeting held in 2019.  The inclusion of statements about "birth pangs" of something new coming from the pain of the 2019 seems a hint that United Methodists in the U.S. may go a different direction than the international United Methodist General Meeting.  These 2020 votes will determine whether or not TEC's General Convention will vote on full communion in 2021.  Update has covered the full communion discussions and the possible split of the Methodists following the 2019 General Meeting. One of the members of the joint dialogue committee, Tom Ferguson, (aka the "Crusty Old Dean") has provided additional background while tearing apart a poorly written Living Church article on the dialogue and proposals for full communion.

ACNA-CANA Agreement Sets Up Division of CANA

Recently the Anglican Church of Nigeria blind-sided ACNA by electing and ordaining four new bishops for one of the CANA diocese in the U.S. without getting ACNA College of Bishops approval. At the meeting of GAFCON this last week, Foley Beach, head of both GAFCON and ACNA signed an arrangement with Nigerian Archbishop Okoh that will allow the three dioceses to decide if they wish to be part of the Nigerian affiliated CANA or of ACNA. Currently the dioceses have affiliation with both ACNA and the Church in Nigeria. Two of the dioceses appear to be making the changes necessary to become ACNA dioceses. These have a majority of congregations that left The Episcopal Church and used CANA as a means of claiming ties to the Anglican Communion before ACNA formed.  The third, has a majority of the congregations filled with immigrants from Nigeria.