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, June 24, 2019

Week Ending 06/24/19

New Mission for Inner City Church

 St. Stephen's in the center of Philadelphia was closed in 2016 because its congregation had dwindled.  Only a few month later, the church reopened, but not for Sunday services.  Instead it is a church serving central Philadelphia during the week, offering social services, a respite for the homeless or those just wanting to meditate, a welcome to tourists, and  and weekday worship. Religion News featured this "new" way to do religion in an historic building.  You can find out more at the church's own website.

Nigerian Scammers Pose as Anglican Church Leaders

Nigerian scammers set up false Facebook accounts in the names of prominent Nigerian Anglican clergy, including Archbishop Okoh in order to solicit money from unsuspecting supporters who thought they were helping the clergy person in distress.  The scammers have now been arrested.

Japanese Clergy Testify to Impact of Fukushima Disaster

 At an International Forum for a Nuclear-Free World held last week in Sendai, Japan, clergy from the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Japanese member of the Anglican Communion)  testified to the devastating impact of the Fukushima nuclear melt-down on the communities surrounding the plant. The Church in 2012 passed a resolution at its General Synod in 2012 calling for an end to nuclear power plants and activities.  One of the clergy, who has a parish in the affected area spoke of  273 children  in his region diagnosed with thyroid cancer since 2012. The forum was attended by members of The Episcopal Church and other Asian churches in the Anglican Communion.

South Sudan Churches Urge Support for Rape Victims

Women have long experienced rape as a weapon of war.  The long conflicts in the Sudan made that very evident, and 95% of the survivors report being raped multiple times, often over several days. Sudanese culture in general considers rape to have shamed the woman, and many already traumatized women have been rejected by families and pushed to the edges of society with no support. Women thus have often remained silent about rapes in order to avoid the stigma.  The South Sudan Council of Churches, however, has issued a call for churches to support  women and girls who have been raped and to blame the men, not the women.  The Council urged support for the women and girls as an important step in healing and peacemaking.

Border Crossing or Mission-Building?

Merida, Mexico is home to a number of ex-patriot U.S. citizens and Canadians, as if evident from the times it has shown up on HGTV shows.  A popular Roman Catholic priest was removed from the priesthood several years ago for inviting a Episcopalian priest (female) to preach and particiapte in communion.  He soon found his flock of ex-pats wanted him to continue and he has now built a thriving congregation with a English language congregation and also a large Spanish language congregation.  However, the congregation is not part of the Anglican Province of Mexico and is building ties directly with congregations in the Episcopal Church.  Episcopal Cafe has a largely supportive story on the congregation, but we do need to ask, if the situation was reversed and the Church in Mexico were to start congregations in Los Angeles, San Antonio, or Raleigh, NC would we be protesting this a border crossing?

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Insurance Suit Broadens

Update reported two weeks ago that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina had filed a federal law suit against the Church Insurance Company of Vermont because it had paid claims for legal costs submitted by the schismatic leadership of St. Philip's in Charleston.  Now the Chuch Insurance Company has asked the court to decide if it is liable for claims filed by other of the schismatic parishes.  The June 20 blog post at scepiscopalians.com has the details.

International Group of Bishops Urge Attendance at Lambeth

The Bishop of Dallas, George Sumner has organized an appeal by 10 bishops from a variety of provinces in the Anglican Communion, including Africa, urging attendance at the Lambeth Conference 2020 despite theological differences.  While the appeal urges unity based on the common theology of our Books of Common Prayer, states a belief in "traditional" marriage, it does say that conversation across the divides brings better understanding, including with Provinces that are recognizing same sex marriage.  Sumner and Bishop Emma Ineson of the Church of England, both signers of the letter, served on the Lambeth Design Group, so it is not surprising they would urge attendance.  The only other TEC signer is Michael Smith who is currently serving as Assisting Bishop in Dallas.  The others are bishops from Honduras, Egypt, Mozambique, Canada, and the Primates of West Africa and Burundi.  Lambeth 2020 is still a year away, but has been caught in controversy by the decision not to invite same sex spouses of bishops, by a threat of boycott by several African Provinces, and by the alternative conference organized by GAFCON.

Episcopalians Testify in Support of Reparations

Bishop Eugene Sutton of Maryland and Katrina Browne (of Traces of the Trade fame) were among the panelists who testified before the House committee on constitutional amendments on June 19. Sutton was the only clergy person to speak.  Sutton sent his diocese a four page pastoral letter a  supporting reparations earlier this year.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Week Ending 06/17/19

Executive Council Passes Resolutions in Support of Vaccinations

The Episcopal News Service has issued a summary article listing all the resolutions passed by Executive Council.  If the reader skips through the financial and governance resolutions and looks at those listed for  mission outside and within the Episcopal Church, the reader will find a series of resolutions addressing the recent outbreaks of preventable diseases due to a failure to vaccinate.  The Council is on record saying that Episcopalians cannot claim a religious exemption from vaccinations based on church doctrine, and calls on parishes to partner with medical people to counter false information about vaccinations.  There is also a resolution strengthening requirements for vaccinations of those who attend Episcopal institutions.

Church Pension Group Reduces Gap Between Lay and Clergy Employee Benefits

The Episcopal Church offers different benefits to clergy than it does to lay employees.  The lay employees' pension benefits are much less, and the church does not have to provide long-term disability, life insurance and other benefits with are standard for clergy.  Clergy are on a defined benefit plan, while lay employees are on a defined contribution plan.  The differences have been justified on the grounds that the various church employers could not afford to treat lay employees equally with clergy.  A major step was made several years ago when General Convention required medical benefits to be be the same for clergy and lay employees.  Now the Church Pension Group (CPG) will begin paying more into its  lay pension plan so that the contribution to  a CPG lay worker's pension will be closer to the percentage contributed for clergy.  The decision does not affect anyone except the approximately 100 lay employees of CPG.  It was deemed to expensive  to require parishes and schools follow suit, but CPG hopes its decision will encourage other units to do the same. 

St. Paul's Mt. Lebanon Goes Solar

The Rev. Noah Evans and Bishop Dorsey McConnell were high on the roof of the St. Paul's parish hall in full regalia to bless the solar panels installed by St. Paul's Mt. Lebanon.  The Pittsburgh parish will be able to generate all the electricity it needs on sunny days, and at the very worst weather still generates about half.  Excess power is sold to Duquesne Light.  

ACNA Gives Foley Beach Five More Years 

Not surprisingly, the ACNA synod choose to re-elect Foley Beach as their archbishop.  Since Beach is in the middle of a term as Chair of ACNA, it would have been awkward to elect anyone else.  ACNA sets a limit of 2 terms on the the office of Archbishop.

Continuing Stories

Another Bishop Sharing Arrangement  Announced

While resigned/retired bishops and suffragan bishops most often get the call to be bishop provisional in another diocese, there are several bishops who have taken on that role for a diocese while continuing as diocesan in their original diocese. What is more unusual is for the arrangement also to include exploration of merging some of the staff or events of the two dioceses.  Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania paired his duties in his diocese with a provisional arrangement in the Diocese of Bethlehem on the opposite end of the state.  When that arrangement ended, he found a new partner in the neighboring Diocese of Western New York, with the added feature that the two dioceses would explore greater cooperation in activities during a 5 year term.  The arrangement is complicated by different state laws and the assignment of the two dioceses to different provinces.  Now Western and Eastern Michigan are about to start a similar 3-5 year partnership with Western Michigan Bishop Whayne Houghland, Jr. being elected as provisional in Eastern Michigan.   Eastern Michigan will vote on electing Houghland as Bishop Provisional in October.  Such elections are normally uncontested.  Although current news accounts treat these bishop-sharing arrangements as new and innovative, the Episcopal Church in the early 19th century had several shared arrangements, most notably in what was called the "Eastern Diocese" where conventions in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island in New England shared a single bishop.

GAFCON Continues Moratorium on Women as Bishops

Some of the Anglican provinces participating in GAFCON do not allow women to serve as priests, and primates had agreed to a moratorium on electing women as bishops in their provinces.  Thus were surprised when a woman was consecrated  bishop in South Sudan.  With Bishop Iker of ACNA's Fort Worth diocese demanding disciplinary action against South Sudan, GAFCON appointed a committee to study whether the moratorium should continue. Originally the committee had only 2 women among its 15 members, but two more were added.  The interim report of the committee has been issued.  The committee admitted that some provinces were interested in ending the moratorium, but in the interests of union, it should continue "until and unless a strong consensus to change emerges after prayer, consultation and continued study of Scripture among the GAFCON fellowship."  Instead it urged a strengthening of general women's ministries within the provinces.    

Fourth Parish Withdraws from Scottish Church

 The Episcopal Church of Scotland has been the progressive leader among the Anglican Provinces of the British Isles.  In 2017 the Scottish church approved a change allowing their parishes and clergy to host and preside at same-sex marriages. The church also has elected women to the episcopate.  Update has noted previously that  three parishes had decided to leave the church and come under the supervision of the GAFCON appointed and ACNA ordained "missionary" bishop for Europe, Andrew Lines.  The three included two parishes in Aberdeen and a tiny one on a coastal island. See update articles here, here and here.)  Now they have been joined by a parish in Glasgow, St. Silas Church. The parish has been a lively evangelical congregation with a membership of around 200. The 4 churches represent about 1.2% of the parishes in the Episcopal Church of Scotland.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Week Ending 06/10/19

Australian Bishop's Trial Put on Hold

 Former Tasmanian Bishop Philip Newell was headed to a church court trial in for not taking appropriate action when informed about sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese.  However, the secular courts have stopped the trial for reasons of his health.  Because the Anglican Church is established in Australia, the secular courts can intervene.  The courts ruled that the bishop is unable to adequately participate in his own defense because of dementia.

Province of West Indies to Allow Women as Bishops

 Bishop Howard Gregory, recently elected the new Primate of the Province of the West Indies has announced that he is open to women serving as bishops in that province.  The province covers Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, northeastern Caribbean and Aruba, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Windward Islands.  Women are serving widely throughout the islands as clergy, but none have been chosen as a bishop or suffragan.

Welby Encourages Kenya to Continue Stance Against LGBTQ

The Anglican Church in Kenya supposedly reached out to LGBTQ people by inviting them to church and saying that God loves us all during the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit, but Justin Welby stated while there that he does not believe the church should marry same-sex couples.  Welby stressed, however,  that the church should be open to different opinions.  Archbishop Sapit of Kenya, however, referred to the churches as "correctional institutions" for LGBTQ people, and made no objection to the recent Kenyan Supreme Court decision upholding laws declaring homosexuality a crime.   Welby also avoided mentioning the court decision.  Thinking Anglicans has links to several articles on Welby's visit and statements.

 Australia Converts 2020 Synod to Special Session

Anglican.ink reports that the general synod scheduled for 2020 by the Anglican Church in Australia has been converted to a special session that will deal exclusively with legislation related to the report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  Anglican.ink, a conservative news source postulates that this delay of the general synod was to prevent a confrontation over LGTBQ issues including marriage.

Pittsburgh Explores New Uses for Part of Cathedral Property

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that it has signed an agreement to explore the best use of the 1906 Trinity House with an international realty company.  Trinity house is attached to the 1872 Cathedral and adjoins the historic graveyard with burials dating back to the 1700s.  The Living Church carried a short article on the announcement.

Delaware Parish Mentors High School Students

The Episcopal News Service carried a feature article on a tiny Delaware Parish that has created a successful outreach program mentoring high school students through the process of applying for college scholarships.  The Mentoring has resulted in a noticeable increase in the students actually attending college. 

Solomon Islands Choose Retired Anglican Archbishop of Governor General

The Rt. Rev. David Vunagi, retired Bishop of Central Melanesia was chosen unanimously by the Parliament of the Solomon Islands as their Governor General.  As such he will serve as the Queen's representative to the British Commonwealth nation, and will sign legislation into law. 

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Moves Forward to  Begin Search for Full-Time Bishop

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina has just circulated a letter saying that the continuing diocese has grown to the point where it will need a full time bishop when part-Time Bishop Provisional Skip Adams ends 3 years of service at the the end of 2019.  Thus the Standing Committee is looking for a full-time bishop Provisional to serve while the diocese conducts its search for a full-time diocesan bishop.  An earlier announcement had noted that Bishop Adams was retiring at the end of 2019 and the Standing Committee was studying its options. 

More Filings in Fort Worth Property Case

The Texas Supreme Court received another set of filings on the petition for an appeal being pursued by the schismatic group led by Bishop Iker.  Iker's group is trying to overturn an Texas Court of Appeals decision awarding diocesan property to the diocese participating in the Episcopal Church.  The latest filings are responses to the documents filed by both sides in April.  There are two filed by Episcopalians, and one filed by the schismatic group.  All three can be found at the Texas Supreme Court site. The crux of the schismatic group's plea is that the Episcopal Diocese is an illegal upstart.

Albany Bishop Continues Defiance of General Convention

Bishop William Love of Albany used his episcopal address at the diocese's annual convention to stress his continued to defiance of General Convention 2018's resolution B012.  That resolution mandated a way for parishes in the handful of dioceses not allowing any use of approved liturgies for blessing of same-sex couples marriages to make use of those liturgies while granting bishops a way to maintain  their personal opposition to same-sex marriage.  Clergy always have the right to refuse to preside at the marriage of any couple.  Love tried to position himself as a martyr for true religion, and evoked the rhetoric used by bishops who later left the Episcopal Church. He also expressed his desire to find a way to separate from those parishes in the diocese who are interested in making use of the option provided by General Convention. Update has reported on a few of the Albany parishes who oppose Bishop Love's stance.  (See here and here.) Love is under a partial inhibition preventing him from presiding at any Title IV proceedings brought against clergy under diocesan canons forbidding clergy from participating in services uniting a same-sex couple.

South Carolina Files Suit Against Church Insurance Company

The blog scepiscopalians.com has just posted (June 11, 2019)  that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina has filed suit against the Church Insurance Company of Vermont for paying a claim to one of the schismatic parishes, St. Philips, for legal expenses incurred by its efforts to leave the Episcopal Church.  The  Episcopalians learned about it from the Annual Report sent to members of the parish.  The suit claims that the insurance company wrongfully aided St. Philips in its efforts to defraud the Episcopal Church of its property. St. Philips is one of the parishes covered by the South Carolina Supreme Court decision, and while schismatics still control the parish, it is legally part of TEC.  The diocese has now posted further information on the suit they filed. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Week Ending 06/03/19

Wisconsin Priest to Become Sudanese Bishop

Patrick Augustine, will give up his Diocese of Eau Claire parish in order to become a South Sudanese Assistant Bishop with a special assignment of being the liaison between the Anglican Church of Sudan and the Episcopal Church, represent the church to the Anglican Communion, and provide support for refugee Sudanese in the U.S. Augustine, originally from Pakistan and ordained there, was received into the Episcopal Church in 1986 and has served in Episcopal Parishes for over two decades. The Episcopal News Service has more details on Augustine and his appointment.

New Hampshire Episcopalians Applaud End of Death Penalty

New Hampshire Episcopalians have been vocal advocates for an end to the death penalty.  They were therefore among those celebrating the passages of a New Hampshire law ending the death penalty.  It took an over-ride of the governor's veto for the legislature to accomplish this, but support was strong for joining the 20 other states that have abolished the death penalty.  The Episcopal New Service has a story on the witness of the Episcopal Church in this area, and the activities of the New Hampshire Episcopalians in support of abolition.

Membership Decline Hits Baptists Hard

The Southern Baptist Convention is reeling from another year of declines in Baptisms and membership.  While conservatives often point to the decline of membership in liberal churches, such as The Episcopal Church, conservative churches are also facing declines.  For the Southern Baptists, it means a decline in membership figures that put them below figures from 1989.  While giving was ups, almost all membership categories including attendance, number of congregations, baptisms, and attendance at Bible study were down. 

The Year of the Woman as Bishop

This continues to be the year of electing women as bishops.  This last week both the Dioceses of Michigan and El Camino Real elected women as bishops.  The Michigan diocese choose Dr. Bonnie Perry from among a slate entirely of women.  Perry is also the first bishop for Michigan to have a same-sex spouse. The El Camino Real convention had choice of 5 candidates-- 2 men and 3 women.  Rev. Canon Lucinda Ashby of Idaho was selected. Women are, for the first time in the church's history, outnumbering men among those elected as bishops.  The House of Bishops, however, continues to have a very large male majority.  Pittsburgh Update has been following the election of women as bishops. 

Iker's Replacement Picked

Jack Iker, the bishop who led a large part of the Diocese of Fort Worth out of the Episcopal Church claiming that his group is the "real" diocese of Fort Worth and has fought long and hard in court to hold on to diocesan property announced his retirement last year.  Soon after Iker also announced he was undergoing treatment for cancer.  Iker has now supervised the election of his successor.  The schismatic group has chosen the dean of their cathedral, Ryan Reed as the next bishop.  That choice will need to be approved by the House of Bishops of ACNA before it is final.  Reed is a graduate of Trinity School for Ministry.  Reed was an active proponent for the formation of ACNA, has served as president of the standing committee of the schismatic group. He is not expected to change the direction of the group, including opposition to women's ordination.  If things go according to plan, he will be consecrated in September 2019 and Iker will retire at the end of the year.