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, July 30, 2019

Week Ending 07/29/19

Canadian Church Moves to Remove Prayer for Jewish Conversion

The General Synod of the Anglican church of Canada passed one measure that made headlines in Canadian Jewish circles.  The synod voted to replace a prayer for the conversion of Jews in its standard Book of Common Prayer with one that prays for reconciliation between Christians and Jews.  The vote was close to unanimous.  The resolution must also pass at the next General Synod in order to go into force. 

New Religious Literacy Test Results Have Some Surprises

The Pew Foundation has released the results of a survey it used to try to determine religious literacy in America.  The results showed that Jews and Atheists actually knew more about the Bible, Christianity and other religions than did Christian church goers.  Evangelicals did better than other Christian groups on the Bible, but were less well versed about other religions.   Christianity Today provides a summary with charts and a link at the end of the article to test yourself on their questions.

Union of Black Episcopalians Wraps Up Meeting

 More than 300 from all parts of the U.S. and several foreign countries gathered in Los Angeles last week for the 51st meeting of the Union of Black Episcopalians.  Among them was Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who used his sermon at worship to urge that churches work to get out the vote in 2020.  He kept his talk officially non-partisan by saying the Episcopalians should let love guide their votes.  The meeting had numerous workshops of social issues and youth members had their own activities.  Episcopal News Services has more.

Ghana Supreme Court Justice Become First Female Lay Canon

Justice Sophia Adinyira has added a new honor to those she already holds.  St. Peter's Cathedral in Koforidua, Ghana, has named her a lay canon.  She is the first woman to be named a lay canon in Ghana.

Continuing Stories

Developments on the Legal Front in South Carolina

Early September is going to be a busy time for the lawyers from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Update reported last week on the surprise order by Judge Dickinson that the two parties in the litigation around church property in South Carolina return to mediation.  The mediator has been selected and the mediation will take place September 4. Blogger Steve Skardon has an interesting commentary dated July 23 on the order to mediate, suggesting it shows the federal judge's inability to sort through the issues.  The next day the lawyers need to be in New York.   The Episcopal Church has invited the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the Church Insurance Company of Vermont to meet on September 5-6 in New York and see if they cannot come to an agreement.  South Carolina Episcopalians sued the Church Insurance Company because it honored claims for legal costs submitted by schismatic parishes. 

And Another Diocese Elects a Woman as Bishop

The Diocese of Montana has joined the ranks of recent dioceses electing women as bishops. The diocese held the election on the first day of their annual convention.  Choosing among three women nominees, the Diocese got the required majorities in the various orders on the third ballot, choosing a North Carolina priest, the Rev. Marty Stebbins as the tenth bishop of Montana.  Update has been following the unprecedented number of women elected as bishop in the last year.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Week Ending 07/22/19

Episcopal Full Communion with Lutherans Expands

With the passage of a resolution at General Synod 2019 supporting full communion with Lutheran bodies in Canada and America, and with the The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada completed the process required to bring a memorandum of understanding among all four churches  into effect.  Each of the four parties (The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) had previously been in communion with its equivalent body in the other country, and with the other denomination's body in the same country.  The effect for Episcopalians is to add the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada as a full communion partner. 

Former Pittsburgh Assistant Bishop Scriven Has New Post

Henry Scriven, who served as Assistant Bishop to Bishop Duncan before the 2008 schism, and continued working with him for a few months until he returned to England, has become the Interim General Secretary for the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion.  Scriven will serve until the next full EFAC Council meeting when the Council will choose a General Secretary.  The group has a position resembling the Communion partners, and seems to be walking a fine line to stay within the Anglican Communion.

Continuing Stories

More Fallout From Canadian Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

The narrow failure of a canonical change at General Synod 2019 explicitly altering the Anglican Church of Canada's marriage canons to allow same-sex marriage continues to provoke response.  A group is now considering proposing changes to the system of voting at General Synod so bishops could not block measures at General Synod that have wide support from clergy and lay deputies. The Chancellor's reading of the existing canon said that it made no specification about the sex of the two persons being married and thus individual bishops were free to permit same-sex marriage if they so chose.  Several bishops gave the permission following General Synod 2016.  Bishops are still free to authorize such marriages under the existing canon, and a number have announced they will do so.  Conservatives have challenged the Chancellor's interpretation, and the bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic has announced that he will have to separate his diocese from those that are permitting such marriages, and has declared a state of impaired communion.  (See coverage and later "qualifications" here, here, and here.) It is not clear how he can be both in the Anglican Church and not in communion with it. Another complicating factor is that almost 70% of the members of the Diocese of the Arctic are indigenous peoples, and technically, they now are part of an independent indigenous unit within the Anglican Church headed by Archbishop Mark McDonald.  

New Motion in the South Carolina Suit Against Church Insurance

Recent evidence surfaced that the Church Insurance Company of Vermont had honored claims by the schismatic leaders of several parishes for the costs of litigation in the lawsuit for South Carolina church property.  In 2012 the insurance company (CIC-VT) had denied claims for legal expenses from these parishes on the grounds they were not Episcopal parishes and hence not insured by the compnay. The schismatics then sued CIC-VT.  A settlement "with prejudice" was reached in 2015 and since then CIC-VT has honored several claims.  Once the diocese recognized by the Episcopal Church had proof of these payments, they sued CIC-VT claiming the company had committed fraud by paying claims to a group trying to take property away from the Episcopalians. (See the Update report here.)  CIC-VT responded to the new suit by filing its own suit and counterclaims.  Now the Episcopalians have filed documents asking that this filing be thrown out.  The reasons are explained in the legal filing and a summary found on the diocesan web page for the Episcopalians. 

Betterments Case Hearing This Week

Blogger Steve Skardon has a good background piece (dated July 20) helping to explain what is at stake in the Tuesday hearing on the lawsuit filed under the Betterments Act by the schismatic parishes.  The parishes are trying to claim that if the Episcopal Church regains their properties then they are owed compensation for every improvement ever made on those properties, which in some cases could mean more than 200 years of improvements.  Skardon believes that the suit should be thrown out of court because the schismatics don't have standing to sue.  In addition, a Betterments Act claim can only be filed after the case about ownership has been decided and all litigation closed.  The Lawrence leadership keeps insisting that the case is still open, and this suit contradicts those claims.

Move to End Refugee Resettlement Brings Episcopal Protest

Plans by the Trump administration to completely end admission of refugees by the end of the year have elicited a strong protest from the Episcopal Migration Ministries.  The protest points out that offering hospitality to the stranger is a biblical imperative, and thus to deny access to refugees is to prevent the Episcopal Church from  fully living into its faith.  Episcopal News Service has the full story.  This is the latest in a series of protests Episcopal leaders have made on behalf of immigrants and refugees.  General Convention has passed numerous resolutions supporting immigrants.  A number of parishes and dioceses have program in support of immigrants, both documented and undocumented.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Week Ending 07/15/19

Liberal Christians Finding Their Voices

Religion Today News Service had two articles featuring the resurgence of liberal Christianity.  Over the last several years the Wild Goose conference for liberal Christians has grown.  The conference combines prayer and workshops on liberal causes.  The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America are among its many sponsors. You can find the full article here.  Religion News also covered the heckling and protesting done by liberal Christians at a talk by Vice President Pence at the CUFI (Christians United for Israel) summit. The protesters opposed Israeli government actions against Palestinians.  

Diocese of Olympia Fights Eviction of Homeless from Camp

Aberdeen the largest city in Gray's Harbor County, Washington, is about 100 miles south of Seattle.  The city of about 70,000 has between 500-700 homeless and another 2500 whose housing options are insecure.  For the last several years a group of Episcopal chaplains have been ministering to these homeless in a ministry that has had visits and support from the Episcopal bishop of Olympia and the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry.  The chaplains filed legal actions to prevent Aberdeen officials from cleaning out a major homeless camp on the banks of the Chehalis River without providing a place for those displaced to camp.  The city has responded to the suits by offering temporary camping in the parking lot of city hall.  The chaplains, are working to provide better long-term options.  The Episcopal News Service has all the details here.

Order of the Holy Cross Closes Santa Barbara Retreat Center

With only 3 aging monks left to run a retreat center in Santa Barbara that has been in operation since 1947, the Episcopal Benedictine order decided to close the house.  Its monks will join others in the central House in New York.  For the Diocese of Los Angeles, however, the lost of the retreat house is a major disappointment.  It was the site of frequent meetings and retreats for groups associated with the diocese.  The disposition of the property has not yet been decided.  

Canadian Synod Votes of Interest

Same-Sex Marriage Canon Narrowly Defeated

The National Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada is in session.  Its first week included several votes of major interest, with the promise of more to come.  The synod came up short of 3 votes by bishops in securing the two-thirds majority required to change the marriage canon to explicitly support same sex- marriage.  Several bishops known to support the canon change were absent for medical reasons, and three recently appointed suffragan bishops, all conservative voted no.  The measures passed by comfortable margins among the clergy and lay orders.  This was the second, and final vote needed to change the canon, the first having been taken at the synod in 2016 where it passed the house of bishops by the slimmest of margins.  A number of bishops have announced that they will continue to allow marriages of same sex couples in their dioceses under resolutions passed earleir and through an interpretation of the existing canon.

First Woman to Serve as Canadian Primate

A second vote of interest was the election of a new primate for the Church as Archbishop Fred Hilz is retiring.  On the fourth ballot, the Bishop of Huron, Linda Nicholls was elected.  She will be the first woman to serve as primate in the Canadian Church.  Nicholls is one of the bishops who has authorized same sex marriages in her diocese.

Indigenous Self-Determination and new Archbishop

The synod also took major steps at reconciliation with indigenous peoples in the church including approving an independent unit within the church for indigenous peoples, and confirming Bishop Mark McDonald as the archbishop of that new unit.  McDonald is of native background, and was ordained in Minnesota, and served as Bishop of Alaska and Assistant Bishop of  the Navajoland Area Mission.  For the last ten years he has been the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop in Canada. 

Continuing Stories

Church Continues Witness for Immigrants

This week immigration was again in the news with continuing coverage of conditions in detention centers and the announcement that ICE would be conducting raids to round up people for quick deportation. Update has followed the Episcopal response regularly.   The Episcopal Church continued its responses that Christians were called to show hospitality to the stranger.  Presiding Bishop Curry issued a video statement urging hospitality to the stranger.  He built his talk around the lectionary reading for Sunday (the Good Samaritan).  Churches that had previously declared themselves sanctuary churches sent out word that they were willing to shelter immigrants fearing deportation.  The Los Angeles ABC television studio focused their sanctuary story on All Saints Church in Pasadena.

Updates from South Carolina

The newsletter just issued by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina notes that the scheduled hearing on the "Betterments" lawsuit filed by the schismatic parishes has been moved up from July 25 to July 23.  The diocese's comments on this change are here.   Also about 50 people attended the most recent "Open Conversation" designed to answer questions about the diocese, its plans and the continuing legal issues.  This is the first of several such conversations to be held around the diocese.  The diocesan comments on the one held July 11 are here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Week Ending 07/08/19

Church of England to Recognize Religious Communities 

The Church of England General Synod voted to end the ban on religious orders that has been in place since Henry VIII began closing monasteries and convents in 1536, and took control of their properties.  In fact, as any one who watches "Call the Midwife" (the BBC show broadcast in the U.S. by PBS)  knows, there have been Anglican religious orders in Britain for many years.  However, they existed outside the official canons of the church.  Now a new interest in religious communities has helped to bring the church to offering full recognition to orders that meet certain requirements.

Continuing Stories

Judge Sets Date for Hearing in South Carolina "Betterments" Suit

One of the ways that the schismatic group in South Carolina has tried to undo the state supreme court decision granting most church property to those who remained in the Episcopal Church was to file a set of claims under a South Carolina law known as the Betterment Act.  Under the law they are claiming that the Episcopalians should compensate them for every improvement ever made on the properties that the courts ruled belonged to the Episcopal Church. If granted it would put the Episcopalians in the position of having to pay for the properties that the courts ruled were theirs. Judge Dickinson has set July 25 as a date to hear arguments on whether these claims have any standing.  He had originally set March 25 as the date, but at the last minute the hearing was cancelled.  For more on the issues see the comments by blogger Steve Skaradon on July 2, 2019.  

Texas Bishops Make Strong Statement on Border Issues  

Over the last two weeks Bishops of the Episcopal Church have been speaking out on the border situation and the overcrowded conditions in detention camps, especially those holding children.  A strong statement in that vein has now been posted by all the bishops of the six Episcopal dioceses in Texas.  The Bishops cite the numerous Biblical passages specifying the hospitality and care we are to show to strangers and children. The text is carried in full by Episcopal News Service.

Church of England Synod takes Another Baby Step Towards Methodist Ties

The talks between Methodists and the Church of England have been going on for 16 years.  While the votes at the General Synod last week advance the possibility of full recognition by each church of the other, the synod also declined to pass a resolution endorsing recognition.  Instead they authorized the drawing up of documents for a merger without agreeing on all the terms.  Anglo-Catholics are uneasy about the status of Methodist clergy; evangelicals are uneasy about the vote the Methodists took supporting same-sex marriage (see next story).  The English press, as a result carried a variety of stories suggesting different interpretations of the Synod's actions.  See The Church Times, the media release by the Church of England, and Christian Today for three different treatments. 

English Methodists Take Favorable Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

Update noted last week that English Methodists were going to vote on whether to open their churches to same-sex marriages.  The vote passed by a large margin.  However, it must pass again at next year's meeting in order to go into effect.  The Church Times has a full discussion of the vote and its meaning. 

ACNA Bishop Says "No" to ACNA Prayer Book in Quincy 

The Bishop of the ACNA Diocese of Quincy has issued a letter saying that he is not approving use of the new ACNA Book of Common Prayer in the public worship of the diocese.  People may use it for private devotions.  The approval of the book did give each bishop the power to decide if the book would be used in his jursidiction.  ACNA issued the book earlier with great fanfare after sections had been available on-line for a while. The question is whether any other bishops will make the same determination.  Bishop Alberto Morales of Quincy has decided he would rather continue using Common Worship, which is approved by the Church of England. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Week Ending 7/1/19

There are no new breaking stories on this national holiday week, but a number of continuing threads to follow.

Continuing Stories

Episcopalians Speak Up on Refugee Detention

The media have been reporting on the unsanitary and inhumane conditions under which children and adult immigrants are being detained in the U.S.  Update has been tracking Episcopal witness for human treatment of refugees and immigrants.  Episcopal leaders have been speaking out in a variety of forums.  All the bishops of the seven dioceses in California signed a letter condemning the conditions facing incarcerated children, and encouraging action.  The Bishop of East Tennessee has issued a pastoral letter reminding his diocese that as Christians they are called to treat the stranger with kindness, and that their baptismal vows require them to "respect the dignity of every human being."  Grace Cathedral in California circulated a petition protesting conditions and reporting them to officials as child abuse, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has signed a statement by a large group of interfaith leaders protesting the conditions.  The Episcopal New Service has an article giving a good overview of the Episcopal protests and actions being taken along the border and in response to ICE raids. 

English Methodists Get Ready for Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

Two weeks ago Update carried notice that English Methodists might be voting on approving same-sex marriage at their upcoming Conference.  That meeting is now at hand, and the Guardian has a story that points out the ways this may complicate the proposed ties between the Methodists and Church of England.  The Church of England synod, meeting just after the Conference is scheduled to discuss proposals for closer ties with the Methodists.

Reservations Ensure Large Lambeth 2020 Turn-Out

Threats of boycotts by some African countries seemed to imperil the Lambeth Conference of Bishops scheduled for 2020.  However, there is a strong push underway to encourage bishops to attend, and The Lambeth planners have announced over 1000 registrations from bishops and spouses have already been turned in. 

South Carolina Supreme Court Declines to Hurry Judge Dickson

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina had become impatient with the lack of progress by Judge Dickson on turning over property that the South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled belonged to the Episcopal Church. To hurry up the judge, the diocese filed for a Writ of Mandamus with the Carolina Supreme Court.  The Carolina justices, however, do believe Dickson is making progress, citing hearings that he has scheduled, and have declined to issue the writ

Light Shone on GAFCON Bishop's Leave

The GAFCON-chosen, ACNA-ordained missionary bishop of Europe, Andrew Lines went on a personal leave at the beginning of 2019.  At the time there was no explanation about the circumstances.  Now it comes out that Lines is trying to recover from spiritual abuse that was perpetrated by a former Church of England priest who had his license to serve revoked in 2017 for abuse he perpetrated on a whole group of young men. The priest used spankings and naked massages as part of his mentoring of young men.  GAFCON did not realize that this priest was no longer in good standing and continued to treat him as a respected clergy person until alerted to the disciplinary action in early 2019. On leave, Lines been slowly coming to terms with the ways he was manipulated and abused. 

South Sudan Tenure for Patrick Augustine Limited

The Update reported a month ago that the Rev. Patrick Augustine had been chosen as an assistant bishop for the Diocese of Bor in the South Sudan.  His charge would be to be there part-time and to work with Sudanese congregations here in the U.S.  Now David Virtue reports (unfortunately no other source is carrying this news) that the primate of the South Sudan has announced that Augustine selection has not been approved by the other bishops and he cannot stay in South Sudan for more than 6 months.  The primate also has rejected the idea that Augustine can serve as any kind of bridge between the Episcopal Church and the Church in South Sudan. 

Perspective on the Election of Women Bishops

Two-thirds of the bishops elected by Episcopal Dioceses in the last year have been women. The Update has been following this trend.  At least one more will join that list as another diocese is choosing from an all-female slate. The Episcopal News Service has a story placing these elections in perspective, noting that there is a long way to go before women are proportionately represented in the House of Bishops. The article notes that the women elected also have increased racial diversity in the House of Bishops.   Meanwhile, the Church of England added another first to its inclusion of women as bishops by appointing a black woman born in Jamaica to serve the diocese of Dover.