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, August 27, 2019

Week Ending 8/26/19

Episcopal Parish Hosts Vigil Against "Straight Pride"

When a Modesto individual teamed with a San Francisco organizer to organize a "Straight Pride' March for August 24, the local churches decided to organize a counter event.  The Rev. Nick Lorenzetti of St. Paul's Episcopal Church worked with the local rabbi and the Islamic Center Imam to organize a vigil for  diversity at St. Paul's.  Other religious and community leaders, the NAACP and more planed to attend.  The  "Straight Pride" group claims to be protecting "traditional gender roles, Christianity, heterosexuality, Western Civilization, and the contributions of whites to Western Civilization from the malevolence of the homosexual movement."  The St. Paul's event will celebrate the diversity of the area.  The Modesto Bee has the full story of the planning of the vigil and a follow-up on the vigil itself. 

Pittsburgh Cathedral Hosts Overdose Awareness Day

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh will once again host the Annual Overdose Awareness day on August 30.   The day includes continuing education for professionals, a free workshop for the public and a service at noon where all 432 people who died from drug overdoses will be remembered. Trinity hosted the interfaith event last year as well.

Oxford College Dean Reinstated

The Church of England minister who serves as the Dean of the ancient Christ Church College at Oxford has been reinstated after a year.  He had been suspended in September 2018 after a complaint was filed against him for non-sexual kinds of offenses. The public, however, was not told that the charges were related to the way he ran the college and  were thus free to assume he had been caught up in the on-going scandal in England related to sexual abuses by the Church leaders.  The College is self-governing and not under the authority of the Church of England.  The special tribunal that held hearings on the charges cleared the Dean of all but a minor financial misstep and restored him to his position.  The charges seem to have been brought by a group upset at changes the Dean was bringing to the college. 

 Anglican Church in Rwanda "Forgot" To Register 1000 Marriages

From 2006 to 2016 the Church of the Redeemer in Bugolobi, Rwanda was not "gazetted" to perform marriages and thus had to take the extra step of recording with civil authorities the marriages done there.  The church collected a fee required to do that registration, but used the money on its own expenses rather than registering the marriages.  The Rwanda government has recently declared the 1000 unregistered marriages illegal, and the parish is now scrambling to correct their mistake.

Continuing Stories

Laity Send Petition Against Welby Visit to India

The early September visit by Archbishop Welby to the churches in India has been under fire for a variety of reasons. (See Updates here and here) Now a group of South Indian laity have weighed in with a petition that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan not receive him.  The petition claims that the visit was planned by Church officials to distract the press from numerous corrupt activities committed by Church leaders.

Jewish Group Files Complaint Against National Cathedral for Political Activity

The Washington National Cathedral leaders spoke out against President Trump's intemperate words about Baltimore and Representative Cummings (see Update here).  In response, JewsChooseTrump.org filed a complaint with the IRS seeking to have the cathedral's tax exempt status revoked for political activity.  The story in Anglican.ink provides most of its space to those filing the complaint.  The Living Church coverage notes that the filing is not likely to be successful.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Week Ending 8/18/19

Calvary Episcopal Church Hosts Tree of Life Congregation for High Holidays

Tree of Life Congregation has been worshiping at another Jewish synagogue since the October 2018 shooting that killed a number of their members, but that congregation will fully use their space during the coming high holidays.  Tree of Life expects as many as 800 to be present for their services during the holidays, so they have been searching without luck to find a suitable temporary location to use.  Calvary Episcopal Church had been looking for a way to show support for the congregation following the shooting.  Calvary, with over 1000 of its own members has a beautiful gothic building built at the beginning of the 20th century that seats 1000.  The Rev. John Jensen offered the use of their building, complete with parking, and free of charge to the congregation, which has gratefully accepted.  You can read more about the arrangements in this article in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

Welby Endorses Construction of British Museum About Holocaust

As actual survivors of the Holocaust become fewer, a number of places have founded Holocaust museums and  memorials to the dead to ensure that people do not forget this terrible part of history.  Such an effort is under way in England, but the location chosen is very controversial. It is next door to the Houses of Parliament. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has weighed in by supporting the idea of a museum.  His endorsement carefully says nothing about the location or design of the museum, but his statement has but him in the midst of another controversy.  The Anglican Communion news site has the details.

Church of England Leaders to Testify in Abuse Case

The Church of England has been under fire for covering up numerous incidents of abuse, both sexual and physical for a number of years.  One of these scandals involves boys being severely beaten at a camp and school by a prominent member of the British bar, now dead.  Archbishop Welby served as a camp counselor during the years in question and has been called to testify before the commission now investigating this abuse. The web site Thinking Anglicans has links to all of the stories related to this investigation.  The article in The Telegraph provides a good summary of the background to the case. 

Property Issues Sink Affiliation of Polish Catholic Congregation with Episcopal Diocese

An independent Polish Catholic congregation which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri  created a stir in religious circles this last week by exploring whether the congregation would come under the guidance of the diocese.  The arrangement would have provided affiliation, a community, episcopal oversight, but would not have been a full merger into the diocese.  In the end, the requirement that they sign over their property to the Episcopal Diocese sank the deal.  A story on the proposed merger is here, and on its ultimate failure here.

Continuing Stories

United Methodist Group Proposes a Split

The close vote this year of the Special Conference of the United Methodist Church to endorse "traditional" stances on LGBTQ participation in ministry and same sex marriage frustrated the majority of United States congregations in the international denomination.  Now a group has come forward with a formal proposal for a split in the denomination which would let the U.S. churches set their own path.  Religion News has the story.

Welby Trip to India Raises Church Issues

The Church Times has provided background on Archbishop Welby's upcoming trip to visit churches in India, and how even visiting those churches is controversial because of the unique nature of the churches there.  Update has already covered the political landmines waiting for Welby on this visit.

Tanzania Bishops Will Not Go to Lambeth

Ten bishops from Tanzania have issued a statement saying they will not attend the Lambeth Conference in 2020 because they do not want to be at a meeting with bishops whose dioceses fully embrace LGBTQ people.  Tanzania has been one of the strongest supporters of the GAFCON group which is creating an alternative to the Anglican Communion and the announcement is not surprising.  They join bishops from Uganda and Nigeria in staying home.

New Video Outlining Work Episcopal Church is Doing on the Borders

The Episcopal Church has just released an video running slightly over eight minutes with bishops from four of the dioceses bordering Mexico and the Diocese of Maine talking about their work to help those immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S.  and suggesting the best ways others can help.  The video also makes clear that the Episcopal Migration Ministries has been at this work for more than 80 years. The Living Church has an article on the video here.  The actual video is here. Update has carried many stories on the work of the Church with immigrants and along the border. The two most pertinent are here and here.

Episcopalians File Latest Replies in Fort Worth Property Case

The latest volley of paperwork has been filed with the Texas Supreme Court in the Fort Worth diocesan property case.  The schismatic group, now part of ACNA, had filed an appeal a year ago with the Texas Supreme Court after the Appeals Court awarded the property to those still in the Episcopal Church. However, the Appeals Court sent most of the parish property cases back to the trial court to be decided using the principles set down in the appeals decision. The Texas Supreme Court has not yet decided if it will hear the appeal.  The Episcopalians responded to the original appeal with a two pronged approach arguing that the Appeals Court came to the proper conclusion, but if the Supreme Court takes the case, then please consider broadening the case to cover all the parish property.  The Episcopalians filed their set of responses in the fourth round of paper arguments this last week.  There are now several thousand pages of arguments filed and the Texas Supreme Court still has not decided if it will take the case. The three replies filed by the Episcopalians are here, here, and here.  The argument boils down to which of two entities is the Diocesan Corporation, the corporation run by the schismatics or that run by the Episcopalians.  The latest arguments not only document why Texas law supports the decision of the Appeals Court (although it didn't go far enough), but sets up a First Amendment claim that only the Episcopal Church can decide who is a member of the church.  The argument prepares the way for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court should Texas take the case and then decide for the schismatics.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Week Ending 8/12/19

Cathedral Installs Carnival Ride

The Church of England Cathedral at Norwich has installed a fun fair ride called the Helter Skelter in the nave of the church.  The idea was to use the ride as a way to get up closer to the roof so they can see the medieval roof bosses better. It takes people up 40 feet, making the 60 foot high ceiling much more visible.  Needless to say, while many people are flocking to the attraction, others are upset. There is a fee to go up in Helter Skelter which helps cover the cost of the rental or the ride and puts a little extra into Cathedral initiatives. The ride will go back to its rental company on August 18.  

Lutheran Synod Round-Up of News

The General Synod of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has been meeting in Milwaukee. The Synod is the equivalent of the Episcopal General Convention, and like the General Convention, has been combining legislation, elections, direct action and resolutions.  The Synod re-elected Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton for another six year term.  She has worked closely with the TEC Presiding Bishop on a number of issues. The ELCA also made strong statements on immigration (by voting to be a Sanctuary Church) and by organizing a mass march to the ICE offices in Milwaukee.  The Synod also declared that sexism and patriarchy were sins and denounced white supremacy.

New English Marriage Registration Process Affects Churches

Passage of a law covering civil partnerships and marriages has led the British agency charged with keeping the official records of these life events to announce forthcoming new procedures.  No one is sure when the changes will go into effect, but the procedures moves the responsibility of for filing the documents with the government office from the officiating clergy or magistrate to the couple themselves.  Church officials are raising questions about the speed of the change (20,000+ clergy will need training), availability of the forms, cost to the Registrar's office and whether Churches will continue to keep unofficial records.  The law effects England and Wales. In Scotland a similar change was made a decade ago.  The church is frustrated because it was not consulted as the bill went through Parliament.

Hong Kong Churches Seek Peaceful Solution Amid Protests

The leaders of christian churches in Hong Kong are reminding their members that political differences should not lead to hatred, and urging protests and the responses to them all be peaceful.  The Three Bishops of the Anglican Province of Hong Kong sent a letter to their members reminding them that Christians should remember that  those they disagree with are still members of God's family and that they should be kind to others.  The organization representing all christian denomination has urged prayers for a peaceful resolution to the issues sparking the protest.  The Roman Catholic Church has sponsored both a candlelight vigil in support of the issues raised by the protester and a call to members that protests must remain peaceful. One independent church is offering trauma counseling. You can find out more in the article in Christian Today

New York Episcopalians Educate Public on Prostitution Legislation

 New York is one of four states considering decriminalization of prostitution.  There is also a proposal for a national law.  The Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking has been educating the general public about the issues involved, especially the ways it may make it harder to prosecute sex-traffickers.  The Episcopal News Service article has a fuller discussion of the issues involved and why the diocesan task force feels this is a step backwards for women's rights.

Continuing Stories

Sewanee  Offers Guidance on Confederate Symbols

The University of the South's project on Slavery, Race and reconciliation has announced  a pilot workshop in November for clergy about how to lead parish conversations about confederate symbols and memorials built into their parish buildings and grounds.That topic has been a painful one for congregations given that what is at stake is their understanding of their own history and artifacts that have been in place the entire life of most parishioners.  Given that the university at Sewanee had to go through its own painful discussions concerning memorials to 19th century professors who were high ranking Confederate Officers and leaders, the University has experience to draw on in planning the workshops, as well as a team headed by historian and two Sewanee Seminary graduates.  Update has carried stories on the removal of Confederate symbols at a number of Episcopal Churches.  

Mississippi Episcopalians Reach Out After ICE Raids

The Diocese of Mississippi has reached out with other churches to offer help to the communities and families affected by the Massive ICE raids at seven food processing plants in rural Mississippi.  ICE officers originally detained aver 600 workers, and while 300 were released after a day, the communities are now in shock. It was the first day of the fall school term for most of the communities, and many children were suddenly without parents to pick them up from school, care for them or feed them.  Both Episcopal News Service and local news outlets carried the story.  The Episcopal Church has been active in support of humane treatment for immigrants and immigrant rights and Update has covered church actions multiple times.

Clergy Protest Gun Violence at Senator McConnell's Office

Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring to the Senate floor any of the pieces of gun control legislation passed by the House of Representatives, he has become a target for protest in the wake of the latest round of mass shootings.  The Coalition of Concerned Clergy sent about two dozen clergy to the Senate office building to protest outside McConnell's office.  The protest was organized by Rev. Rob Schenck of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, and one of the main speakers was Bishop Mariann Budde of the Diocese of Washington.  Their comments are quoted in the Episcopal News Service  article.  The Update has posted numerous stories on Episcopalians working to end gun violence.




Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Week Ending 8/5/19

Episcopal Leaders Speak Out on National Issues

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined with a leaders from a number of other Churches to condemn so-called "Christian Nationalism" arguing that it is a "threat to our religious communities and our democracy."  Christian nationalism insists that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that Christians should be privileged within the country.  Religion News provides background to the letter.  You can read the whole statement here and add your name to the list of signers. Meanwhile the Bishop of Washington and the Dean of  Washington National Cathedral issued a statement in response to the verbal attacks on five members of Congress and the City of Baltimore by President Trump.  In short, it said "Enough is enough" and the "Words matter,"  picking up on the famous rejoinder to Senator Joseph McCarthy during televised "Red Scare" hearings of the 1950s: "Have you no decency, Sir?"

Episcopalians Respond to Mass Shootings

The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton this last weekend, came only one week after a shooter opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in CA.  Episcopalians have been quick to respond.  The Dean of the Washington National Cathedral issued a statement that was picked up by local media. The Bishops United Against Gun Violence provided an updated version of their gun violence litany and made a formal statement.  Individual bishops also made statements, including the Bishop Hunn of the Rio Grande (which includes El Paso), Bishop Rice of  San Joaquin (which includes Gilroy) and the Bishop of Southern Ohio (including Dayton), the Bishop of Long Island, Bishop Steve Charleston of the Native American/Indigenous Ministries of the Episcopal Church, and others.  The Episcopal News Service has an article with several of the bishops' reactions. The Episcopal Church office of Government Relations reposted a link to all the resolutions calling for gun reform and safety that have been passed by General Convention. The Episcopal Church is not alone in calling for such actions.  Religion News has an opinion piece listing the actions called for the Council of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Welby Visits Troubled Churches of India

Archbishop Welby is walking a political tightrope on his upcoming visit to the congregations that are part of the United Church in India.  He will be listening to the experience of Christians in India, which has been under extreme pressure from Hindu nationalists and Muslims.  He has no formal meeting scheduled with Prime Minister Modi and advance press releases of the 10 visit beginning  August 31 are stressing that he is coming as a religious leader, not a political one.  However, his report at the conclusion of the trip may document persecution of Christians in India. During the visit he will also take part in 100th year anniversary commemoration of a massacre of civilians by British troops at Jallianwala Bagh and adress groups on interfaith study and cooperation. Complicating the visit are arrests of  bishops of both North and South India for corruption in the sale of church lands. . 

Southern California Dioceses Deal with Sex Assault Charges

The Dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego were both organizing quick responses to the law suit filed against the Diocese of Los Angeles for knowingly admitting a priest accused of sexual misconduct to the diocese.  The charges against the Rev. Paul Kowalewski stem from events nearly 40 years ago when he was a Roman Catholic seminarian. Kowalewski is canonically resident in Los Angeles but has been serving as a supply priest in the San Diego diocese. Bishop Susan Snook, whose seals on her certificate of ordination as Bishop of San Diego have hardly had time to set, immediately notified parishes not to use the priest for supply or other services.  Bishop Taylor of Los Angeles has set Title IV procedures in motion  and immediate put the priest under restrictions forbidding him to act as a minister.  Both dioceses expressed surprise and claimed no knowledge of the accusations.  They noted  Kowalewski had  passed multiple background checks done at various stages of his career in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church has removed the statute of limiations on sexual misconduct cases for a period of three years to encourage people who have been injured and did not get proper redress to come forward.  The processes in the Episcopal Church have not come under the kind of legal scrutiny that the Church of England is currently undergoing after spending years trying to bury accusations and then mishandling cases that did come forward.

Building Bridges Across the International Church

A two year moving seminar that brought together teams from Liberia Jerusalem, Tanzania and the U.S. to learn about each other, study together and break down walls of suspicion and misinformation. The seminar was conducted by the Virginia Theological Seminary and funded by Trinity Wall Street. One of the seminar participants has written a personal reflection published by The Living Church.  The model seems to have much to commend it.  

Episcopalian Buttigieg Cites Bible During Debate

The general public is often surprised to find out that Episcopalians actually may know the Bible.  An illustration of this occurred when presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, cited a biblical passage during his comments in the presidential debate.  There was a sudden surge on the internet of people looking up the passage and finding to their surprise that Buttigieg got it right. Even some conservative religious commentators admitted he was right.  Buttigieg has been the most open about his religious faith of all the Democratic candidates. 

Continuing Stories

Latest in Fort Worth and South Carolina Property Cases

The church property law suit in Fort Worth is under appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.  Both sides filed briefs in early June before the court, but last week the schismatics filed two more documents, "answers" to the arguments put forth by the Episcopal Church and its diocese in Fort Worth. The documents are here and here.  The schismatic response boils down to claims they are the real diocese and a denial of the right of the Episcopal Church to determine the identify of an Episcopal Diocese. The Texas Supreme Court has not yet decided if it will take the case for a second time.  In South Carolina the property issues have been sent to a mediator for the second time.  Steve Skardon has offered  a quick short course in the history of these legal issues and background on the state judge tasked with implementing the state supreme court decision in favor of the Episcopal Church. The post is dated July 29

Bishop Price Begins Stint as Assistant Bishop 

In April Bishop Dorsey McConnell made public his intent to be on leave from August 1 to the end of October.  His choice to cover his leave was Bishop Kenneth Price who had been the provisional bishop of the diocese before McConnell was elected. Bishop Price has now started his three month stint as Assisting Bishop and has already a full schedule of visitations.