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, September 23, 2019

Week Ending 9/23/19

House of Bishops Witnesses on Climate Crisis 

The Strike for the Climate organized by youth all over the world occurred while the House of Bishops was meeting in Minneapolis.  The Bishops attended part of the demonstration to show solidarity and concern about climate change and global warming.

Abu Dhabi Recognizes Churches 

In a major victory of religious tolerance and freedom, Abu Dhabi officially recognized a large group of prominent worship sites operated by a variety of Christian groups, the Mormons, and Hindus.  Among the sites recognized was St. Andrew's Chapel, the Anglican Communion church in the capital.  A newspaper from the United Arab Emirates has the story, including a quote from the Anglican chaplain and at the bottom of the articles pictures of many of the buildings. 

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Prevails in Federal Trademark Case

Episcopalians in South Carolina were feeling very upbeat this last weekend.  The Federal District Judge assigned to hear a case brought by the Episcopalians against the schismatic Lawrence group for trademark infringement since the group that left the church claimed to be the Diocese of South Carolina and to have rights over the diocesan seal and other symbols.  The federal judge used both federal law and cases as well as the South Carolina Supreme Court opinions to conclude that those who stayed in the Episcopal Church were the continuing diocese and that they and the Episcopal Church as a whole were the legal owners of the diocesan seal and the names it had used historically.   The judge further looked at evidence that the claims of the schismatics had created damage by creating confusion. The announcement issued by the Episcopalians has a link to the actual decision. The federal decision and the upcoming mediation this week led Bishop Adams to state at a Sunday church service that he felt the long struggle was coming to an end.  (See Steve Skardon's 9/28 blog post.) A check today of the schismatic group's web site reveals they have removed the seal from the site and have changed their name to the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.  That group's announcement of the decision focuses on the upcoming mediation on property and the "Betterments" lawsuit. Anglican.ink has printed a commentary by Alex Haley, the lawyer who defended the schismatics in San Joaquin and lost.  Needless to say, he attacks the decision, but overlooks much of what the 73 page opinion actually uses as evidence and precedent.  For a better opinion read the actual decision, or Steve Skardon's 9/19 blog posting. 

More on the Tennessee Clergy Appointment

Update reported on Bishop Bauerschmidt's approval of South Carolina ACNA priest David Barr as Assistant Rector of St. George's Parish in the Diocese of Tennessee last week.  South Carolina blogger Steve Skaradon has more to say on this in a September 18 posting.  It points out how misleading the information was in the parish and diocesan public notices about Barr.

Number of Women Bishops Goes Up Again

The number of women attending Lambeth 2020 as bishops is going up again.  New Zealanders celebrated the ordination of their first woman of Maori descent as a bishop.  The Anglican Church in New Zealand has three strands, each with its own Archbishop. Waitohiariki Quayle will be a bishop within the Maori strand.  In Wales, the electors for the Diocese of Newcastle chose the Venerable Cherry Vann as their new bishop.  The election needs to be confirmed by the crown before being complete.  According to Anglican.ink, Vann has a same sex partner, thus creating another dilemma for Archbishop Welby.  Meanwhile the Diocese of Southern Virginia elected Susan Haynes from the Diocese of Northern Indiana as their new bishop.  Assuming she receives the necessary consents from Bishops and Standing Committees, Haynes will add to the unprecedented number of women elected bishop in the last year and a half. 

Another Australian Diocese to Consider Same-Sex Blessings 

The Diocese of Newcastle has placed on its synod agenda two resolutions that would allow blessing of same-sex marriages, and/or participation same-sex marriage ceremonies.  One proposal removes any penalties should a parish priest either refuse or choose to perform a blessing or participate in a marriage ceremony.  The other creates a process to implement blessing of same sex marriages and provides a liturgy. The Diocese of Wangaratta in the Province of Victoria with the Australian church, approved a resolution allowing for blessing of same-sex resolutions, but any action has been placed on hold while the matter is under consideration by the Church's highest tribunal.  The measures proposed by Newcastle are expected to be referred to the same tribunal hearing the Wangaratta resolution.  Newcastle is in the Province of New South Wales, whose archbishop, Glenn Davies is one of GAFCON's strongest supporters.  The conservative publication Anglican.ink has an article including a copy of a newsletter sent out by the Diocese of Newcastle on these resolutions.

Hearing Panel Set for Albany Bishop

Bishop William Love of Albany, who has been under a partial inhibition for refusing to implement General Convention 2018 Resolution B012 (requiring a means for same-sex members of the diocese to be married in their home dioceses) has now received notification that a hearing panel has been designated to determine whether his defiance should result in further disciplinary action.  Bishop Love has issued a statement saying he welcomes the opportunity for a hearing. Both Christian Today and the Episcopal News Service have articles with some background.

Methodist Split Moves Forward 

Speculation about a church split following votes to affirm a hard-line stance against homosexuality at the last world-wide meeting of the United Methodist Church have now become real proposals. Last Wednesday was the deadline for petitions as Methodists planned  for their next church-wide meeting in 2020.  Three groups have come forward with different ways to create separate spaces for those who wish to welcome fully LGBTQ+ people into all aspects of church life and sacraments, those who see same-sex relationships and identity as sin, and those looking for some middle position.  The proposals all provide for a way for different bodies to remain under some form of an umbrella, sharing things such as publishing houses and relief organizations.  The three plans are fully described in the article in Religion News

House of Bishops Issues a Statement on Lambeth

The House of Bishops issued a statement that affirmed whatever decision any bishop and his/her spouse might make about attending Lambeth 2020, and basically said we respect and love you no matter what.  This was less firm than a statement issued at the last House of Bishops meeting which urged everyone to attend Lambeth.  Although the measure passed by a wide majority, it was not unanimous.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Week Ending 9/16/19

San Joaquin Planning to Go Solar

The Diocese of San Joaquin has developed a plan which would have all of its parishes replace fossil fuels with solar energy.  It is the first diocese to develop such a plan, although others have experimented with this.  The Diocese of Vermont, for example, purchased a solar array in 2017 it had been leasing that was on the diocesan grounds of their conference center.  It supplies all power to the center with some left over which it sells.  In Pittsburgh, the successful installation of solar panels at St. Paul's in Mt. Lebanon has made the large parish nearly independent of fossil fuels.

Executive Council Orders Racial Audit

As a preliminary step to proposing greater actions for racial reconciliation, the Executive Council has ordered a racial audit of Church leadership in every diocese.  Interestingly, the picture used with the Episcopal News Service article on the audit was of an event at Pittsburgh's Calvary Episcopal Church with Bishop McConnell in the front row. 

Anglicans Respond to Hurricane Dorian Destruction

The Bahama Islands and the island country of Turks and Caicos part of one diocese.  Both received hits from Hurricane Dorian, with the northwestern islands of the Bahamas getting a sustained attack from Dorian when at its strongest.  The Anglican Journal of Canada reports on support for the rescue and rebuilding work on the islands from Anglicans.  Episcopal Relief and Development  is acting as one of the agencies on site. The article provides information on what is being done and how we can held.

Tennessee Bishop Admits ACNA Priest

Bishop Bauerschmidt of Tennessee appears to have tried to slip an ACNA priest into an assistant Rector position at St. George's Episcopal Church, Nashville.  St. George's is the largest parish in Nashville and is located in a wealthy area called Belle Meade. The parish announced that David Barr would start his employment with them on October 1, 2019.  Barr was ordained priest by ACNA bishop Mark Lawrence on March 2, 2019, a fact glossed over in the announcement, which does mention that he has been on the staff of the Cathedral Church of St.Luke and St. Paul and finishing up a doctorate at Wycliff College in Canada.  The announcement does not identify the Cathedral as the Cathedral of the schismatic diocese in South Carolina.  The Episcopalians in South Carolina have expressed their dismay at this appointment which apparently has been done without following the steps in the TEC Canon's for receiving a clergy person from a denomination in the historic succession (i.e. with bishops) but not in communion with The Episcopal Church. (See the September 13 posting in Ron Caldwell's blog.)  Barr would not be the first ACNA ordained clergy person to come to the Episcopal Church.  The Diocese of Pittsburgh received William "Biff" Carpenter who was ordained priest in 2014 by the ACNA bishop in Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh, however, followed the procedures in the canons and Carpenter was a member working as a lay minister in an Episcopal parish for a year while going through all the reviews and votes specified in the canons before reception.

Western Massachusetts Priest Investigated for Child Porn

A Western Massachusetts priest married to another priest has been arrested for having an internet account under his name filled with child pornography.  Bishop Fisher has suspended the priest from all ministry until the case is resolved.  The Rev. Greg Lisby had served a local parish until the end of August when he left parish ministry entirely to be a kindergarten teacher. this fall.  Masslive.com has the basic story.  The Living Church story includes the actions taken by Bishop Fisher.

Continuing Stories

New Structure for Church in Haiti?

After a failed election of a new bishop, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Haiti created a temporary plan for episcopal oversight and healing of deep divisions in the diocese.  The Rev. Mark Harris reports in his blog that the Archdeacon for Immigration and Social Justice for the Diocese of Southeast Florida, and an honorary canon of the Haitian cathedral, is suggesting that the church explore a structure granting greater autonomy to Haiti along the lines of what Canada has done for indigenous peoples. It will be interesting to see if the suggestion gains any traction. 

Oxford College Battle Not Over

The last week in August Update reported that the head of Christ Church Oxford had been cleared of charges in a nasty complaint filed by unhappy faculty at the college.  However, now the dissident faculty have spent a large sum of charity funds in an effort to have their names removed from the official investigation report which was very critical of them.  Christ Church is the oldest and wealthiest college at Oxford. The Daily Mail has more.

Wangaratta Postpones Blessing Ceremony

Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne has asked Bishop John Parkes of Wangaratta to hold off blessing the civil marriage of two clergy in his diocese until the matter is heard by the Appellate Tribunal, the highest ecclesiastical court in Australia.  Parkes is normally a member of the tribunal but will recuse himself in this matter.  The Update had reported on the blessing plan two weeks ago. 

Minnesota Episcopalians Ask for Removal of Name from Federal Building

Episcopalians all over the country have been supportive of immigrants and critical of recent policies on deportation and refugee status.  In Minnesota, the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building is the site of many of the deportation hearings and ICE activities.   Minnesota Episcopalians have been protesting that these things go on in a building named for the beloved first Bishop of Minnesota and an active supporter of just and humane treatment of Native Americans. Among the organizers of the protests is the Rev. Robert Two Bulls, Jr., the Diocesan Missioner for Indian Work and Multicultural Work.  The protesters are asking either for ICE to leave the building or the building be renamed.

SC Episcopalians Answer Betterments Suit

In 2017 after the South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that the schismatics were not the owners of the most parish property and all diocesan property of the Diocese of South Carolina.  The losers filed a suit to receive compensation made on all improvements on those properties from the beginning of every parish and institution under a"Betterments" statute.  The suit has languished since, but was included in those things the judge assigned to implement the state supreme court ruling ordered into mediation. Because the suit can only be pursued once all action has been finalized on ownership of the property, and because the Episcopalians believe the schismatics did not have standing to file the suit, they made no answer.  Judge Dickson, however, ruled against the Episcopalians motion to throw the suit out when he sent it to mediation.  Now the Episcopalians have filed their response to the suit.  It simply denies almost every statement in the original filing.  In order to make sense of the filing you have to also have open the original "Betterments" filing by the schismatics.  Luckily the Episcopalians supplied a link to the 2017 filing as part of their announcement of their legal response. Update has tracked the legal actions from the beginning.  The most recent previous post is here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Week Ending 9/9/19

Brazilian Bishops Blame Amazon Fires of Greed and Hatred

Fifteen bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil had issued a pastoral letter strongly critical of the Brazilian president and his complicity in conditions leading to the fire in the Amazon basin that is wreaking environmental havoc.  They framed their response in terms of the Anglican Communion's "Marks of Mission" and their duty to protect God's creation.  The Anglican News Service has more

Farewell to Another of the "Philadelphia 11"

This last week the Rev. Alison Cheek, one of the "Philadelphia" died.  She was one of the 11 women in deacon's orders who called the bluff of the Episcopal Church after the 1973 General Convention narrowly defeated a measure to explicitly allow ordination of women to the priesthood.  Of the Eleven, Cheek was the first to publicly preside at a service of Holy Communion. Their ordination was originally declared "irregular" but was recognized in 1976 when the General Convention approved what it had defeated in 1973.  The 92 year-old Cheek is the 5th of the eleven to die. Episcopal News Service has more on her life and ordination. 

Virginia Theological Seminary Set Aside Funds for Reparations

The Virginia Theological Seminary has acknowledged that from its founding on it has benefited from slavery, and that it actively participated in the enforcement of segregation and racism has announced that it will set aside a portion of its endowment to provide reparations to the local black community.  The funds will be used largely for grants, not as payments to individuals.  The seminary announcement includes many of the details. 

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Mediation Rescheduled

The break-away group in South Carolina has announced a new date for mediation.  The original date was  a victim of Hurricane Dorian.  It is now scheduled for September 26.  The judge who is supposed to implement the decision of the state supreme court which granted most property to the Episcopal Church has ordered mediation on all issues, including a separate "Betterments" suit filed by the schismatics after they lost at the state supreme court.

Canadian Church Finding Path Forward After Synod Defeat on Same Sex Marriage

The Synod  of the Anglican Church of Canada narrowly defeated a measure this summer that would have explicitly allowed parishes and clergy to bless same sex marriages or  host and preside at them.  An earlier vote (which passed by a margin of 1) had allowed bishops to authorize blessings and marriages under a particular reading of existing church rules.  Since the failure of the measure, a number of bishops have announced they will continue to authorize blessings and marriages, and one bishop who opposes blessings has declared that he is not leaving the church, but that his diocese is in impaired communion with the rest of the denomination.  Update covered the vote and the immediate responses after the vote here.  The Canadian publication, The Anglican Journal, has published a follow-up piece on the status of the church.  This was picked up by the Episcopal News Service here.

Welby's India Trip Prompts Lawsuit

The leaders of the Church of India, a part of the Traditional Anglican Church, have filed a lawsuit claiming that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby lied when he told people that the United Churches of North and South India were the historic continuations of the Anglican Communion  in India. Welby's trip to India has been marred by multiple controversies.  Unfortunately, the only source reporting on the lawsuit is the web site of the vitriolic anti-TEC  David Virtue. The suit is likely to be considered a nuisance suit. Welby, of course, would not consider the break-away Church of India a part of the historic communion.  The break-away's origin are among people unhappy when the Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians created the United Churches in North India and in South India.  Welby is the first Archbishop to declare that the CSI and CNI are full provinces in the Anglican Communion.  Their status was up until recently a mixed status given the number of clergy and congregations that were included from the other two denominations. The Update carried a link to an earlier background story on the churches in India here

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Week Ending 09/02/19

Episcopalians Join Lawsuit Against Border Wall

The Episcopal bishops of Western Massachusetts and Long Island head the list of Episcopalians who have signed on as supporters of a friend of the court brief submitted in the legal challenge  President Trump's diversion of funds to finance building the border wall.  There are accounts of the Episcopalian involvement in the challenge from Massachusetts news sources, Episcopal Cafe, and the Episcopal News Service.

Study Shows Which Religions Support Gun Control

A Political Science professor at Eastern Illinois University has analayzed data from a 2018 election survey of more than 60,000 participants to determine how members of various religious groups respond to issues of gun control.  Episcopalian responses were included as part of the "Mainline" protestant churches.  Hindus had a 95.7% rate of support for universal background checks. Buddhists were just one tenth of a percent lower. Mainline protestants strongly in support (but behind, Jewish, non-believers, and Roman Catholics) with 89.6%.  The lowest support came from white evangelicals with 84.1%.  There was a greater divergence on other measures. All groups had lower percentages (81.8% to 46.8%) on support for an assault weapon ban, with Mainline members coming in at 64.3%.  Hindus once again had the highest support and white evangelicals the lowest. When asked about making it easier to carry concealed weapons, the order reversed, but only two groups (white evangelicals and Mormons) had support above 50% (and that barely).  In general the order was reversed from the previous two questions with Hindus showing the least support.

Episcopalians Commemorate 400 Years of Slavery in U.S.

Churches around the country rang bells to commemorate the arrival of the ship Anthony and its cargo of slaves in Virginia 400 years ago.  A number of other forms of commemoration also took place.  It was a time to reflect on the sin of slavery and the survival of Africans in this country despite its brutality.  It was part of a process of healing and reconciliation and an acknowledgement of the complicity of the Church in slavery.  [The Update editor would also note, however, that there are places now in the U.S. where slavery existed before 1619 because those parts of the Americas colonized by Spain had established slavery of indigenous peoples and Africans long before the Virginia colony began.  Some of those locations are now part of the U.S.]

Church Leaders in Britain Speak Out on Brexit

The recent decision of the new British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament for several weeks as Brexit nears has brought forth protests from church leaders in England, Wales, and Scotland.  Twenty-five English bishops posted this formal protest. Some of them are members of the House of Lords. The Episcopal Church of Scotland's Primus issued this statement on the suspension of Parliament.  Welsh bishops also issued a statement of concern about a "no-deal" Brexit.

Episcopalian Support for Tennessee Prisoner Taken Off Death Row

Diocese of Tennessee Episcopalians have been active advocates for the end to the Death Penalty.  The also actively intervened in appeals filed by Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman (formerly known as James Jones) who was sentenced to death for a stabbing more than 30 years ago.  His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in a deal worked out by his lawyers and state prosecutors.  The man's original trial was marred by prosecutorial misconduct including the blocking of any black participation in the jury.  Tennessee Episcopalians have been active in a ministry on death row and one of Rahman's attorneys is an Episcopalian.  The Tennessean published an article noting Episcopal involvement here

Ongoing Stories

SC Judge Keeps Betterments Suit Alive

South Carolina Episcopalians were disappointed to learn that their preliminary motion to dismiss a Betterments suit with the potential to cost them millions of dollars was denied by Judge Dickson (August 28).  The Betterments suit only takes effect IF the legal challenges to ownership of church property have been ended and the Episcopalians are in control of the contested property.  Blogger Steve Skardon has more to say in this August 30 post. The schismatic group promoted this decision as a win for their party, suggesting it means that the Judge will rule in their favor on the suit.   However, blogger Ronald Caldwell reports in an update from September 2 that Hurricane Dorian has thrown off all timetables by causing postponement of the mediation sessions scheduled for this week.  The Church Insurance lawsuit mediation has also been postponed for the same reason. Update's most recent post on the SC legal issues is here.  

Texas Supreme Court Will Hear Appeals in Fort Worth Case

In a move that guarantees further delays in resolving the property dispute in Fort Worth, the Texas Supreme Court notified parties on August 30 that it had decided to hear oral arguments in the appeal filed by the schismatics and the cross-filing by Episcopalians.  It set December 5 as the date for the arguments.  Each side will have only 20 minutes to elaborate on the extensive filings already made. The Episcopalians in Fort Worth published this report on that notice.  Update has been following the case as it has wound through the courts for 10 years. 

Diocese of Wangaratta in Australia to Bless Same Sex Couples

Although Australia has approved civil marriage for same sex couples, the Anglican Church has been blocked from blessing such unions or presiding at marriage ceremonies for same sex couples by action from some conservative dioceses especially the Diocese of Sydney.  Over a year ago the Wangaratta Diocesan Synod voted to request their bishop find a way to bless same sex unions.  At the Synod last week a route was approved by a very lopsided vote. Bishop Parkes supported the measure.  Now the emeritas Archdeacon of the diocese has announced on his Facebook page that he and his partner of twenty years (another priest) will have a blessing at a service later in September. Bishop Parkes, who retires in December, will be present.  The conservative GAFCON-friendly news source Anglican.ink carried a disapproving story including a shot of the formal invitation sent out for the occasion.