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, November 26, 2019

Week Ending 11/25/19

Please note that the Pittsburgh Update will be a day late next week.   

Missouri Elects New Bishop

The Diocese of Missouri elected the Rev. Deon K. Johnson as their next bishop on the first ballot.  While his enthusiasm, faith, and experience in growing multicultural congregations made him the diocesan convention choice, his election will further complicate invitations to the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Johnson is an out gay man who is married to another man.  They are raising two children. He also is a native of Barbados, of African descent, and his spouse is originally from Mexico.  Johnson's election continues the trend of the last year and a half of diocesan elections that broaden the diversity of the Episcopal House of Bishops. The Episcopal News Service acknowledged Johnson's husband, but made no other mention of the bishop elect's LGBTQA status, appropriately focusing on his ministries.  The local St. Louis Today on-line newspaper printed a positive story which put Johnson's identity front and center.  The Living Church also put Johnson's identity in the headline.

English Interdenominational Council Blocks Member in Same Sex Marriage

 The interdenominational group, Churches Together in England has six clusters of denominations each of which selects a President to serve a 4 year term. The 6 are the executive  body for the group.  It was the Quakers' turn in the 4th group to select a president.  They chose a young activist woman, Hannah Brock Womack.  However, when the CTE members in other groups realized Womack was married to another woman, the larger group asked that she refrain from exercising any of her duties because her of her marriage.  Thinking Anglicans has the whole story.

Renewal Stalls for Agency Defending Religious Freedom Worldwide  

 The independent agency created and funded by Congress to monitor and advocate for religious freedom worldwide is about to run out of funding.  A bi-partisan bill which provide a new 4 year cycle of funding, however has stalled because the bill restructured the commission and broadened its charge. A prominent commissioner has resigned in protest.
Religion News has the story.

Continuing Stories

GAFCON Ireland Responds to Clergy Letter

 Last week Update noted that a number of prominent clergy of the Anglican Church of Ireland were urging the Irish Bishops to not approve the election of a new bishop because of his GAFCON ties.  Not surprisingly, GAFCON Ireland has issued a response.

Struggle for Control of Church College Continues in Pakistan

The struggle between the Anglican Church in Pakistan and the Pakistani government for control of Edwards College continues despite a high court ruling in favor of the Church in May 2019.  The government is trying secularize and run all private colleges.  The givernment is continuing to insist that it is in control of the facility.  The Anglican Communion News has all the details.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Week Ending 11/18/19

Jefferts Schori Speaks on Challenges for Women as Leaders 

Former Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori recently gave a talk at Kenyon College on the challenges facing and need for women in leadership roles throughout society.  The talk was part of a series focusing on Women at Kenyon.  Jefferts Schori drew on her own experience as Presiding Bishop and as a faculty member in the sciences to illustrate the ways women leaders face obstacles and questions, but also argued that women should persist in their leadership efforts, and think outside the box to find new ways to exercise power and leadership.

Study Says Canadian Church Could Disappear in 20 Years 

The Anglican Church in Canada is facing a disturbing membership decline, one which, if unaddressed could result in the disappearance of the whole church from Canada by 2040.  At least, that is what a study presented to Anglican Church's Council of the Synod predicts.  Archbishop Linda Nicholls. the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada is hoping to get people thinking about how to to be a faithful witness in their communities rather than focus on declining numbers.

California Church Holds Annual Indigenous Peoples Service

This last Sunday, Trinity Episcopal Church in Redlands (near San Bernadino, CA) held its 11th annual Native American worship service, featuring music drawing on native music and incorporating symbols from Native American spirituality. It was part of the parish's observances for Native American Heritage Month.  The celebrant for the mass was the Rev. Canon Mary Crist who was appointed in June by the Presiding Bishop to be Indigenous Theological Education Coordinator for The Episcopal Church.  Crist, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe, is also rector of St. Michael's Parish in Riverside, CA.

Church of Ireland Clergy Leaders Object to GAFCON Member as Bishop

One of the more conservative dioceses in the Anglican Church of Ireland has elected as their next bishop a priest who has been very active in the Irish GAFCON organization.  In Ireland the group opposes  church leadership by women and has a strongly anti-LGBTQ position.  The election alarmed many in Ireland where the church has been open to inclusion and where Civil marriage is available to same sex couples.  The election is not final until approved by the Irish church's bishops, and thirty-six prominent church leaders, (cathedral deans, canons, etc.) have written a strong letter opposing approval of the election.  In addition one of the deans has published in the Irish Times a separate opinion piece opposing the election.  

Philippine Government Declares Council of Churches a Terrorist Group

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has issued a statement criticizing the Philippine government after a security chief identified the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) as a Communist Front for terrorist activities.  The government has issued a list of "terrorist" organizations that includes many non-profits working among the poor and for social justice.  The Episcopal Church was ready to defend the NCCP in court, but that has not been necessary because the official list did not include the NCCP.   The Episcopal Church is a member of the NCCP.  All the groups on the list or labelled as a front organization are at risk for harassment and attacks by militia.

Trinity School for Ministry Expands in Ambridge

Trinity School for Ministry (TSM) has bought a Presbyterian church near the campus.  the purchase will give them a larger space to use for community gatherings and worship services.  TSM is recognized as an Episcopal Seminary, although most of its faculty and trustees are members of ACNA.

Church Develops Property for Affordable Housing

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek, CA is preparing for the late December or January of St. Paul's Commons which will provide 45 apartments that are affordable housing.  The project was made possible through a lease of church property to Resources for Community Development.  That non-profit then brought in a management firm to do background checks and run the property.  The Commons will also have space for the ongoing work the parish does among the homeless.  Because California housing prices are so high, many people who could in other markets afford housing are homeless in California.  A number of churches of various denominations are trying to address housing needs throughout the state.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Diocese Asks Federal Judge to Enforce Order

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has gone back to federal court, asking the judge in the recent trademark decision to issue further orders against the ACNA group.  The complaint is that they are still infringing on the identity of the Episcopal Diocese by claiming historical origins (such as claiming their bishop and convention are the latest in a historical line going back to the origins of the Episcopal Diocese), and for continuing to provide access to unaltered documents that were produced during the years that they claimed the seal and name of the diocese.  In addition, the documents filed with the court are claiming that the "new" name for the ACNA group "The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" is too close to the name of the Episcopal Diocese and likely to continue to confuse people.  The documents note that while Anglican Diocese of South Carolina might have bee deemed acceptable under other circumstances, there is precedent in cases where the previous trademark infringement was confusing and damaging, to require a name be completely different.   You can find comments on the request on the blog scepiscopalians.com for  November 12. 

Sewanee Holds First Workshop on Confederate Symbols

The University of the South in Sewanee  has now offered the first of its workshops on the dilemma created by Confederate memorials and symbols in Episcopal Churches and other church structures.  The general advice is to move deliberately, with time for discussion and historical research on the origins of the memorial or symbol, and the background of the individual memorialized.  A number of churches are dealing with memorials (windows, plaques, etc.) in honor of Bishop Leonidas Polk, who was a missionary bishop who served wide swaths of the South before the Civil War.  He was a supporter of slavery and died while serving as a General of Artillery for the Confederate Army.  Update earlier carried a notice that Sewanee was going to hold this workshop.  The Episcopal News Service has an article about those who attended.

Fort Worth Diocese Hears Presentation on Local Lynching

Episcopalians in Fort Worth heard a presentation at their recent annual convention on efforts to create a memorial to a man who died in a lynching in Fort Worth in 1921. The effort is being headed by the Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice.  The Coalition is sponsoring several events as part of their efforts to bring this event into the public eye and foster healing.  The presentation was part of the efforts of the Fort Worth diocese to participate in the Episcopal Church's call for racial justice and reconciliation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Week Ending 11/11/19

Britain  Extends Civil Partnerships to All Couples

When the British Parliament passed a civil partnership law, it was to provide legal status and protections for same sex couples.  That Act covered all of Britain (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland).  Now they have passed an amendment extending the option of civil partnership (rather than marriage) to heterosexual couples.  Without further action the law covers England, and Wales. The Scottish Parliament must also pass it before it applies in Scotland. 

Episcopal Church Joins Movement to Stay in Climate Accord

The U.S. Government may have given official notice that the country is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Pact, but the Episcopal Church has officially announced it is staying in, and has joined the "We Are Still In" movement.  The church will continue to urge actions from its constituent parts and members that will meet the Paris Accord goals.  The Church has a long record of resolutions supporting care of creation, and provided official theological testimony at the 2015 meeting in Paris that created the Paris Pact.

Financial Impropriety in a Central New York Parish

Bishop DeDe Probe of Central New York has had to remove a parish rector after a forensic audit confirmed long term financial irregularities at St. Stephen's, New Hartford.  That evidence has been turned over to civil authorities for further investigation and action.  The Episcopal Church has long required all of its dioceses and parishes to do annual audits and has clear financial guidelines for parish finances.

Environmental Racism Initiative Launched by Absalom Jones Center

At General Convention 2018 a new center for social justice was announced, the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. Sponsored by the Diocese of Atlanta, the center has been offering a variety of workshops, resources, on-line courses and guides to the whole church.  Now it has announced a broad initiative against environmental racism to be named for Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman ordained a bishop, and a long-time supporter of social justice.  The center is developing a curriculum that can be used across the church to explore environmental racism and work for change. 

Church of England Explains Devon Parish's Yoga Ban 

When a parish church in Devon refused to allow a Yoga class to use their church hall, they did so on the grounds that Yoga was not Christian and the church building was required by law to allow only Christian or secular activities.  Now officials from the diocese have clarified that Yoga is not on a banned list in all Church of England sites, but that each parish decides what to allow.  Many parishes do host yoga classes and see them as separate from the Buddhist and Hindu roots of the exercise system. 

Continuing Stories

More Actions on Racial Reconciliation

The Presiding bishop's focus on Racial Reconciliation and Hearings has been encouraging the church to explore its complicity in slavery, segregation, and racism as a means of acknowledging past wrongs and looking for a better way forward.   Earlier the Update reported on the Executive Council's announcement of a racial audit for the whole church.  Many parishes and church institutions have been addressing the ways memorials in their parish memorials commemorated  slave owners, or were made by those trying to preserve a racist version of history.  Update has taken note of these discussions. Boston's Old North Church is the latest parish to discover its complicity.   Update also recently reported on the decision of Virginia Theological Seminary to dedicate part of its endowment for reparations due to its participation in slavery and segregation.  Now the Diocese of New York has passed a racial reparations resolution, after also passing anti-slavery resolutions that were defeated by its convention in 1860. 

Fort Worth Passes Resolution on Guns in Church

The Texas legislature passed a law that went into effect in September allowing open and concealed carry of guns in religious houses of worship.  The Diocese of Fort Worth annual convention has just passed a resolution declaring that diocesan buildings (including mission stations and the church camp) will ban all weapons except for those carried by licensed officers of the law.  It encourages parishes and church schools to adopt a similar policy  The original resolution (see p. 11 of the linked document) made no exceptions and applied to all parishes and schools.  The diocese of Texas had already passed a resolution applying the whole diocese, with an exception for officers of the law.  General Convention 2012 passed a resolution requesting that dioceses and parishes declare themselves gun free zones. Update has carried numerous updates on the Church's efforts against gun violence.

ACNA Pittsburgh Diocese Using Volunteers to Renovate Offices

In December 2018 the offices of the ACNA diocese in Pittsburgh moved from Allegheny Center to a Roman Catholic Church complex nearby.  They moved on short notice and now, after-the-fact, are renovating their offices.  The extensive work, is being done by volunteer crews.  Originally their goal was to have the work done by the end of October, but the diocesan web page events calendar for November  lists a number of volunteer work days led by their bishop. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Week Ending 11/4/19

Episcopal Churches in Maine Lead Way for Peace and Solar Power

Episcopalians in Maine's two largest cities have begun new efforts reaching out to the community. Trinity Episcopal in Lewiston, Maine (the second largest city in the state) has dedicated a portion of their Memorial Garden as a Peace Park, and erected a "Peace Pole" with benches to mark the spot. In the spring they will add plantings to make the spot more inviting.  The design of the "pocket park" was the parish's contribution to a Healthy Neighborhood initiative.  They hope it will be a place where people can reflect and pray about peace. The Lewiston Sun-Journal has more on this. About 40 miles away, in Portland, the Episcopal Diocese is leading an effort to create a consortium that would build a solar farm.  Both historic preservation rules and the siting of the Episcopal Cathedral made it unworkable for the parish to install solar panels, so they organized an effort being led by the diocese to build a larger interfaith coalition of churches to buy land and build a solar power farm to provide power to members of the consortium. The Portland Press-Herald has more on the initiative.

Arizona Episcopalians Add Indigenous People's Day to Calendar

At the recent annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, members voted to create an "Indigenous Peoples of Arizona Day" on the second Monday of October, thus providing an alternative to the federal Columbus Day.  There are 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona, and the diocese is trying to give better recognition to native peoples.  The Convention also approved a set of propers and collects to use on that day.  These are the same that the Anglican Church of Canada has approved for their June 21, Indigenous Peoples Day. 

Updates on Continuing Stories

Methodists Continue to Struggle with Vote on LGBTQ Members

As the proposal for full communion between the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church is still on the agenda for the next General Convention, the continued unrest within the Methodist Church over the vote last year to strengthen statements excluding "practicing" homosexuals from ministry and forbidding any recognition of same-sex unions, remains very pertinent for Episcopalians.  The Methodist Church's highest court met recently and did not issue a ruling on a number of implementation issues, including what to do about those already in ministry, and what is meant by a "practicing" homosexual.  The court did rule that the resolution allowing those who were unhappy with the decision to leave the Church with their property was in order.  Update has been following the potential split.  The most recent  item is here.

Judge Finally Schedules Hearing in South Carolina

After Episcopalians sent two letters asking Judge Dickson to proceed with hearings, he has set Tuesday, November 26 as a hearing date for all motions he has not yet ruled on in the South Carolina property case.  The notice specifically mentions the motion for reconsideration filed by the Episcopalians after Dickson refused to dismiss the "Betterments" suits filed by the schismatic groups.  Lawyers for the Episcopal Diocese also reminded the judge that there are motions filed in May and June 2018 that also have never had a ruling.  The scepiscopalians.com October 29 blog post  offers some comments.

More Reaction to the GAFCON Consecration in New Zealand

There continues to be fallout from the consecration of a bishop for a group of parishes who left the New Zealand Anglican Church.  The new bishop for the GAFCON sponsored group was consecrated by ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach, but two other bishops in attendance were retired bishops living in New Zealand.  One, was the retired bishop of Nelson Diocese in New Zealand, and the other was retired from a Kenyan diocese.  Archbishop Glenn Davies of the Diocese of Sydney in Australia was also present.  Last week Update carried notice of the New Zealand church leaders'  protest of the "border crossing" violation by other bishops in the Anglican Communion.  A commentary that went much farther raising concerns about the event appeared this week.  GAFCON continues on a path that seems determined to create an alternative version of the Anglican Communion. 

Bloy House Finds Home at Lutheran Center

For a half century, Bloy House worked in partnership with the Methodists at Claremont School of Theology, but early last year the Methodists announced plans to move their seminary to Willamette College in Salem, Oregon.  Bloy which was founded to provide a weekend and night option for those seeking ordination in the Diocese of Los Angeles needed to find a new home.  The Trustees for Bloy House announced that they have signed a lease with the Lutheran Center in Glendale.  Those involved expressed hope that the new arrangement will strengthen cooperation building on the full communion agreements already in place between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and The Episcopal Church.

Questions Remain About Church Inaction on Howard White

Although the former Episcopal priest, Howard White has pleaded guilty to charges of sexual abuse of minors in North Carolina and received a stiff prison sentence, questions remain about how much church officials new and how many times they simply looked the other way quietly passing White on to another position.  These questions are explored in an article in The Mountaineer, the Waynesville, N.C. newspaper.