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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, December 30, 2019

Week Ending 12/30/19

Recent Events Show Evangelical Base Divided Over Trump

The editorial supporting removal of President Trump in the largest evangelical publication, Christianity Today revealed a divide among a group supposed to be solidly in support of Trump.  In a post using surprisingly restrained prose for  its author, David Virtue outlines that there is a division among evangelicals, and that a number are upset by Trump actions which go against evangelical beliefs.  Those defending Trump have criticized the journal as leftist and false news.  What Virtue added to the discussion is that the editor who penned the piece is a member of ACNA, the group founded by those who left the Episcopal Church.  This has been confirmed by ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach.  For more, you can read Virtue's piece here.  You may need to hold your nose if you look at anything else on his site which is notoriously homophobic, anti- women's ordination, and anti-Episcopal Church.  In a related incident, the Trumps made a last minute switch of churches on Christmas Eve.  In past years the Trumps have attended the Episcopal Church near Mar-A-Lago where they were married. This year they attended a conservative Baptist Church.  The speculation is that he was trying to reinforce his connection to evangelicals.

Resurgence of Interest in Black Reparations

In what is a slow news week (except for multiple Christmas messages by various religious leaders), Religion News has a background story on the growing interest among mainstream Churches in reparations to the black community.  The churches are coming to terms with their own involvement in racism, racial discrimination, and oppression.  The article cites examples from several denominations, but prominent among them are the actions taken by Virginia Theological Seminary, and the Episcopal Dioceses of New York and Maryland.  Update has carried notices of these actions earlier in 2019.

Blessings in this Christmas Season and Update will be back in 2020.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Week Ending 12/23/19

New Archbishop of York Named

The announcement of Bishop Stephen Cottrell as the next Archbishop of York, brought protests from conservatives who consider him too liberal on LGBTQ issues.  One accusation was that he had told  a priest in his current diocese of Chelmsford  that the priest was welcome to leave the Church of England if he didn't like the way the bishop handled transgender issues.  Cottrell has denied making the statements.  The BBC has a profile on Cottrell.  Christian Today carried a story typical of those from conservative sources.  The Church Times focused on his vision for the church.

Sermon Length Article Quotes Presiding Bishop Curry

the Pew Research Center, one of the most respected groups regularly researching American religion, has published findings on both the content and length of sermons among various Christian traditions. It was based on 50,000 published or posted sermons from 6431 churches over the last year.  Roman Catholic priests had the shortest sermons; black preachers in traditionally black denominations went the longest, 40 minutes longer on average than Roman Catholics. In between were mainline Protestants (including Episcopalians) at 25 minutes and evangelical denominations at 39 minutes. The Washington Post picked up the story.   One of the clergy the Post interviewed was Presiding Bishop Curry whose 13 minute sermon at the royal wedding went viral.  Clergy in all denominations are adjusting the length of sermons to account for the shorter attention spans of younger listeners.  The survey also noted that the content of the sermons differed with the specific language differences.  

Apology Sets Stage for Long-Delayed Ordination

Gayle Pershouse Vaughan was ordained a transitional deacon by the Bishop of Massachusetts after he began the ceremony with an official policy for the action of  the Massachusetts bishop who blocked her ordination in 1988 because she had refused the bishop's sexual advances.  The current action of the Episcopal Church in response to the Church's "MeToo" movement cleared the air for the long-delayed ordination.  A longer profile of Vaughan is found in the story posted by the Episcopal News Service.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Jewish-Episcopal Cooperation in Boston and Pittsburgh

Last week Update noted that Calvary Episcopal in Pittsburgh and Tree of Life Congregation  were expanding their earlier cooperation to include joint celebrations of the Calvary Christmas Pageant and the start of Hanukka.  The Post Gazette published a feature on the two events in the December 23 paper.  The Episcopal News Service chose this last week to highlight an even deeper and longer partnership between a Reformed Jewish Congregation and a Boston Church.  Both stories are worth a read. 

Federal Judge Adds to Christmas Joy for SC Episcopalians 

A month ago the South Carolina Episcopal Diocese filed a request with  Federal Judge, Richard Gergel, to enforce the decision and order in the trademarks suit against the schismatic diocese.  His answer gave the Episcopal Church a nice boost, by granting most of the requests the Episcopal lawyers asked for.  The group now affiliated with ACNA was ordered by the judge to remove any documents from their web site that used the diocesan seal, referred to themselves as The Episcopal Diocese, or claimed their bishop continued as the 14th bishop of the diocese, or in any way suggested that the ACNA group was the continuation of the historic Episcopal diocese.  This includes numbering their diocesan conventions in a way that claims a founding before 2012.  The ACNA group has complied by removing all those documents from their web site.  The judge also rejected a motion submitted by the ACNA diocese that would have put a stay on enforcement of his decision.  The judge did not grant requests from the Episcopalians that would have forbidden the ACNA diocese from using "Anglican" in its name, and said that the matter of ownership of St. Christopher Church Camp was a property matter in the hands of the state courts.  You can read the South Carolina press release here; the complete order by Judge Gergel here; and blogger Steve Skardon's take on the ruling in his December 18 post here.

Number of LGBTQ Bishops at Invited to Lambeth Is Growing

As the meeting of Anglican Communion bishops from around the world at Lambeth 2020 grows closer, it is clear that the number of LGBTQ bishops in attendance will be such that it will be hard for it not to have an effect on the conversation.  Most of the attention was initially on North American bishops (one in Canada and two others in the U.S.), but the episcopal elections this last year have added to that number including those choosing bishops for New Hampshire, Michigan, and Missouri.  All have spouses affected by the decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite only the spouses of heterosexual unions.  The discussion, however, has overlooked the out, partnered, Bishop of Grantham in England.  He recently allowed two people to review and write an article on the more than 400 letters he got in response to his 2016 public coming out.  the letters were overwhelmingly supportive of him.  That story is here.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Week Ending 12/16/19

Virginia Parish Bags Sweet Potatoes to Feed the Hungry

St. John's Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, was the latest partner with the Society of St. Andrew to bag sweet potatoes to give to those in need.  The St. Andrew's  Society is a non-profit group with ties to the Methodist Church that partners with churches of all denominations to address hunger and poverty throughout the United States.  The Society arranged for a dump truck to deposit 40,000 pounds of sweet potatoes at St. John's Church.  The parish then provided the labor to bag the potatoes in 10 pound bags - 4000 of them.  St. John's is a large parish in the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia with membership of more than 1000 members.  For more about the parish go here.  Local news covered the story here and here.  Information on the Society of St. Andrew can be found at the organization's website.

Parish Restoring the Environment Through Native Plants

 St. Stephen's Parish, Birmingham, Alabama, a large vibrant parish with a membership of around 1500 is featured in a local Birmingham on-line guide for its work in restoring its large church grounds with native plants and trees.  The object is to create a more sustainable environment.  The restoration included removing large numbers of invasive plants and non-native trees, and replacing them with native plants.  The work was done largely by church volunteers.

Anglican Communion Creates Office for Gender Equality

Update was remiss in not noting earlier this month that the Anglican Communion has repackaged its post as Director of Women in Church and Society into one called the Director of Gender Justice. In early December the Anglican Communion Office announced that Mandy Marshall, a prominent activist to end violence against women, will fill the Directorship.  She officially takes up the post in April 2020.

Parish in Florida Keys Fills Housing Needs

St. Columba, a small parish in the Florida Keys has launched a major housing project with help from Episcopal Relief and Development to meet the needs of workers whose housing was destroyed in 2017 by Hurricane Irma.  The church sheltered a number of people made homeless by the hurricane and then began to look for a more permanent solution.  It ended up buying an 18 unit apartment complex which had been left a shell by the hurricane.  A combination of the ERD grant and parish volunteer labor, the apartment building is nearing completion and will offer apartments to low income workers still without permanent housing two years after the hurricane. The Living Church has the whole story

Updates on Continuing Stories

South India Anglican Bishop Cleared of Charges

The Church in South India (CSI), a united body that includes Anglicans and is treated as a province in the Anglican Communion by Archbishop Welby has had numerous legal issues and scandals over the last several years.  The moderator (primate) for the  CSI was arrested a year ago on charges of fraud.  A few months later the Bishop of Karnataka Central Diocese, the Rt. Rev. P.K. Samuel was charged with sexual harassment.  After a secular investigation of the complaint, and courts recently ruled the charges were unfounded.  Samuels is considered a possible candidae to replace the moderator accused of fraud, and Samuel's supporter think the charges are part of an effort to discredit his candidacy.

Pittsburgh's Calvary Parish and Tree of Life Celebrate December Holidays Together 

Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh made headlines when it reached out to the leaders of Tree of Life Congregation, which had been in exile from its building following the 2018 terrorist shooting at the temple that left 11 dead.  Calvary hosted the High Holiday services for the Tree of Life Congregation this fall.  Now the two congregations will again share Calvary's space for holdiay services in December.  On December 22, Calvary will have its usual Christmas pageant for youth at its 11:00 service, which will be followed at 12:30 with Tree of Life's Hannuka Celebration.  Members of both groups are invited to attend both services.  The Pittsburgh Jewish newspaper has an article on the upcoming event, and the December issue of the Calvary Newsletter has an announcement and reflection (p.8) on the two events.  Rector, Jonathan Jensen posted an invitation on Facebook as well. 

Falls Church Parish Celebrates 250 Years

Falls Church, Virginia was one of the most bitterly fought battles over Virginia Church property.  In 2012 the ANCA congregation reluctantly gave up possession of the historic building to the Episcopal congregation, but continued legal action until 2014.  Now the restored Episcopal congregation is thriving and is celebrating the church's 250th birthday

Monday, December 9, 2019

Week Ending 12/09/19

Survey Shows Churches Have Reputation for Social Justice

The Barna Research Group in conjunction with World Vision has published a study based on a survey done internationally of people 18 to 35 years old.  One aspect of the study looked at social justice. The survey  had people rank the 5 most pressing world problems, and then broke down responses based on categories of Christian, other faiths, and no faith.  The study shows differences among the groups in how they respond to the problems such as hunger with Christians showing that faith motivated them to respond to these issues.  You can find the results (in chart form) and interpretations here.  Barna concluded that this group credited their faith with making them more aware and responsive to these issues.

Hong Kong Cathedral Dean is Chosen as Bishop

The current Anglican bishop of Hong Kong Island has announced his retirement and the diocese has elected a new bishop.  The Dean of St. John's Cathedral in Hong Kong, Matthias Der , has been chosen as Bishop Coadjutor.  Der has studied in Taiwan, Canada and the United States, and was ordained in the diocese of Toronto in 1990.  Hong Kong is one of four dioceses (Hong Kong Island, East Kowloon, West Kowloon, and Macau) in the Anglican Communion Province, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.  The turmoil resulting from demonstrations on Hong Kong, make this an exceptionally challenging time for a transition in leadership.

Fort Worth Evangelism Reaches Out to Those Wounded by Church

In an evangelism effort aimed at reaching those who have been turned off, pushed out, or wounded by the exclusionary messages found in many churches, Episcopalians in Fort Worth have taken the "Episcopal Church Welcomes You" slogan to a new level.  They have set up a web site https:godlovesall.info and are taking specific actions to get the message of inclusive love out to community through Facebook ads, banners, and hope to expand into other forms of publicity in 2020.  The Episcopal News Service article has more details. 

Updates to Previous Stories 

El Paso Ministry Helps Migrants Fleeing Violence

Forty per cent of the southern border between Mexico and the U.S. in in the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.  That diocese has long taken a lead in dealing with the needs of immigrants along the border, especially as Trump's current policies have left people seeking asylum stacked up along the border.  The latest wave of migrants are Mexicans fleeing the drug cartel violence in Mexico.  The Diocese of the Rio Grande has partnered with a priest from the Anglican Church of Mexico to support shelters in two Mexican parish churches for those seeking asylum in the U.S.  You can gain more information here.  Update has carried numerous stories on the Church's efforts to help migrants, including the sponsorship of a Border Summit Conference last month.

Truro Rector Leaves ACNA

In 2017 Update covered attempts by Shannon Johnston, then Bishop of Virginia, to work with the rector of Truro Parish, one of the largest parishes to leave the Episcopal Church.  Now that rector, Tory Baucum, has announced he not only is leaving Truro, but he is leaving ACNA, and he and his wife are joining the Roman Catholic Church.  The vestry has announced that the staff of the parish has voiced grievances with Baucum and have launched an investigation.  Parish members have been urged to contact the vestry if they have concerns.   Both Anglican.ink and The Living Church covered the announcements. The Living Church article provides good background.

Fort Worth Court Hearing 

 In last week's posting, Update noted that oral arguments had been scheduled at the Texas Supreme Court for December 5 in the property decision appeal in Fort Worth. A link to the oral arguments and copies of the notes submitted by the opposing parties is found in a short news release prepared by the Episcopalians.  The Court's decision on whether to hear the appeal or not is not expected until at least March of 2020. 


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Week Ending 12/3/19

English Cathedrals Increase Attendance

A little good news from the Church of England -- it appears that attendance at worship services and educational programs for youth sponsored by Cathedral churches has gone up noticeably.  The article suggests that the Cathedrals are connecting with people in new ways, and that has spilled over in creating more interest in the worship services.  A longer report on the growth is available here.

Church Mourns Death of Louie Crew

Louie Crew, founder of Integrity and a long-time member of General Convention and former Executive Council member has died.  Crew's gentle but persistent pressure helped The Episcopal Church become much more inclusive.  There have been numerous tributes to Crew. Ironically, Crew's death came almost at the same time as news of a leadership crisis in Integrity. 

Bishop McConnell Announces Retirement

Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell has announced that he will retire in April 24,  2021 and that the search process for his replacement will begin almost immediately, with an electing convention called for November 21, 2020.  His retirement date was set to coincide with the probable consecration of the new bishop.   McConnell was elected the 8th Bishop of Pittsburgh in October 2012.

Updates on Continuing Stories

South Carolina Diocese Gets Day in Court

Judge Dickson, who was handed the task of implementing the South Carolina State Supreme Court decision, and who has managed to delay doing so for over two years, held a hearing on outstanding motions, some of which date back to early 2018.  The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina had a relatively positive press release describing the hearing.   It was clear, however, that the judge had either not done his homework or had a short memory about matters already documented.  Blogger Steve Skardon provided a more mixed review of the hearing in his November 26 post, especially given that the judge suggested he might ask the SC Supreme Court to clarify its ruling on the status of 29 church properties awarded to the Episcopal Church. The schismatic group has not provided any statement.  

Fort Worth Property Case Hearing December 5

As earlier noted in Update, oral arguments on whether the Texas Supreme Court should hear the appeal of the Appeals Court decision awarding the Diocese of Fort Worth property to those who stayed in the Episcopal Church are being held December 5 at 9:00 a.m.  The arguments are live streamed and then available later from a video archive. Both are reachable at this link.  This case has now been in court for over a decade.

ACNA Dealing with Sex Abuse Case

Update earlier carried a story about former Bishop Robert Duncan taking a position as interim in a Jacksonville, Florida ACNA parish.  Duncan, who is the retired Archibshop of ACNA,became interim when the rector of the resigned pending an investigation.  The independent investigation released recently  documented that the priest had  groomed, harassed and assaulted young male parishioners and clergy. Duncan has overseen a process of "restoration" with those hurt by the priest.  ACNA has apparently responded to the report by revising its policies on sexual assault and harassment. The article did not say if the priest had been removed from orders.

More on Irish Bishop Controversy

When a member of GAFCON Ireland was elected as Bishop of one of the Dioceses in the Anglican Church of Ireland, a number of the Church's leading clergy asked the Irish Bishops to not confirm the election becasue GAFCON was creating a split in the church.  Update carried that story and a response that appeared from the GAFCON group.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, in Ireland to help celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Irish Church as a separate body, could not resist trying to muddy the waters further.  The Irish bishops did approve the election, and Welby came out with a statement saying he didn't see GAFCON as a group trying to foster schism. 

Canadian Conservatives Ask for Cease Fire on Same Sex Marriage 

Five conservative clergy, including Ephriam Radnor, had sent a letter asking the Anglican Church of Canada leaders to declare a 20 year moratorium on further implementation of same sex marriage.  They also asked that clergy be given the option of affiliating their parishes with a bishop that hold the same position as the clergy and parish. Radnor was a founder of the Anglican Communion Institute and was previously active in conservative circles in the U.S. The letter tries to claim that this is what has been done in The Episcopal Church.  However, that is not how either DEPO or the new arrangements made under General Convention Resolution B 012 actually work.  The full letter was carried as part of a commentary in The Living Church

Church Holds Border Ministry Summit

The second annual border summit was hosted by the Episcopal Church in Tucson.  The meeting attracted people from more than five Episcopal dioceses, and included meetings with bishops from central America and Mexico.  Those in attendance were able to see first-hand the problems encountered by those waiting in Mexico after applying for asylum in the U.S. , and heard from a number of speakers on the challenges of ministry to immigrants on both sides of the border.  The bishops of five dioceses issued a joint statement at the end of the conference.  The Living Church had a short piece on the summit.  Episcopal News Service had a much longer onehttps://livingchurch.org/2019/11/29/border-summit-focuses-on-migrant-crisis/.  Update has carried numerous stories on migration ministries, on eof the recent ones is here

Alabama Parish Provides Funds to Retire more than $7 Million in Medical Debts for State Families

Earlier Update carried news of an Illinois parish that worked with a private company to buy up medical debts of Illinois families so they could be forgiven. Now St. Luke's Episcopal Church has signed on with the same company and raised enough funds to buy at greatly reduced rates the medical debts of Alabama families in 14 counties. Those debts totalled between $7 and $8 million dollars.  It is a real Christmas gift to their community.  The full story is here.