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, January 28, 2020

Week Ending 01/27/20

Vandalism Hits Churches on MLK Day

Three Churches in the Diocese of Olympia were hit by taggers marking the buildings with anti-LGBTQ, anti immigrant, or alt-right symbols on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.   The churches responded with statements of support for those singled out in the tags.  The full statements and pictures of the damage are here.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Date Set for Albany Bishop's Hearing

Bishop William Love of Albany sent a letter to parishes to announce that an April 21,2020 date has been set for his public hearing by a panel formed in compliance with The Episcopal Church canons.  He has been charged with violating his ordination vows by refusing to implement a resolution passed by General Convention 2018 which requires all dioceses to have a process by which same sex couples can seek a blessing of their union or a marriage within their community.   The full letter is here.

More Medical Debt Extinguished

St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck, NY has joined the Episcopal parishes who have partnered with the non-profit RIP Medical Debt to buy and forgive medical debt owed to hospitals.  The church, like others Update recently covered, had been inspired by the actions of the Illinois parish (Emmanuel Memorial) that did this in 2018. St. Thomas had hoped to retire debt in their home county of Westchester, but the non-profit did not find hospitals willing to sell.  They had sent their debt to collection agencies, so the parish agreed to use the nearly $10,000 they raised at their annual Christmas Fair to clear the debts of more than 10,000 families in Oneida County in Central New York.

Alabama Joins Trend for Women Bishops

This last week the Dioceses of Minnesota and Alabama held bishop elections.  Minnesota chose the Very Reverend Craig Loya, Dean of the cathedral in Omaha.  Alabama elected the Rev. Glenda Curry to be the Bishop Coadjutor of their diocese. She had a distinguished secular career, including serving as president of Troy State University before entering ordained ministry. Curry will be the first woman to serve as a bishop in the diocese. Over the last two years a number of dioceses have elected women to the episcopacy.  Update has been following these elections.  Some perspective on the trend-setting elections is found here.  Other elections this last year are here and here.

Church of England Controversy Over Civil Partnerships

When the British Parliament extended the option of civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, the Church of England bishops decided they needed to issue a new directive explaining the church's position on civil partnerships.  In the process they reiterated statements that limited clergy to celibate partnerships.  This statement has been criticized both for undermining work then underway by a church commission on how to be more welcoming to LGBTQA+ people, and now by several bishops who were not happy about how the statement was approved by the House of Bishops.  Among those speaking out was the newest woman chosen as a bishop.  Update has covered issues around the civil partnership law in previous posts here, here, and here.

Kenya Opens Loophole to Allow Some Bishops to Attend Lambeth

The Archbishop of Kenya has announced that if a bishop in Kenya wants to attend Lambeth 2020, he may do so, but will need to bring with him the statement opposing the ordination of LGBTQA people or blessings of same sex unions. The change was announced after Archbishop of Canterbury Welby met with the Bishops in Kenya.  The Kenyan Archbishop also made it clear he would not be going.  Several of the hard-line anti-LGBTQA  African provinces had earlier announced their bishops would boycott the Lambeth gathering entirely. 


Monday, January 20, 2020

Week Ending 1/20/20

Bishops Issue Plea for Prayers and Peace Concerning Richmond Gun-Rally

Concerned that several of the groups planning to attend the pro-gun rally at the Virginia State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day were known to have provoked violence,  the Diocese of Virginia's bishops issued a request for prayer throughout the week-end and a plea that events would remain peaceful.  The bishops and state officials got their wish.  The large rally that drew gun advocates from all over the country met and dispersed without major incident.  It helped that counter protesters decided to not attend rather than swell crowds and risk incidents. 

Presiding Bishop Curry Continues to Make Headlines

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was the keynote speaker at the Boston area Martin Luther King, Jr. Day commemoration.  This event,  which has been sponsored by a local Episcopal Church for 50 years, has attracted well-known national speakers. In the last several years, there were empty seats, but this year Bishop Curry spoke to a full house.  The Episcopal News Service Story has a good description of the talk which focused on social injustice.  If that weren't enough for a week in which the Presiding Bishop also was in Jordan for the meeting of Anglican Communion Primates, another news story highlighted his offer to provide pastoral care to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as they tried to create a life in Canada apart from the British Royal Family.  

Catholics Withdraw as Hosts for Consecration of Southern Virginia Episcopal Bishop

The Diocese of Southern Virginia had hoped to hold the consecration of its new bishop at St. Bede's Catholic Church in Williamsburg, VA.  However, conservative Roman Catholics raised a stink and organized a petition campaign to have the offer of space withdrawn.  What seems to have most offended them was that the bishop elect, the Rev. Susan Haynes is a woman.  However, some thought it inappropriate for a Roman Catholic Church to be used for any sacramental service by another denomination.  A third issue was conservatives unhappy with the affirming stance of the Episcopal Church for LGBTQ+ people. The Roman Catholic bishop defended the offer to host, but the Episcopal Diocese withdrew to avoid further controversy. The consecration will remain in Williamsburg, but at the Williamsburg Community Chapel.  The chapel is part of an evangelical consortium and has a main worship space that seats 1500, making it even larger than St. Bede's.

 Roman Catholic cathedrals and churches have been the site of other consecrations.  The first was in Pittsburgh in 1868 when Bishop Robert Appleyard was consecrated at the Roman Catholic St. Paul's Cathedral because the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was being restored after a fire.  Two Bishops of Northern Indiana were consecrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame campus, Bishop Sheridan in 1972 and Bishop Little in 2000.  It is also not the first time that a Catholic Church has backed out.  In 2003 the Roman Catholic Diocese withdrew permission for Episcopalians to hold the consecration of Bishop Howard at St. Joseph's Church because of  comments Presiding Bishop Griswold had made about the place of LGBT people in the church. Griswold was scheduled to be the chief consecrator and refused to step aside.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Parish Gun Buy-Back a Bang-Up Success 

The gun buy-back event sponsored by Pittsburgh's Church of the Holy Cross and several community groups  had people standing in line waiting for the Church to open on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In 45 minutes they had paid out the $5000 raised for the buy back, but guns continued to be turned in all day, and a late donation added another $1500 for buying back guns.  All the guns turned in will be destroyed by the Pittsburgh police. The Post-Gazette has a more detailed article.  Update had carried a story last week on the announcement for the event.

South Carolina Schismatics Disappointed Again

On December 23, 1919, the South Carolina schismatics filed a petition in a second attempt to get a stay on the Federal trademark ruling order.  A week later, the Episcopalians filed their response, and in less than two weeks the Federal Appeals Court responded by denying the requests for a stay. The Appeals Court still has before it the actual appeal by the schismatics of trademark decision awarding the seal, name, and historical claims of diocesan continuity to those who remained in the Episcopal Church.  Blogger Steve Skardon notes in a January 14 posting that the refusal to stay enforcement of the original order is a strong indication, that the Appeals Court thinks the trial judge made the right decision. 

Primates Meeting Concludes Peacefully

With the three most LGBTQ+ hostile primates boycotting the 2020 Primates meeting, those in attendance continued to find common ground while admitting that tensions remain. The meeting went much as the Anglican Communion Office had hoped, with a lack of fireworks.  The final communique from the meeting, held in Jordan, is here.  The primates had a meeting with the Jordanian king during their gathering. 

Pittsburgh Bishop Search Timetable Revised

When in December 2019 Bishop Dorsey McConnell announced he was retiring, he announced a timetable that was very tight.  The Pittsburgh Standing Committee has now revised that timetable, delaying the vote for a new Bishop from November 2020 to January 2021. This also has moved the probable consecration date for a new bishop from April to June.  The standing committee is currently seeking nominations for both the nominating committee and the transition committee. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Week Ending 01/13/20

Pittsburgh Parish Sponsors Gun Buy-Back

The Church of the Holy Cross in the Homewood area of Pittsburgh is sponsoring a gun buy-back event on  January 20, 2020 in conjunction with The Pittsburgh police, the Episcopal Lutheran Alliance, and Homewood Ministries.  The parish is also offering entertainment and refreshments to make the event on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend a festive event.  Holy Cross recently hosted an interfaith event following the shooting death of an area teen.  The parish was shocked in November by a double shooting homicide on the corner of its property. 

Church Responds to Texas Decision to Accept No Refugees

A recent Trump directive requiring states, counties and local municipalities to "opt in" if they are willing to host refugees being resettled resulted in an announcement by the Texas governor that that state would no longer accept refugees.  The Episcopal Church which has been active in the state in migrant ministries ( see this Update for an example),  and has a national program to resettle refugees, has responded with a statement issued by Episcopal Migration Ministries.  The statement strongly urges Governor Abbot to reconsider and notes the active ministries for refugees within the state. 

Episcopal Churches Severely Damaged in Puerto Rico Quake

Puerto Rico is dealing with the aftermath of a series of serious earthquakes and aftershocks that proved very destructive last week.  The Diocese of Puerto Rico, part of The Episcopal Church, is not only trying to offer relief to those directly affected by the quake, they are faced with rebuilding several of their own buildings.  The Diocese has set up a fund to help with relief of those who have been hurt by the quakes.

ICE Planning Deportation of El Salvador Bishop

The son of an Anglican bishop in El Salvador fled several years ago to the United States after having been kidnapped by members of a drug cartel.  Despite the high probability that he will be killed if he returns to El Salvador, his efforts to be granted asylum in the United States has been rejected and he has been incarcerated awaiting deportation to El Salvador.  The Episcopal Church is supporting his appeal.  The Episcopal New Service has more on his case.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Black Church Leaders Support Christianity Today Editorial

A group of black evangelical pastors from a variety of denominations has issued an open letter in support of the Christianity Today editorial that  said Trump ought to be removed and churches needed to stop supporting him on moral ground.  Christianity Today  has found itself condemned by some evangelicals (and of course, Trump) while being supported by others.  The editor who wrote the piece is a member of an ACNA congregation and made this op-ed piece his parting shot on retirement.  It appears that editor's church in Wheaton, IL is a part of the Pittsburgh diocese of ACNA.

 More Episcopal Parishes Erase Medical Debts of Families

Update has reported previously on an Episcopal parishthat partnered with a non-profit, RIP Medical Debt,  to buy discounted medical debt in order to retire it.  Recently two parishes, one in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and the other in Alabama have joined the movement.  St. Martin's in the Field near Columbia, South Carolina raised $15,000 to clear $1.5 million in medical debt for area residents. The non-profit is still negotiating with local hospitals to buy the debt.  The parish will hold a party to celebrate once all the debts are purchased and families notified.  St. Luke's in Mountain Brook, AL celebrated its 70th anniversary by raising $78,000 to clear $8.1 million in debt owed by about 6500 local residents.  The Diocese of Alabama kicked off the St. Luke's effort with a $10,000. grant.  St. Luke's heard about the Episcopal parish in Illinois that celebrated an anniversary by paying off medical debts and contacted them to find out how to do this.

How the Methodist Worked Out the Division Plan

Last week Update reported on the announcement of a plan supported by conservatives and liberals in the United Methodist Church to allow conservatives to leave the UMC and form a separate body without litigation. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette carried a story on how this agreement came about.  One of the movers behind it was Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who headed the  UM Western Pennsylvania Conference  during the painful schism of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.  The ways the local Episcopal and ACNA dioceses were able to work together after the split and the high cost and acrimony of the actual split and litigation helped inspire Bickerton to work on a different way forward for the Methodists.  

Newly Elected South India Moderator Faces Legal Action

The Church of South India, which is a united body including Anglicans and headed by a Bishop serving as moderator, has had a troubled several years with a number of top church leaders facing court charges for corruption and misuse of church property.  Archbishop Welby counts it as one of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. (See two of the Update stories on corruption here and here.) The Church of South India has just unanimously chosen a new moderator, Rt. Rev. A. Dharmaraj Rasalam, Bishop of South Kerela.  Unfortunately, he begins his term under a cloud because of a police investigation into charges he sold admission to spots in the entering class of a church-sponsored medical school.

Why the Lawsuit in Connecticut Was Withdrawn

When Update was published last week, it included a link to the Connecticut Supreme Court web site that showed an appeal of a case arising from the attempt of the former vestry of St. Paul's in Darien to fire a rector had been withdrawn.  Now an explanation has appeared.  The diocese and former vestry negotiated an settlement out of court.  The diocese remains in control of the church property, and the former vestry and members are free to organize as a separate, non-Episcopalian congregation. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Week Ending 1/06/20

Australian Churches Respond to Fires

The National Council of Churches in Australia has issued a press release noting the many ways churches in that country are responding to the fire emergencies.  Retired Anglican bishop Philip Huggins who is serving as president of the NCC, noted that many dioceses have responded with special prayers and spoken out on climate change.  Regional groups of the Council of Churches have been offering emergency relief and support to refugees and firefighter.

Anglican Communion Office Wants Coexistence Between Differing Provinces

With a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion set to begin January 13 in Jordan, the The Church Times has a short article outlining the past history of primates meetings, and the pressure, so far unsuccessful, to turn it into some form of Executive Council for the Anglican Communion.  The press release notes that 13 of the primates will be new.  Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda are boycotting this meeting and the Lambeth meeting of Anglican Communion bishops scheduled for later this year.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has not invited the leaders of alternative organizations [such as the Anglican Church of North America] to provinces  considered too liberal by GAFCON to the primates meeting. There will be provinces present whose primates are members of GAFCON, and primates from more liberal churches [such as The Episcopal Church, and Canada] and the Anglican Communion Office are urging that those attending will continue to "walk together" in love even as they disagree. 

Urban Churches Get Creative With Their Property

A Jacksonville, FL newspaper has a story on creative use of urban church properties noting that there are congregations across the U.S. that are entering agreements to re-purpose part or all of their prime urban real estate in ways that provide revenue for the congregations and facilitate urban ministries.  Some have used the money to down-size into a new building.  Several Episcopal churches are among the properties featured in the article.

Trinity Wall Street Rector Resigns Suddenly

Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, rector of historic Trinity Church on Wall Street, surprised the church staff on January 3 by announcing his resignation, effective immediately.   The Vicar of the parish, the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, was immediately named priest-in-charge by the Bishop of New York.  Lupfer gave no explanation except to say that he and his wife wanted time and space to rest and decide on where ministry would call them next. Trinity, with an endowment and assets worth billions is known for its widespread grants program and leadership in many areas of ministry development.

Continuing Stories

ACNA Group Files for Stay of Federal Decision in South Carolina

The ACNA group in South Carolina, continues to try to drag out legal proceedings around church property and identity despite having lost both in state and federal courts.  They have filed a second request for a stay of execution of the trademark decision favoring the Episcopalians in South Carolina.  The original motion, filed as soon as the court announced its September decision confirming that the seal, name, and insignia of the Diocese of South Carolina belonged to the group affiliated with the Episcopal Church was denied.  The ACNA group then made a minimal effort at compliance, changing its name but leaving on its web sites numerous references to the history of the diocese, and documents using its seal and name.  The Episcopalians went back to court, and in early December the federal judge issued an order requiring them to purge their web site and documents of the Diocesan name and insignia and to cease numbering its conventions and bishops as though they were the continuation of the Diocese of South Carolina.  The ACNA group's web site now has a number of blank links where convention journals and historical  background used to reside. On December 23, the ACNA group filed again for a stay of the court order, AND a freeze on any hearings about the stay which would last until a case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court involving a tech company trademark.  The Episcopalians filed their answer on December 30. The effect of the stay would be to undo what has now been the norm for two months.  The article on the Episcopalians' web site has links to the filings.

Former Leaders of St. Paul's Parish in CT Withdraw Lawsuit

St. Paul's in Darien, Connecticut has spent a lot of time in court over the last decade and a half.  First it challenged the Dennis Canon, and more recently it tried to lock its rector out of the parish.  At that point Bishop Ian Douglas stepped in, and eventually the parish was reduced to mission status and placed under the bishop's direct supervision.  The former vestry members continued the fight filing a suit against the rector and the diocese.  The diocese and rector prevailed at the trial level, and the dissident members appealed to the state supreme court.  Now after several requests for additional time to file their case, the group has quietly withdrawn their appeal.

Methodist Group Proposes Plan to Split Denomination

The United Methodist Church has been dealing with the aftermath of a close vote at its international synod which resulted in rejection of a local option compromise that would have allowed congregations and bishops to decide for themselves about LGBTQ marriages and ordinations.  Instead the synod voted to enforce more strictly rules against ordination of those in same sex relationships and to punish those who conducted marriages or blessing ceremonies.  Several plans have been proposed to allow more liberal parishes to leave, but one has now emerged with support of leaders from all parties withing the dispute. This proposal proposes the conservatives leave instead. The Methodist Council of Bishops issued a press release with all of the details.  It would allow conservative congregations to vote to leave the United Methodists with their property and provides a payment to the new conservative organization that amounts to a share of the assets of the church. This will free those remaining in the United Methodist Church to make room for LGBTQ clergy and marriages. The plan has been discussed in articles by Religion News and Christianity Today which provide additional context.  Religion News provides background on the long debate by United Methodists and multiple proposals.  Christianity Today identifies the conservative organization that most of the parishes would join.  If this proposal is accepted by the Methodist synod later this year, it will remove some of the questions surrounding the proposed full communion agreement between the Episcopal Church and the United Methodists. 

Integrity Group Appears Dead 

Elizabeth Keaton, a priest and well-known blogger, has given a full accounting of the absolute mess recent leadership has made of Integrity, the organization that worked for full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people within the church.  Integrity currently has leadership that was not elected by the people, has lost almost all of its membership, has little funds left.  Former leaders are questioning an internal audit, and the process by which a small group is trying to fill the many vacant offices on governing boards.  The blog has all the sad details.  Update mentioned the leadership crisis while carrying the notice of the death of the organization's "father," Louie Crew.