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, March 30, 2020

Week Ending 3/30/20

Diocese of Wyoming Commits $1 Million To Covid-19 Relief

The social and economic dislocation caused by the pandemic has led the trustees of the Diocese of Wyoming's foundation to set aside $1 million to be used for relief.  The details are still being worked out, but like everywhere else in America, families are finding it hard to make ends meet as businesses shut down, unemployment grows, and health costs rise.  The board of the foundation intends to meet weekly to make decisions on disbursement of funds. The story was covered by an on-line daily news service in Wyoming.

Beloved Liberal Priest Among the New Orleans Covid-19 Casualties

The March 28 post by blogger Steve Skardon was a memorial for the Rev. William Barnwell who began his ministry in South Carolina where he was an advocate for racial justice and integration, continued in Virginia, and finally ended in New Orleans.  A member of the Episcopal Parish in Edisto provided a further memorial that outlines his work for social justice, and his support for Episcopalians in Edisto at the time of the diocesan split.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Bishop Love Hearing to Be Done Virtually

Bishop William Love of Albany issued a pastoral letter to his congregation bringing them up to date on a number of things, and offering words of comfort.  In the middle of the letter he addresses the Title IV hearing scheduled for April 21 to determine if he his refusal to implement the General Convention 2018 Resolution B012 is grounds for disciplinary action.  The resolution required all dioceses to provide options for single sex couples to have access locally to the rite of marriage.  Love notes that the hearing is scheduled to go forward using virtual technology, but he was not sure if it would occur on the date originally appointed. 

Churches Continue Stretching to Do Ministry in Pandemic

Update's coverage of the various ways Episcopal Churches are dealing with ministry during a pandemic that has shuttered their buildings continues this week. Dealing with the death of parishioners  is a challenge.  One clergy person dealt with visitation restrictions by offering Last Rites to two different parishioners by phone. One of the members of his parish became the first Connecticut fatality of covid-19.  The Rev. Peter Walsh set up a three way conference call to connect him with the family members who were now in quarantine, and with his parishioner (with the help of a hospital nurse), to do the prayers for the dying.  When he finished that call, he connected with the family of another parish member who was in hospice for cancer, and once again did Last Rites. 
Meanwhile church boarding schools were trying to balance the need to close their school buildings with the recognition that international students might have nowhere to go.  The Episcopal News Service has an article on how the schools responded.  Interestingly, one of the Church of England newspapers, The Church Times,  had a front page story on the report of a New York priest on what was happening in that city and elsewhere in the U.S.

New Zealand Cathedral Gets OK to Start Work

The reconstruction work on Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand took a step forward with the filing of requests for permits to actually begin work of the site.  The cathedral was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake the destroyed much of Christ Church.  Its repair or removal then became a controversy pitting those who wanted to tear it down and build anew, and those who saw the site as a national heritage building that needed to be restored.  In 2017 the final decision was made to restore the building and since then the diocese has worked on financing the work and  doing a detailed survey of the site and damage. It is not clear what impact the coronavirus-19 pandemic may have on the actual start of the work. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Week Ending 3/23/20

Congregations Sponsor Drive-In Church

Several Episcopal Churches have responded to building closures by turning to something promoted by independent churches in the 1950s and 1960s, that is, drive-in church.  Christianity Today provides the background on this movement.  Local news in Myrtle Beach, NC and McAllen, Texas provide the details.  Both broadcast using low frequency radio so worshipers could listen on the car radio.  In North Myrtle Beach, the priest distributed communion at the end of the service.  In Texas, attendees were asked to respond at various points in the service, by honking their horns, using their wipers, or blinking lights.

Dioceses Adding Resident Rabbi

While Pittsburgh Episcopalians have long had various forms of cooperation with the Jewish community, and have built on it recently as Calvary Church hosted  the Tree of Life Congregation which has been unable to use its worship center since the terrorist attack in 2018, and with an announced shared 2020 Lenten program co-hosted by a rabbi and a member of the diocesan staff (unfortunately cut short by the coronavirus-19 shutdown), the ties have not been as formal as those in 4 Episcopal dioceses who actually have appointed resident rabbis.  Religion News has a feature on one of the four, the Diocese of North Carolina.

Continuing Update - Coronavirus Cancellations

Lambeth Postponed to 2021

Given the size of the gathering, and the huge number of international travellers involved in the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Communion bishops, it is not surprising that the Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that the gathering scheduled to begin near the end of July 2020 has been postponed to 2021.  The Lambeth Conference usually meets every 10 years, but the 2020 meeting had already been delayed from 2018, this will make the gap 13 years. Not surprisingly GAFCON has also called off their competing meeting of bishops.

Episcopalians Deal with Building Closures

With many dioceses across the country closing all church buildings for services, Episcopalians have been scrambling to move services on-line and to maintain ministries to the most needy. Churches have been forced to redefine how they "do" church at a time when people need spiritual as well as material support.  Presiding Bishop Curry has encouraged that the ban on public services  extend through Easter, and lent his support to on-line streaming by preaching at the first Sunday on-line service offered by the National Cathedral.Blogger Mark Harris offers thoughtful comments on the new situation in his blog here. The alternative to closing churches was made clear when a South Carolina ACNA parish that continued services now finds its senior clergy person in the hospital on respirators, and two other clergy as presumptive cases.  It is not clear how many parishioners might be affected. Blogger Steve Skardon provides the details  in his March 21 posting. 

Anglican Communion Begins Shutting Down to Stop Virus

In a series of announcements beginning with a modest social distancing order by the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed shortly by the closure of all London churches, and ending with the closing of all Church of England public worship throughout the country,  the Church of England is trying to deal with the rapid escalation of cases of covid-19 in England.  The Church in Canada announced social distancing measures, but has resisted an across-the-board shutdown. The archbishops of the churches in New Zealand have, however, ordered public worship services cease and other provinces around the globe are likely to announce their own closures. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Week Ending 03/16/20

GAFCON Supporters Block Election of Australian Primate

Former Primate Archbishop Philip Aspinall has been named interim primate of Australia after the Australian Church was blocked by one vote in the clergy order from selecting a moderate Bishop for that post.  Both the House of Bishops and laity supported  Archbishop Geoffrey Smith of Adelaide for primate, but the clergy vote was 6 for him with 7 needed for an election.  Conservatives had rallied around the Bishop of Tasmania who is the current chair for GAFCON in Australia.  GAFCON is the group that is trying to set up alternative competing dioceses in places considered "liberal" around the Anglican Communion, is recommending a boycott of the Lambeth Conference and has recognized the Anglican Church of North America rather than The Episcopal Church.  As a result, Philip Aspinwall who retired as primate in 2014 was asked to step in while the church's synod regroups. The only report of this election comes from a GACON supporter and was published in the GAFCON-supporting source Anglican.ink

Continuing Stories

Covid-19 Leads Over 1/3/ of U.S. Diocese to Suspend In-Church Services

Lent 2020 is turning into the season of on-line worship as a result of Church responses to the need for social distancing during the coronavirus-19 epidemic.  Last week Update noted initial responses from Diocesan bishops.  However, the situation changed quickly with the Dioceses of Virginia and Washington  moving quickly from social distancing during services to suspension of services. As the week progressed more bishops made similar decisions. The Episcopal News Service has a listing of all published responses by dioceses.  Update went to all the links and counted 37 dioceses whose bishops have suspended public worship throughout the diocese.  In addition at least another 9 strongly encouraged parishes to choose on-line worship over face-to-face services.  Religion News notes that the Episcopalians are not the only one choosing to suspend services. Pittsburgh's bishop has not made such a request, but several of the parishes have taken the option he offered and gone to on-line services for Lent.  These include all three of the largest parishes in the diocese, Calvary, Christ Church North Hills and St. Paul's Mt. Lebanon.  Local media featured St. Paul's on-line service response. Suspension of in-church worship services has not stopped parishes from doing outreach ministries to those most in need.

Pioneering Bishop Barbara Harris Dies 

News media have largely been so focused on the coronavirus-19 situation, that they almost missed the passing of one of the Episcopal Church's true pioneers, Bishop Barbara Harris.  There have been articles in several Episcopal sources, including the Living Church, Episcopal Cafe, and Episcopal News ServiceNational Public Radio and the Boston Globe ran stories (the Globe's especially full and detailed) on March 14,  the Washington Post published their obituary the 16th.  Harris was not only the first woman elected as a bishop, she was the crucifer at the irregular 1974 ordination service for the Philadelphia 11, and worked in the south on voter registration in 1965.  An advocate for full inclusion, she also spoke at many Integrity events and was know for her work on Witness Magazine.  Update had noted Harris was seriously ill last week. After Update's publication, the Massachusetts diocese announced she had been moved to hospice care, and she died on the 14th.

Christ Church Oxford Saga Continues

The battle between the dean of Christ Church, Oxford and the faculty/visitors of the college continues.  Update has been following all the twists and turns of this squabble.  Last week the press committee of the faculty publsihed a document on the college web site accusing the Dean of violations of the "safeguarding" churches regulations (the key phrase in England for sexual abuse).  The dean instantly issued a rebuttal, but the public relations firm working with the faculty released to the press the original statement without the Dean's response, and has not put the dean's response on the college web site.  Local Church officials and the Church Times are now accusing the PR firm and faculty of "weaponizing" safeguarding issues and unfair tactics.  The PR firm is the same firm that has been criticized for unfair  reporting in a case involving a clergyman in an unrelated safeguarding issue.  The blog site Thinking Anglicans has all the links. 


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Week Ending 03/09/20

Islamic Foundation Makes Major Grant to Episcopal Relief and  Development

The Islamic Fund USA (IRUSA)  has renewed its support and partnership with Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) on a project to reduce violence towards women and girls in Liberia. The  ERD began the project in 2015.  This is the second three year grant that ERD has received from IRUSA for the Liberian project.  The project also receives funding from the UN program to improve women's status.  ERD is seeking to change the attitudes of christian and muslim religious leaders and youth towards women, and teach them how to speak out against violence to women.  Liberia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women, in part a legacy of the vicious civil war that ended in 2003.  Ties between the Episcopal Church and Liberia date to the country's formation in the early 19th century and the Episcopal Church of Liberia was a part of TEC until 1979.  Islamic Relief USA is the major charitable foundation for U.S. Muslims.

Bishop Barbara Harris Seriously Ill

Bishop Alan Gates sent a letter to parishes on March 7 informing them that Barbara Harris, the retired suffragan bishop had had surgery on March 1, and after initially appearing to be stable, she took a  turn for the worse.  The bishop reports "Barbara's condition has continued to weaken, and she is now being kept comfortable by the hospital medical team.  She is not receiving any visitors, but all of us hold her in our deepest and fondest prayers." So far there has been no update on her condition.  Harris, was the first woman to be come a bishop in the Anglican Communion.  She was consecrated in 1989 at a time when a number of provinces in the Anglican Communion and several TEC dioceses did not ordain women. African-American, liberal and female, Bishop Harris has been a pioneer on many fronts for the church. Harris will turn 90 in June. 

Updates on Continuing Stories

Coronavirus Impacts Churches  

Episcopal Church responses to Coronavirus-19 epidemic continue to evolve. Last week Update reported on early responses. Since then a number of additional dioceses have announced protocols for serives during the epidemic.  Following the news reports that the rector of the Episcopal Church in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. had been briefly hospitalized with the virus and was in home quarantine, Bishop Marian Budde has announced new protocols for the Diocese of Washington which include banning the common cup at communion, ending all physical contact at the peace or in fellowship following the service.  The infected rector had a attended a major church meeting in Louisville just before he realized he was ill, and he served communion last weekend to over 500 members of his congregation.  Bishops on the Pacific Coast where the virus has a strong presence have announced similar steps to that taken by Bishop Budde.    Presiding Bishop Curry has announced that the House of Bishops will not meet as scheduled this week at Camp Allen, but will hold its meeting using virtual technology.

More Christ Church College Responses

The fight between the Dean of Christ Church College and Cathedral in Oxford and faculty and visitors of the college continues to be waged through public press releases.  The latest is a response from the Dean.  Last week Update reported on releases by the governing board of the college and on leaked material from an investigation done earlier in the dispute. 

Cuba Officially Returns as Episcopal Diocese

Not even the Coronavirus-19 travel ban could keep Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other U.S. Bishops from flying to Cuba for an official welcome back to Cuba Episcopalians.  A process set in motion in 2015 and approved by General Convention in 2018 came to its conclusion last week with the announcement that the Episcopal Church in Cuba was once against the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba.  Cuba is now the 12th diocese in Episcopal Church's Province II which includes not only all the dioceses in the states of New York and New Jersey, but also the church in Europe, the Virgin Islands, and Haiti.

Methodist Clergy Defy Church by Presiding at Same-Sex Wedding

The Methodist Church has been facing considerable resistance to the decision of the church's governing body to enforce rules against same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.  As Update has reported, the church will consider this year a plan to divide the denomination in order to end the war between factions.  Now a group of 12 clergy have given a clear challenge by all signing on as co-celebrants of the wedding of  a same-sex couple at Duke University Chapel.   The question is whether any of the clergy will be brought before church bodies for disciplinary action. It is a classic act of civil disobedience.

Service Scheduled on the Eve of the Lambeth Conference Sparks Controversy

Bishop Mary Glasspool, and the daughter of Archbishop Tutu have teamed up to offer a Eucharist in  
Canterbury on the eve of the start of the Lambeth Conference of bishops this summer. Rev Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, who now lives in the Netherlands, and resigned her position in South Africa after marring a same sex partner will preach.  Glasspool, the assistant bishop of New York will be the celebrant.  Glasspool was among the bishops whose same-sex spouses were not invited to Lambeth.  She was the first married lesbian to be elected a bishop anywhere in the Anglican Communion. Tutu van Furth and Glasspool intend the service to be a wake-up for those attending Lambeth.  It is likely to provoke a reaction from some of the African bishops attending. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Week Ending 03/02/20

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Immigrant Sheltered by Church

A Honduran woman who fled her homeland after her husband nearly killed her sought sanctuary at a Chapel Hill, NC church. Two congregations, one Mennonite, and one Presbyterian share the building and have been supporting her in her quest for asylum. She was denied refugee status through the immigration courts, and then sued in federal court.  A three judge panel from the U.S. Fourth Circuit court of Appeals ruled this last week that she may not be deported.  It means the women can return to her NC home and four children. The appeals court ruled that the immigration court could not deny her asylum and deport her without considering the possibility she would be in danger if she were sent back to Honduras.  Religion News Service has the full story.  The ruling should bolster the cases of refugees being sheltered in other churches, including Episcopal ones.

Study Show Growth Among Church of England Members for Support of Same-Sex Marriage

The Ozane Foundation which supports the full inclusion of LGBTQ people into the church has just published the results of an attitude survey on same sex marriage. The Foundation conducted similar studies in 2013 and 2016.  The results document a swiftly changing popular perception among members of the Anglican Church.  In fact, there was almost an  swap between views in 2013 and 2019.  In 2013, 38% supported same-sex marriage and 47% opposed it, with the remainder undecided.  In 2020, 48% support same-sex marriage and 34% oppose it. The general public was even more accepting, and Anglican women were more likely to approve of same-sex marriage than men were.  You can read the report and see their charts here.

New Anglican Province in Planning for Mozambique and Angola

The Province of Southern Africa includes several countries besides South Africa.  It is now taking steps that will let it petition for a new Anglican Communion province for the part of the province that speaks Portuguese, namely the countries of Mozambique and Angola.  The process will start with the creation of several additional dioceses in that area. If the process goes forward, it would leave South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and the Island of St. Helena and Tristan de Cunha in the Southern Africa Province.

Church Responds to Spread of Coronavirus-19 

The spread of Coronavirus-19has led to a number of statements by Church leaders in the United States and in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal News Service (ENS) made a new travel ban the headliner in an article that more generally covers responses from a number of dioceses and church agencies.  The ban suspends all official travel to Hong Kong, China, Japan, North Korea, Iran, and Italy.  The travel ban takes effect just as a number of Episcopal bishops, including the Presiding Bishop returned from Taiwan where they  consecrated a new bishop. The ENS article includes a link to information and suggested preventative measures issued by Episcopal Relief and Development. Several diocese have issued statements or letters, including one by the Diocese of Northwest Pennsylvania. The Church of Ireland has issued a set of protocols for churches that include suspension of the administration of the cup at communion, hand sanitizing, visitation of the sick to be done electronically or by phone,  and elimination of shaking hands or other touching during the peace.  The Anglican Church of Canada has also issued a set of protocols for their congregations.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Massachusetts Priest Admits Guilt in Child Porn Case

Gregory Lisby, priest in the Ciocese of Western Massachusetts admitted guilt on a charge of possession of child pornography at a court hearing this last week. Bishop Fisher announced that Title IV proceedings would begin against Lisby.  The Bishop also revealed that a charge against Lisby had surfaced on inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor.  Update had carried the notice of Lisby's arrest last fall.  

Hearing Held on South Carolina Property Motions

A short hearing  Thursday, February 27 by Judge Dickson focused on motions for a special master and an audit in the South Carolina property cases filed in 2018 by Episcopalians.  The fact that the Episcopalians had filed a request with the state supreme court earlier that week for an order that would light a fire under Dickson to actually implement the property decisions was not mentioned.  None of the motions filed by the group that left the Episcopal Church were considered.  There is no indication as to when the judge might rule on these motions, however.   For a fuller discussion see the news release posted on the Episcopal Diocese web site. 

New Revelations in Christ Church, Oxford Scandal

The Times of London has an extended article showing that the roots of the conflict between the Christ Church, Oxford Dean and the faculty were about more than his salary and finances.  At the root was the college faculty's unwillingness to put in place a set of rules and clear designation of responsibility in cases involving sexual abuse.  The Dean pushed for clarification of roles and guidelines which the faculty resisted following a case in which a student at the college stabbed her boyfriend, and another case involving sexual assault. The faculty opposed changes because they would be burdensome to the faculty responsible for disciplinary actions.  Christ Church College has issued a statement denying any link to these matters, but the evidence in the newspaper article is convincing.  Update has been following this story for several months.

Bishops Decry Latest Ash Wednesday Mass Shooting

Bishops Against Gun Violence has issued a statement on the mass shooting at the brewery in Milwaukee.  The shooting occured on Ash Wednesday, a chilling coincidence that brought back memories of the Ash Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida in 2018. The bishops are planing a trip to talk with lawmakers in Washington in April.  A similar trip was held last year.  Update has covered new about the Episcopal Church witness against gun violence and the specific activities of the bishop's group on a number of occasions. (For a recent example, see here.)