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, June 30, 2020

Week Ending 6/29/20

Nashotah House Offers Free Class on Black Faith

Nashotah House, a seminary of the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin, has announced a free on-line course  "the Bible in Theology and Color" which is described as providing "the opportunity to study the history and theological insights of the Black Church, Latino/a Protestantism, and Asian American Christians and learn what these insights have to teach us about the present moment."  The instructor is  Esau McCaulley, and ACNA priest  and Assistant Professor at the conservative evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois.  The start date for the course is not given in any of the materials.

New Anglican Province Created in North Africa

The Anglican Province of the Middle East and Africa has been reconfigured into two Provinces, thus raising the number of provinces in the Anglican Communion to 41.  The measure to create the new Province of Alexandria is now complete.  The Province of  Jerusalem and the Middle East now covers the dioceses of Jerusalem (which includes Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria), Iran, Cyprus and the Gulf.  The new Province of Alexandria includes dioceses in 10 countries: Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Chad, Mauritania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia.  This will increase the number of conservative votes at both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Episcopalians File Reconsideration Request

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina filed a motion for reconsideration with the judge who issued an order in the church property case that negated the findings of the state Supreme Court.  The filing outlines the many ways the court exceeded its authority, misinterpreted the SC Supreme Court decision, and was factually incorrect.  The diocesan news release itemizes the points made in the motion. . The full filing is here.  Update has followed the full eight-year court  struggle. Its most recent posting was on the court order that is the subject of the current filing.

St. John's Lafayette Square Saga Continues

St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. has been in the new continuously since the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality.  The Church was damaged by a small fire during the protests, then the site of a brutal clearing of Lafayette Square to facilitate a photo opportunity for Donald Trump.  Church officials were initially denied access to the building for a prayer vigil, although later events were held outside.  Most recently protesters have camped on the church patio directly across from the White House, and some additional minor damage (spray painting ) occurred.  The parish was planning on a peaceful removal of protesters through negotiation, but Washington police  did a forcible removal. Now Church officials reluctantly agreed to a temporary fence installation assuming the fence would be installed on the entire block.  A statement from parish leaders is here.  Instead, just the church was enclosed in a tall fence, which is now the subject of controversy.

Christ Church Oxford Groups Ordered to Mediation

The blog Thinking Anglicans has links to a number of stories carrying further developments in the Christ Church, Oxford struggle between faculty and the Dean of the College and Cathedral.  Update has carried posts on this bitter feud a number of times.  Now the parties have been ordered into mediation while an investigation of safe church procedures goes forward.  Adding to the embarrassment of the college, the college learned that one of the fractious faculty who signed a letter asking for the removal of the dean on moral and ethical grounds has himself just been convicted in France on child pornography charges.

No Surprise! ACNA Joins Global South

The Global South/GAFCON group within the Anglican Communion continues on the path of destruction of the communion.The Global South is supposedly a group of provinces within the Anglican Communion, but it moves in close coordination with GAFCON (originally the name stood for the Global Anglican Futures Conference). GAFCON has been setting up alternative dioceses and provinces to places in the Anglican Communion it deems too liberal. It is well on a course to creating an alternative communion or splitting the existing Anglican Communion. The current chair of GAFCON is the ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach.  Thus it comes a no surprise that the ACNA Council has voted to accept membership in the Global South. 

Caution Continues on Church Building Re-Openings

It is clear that much Episcopal worship will continue to be done on-line for months to come. The rise in covid-19 cases in many states has slowed church moves to return to in-person worship. Update has been following the re-opening efforts.  Cautious groups of in-person worshipers are gathering on church lawns or in small numbers in their Church buildings in a number of dioceses.  The Episcopal News Service has an article surveying practice and caution in a number of dioceses. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Week Ending 06/22/20

Virtual Poor People's March on Washington Reaches Millions

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was one of the on-line speakers at this last weekend's highly successful "virtual" Poor People's March on Washington. Speakers included celebrities and religious leaders of many faith traditions. More than 200 groups, including churches hosted watch parties on Facebook.  In February the Episcopal Church Executive Committee officially endorsed the Poor People's Campaign organized by Disciples of Christ minister William Barber.  The original in-person march went virtual when the covid-19  pandemic intervened.  The March called attention to economic, social, racial and gender disparities.  The campaign that it is a part of seeks a single payer health system, free college, gun control, environmental justice, voting rights, and more.

Retirement Standoff in Springfield

The Diocese of Springfield Standing Committee and Bishop Dan Martins have been unable to reach an agreement on his retirement date.  The bishop announced his retirement in 2019.  The bishop and Standing Committee are now in mediation. The Standing Committee wants an retirement date of this fall, especially since the bishop has lived in Chicago since 2018 rather than in his downstate Illinois diocese. Martins does not want to end his time as bishop until June 2021. Martins is among the most conservative bishops in the Church, but with great reluctance, he did comply with the General Convention resolution requiring dioceses to provides means for same-sex couples to have church weddings in their home diocese. 

New Life for an Old Parish

St. James the Less in Philadelphia was in the news periodically from 2000-2006 as it fought to leave the Episcopal Church with its property.  The 2006 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, often cited in on-going church property suits around the country, resulted in the property being returned to the Episcopal Diocese.  The parish not only tried to withdraw from the Episcopal Church, it largely withdrew from all connection with its own neighborhood.  In 2008 St. Mark's Church assumed responsibility for the church site and began rebuilding community ties.  They have revived the church school and are offering free education to Middle School students and let the nieghborhood in to the church and its grounds. You can read more about the transformation of the site into a vibrant center of Christian outreach in an article by the Episcopal Church Foundation.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Judge Reverses S.C. State Supreme Court 

In August of 2017 the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an opinion giving ownership of most of the break-away parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  The Court then sent the case to the first circuit court district for implementation of the decision.  Judge Dickson, who was the judge assigned the task has spent nearly three years delaying making any decision.  Update has regularly covered each turn in this legal saga. the most recent post is here. That ended this last week when he issued a ruling saying that the Episcopal Church had no claim on any of the church buildings, thus ignoring the decision of the state Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court has refused petitions from the break-away group to rehear the case, but this decision may force such a rehearing.  The decision was a disappointment for Episcopalians, who are now considering their next legal steps.   The Diocesan statement on the decision is here.  The break-away group made this announcement.  Blogger Steve Skardon provides background on the judge's decision in a June 19 posting.

Supreme Court Keeps DACA Alive 

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court issued a number of decisions that had major political impact.  Presiding Bishop Curry had signed an amicus brief for one of the cases, which tested whether the president could unilaterally and without research or notice end the DACA policy which had provided a means for people who had been brought to the U.S. without documentation as children to register with immigration and get on with their lives.  Churches have been among the strong supporters of the DACA program.  The "Dreamers" as they are called include a number of young adults who have gone to college and into professions.  The Episcopal Church supports immigration reform and a way for those who are now in the U.S. to acquire legal status. The case decided by the Supreme Court was filed originally in 2017 by a Connecticut Legal Clinic.  One of those working on the case was Armando Ghinaglia, a Dreamer, who is an Episcopal priest and studying for a law degree.  The court ruled that the means by which the president tried to end the DACA program was illegal because it had not studied the impact on the U.S. and the Dreamers who had come forward and registered, thus identifying themselves and making themselves vulnerable to deportation should the program end.  Thus the decision does not prevent a future end to the program, but requires study and a more nuanced approach that may be hard to achieve before the November elections.

Speaking and Acting to Remove Racist Symbols

 The Episcopal Church has been dealing with a variety of memorials in their buildings that honored Confederate political and military leaders, and with other parts of their history showing deep entanglement with slavery and racism.  Update has tracked the debates over these memorials and their removal.  The recent demonstrations have heightened pressure to remove all public memorials to people or events that are identified with racism.  The latest Episcopal parish to take action concrning their own memorials is Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore.  The vestry voted to remove plaques honoring the first two rectors of the parish.  Both owned slaves, and both supported the confederacy.  They are also trying to decide the fate of a large tryptych given in honor of William Meade Dame, a Confederate veteran who spent 40 years building a system of segregation in Baltimore.  The decision was announced on the parish Facebook page and picked up by local news media.   Meanwhile, the bishop of the diocese of Mississippi has issued a formal statement supporting the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Mississippi state flag.

In Person Worship Restarts

Update has been tracking the steps towards returning to in-person worship.  The latest issue of the Diocese of South Carolina newsletter includes a feature on a parish resuming in-person worship. The Tennessean published a story of the Episcopal Church in Franklin, TN returning to in-person worship. And in New Zealand, the island country's success in squelching the coronaviraus-19 has allowed churches there to reopen.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Investigated Again

Lord Carey, a retired Archbishop of Canterbury had his license to officiate removed in 2017 and restored for limited officiating in 2018, but another review has resulted in the license again being suspended.  The reviews are the result of investigations by the National Safeguarding Team.  What is at issue is his handling of two different incidents when a priest of the church was charged with sexual abuse of others.  In the case of the most recent revocation of his license, Carey denies even knowing the person whose case he supposedly mishandled.  

More on Trump's Photo Op at St. John's

Stories about Trump's march across Lafayette Square to have a photo opportunity of him holding a Bible while standing next to the parish hall entrance sign for St. John's Church Lafayette Square just keep coming.  Both the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Marian Budde of Washington criticized Trump for taking the pictures without stopping fo going inside for prayer.  The White House has issued a statement that insurance costs and risks meant he could not go in. The CNN FactChecker, however, has noted that these claims are not true. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Week Ending 6/15/20

Employment Discrimination Opinion Has One Gap

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 6-3 opinion that the 1964 Civil Rights Act gives broad protection to LGBTQ employees.  Justice Neil Gorsuch, the lone Episcopalian on the court wrote the opinion.  In general the opinion dismisses all of the claims made by employers, but Gorsuch notes late in the opinion that an employer defense based on religious freedom was not litigated in this case and awaits a later decision. It is likely that litigation based on that claim will follow.

Continuing Stories

Albany Now Awaits Hearing Panel Ruling

Bishop William Love of Albany now awaits the outcome of the Hearing panel.  Love's refusal to  implement the General Convention 2018 resolution B012 resulted in a partial inhibition  and Title IV charges.  Resolution B012 required every diocese to provide local means for a same sex couple to be married in a church ceremony. Love's defense, presented by the Albany Chancellor, the Rev. William "Chip" Strickland, argued that the General Convention Resolution was not mandatory, and was not part of the "discipline" of the church which clergy swear to obey at ordination. Paul Cooney, who recently retired as the Diocese of Washington chancellor  and is a George Washington University law faculty member, argued the case for the Episcopal Church. Cooney characterized the resolution as a required, legally adopted, part of the rules of the church, and noted the personal conscience options available to the bishop. The Episcopal News Service provides a summary of arguments, questions, and background here.  The hearing, conducted virtually due to the current pandemic, can be watched in full here.  The panel is currently working on the written opinion.  Only when it is finished and agreed on will an outcome be announced. 

Episcopal Church Takes New Anti-Racism Steps

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has made anti-racism one of the strong themes of his focus on the the love that Christians should practice.  With the protests and demonstrations of the last several weeks, the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion have taken concrete steps and made strong statements against racism, including acknowledging ways the Church has and is complicit in racism. Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis, provided a strong testimony at a virtual meeting of bishops and canons on how racism had shaped her life.  Executive Council  adopted an anti-racism resolution and voted $400,000 for grants to combat racism.  American deomnstrations have touched off similar protests in Europe. The blog Thinking Anglicans has links to a series of opinion pieces resulting from the demonstrations in England against racism.

Monument Issue Heats Up Again

The recent protests against the racism still deeply embedded in American society have brought new attention to the many monuments around the country that celebrate people who actively aided racist causes, especially those celebrating Confederate Civil War heroes.  Parishes and institutions in the Episcopal Church have been grappling for several years with removal of  memorials in buildings and on their grounds honoring men who were prominent supporters of the Confederacy.  Most were erected after 1890 and were part of an effort tied to glorifying the "Lost Cause" and reinforcing white supremacy.  The city of Richmond used the broad avenue separating east and west within the city as a place to erect a number of statues of Civil War leaders.  In more recent years, monuments to a more diverse group of Virginians have been added along the appropriately named "Monument Avenue." Now pressure is mounting to remove the monuments to Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders.  Bishop Susan Goff of the Diocese of Virginia has published a statement supporting the removal of the offending statues. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Week Ending 06/08/20

A Virtual General Convention in 2021?

General Conventions are large gatherings made even larger by meetings held in conjunction with the convention, ECW's Triennial, dinners sponsored by seminaries, the Church Historical Society and other groups, the attendance of many people not voting deputies who help with arrangements, the back-of-the-scenes administrative and legislative functions, those wishing to testify at hearings on proposed resolutions and other business of the convention,  a youth deputation, exhibitors, and the encouragement of Episcopalians to come and experience the convention.  Executive Committee is now considering what plans they need to make given it is not clear what the status of the covid-19 pandemic might be, and that delaying decisions can create eve worse disruption.  Among the options now being considered is a partial or fully virtual convention.  At the very least, the convention may be streamlined.  The Episcopal News Service has an article outlining some of the factors weighing in on this issue for the Executive Committee.

Archbishop of York Sentamu Retires

In a solemn ceremony, much different than what was imagined when the Archbishop of York announced his retirement,  Archbishop John Sentamu entered the cathedral at York and laid his crozier on the altar.  Thus he made his last official act as Archbishop accompanied by his wife.  A handful of cathedral and church officials were there to witness the act.  Because of the covid-19 pandemic, all tributes to him have been digital events, live-streamed or recorded.

Church of England Licenses Controversial Rwandan Bishop

Rt. Rev. Jonathan Ruhumuliza was bishop co-adjutor of the Diocese of Kigali in Rwanda in 1994 when Hutus rose and slaughtered with the complicity of government slaughtered over 800,000 of their fellow citizens who belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group.  Ruhumuliza, Hutu, was criticized for minimizing the slaughter and refusing to  help Tutsis who asked for shelter.  He eventually resigned his see, and served in the Cameroon, moving to England.  He served for 9 years, but following a report on Rwanda in 2014, lost his license. His application for refugee status was denied twice, but eventually accepted in 2018 because he cannot return to Rwanda.  Now, the Church of England has licesned him to be an unsalaried assistant parish minister.  The Living Church has more here.

Continuing Stories

Albany Diocese Prepares for Disciplinary Hearing of Bishop

Bishop William Love of Albany has been under a partial inhibition since 2018 because of his refusal to provide some form of local access to church marriage for same-sex couples.  A presentment was filed, but the hearing was postponed because of the growing pandemic.  The hearing is now scheduled for this Friday.  The Albany Standing Committee has issued a statement in support of the bishop, and is asking for parishes to organize prayer vigils for him.  A handful of Albany parishes would like to offer their same sex members the option of a church blessing or marriage ceremony, and have been waiting anxiously for this clash between General Convention and Bishop Love to reach its conclusion.

More Response to the St. John's Lafayette Square Photo Op

Update carried notes last week on the immediate reactions to the violent removal of peaceful demonstrators from the Lafayette Square area followed immediately by a walk through the park from the White House by Donald Trump and members of his staff so that he could have pictures taken of him holding a Bible next to the Parish House sign of St. John's Episcopal Church.  Episcopal leaders were upset by the use of the church for a campaign, and by the way the people were removed.  See the statements of the New York bishops and those of New England for typical responses.  Presiding Bishop Curry noted that Trump didn't even pray on his visit.   Among those pushed off church grounds were Episcopal clergy and seminarians.  Bishop Budde and others were then denied access to the church for a prayer vigil the next day, supposedly because a new fence was being installed to create a larger perimeter around the White Hourse.  A number of bishops have now issued statements, as has the former Archbishop of Canterbury who called Trump's use of the Bible "idolatry."

Church Witnesses for Justice in George Floyd Death

Update noted the initial reactions of church leaders both to the death of George Floyd, murdered by a Minneapolis policeman, and the protests that followed.  Those quickly grew to encompass memory of a number of other recent killings of blacks by police. Church leaders have been active in support of the demonstrators asking for an end to racism. The Episcopal News Service has compiled a listing of the statements and actions by the church.  You can access it here.  St. Paul's Church in Richmond, which has a long history of working for social justice, has decided not to remove the graffiti painted on its steps by protesters during this last week.  More on this decision and what it means can be found here.  

Reopening Plans Continue

Both across the United States and in England, discussions continue over church re-openings. In England, the government has now allowed churches to reopen for individual prayer.  Both the blog Thinking Anglicans and Anglican.ink carried stories on this development.  Again the Church of England is proceeding more slowly than other denominations.  Locally, South Western Pennsylvania, which is largely part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh was moved to status "Green" on June 5 by the Pennsylvania governor.  The Green status still requires social distancings, and reduced capacity for gatherings.  Bishop Dorsey McConnell issued this statement on the eve of the move to Green status. Nashotah House, the seminary of the Church located in Wisconsin, has just allowed staff and faculty back on campus and is allowing limited use of their library.  They are planning for some classes on campus in July and expect to be open for on-campus learning for all students in the fall.  Update has had weekly notices of the steps being taken that move church organizations to in-person worship and study.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Week Ending 06/01/20

Churches Petition to Stop Annexation of West Bank

Israel's announced goal to annex the West Bank permanently has elicited protests from a number of religious leaders, including those in the Anglican Communion.  The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem was pointed in his comments, saying the annexation would destroy hope for peace.  In the U.S. members of the Diocese of Los Angeles are circulating a petition to members of the U.S. Congress asking them to oppose plans for annexation of more land currently marked as Palestinian by numerous international agreements.  The current administration is supporting annexations as part of its "peace plan" which was rejected months ago by the Palestinians.  The Episcopal News Service provides background on this petition effort.

Hong Kong Archbishop Supports Chinese Security Laws

An opinion piece posted on Anglican.ink has questioned the stance of Hong Kong ArchbishopPaul Kwong on the recently announced new security laws being imposed by the Chinese government on Hong Kong.  The columist suggests that Kwong's statements supporting the new rules not only put the Province of Hong Kong on the side of the Chinese, but because Kwong is the current chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, his comments could be construed as placing the Anglican Communion on the side of ending the agreements that created the "two systems" protections for Hong Kong.  The essay is found here.

Church Leaders Speak Out on George Floyd Death

The killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd by police who were caught on video refusing to move from positions which choked him to death after an arrest, has elicited strong statements from Episcopal Church leaders. Minnesota church leaders responded promptly, condemning the killing.  Presiding Bishop Curry issued this statement.   A number of Episcopalians  have also participated in demonstrations protesting Floyd's death.  The Episcopal News Service has this story on reactions in many locations.  The violence that followed the protests has also elicited comments from a number of leaders.  Church leaders have continued to focus on the need to address racism.  Pittsburgh's bishop, Dorsey McConnell was one of  the nine church leaders who spoke at a protest in Pittsburgh.  He is part of an inter-racial ecumenical effort to improve racial relations and relationships with the police in the city.

Church of the Presidents Damaged During Protests

When violence broke out following large demonstrations against the racism and the police killing of George Floyd, St. John's Episcopal Church, often referred to as "The Church of the Presidents" became the target for some of the perpetrators of the violence.  A fire was set in the basement of the parish house (itself an historic building), there was some damage to safety glass on a church window, and graffiti was sprayed on the building. Damage total for the parish is estimated at $20,000.  The parish rector sent this calming notice to his parish.  President Trump, however decided that the boarded up church was a great photo opportunity, and after a press conference in the Rose Garden, walked to the church to have his picture taken holding a Bible.  A peaceful protest gathering in Lafayette Square was dispersed with military force from Lafayette Square to clear Trump's way to the church.  Both Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry were expressed their displeasure that the building was used as a campaign prop without any notice being given to the Church or permission, and both condemned the treatment of the peaceful protesters.  Budde was quoted on several news shows as well as in newspapers. Curry's statement is here.

Continuing Stories

Atlanta Bishop Consecrated "Virtually"

Last week update reported on plans for the installation of the new Archbishop of York in a service with only a few in-person attendees, but broadcast live stream for "virtual" attendance.  The Rev. Frank Logue was consecrated as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia in just such a service.  Pictures show a handful of people in the congregation, all seated with safe distancing between them.  The bishops involved in the consecration were definitely more than the required 3, but the usual crowd of additional bishops were missing as were most of the usual "honored" guests.  Despite Georgia's declaration that businesses and churches may reopen, the diocese and Episcopal Church are taking care that their gatherings will not become sites for spreading the coronavirus 19.

New Developments in Church Reopenings

Episcopalians continue to take cautious steps towards resuming in-persons services while maintaining safety from the coronavirus pandemic.  In South Carolina, where the state has officially "reopened," the Diocese of South Carolina Standing Committee has issued a cautious permission for churches in areas where the virus does not seem to be active to move forward.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in by upholding the restrictions in emergency orders by California Governor Newsom on all gatherings, including churches.  Newsom classified churches with auditoriums, theaters, and other places where large groups of people might be seated together, and limited those venues to gatherings of no more than 25 people.  Several protestant churches challenged the ruling as an imposition on freedom of religion, complaining that stores were not covered by these restrictions.  The 5-4 decision had Justice Roberts siding with the 4 court liberals.  The decision accepted the defense offered by California that the distinction between stores where people are moving around and have short stays is those places, including churches, where people are seated or gathered for much longer periods was a rational distinction.  The debate on when churches may resume in-person services has been a subject for several Update reports, the latest here

Christ Church, Oxford Squabble Continues 

The stubborn Oxford Dons trying to out the person who serves as both the head of  Christ Church College and as the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral have apparently succeeded in getting an investigation of their latest claims that the man mishandled safeguarding complaints.  After an expensive battle, the dons had lost their attempts to oust him on other grounds after a major investigation cleared the head on all counts.  The safeguarding commission of the Church of England has appointed a panel to look into the charges.  Unfortunately, the panel includes two of the dons who tried to oust the head.  The web site ThinkingAnglicans.orghttps://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/christ-church-makes-safeguarding-accusations-against-dean has a full reprise of statements, comments, and protests.   Update reported on the filing of the complaints here.