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 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.