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, July 28, 2020

Week Ending 07/27/20

Churches Call for Criminal Justice Reform

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, PA has created a platform of criminal justice reforms.  They are now working to have the Episcopal Church as a whole adopt this platform, and are hoping to carry it beyond the church to the larger community.  The platform includes items asking for better data collection, transparency in policing, gun control,  Using unarmed professionals to handle some kinds of calls that police now deal with, collaboration between police an community and more.  The full platform and more about the parish's actions go here.

Accord Reached in Sexual Misconduct Case

Early in the ministerial career of the former dean of St. John the Divine, was guilty of sexual misconduct with an underage girl.  His misconduct, now several decades in the past, was investigated recently after the Episcopal Church removed time limits on such charges.  Bishop Ian Douglass of Connecticut has announced that  an "accord" has been reached with the priest after investigation.  The content of the accord was not made public in the announcement, but apparently does not result in his removal or suspension as a priest.  It does require actions that are designed to aid in healing and righting the wrong incurred.  The Newtown CT newspaper has more on the agreement.

Ongoing Stories

Legal Cases And More on Reopening Churches

Reopening the churches for in-person worship continues to be contentious.  The U.S. Supreme Court waded in last week by ruling against churches in Nevada who sued to be allowed to exceed attendance restrictions set under an Nevada order in response to the pandemic. The court ruled that the Churches had not been treated unfairly and had been grouped logically with other institutions where people might stay for extended periods of time in closed indoor spaces.  The matter is of great interest among evangelical churches.  A recent survey by the Barna group suggests 70% of Protestant churches are currently holding in-person services.   Surveys suggest, however that well over half of Americans are uneasy about returning to worship services in-person.  The Episcopal Church, however is moving much more cautiously, in part to avoid the experience of several churches where the virus was spread among many of their congregation.

Religious Freedom or an End to Civil Rights

Decisions of the Supreme Court on July 2 included several creating a larger version of religious liberty. One of those decisions has raised great concerns for  employees of church-owned institutions.  The decision raises issues of whether anyone who even tangentially participates in religious activities is thus a minister and can be fired if they make any statements or do anything contrary to church positions or doctrine. Can a social studies teacher be fired if he or she does not follow the church's interpretation of historic events?  Religion News provides a fuller discussion of the issues here. LGBTQ teachers are also concerned because earlier decisions on their right to employment specifically excluded religious institutions. 

Ministries During the Covid Pandemic

The Episcopal Church continues to find ways to serve public health during the pandemic. Update has reported on a number of these. ( The most recent is here.)  Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has announced two recent partnerships.   Trinity Church, Wall Street has given a large grant to ERD to use with partners in Africa to help contain the covid-19 virus. In Columbia, Maryland, Christ Church Episcopal teamed up with ERD, a local hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital to become a testing center for the virus.  The parish is in an area with a large Hispanic population and has a largely Hispanic membership.  The testing was done at the church and Johns Hopkins processed the results for tests within 24 hours. 

New Twist on the Church Monument Issue

Calvary Episcopal in downtown Memphis was surprised to find that vandals had knocked down  the historical marker they had worked to have revised to acknowledge that the church land had been owned by Nathan Forrest, who was not only a Confederate General and KKK leader, but had operated a slave trading business on what became the church grounds.  The parish had worked to have the historical marker changed as part of their efforts for racial reconciliation. It is not clear if the vandals objected to the marker because it was about a Confederate or because it told his unsavory connections.  Update has been regularly reporting on the efforts of parishes to more appropriately deal with monuments to those who owned slaves or were Confederate leaders.

Egyptian Anglicans Continue Fight for Legal Identity

In 2016 the Anglican Church in Egypt was shocked to find that the Egyptian government had placed it in a category of foreign churches and that it was required to work through the Presbyterian Church if it wanted to do anything to its property.  The Presbyterians have since tried to assert authority over Anglican clergy and all aspects of the church.  The Anglicans have been fighting in court to be recognized, especially since their presence in Egypt predates the Presbyterians.  This legal battle may be partially behind the creation of the new Anglican Province of Alexandria.  While Christians were encouraged when the government licensed a number of buildings earlier this year, that did not change the legal status of the Church.  The Anglican Communion has now come out with a statement backing the Church in its legal struggles. Both The Living Church and the Episcopal News Service have recently issued stories on this struggle.

Responding to Migrant Needs in West Texas

The Episcopal Church has an active ministry to immigrants, about which Update has given frequent posts.  Among the more recent were the efforts of those in Mississippi to deal with families torn apart after an ICE raid on a factory in Georgia, and the efforts in the Diocese of Rio Grande to meet needs of migrants waiting to hear about their refugee status.  What may surprise people is that the migrant detention centers along the Texas border are housing people from a variety of continents, not just  Central and South America.  In fact the Diocese of West Texas most recently scrambled to find potential housing for a large group of women and children from Haiti.  The group was cleared to be released to wait for their hearing date if there were places for them to go. The diocese went into high gear to respond rather than have the women and children continue in the grim conditions in the detention center for two years or more until their hearing dates. 

More on the Oxford Dean Squabble

Update has been following the struggle between a number of faculty at Christ Church College, Oxford, and the dean of the cathedral and college.  The latest move had been an investigation of the dean as to whether he had handled appropriately instances brought to him of possible sexual misconduct on campus.  The professors have been suggesting that the dean himself was being investigated for misconduct.  Now  Lord Carlile a noted Queens Counsel, has come out with a report saying that the investigation may be illegal because of gross conflicts of interest among those doing the investigating and he chided the dissidents at the college for "weaponizing" the investigation.  Thinking Anglicans has the details.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Week Ending 07/20/20

Buttigieg Talks About Service with House of Deputies

Former presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg provided a virtual presentation to around 400 of the General Convention deputies and alternates for 2021.  His talk explored everyday faith and living a life of service.  It was a strong reminder of the ministry of the laity.  For more of what he said, read the full Episcopal News Service story.

Central New York Embraces Sudanese Congregation

For the last decade a group of Sudanese refugees in Syracuse have been conducting services from the Book of Common Prayer in the Dinka language.  Originally they were an outpost of the Sudanese Episcopal Church, and then South Sudanese Church.  They found a home sharing Emmanuel Episcopal Church's building, and the two congregations have grown closer together over time.  The diocese of Central New York has now received the Sudanese Congregation as a mission chapel, and the diocese is providing financial assistance to its "newest" small congregation. Episcopal News Service has the details.  

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Episcopalians Start Appeals Process

After Judge Dickson issued a finding awarding church property to the schismatics in June, when he was supposed to oversee the implementation of a South Carolina Supreme Court decision awarding the property to the Episcopalians, the South Carolina diocese filed a request for a reconsideration.  Dickson has refused that request, so the Episcopalians have filed a notice of appeal with the South Carolina Court of Appeals, and asked for a stay on any actions affecting the property.  They expect the case to be transferred to the South Carolina Supreme Court given that Dickson essentially reversed their ruling. 

Church During the Pandemic

As the number of covid-19 cases rises rapidly in a number of states, Episcopalians are responding.  In Oklahoma, where the governor will not make masks mandatory, the Episcopal bishop has done so for any in-person services.  In Missouri, the Episcopal bishop has ordered that churches not hold in-person services, although allowing up to 10 people to gather at the church in order to create a service that will be made available virtually.  The order is in effect until September.  Christianity Today is reporting that a number of the largest protestant congregations are not in a hurry to offer in-person services  and are focusing on on-line ministry rather than offering services for only a portion of their large congregations.   Meanwhile in California a group of independent evangelical clergy are suing the governor because he has banned singing and chanting in churches.  The argument is that he hasn't banned singing in movie theaters or bars, and so it is a violation of religious freedom.  Of course, group singing and chanting may not be something being done on a large scale in those other venues, but the courts will be sorting this one out. Update has been reporting on the response of churches to the idea of returning to in-person worship, and on creative ministries.  Two reports of creative Episcopal ministries are the offering of free bag lunches by St. James Episcopal Church in Bangor Maine and an Episcopalian who has been organizing large scale donations of masks and protective equipment to front line workers that they can use on or off work.  The Episcopal Church has also been involved in efforts on a number of Native American reservations trying to help preserve the tribal culture and language.  Both are at special risk because the elderly who are the sources of much of this knowledge are at great risk from covid-19. 

Church Leaders Condemn Executions

The abrupt resumption of executions (after almost a two-decade hiatus) of those condemned to death in federal courts, has brought condemnation from Episcopal leaders.  The Episcopal Church is on record as opposing the death penalty.  Update has carried numerous notices of actions in different dioceses, including Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Arkansas

More on Anti-Racism and Reconciliation

The Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church have made Anti-racism and Reconciliation a major theme for the Church.  Update has reported on many of the initiatives. Local news carried a story on the support of the Diocese of Kentucky for restoration of the buildings of two traditionally black congregations in Louisville.  The diocese linked their efforts to raise money for these buildings to work responding to the death of Breonna Taylor.  The article linked the diocesan help to news carried earlier about the commitment of the Virginia Theological Seminary of a substantial sum for reparations, although there was no indication that the seminary was providing funds.  Update carried Seminary's original announcement here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Week Ending 07/13/20

Bishop McConnell Appoints Leaders for Diocesan "Beloved Community" Effort

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced a new focus for racial reconciliation and social justice with the appointment of the Rev. Eric McIntosh as canon for the Beloved Community Initiative and Shahnaz Alam-Denlinger as Program Coordinator.  McIntosh is charged with developing a curriculum to guide parishes in exploring and coming to terms with racism and Alam-Denlinger with administering the program initiatives.  It is not clear how this effort will intersect with the existing Committee on Anti-racism and Reconciliation, although both McIntosh and Alam-Denlinger have been members of that committee.  

South Sudan Drops Apostasy Law Death Penalty

Several of the North Africa and Middle Easter Countries with Muslim majorities have laws that make it a capital offense for anyone to convert  from Islam to another religion.  The new South Sudan regime is trying to secularize government.  It has now removed the death penalty for apostasy, and Christian Churches are relieved.  The revocation,if it lasts, could make things safer for members of the Anglican Communion Province of South Sudan.  However, there is some concern that the government may be moving too quickly in efforts to modernize. 

Mark Lawrence Begins Planned Exit from Leadership

The five dioceses where bishops actually led major portions of the membership out of the Episcopal Church will all have had the original bishops retire by the end of 2022.  Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Quincy, and Fort Worth have all completed the transition to a new ACNA bishop.  Now Mark Lawrence in South Carolina has requested the election of a bishop coadjutor, who will take full control of the ACNA diocese in 2022.  The blogger Steve Skardon has some comments and speculations in a July 10 posting.  It is interesting to note that there is another ACNA bishop responsible for parishes in South Carolina.  The ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas, which came to ACNA from the Anglican Mission in America, is restructuring to give two of its 4 bishops oversight of the South Carolina parishes in its diocese (including ones in Charleston, S.C.) and the other two will focus on North Carolina.  It will be interesting to see if there is any interest in merging the units. 

Continuing Stories

Church Continues to Following Command to "Do Justice"

The Episcopal News Service continues to provide stories on the ways that the Episcopal Church pursues social, economic, and environmental justice.  This week the news service highlighted an on-line gathering attended by over 2000, that was designed to connect political activism with the command to love one's neighbor.  The gathering was a joint effort of the ELCA and the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Church also expressed its support for the court decision granting a full environmental review of the pipeline that threatened the Standing Rock Reservation water supplies and sacred lands.  Update has covered the protests and earlier stages of the lawuit.

More On Adapting Ministry to Coronavirus

In Updates ongoing efforts to highlight parish adaptations to ministry during the pandemic, there are 3 stories to highlight this week.  First is the beginning of outdoor services on the grounds of the Long Island Cathedral.  A second story was about the handling of memorials and grief counseling by both clergy and funeral directors.  The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, is quoted extensively.  The third story is about Episcopal Dioceses that received federal funds under the Paycheck Protection Program.  Pittsburgh does not appear on the list.  

St. Paul's Richmond to "Reinterpret" Windows

St/ Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond had a rich array of Confederate Memorials which it began removing as early as 2015.  The plaques removed became par of a historical display where they could be interpreted with attention to issues of racism.  However, three stained glass windows were more difficult to deal with. Two were memorials to Robert E. Lee, one of which had a biblical setting suggesting he chose to be faithful rather than accept riches when he chose to support the Confederacy rather than lead the Union troops.  The third window honored Jefferson Davis with a biblical reference to unjust imprisonment.  The church has announced that the windows will stay, but will be re-interpreted.  The new interpretation was not outlined in the announcement.  With the current pressure to remove memorials to Confederates, the Church had to reach a conclusion on the windows's fates.  The Diocese and St. Paul's have been supportive of attempts to remove public statues of Confederate leaders and supporters of white supremacy.

Lambeth Conference Delayed Again

The Lambeth Conferences have generally followed a pattern of meeting every 10 years.  However,  dissention within the Anglican Communion led Archbishop Welby to delay the conference for two years.  It was to meet this summer, but as the coronavirus pandemic struck, the meeting was delayed to 2021.  Now conditions remain uncertain enough that a further delay has been announced.  The conference is now scheduled for 2022, a 14 year gap since the previous meeting of active bishops throughout the Anglican Communion. 

Reaction to Hong Kong Archbishop's Support of Security Law 

A month ago, Update posted links to criticism of the Archbishop of Hong Kong for his support of the Chinese imposed National Security Law.  Now both Christian Today and the Living Church have stories on the Archbishop's defense of the law.  What complicates the defense is that the Archbishop of Hong Kong also holds the position of Chair of the  Anglican Consultative Council which puts the Communion in an awkward position.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Week Ending 07/06/20

All Updates This Week Follow Up Previous Posts

More Zoom Bombing of Church Services

Update reported  in April on an Churches whose on-line zoom service was disrupted by individuals posting offensive images.  The last Sunday in June, it happened again.  This time the target was St. Johns Episcopal Church in Royal Oak.  Those involved used Nazi symbols and racist words, and were persistent enough that when the church had everyone sign off and return, the disrupters once again appeared. The church had to end the service rather than continue with the offensive disruptions.
Zoom has been used widely by churches for Sunday services, despite one Sunday when there was a massive failure of the platform because of overloading.

Church Intensifies Commitment to Poor People's Campaign

The Episcopal News Service posted an article summarizing the various steps taken in recent weeks by the Episcopal Church to advocate for social justice, especially through the "Poor People's Campaign" and their Church's emphasis on racial reconciliation.  Update has covered the steps as they occurred. In addition Trinity Church, Wall Street, announced its grants in support of social justice causes, including covid-19 relief, racial justice and economic justice.  The grants totaled more than $12 million.

St. Paul's School, Conway, NH Is Back in News

 St. Paul's School in Conway, New Hampshire had hoped to have put behind it the scandal that began with the rape of an under-aged student by a graduating senior and then spread to encompass revelations of long buried sexual abuse involving a former headmaster and other members of the staff.  In September 1918, the school settled claims from lawsuits filed by those who had been abused, and in 2019 removed the name of the former headmaster who had covered up  cases from a building on the school campus.  However, another of the abuse victims has come forward, novelist, Lacy Crawford whose sexual assault by two male students was buried and ignored by the now-notorious headmaster.

More On the Cautious Re-Opening of Churches

Religion News Services reported on a recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute reveals that 64% of Americans were uncomfortable with attending services in person.  The group most comfortable were white evangelicals. Mainline protestant, black protestant, white Catholic, and Hispanic Catholic all had responses between 38% and 43% of those interviewed being "extremely" uncomfortable with attending. Another quarter were "somewhat" uncomfortable.  You can see the survey details here.   Many Episcopal Churches have responded to the rise in covid-19 cases by deciding to keep buildings closed, or delaying plans to reopen.  St. John the Baptist Episcopal in Milton, Delaware decided to offer a drive through/walk-up baptismal blessing after their on-line service as a way to do some in-person reconnecting.  The local media covered the event.  Update has been covering the slow return to in-person worship and innovative ways of doing church during the pandemic. The most recent of those posts is here.

Charlottesville Churches Buoyed by Possible Confederate Monument Removal

In 2017, the Episcopal parishes in Charlottesville were caught up in events that surrounded city official decisions to remove statues of Confederate generals Lee and Jackson.  Clergy and laity were among those who joined those counter-protesting the large demonstrations that were organized by far right groups who were unhappy the statues were to be removed.  The demonstration turned violent and one of the counter protesters was killed.  Now the churches are hopeful that the statues soon will actually be gone. Recent demonstrations aimed at removing statues erected to memorialize confederate leaders have added new impetus to the Charlottesville attempts. The city's attempts tp remove the statues have been blocked by an injunction from a Virginia judge who enforced a law forbidding removal of memorials.  As of July 1, a new state law allows a city or group to study the background of a statue and eventually remove it.  With that law in place, the city has pursued a removal of the injunction from the state supreme court.

More on Church Involvement in Recent Protests

St. John's Lafayette Square continues to be in the news.  This week, a congressional committee held hearings on the decision to use force to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square just before Trump's photo opportunity at the church.  In other news, the Living Church carried an overview article showing church support offered to protesters in a number of places.  Update has been tracking the protests, and the St. John's story.