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, August 25, 2020

Week Ending 08/24/20

Church leaders Urge Protection of Arctic Wilderness

The decision of the Department of the Interior to sell gas and oil drilling leases in the protected Alaskan wilderness areas has led to a strong protest from Episcopal leadership.  Drilling not only threatens the native wildlife, but the way of life of indigienous peoples in the area, many of whom are Episcopalians.  The Episcopal Church has been on record as opposing drilling in this area for nearly 30 years.

Episcopalians Help After Iowa Derecho 

Nature seems intent on creating a lot of havoc this years with storms, fires, earthquakes and flood.  Iowans are used to flood and tornado warnings, but the hurricane force winds of the straight line  derecho that cut a wide swath across the state came with little warning.  Episcopalians were relieved that most damage to their church buildings was minimal, and so they have turned to offering assistance to their communities. The storm created major power outages, severe wind damage, blocked roads and shortages of food given blocked roads and lack of electricity.  Episcopal News Services has a report.

Nigeria Files Charges Against Anglican Bishop 

What began as an attempt by developers to take the property of an Anglican parish and tear down the church, has now escalated so that the Kaduna, Nigeria government has filed charges against the Anglican Bishop Abiodun Ogunyemi for the Zaria diocese.  Statements he made in support of the parish were deemed to be too critical of the government.  Locals are hoping that the matter will be able to be settled without going to trial.  Various African papers carried stories on the conflict.  One that is reasonably complete is here. Anglican.ink carried an earlier story with much of the background. 

Curry and Jennings Each Sign Amica Briefs Supporting LGBTQ Rights

Both the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, and the President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings, were lead Petitioners in amica filings in the case Fulton v. Philadelphia. The case involves claims of infringement of religious liberty by the city on Catholic Social Services.  The city rules allowed LGBTQ individuals and couples to serve as foster parents. Catholic Social Services sought an exemption from the rules.  Jennings is the lead petitioner in a brief signed by over 400 religious leaders, including a number of Jewish, Unitarian, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian clergy arguing against the exemption.  Curry signed a brief filed by the heads of several denominations including the UCC, the ELCA, and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.  It argued that the ability of a government to its own policies was a necessary bulwark for religious liberty.  The case tests an area not covered by the decision earlier this year on employment rights for LGBTQ people.  That decision explicitly left out the question of religious exemptions and referred it to future litigation.

Ongoing Stories

Music During the Pandemic

In more peaceful news from Kenosha, the local paper carried a story on an organ, virtual choir and carillon concert offered by St. Matthews Episcopal Church.  The story highlighted ways the parish was trying to offer a music ministry to the community during the pandemic.  Update has been trying to highlight as many of these ministries as possible.

New Responses to Racial Protests

When Black Lives Matter protesters were forcibly being cleared from a downtown area in Pasadena last week,  All Saints Episcopal Church quickly opened its doors as a refuge for protesters.  A group then camped on the church grounds overnight.  Update has reported on a variety of ways Episcopalians have supported the protests. Meanwhile another police shooting of an unarmed black man, this time in Kenosha, led to violence there and a strong statement from the Episcopal Bishop of Milwaukee, who also is a leading member of Bishops Against Gun Violence.   Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back as he tried get into his car while leaving the scene of a domestic violence call. His three young children were in the car.  Blake has survived, but is currently paralyzed from the waist down.

Bishop Budde's Benediction Makes News

Last week we carried news that Episcopal Bishop Budde of  Washington would offer a benediction on the second night of the Democratic National Convention.  Her short benediction was considered newsworthy enough to rate an after-convention story.  She evoked the Rev. William Sloan Coffin, the Rev. martin Luther King, Jr., the recently deceased Congressman John Lewis, and Abraham Lincoln in her short benediction.  You can read the full prayer here.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Week Ending 08/17/20

Bishop Budde Tapped for Benediction at Democratic Convention

Washington's bishop, Mariann Budde is among the interfaith group of religious leaders asked to provide benedictions during the four-day Democratic National Convention. Bishop Budde was scheduled for Tuesday, and has been in the news recently for her criticism of  the way protesters were treated in order for Trump  to use St. John's Church for a photo op.  (See later item in this post.) The list of religious leaders included leaders from Jewish, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Evangelical, Baptist, and the Catholic tradition.  group includes almost an equal number of women and men. Religion News carried the basic story.  Episcopal Cafe provided additional information on each of the leaders. 

Episcopal School Students Quarantined After Party

While Episcopal parishes have been taking a slow and cautious approach to resuming in-person services, schools have been facing pressure to hold regular classes.   At the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, almost one-quarter of the upper division students attended off campus parties over a weekend.  As a result, the Upper School has switched to all on-line classes, at least for a month, as students quarantine.

Continuing Stories

Another Parish Gets Local Praise for a Food Ministry

St. Paul's Parish in Louisville is the latest Episcopal parish to be praised by local media for their outreach ministry during the pandemic. The parish has dedicated what would have been their worship time to organizing a weekly food collection.  The congregation collects food dropped off by people driving up to the church.  The contributions com from both members and strangers who see their sign.  The food is then transported to another downtown Episcopal Church which has a food pantry that has fed more than 3500 people in the last 21 months.   Update has been noting as many of these efforts as possible.

Fence Coming Down at St. John's Lafayette Square 

As a result of protests at Lafayette Square in front of the White House, Washington D.C. officials decided to put up a fence that cut off St. John's Church from the Square.  The Parish very reluctantly agreed to the fence.  This week the rector of the parish announced that the fence was coming down at the end of the month.  The erection of the fence put on hold plans for a local arts group to paint the plywood protecting the parish's stained glass.  With the fence now coming down, the arts group is going to go forward with the plans for art that expressed healing, love and justice. 

The Bishop Responds to Those Forced from Church Apartments

Last week Update reported on residents who had been displaced from a diocese-owned high-rise apartment building in West Palm Beach that was housing for seniors.  The apartments had been having major maintenance and mold issues for several years, but an electrical fire forced all the residents to be moved to other quarters.  Local news reported on the concerns of the displaced residents after receiving a notice that the diocese was ending financial help for temporary housing.  A letter has now been shared that was sent by the Bishop of South East Florida in his role as chair of the board for the church corporation that owns the home.  The bishop committed to having weekly updates with the former residents until they could return.  The letter however, only addressed the fire damage and not the other issues. Episcopal Cafe had a follow-up story with the bishop's full letter. 

Helsinki Diocese Moves to Allow Same-Sex Marriages

When Finland authorized same-sex marriage, the Lutheran Church did not follow suit, although the Helsinki Diocese urged a formal approval of blessing same-sex marriages.  They did not prevail.  On the eve of a Church Synod at which the issue is scheduled to be discussed, the diocese has announced that they intend to begin allowing same-sex marriages in their churches. Individual clergy have been dong so for several years without being disciplined.  The Synod is expected to approve a local option arrangement.  The Lutheran Church in Finland has been in full communion with the Church of England for more than 20 years. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Week Ending 08/10/20

 Church Responds to Beirut Explosion

The devastaing blast that leveled Beirut's port and surrounding residential area shattered all the windows in All Saints Church, part of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and also damaged the Anglican Center at the Near East School of Theology about two miles from the blast.  Beirut faces a daunting task in rebuilding because the port where relief supplies and building materials would arrive is totally destroyed. Bishop Dewani has called for contributions to repair the church structures and to help in rebuilding the communities that surrounded these buildings.  Despite its damage, All Saints should be able to serve as a relief distribution center.  The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of jerusalem are coordinating  contributions.  The Episcopal News Service has more details on the damage, the challenges for rebuilding and places to contribute.

Presiding Bishop to Join Daniels Memorial Service Virtually

Seminarian Jonathan Daniels gave his life in 1965 when on August 20 he took a shotgun blast intended for a young black girl part of a group of 4 civil rights activists who had just been released from jail.  The Episcopal Church commemorates him on August 14, the day of his arrest.  Daniels was a native of Keene, New Hampshire and St. James Episcopal Church holds a special service commemorating his life and death every year.  This year Bishop Michael Curry has recorded a reflection that will be part of the church's service. The reflection will be followed by a zoom service of prayers and meditations.  The local news carried a story inviting all to attend the event on August 16.  The Presiding Bishop's video will be available on the church web site for a week.  

Seniors Homeless After Closure of Church Residence

The residents of a high rise home for senior citizens on fixed incomes that was owned and managed by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida were displaced after a June 14 electrical fire rendered the high-rise, 182 unit building uninhabitable. For at least 2 years before that residents had been complaining of maintenance issues.  The diocese has been paying for food and housing for the displaced residents, but has informed them that the subsidies are about to end.  Residents are concerned that they are ending up homeless.  Situated on the intercoastal waterway in West Palm Beach, with upper floors having an ocean view, residents are concerned that the diocese may decide to cash in on the value of the property rather than go forward with repairs.  The story and more detail is available from a local newspaper.

Remembering Bishop Sam Hulsey

Bishop Sam Hulsey, the retired Bishop of Northwest Texas, was a major guide and support for Episcopalians in Fort Worth during the schism and diocesan rebuilding died on August 6.  The Diocese of Northwest Texas and the Diocese of Fort Worth both published very full memorials of his life and work.  While the two memorials share much of the same information, each has additional material related to his work and his relations with people in that diocese. The Diocese of Northwest Texas piece is here.  The Fort Worth one was written by Katie Sherrod, and includes a number of personal reflections


Three Board Members Resign from Brotherhood of St. Andrews Over Racism

Frustration over the slowness of the Brotherhood of St. Andrews to address issues of racism within its organization and in society have led to the resignation of 3 black members of the group's leadership team.  The last straw was the reaction of the Brotherhood's president to a proposed statement  written by an ad hoc committee including the three members. One of the 3 was Joe McDaniel the vice president of the Brotherhood's racial reconciliation committee.  The statement was to be a response to the killing of George Floyd and questions of systemic racism in society. The remaining Brotherhood leadership has now tried to mend the breach by inviting the Rev.  Shaneequa Brokenleg, the staff officer for Racial Reconciliation for the Episcopal Church to consult on the Brotherhood's anti-racism efforts.   For more detail, Episcopal News Service has this article.

Continuing Stories

 Springfield Reaches Compromise on Bishop's Retirement

Update reported that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Springfield and Bishop Dan Martins had reached an impasse over the details of his retirement.  Most particularly, the Standing Committee wished him to resign earlier because Martins had already moved to Chicago and they doubted he would be able to fulfill all of his episcopal duties from several hundred miles away.  The Presiding Bishop's office sent the parties to meet with a mediator, the retired Bishop of Northern Indiana, Edward Little.  A compromise was worked out where the Standing Committee would assume most of the administrative duties, but Bishop Martin would retain authority over clergy and provide confirmation and other occasional episcopal services.  For a fuller summary see the Anglican.ink story here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Week Ending 08/03/20

South Sudan Cathedral Attacked

Christians in South Sudan, which has been struggling to restore peace, continue to face violent attacks.  This last weekend the Cathedral Church in the Diocese of Athooch was attacked by gunmen who killed the Dean of the Cathedral and a number of women and children who had sought refuge there. The gunmen also burned the village. The latest count of deaths from the attack is 32 with another 20 wounded. 

Another Denomination Undergoing A Split

Nineteen of the 42 congregations in the Southeast District Conference of the Church of the Brethren withdrew at the Conference's recent annual meeting because the Conference did not take a strong enough stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  The majority of the conference was unwilling to strictly enforce church doctrine opposing homosexuality and same sex marriage.  The conference includes congregations in Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and parts of Virginia and North Carolina.  Those leaving are expected to join the Covenant Brethren Church which formed in 2019 because of dissatisfaction that the Church of the Brethren was not "orthodox" enough.

Reconsidering Anglican Membership Numbers in Africa

Andrew McKinnon, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Aberdeen posted an interesting blog page that calls into question the claims of conservative African Anglican Churches to rapid growth. Growth in these churches has often been contrasted with the decline in membership in Anglican Communion members in North America, Europe, and Britain. The implication is that "orthodox" pl;aces are growing and "liberal" places are declining.   McKinnon's research puts the  numbers in Nigeria and  Uganda at about half what they are claiming.  You can find the whole of his analysis here.

Ongoing Stories

Feeding the Hungry

Update has been carrying links to news accounts of various Episcopal parishes creating innovative ministries or reaching out to those affected by the covid-19 virus and the economic hardships associated with it.   Holy Innocents Parish in Valico, FL has been addressing needs of those who are having trouble feeding their families a hot meal several times a month.  The parish is using fundraisers to cover the costs of the food.  Luckily a local cafe donates the rice needed for meals one Sunday a month.  The local news service, the Osprey Observer carried the story.

Episcopalians Challenging Racism

The Episcopal Church has sponsored a number of different initiatives to reduce racism and foster racial reconciliation.  The most recent Update  report on one of these is here.  Now The Episcopal Church has launched a film based series that is intended to foster discussion of racism and offer anti-racism training.  The series was launched with a major on-line event attended by several thousand people. The Episcopal News Service has a story on this effort and an article on clergy supporting the protests organized by Black Lives Matters in Portland Oregon and opposing the use of federal agents in the city.

Church of England Mandates Masks

The slow reopening of churches for in-person worship continues.  Update reported that Parliament had voted to allow churches to reopen buildings several weeks ago.  However, continued infections have led Church of England officials to mandate masks be worn in their church buildings at all times.

North India Diocese Tries to Leave Church

A bishop in North India, unhappy about an investigation into management of property owned by the diocese, has announced that his diocese is now autonomous and no longer a part of the Church of North India.  The Church of North India responded by placing the bishop on leave and appointing a commission to handle affairs.  They have no yet deposed the bishop, hoping for reconciliation.  The Church says that its constitution forbids a diocese unilaterally withdrawing.  The provinces of both North India and South India have been wracked by repeated charges of corruption and mishandling of church property.  Update has carried notices of these problems before.