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, October 27, 2020

Week Ending 10/26/20

Anglican Priest Elected President of Seychelles

The Rev. Wavel Ramkalaran has been elected president of the Seychelles.  Ramkalaran helped found and has led the National Party since 1994.  That party has been the major opposition party until the most recent election.  Originally motivated to oppose the party in power because he had members who had been arrested and tortured by the party in power, Ramkalaran has built a political movement while continuing to serve as a minister. The Living Church has a story on his election and his background.

Church of England to Release Study Materials on Homosexuality

The response of the Church of England to the LGBTQ community has been a contested area within the church.  The C of E synod has discussed it numerous times.  A goup of 40 individuals has been working on a whole package of study materials to begin a major conversation within the church, including parish study groups.  The church announced that the materials would become available on November 9.
Its contents are not yet clear.   

Roman Catholics Shaken by Pope Francis's Statements on Civil Marriage

A statement by Pope Francis that he understands and approves of civil marriage for same sex couples as a means of ensuring basic legal rights and the right of gays and lesbians to have a family has shaken many Catholic leaders who saw this as undermining the Roman Catholic Church's teachings on marriage.  The pope framed his statements as pastoral, not doctrinal, however.

Continuing Stories

 Albany Bishop Chooses to Resign

Two weeks ago  the Hearing Panel published findings that Bishop William Love had violated canons and his ordination vows by refusing to implement the 2018 General Convention Resolution B012.  The panel was to reconvene this week to determine sentence, but Bishop Love signed an agreement with Presiding Bishop Curry that eliminates the need for further action by the panel.  Love has agreed to a month's leave in January 2021 with his resignation to take effect February 1, 2021.  Love made the announcement in a letter and at the Albany diocese's annual conventionReaction was swift from Claim the Blessing (one of the groups advocating for full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the Episcopal Church).   The Episcopal New Service article opens discussion of the loose ends that leaves behind in the Diocese of Albany and the church at large.

Vicar of Baghdad Censored After Investigation

The Rev. Andrew White gained fame for his work  at St. George's in Baghdad, and actions throughout the Middle East.  However those actions have led to several controversies.  He was cleared early in 2018 of criminal action, but censured recently for his actions in trying to ransom young women from ISIS sex slavery.  Now he has run afoul of the National Charities Commission for sloppy record keeping, conflicts of interest and misuse of funds of a charity organization he heads.  He has been barred for 10 years from holding any senior post or serving as a trustee on any charity board after an investigation by England's National Charity Board.  The Anglican.ink story focuses on the details of the misuse.  The article in Christian Today focused more on the penalty.

Bishops Close Churches in Wales To Fight Pandemic Surge

The second wave surge of the pandemic has led the  Bishops of the Church in Wales to issue a statement closing the churches there for two weeks as a form of "fire break" to slow the spread.  They are allowing small gathers at outdoor services for Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day), and making an exception for essential services such as food banks and day care run by churches, but churches are urged to consider carefully if these really are essential.  The British Isles have been struggling to find the right mix between opening churches and stopping covid-19 spread.

Outreach to Navajo Families Grows

Covid-19 has hit the Navajo much harder than the rest of the U.S.  The small Episcopal missions in Navajoland have been expanding their outreach to Navajo families sheltering in place but in need of food and supplies.  Update noted the beginnings of this ministry hereThe Living Church has published the first of a two-part series on the Episcopal Church's efforts in Navajoland.  The first part looks at the expanded food and supplies ministry being run by the church.  You can read the full article here.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Week Endig 10/19/20

Homeless Jesus Upsets Neighborhood

It took only 20 minutes  after installation of a sculpture of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village Ohio, before the police had a call from a resident requesting the police remove the sleeping man.  The parish had been pleased to host the traveling sculpture for  a seven week stint, hoping that it would spark dialog about the treatment and needs of the homeless.  Other churches that have hosted the sculpture have had similar experiences, including Episcopal Churches in North Carolina and New York.  The parish is using the sculpture to touch off a campaign to raise money for a community foundation and another Episcopal Church who have a ministry to homeless and street people.

St. Augustine University President Dies from Covid-19

Irving Pressley McPhail, the president of St. Augustine's University, a small historically black school founded by the Episcopal Church has died of covid-19.  The college has recently benefited from an fund raising drive with strong support from Presiding Bishop Curry.  Appointed to the presidency in July, McPhail, a distinguished black educator, barely had time to learn his way around campus before  becoming ill in September. The Vice President, Maria Lumpkin has stepped in as interim president.  The campus web site currently lists multiple memorial activities for McPhail.

British Isles Church Leaders Take Stand Against Economic Bill

The Archbishops of the Churches of the Anglican Communion within Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England have all signed a memorial urging Parliament to not pass a the proposed internal market bill that is pasrt of the fall out from leaving the EU without a full agreement.  The bill threatens the accords in effect in Northern Ireland, and authorizes a government minister to break international law.  The full statement is here

Electioneering and Church-Going

With the U.S. elections only two weeks off, the news this week included stories of both presidential candidates attending church.  Joe Biden attended Catholic mass in Delaware, as he has done regularly.  After the service The Bidens stopped in the churchyard where their son Beau is buried.  The Bidens had the press traveling with them stay on the bus and not enter the church. The Trumps attended a service at a non-denominational Church whose pastor has visited the Trump White House on several occasions.  The sermon praised Trump, the minister announced that God had revealed to her in a dream that Trump would win a second term, and Trump was given a megaphone so he could speak to the congregation.  At one point during the service dancers twirling U.S. flags.  Mixing politics and religion is not only an issue in the U.S. The losing candidate for Prime Minister in New Zealand, Judith Collins,was offered a chance to slip into an Anglican Church and pray (she is a confirmed member of the Anglican Church of New Zealand).  A Collins aide then allowed the press to slip in and take pictures of her praying. The fact that this became a photo opportunity was the subject of a great deal of criticism.  

Continuing Stories

More Ministry During the Pandemic

Continuing Update's focus on outreach ministry during the pandemic,  we have 5 examples to offer this week.  The Diocese of Wyoming, which had committed $1 million to outreach during the pandemic, much of it dispersed by parishes, has made a direct grant of $13,000 to  YWCA program supporting those escaping domestic violence.  In the diocese of Virginia the retreat center is closed, but has opened its kitchen to an organization that cooks gourmet meals to fund a program that feeds thousands of hungry people in the Richmond area.  St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in the Diocese of El Camino Real has found ways to continue to support a ministry to those in prisons and transitioning back into the community despite the restrictions of social distancing.  Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia has opened its building to a program supporting children who had fallen behind in reading and math when schools switched to on-line instruction. In Germantown, Pennsylvania, St. Martin's-in-the-Field church has rallied to provide support to a beloved deacon who just celebrated her 100th birthday. The parish not only throws her a birthday part each year, but have helped her compiling a memoir (her second book), and with the need to stay home during the pandemic, has been providing her with meals. Other stories of parishes feeding the hungry include this one.  The announcement of the Wyoming grant program was noted here, and an example of a parish award is here.

Church Membership Declines 

Update earlier carried a story about the drop in membership in the Anglican Church of Canada.  Now the data for 2019 for The Episcopal Church has been made public and once again there was a drop in membership and attendance.  Most of the interpretation of the statistics has been grim, predicting the church would disappear by 2050, however there are spots of growth.  One of them was Pittsburgh where membership reported by the diocese increased by more than 400.  Church attendance figures were down slightly.  In 2019 about one-quarter of its members were in church on any given Sunday.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Week Ending 10/12/20

Chicago Diocese Bishop Nominations Break New Ground

The Diocese of Chicago is on track to have a different look after its election of a new bishop.  The nominating committee has put forward four candidates.  All four are people of color,  two are women, and one of those is is from the LGBTQ community.  The names of the four nominees and their statements are 
available here. 

Updates on Continuing Stories

Reaction to Title IV Panel Panel's Decision on Bishop Love

Last week, Update carried the news that the Title IV Hearing Panel had decided that Bishop William Love had violated his vows by refusing to abide by Resolution B012 of General Convention 2018.  The resultion required every diocese to have a means by which same sex couples could make use of the authorized trial liturgies for marriage.  Responses to that decision have now started to come in.  The Alabany Standing Committee has issued a statement that while offering support to Bishop Love also is clear that the diocese should look to the things that unite its members across differences.  Bishop Love was a member of the conservative group of bishops know as the Communion Partners. The group opposes same sex marriage.  Eight bishops from seven dioceses signed the statement.  Two of the bishops serve dioceses outside the U.S. (Honduras the the Dominican Republic), Both the diocesan and assistant bishops of Dallas signed.   Another signer, Bishop Martins of Springfield is on leave with a retirement beginning in a few months.   Their call focused on moving forward to a more secure process for allowing those who do not accept same sex marriage to continue to flourish within the church.   The Living Church summarizes their statement here, and the full statement is here.

Church Reveals Racist Origins of Grant

For over a century a trust has been offering scholarship grants to those nominated by the bishops of dioceses in seven southeastern states.  The trust provided the money to the Treasurer of the Episcopal Church who then informed the bishops and dispersed the funds.  The trust was created in 1919 by the will of the wife of a descendant of the Corbin family, once among Virginia's wealthiest and most powerful colonial families.  The grant was restricted to those men or women who were white and preferably Episcopalian.  By the 1990s some bishops were refusing to nominate anyone because of the race requirement.  In 2004 the objections of Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina found sympathetic support from the new Treasurer of the Episcopal Church, and the Treasurer got a legal opinion saying that the trust's racist requirement was invalid.  The Church is revealing the history of the trust as part of its work on racial reconciliation. Update has been following such disclosures by parishes, schools, dioceses and the Episcopal Church.  The most recent post is here

Church of England Struggles With Past Failures to Create a Safe Church

The Church of England has been struggling with its past history of being more intent on maintaining its reputation than in providing discipline for clergy who sexually preyed on youth and members of their congregation.  The process by which such claims will be handled has been revised, and a task force was appointed to look at past actions and recommend changes in policies and procedures.  The task force's report was issued last week and its findings were not pretty.  As might be expected, the responses to that report have been numerous. Archbishop Welby has issued a personal statement.  The web site for Thinking Anglicans has a good compilation both on the report itself and the responses.  Update has published previous notices of parts of this ongoing controversy.  

 Seniors Are All Home Again in Florida Church Apartments

In August, Update published several stories about senior citizens who had been displaced for several months from a church owned apartment building in the Diocese of Southeastern Florida.  Some were able to return to their homes at the end of August, and the last returned home last week, although there is still some minor work being done.  Originally the group was frustrated because the building had been poorly run before an electrical fire made the building uninhabitable.  The apartments sat on prime realestate and the seniors were worried that the diocese might decide to redevelop or sell the site to cash in on its value.  The diocese was paying for alternate housing in hotels for most of the residents.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Week Ending 10/5/20

More LGBTQ Issues Headed to Supreme Court

While the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by the Tennessee county clerk who was fired for refusing to process marriage license applications from same sex couples because she said it violated her religious principles, two judges filed dissents raising issues of religious liberty.  Another case has been filed in a Virginia circuit court claiming a new Virginia law banning employment discrimination against LGBTQ  people.  Those filing are churches saying it would force them to hire people contrary to their religious beliefs.  The case is clearly designed to find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  With the changing composition of that court, it is possible that this case may gain more traction.  

Continuing Stories

 Hearing Panel Finds Albany Bishop Violated Vows

Bishop William Love of Albany has informed his diocese that the Title IV hearing panel has issued findings that ruled against him on all matters.  The Bishop was brought before the panel in June 2020 because of complaints that he had refused to implement General Convention Resolution B 012 which mandated that every diocese find a means of providing same sex couples with access to the approved trial use liturgies for marriage.  Next month the panel will hear arguments on what disciplinary action should be taken.  Bishop Love has said he won't appeal because any appeal is unlikely to change the findings.  The full 42 page set of hidings are here

Hurricane Relief Provided by Parish

Update has posted numerous stories over the years about aid The Episcopal Church, its dioceses and parishes have given to areas stricken by disasters.  The local news featured a story on St. John’s Episcopal Church in Pascagoula, Alabama which has a trailer truck that they take to disaster sites to help with clean-up, first aid, and basic necessities.  The parish truck has just returned from several weeks in the Lake Charles, Louisiana region helping with relief after the recent hurricane.  An example of previous Update stories is here

More on Churches Resuming Services

Messages continue to be contradictory on whether parishes should re-open for face-to-face services in light of the on-going pandemic.  The diocese of Hong Kong has announced that parishes may reopen for worship following careful precautions.  Meanwhile, the latest research on the virus suggests that indoor gatherings are inherently risky.  Update has been covering the various openings and restrictions for churches, especially those within the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church.