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         

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Week Ending 12/28/20

London Parish Announces "Broken" Relationship with Church 

St. Helens -Bishopgate, a large evangelical parish in  London has announced that it is in a "broken" partnership with the Church of England and its House of Bishops and will refrain from participating in "spiritual" activities which include ordination and fostering new parishes.  St. Helen's is upset with the growing acceptance of LGBTQ members and clergy.   While insisting it has not left the Church of England, it is not clear how it will function within the church.  For members of The Episcopal Church, St. Helen's position seems very close to that taken by parishes that declared themselves part of "the Network" which proved a stepping stone to the creation of a new denomination, the Anglican Church in North America.  You can find commentary on the situation in the links provided by Thinking Anglicans and the conservative on-line site Anglican.ink. 

Updates on Continuing Stories

New Filings in the Fort Worth Appeal

In October, Episcopalians in Fort Worth appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for a Writ of Certiorari hoping to overturn the adverse property ruling of the Texas Supreme Court and restore the use of deference to church documents, rules, and traditions in deciding such cases.  The filing came to public notice in November.  The brief argued that use of neutral principles had violated the religious liberty of the groups involved by overturning their forms of governance and making the courts arbiters of who was the "real" church.  The schismatic group in Fort Worth filed their response on December 23.  The brief argues that neutral principles has become the standard and works well (at least for them).  During November three amica briefs were also filed, all supporting the position of the Episcopal Church.  One was filed by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, a second by the Rutherford Institute which is known for its work in religious liberty cases, and the third by official bodies representing the Presbyterian, Reformed, Moravian, United Methodist and UCC churches. All argue that neutral principles has led to increased entanglement with church doctrine and polity rather than providing a way to separate church and state, and noting that the result is widely differing decisions depending on state law affecting bodies with a national membership.  The Greek Orthodox filing emphasizes the ways that a hierarchical church's structure is intertwined with doctrine.   A short article in Anglican.ink provides timing on the next steps in the process. 

Australian Church Struggling to Respond to Transgender Priest

Sexuality and gender issues continue to roil the Anglican Church in Australia.  Update has been following the growing divide within the church over blessing same sex marriages.  Now the decision of a priest to come out as transgender has gotten mixed responses, further dividing the church.   Ordained and married as a male, Steve Coward announced in October 2018 a change in identity to Sorel Coward.
She thus became the second ""out" transgender priest in the Australian Church.  Coward, however wants to change parishes and has asked to be licensed in the diocese headed by Archbishop Geoffrey Smith.  He has refused to do so, and Coward has gone public with the issue.   Timing is crucial here because although Coward herself does not see her situation and marriage as tied to same-sex marriage issues, others do.

Church of England Responds to Safeguarding Report

The Church of England refers to its procedures to prevent and address sexual abuse within church institutions as "Safeguarding Churches."  Update reported that the lead staff person for the national office of Safeguarding had resigned after a shorter-than-expected time in the office.  Now a  committee charged with reviewing and reforming the church's safeguarding policies has issued its report and is suggesting a major restructuring.   Given the problems the church currently faces, the Church's response to the report could be critical in restoring some credibility to their efforts to address abuse. 

More on Church Outreach During the Pandemic

A Georgia mentoring program aimed at students-at-risk made major adjustments to continue to support their students when schools turned to virtual classes during the pandemic.  Because many of the mentors and tutors are older people as Georgia schools reopened buildings, the mentoring programs continued on-line. Mentors have used regular mail to reach children without internet, began providing grocery cards and games to play at home, and worked with other groups to provide computers and hotspots for on-line work.  The Episcopal News Service has more on this program.   Update has been highlighting ways Episcopal parishes have continued or begun efforts to serve their communities during the pandemic. Our most recent previous story is here

Parish Worship Changes Course with Recent Covid-19 Surge

Update has been tracking the attempts of Episcopalians to worship safely during the pandemic.  The recent surge in cases has put a damper on the return to in-person worship, and led parishes to try to find alternative ways to worship and provide communion.  The Episcopal News Service has an article highlighting some of the more creative attempts, such as drive-by communion.  A number of bishops have issued directives to their parishes, either suspending in person worship or limiting the size of such gatherings.  Tennessee dioceses have continued to allow in-person worship throughout the pandemic with appropriate safety measures such as masking and safe-distancing.  The bishop of East Tennessee has responded to the latest surge by restricting worship to groups of no more than 10.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Week Ending 12/21/20

There will be no Update this week. . .  

The editor/ compiler is taking the first week off in 5 years.  We will be back next week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Week Ending 12/14/20

Trump Supporters Vandalize Signs at Black Churches

Weekend protests in Washington D.C. by Trump supporters claiming election fraud degenerated after dark  into what the police called a riot when the large "Proud Boys" white supremacist contingent of the protests clashed with counter demonstrators.  The Proud Boys faction also tore down and burned banners at two historically black churches in the central part of the city.  That action prompted a statement in condemning this action by the dean of the National Cathedral and Bishop Budde. The statement characterized the actions as hate-filled, racist, and unchristian.

Shooting Incident at St. John's the Divine

Immediately at the close of a Christmas concert on the front steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City,  a lone gunman fired shots from a Cathedral scaffolding.  He was shot by police and later died from his wounds.  The man fired his shots into the air and was apparently hoping to provoke his own death.  The incident, however put a damper the cathedral choirs attempt to provide a some holiday joy in a safe and socially responsible way.   Bishop Dietsche and the cathedral dean quickly issued a statement of comfort and sorrow.

Scottish Episcopal Church Sets Goal of Net Zero Carbon Emission 

The Scottish Episcopal Church is the most progressive of the various British Isles Anglican Provinces.  The Church continued to lead the way by voting in Synod to bring in a plan by 2021 which would allow the Church to reduce its carbon footprint to a net zero by 2030.  The Synod also heard a report that they had completely divested from fossil fuel companies. Episcopal News Service has the details on their actions to address climate change.

Continuing Stories

Chicago Bishop Election Adds to House of Bishop Diversity 

Update noted in October the path-breaking set of nominees for Bishop of Chicago.  All were people of color, and two were women.  As The Episcopal Church explores its racist past and seeks reconciliation, this slate marked a milestone for the Church as well as the diocese. On the fourth ballot the Diocese chose the Rev. Paula Clark, currently serving in the Diocese of Washington as their next bishop. Clark, an African-American woman joins a growing number of women of color in the House of Bishops.  Update has marked the trend to elect women as bishops on a number of occasions, most recently here.   

Virginia Looks at Possible Sale of Truro Property

Truro Parish was among the largest parishes in the Episcopal Church before the majority of its members chose to leave the Episcopal Church, resulting in a long set of legal challenges over church property.  The Diocese of Virginia prevailed in those suits, but then negotiated a lease arrangement with the congregation so that the large church complex remained mostly in the hands of those who left.  The terms of that lease and the friendly relations between Truro's previous rector and Virginia's now-retired bishop, led to a sharp rebuke of the congregation by its ACNA bishop.  Now Bishop Goff of Virginia has announced that for the last year the diocese and congregation have been having discussions about a change in the lease and possible purchase by the congregation of the property. 

More on Creativity On-Line for Christmas Services 

Outdoor services in December in snowy Buffalo, New York might seem unlikely, but that is what the Episcopal Cathedral is planning.   Between 5 and 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, the parish is sponsoring a light show and concert that locals can enjoy by walking through the Cathedral park or from their cars.  Later that night the Cathedral will have an on-line service, and another on-line service on Christmas Day.  The local news has the story.  Meanwhile, other congregations are sponsoring traditional Lessons and Carols services.  St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Washington State is one of those who have refused to break a long-standing tradition of offering the service.  This year the choir will do the service via Zoom.  This is the latest in an Update series featuring ways Episcopal parishes are continuing worship during the pandemic.

Reparations Movement Grows

Update has been carrying stories on the movement among Churches to deal with racist pasts and offer reparations as a means of beginning to find a way to reconciliation.  Religion News has also picked up on these actions, noting the leadership of the Episcopal Church in its original story and a recent follow-up.  Churches are also dealing with the racism inherent in the Doctrine of Discovery and the displacement and wrongs done to indigenous peoples.  Religion News also featured this week a story on a church returning land to a Native American tribe.

Same Sex Blessings Proposed by Welsh bishops

The Church of Wales has been inching its way towards blessing the civil unions and marriages permitted under British law.  This last week the House of Bishops announced a concrete step by formally proposing a bill to be voted on in the fall 2021 Synod which would authorize and experimental liturgy  to bless same-sex union.  Meanwhile, GAFCON has responded to an Australian church tribunal ruling allowing two dioceses in Australia to implement same-sex blessings by announcing creation of a separate jurisdiction under GAFCON (not Church of Australia)for conservatice congregations.

Church Membership Again in the News 

The recent release of annual statistics by The Episcopal Church has led to much concern over falling numbers.  A recent piece by Terry Mattingly, a conservative commentator on religion focused on the Episcopal Church and the fact that it has the oldest average age of members among major denominations. His commentary was reprinted in a number of newspapers.  Mattingly, an Antioch Orthodox Catholic has no sympathy for liberal changes in the church, and paints a grim picture.  The Episcopal News Service, however, has a story on the ways that young LGBTQ people have found their way to The Episcopal Church, and affirmation for themselves, especially in the pioneering life of the Rev. Pauli Murray.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Week Ending 12/7/20

Parish backs Removal of Kansas City Police Chief

 The Kansas City, Missouri Police Chief, Rick Smith has been under considerable pressure and criticism for his handling of Black Lives Matter protests this summer.  St. Mary's Episcopal Church has announced that they are joining the call for the chief's resignation as a part of their ongoing witness for racial justice.  They are hoping that their announcement will encourage other churches to join in the movement. WGEM and the Associated Press picked up the announcement

Director of English Safeguarding Churches Office Resigns

The church of England has been struggling for several years with its response to clergy and other church staff sexual misconduct, especially towards children.  In England the efforts go under the label  "Safeguarding Churches."Eighteen months ago they appointed a national Director of Safeguarding.  She has resigned after only 18 months.  Apparently she met so much resistance to change that she felt she could better spend her time elsewhere.  Thinking Anglicans has a compilation of the responses to her resignation and what it means for the Church.  The general view is that his is not good news for the Church of England. 

Continuing Stories

Pittsburgh Beloved Community Initiative Sponsors Service

Under the leadership of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church has been examining its past and working on ways to further racial reconciliation. Update has followed these efforts, with the latest post here.  Bishop McConnell of Pittsburgh created a diocesan effort by appointing the Rev. Eric McIntosh and Shahnaz Alam-Denlinger  in July to lead a Beloved Community initiative.  On December 6, the initiative sponsored a service of repentance and reconciliation followed by a panel discussion.  The event was held virtually.

Pittsburgh's ACNA Diocese Does Deep Staff Cuts

The group that left the Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh and joined ACNA is going through major changes.  This last month their bishop resigned after mishandling a case involving clergy misbehavior.  The Standing Committee took control and has brought in a bishop temporarily to handle pastoral matters, and now has announced that all three canons on the diocesan staff have been let go, supposedly to allow a new bishop to organize the office as he wishes.

Pandemic Forces Return to Virtual Services 

The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi has responded to the surge in covid cases and deaths in Mississippi, and the Governor's call to restrict all in-person gathering by directing all Episcopal churches to suspend in person meetings of all kinds including worship.  Parishes will return to virtual worship and meetings.  Episcopal Cafe has the story on the Bishop's order. WLOX has a follow-up story focused on the parish in Biloxi.  The Episcopal News Service focused on the creative ways that parishes are trying to celebrate Advent and Christmas in virtual ways. This is the latest in the ongoing Update coverage of worship during the pandemic.  Our previous story is here.  

Parish Foundation Grants Provide Aid in Pandemic

 St. Luke's Parish Foundation in Salisbury, NC makes grants twice a year.  In this grant cycle the parish made a number of grants totaling $100,000 designed to help groups dealing with human need during the pandemic  both locally and internationally.  WBTV has more on the groups receiving the grants.  Update continues to try to highlight Episcopal institutions that are reaching out during the pandemic.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Week Ending 11/30/20

Canadian Primate Supports Bill Criminalizing Conversion Therapy

 The Canadian Parliament's attempt to criminalize "conversions therapy," a process that claims to the orientation of people from same sex to heterosexuality failed when covid-19 forced the closing of Parliament mid-session.  Conversion Therapy can use brutal physical treatments. The bill has now been reintroduced and the Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, Linda Nicholls has written a letter to legislators supporting the bill, and pointing to the Church's position  urging an end to all abuse and harassment of LGBTQA people.

Hurricane Help for Central America

 Honduras was among the hardest hit when hurricanes hit the same areas less than 2 weeks apart. Wind damage, extensive flooding caused by rains that delivered a full year's precipitation in less than 2 weeks, and mudslides have left Central Americans struggling.  The Church in Honduras is organizing disaster relief and offering shelter to those left homeless by the storms.  Episcopal Relief and Development is also on the scene providing both short-term relief and long term recovery work.  Update has regularly covered the work of Episcopal organizations to offer relief following hurricanes.  the most recent previous story is here

Updates of Continuing Stories

Impatient Progressives Form New Methodist Organization

The United Methodist Church has been disunited for several years as progressives pushed for full inclusion of LGBTQA people in ministry and sacraments.   The Church was supposed to vote on a proposal which would have created an amicable division into two groups with congregations allowed to choose which group to join, and the assets of the denomination shared equitably.  The pandemic forced cancellation of the March meeting. Update has been following the developments in the Methodist Church because the Episcopal Church and Methodists are in the process of recognizing each other in an arrangement similar to that TEC has with the Evangelical Lutheran Church.   Now a group of progressive leader have gone ahead and formed a new body, but are not asking members or congregations to choose at this time.  The new group calls itself the Liberation Methodist Connexion. Religion News has more on this development here. 

New Church of England Study Materials on LBTQA Sparks Controversy

Update has carried notice that the Church of England  was about to issue a major study guide for congregations to use in discussing human sexuality and the issues around full inclusion of LGBTQA people in the church.  The materials were released November 9.  Conservatives released their own take on the materials in a video that same day.  The result has been a major stir with the study guide undermined before it could be used, threats of schism by the conservatives, name calling, the filing of hate speech charges and more.  ThinkingAnglicans.org has a good sampling of statements, opinion pieces and  the controversy in general here, here, and here

More on Feeding the Poor

Update continues to point out Episcopal organizations who are reaching out to fill community needs during the pandemic. This week local and church news included stories on support of food shelves and feeding programs in three parts of the country.  Several Thanksgiving food distributions are highlighted in an article by the Episcopal News Service.  The Diocese of Oklahoma is providing a $50,000 matching grant for contributions by Episcopal organizations and members to the feeding ministry  of Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa.   The local newspaper carried a story on the extensive efforts of St. Isidore Episcopal Church in Texas to expand and fund its food ministry to those in need, including homeless families.

Two Bishops Point To Mistakes in Albany Panel Findings

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of Pittsburgh joined with the bishop of Long Island to write a letter correcting "mistakes" in the findings of the Title IV panel that dealt with the case of Bishop William Love in Albany.  The letter notes that they agreed with the outcome of the case, but wanted to correct what they consider an error in the findings.  They pointed out that resolutions B012 provided instructions on how trial liturgies  providing for blessing the marriage of same sex couples were to be implemented.  The resolution did not incorporate the liturgies into the Book of Common Prayer.  The Pittsburgh diocesan web site has the full text of the public letter.  The Living Church provides some background here.  Following the announcement of the findings, and before the panel reconvened to decide on a disciplinary action, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry worked out a resolution with Bishop Love which involved him resigning.  Love formally resigned this week.

Church Attendance Issues During Pandemic

Churches trying to navigate the shoals surrounding in-person worship during a pandemic continue to get confusing advice.  Update has been following these issues closely.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last week that the New York regulations limiting attendance for in-person worship violated the free exercise clause of the constitution, but the ruling came after the regulations expired and the ruling in part was based on religious meetings being given stricter requirements than secular businesses. It was among the earliest cases that the most recent appointee to the  court took part in.  In some ways it is counter to a decision made less than six months earlier  which allowed California to set limits on worship gatherings.   Meanwhile in Canada, both Anglican bishops of Saskatchewan were sidelined by the virus and are still recovering.  The bishops are now urging tighter restrictions on in-person worship.  In an even more extreme case, Associated Press reported on the death of the 90 year-old Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  He died from covid-19 acquired when he attended a large funeral for the church's bishop in Montenegro.  That gathering largely ignored social distancing or masks.