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.