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, February 23, 2021

Week Ending 2/22/21

All of this week's news are updates to previous stories.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Fort Worth Appeal

Loyal Fort Worth Episcopalians had pinned their hopes to recover diocesan property and endowments on the U.S. Supreme Court after the Texas Supreme Court awarded everything to the schismatic group in Fort Worth.  The U.S. Supreme Court discussed the appeal last week and on Monday issued a brief notice that they had decided not to hear the case. There was no indication that any justice dissented or wanted to hear the case.  This leaves the Fort Worth Episcopalians with nowhere to go.  Four parishes participating in the Episcopal Church in  Fort Worth also stand to lose their buildings.  That is one-quarter of the active parishes in the continuing loyal diocese.  You can read various statements in response to the denial of certiorari in the stories by the Living Church, the Episcopal Cafe, and the Episcopal News Service.  Update has followed the legal battles since they began in 2008. Last week Update carried the notice that the justices had scheduled the case for a conference.

Baltimore Church Gives First Reparation Grants

Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore voted to raise and distribute $500,000 in grants to black organizations as a form of reparations after becoming aware of the parish's history in support of and participation in the ownership of slaves.  The parish has recently awarded the first $30,000 of grants, including one to Black Women Build.  The group buys abandoned houses and then sets women to work on restoring and repairing them, eventually being able to purchase one of the repaired homes.  The CBS affiliate in Baltimore featured the efforts this last week. 

And the Feeding Continues . . .

Local media have featured the efforts of two more Episcopal parishes to feed the hungry.  This week there were stories on the efforts of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Macon, Georgia, which is sponsoring a free food giveaway, and the other is St. Paul's in Louisville, Kentucky where the parish runs  community food collection every week for the local food shelf.   Update has been regularly noting efforts such as these.  The most recent previous notice is here

Construction Finally Begins on New Zealand Cathedral

Ten years ago, an earthquake destroyed much of Christchurch, New Zealand, with heavy damage to the Anglican Cathedral.  That building was considered a national treasure and a major controversy arose over whether it should be restored, or razed and rebuilt.  Finally in 2017, the decision was made to restore/rebuild the building to be as much as possible like the destroyed building. Not until 2020 did the diocese have the money to begin rebuilding, and now construction is finally under way.  Great cathedrals are not built in a day, and the completion date is now projected to be six years down the road.  Meanwhile the diocese continues to be served by a unique temporary cathedral constructed from cardboard. For more on the rebuilding go here.  Update has covered the earthquake, the rebuilding controversy and most recently, the letting of contracts for the rebuilding.

GAFCON Continues Building Alternate Anglican Communion 

GAFCON, the ultra-conservative group currently chaired by the ACNA Archbishop, but which claims to be in the Anglican Communion is continuing its process of setting up alternative jurisdictions matching those in the Anglican Communion Provinces.  The latest is the Anglican Convocation in Europe, which will be headed by Andrew Lines, who has been serving as a GAFCON missionary Bishop in England and Europe.  Update has noted the formation of other alternative jurisdictions including ones in Brazil, New Zealand, and and have taken first steps in Australia.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Week Ending 2/15/21

Biden Re-establishes Office for Co-ordination with Faith Groups

Melissa Rogers has returned to a familiar role, heading the re-established White House Office of Faith- Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a job she had under President Obama.  Rogers will also sit on the White House Advisory Board for Domestic Policy, and have a deputy director.  The office will seek to coordinate work with a great variety of faith-based groups in seeking to promote economic and social justice, humanitarian outreach, and to balance first amendment rights.  Religion News has a more complete run-down on the office in its story

Sewanee Vice-Chancellor Dealing with Harassment

The University of the South's Vice Chancellor, Reuben Brigety II, used his address at last Sunday's  chapel service to outline the multiple acts of vandalism that have been directed at his family's living quarters in Chen Hall on campus.  The vandalism and threatening messages have been on-going.  Brigety, who is also a former ambassador, is the first African American to serve as Vice Chancellor  at the university.  The university, founded after the Civil War by former Confederate leaders was for many years known for its propagation of the myths of the "old South."  It is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and its governing board includes members from Episcopal dioceses in the Southeast.  The campus has rallied around Brigety, but the harassers have not been identified yet.

Updates and Continuing Stories

Apologies Issued After Lucado Sermon at National Cathedral

Update reported last week on the controversy sparked by the invitation to Max Lucado to preach at the Washington Cathedral's Sunday on-line service.  Lucado has a reputation for  his anti-LGBTQ statements.  Both Bishop Budde and Dean Hollerith have now issued apologies for not realizing how painful this invitation would be to many LGBTQ people and those who support their full inclusion in the life of the church.  In addition, Lucado himself issued a statement, which while not changing his theological position, did state that LGBTQ people are children of God, and their families should be respected. 

Preparing for Lent in a Pandemic

As Americans approach Ash Wednesday and Lent after nearly a full year of pandemic precautions,  the Episcopal News Service has a story on ways churches are finding to observe Ash Wednesday, Lent and Holy Week while covid-19 remains a major threat. Some parishes will provide packets of ashes so people can self-impose them.  Three parishes in Albany have made the local news by announcing they will do a drive through "Ashes to Go."  Update has been carrying notices about adaptation to worship caused by the pandemic since the start of the lockdowns last March. the most recent is here.

Supreme Court Schedules Conference on Fort Worth Case 

The long legal battles still going on around property issues in areas where there were diocesan schisms, are a process of "hurry up and wait"  --being sure to meet filing deadlines and then waiting for court actions.  Episcopalians in Fort Worth have filed an appeal to the U.S., Supreme Court, and all documents are in.  Now they are waiting to see if the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their appeal.  This week there was some motion of the case as the court has scheduled a conference on February 19 for the case. 

More Stories of Churches Feeding the Hungry

 This week Update adds a parish in Bangor Maine, and one in Rome New York to its coverage of parishes continuing to find ways to feed the hungry.  St. John's parish in Maine, parks a truck outside the church once a month and church and community members fill the back with food and supplies which are then donated to a local organization working with those in need.  This month parishioners were also able to pick up ashes for their on-line service this Ash Wednesday.  In Rome, New York, Zion Episcopal will hold a series of monthly community suppers once a month during February, March and April.  Although free will offerings are gratefully received, there is no cost for the prepackaged meals, with a different menu each month.  People need to reserve in advance so the church can prepare enough food and have it ready for people.   The meal is take-out only due to the pandemic.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Week Ending 2/8/21

Churches Begin Work of Rebuilding Refugee Resettlement Programs

President Biden's executive order reopening the U.S. to refugee resettlement and quadrupling the number of refugees that can resettle this year in the U.S. was good news to resettlement programs, including that run by the Episcopal Church.  However, because of the drastic reduction in resettlement that the previous president imposed, the agencies have to retool, reopen, rehire and reestablish networks of support before they will be able to handle resettlement for the much larger group of eligible  refugees.  The Episcopal News Service has a story on the challenges ahead for Episcopal Migration Ministries. 

Invitation to Mega Church Pastor Creates Controversy

The Washington National Cathedral stirred up a hornet's nest  by inviting  Max Lucado, the pastor of an independent mega church in Texas to preach the Sunday service on February 7.  Lucado comes out of the Church of Christ tradition and has made numerous statements offensive to  and condemning of LGBTQ+ people.  In this case the dual role of the Cathedral as both the cathedral of the diocese of Washington with an active Episcopal congregation, and its role as a house of prayer for all of the nation, including those of other traditions were at odds with one another. The fact that Bishop V. Eugene Robinson celebrated did not calm the critics.  Bishop Robison made a statement during the service that he was there not to support the beliefs of the preacher, but because the Episcopal Church needs to model its welcome to all people, even those with whom they disagree.

Pauli Murray Film Premiers at Sundance Festival

The same group that produced the highly respected documentary RBG is back with another documentary of a path-breaking woman.  This time their subject is the poet, civil rights activist, feminist, and Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray.  The group first was introduced to Murray when Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought her up.  They have made extensive use of recordings and film from the Murray papers.  The documentary covers the many ways that Murray was ahead of her time as well as covring Murray's personal life.

Continuing Stories

Supreme Court Reverses Course on Church Pandemic Limits

Although the final outcome in the latest covid-19 restriction case to come to the U.S. Supreme Court was a 6-3 decision that California's covid-19 limits on in-person worship infringed the first amendment promises of free exercise of religion, the court was split with 3 separate opinions by justices in the majority and a dissent from the 3 liberal judges on the court.  Earlier this year the court had upheld 5-4 California limits on the size of in-person congregations.  It had similarly upheld restrictions imposed in Nevada.  However, in a decision that came after restrictions had expired, the court had ruled  in November against New York  restrictions. The replacement on the court of Justice Ginsburg with Justice Amy Barrett clearly has made a difference.   The underlying question in all the cases has been  whether churches had been unfairly categorized when compared to with secular entities (such as theaters) in setting limits.  Justices Barrett and Kavenaugh left in place limits on singing and cantoring because there was not evidence presented to show that they were treated differently than performances in secular venues.  Thus a 5 person majority upheld for the time being those restrictions.  California is already looking to revise restrictions to fit the latest decision.

Oxford Squabble Continues 

 The Christ Church, Oxford controversy that now includes an investigation of the controversial Dean's behavior in a sexual harassment charge continues to find its way into the media.  Among the pieces this week is a statement from the woman who filed the complaint. As usual Thinking Anglicans has links to the various statements.Update's most recent previous coverage is here.

  More on Episcopal Churches Serving Their Communities

The latest stories on churches reaching out to serve their communities during the pandemic address very different parts of ministry during the pandemic.  Many churches around the country have participated in rotating shelters that provide a place to sleep for the homeless on their church grounds.  However these programs had to close down during the pandemic.  In  Carlisle, PA officials had been housing homeless families in hotels at a major expense. The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania had a closed property, formerly a home for the elderly,  and it has now been repurposed as a shelter with appropriate safe distancing for families.  It provides greater stability for the families than previous arrangements.   On the other coast of the U.S., Episcopalians in Pomona, CA responded to a need for securing appointments to receive the covid-19 vaccine by setting up a core of people who track down locations with vaccine and help those people with few computer skills to get the appointments they need.  For previous example of outreach, see this Update story