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, March 30, 2021

Week Ending 3/29/21

Churches Facing Puzzling Harassment

Two parishes on opposite sides of the U.S. are dealing with threats or harassment from unknown sources.  St. Mark's Episcopal Church  in Washington D.C. reported that someone had hung a hangman's noose from a tree on their church grounds.  The parish,  near the Capitol Building, has been open in its support of the Black Lives Movement, and police are treating the incident as a possible hate crime.  The Washington Post had the story.  Out west in Walla Walla Oregon, St. Paul's Church is dealing with the dumping of candles at their church front door.  It has occurred multiple times.  The first two times it occurred the candles totaled over 1200 pounds.  The candles are both new and used, and the church has to have them hauled away.  The most recent occurrences resulted in smaller numbers of candles.  The incidents were covered by both the Union-Bulletin and the East Oregonian.  The parish has no idea what is motivating the person doing the dumping.

Churches Respond to Recent Mass Shootings

Churches have responded to the mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado with marches n support of Asian-American, who were most of those killed in Georgia, and statements of concern about gun control.  Interdenominational marches were held in a number of major cities to show support for Asian American following a shooting that targeted businesses owned by Asian-Americans, and staffed mostly by Asian Americans.  It prompted Asian-Americans to speak out about the harassment they have suffered especially during the pandemic. The Episcopal Church's Asian-Americans sponsored a virtual gathering that documented their pain.  Following the second shooting at a grocery store in Colorado, Episcopalians were among those speaking out and issuing statements on the need for better gun control legislation. 

Latest Salary Study Show Clergy Gender Gap Persists

The Episcopal Church began to study gender pay inequity among clergy twenty years ago.  At that time the gender gap was 18%.  It has taken two decades to reduce that gap by 4.5%.  At least part of the gender gap in pay is explained by the absence of women from the highest paying clergy jobs -- those at large parishes and as deans of cathedrals.  There continues to be resistance to seeing women in those roles.  Another interesting finding was that for male clergy, having children correlated with higher salaries, while having children resulted in lower than average salaries for women.  the Episcopal News Service has more on the study results. The report itself is here.

Gallup Poll Says Less Than Half of Americas are Church Members

A recent Gallup Poll shows that under half of  Americans are now officially members of a religious congregation of any sort -Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any of the Asian religions.    The large number of younger Americans who are unaffiliated is a major factor in the decline.  Religion News has a story complete with some of the charted data from the study here

Continuing Stories

 San Diego Diocese Takes Lead on Helping Immigrant Children

The Episcopal Diocese has been asked to coordinate services for the unaccompanied minor migrants that are being housed at the San Diego Convention Center.  The Diocese has gotten all the volunteers it needed through a call issued on their web site for Spanish Speaking covid-19 vaccinated volunteers. They are now referring other volunteers to a community site which is expanding services.   The Episcopal Church has been active in immigration reform and as an advocate for migrants.  The San Diego Diocese has been one of the most active diocese in this outreach. 

British Government Allows Some Easter Singing

The British government released new regulations governing churches just in time for Easter.  The regulations allow outside church services with singing, and small gatherings in churches with some singing allowed there.  For more on the specifics see the Christian Today article.  Update has been regularly following the ups and downs of congregational worship during the pandemic.  The most recent previous post is here.

Supreme Court Allows Church Closing for Pandemic Violations

The Supreme Court has allowed  public officials to close a church in Chicago for numerous violations of public health restrictions intended to prevent the spread of covid-19.  The courts have been highly inconsistent in their rulings, striking down restrictions in some cases and upholding them in others.  In the latest case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal from  Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church.  The church had received a warning letter for exceeding the attendance limits initially in place in Illinois.  The limits have now been raised, but the congregation sought a ruling that would prevent a threat in the future should stricter regulations be reimposed.  Judge Amy Barrett did not participate in the decision to deny the appeal.  Update has carried notices of a variety of the cases involving churches challenging health restrictions.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Week Ending 3/22/21

Churches Take Different Approaches to Easter Worship

A Pew Research Center Study just released shows that there are major differences by by denomination in whether people expect to attend Easter Services in person, and that only about 12% are expecting to attend a service with no covid restrictions.  Over half of evangelicals can attend in-person worship, but over a third of those who usually attend evangelical churches stayed home. Roman Catholic, mainline Protestants, and black churches were much less open for in-person worship and continuing to rely on on-line worship. (Pew categorizes The Episcopal Church as mainline Protestant). 

Clergy Climate Activists Stage Protest in British Courtroom

Two retired clergy from the Church of England who have become climate change activists decided to use their court appearances for civil disobedience to further their protests. The purpose of the courtroom protest was to call attention to the complicity of courts in governmental inaction on climate change. They glued themselves to their chairs in the courtroom.  The Church Times focused on the background of the two clergy, while the story in Christian Today focused more on the climate change issue and the non-violent protest of the two. 

Episcopalians Respond to Vatican Same-Sex Blessing Statement 

The announcement by Pope Francis that the Roman Catholic Church will not bless same sex marriages because it cannot "bless sin" has resulted in a number of statements by Episcopalians countering the Pope and offering a welcome to LGBTQA people.  A number of Episcopalians also took to social media to offer support, comfort and an alternative theological position. The Episcopal News Service has a compilation of social media posts and comments here.

Updates on Continuing Stories

Diocese of Pittsburgh Parish is Vaccine Site

Last week Update carried notices of Episcopal sites in other states hosting covid vaccination events.  Later in the week, one of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh's own parishes  served that same purpose.  St. Mark's in Johnstown is a historic downtown church  that has dealt with disasters several times, especially the famous Johnstown Flood.  But this week it dealt with a flood of vaccine seekers.  Dur to a glitch in the phone notification process being used by sponsoring health agency, more than twice the number of people notified for appointments than the group had vaccines.  The line of those waiting for shots stretched around the block outside the church.  The  situation was corrected for a second day of shots at the church.  The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat carried the story.

Church Leaders Shrug Off Outside Legal Opinion

The Anglican Church of Canada, after a very close vote and some confusion at their 2019 synod has left it up to dioceses whether churches will bless same-sex marriages.  Traditionalists continue to fight that decision, as dioceses began to implement blessings.  Receiving little support in Canada, they sought  legal opinion from Canada about whether the dioceses were violating canon law and turned to two conservative canon lawyers in England.  The canon lawyers have issued opinions that the local options to bless do violate Canadian church law, but top church officials have shrugged off the opinions as just that - opinions with no legal status for the Canadian church. 

Sewanee Shaken by Another Racial Incident

Several weeks ago the Dean at the University of the South went public about the racial harassment he and his family had been facing at their on-campus home. The university is owned by the dioceses of Province IV of The Episcopal Church, and is also home to a seminary of the church. The university has been taking major strides to free itself from its historic legacy tied to the Confederacy and white supremacy.  This last week the campus was shocked when students from the campus began shouting racial slurs at the opposing team. All the spectators were required to leave and the campus apologized to the visiting team.  Others on campus organized a demonstration against racism, but the school is searching for ways to address the racist outburst and create a campus community that welcomes diversity.  The Episcopal News Service has more on this latest incident.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Week Ending 03/15/21

US Delegation Works for Gender Justice 

The meeting of the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women is being held virtually.  The meeting is usually a chance for a whole range of advisory deputations from around the globe to meet and learn from each other while advising the commission.  The deputation from the U.S. is focused on finding ways to advance the cause of gender justice.  The Anglican Communion also has a presence at the commission meetings. The Episcopal News Service has all the details here.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Episcopalians File Response

Last week the attorneys for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina filed their response to a February 12 filing by those that left the Episcopal Church.  Now the waiting begins. The State Supreme Court has no timetable on when they might respond.  At stake is the property of 28 parishes and all the diocesan holdings.  The South Carolina Supreme Court has already ruled that the properties belong to the Episcopalians,  The SC Supreme Court then designated a district judge to preside over implementation of their decision.  After a several year wait, the judge overruled the state Supreme Court opinion and ruled that the properties belonged to those that left.  The Episcopalians appealed to the state Supreme Court asking them to uphold their earlier decision.  Those that left have argued that the the earlier Supreme Court ruling was so fragmented as to be understandable.  They want the state Supreme Court reopen the whole decision.

Albany Bishop Leaves Church Again

Retired Bishop Daniel Herzog, who left the Episcopal Church to become a Roman Catholic, and was reinstated in The Episcopal Church, has announced that he is again resigning his ordination and is leaving the Church.  He has not said what his next step will be. The action appears to be in response to the Episcopal Church's requirement that all dioceses develop means ensuring that same sex couples can marry in the church.

Churches Serving as Vaccination Sites

Several Episcopal Parishes have opened their doors to provide a site for covid-19 vaccination clinics.  The parishes are helping ensure that the vaccine is available to under-served communities and areas  with high numbers of people or color.  This is the most recent posting by Update documenting the Church's response to the pandemic.

Oxford Investigation Goes Forward

In the seemingly endless saga of woes for the Dean for Christ Church Cathedral and College at Oxford, an independent review has concluded that the charges of sexual harassment should go forward to a tribunal.  There had been questions as to whether the College's governing board had been influenced by a nasty fight to remove the Dean by faculty who were unhappy with his policies.  The review confirms that the case has enough substance to go to a tribunal.  The most recent former post by Update on the Christ Church controversy is here. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Week Ending 3/8/21

Supreme Court Revives a Religious Liberty Case 

The U.S. Supreme Court has revived a lawsuit filed originally by a student who was barred by a college from distributing religious material on campus.  Lower courts had ruled that the case was moot because the college changed its policies, the student had graduated, and the request for damages was only $1.   The decision to hear this case is an indication that current justices have a high interest in issues of religious freedom.

Some Albany Clergy Appear Headed to ACNA

Conservative sources have revealed that some clergy in the Diocese of Albany are in the process of joining the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word which is a part of ACNA.  The clergy have applied to be licensed by that body.  The Anglican Diocese has stated the clergy will function as a regional ministry within the diocese based in Virginia. The action seems to be in response to the retirement of Bishop Love and the likelihood that any new bishop will allow parishes that desire to do so to bless marriages between same sex couples.  New York Church law is extremely detailed about church property, and specifically recognized the trust claim of the Episcopal Church on parish property. Past litigation in the state, including a case involving the Diocese of Albany have supported diocesan and Dennis Cannon claims.  As a result parishes will be unlikely to try to follow their clergy  and take property with them.  Update began reporting on church property cases in New York in its very first posting in 2008.

Two Orlando Parishes Partner for Outreach

Two Episcopal parishes, one historically black, and the other a Spanish language congregation on the opposite side of Orlando have found  numerous social action projects that they have been able to pursue together, including projects on affordable housing, worker's rights, LGBTQA+ support, and during the pandemic on access to information on testing and vaccines in multiple languages. The Living Church article has more on their cooperation.  The Iglesia Episcopal Jesus de Nasaret web site is here.  The web site for St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church is not working right now, but their Facebook page is here.

Canterbury Highlights Impact of Covid-19 on Women

The Archbishop of Canterbury used a statement on International Women's Day to call for inclusion  of more women in the decision-making and planning for recovery from the pandemic.  He pointed out that women had suffered disproportionately from the economic and social dislocations caused by the pandemic, both in terms of employment losses, stresses of childcare and as the subjects of domestic violence.

Continuing Stories

Archbishop of Canterbury Makes LGBTQA Statement

Normally, the Anglican Communion does not comment on internal documents or statements of ACNA, because they do not consider ACNA part of the Anglican Communion, but when the Archbishop of Nigerian issued a strongly worded homophobic rebuke of ACNA for daring to make a statement that recognized LGBT people could be Christians, The Archbishop of Canterbury issued his own rebuke directed at the Nigerian.  Referring to the 1998 resolution voted at the Lambeth Conference, Welby reminded the Nigerian that the Anglican Communion bishops present at that meeting might have voted against support of supporting same sex marriage, but they also voted that"all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ."  While giving Lambeth Statements more legislative authority than they actually have, Welby's statement also was his first direct statement of a more inclusive vision of the Communion.  Update carried notice of the original ACNA statement and the Nigerian reaction here.  The on-line site Thinking Anglicans has a good summary of  response to the Nigerian statement.

Conservatives Continue Plans to Leave Methodist Church 

The United Methodist Church has been heading towards a split ever since its world-wide governing assembly voted a series of resolutions that banned LGBTQA+ people from serving as ministers or holding other positions of leadership.  While it first appeared that those supportive on LGBTQA+ people might be the ones withdrawing, a compromise was worked out that allowed conservative U.S. churches to withdraw, form a new body, and get a share of Methodist assets.  The General Conference expected to vote on this proposal has been delayed twice due to the pandemic, but conservatives are going ahead with plans and have announced the name of their new umbrella organization. They will call themselves the Global Methodist Church  All of this is of interest to Episcopalians because there is a full communion agreement awaiting votes by the governing bodies of both Methodists and Episcopalians.  The most recent Update coverage of the possible Methodist split is here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Week Ending 3/1/21

 Archbishop Makgoba Asks Biden for Vaccine

The Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Southern Africa has written President Biden asking his help in securing more supplies of  covi-19 vaccine.  A major concern is the price of the vaccine from its supplier.  What the archbishop is requesting is for Biden to use authority given him in legislation to waive the copyright protection on the vaccine so it can be produced locally in Africa at a lower cost by other manufacturers.  For more on the statement see the Anglican Communion News Story here.

Updates on Previous Postings

Churches Seek Balance Between Security and Openness

Despite earlier releases about the removal of a fence around St. John's Church on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., the church and its patios are still surrounded by a locked fence.  The parish is trying to overcome that barrier with local art work on the still-boarded windows, and outreach to the community. The parish has now engaged a landscape architect to help design greater security for the church that will preserve its historic welcome.  Other parishes in downtown Washington are also struggling with similar issues.  Their ministries include community outreach and activism, and yet they recognize that they are attractive targets.  The Episcopal News Service article has more on these issues.

Commemorating a Half-Million Deaths

Episcopal parishes have been using various means to mark major milestones in the death totals from the pandemic.   A number of parishes  used their Church bells to mark the deaths in early January. However, the total has grown rapidly, and St. John's Episcopal Church in Johnson City chose to tune up their bells again to honor the now more than 500,000 who have died.  On Sunday February 28 they rang their bell 500 times to memorialize the dead.  The local paper has more on the parish and its motivation.

And More on Feeding the Hungry 

Episcopalians around the country are taking seriously Jesus's command to "feed my sheep" and Update has reported on many of the efforts as they come to notice in local media.  The latest is a feature on KTSA-TV in San Antonio, TX about the ongoing efforts of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit to provide food to hungry families in partnership with Project Hope.  The recent severe weather in Texas has made the efforts even more important.

Baltimore Church Reparations Get More Exposure

Last week Update  carried a notice about the local attention Memorial Episcopal Church was getting for its efforts at reparations to the black community for the parish's past direct involvement in slavery.  Two more media stories appeared this last week, one focused on the removal  of a plaque commemorating founders of the parish to a non-worship space because of the founders status as slaveholders.  The other a news story on WBAL-TV looked at a range of the parish actions


GAFCON Groups at Odds Over ACNA Sexuality Statement

When ACNA bishops released their theological statement on the status of LGBTQ people in their church, they found themselves facing internal critiques from both those who thought it went too far and those who thought it did not go far enough.  Internally, a group of laity, clergy and one bishop signed a statement saying that the bishops had fallen short of recognizing that LGBTQ was an identity as well as an "attraction" and thus not affirming fully those who struggled to remain celibate as full members of the church.  Action by church officials has led to the withdrawal of that letter.  It is not so easy to silence the voice of the Archbishop of Nigeria who critiqued the statement for not condemning entirely  LGBTQ people.  This put the current GAFCON chair in an awkward position as he is the head of ACNA.  The responses suggest the deepness of divisions within the various GAFCON groups even after froups have withdrawn from more affirming provinces of the Anglican Communion. Thinking Anglicans has a good listing of the various responses here.