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         

Monday, May 31, 2021

Week Ending 5/31/21

Episcopal Church  Economic Justice Loan Group Invests in Community Action Groups

The Episcopal News Service issued a press release listing the nine community action groups that it has provided loans to this year.  Loans are usually for 2-3 years.   Groups eligible to receive loans  are ones that work to provide affordable housing, job creation and other actions that improve the economic situation of the most disadvantaged or those suffering from discrimination.  The grants went to groups in seven states and Haiti.  Two grants went to groups in Georgia.  Other states where a group received funds included Delaware, Oklahoma, Montana, Ohio, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.  The loans ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 with the most common amount being $300,000.  Executive Council created the program in 1998 by merging two prior programs.  It has a fund of approximately $7 million dollars to work with.  

Pioneer Activist Priest Continues Making Waves

The British newspaper, The Guardian, published a long human interest story on the Rev. Eve Pitts, who was the first black woman ordained as a priest in the Church of England in the 1980s.  Pitts has been a voice for inclusion, and has had taken two parishes from near closure to vibrant, growing places.  She has irritated more than one bishop with her exposure of racism within the church.  Her current efforts include a yearly visit to the various ports where slave ships once arrived in England and praying for all the blacks they carried, both those who were enslaved and those who died on board the ships. 

 Swedish Church Statement Supports Transgender People

The Swedish Lutheran Church, which is in communion with the Church of England, has issued a statement emphasizing its welcome of transgendered people.  The original article in Christiantoday.com also stated that the church condemned radical feminism and ultra right extremist, but did not provide the wording for those parts of the statement. 

Continuing Updates

Episcopal Churches Mark George Floyd Death Anniversary

As the Update  noted two weeks ago, a large multi-city effort to memorialize the death of George Floyd a year ago had been organized by a group of Episcopal bishops.  Now Episcopal News Service has a long article on the many initiatives that the Diocese of Minnesota has implemented in response to Floyd's murder, and larger issues of systemic racism that were illuminated by his murder.  A second ENS article looks at the ways that the Seattle Cathedral chose to memorialize Floyd, and call attention to other blacks killed the police.  Among other actions the cathedral was projecting the names  and dates of death of a number of those killed by police, including  Floyd. 

Another Plaque Removed as Racist

St. James the Less in Scarsdale, New York has removed a plaque and footstone from the grave of Lenora Schuyler.  Schuyler died in December 1952 [ the time of her death is wrong in the article] and the Daughters of the Confederacy  soon added a plaque to her gravestone noting her service as the President of the organization and other work to preserve  and commemorate the confederacy. The parish archives now has the plaque ad will preserve it.  Update has been noting removal of Confederate memorials in Episcopal parishes as part of their efforts to bring racial healing.  the most recent previous post is here.


Fort Worth Parish Begins Rebuilding

St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Hillsboro was one of the parishes that had to vacate its property after the adverse legal decision affecting Fort Worth Episcopalians.  The Episcopal Diocese of North Texas has posted a story about the way people have reached out to help the parish as it starts its life without any of the parish property.  The small parish immediately received offers of places to meet and has been able to begin refurbishing a space that had been a bank.  While the congregation worked on clean up of the building and grounds, with help from some community members who just showed up, other parishes in the area began offering furnishings and supplies.   For more on this parish which is busy making the proverbial lemonade out of lemons, read the full story here

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Week Ending 05/24/21

New Units for Safe Church Training

In response to the recent focus on sexual harassment and the "Me Too" movement, a task for for the Episcopal Church has developed a new set of modules as part of the safe church training.  Although these will eventually be available in French and Spanish, the videos are currently available with subtitles.  The units also include written materials. These units are in addition to the units already available on safeguarding children.   The Episcopal News Story includes information on how to order these units.

Doves of Hope at English Cathedral

The Church of England Cathedral in Liverpool has just installed a new artwork of 15,000 of paper doves bearing messages of hope.  The installation  is expected to draw thousands of people to see the display high in the ceiling of the church.  It is part of three new art installations that will be on display from May 21 to August 21, 2021.  The dove exhibit was originally scheduled for May 2020, but has been delayed a year due to the pandemic.

Continuing Updates

Pittsburgh Adds Two Bishop Candidates

Update reported last week on the three candidates for the bishop in Pittsburgh selected by the nominating committee.  All were women and two were African American.  The week-long petition process has added two additional white male candidates, including one who has spent almost his entire multi-decades of ministry in Pittsburgh.  The two candidates add theological and gender diversity to the candidate pool, but actually reduce the likelihood of the election  resulting in greater diversity for the House of Bishops.  The election is scheduled for June 26.

Churches Beginning to Meet in Person

As the number of people vaccinated rises and the number of covid-19 cases drops in much of the United States, Episcopal Churches are beginning to return to in-person worship.  Local news covered the return of one of Pittsburgh's largest parishes, St. Paul's Mt. Lebanon on Pentecost Sunday.  Coverage of the service was done by both the local CBS affiliate, and by the Post-Gazette.  St. Paul's chose to begin by holding a service in a local outdoor amphitheater  so all of their 1500 members could attend if they wished.  The Episcopal News Service highlighted congregations in North Dakota and Rhode Island who were taking steps towards in-person worship.  Update has been regularly covering the attempts of churches to worship during the pandemic. Our most recent previous post is here.

Anti-Racism Work Continues

Update has also been regularly calling attention to work the Episcopal Church has been doing for racial healing and the recognition of the church's past failing to be racially inclusive.  In addition to anti racism education, church discussions have centered around the idea of reparations for past wrongs and the removal or change of interpretation for various memorials that praised those who had prominent roles in enslaving African Americans or promoted white supremacy.  Now the Diocese of Virginia is exploring setting aside budgeted money for some form of reparations, and a congregation in Augusta, Georgia is dealing with the divided responses to a decision to move a memorial to a Bishop who also served as a Confederate General.   See these recent posts, one on reparations and the other on memorials here. 


Monday, May 17, 2021

Week Ending 05/17/21

 Church of England Investment Group Revises Ethics Statements

A revised and much strengthened ethics statement has been issued by the body that oversees the investments of the Church of England.  The statements provides specific principles that are to be applied to all investment decisions and positions they should take in dealing with corporate boards.  Human rights is especially prominent in their considerations.  You can find the policy here.

Church Calls for Peace in World Trouble Spots

Political protests in the last several weeks in Columbia have been met with a brutal police response, leaving more than 42 people dead.  Province IX of The Episcopal Church is made up of seven dioceses in South America and the Caribbean.  Among those is the Diocese of Columbia.  Its bishop has issued a statement of  concern and call for peace and justice.  His call was then reinforced with a video statement by the presiding Bishop, and the decision of the Episcopal Church's Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries to begin offering daily prayer services for peace in Columbia at 9 p.m. streamed on Facebook.  The recent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli s has led the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem to issue his own pleas for global prayers and for both sides to stand down, but being especially critical of the Israelis and noting that the Anglican Church operates a hospital in the Gaza strip that is treating many of those wounded in the Israeli air attacks, and that the hospital is in desperate need of funds to pay for the fuel that keeps its hospital systems running.

Continuing Stories

Churches Taking Steps Towards Re-Opening

As larger groups of people are vaccinated and the pandemic cases begin to decline in some parts of the world, churches are beginning to move towards in-person worship again.  Three times Ireland has ordered shutdowns of businesses and other gathering places including churches in order to put the brakes on resurging numbers of covid-19 cases.  Now, for the third time they are rolling back some of the shutdown requirements, and clergy will once again be able to enter their churches.   In the U.S. the Diocese of Atlanta has issued a revised set of covid-19 pandemic protocols, that will allow weddings, funerals, and baptisms to take place without special permission, that allows fully vaccinated congregations to meet without masks and choirs to practice and sing.  Churches are also to make sure that they have a way to welcome those not vaccinated.  The new protocols are here.  Update has been noting changes in worship patterns in response to the pandemic.  The most recent previous notice is here.

House of Bishops Headed for More Diversity

Three dioceses have recently announced their slates for up-coming elections of bishops and all are slates that ensure greater diversity in the House of Bishops.  The Episcopal Dioceses of Iowa and Pittsburgh have each put forward slates of three women.  In the case of Pittsburgh two of the three are also African-Americans. The third has strong ties to the LGBTQA community. The Episcopal Diocese of Nevada has four candidates, three women and a Native American male.  Update covered the first several all-women slates in 2018, and has noted the trend in which diocesan search committees are putting forward slates with greater racial, gender and sexual orientation diversity on several occasions, most recently here

Episcopal Bishops Marking Anniversary of George Floyd's Death

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the bishops of Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Indianapolis, Washington and Colorado will preside over a special  virtual memorial service on the anniversary of George Floyd's death.  The service will call attention to not only Floyd's death, but the deaths of many other people of color killed by police.  The Episcopal Church has been focusing on ways to end systematic racism in its own institution and in the country at large.  Update has regularly called attention to these efforts, most recently here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Week Ending 05/10/21

Indiana Episcopalians Open LBTQA+ Shelter

Trinity Episcopal Church in Indianapolis set out to use a house they owned as a homeless shelter, but ended up acquiring a different house and turning it into the first shelter for homeless LBGTQA+ youth.  Many of the young homeless were thrown out by their families after coming out.  The Diocese of Indianapolis provided support and has recognized the shelter as a diocesan venture.  The shelter is open to all although both Trinity and the Diocese will maintain seats on the governing board. The Episcopal News Service has more details on the shelter here.
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Lutherans Elect First Transgender Bishop

The Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has elected Megan Rohrer as its bishop.  Rohrer is the first transgender bishop in the ELCA, and in 2006 was the first transgendered person ordained in the ELCA.  Rohrer has been pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco, and also community chaplain coordinator to the city police department.The Episcopal Church is in full communion with the ELCA. 

New Jersey Parish Blesses Fire and Emergency Vehicles

On the date set aside to remember St. Florian, the patron saint for emergency responders, Christ Episcopal Church in Woodbury, NJ offered a blessing for all of Gloucester County's emergency and Fire Vehicles.  Local news carried the story with no further explanation, but over 26 pictures. It is a simple way to reach out to your community. 

Continuing Stories

Canada Takes Next Step to Create Indigenous Church

In July 2019, the  General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada voted to create an independent functioning Anglican Church for indigenous peoples and selected Bishop Mark MacDonald as archbishop.  After several years of committee work and consultation with indigenous peoples, the group has produced a draft constitution for the new church.  The tentative name for the church is "The Sacred Circle."  The documents now go to discussion and for approval to the meetings of the indigenous church.  The pandemic took a toll on the indigenous ministry, with 9 ordained clergy dying, and so part of the next steps are to  train additional clergy for the church.  The Anglican Church office for Indigenous Ministry has been providing support for the planning and for outreach to native peoples.

Church of England Looks for Help on How to Remove Racist Memorials

The Episcopal Church has been grappling for several years about what to do with memorials that are tied to slavery or racism.  Now the Church of England has announced it is seeking guidance in its efforts to deal with memorials to slavery  or with racist inscriptions in its churches and institutions.  While chattel slavery never had legal status in England, it did in its colonies, and many colonials brought enslaved servants with them when they visited or took up residence in England. England also participated in the slave trade for nearly 300 years. The whole Anglican Communion has been taking a hard look at racism, coming to terms with the fact that a majority of members of the various churches in the communion are people of color.

Missouri Bishop Protests Law Allowing Guns in Churches

Bishop Deon Johnson of Missouri has joined with a broad group of religious leaders in Missouri to issue a statement against proposed legislation that would allow concealed guns to be carried in churches without permission from the church.  Current law requires gun owners to ask permission before bringing a gun in.  If the new law goes into effect, churches would have to post signs forbidding guns  on the premises in order to remain gun-free.  The law also lowers the age for a concealed gun permit from 19 to 18 years of age, and permits carrying weapons on public transit.  Johnson is a member of Bishops Against Gun Violence, and joins a number of other bishops speaking out recently on gun violence.  Update's most recent story on opposition to gun violence is here.

Sydney Elects New Archbishop with Ties to GAFCON

The Anglican Church of Australia's Sydney Province will continue to be out of step with the rest of the Australian Church given that its recently elected archbishop is a board member of GAFCON.  He has carefully announced he will be consecrated by one of the Sydney diocese bishops, thus avoiding the possibility that he will have to deal with a bishop that either supports blessing same sex unions or women's ordination.  It will be interesting to see how he deals with other archbishops in Australia, given that at least one is a woman, and some support blessing same sex unions.  In other ways the archbishop-elect may be a breath of fresh air.  When he was elected Dean of the Sydney cathedral in 2016 he brought an emphasis on inclusion. Dean Kanishka Raffel, was a convert from Buddhism.  His parents were Sri Lankan immigrants to London, he emigrated to Australia in 1972 and converted to Anglicanism while studying law in Sydney.  His first statements after election as archbishop stressed ethic and racial inclusion. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Week Ending 5/3/21

Mississippi Religious Leaders Press for Expansion of Health Insurance

The Episcopal bishop of Mississippi was one of the lead signers of a letter committing an interfaith group of leaders to seeking to expand Medicare by lowering the enrollment to cover those whose incomes are  up to 138% of the poverty rate.  Bishop Brian Seage was joined by several Catholic and Methodist Bishops, as well as leaders of various Baptist groups in issuing a letter committing those who signed to work for affordable health care insurance that will reach those making 138% of the poverty level or less.  The ELCA bishop was one of the later signers.  Mississippi's civil leadership has been opposed to Medicaid expansion.

Dean of the Birmingham Alabama Cathedral Steps Down

The /Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Birmingham has announced he is resigning because he is increasingly at odds with the direction the Episcopal Church has taken in opening all sacraments to  LGBTQ+ people. Dean Andrew Pearson has been a vocal and visible critic of The Episcopal Church's inclusiveness even before he was ordained.  It has grown increasingly awkward for the Cathedral Dean to be at odds with the Bishop of the diocese, especially since the cathedral should be the home parish for the bishop.  The announcement of Pearson's resignation also noted that the new bishop of the Diocese, Glenda Curry has already begun conversations with the Cathedral's vestry to create a better relationship with the bishop, the diocese, and the Episcopal Church.  A 2016 blog post by Ron Caldwell of South Carolina provides perspective on Pearson's long-term dissatisfaction with The Episcopal Church.

Diocese of Washington Sells Historic Church to Dissident Congregation

Bishop Mariann Budde has announced that negotiations have led to the sale of historic Christ Church, Accoteek to a private group representing most of the congregation of the parish.  The parish has been at odds with the diocese for over 20 years, and the previous bishop, Jane Dixon filed a suit in 2001 against the parish.  Bishop Dixon won that suit, but the underlying issues remained and the congregation has been an reluctant member of the diocese.  This arrangement frees the congregation to remain in their historic building as a member of the ACNA denomination.  

Continuing Stories

Biden Under Pressure from Churches Raises Refugee Quota

President Biden's initial decision to not raise the very low cap on refugees this year after initially filing documents to raise the cap by nearly five fold, resulted in immediate outcries from immigrant groups and especially the church groups that had offered resettlement support to refugees.  The result was that Biden reversed course and has raised the cap after all.  Of the 9 major resettlement agencies, six are church related, including Episcopal Migration Ministries.  The reaction to the announcement was mixed because it is late enough in the year that  the U.S. will not process enough people to reach the cap.   It is taking some time to rebuild the governmental structures needed to process large numbers of refugees.
You can find reports  by the Associated Press here, Religion News here, and the Christian Post here.

For the First Time a Woman to Lead South Carolina Diocese

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina elected Canon Ruth Woodliff-Stanley bishop at their convention this last weekend.  She is currently serving as Canon for Strategic change in the dioceses of Northwest Pennsylvania and Western New York (those two diocese share a bishop). The first woman to be elected bishop in a South Carolina Diocese, Woodliff-Stanley will join a growing cohort of women in the Episcopal House of Bishops.  She was the front-runner on the first ballot   (May 1 post of  scepiscopalians.org) and was elected on the second.  Pittsburghers may remember her as one of the candidates for Bishop of Pittsburgh in 2012.  She was also a candidate in in the Bethlehem and Colorado searches.  All of these dioceses, South Carolina included, have widely scattered small parishes and some history of division.   Woodliff-Stanley's comments via zoom to the convention after her election focused on what the South Carolina diocese wanted to become.  The South Carolina convention was held virtually, and had been delayed for several months by the pandemic.

Parish Relinquishment of Property Creates More Pain in Fort Worth

After more than a decade of legal battles following schism, the reluctant relinquishment by six Episcopal congregations of their church property to the schismatic ACNA diocese was, not surprisingly, marred by actions of both sides. Last week Update carried notice of the turnover of buildings.  This week some of the backstory of the transition emerged.  Several parishes stripped the buildings of all moveable objects including altars, pews, and furnishings.  Some of these items were returned when the groups were challenged by the remnant congregations moving in.  The schismatics continue to use the Episcopal name and in one case created a web page that was almost identical to the departing group's, including the web address. (The Episcopal parish address ends in .org while the schismatic groups address is .com.).  As a result the diocese affiliated with the Episcopal Church had to publish a long piece spelling out just exactly who was really affiliated with the Episcopal Church and who was not.