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, June 29, 2021

Week Ending 6/28/21

All Items Are Updates of Previous Stories 

Pittsburgh Convention Elects Black Woman as Bishop

Saturday, June 26, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh chose the Rev. Dr. Ketlen Solak as their next bishop.  It took three ballots for the lay deputies and clergy choices to converge and grant Solak the needed majority among both lay and clergy voters.  On the first ballot, laity spread their votes almost evenly among three candidates (including Solak) with two others receiving many fewer votes.  The clergy votes were likewise split three ways, but for a slightly different group of three.  Solak had the highest number of votes.  On the second ballot, Solak was the leading choice among the 5 candidates.  Two, the Rev. Jeffrey Murph and The Rev. Kim Coleman then withdrew.  On the third ballot just over 53% of of the laity and 55% of the clergy voted for her.  With degrees in church music from the Catholic University and both an M.Div and D.Min from Virginia Theological Seminary, the Haitian-born Solak has been serving 3 parishes in Delaware that retain separate identities and governance while working cooperatively. Assuming approval by the diocesan bishops and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church, she will be ordained as bishop in Pittsburgh on November 13, 2021. The diocese issued a press release announcing her the election.  The area newspapers Post-Gazette and the Tribune Review each added other details.  Update covered the search including the addition of 2 male candidates by petition to a slate that originally was comprised of three women, two of whom were of African descent.

Presiding Bishop Urges an Even Greater Focus on Racial Reconciliation

At the opening session of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry announced a renewed effort to engage all the dioceses in racial reconciliation and anti-racism.  He noted the work already done by many dioceses, but then stressed that there were still some dioceses lagging and that there was more to do everywhere.  The Executive Council, which includes laity, clergy, from every region of the church and representatives from the House of Bishops, has been working on these issues for several years.  In January, the Council had reaffirmed its commitment to the Church's efforts to bridge the racial divide and bring healing.  

Hong Kong Primate Raises Concern About Freedom of Expression

Andrew Chan, the new Archbishop of Hong Kong has raised concerns about the limitations of freedom of expression under the Chinese National Security Law.  He is concerned that clergy will be limited in what they can say or preach, and is also raising the possibility that the government may punish churches who are seen as politically "incorrect."  Chan's statements are a decided contrast to the support the previous Archbishop showed for the implementation of the security law.

Bishop of Liverpool Says It Is Time for the Church of England to Bless Same Sex Marriages.

Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool has said that it is time for the Church of England to revise its marriage canon to be gender neutral, and to recognize and bless the marriages of same-sex couples.  He made the comments at a conference of supporters of an inclusive Anglican Church.  The Thinking Anglicans article has a link to the full text of  Bishop Bayes's address. Update has followed the steps by Parliament that have put the Church of England increasingly out of step with the government on this issue see this article and this one as examples.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Week Ending 06/21/21

Church Leaders Respond to Supreme Court Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion last week that ordered the city of Philadelphia to reinstate its foster care contract with the Catholic Social Services agency despite the agency's refusal to place children with single parents or same sex couples.  The case pitted protection against discrimination against claims of freedom of religion. The court again chose freedom of religion over protection from discrimination.  The timing on the decision could not be worse as it came during  LGBTQ+ Pride month.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings have issued statements in support of the LGBTQA community and expressing disappointment in the court decision.  Both Curry and Jennings had signed briefs supporting the decision of the city to end contracts with Catholic Social Services and one other church-based agency because they discriminated against same sex families.

Parish Facing Community Push-back for Helping Homeless

Before the pandemic, St. Timothy's in Brookings, Oregon was part of a coalition of local churches that provided food, shelter, and support for homeless in their small community.  However, the parish was the almost alone in trying to provide shelter and food once the pandemic had resulted in lockdowns.  Now the community is increasingly critical of their efforts and with the mentions of the parish being almost always critical and seeing them as helping "undesirable" people.  Twenty-nine residents petitioned the city to stop the church from providing services to the homeless since it resulted in people congregating near the church. The parish, however, is intent on continuing to serve those in need.

Interesting Items from Lutheran Partners

Lutherans have chosen a new General Secretary for their global communion.  The election of Estonian theologian the Rev. Anne Burghardt as General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation was a double first.  She will be both the first woman and the first Eastern European to lead the umbrella organization to which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America belongs.  The Episcopal Church is in full communion with the ELCA.  A number of other members of the Anglican Communion have similar arrangements with other members of the Lutheran World Federation.  The term of office for a General Secretary is 7 years.

Meanwhile, Lutheran parishes are, like Episcopal parishes, dealing with the impact of the pandemic.  Religion News  had a feature on a Lutheran parish in Midtown Manhattan which had a full quarter of their members, (60 out of 240) die from covid-19.  The parish included a number of low income, immigrant, and people of color, all groups hit very hard by the virus. The parish is responding by looking at increasing their social justice advocacy as a way of reducing the factors that put so many of their parishioners at risk.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Week Ending 6/14/21

 Diocese of California Celebrates Juneteenth with New Liturgy

Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the date that enslaved blacks in Galveston,Texas learned that they had been emancipated via the Emancipation Proclamation, has increasingly become the date in the African-American Community used to mark the end of official chattel slavery in the U.S.  It was adopted as an official diocesan church calendar commemoration in 2020 in the Diocese of California.  While various surrogates used to enslave blacks after emancipation continued (such as convict slavery, debt peonage, and various vagrancy laws created as part of post-Civil War "Black Codes"), the end of the Civil War, implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation, and passage of the 13th Amendment brought an official end to the larger system of enslavement.  The Union of Black Episcopalians has been working with the Diocese of California to create a liturgy for use at commemorations of Juneteenth since the  diocesan convention.  The first use of the liturgy will be on June 19 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  The Diocese will propose making this a Church-wide addition to the liturgical calendar at General Convention in 2022.  There are special events planned for Juneteenth in a number of Episcopal jurisdictions.

Scottish Church Adds a New Commemoration 

The Scottish Episcopal Church has voted to add a feast day commemorating the life and death of Jane Haining to their liturgical calendar.  Haining was a church worker from Scotland who was working with Jewish Children in Hungary, when the children were sent to Auswitz, she went with and rejected all efforts to have her released.  She argued that if the children had needed her before, they needed her even more once in the death camp.  She died at the camp.  The Scots found that she was better known and honored in Hungary than in Scotland, and hope to make her dedication, work and sacrifice better known in her home country.

Ongoing Updates

Another Parish Uses Resources for Affordable Housing 

St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY is replacing its parish hall with a 17 story tower that will include parking, church meeting and choir rooms, and a 138 unit apartment tower, of which 30% will be affordable.  A private company is doing the developing on a 99 year ground lease from the parish.  Several other parishes around the country have tried to address housing shortages with church assets.  Update has reported previously on the plans of a parish in Saratoga Springs, NY on a parish hall replacement project combining a community center with affordable housing , and on parishes in the Florida Keys and California to buy and renovate apartment buildings for affordable housing. 

Oxford Block Their Own Canon on Twitter

Last week Update reported that the embattled Oxford Cathedral and College Dean had been cleared of charges under the Clergy Discipline process of the Church of England, but that the college was still going ahead with an internal tribunal.  A respected Canon  emerita at Christ church Cathedral, Angela Tilby, raised some gentle questions on Twitter out of concern for the treatment the Dean Martyn Percy. She is currently a Canon of Honor at Portsmouth Cathedral.  The College/Cathedral's response was to block her tweets from the Christ Church site and remove her as a follower of the site.  This needless to  say has added fuel to the fire, and does not reflect well on those at Christ Church.

Anglican College in Pakistan Back in Government Control

The Edwardes College in the Peshwar Province of Pakistan has been the subject of several lawsuits as Pakistan first tried to nationalize all private schools and colleges and then restored a number of church institutions.  Update reported in 2019 that the Anglican Church in Pakistan had regained control of its only school, The Edwardes College, but later that year a new legal challenge was put forth, and now the high provincial court has ruled that the college belongs to the state.  This is a severe blow to the entire Christian minority in Pakistan, and it is not clear what action, if any the Church might take next.   

Episcopalians Support Anishinaabe Challenge to Pipeline 

The Minnesota Anishinaabe (often called the Objiway), are leading efforts to stop still another Canadian pipeline routed through the U.S.  This one would carry crude oil from a tar sands fields in Alberta through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.  The oil contains carcinogens and the pipeline cuts across streams and rivers traditionally used by the Anishinaabe for wild rice harvesting.  The tribe has challenged the pipeline in court, but the company went ahead with construction before the case was resolved.  This last weekend a protest organized by women of the tribe drew supporters from all over the U.S. including many Episcopalians at the headwaters of the Mississippi.  The Episcopal Church has had missions serving Minnesota Anishinaabe for 170 years.  The church has been prominent in its opposition to pipelines, including the Standing Rock protests in North and South Dakota, and in West Virginia.  Update has carried notices of a variety of these protests.

More on Rebuilding Efforts in Fort Worth

The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the appeal of property litigation concerning Fort Worth has led to the withdrawal of five parishes from properties that they had continuously worshiped in (until covid).  Update carried notice of how one parish was rebuilding in a new location already.  Now stories on the Fort Worth diocesan web site give insight into the fates of two more congregations.  All Saints parish retained control of a school property which had a chapel and recently welcomed their provisional Bishop to the new location.  St. Christopher's parish is currently being hosted by a nearby Lutheran congregation while it gathers resources to once again build their own church and preschool complex. For more on these tow parishes, including a number of pictures from the Bishop's visit to All Saints, you can go to the story on All Saints here, and on St. Christopher's here

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Weekending 6/7/21

 All Items This Week Are Continuing Stories

Another Portrait Removed From Prominent Location

Update has been noting the decisions of various Episcopal parishes and organizations to remove from prominent location various memorials, plaques, and statutes giving places of honor to those who supported slavery, the Confederacy, or white supremacy and racism.  The latest institution to make such a decision is the  Rock Point  School in Burlington,Vermont.  The school was founded in 1888 and by the Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in honor of his father, Bishop John Hopkins, the first Bishop of Vermont and Presiding Bishop at the time of the Civil War.  Bishop Hopkins published a biblical defense of slavery in 1861, and it is for this reason that students at the school requested the removal of his portrait from the front hall of the main building (which remains named for Hopkins).  Another portrait of Hopkins has been left displayed in a less prominent location.  Hopkins was a supporter of education for women, and did much to build the diocese of Vermont.  The school weighed those positives against his defense of slavery.  Pittsburghers will find the name of Hopkins familiar.  Bishop Hopkins began his clerical career as organist and then rector of Trinity Parish (now Trinity Cathedral) in Pittsburgh, and worked tirelessly to train others to become clergy in the frontier communities of western Pennsylvania.  He also shepherded passage of the legislation at General Convention in 1865 that created the Diocese of Pittsburgh. 

South Carolina Insurance Case Dismissed by Court of Appeals

Episcopal leadership in South Carolina were shocked to find out that the Church Insurance Company had paid claims for legal expenses placed by parishes participating  in the schismatic diocese.  They sued the insurance company for actually paying out money to entities that used the funds pay legal costs as the schismatic leaders fought to prevent the Episcopal Church from recovering those properties.  The Federal Court of Appeals has dismissed the suit.  This is a side issue to the main battle still unresolved.  The State Supreme Court had ruled the properties belonged to the Episcopalians, but remanded the implementation of that decision to a state district court judge who then reversed the state court by ruling the property belonged to the schismatics.  The federal court  took the district judge opinion as the latest ruling and decided the Episcopal Diocese had no standing.  That a policy issued when a parish was a participating member and still in force could  be held by a parish no longer a member. That ruling has now been appealed to the state supreme court.

Oxford Dean Charges Dismissed Again

The multi-year battle between the professors of Christ Church College, Oxford and the Dean of the College and Cathedral has taken multiple forms, the most recent being charges of sexual harassment by the dean.  The charges involved touching a woman faculty member's hair and back.  Multiple actions were filed by the college against the dean, both using the Clergy Discipline Measures (which result in a special outside investigation),  and an internal collegiate procedure.  Dame Sara Asplin, the President of Tribunals under the CDM issued her report on May 28 and dismissed the complaint saying that the actions simply did not rise to the level that the CDM required.  The college's internal tribunal proceedings, however are not affected.  Update has followed the long saga of the efforts of a group of Christ Church Faculty  and College governing board to find some grounds for dismissal of the dean. The most recent post is here, and the the CDM complaint notice was covered here.  

Anglican Hospital in Gaza a Place of Healing

Update carried notice of the challenges facing the Anglican Hospital in the Gaza during the short, but violent short bombings and missile launchings this spring between Israel and the Gaza.  The Anglican Communion news site has a story on the role that the Anglican Hospital has played in treating the injured and the ways it is aiding in rebuilding and healing.  The hospital treats all without regard to fiath or politics.