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, August 31, 2021

Week Ending 08/30/21

Sock Ministry Warms Hearts As Much As Feet

What began as a personal effort to get a psychological lift when facing a painful chronic disease, has turned into an international ministry providing a lift to those who are facing struggles with a variety of medical conditions.  A friend with lupus suggested that Jessica Baird, who was diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis, try wearing silly socks as a way to lift her spirits.  It worked, and Jessica, a member of an Anglican Church of Canada parish in Ottawa soon found she had 10,000 pairs of socks, and a full-time ministry sending them to others facing tough medical battles.  Others around the globe have started similar efforts, and Baird is coordinating many of the efforts.  The Anglican Journal has more on this ministry.

Sexual Misconduct Case in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's Bishop, Dorsey McConnell has had far from a gentle road to retirement.  McConnell has had to deal with not only the covid-19 pandemic, but a sexual misconduct charge against a Pittsburgh clergy person.  The current misconduct investigation began when a person came forward to charge that Charles Appel (then a priest in the church) had sexually abused him in the late 1970s and early 1980s while at the diocesan summer camp.  Appel  renounced his ordination in 2001 while under review for misconduct by the diocese.  He was later convicted of possession of child pornography and spent 4 years in prison.  Appel died in 2019 one year after his release from prison.  The diocese learned of the sexual abuse charges in March, and requested that others who might have been harmed let the diocese know.  This last week, as the diocese held a farewell party for the retiring bishop, McConnell had to issue a notice requiring parishes to take stricter precautions on covid, and informed the diocese of the fact that more people had come forward.  McConnell issued a formal apology to those who had been harmed.

Continuing Story Updates

The Price of Losing Fort Worth Case Goes Up

Not only did Episcopalians in Fort Worth lose parish property and diocesan endowments when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the awarding of the diocesan property and name to the group that left the Episcopal Church, they also became liable for curt costs of the schismatic group.  The Episcopal Church has reached a settlement with the ACNA diocese that will result in a $4.5 million dollar payment to the ACNA group.  Anglican.ink had the story and the settlement letter. 

Covid-19 Mandates Increasing

As the latest surge in covid-19 infections increases, more Episcopal Dioceses are issuing mask and vaccination mandates for clergy, church employees, and/or parishes.  Update has carried notices of the changes as they occur.  This week the Episcopal News Service has an article covering actions in several dioceses. Long Island is requiring all diocesan employees and clergy to get vaccinated, as is the Diocese of Maine. In addition Pittsburgh's bishop, Dorsey McConnell, issued a letter requiring masking for parish services, and other precautions, and the South Carolina Diocesan Standing Committee strongly urged parishes to vaccinate and to mask for services.  

How the Church Is Helping Haiti With Earthquake Relief

Haiti is the largest diocese of the Episcopal Church.  It is also a country hit with political turmoil, an Earthquake and then a hurricane in quick succession this summer.  The Episcopal News Service has an article detailing the ways that several dioceses with long standing partnerships with the Diocese of Haiti were able to quickly begin funneling resources to the earthquake stricken areas.  Much of the physical relief work has been channeled by the partner dioceses through other aid  agencies already on site in Haiti.  Update has posted information previously on the damage and struggle to provide relief.

GAFCON Continues On Road to Division in Australia 

The Australian GAFCON organization has announced its next step in creating a competing diocese for dissident conservative Anglican parishes in Australia. Update has posted their announcement of intent to form a  new entity to be a home for parishes unhappy with the possibility that some parts of the Australian Church are ready to bless same-sex marriages and civil unions.  That provoked a response from the Australian primate (a conservative) that the announcement was premature given that the Australian synod has yet to discuss the same-sex blessing issue.  Now GAFCON has announced that this diocese will form as a company with a small board of directors.  It will then be ready to receive parishes. Thus GAFCON continues on its path of trying to create its own Anglican Communion. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Week Ending 8/23/21

Things might be happening around the world, but for news associated with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion,  things were quiet.  All posts continue threads from previous posts. 


Masking Up Spreads as Covid-19 Surges 

At least four more dioceses have made updates to their covid-19 protocols for worship that encourage or required congregations to return to masks.  The Diocese of New Jersey has told congregations that all attending worship, regardless of vaccination status or whether that worship is inside or outside should be wearing masks.  Dioceses in three of the hardest hit southern states are also strongly recommending masks.  In Louisiana, the governor has reimposed an mandatory mask requirement for indoor public spaces.  Bishop Morris Thompson, Jr. of the Diocese of Louisiana has thus instructed  all people meeting or worshiping at Episcopal churches to be in masks, and countered anti-masking sentiment by pointing out this was a matter of loving one's neighbor.  In Alabama, Bishop Glenda Curry, praised parishes with near 100% vaccination rates, and encouraged all to be vaccinated.  She instituted mask requirements for any meeting or worship that might involve both vaccinated and un-vaccinated people, and urged parishes to reinstate masking and other precautions should a cluster of infections arise in their parish. The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Mississippi issued an update that strongly recommended masking for all attending indoor public meetings or worship and urged vaccination.  Update has been following Episcopalians' response to the covid-19 surge.   The most recent previous posting was here.

More On the Status of Fort Worth Parishes

Update has posted several notices of what has happened to parishes in the Fort Worth area after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to not hear an appeal on the property cases.  Now the Episcopal News Service has provided an overview that notes the status of parishes more generally.  It covers those parishes that were not directly affected by the decision, as well as those that were. 

Another Parish Serves As Vaccination Clinic

Update has noted local news stories that featured Episcopal parishes serving as vaccination sites for the covid-19 vaccines.  We can now add St. Mary;s by the Sea in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey to that list.  The Episcopal parish had available all three vaccines and twenty people took advantage of the opportunity to get the shots. The Ocean Star carried the story.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Week Ending 08/16/21

 Rhode Island Diocese Provides Beach Transport 

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority issued a formal thank-you to the three Episcopal Parishes of Newport who provided a regular weekend beach shuttle from parts of Newport where many people did not have cars to take them to the beach.  It provided access to many who would have been shut in and unable to get a needed breath of fresh sea air during the summer.  It was an opportunity that was especially important given the pandemic.  Bishop Knisley helped organize the cooperation, and spoke at the thank-you event.  Rides began in June and will continue through the last weekend of August. 

Churches Responds to Critical Race Theory

Given that the anti-racism training required by the Episcopal Church acknowledges and explains systemic racism, it is not surprising that some church leaders have been vocal in criticizing recent legislative attempts to ban curricula supposedly influenced by critical race theory. the Presiding Bishop has made racial reconciliation the main theme of his term and has linked acknowledgement of racism to reconciliation and Christian theology.  In North Carolina, Bishop Samuel Rodman and Suffragan Bishop Ann Hodges-Copple published an op ed piece in the Raleigh News Observer urging defeat of a bill being proposed by the North Carolina legislature.  The bill would limit the teaching on race and mentions of critical race theory.  The bishops argued that the bill would prevent a full understanding of American history and society.  Healing and reconciliation require understanding.  In contrast, the ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach used a section of his address to the ACNA Provincial Council single out the terms used by those supporting ideas of systemic racism as divisive and not based in a "Christian" ethos.  He argued for a color-blind approach that would not mention racism while stressing that his denomination should evangelize among people of color.  Not all ACNA leaders are on the same page as Beach, but his is the dominant voice.

Massive Earthquake Adds to Haitian Woes

The Episcopal Church has a strong presence in the area most affected by the recent Haitian earthquake, and leaders have already begun trying to assess needs and work with their partners in the U.S. and Episcopal Relief and Development to bring needed support and supplies.  Les Cayes, near the epicenter had several church institutions, including an Episcopal School.  The director of the school was meeting with parents when the earthquake struck.  All rushed safely outside.  Several Episcopal schools in the area suffered major damage as did a birthing center.  The Episcopal News Service article has more information. 

Updates on Ongoing Stories

Assisting Bishops Appointed in Chicago and Albany

Update has carried previous stories on the delay of consecration for the new Chicago bishop elect due to a brain bleed, and of the search in Albany for a new bishop following the trial and resignation of Bishop Love.  Both dioceses have now found an assisting bishop.  An assisting bishop in such circumstances handles the sacramental and disciplinary things that require the presence of the bishop, but leaves the Standing Committee as the official ecclesiastical authority.  Bishop Chilton Knudsen will be working with Chicago.  Since resigning as the diocesan bishop in Maine, she has had assisting appointments in Maryland and Southern Ohio.  Knudsen has Pittsburgh ties, having degrees from both Chatham College and the University of Pittsburgh.  Albany will be working with Bishop Michael Smith who served as the diocesan bishop of North Dakota until his retirement and is a prominent member of the conservative group of bishops called the "Communion Partners."  Smith is also one of the few Episcopal bishops to be from an indigenous tribe.

Parishes Respond to Covid-19 Surge

The Delta variant of covid-19 has brought an upsurge of cases, especially among the unvaccinated, but with just enough cases among the vaccinated to concern churches in all areas of the U.S., even those with high vaccination rates.  In a cluster of states in the Southeast the pandemic surge is stretching medical facilities to the utmost. The Church of the Good Shepherd in Augusta, GA has had to make major adjustments after three of its four clergy tested positive for covid-19.  In general Episcopal parishes are responding by re-masking, cutting some recently restored activities, or in some cases returning to on-line services.  Update reported on the start of this trend in a previous post.  Other parishes are stepping forward as centers for vaccination.  Emmanuel Parish in Rockford, Illinois, recently has received local news coverage as the site of a vaccination clinic.  (Update has reported on other parishes acting as a site, most recently here.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Week Ending 8/9/21

Episcopal Retirement Homes Mandate Vaccine 

Episcopal Cafe has  an article noting the decisions of a number of retirement facilities linked to the Episcopal Church that are mandating staff be vaccinated. The mandate is in response to the current surge in infections of covid-19.  Some of the facilities have experience a staff member or resident being diagnosed with covid-19, in some cases a breakthrough infection.  Because there is no central clearing house for retirement, assisted living and nursing facilities with ties to the Episcopal Church, the evidence for the mandate is scattered.

Church Adds to Its Solar Energy System

St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Framingham, MA has already installed solar panels on its building proper and is not only benefiting from the electricity generated, but is selling power to other churches at reduced rates.  Now it has contracted with a solar company to lease the space over their parking lot.  The leasing company will install a canopy that is covered with solar collectors.  The church and company will sell the power to the local utility provider and split profits.  St. Andrews expects to receive about $7000 a year from the venture, and save a little money on plowing the parking lot as well.  The creative use of space is a model for other parishes interested in reducing their fossil fuel footprint and fostering the growth of sustainable energy sources.

Church Among Leaders in Promoting "Lift Every Voice"

An Episcopal News Service article notes that the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches are among the strongest proponents of having "Lift Every Voice and Sing" be declared the United States's national hymn. Executive Council recently passed a resolution supporting these efforts.  "Lift Every Voice and Sing" began as a poem written by James Weldon Johnson, and set to music by his brother. The article notes that the hymn setting, which while widely known within the black community, achieved much larger awareness after Episcopal musicians lobbied for its inclusion first in the supplemental hymnals that took their name from the poem, and then the Episcopal Hymnal 1982.  Lutherans also included the hymn in their major book of worship about the same time.

Episcopalians Arrested at Voting Rights Demonstration

The efforts within the Episcopal Church to promote racial justice and healing include efforts to protect and improve voting rights for all.  the united States has a dismal history in protecting voting rights for citizens who are not white.  The latest efforts to restrict voting and make access to the polls more difficult has provoked a response and pressure on Congress to pass a new voting rights bill.  At a recent protest organized by the Rev. William Barber and Jesse Jackson, about 200 demonstrators were arrested in Washington D.C..  Among those were a number of Episcopal clergy and lay leaders.  The protesters have deliberately and symbolically linked their efforts to those of the voting rights drives of the 1960s. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Week Ending 08/02/21

Partnership Between Arab and English Speaking Parishes 

In Dearborn, Michigan two Episcopal parishes are partnering by sharing a building and in the process learning about each other's traditions and pioneering a new field of outreach for the church.  Christ Episcopal Church is a traditional, English-speaking congregation with a building they are sharing with what began as a blended Lutheran-Episcopal mission that worships in Arabic.   The Dearborn area has a large Arabic-speaking population, some of whom are Christian.  To serve the congregation, the Episcopal Church has had to translate the Book of Common Prayer into Arabic.  Mother of Our Savior Parish is led by a Lebanese-born, Virginia Theological Seminary graduate priest and receives support from both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches, Virginia Seminary, and the Lilly Foundation. You can find out more about the partnership in the full Episcopal News Service article here.

Chicago Consecration of Bishop Postponed Again

Chicago is going to have to wait a little longer before getting their next diocesan bishop.  Bishop-elect Paula Clark suffered a stroke shortly before she was to be consecrated and the ceremony has delayed to allow her to recover. A second delay has been announced because she is still working on recovery.  An Assisting Bishop will help the diocese until Clark is ready. Clark was scheduled to become the sixth black woman to serve as a bishop, but it is possible now that Pittsburgh's newly elected Ketlin Solak may end up in that spot.  Solak's installation will take place in early November.

Continuing Stories

Reparations Movement Grows

Religion News has a feature story on the support being given to the movement for black reparations by churches.  The article gives examples of support from several denominations, and quotes Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton.  However, the article does not give examples of the Episcopal entities that have already begun making reparations, such as Virginia Theological Seminary.  Update had that story here. Update has regularly carried notices of the movement for reparations within the Episcopal Church.

Clergy Misconduct Handling Creates Big Headache for ACNA

ACNA leadership has been finding issues of clergy misconduct a major problem.  The matter has directly affected the Pittsburgh Diocese formed during the 2008 schism.  That Diocese has member parishes that are out-of-state, and the latest scandal involves a clergy person in a suburban Chicago parish who has been accused of sexual misconduct with several women.  The women are upset at the way the matter has been handled by the parish and by Bishop Martyn Minns who is serving as the Pittsburgh bishop until the ACNA diocese can elect a new bishop.  The previous bishop, James Hobby had to resign after he mishandled a different case of clergy misconduct.  Still another clergy sexual misconduct case brought Bishop Duncan, the founding bishop of the ACNA diocese out of retirement to fill in as a cathedral dean in Florida.

Churches Consider Precautions Due to Covid-19 Surge

Update has carried a number of stories documenting the ups and downs of worship restrictions and protocols throughout the pandemic.  Most recently Update  carried notice that parishes were resuming in-person worship given the decline of cases as a result of people getting vaccinated.  Now the Delta variety of Covid-19 is causing places to return to masking and social distancing as a new surge hits.  Most cases are among the unvaccinated, but 30% of Americans over age 12 are in that category, and all children under 12.   So, churches are once again masking up and limiting access. 

More on the Australian GAFCON Announcement

Update carried notice last week of the GAFCON announcement that it was creating a diocese to offer harbor to parishes that were opposed to the efforts of some Australian dioceses to offer blessings on civil unions of same sex couples.  The primate for Australia, has now weighed in with a pastoral letter saying that GAFCON has jumped the gun since no parish has blessed any same-sex unions, and the Australian Church's Synod has not yet discussed a response to the ruling by the Church's high tribunal that said there were no legal barriers preventing a diocesan bishop from permitting such blessings. This is the second letter on the subject, since the archbishop also circulated a letter immediately after the tribunal issued its opinion.

Kenya Continues Upset of GAFCON Ban on Women Bishops

One the continuing issues for the conservatives of GAFCON has been the ordination of women as priests.  Several of the Anglican provinces that participate in GAFCON are among the holdouts on women's ordination, but others do ordain women.  ACNA, the American schismatic denomination affiliated with GAFCON, walks an internal tightrope with some dioceses ordaining women and other opposing it vehemently.  Women are not able to serve as bishops.  When in 2018 South Sudan selected a woman as an Assistant Bishop, other GAFCON participants protested and an agreement was reached that there would be a moratorium on women bishops until all of GAFCON could agree.  Kenya and Uganda were interested in having women as bishops.   Kenya gave notice that it was getting tired of waiting in 2019 when its governing synod formally affirmed its commitment to women serving in that office.   Then Kenya upset the apple cart in January of this year by appointing a woman as an assistant bishop.  Now they have elected a woman as diocesan bishop, and thus shredded the any remant of the moratorium. The Ven. Rose Okeno, the archdeacon of Shikunya and vicar-general of the diocese of Butere will become the fifth woman to serve as a bishop, and the fourth active at this time.