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, September 28, 2021

Week Ending 9/27/21


Witnessing to Social Issues Made Worse  by Pandemic

Two recent actions involving Episcopalians highlight the long term social issues that the covid-19 pandemic has impacted negatively.  In Alabama, the Nonviolent Medicaid Army and the Poor People's Campaign announced a candlelight vigil at five locations around the state.  The vigils were intended to highlight the additional stress and pain caused by large medical bills faced by the uninsured or under-insured as a result of the pandemic. Alabama is one of the 12 states that have not fully expanded Medicaid and there are over 200,00 uninsured state residents.  Of the five vigils, three are being held at Episcopal Churches, St. Mark's in Birmingham, Holy Comforter in Gadsden, and All Saints in Mobile. 

In a separate action, Episcopal leaders issued a call for better family leave policies, pointing to the severe stresses placed on women workers who during the pandemic have not only been expected to continue paid employment but to care for members of their families who became ill. The next General Convention will be addressing a proposal for a church-wide policy on family leave. 

Continuing Stories

National Cathedral Picks Artist to Design Replacement Windows

The Dean of the National  Cathedral has announced the names of the artist who will design two stained glass windows replacing ones removed in 2017 honoring Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. He also announced the name of the poet who will compose a new stone inscription which will replace one honoring Confederate Soldiers.  The artist, Kerry James Marshall is know for his colorful paintings depicting African American life, and the poet, Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, is also known for writing about experiences of people of color.  Both have a long list of honors.  The Cathedral is expecting to install the new windows and inscription in 2023.  For more details, consult the press release from the Cathedral. Update carried stories on the removal of the windows in 2017 following the violence and demonstrations in Charlottesville, VA, and has noted other churches dealing with Confederate memorials.  The most recent of those posts is here.

Episcopal Churches in the Thick of Afghan Resettlement

Update has carried many stories on the participation of the Episcopal Church, parishes, and dioceses in immigrant rights and resettlement of refugees.  (The most recent is here.) Religion News, however published a story this last week that focused on the model plan developed and led by Episcopalians in Connecticut for refugee resettlement.  The Episcopal Church, and its migrant ministry reached out to the community to bring in partners both in the interfaith community and secular groups.  They have depended on numerous small teams that may ever meet in person, but each provide a part of the support needed for successful refugee resettlement.  The model was first developed when dealing with refugees from Vietnam, and the various groups have now worked together for many years. 

South Carolina Gets Court Date

When the judge assigned by the South Carolina Supreme Court to implement the decision awarding almost all disputed property to those that remained in the Episcopal Church instead reversed the awards and gave everything to the schismatics, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina filed an appeal with the South Carolina Supreme Court.  The appeal asked the court to uphold its original decision.  That appeal was filed in November on 2020.  By the end of February, the schismatic group led by Mark Lawrence, and now part of ACNA had filed its response, and Episcopalians had filed their answer to that response.  After 7 months, the South Carolina Supreme Court has set Wednesday, December 8 for oral argument.  Both the Episcopal Diocese and the ACNA one have issued statements saying they are looking forward to making their case.  As usual the blog scepiscopalians.com provides a good commentary.

ACNA faces Discontent Within

The ACNA denomination is a combination of overlapping jurisdiction, and groups that range from charismatic to high anglo-catholic.  Some ordain women, some don't.  What has held the group together  was its adamant stand against LGBTQA+ couples and ordination of people from that community.  This last month has highlighted what divides various groups and suggests the difficulty the group may have in not fragmenting.  Update has already carried stories about  how the decision of the Church in Kenya to consecrate two women as bishops has challenged the GAFCON coalition to which ACNA belongs.  While Archbishop Foley Beach (who currently heads both GAFCON and ACNA) issued statements emphasizing that ACNA and GAFCON need to accept that this is an area where the group has deep disagreements, the anti-women's ordination groups are not ready to let this lie.  The most recent statement against the actions in Kenya and women's ordination in general has come from the Diocese of Fort Worth.  The Standing Committee issued a statement that they do not consider women's ordination, and the consecration of a woman as a diocesan bishop in Kenya matters of second level importance, but instead a matter "necessary for salvation."  Christianity Today and Anglican.ink both carried articles on the Fort Worth statement.  
While this divide has been present from the beginning of ACNA, another possible fault line has developed.  St. Mary of Bethany in Nashville has announced that it is leaving ACNA for a loosely organized group, the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.  The reason for leaving is that the parish has come to the conclusion that ACNA is too unwelcoming to LGBTQA people.  While not willing to marry same sex couples, the parish wants to fully welcome LGBTQA to its parish ministry.  The parish is going to try to incorporate both supporters and opponents of same sex marriage.  In fact its priest has announced he will no longer officiate and any weddings.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Week Ending 9/20/21

Woman-Focused Lectionary Published

Women have recently published two new cycles of readings for the church year.  One, done by the Rev. Wilda Gafney, a Brite Seminary professor in Fort Worth, is published by Church Publishing.  A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church includes a complete set of Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, and Gospel readings for a three year cycle, and a one year version.  Year A and the Psalms are now available, with years B and C soon to follow. The use gender inclusive language and focus on parts of the Bible that give women voice.  Although published by an Episcopal organization, the lectionary is not an official document of the church.  (That would require General Convention action), but is a resource clergy and parishes might find useful.  The second lectionary, The Women’s Lectionary: Preaching the Women of the Bible Throughout the Year was published by a Quaker woman who focused on the parts of the Bible using feminine imagery for God and places where women are active in the Biblical narrative.  Her readings are a one year cycle.

Church of England Reorganization Proposed

A report has been issued by a specially appointed committee on a possible reorganization of the governing, charitable and administrative structures of the Church of England which would streamline activity and change oversight of many of the functions.  The report is now open for discussion and before any of  the changes would be implemented would require a variety of legislative acts, both by the Church of England Synod and other legal bodies.  It will be interesting to see if the proposals gain any traction.  The report is here and early responses are covered by Thinking Anglicans.

New York Times Hires ACNA Columnist

The New York Times has announced the addition of an "Anglican" perspective to their on-line newsletters, however, the "Anglican" they have chosen, Tish Harrison, is a member of ACNA, which is not part of the Anglican Communion.  Pittsburgh readers may find the name familiar because Harrison was at Church of the Ascension before accepting a position as Writer in Residence at Resurrection Anglican Church in Austin, TX.  Harrison (a Texas native) and her husband were both ordained by Bishop Duncan after Duncan left the Episcopal Church.

Continuing Stories

 Women Bishops Continue to Rile GAFCON Waters

A sixth woman will soon have been installed as bishop in Anglican Communion provinces in Africa.   The newest addition is the Rev. Canon Vincentia Kgabe who will serve in Southern Africa as Bishop of Lesotho.  She is the third woman to be elected in Southern Africa, however, one of those women died so Southern Africa will only have two active women in that office once Kgabe is consecrated.  The other women bishops are in GAFCON participating provinces, two in Kenya and one in the South Sudan.  The consecration September 12 of the Rt. Rev. Rose Okeno as a diocesan bishop in Kenya is creating waves in GAFCON.  Okeno is the first diocesan, but second woman as bishop that Kenya has chosen in the last year.  In 2016, South Sudan consecrated a woman as an assisting bishop.  Many GAFCON participating provinces do not accept women's ordination, and the group's leaders had earlier agreed not to install women as bishops.  Okeno's election has made clear that the provinces that have ordained women are getting tired of waiting and the responses by GAFCON leaders and anti-women's ordination groups has made clear how precarious the policies are.  ACNA's presiding bishop, Foley Beach, also serves as head of GAFCON.  ACNA allows dioceses to decide if they will ordain women, but restricts the office of bishop to men.  He reiterated that position.  Conservative Anglo-catholics in ACNA, however, created an on-line open letter  of protest against women's ordination, especially as bishops and began soliciting signatures.  That letter however was taken off its sponsoring priest's blog at the order of his bishop.  Update earlier reported on the election of Okeno.

 Church Vaccine Requirement Grows

At the beginning of September, Update reported on the decision of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to require proof of vaccination in order to attend services and events.   The Cathedral is not alone.  The Episcopal News Services reports on several other Episcopal Churches that have made similar requirements, and gives more detail on how Grace has implemented their requirement. In fact, a majority of parishes in the Diocese of California have vaccination requirements, and Bishop Andrus has urged the requirement.  In the Diocese of New York both the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Luke's in the Field have vaccination requirements.  At least one parish in Maine has requires vaccination. All are also offering on-line options for worship, and some include an alternative testing option and have given exceptions to those who are not eligible for the vaccine. Other places are not requiring that attendees be vaccinated, but are requiring all Church employees and volunteers be vaccinated.  Maine has chosen that route as well as Massachusetts, and now the Diocese of Toronto in the Anglican Church of Canada has taken a similar stand. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Week Ending 9/13/21

Bishops seem to be making most of the news this week . . .

Bishop John Shelby Spong Dies

Bishop John Shelby Spong died this last week, aged 90.  The bishop had been a lightning rod in the church for his early advocacy (and action) in support of ordination of LGBTQA people.  He also supported ordination of women. He was  the author of a number of books, which presented theology in terms a lay person could follow.  Spong's writings brought many people into the church. His take on theology was decidedly liberal, and as a result Spong was often used by conservatives as a  symbol to scare people into thinking his views were the official positions of the church. Many of his critics have left the church, and Spong lived long enough to see the Episcopal Church officially embrace the ministries of LGBTQA people, to see women at all levels of church ministry.  While his emphasis on inclusion has become mainstream in the church, his theological remain controversial.

First Woman Bishop in Scotland Facing Review

Ann Dyer, the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney in the Episcopal Church of Scotland is the first and only woman serving as a bishop in that Anglican Communion Province.  She was appointed after the diocese was unable to agree on a bishop, and her appointment was controversial, not only because she was a woman, but because she supported same sex marriage and was appointed to a diocese where a majority of clergy did not.  Update carried a story on her appointment.  She has been shaking things up in the diocese and was recently subject to an investigation on charges of bullying clergy an laity in her diocese.  The Scottish House of Bishops, however, has not accepted the recommendation of the recently released report, and is has decided that what is needed is mediation.  One question, dismissed in the first investigation, is that her actions actions,while challenging, would have been acceptable if done by a male bishop.  One of the main charges of bullying, for example,  is that she attended a trustees meeting, noted that the trustees had permitted a number of actions contrary to law and church canons, and told the trustees that if they individually could not abide by the laws, they should resign.  Update will continue to follow events as they unfold in Scotland. 

Lutherans Seat First Transgender and Lesbian Bishops

 The Evangelical Lutheran Church in California has numerous jurisdictions, but two of them have new bishops.  The Rev. Megan Rohrer became bishop of one of the most northern synods and the Rev. Brenda Bos was installed as bishop of the Southwest Synod of the ELCA.  Rohrer is transgender and Bos a lesbian who knows first-hand many of the rejections that LGBTQA can experience, especially from various Christian Churches. Bos had a very successful career as a television writer, before answering a call to ministry.  Rohrer and Bos have been elected to six year terms as bishop. You can read more about Rohrer in this NPR interview.  The Washington Blade has a profile of Bos.

Episcopal Chaplain Finds A Way to Personalize Care for Those Unable to Speak

 Elizabeth Tracey, a hospital chaplain at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, had become concerned as she watched medical personnel become increasing detached from those they were treating, a factor that contributed to burnout.  With the onset of the covid-19 epidemic, she saw increased de-personalization of those being treated, especially those intubated and no longer able to speak for themselves. It also made it harder to ensure that medical staff made the right decisions about a patient.  As a result she began a pilot project that recorded short introductions to each patient by family members, thus providing a way for medical staff to know the person they were treating.  Staff could listen to the recordings while they were treating the patient. The introductions are embedded in the patient's electronic records and thus available to all staff.  The project has made a difference for those providing care, and doctors have asked for it to be applied to additional patients.  Johns Hopkins has now awarded the chaplaincy program a $50,000 grant to expand the program to other areas of the hospital.

Continuing Stories

Chicago's Bishop Elect Faces Another Personal Challenge

Bishop-elect of Chicago, Paula Clark suffered a stroke shortly after her election, and her consecration has had to be delayed while she continues to work on recovery.  Clark is working on recovery of speech and communication skills and the delay has been extended with Bishop Chilton Knutson, filling in as an Assistant Bishop. Now Clark faces another personal challenge.  Her husband, Andrew McClean has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and the family must decide on a course of care. 


Presiding Bishop Preaches at September 11 Service in New York

 The Update last week carried a notice about the events planned by Trinity Wall Street to commemorate the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.  One of the main events was a Requiem Eucharist at which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was the preacher.  The Episcopal News Service has a article outlining the message of the Presiding Bishop at the service.  While Curry decried the "seeds of self-centeredness" that led to hate and division in our current world, he called on all to recommit to "a love that gives and does not count the cost," remembering that moment when Americans drew together in love and helped each other under very trying circumstances.

Another Update on Fort Worth Legal Case

The schismatic group in Fort Worth has gotten an appeals court decision requiring that property removed from the parish properties that courts ruled belonged to the group that left TEC had to be returned.  It is not clear how much property is involved since several Episcopal congregations had to scrounge for everything from Books of Common Prayer to communion sets.  However, in one case, the congregation took just about everything with them from the altar and pews to the the baptismal font.  This must now all be returned.  The court has ruled that moveable property was still part of the property awarded to the schismatics when they won the multi-year legal battle over parish property.  The original update story after the date when the six congregations had to eave their buildings this May, included a link to a picture that showed the stripping of one parish. 



Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Week Ending 9/6/21

Church of Wales to Bless Same Sex Unions

While the Anglican Church of Wales is not ready to authorize marriage ceremonies for same sex couples, it has broken ranks with the Church of England by authorizing a 5 year period for a trial liturgy that will bless couples who have had civil ceremonies or registered for civil unions.  The action was supported by overwhelming votes at the church synod, although the action was criticized by those conservatives who opposed any recognition of same sex couples and by those who thought that the action fell short of a full embrace of same sex couples.  It will be interesting to see if it has any effect on the upcoming long-delayed Lambeth meeting of bishops from all over the Anglican Communion.  The Church Times provides one take on the discussion at the synod, and the official announcement from the Church in Wales a very different one.

Trinity Wall Street Plans Weekend of Memorials for September 11, 2001

Saturday, September 11, 2021 will be the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and another unspecified target in Washington D.C.  The last of these was foiled by the actions of the passengers and crew of flight 93 who fought to regain control of their plane and sent it crashing to ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street has an 18th century chapel, St. Paul's that was literally at the edge of the Trade Center complex.  Trinity is planning an entire weekend of memorial events and space for quiet reflection with chaplains available for September 10-12.  More on these events is available here.

Trinity School For Ministry to Search for New Head

Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA announced that its president and dean, the Rev. Dr. Henry L. Thompson (Laurie Thompson) was retiring.  Trinity is theoretically a seminary recognized by the Episcopal Church, but in practice is part of ACNA, a fact made clear by its appointment of the former ACNA primate, Robert Duncan (also the bishop who led the schismatic  Pittsburgh faction that left The Episcopal Church).  Thompson, although officially still listed as an Episcopal priest, has been serving also as one of the clergy for an ACNA parish in the Pittsburgh area.  He will step down from Trinity at the end of the 2021-22 academic year.  All this may help to explain why the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been building stronger relationship to the local Presbyterian seminary, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  That seminary has an Anglican/Episcopal track. 

Episcopal Migration Ministries Working to Resettle Afghanis

The Episcopal Migration Ministries is directly involved in resettling many of the refugees from Afghanistan that are arriving in the U.S.  EMM has issued a call to the church at large for help in providing services and supplies that they will need.  They are looking for sponsor groups and housing both long and short term is a highest priority,   An article in The Living Church  lists ways that people can contribute and where they can send money to help.  The Episcopal News Service has a longer article on the resettlement effort and need to dioceses or parishes to step forward as sponsors.

Churches Assess Damage from Hurricane Ida

Episcopal Church buildings in the path of Hurricane Ida did not escape unscathed. At least 8 parishes had damage to roofs and windows.  The worst hit was St. Andrews in Bayou Dularge where loss of large sections of the roof led to a collapse of the entire ceiling. The Episcopal News Service has an article that notes the damage done to several Episcopal parishes and also the the challenge long-term outages of power are bringing to the area.

Updates on Continuing Themes

Battling Climate Change

In a major interfaith announcement, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Orthodox Church made a joint announcement calling on Christians to pray and work to address the on-going climate change crisis.  The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin is already living out that call.  The bishop recently dedicated solar panels installed at the sixth church in the diocese.  Plans are under way to install the panels on six more of their churches.  When this is done, 95% of the power needed by the diocese will come from the solar installations. Update has carried other stories about churches going solar, most recently here.

Witnessing Against Gun Violence

Red Letter Christians, an interfaith group of liberal evangelicals held a two day gathering September 4-5 in Houston, TX to witness against gun violence.  Originally planned to be held at the same time and the same city as a National Rifle Association meeting, the anti-violence group persisted even when the NRA cancelled.  As part of the event, the Episcopal Cathedral in Houston, Christ Episcopal hosted a memorial service to remember those who had died in gun violence with the former Bishop of Mark Beckwith as preacher.  Beckwith was one of the founders of the Bishops Against Gun Violence group in the Episcopal Church.  Update has regularly followed Episcopal participation or leadership in the anti-gun violence movement. Its most recent previous post is here.

Grace Cathedral Requiring Proof of Vaccination

Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is holding worship in person, but all those over 12 must show proof of vaccination for the Covid-19 virus.  The cathedral is encouraging advanced registration.  Masks are still required for indoor services.  The Episcopal Cafe article provides context.  The cathedral is continuing to provide on-line options for those who are over age 12 and are not vaccinated, or are hesitant about risking in person groups at this time.  The cathedral schedule lays out the options and requirements.  Update has been carrying notices of worship protocols during the pandemic.

More on Fort Worth Legal Fees

Last week Update carried a notice that the Episcopal Church had picked up the tab for over $4 million in legal fees that the ACNA diocese in Fort Worth claimed.   The official press release from the Episcopal Church in North Texas now spells out that the ACNA group actually went after a much larger amount, despite part of it being covered by insurance, and that it was not clear that they were owed anything.  Rather than prolong litigation, the Episcopal Church negotiated a settlement and paid  the reduced amount thus relieving the diocese of trying to come up with money that it did not have since the schismatics got control of the entire dicoesan endowment.

ACNA Troubles Grow

The mess in the Midwest Diocese of ACNA just gets worse.  What began as a mishandling of sexual misconduct charges and the removal/retirement of two bishops has now affected a third and spread to include charges of bullying of laity who did not fit into tightly prescribed gender roles. The latest bishop caught in the scandal is a Canadian, who had just brought a small group of churches into ACNA as part of the Midwest Diocese.  He has been told that his appointment as an Assistant bishop is now on hold.  Meanwhile multiple lay complaints about treatment of LGBTQ members, and of a husband wife ministry team have further complicated the investigation.