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, October 25, 2021

Week Ending 10/25/21

Sudanese Episcopal Congregation Finds New Home

Syracuse has been home to refugees from the Sudan for more than two decades.  The refugees very quickly formed a church where they could worship in  their own language. They found space  several places before spending a decade at St. Paul's in downtown Syracuse.  In 2014 one of their congregation traveled back to South Sudan for ordination as a priest in the Sudanese Episcopal Church.  However by 2018, use of space between the Sudanese congregation and the St. Paul's congregation led to conflict and they had to seek a new home.  The Diocese of Central New York helped them partner with Emmanuel Episcopal and the two congregation have worked diligently to create a harmonious sharing of space.  In 2019, the Diocese of Central New York recognized Diangdit Mission and brought it fully into the Episcopal Church.  A Washington Post  feature article has more on the work behind the scenes that has made this a successful sharing.  

National Cathedral Hosts Colin Powell Funeral

 Given Colin Powell's status as a former Secretary of State and General, it is not surprising that his funeral will be held at the National Cathedral on November 5.  However, while his status as a national figure provides one rationale for the Cathedral hosting the service, there is a second one. Powell was a life-long Episcopalian whose faith shaped much of his life.  The Presiding Bishop issued a statement on Powell's death from covid-19.  Cancer had left him with a compromised immune system.

Albany Convention Blocks Vote on Changes in Governing Documents

The Albany Diocese used a parliamentary maneuver to block voting on a resolution which would have removed clauses restricting clergy and parishes from participating, hosting, or attending a same-sex marriage and which limited the ordained ministry only to those who were celibate or in a heterosexual marriage.   These sections of the governing documents are in conflict with the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church.  Church media had carried the story that St.Andrews Episcopal Church had submitted these resolutions, but at the convention an amendment to the Rules of order was proposed about 38 minutes into the session, which added a rule for conventions held virtually that forbade making any changes to diocesan governing documents. The resolution passed, thus preventing the resolutions from being discussed.  They were on the agenda later in the convention.  The rational was that virtual conventions were already subject to communication difficulties, and many felt uncomfortable with the virtual format and thus it was not a good time to make substantial changes. Given that other dioceses have not only changed their constitutions and canons in virtual sessions and have held elections for bishops virtually, the rational appeared strained at best.

Continuing Stories

African Churches Support New Anti-Gay Legislation in Ghana

Anglican bishops in several African Countries have been supportive of drastic anti-LGBTQ laws that not only punish sexual relations but advocacy or support for LGBTQ rights.  In 2013 and 2014 Nigeria and Uganda passed such laws with the support of the Anglican bishops in those countries.  Uganda had to try twice because the first law was declared void for technical reasons.  Anglican leaders from other parts of the Communion did speak out against those laws.  Now Ghana has proposed laws even more strict than those of Nigeria and Uganda, and the Anglican bishops of that country have endorsed the laws, offering only that LGBTQ people are welcome to turn to the church for help in changing their orientations.  The laws punish self-identification and advocacy for LGBTQ rights with longer prison sentences than those given for performance sexual acts.  So far, there have not been any official statements from others in the Communion condemning the laws.  For stories on the laws see both The Living Church and the Episcopal Cafe.

Fort Worth Episcopal Corporation Declares Bankruptcy

The property cases in Fort Worth focused on those properties controlled by the diocese either as Corporation sole or diocesan assets not related to a parish.  All Saints Episcopal Church had to be handled as a separate case, tried at the same time, because its deeds and property were not under the direct control of the diocese.  Episcopalians at All Saints had to leave their church building, and the schismatic ACNA diocese has continued to try to gain control of any funds or assets that the parish might possess. The parish had four parcels of property which were not covered in the original court order because they are held by a non-profit corporation created by the parish,  and include a school. Upon leaving their parish building, All Saints was invited to worship in the school chapel.  However, the schismatic diocese has pursued claims against the school.  The corporation, however, has quietly filed for bankruptcy which prevents any change in status during its reorganization.  The ACNA group has requested a rescheduled hearing since their suit is against the unincorporated parish, not the non-profit corporation.  The sticky point is whether any remaining assets belong to the corporation or the unincorporated parish.

Pandemic Protocols Limit Attendance at South Carolina Court Hearing

The South Carolina Supreme Court has notified both parties in the South Carolina church property case that pandemic safety will require them to limit attendance in the court room to two attorneys for each party.  The court date is in early December and is a result of an appeal by the Episcopalians  following a court order by a state district judge which overturned the opinion issued by the state supreme court.  The district judge was supposed to oversee implementing the opinion issued by the state supreme court. Given that what is at stake includes titles to most parishes in the original diocese, and a separate trust interest held by The Episcopal Church, previous hearings have included several attorneys on both sides.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Week Ending 10/18/21

Los Angeles Parish Builds Sister Relationship with Latino Parish

Two parishes, one in affluent, mostly Anglo Newport Beach, and St. Michael's, in working class, majority Hispanic Anaheim have become sister parishes.   The ties began during the pandemic when St. James's minister Cindy Voorhees, learned that a parish in Anaheim had been hard hit economically because many of its members worked in service industries that were shut down.  Initially, St. James was able to help with some of the financial strains, but the two parishes are now planning pulpit exchanges, joint worship services and other collaborations.  The Episcopal News Service Article has all the details.  What it does not mention is that St. James is the congregation that grew out of a faithful remnant and then after beginning again faced a legal struggle over property that eventually led to the disciplining of then-bishop Jon Bruno.  Bruno had blind-sided the parish with an attempt to sell the property.  Update carried all the twists and turns of that struggle.  It is nice to see the new St. James in its old property and making news in such a positive way.

GAFCON Stalwart Bishop Joins Rome

Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, and one of the most active GAFCON bishops in the Church of England and the Middle East has left the Anglican Communion for the Roman Catholic Church.  He has joined the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, a body set up by the Roman Catholic Church to provide a home for former Anglicans. You can find more information about this Pakistan-born bishop here.  As such it competes for members with the GAFCON-sponsored parishes operating in England, but outside the Church of England.  GAFCON's current chair, Foley Beach, the Archbishop of ACNA, issued a statement that suggests GAFCON will try to still find a role for Bishop Nazir-Ali, but isn't quite sure how to do this.   

Continuing Stories 

Alabama Parish joins Solar Movement

Bishop Glenda Curry used a cherry-picker crane to soar high enough to bless the newly installed solar panels providing electricity for St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Birmingham.   Curry joined a select group of Bishops who have climbed to new heights to bless solar installations, including Bishops McConnell in Pittsburgh, and Rice in San Joaquin.  The San Joaquin blessing was one of several Bishop Rice is doing as the diocese implements a plan to go nearly completely solar with arrays at most of their parishes.  Two other dioceses, Vermont and Maine have implemented collective plans with solar farms, which Update reported on earlier.  Update has also noted this year the efforts of a Massachusetts parish to go solar. 

South Carolina ACNA Chooses Its New Bishop

The schismatic diocese in South Carolina led by Bishop Mark Lawrence has now elected its Bishop Coadjutor, who will become sole diocesan when Lawrence retires in 2022.  The convention elected the Rev. Chip Edgar who is currently the dean of the ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina.  There is some speculation that this may lead to an eventual merging of the Charleston based Diocese with the one in Columbia.  ACNA allows overlapping boundaries between dioceses.  The election process put pressure on the laity by having the clergy vote first and that outcome was announced before the laity voted.  The election was closer than expected and took 3 ballots.  This choice has to be approved by the ACNA House of Bishops before it is official. Edgar is an evangelical who earlier was part of the Anglican Mission in America.  The blog scepiscopalians.com has a good summary of the election in its October 16 post. 

Wyoming Parish Seeks to Resettle Afghan Refugees 

Despite the state of Wyoming expressing no interest in refugees, an Episcopal parish in Casper has voted unanimously to begin exploring the steps necessary to act as host for an afghan refugee family.  Because there is no refugee resettlement infrastructure in Wyoming, St. Mark's Parish will have a number of preliminary steps to go through, and is also looking for partners in its efforts.  So far, the parish has been heartened by the generally positive reaction of their community.   Update has noted numerous actions of the Episcopal Church in support of refugees, the most recent here

 Assessing Resolution B012 Granting Access to Marriage for Same Sex Couples

The Living Church has an article this week looking at how the compromise resolution B012 has fared in providing access to church marriage for same sex couples in all dioceses.  The General Convention Resoluiton required all dioceses to set up a means by which parishes that wished to open their doors to same sex couples seeking marriage could do so.  It provided a way for bishops who could not agree, to appoint another bishop to provide oversight to such parishes.  The implementation has been less than uniform.  In Albany, it resulted in church disciplinary action against Bishop Love who eventually resigned rather than accept the discipline.  Love then joined ACNA.  In one Florida diocese, the process has resulted in no parishes providing access, but in others, the compromise has taken effect.  Update covered the Love hearing, and the passage of B012

Panel Expresses pain of the Indigenous Peoples at Boarding Schools

The Episcopal Church sponsored panel discussion of the role churches played in the cultural genocide associated with boarding schools for indigenous people  resulted in many expressions of pain and sorrow.  It is not clear how many schools the Episcopal Church was involved with because the records for the schools are local, but there are at least 8 such schools.  The discussion is fully covered here.  Update carried an advance notice of the event.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Week Ending 10/11/2021

All Posts This Week Build on Previous Posts

Church Marks Indigenous Peoples Day

The Episcopal New Service marked the celebration of  Indigenous Peoples Day with pertinent stories on the Episcopal Church's involvement with native peoples.  One story focused on the work in Minnesota to both recognize ways the church fell short and its long ministry to the Anishinaabe, and its current support of efforts led by Indigenous People to protect the environment, especially the water supply from potentially polluting pipelines.  Update has carried numerous posts on the environmental protests.  A recent post is here. Another story focused on support for the creation of a national commission to explore the involvement of a number of churches in running boarding schools for Indigenous children.  These schools promoted a program that stripped away native culture. Update carried notices of efforts of the Episcopal Church to come to terms with its running of such schools. The latest is here.  Two of the Episcopal Church's General Conventions have passed resolutions repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery which empowered Europeans to seize native lands. Religion News had a good background piece this week  on the Doctrine of Discovery and its damage to native peoples.

New Woman Bishop Sets Course While Another Is Elected

 Last week Update reported on the consecration of Ruth Woodliff-Stanley as Bishop of South Carolina.  She wasted little time in setting out the goals for the diocese and her ministry.  Although her diocese is still facing legal battles to regain the assets taken by those who left the Episcopal Church in 2012, the new Bishop is calling people to move forward making racial reconciliation and justice the focus of their lives together.  In an interview with the Post Courier, Stanley emphasized the diocese needed to work with its historically black congregations and with Native Americans with the diocese.  While Stanley was busy getting to know her diocese and setting its course, the Diocese of Nevada elected its next bishop from among four candidates of whom three were women and the fourth a Native American man.  They chose Elizabeth Bonforte  Gardner, who is currently rector of a parish in Alexandria, Virginia. Gardner will be the second woman to serve as bishop in Nevada.  The first was Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Another Parish Reaches Out to Homeless

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Denver has long had an interest in serving the homeless, but now it has announced that it wants to use half of its parking lot as a fenced space for 8 vehicles a night  to provide a safe sleeping place for those living in their cars.  The church is also adding a portable bathroom, hand sanitizing and trash receptacles.  The space is for cars only (no RVs or trailers) and the occupants are limited to 2 adults.  Its start date is not yet set because negotiations are still in the works with the neighborhood association and there is no formal agreement.   Earlier the historic landmark commission nixed using the site for a group of tiny homes serving the homeless.  The parish would also contract with a service provider to help those staying in the lot to transition to other living arrangements. Update has carried numerous posts on parish or diocesan efforts to help the homeless, including this year projects in Western Louisiana, Oregon, and Michigan.

Wisconsin Dioceses to Reunite

 In August, the three diocese in Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, and Milwaukee announced that they were going to explore a closer partnership, sharing resources and some committees.  This was not surprising since three three diocese combined have just under 12,500 baptized members, and several other of the smaller dioceses had recently announced similar partnerships.  However, this last week the three dioceses announced their intent to go further, to reunite into one diocese encompassing the whole state of Wisconsin.  It would be a return to their historic roots. The timing is right for merger because two of the dioceses are served by provisional bishops. Fond du Lac's bishop, Matt Gunter began serving as bishop provisional for Eau Claire in 2020, and this year Milwaukee's bishop resigned after 17 years of service, and Bishop Lee who had recently retired for the Diocese of Chicago, became Milwaukee's bishop provisional.  The idea of reuniting the dioceses in Wisconsin is not new, and in fact, the three came close to doing so in 2008.  Pittsburgh Update reported on that attempt in one of its early posts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Week Ending 10/04/21

Cathedral Sponsors Art Exhibit "De-Colonizing" Christ

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA has been hosting an art exhibit with the theme of "De-colonizing Christ."  The various artists participating in the exhibit all explored themes in which Christ was portrayed as a person of color.  The object was to challenge the eurocentric perception of Christ has dominated art and popular thought.  The Episcopal Journal has an article on the exhibit with pictures in color of several of the pieces.
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Anglican Communion Adds another Province

When the Pittsburgh Update began, the Anglican Communion had 39 provinces.  Now it has 42, All of the new provinces are in Africa.  The most recent addition was created by splitting the Province of Southern Africa so that the two Portugese-speaking countries of Angola and Mozambique have their own province.  The addition of these African provinces while responding to growth and cultural issues, has the potentially negative side-effect of changing the balance of power in the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates meetings.
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Updates on Continuing Stories

 Forum Responding to Episcopal Church Statement on Boarding Schools

This is advance notice of an October 11 event that will have a panel of indigenous people responding to the statement the Episcopal Church issued concerning its involvement in boarding schools for native peoples, and the fact that these schools purposefully tried to eliminate native culture and created great trauma in the indigenous communities.  The Episcopal New Service announcement of the event has information on how to attend the forum virtually.  Update carried a story when the Episcopal Church issued its formal statement.
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Parish Converting Office to Apartment for Refugee Family

 One of the Kansas City television stations ran a feature on the work that St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Lee's Summit, Missouri has been doing to convert their offices into a three bedroom apartment for one of the refugee families from Afghanistan.  The priest at St. Anne's, Meg Rhodes consulted a parishioner who was an immigration attorney to figure out the types of help refugees would need, and then involved others in the community including Jewish Vocational Services.  Update has carried other stories about the Episcopal Church's work with refugees.  The most recent is here.
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South Carolina Consecrates New Bishop

This last weekend South Carolina Episcopalians in the rebuilding diocese took an important step by consecrating a new diocesan bishop, Ruth Woodliff-Stanley.   Update reported on her election in May.  The Diocese of South Carolina was one of the five dioceses to undergo a complete schism and the rebuilding of a diocesan structure. Since the split in 2012, the diocese has been guided by provisional bishops.  It was the last to experience schism.  Only Fort Worth is left to take the step of electing a regular diocesan.  The Episcopal News Service, has a full press release on the occasion, at which the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry served as chief consecrator.  The blogger at scepiscopalians.com gave a more personal response to the service, and noted in his Oct. 2nd post that with covid restrictions limiting seating inside Grace Cathedral, many people listened out side the church.  He and they were delighted that Presiding Bishop Curry, went outside to administer communion to those unable to be seated.
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Scottish Bishops Set Up Mediation

Two weeks ago Update noted that Ann Dyer, the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, had been the subject of an investigation into her leadership style, which was seemingly too abrasive  for her diocese.  The report recommended a removal, but the House of Bishops for the Episcopal Church of Scotland suggested instead creation of a mediation process.  Dyer is the first and only woman serving as a bishop in the Scottish Church.  The bishops fulfilled their promise at a recent House of Bishops meeting and have created a panel of three to head the mediation efforts.  
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Parish Organizes Interfaith Burial for Unclaimed Covid Victims

 New York City still has many unclaimed bodies of those who died from covid-19 waiting for burial.  A parishioner at St. James Episcopal Church asked if there was not some way that churches could help in giving these people a respectful burial.  Working with the Partnership for Faith for New York City they were able to make proper connections, and do the tracing necessary to notify next of kin, and offer faith-based memorial or burial services. Churches have done this without cost, even providing space in columbariums or cemeteries.  The Living Church has the story.  Update has carried many stories about unique ministries and responses to the social challenges brought by the pandemic.  The most recent are here.
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Pauli Murray Film Released

When the documentary film makers showed their latest effort My Name is Pauli Murray at the Sundance Festival in early 2021, Update carried a notice.  The film makers learned about Murray from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg while making their critically acclaimed documentary RGB.  Murray, who died in 1985, made important contributions to both civil rights and women's rights was a poet, lawyer, feminist and Episcopal Priest. The documentary was released for general audiences on October 1. Unfortunately, the film is currently in a limited theatrical release, and available otherwise only through a premium streaming service, Amazon Prime+.  
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Former ACNA Parish Looking for Denominational Home 

Last week, Update carried a story about an ACNA parish in Nashville that had voted to leave ACNA for a denomination that they thought would give them a little more room to welcome LGBTQA people into their worship life.  The plan was to join a much smaller group, the CEEC. It turns out that there are two Anglican splinter groups, both of which have issued statements refuting any idea that they were more "progressive" when it came to participation of LGBTQA people in their faith communities.  The Archbishop of  the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches  issued a statement saying they were not progressive on matters of sexuality, although they welcomed both men and women as clergy. This is the body that St. Mary of Bethany thought they had joined.  The Archbishop of the other CEEC (the Continuing Evangelical Episcopal Communion) also issued a statement stressing their agreement with ACNA on its insistence that any gender identity or orientation other than heterosexuality was a sin. It is not clear where St. Mary's is going to find a home.