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, November 30, 2021

Week Ending 11/29/21

Church Leaders React to Guilty Verdicts in Georgia Trial

The jury of mostly whites who convicted three white men of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, who made the mistake of running through a white neighborhood provided a stark contrast to the jury last week that acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse.  Episcopal leaders offered responses to the guilty verdict, noting that it was a small step in the right direction to create a more racially just society.  The bishops of the two Episcopal Dioceses in Georgia and the Evangelical Lutheran bishop for the area issued a joint statement.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry also issued a statement here.

General Seminary to Start Hybrid Program in Fall 2022

The Board of General Seminary, the oldest of the seminaries serving the Episcopal Church and the only one with a board elected by General Convention, has issued a directive to the seminary to study and develop a hybrid track doe the M.Div., the degree leading to ordination.  A hybrid track includes courses on-line, and in other distributive models as well as some time on campus.  The goal is to reach potential students whose lives would make it unlikely that they could uproot from work and family to study for three years in a traditional seminary program.  The seminary has never fully recovered from a controversy that saw almost its whole faculty be fired or leave. The dean that was the center of the controversy retired last year.  Although the Anglican.ink story treats possibility of a hybrid track as path-breaking, Bexley-Seabury Seminary already has such a program.

Primates' Meeting Puts Climate Issues at Forefront

The Primates (leaders) of the various Anglican Communion provinces met virtually for several days last week.  While for a number of years, issues around  the efforts of various provinces, including The Episcopal Church, to be more inclusive of the LGBTQA population were the focus of these meetings, this meeting raised concerns that affected all of the provinces, especially global warming and the ongoing pandemic.  The Primates issued a communique for which a link was included in  The Living Church story on the meeting.  Climate issues have become a main focus of the Anglican Communion with their participation in the recent UN meeting on the climate crisis in Edinburgh.  Update carried stories on that meeting and the  role of Episcopalians at the meeting

Continuing Stories

More on the Property Handover in Texas

The scorched earth approach of the schismatics, who have been awarded the property of the Episcopal diocese in Fort Worth  was the subject of some additional news this week.  The six parishes who lost their buildings as a result of the Texas Supreme Court decision have not handed over all of the things they owned as of 2009 quickly enough to suit the ACNA diocese. All Saints Parish Corporation, declared bankruptcy to protect properties owned by the corporation and not the parish.  The Episcopal Cafe, posted this exchange of emails between the legal counsels of the two sides, which shows the level of animosity.  More interesting, however, might be the story by the public news station in North Texas, KERA.  Their story gives information on what has happened to the buildings turned over to the ANCA diocese.  Two have already been sold, and not to the parishes who had to give them up.  Update's most recent stories on the bankruptcy, parish status, and the property handover are here, here, and here, respectively. 

Oxford Dean Saga Continues

The saga of the battle between the Christ Church Dean (of both college and cathedral) and the college faculty continues.  Despite reviews by outside independent panels, the college seems intent on going ahead with a disciplinary tribunal.  Now the college board is being challenged to both itemize and justify its expenses in the legal battle.  Thinking Anglicans has more on this latest development.  Update's most recent previous post on these battles is here.

Church Continues Navajo Food Program

The Navajo nation has been hit hard by Covid-19.  Many people in Navajoland were already below the poverty level, and covid has depressed many of the sources of income for people.  The Episcopal Church has a mission diocese that encompasses most of the areas where Navajo live, and in 2020 when covid-19 hit, the Church began a food mission feeding more than 100 families.  The ministry continued throughout 2020, and with help from donors, Episcopal parishes, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints, the ministry has continued, providing 300 families with food (including Thanksgiving dinner) for a month.  Another distribution of food, managed by the Episcopal parishes in Navajoland, will provide a second month of food in time for Christmas.  The Church hopes to be able to finance monthly food distributions throughout the winter months of 2022 as well.  The Episcopal News Service has more details here.

Watch the Arguments on the South Carolina Property Appeal 

The hearing at the South Carolina Supreme Court on the appeal filed by the Episcopal Diocese of 
South Carolina will have oral arguments on December 8th at 9:30 E.S.T. Because of covid restrictions, only the two lawyers  for each side and the court judges and officials will be in the courtroom.  However, South Carolina provides a live stream for anyone interested.  That stream is here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Week Ending 11/22/21

Responses to Rittenhouse Verdict

The decision of the jury to accept Kyle Rittenhouse's defense that he had short unarmed protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin in self defense has led to a variety of responses from religious leaders, all disappointed at the verdict, but taking different approaches to express both their disappointment and to urge peaceful action. Some leaders have focused on gun violence, others on the ways that this trial highlights white privilege, and others on the original protests which were about racial injustice.  For more on these different responses, consider the statements issued by the bishops of North Carolina, Milwaukee, California, Olympia, Spokane, and an article in Sojourner which casts a wider religious net.

Continuing Stories

Archbishop Makes a Third Try at Ghana Statement

In his statements to the Synod of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby made a third attempt to address the letter issued by the House of Bishops in Ghana in support of draconian anti-LGBTQA legislation then before the legislature of Ghana.  Originally, Welby reminded the Bishops of resolutions passed at the Lambeth Conference in 1998 which included statements about LGBTQA people being treated as children of God.  The bishops of Ghana took offense that Welby had not spoken with them before issuing a statement, so Welby then apologized.  That statement then received major criticism from those more supportive of the LGBTQA community, and so at the Synod, Welby made a another stab, saying the bishops in Ghana did accept the idea that there public letter seemed to deny, and that somehow that letter was taken out of context.  The response to this third try has been skeptical to say the least.  

Responses to Albany's Announcement on Same Sex Marriage

Two  weeks ago, Update carried a story on the letter from the Albany Standing Committee letter saying that they were implementing General Convention 2018 Resolution B012  which created a compromise way that allowed parishes wishing to celebrate same-sex marriages could do so by allowing a bishop opposed to such marriages to turn over pastoral oversight for such marriages to a bishop another bishop. In the U.S., the only Episcopal Bishop who refused to implement the resolution was Bishop Love of Albany, and it led to a disciplinary hearing with an adverse decision and Love's resignation. Attempts to amend sections of the Albany canons to end restrictions on such marriages and ordination of LGBTQA+ people had been sidetracked by parliamentary maneuvers that tabled proposed amendments.  Surprisingly, the Standing Committee announced shortly after convention implementation of B012. The Episcopal News Service has now provided a good piece on reactions to this announcement.  LGBTQA+ supporters note that this falls short of full compliance with Episcopal Church canons, especially in relation to ordination. 

Bishop Turning Guns into Pruning Hooks 

Following the slaughter of young children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, the then-suffragan bishop of Connecticut, the Rt. Rev. James Curry became a founder of Bishops United Against Gun Violence.  In 2017, then retired, he founded the non-profit Swords to Ploughshares Northeast and began literally taking a portable blacksmith forge to various locations around the country where he turned guns into garden implements.  The inspiration for his effort is found in a Biblical passage from Isaiah 2:4, and from a similar Mennonite effort in Colorado. His latest trip, with two others members of the non-profit, was to Washington D.C. where Curry set up shop outside the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.  The church is about a block and a half from the U.S. Capitol.  He was welcomed by Episcopal Bishop Marianne Budde.  The guns he melted down were mostly from recent buybacks organized by his non-profit and local Connecticut police. The Episcopal News Service has more on Curry's efforts.  Update has carried many notices about Episcopal Church witness against gun violence.  A recent one is here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Week Ending 11/15/21

Episcopalians Organize Action Against Disastrous Michigan No-Fault Policies

Changes to the Michigan no-fault insurance law has resulted in private insurers cutting services offered to those who were left with grievous injuries in accidents covered by the no-fault law.  These include such a services as 24/7 home care and partial services (such as for baths, getting into bed, or reaching physical therapy or doctors appointments.)  Instead the private non-profit that manages a fund created by insurance payments is planning on issuing refund checks to those who buy no-fault accident insurance. Bonnie Anderson, former President of the Episcopal House of Deputies has organized  an interfaith group of religious leaders to speak out on the need for corrective legislation.   Anderson has a son who needs such care as a result of a car accident. The cut in services not only has families stretched to the breaking point, but has damaged the long term home care providers who have had to let many staff go.  Bills have been introduced in the legislature to fix the problem, but Republicans are blocking them.

Ongoing Threads

Diocese of Virginia Votes Millions for Reparations

One of the leaders within the Episcopal Church and the country on the issue of reparations for the damage done to the African-American community both through enslavement and racism has been the Diocese of Virginia.  The Virginia Theological Seminary has already implemented a plan of reparations, focusing especially on the  descendants of African Americans who were enslaved or worked for the seminary.  Now the Diocese of Virginia has voted to create a fund of $10 million dollars to be used for grants and loans to individuals or groups from the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.  The funds and further recommendations will be overseen by a committee to be formed by the end of the year with representations of  lay and clergy and BIPOC, and liaisons from the other two dioceses in Virginia (both of which were originally part of the Diocese of Virginia.) The full resolution is here.

Welby Backtracks on Ghana Law Comments

Archbishop Justin Welby apparently stepped on a few toes by issuing a public statement  on the draconian law punishing any identification as LGBTQ or discussion of LGBTQ status proposed by the legislature in Ghana.  What prompted Welby was the endorsement of the law by the Bishops of the Anglican Church in that country.  Bishops in Ghana thought Welby should have talked to them first before responding to their public statement.  Now Welby has apologized for his actions as insensitive and disrespectful.  There is no indication that he is apologizing to the LGTBQ community for ways that his apology to the bishops may have hurt the targets of this law.   The Church Times and Episcopal Cafe give different takes on Welby's apology.

Wales Church Does First Same-Sex Couple Blessing

The Anglican Church of Wales announced at the beginning of September that it had approved a trial liturgy to use for blessing the civil marriages of same sex couples.  The announcement drew criticism from both conservatives (too much recognition of same-sex marriage) and from liberals (still not a church marriage).   Now the Church has implemented that decision with the blessing of a civil marriage between a Welsh priest (the Rev. Lee Taylor) and his partner (Fabiano Da Silva Duarte) at a service conducted at the parish where Taylor is priest-in-charge.  Making it even more official was that the person who presided was Bishop Gregory Cameron, who is the diocesan and thus the priest's boss. 

Episcopalians Provide Airport Welcome for Afghan Refugees

Episcopalians in Oklahoma City have taken responsibility for meeting Afghan refugees as they arrive on flights at the airport.  They greet, them, help with baggage, and other details at the airport and then transport them to hotels where they will stay until longer term housing is arranged. The City is expecting about 1000 refugees to be resettled in the area. Another 800 a destined for Tulsa. When the Episcopal Diocese learned how large a group would be settled in Oklahoma, they reached out to Catholic Charities to offer help.   Once at the hotel, case workers arranged by Catholic Charities take over. The Episcopal Church has been very active in refugee rights and resettlement activities around the country.  Update recently carried a notice of work with Afghan refugees in Wyoming.

Report From Episcopalians at Climate Conference

Last week Update carried a story about the prominent role members of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion were playing at the  U.N. sponsored climate change conference in Edinburgh. Now the Episcopal News Service has a story with an interactive link that lets people hear a brief statement from each of the Episcopal Church participants.  Click on a name in the Zoom frame to have that person's short video load.  It is clear that those attending, feel that the work has only begun and that follow-up to the conference is imperative. 

Pittsburgh Consecrates Ninth Bishop

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry presided at the ordination/consecration of Pittsburgh's ninth Bishop, Ketlan Solak.  The Bishops participating included two from Delaware (where Solak has been serving as a priest), one from Virginia (where she attended seminary and began her ministry), two from other dioceses in Pennsylvania, the local Evangelical Lutheran Church of America bishop (the Episcopal Church is in full communion with the ELCA), the 8th bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese,  and bishops from Newark and East Tennessee.  Bishop Solak is the first woman and the first person of African descent to serve as Episcopal bishop in Pittsburgh.  Thus it was fitting that three of those laying hands on her were African American, and three were women.  Update posted a notice of her ground-breaking election in June 2021.
The service at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh was filled with ceremony, banners, incense, and a special choir composed of members of four diocesan parishes.  The church was as full as covid-19 protocols would allow and all who attended were both masked and had given proof of vaccination. Roughly 1000 others watched on-line using one of 2 links to the streamed service.   The occasion was a celebration for the diocese which has been rebuilding since its seventh bishop led nearly half of the diocese out of the Episcopal Church.  The diocese has put legal issues behind it, including working out unique cooperative arrangements with a number of the former parishes. Both the local newspaper and the CBS station covered the event.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Week Ending 11/8/21

Episcopalians Lead Interdenominational Prayer Vigil Outside Courthouse

 The trial of three white men for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black unarmed jogger, whom they suspected of theft,  has a group of clergy gathering each day at the courthouse to peacefully witness and pray for justice and racial reconciliation.  The group is interdenominational, but led by Episcopal clergy from Glynn County where both the trial and the killing took place.  The gathering is part of a larger effort of study and actions for racial healing that the group, Glynn Clergy for Equity, has been offering for over a year.  The Diocese of Georgia has provided a grant of $10,000 to the clergy group. The funds for the grant came from a larger grant the dioceses had received from The Episcopal Church as part of the Church's racial reconciliation efforts. For more, see the Episcopal News Service article

Community of St. Mary a Lead Plaintiff in Abortion Case

The Community of St. Mary in New York is one of the lead plaintiffs, along with the Catholic Church, in challenging a New York law requiring employers to include abortion services in their health plans. The state laws allowed a very narrow religious exemption.  Lower courts upheld the New York law, but the U. S. Supreme Court justices have vacated those rulings and sent the case back to lower courts to rehear the case.  Update carried notice of the decision of the New York branch of  the Community of St. Mary to leave the Episcopal Church and join ACNA.  Two other  branches of the Community remain in the Episcopal Church.

Continuing Stories

Another Anglican Province Chooses a Woman Bishop

In 2008, 18 women who were bishops attended the Lambeth Conference.  At the Conference scheduled for 2022, there will be more than 40 women diocesan bishops in attendance.   The number of suffragan and assisting bishops is even longer. The number of Churches (Provinces) within the Anglican Communion with women serving as bishops has just increased by one.  The  Anglican Church of Mexico  diocese that includes Mexico City has just elected The Very Rev. Alba Sally Sue Hernandez Garcia as its new bishop.  Earlier this year Kenya chose its first women bishops, despite expressions of concern by other members of  GAFCON.  Update has previously noted the increase in women serving in the Episcopate.  

Presiding Bishop Leads Powell Funeral

In a funeral service attended by Presidents Biden, Obama, and Bush, former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell was praised for his steadfast faith and love of his church.  Presiding Bishop Curry presided at the service with Washington Bishop Marion Budde assisting, and clergy from both of the Episcopal parishes that Powell attended in the Washington area among those reading or preaching.  Former Secretaries of State, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright also attended. Update had earlier noted that the service would be held at the National Cathedral, but did not have information on those who would participate. 

Albany Standing Committee Opens Door to Same-Sex Marriage

Recently, the Diocese of Albany used parliamentary maneuvers  to kill a vote on proposed amendments to the Albany Constitution and Canons that would have removed the penalties keeping willing clergy from presiding at same sex wedding.  This week the Albany Standing Committee, which has served as the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese since Bishop Love resigned, announced that it would implement Resolution B012 of the 2018 General Convention.  The resolution provided a path for clergy and congregations to conduct marriage ceremonies and blessings for same sex couples by allowing conservative bishops to appoint another bishop to provide episcopal support to the couple and parishes.  Clergy and parishes were directed to consult with Assisting Bishop Michael Smith (formerly Bishop of North Dakota and now assisting in Dallas) who would then arrange oversight from a bishop who supported same-sex marriage.  The reason cited was a desire by the Standing Committee to address divisions within the diocese and a recognition of authority of General Convention.

Anglican Communion Takes a Leading Role in COP26  Events

The Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church, the World Council of Churches and two interfaith ecological organizations sponsored an official side-event at the United Nations Climate Change Conference meeting in Edinburgh (COP26).  The event focused on the need to work with indigenous peoples in combating climate change. The Anglican Communion News Service article lists the many of the speakers and the organizers.  The Episcopal News Service focused on statements from the conference, which ensured the voices of many indigenous people were heard by COP26 attendees.  Conference speakers stressed that attempts to solve the crises need to be sensitive to indigenous life styles and insights gained from caring for natural resources for generations.  The Episcopal Church has been active on issues of the environment and has sought recently to work with indigenous peoples, rather than colonize them. Update has carried a number of reports on Episcopal efforts to address climate change. The most recent is here.


Monday, November 1, 2021

Week Ending 11/01/21

Oklahoma Parish Provides Home for Ashes of the Unclaimed

When the priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in McAlester, Oklahoma discovered that there were a number of unclaimed cremated remains in storage at a local funeral parlor, she  took action.  On All Souls day, the Rev. Janie Koch will bless 23 boxes of remains, some identified and with pictures, others unnamed, and ranging from the cremains of an unidentified baby to one box with the remains of three people. They will then find a home in the parish columbarium.  The parish has long provided sack lunches for the homeless and has served as a warming station, so this seemed an appropriate extension of their ministry.

Continuing Stories

Voices Raised Against Ghana's Anti-LGBTQ Law

Since the Update's posting last week about the Anglican bishops of Ghana's support for drastic legislation making it a crime to in any way identify or offer support for LGBTQ people, some voices have been raised within the Anglican Communion, criticizing the action of the bishops.  The anti-gay group within the Anglican Communion made frequent use of the negative parts of the Lambeth Council 1998 resolution on LGBTQA people,  treating it as though it were legislation, as the Churches in the U.S. and Canada, and then other Anglican provinces moved to welcome LGBTQA people and open all rites and positions to them.  Now those speaking out against the bishop's endorsement of the proposed legislation are using that same resolution's positive statements as a means of chastising the bishops.  Those speaking out have included the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Church of England bishops in Portsmouth (which has a longstanding relationship with dioceses in Ghana, the bishops of Virginia (again a diocese with special ties to a diocese in Ghana, and the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church.

Religious Leaders File Amica Brief in Gun Control Challenge

The Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies are the first two officials named in a friend of court brief submitted by leaders of a number of faiths. The brief supports the enforcement of a 108 year-old New York statute placing limitations on who may be granted a license for concealed carry of a gun.  The law is being challenged by two members of a gun club who were denied permits.  The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 3rd on the case.  Others supporting the suit include the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the United Church of Christ, several major Jewish organizations, and the Church of the Brethren.  An Appendix (not included with the copy of the filing linked in the Episcopal News Service release) lists more than 400 religious leaders, including Episcopal Bishops and clergy, and clergy from a number of denominations not included in the heading of the Brief.  The brief argues that churches have a first amendment right to meet in security and peace and in spaces free from all guns.   The Episcopal Church, and the group Bishops Against Gun Violence have been the subject of a number of Update posts, the most recent of which is here.

More on the Fort Worth Parish Bankruptcy Filing

The Episcopal News Service has now published an article on the bankruptcy filing by the Corporation of All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth.  It was not available when last week's Update was published.  The article provides more detail on the property at risk, which includes both liquid assets and real estate.  It also provides more information on the parish.  

Update on the Burying of Canonical Amendments in Albany

Last week, the Albany Diocesan Convention used a parliamentary maneuver to prevent voting on three resolutions designed to bring the diocese's canons into compliance with the canons of The Episcopal Church and resolutions of General Convention. The TEC's position allows ordination of LGBTQ people and requires that every diocese provide access to marriage rites for same sex couples.  Albany's canons directly contradict these positions.  On Monday, news stories had not started to appear about the debate over a motion preventing the resolutions from being discussed or voted on.  Since then a detailed news story on this convention "inaction" has appeared in a local paper.  Since the major argument was that substantive matters should not be voted on in a Zoom meeting, some supporters of the resolutions made an attempt to adjourn the convention and meet in person.   For more on this, see the Times-Union story here.

Oregon City Takes Action Against Church Feeding the Homeless 

In June,  Update carried a story about push-back that St. Timothy's Parish was getting for its regular feeding of the homeless. The parish increased its feeding ministry during the pandemic as other churches cut back.  Basically neighbors were complaining that by supplying the homeless with food, the parish was creating an attractive nuisance, and raised concerns about drug use.  Now the city of Brookings has passed an ordinance allowing churches to only offer free food twice a week.  St. Timothy's was feeding people 4-6 days a week.  The church has said it will continue to feed people in defiance of the ordinance and it is preparing to sue the city claiming a first amendment right to feed the poor.