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.

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A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Week Ending 01/24/22

 All Stories Continue Previous Threads

Federal Bankruptcy Court Sides With Fort Worth Episcopalians

All Saints church in Fort Worth was among the parishes to be forced to relinquish their church following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear the Episcopal Church appeal.  All Saints, however, had an incorporated entity that held much of the liquid assets and title to several properties that were explicitly excluded from the general property law suit.  This incorporated body remained in control of Episcopalians.  The ACNA diocese however, has taken steps to try to claim all of that property, which resulted in the bank accounts belonging to the incorporated All Saints being frozen.  In a surprise move, reported by Update last fall, the Incorporated body filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal bankruptcy court.  This would allow it to reorganize and get a ruling that could unfreeze the bank accounts. ACNA responded by trying to have the bankruptcy filing thrown out on the grounds that they were the owners of the property.   The federal bankruptcy court quietly issued its opinion December 29.  ACNA's suit was dismissed and the bankruptcy proceeding filed by the Episcopalians can go forward.  The judge's opinion is available here. The judge was careful to say he was applying neutral principles of law, but he found that the Episcopalians had maintained continuous control of the governing body of the All Saints corporation, and that the law suit decision did not apply to this body.

 Pandemic Ministry Outreach and Challenges

Update has published numerous accounts of the responses of parishes to the pandemic, both in terms of outreach, and of parish life and worship  (See three recent examples here, here, and here.)  There are two more stories to add this week. The Episcopal Church of Jesus of Nazareth in Orlando and a supermarket have opened their doors to after work and late night testing for Covid-19, because many working class people were unable to get the tests during the day because they were working.  The program is a joint effort of the Episcopal Church Health Initiative, Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the Hispanic Federation Florida & Southeast.   The parish hopes that the availability of home testing may soon alleviate the need for after hours sites, but that right now the need is  very great.   
The stresses of dealing with worship and pastoral needs during the pandemic has brought a number of clergy close to burnout.  The Diocese of Chicago is addressing clergy needs by starting a clergy mini-sabbatical program.  Between now and Holy week, every parish in the diocese has been asked to designate a week in which there will be no meetings, office hours, and the clergy (except for pastoral emergencies) will have time to rest and regroup. The parish is encouraged to find a way to provide an alternative for Sunday service so that this too is a day of rest for the clergy.  The Episcopal News Service (ENS) has more on the program and other similar attempts.

Indigenous Children's Remains Repatriated

Recent press attention to the numerous graves of indigenous children who died while at boarding schools, has led both the Anglican Church in Canada and The Episcopal Church to respond.  Update most recently noted the participation of Canadian bishops in cleaning up a school burial ground and starting a process of repatriation (reburial in native homelands).  The Episcopal Church apologized and began exploring its own history of sponsoring boarding schools that forced children to abandon their own cultures and languages for English and white culture.  Now the Oneida reservation in Wisconsin has repatriated the bodies of three children who died at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, reburying them at the Episcopal church on Oneida lands.  The Carlisle School was a secular school, and one of the most famous of the boarding institutions in the U.S.

Churches Respond to Need for Homeless Shelters

The bitter cold and snow storms affecting much of the U.S. have led Episcopal Parishes to open their doors as emergency shelters, or provide supplies to existing agencies working with the homeless.  Many churches already had outreach efforts, but the existing shelters in many communities could not provide enough spots to handle the homeless, so some parishes opened either as day warming sites, or emergency night shelters.  The ENS has a fuller story about these efforts.   Update has carried numerous notices of Episcopal Parishes working with the homeless.  A recent one is found here.

ACNA Problems Multiply in Midwest

Update earlier had noted that the mishandling of sexual misconduct cases  by ACNA leaders had created a real mess in the ACNA diocese including Chicago.  The denomination created a Provincial Response Team with 8 members, 4 men and 4 women to handle the situation. However, three of the four women resigned as a mass protest that the voices of the victims and their needs were not being adequately addressed and that the focus was on mitigating damage to the institutional Church.  The Episcopal Cafe story includes responses from ACNA members and clergy who were upset by this turn of events.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Week Ending 01/17/22

 Proposal Would Change Selection of Archbishop of Canterbury

A commission is proposing that the selection commission which recommends a candidate to the crown for the position of Archbishop of Canterbury be changed to include five members drawn from outside of the Church of England.  The group that is putting forward argues that the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury is more world wide and thus should have more voice from the rest of the Anglican Communion. The proposal may be intended to head off the efforts of conservatives to form an competing communion through GAFCON, but because it also appears to be a step towards a tighter control over members and increases the sense of a hierarchy, by enhancing the role of the Archbishop, it is meeting a lot of criticism.  Some point out that because the Church of England is a state church, and the Archbishop has duties as a cleric in the Church of England, it may be hard to have someone selected who is not a member of the Church of England.  Thinking Anglicans has links to the full proposal, and a long set of comments to that post which are worth reading.

Climate Activists Convince Jury

Two clergy (the Revs. Sue Parfitt and  Martin Newell) and retired university lecturer Philip Kingston were able to convince a jury that when they climbed on top of a train during rush hour at Shadwell Station in East London in 2019, they were exercising a legitimate act of protest  under the Human Rights Act. The three, members of Christian Climate Action, claimed they had exhausted all other forms of protest and that their concern about climate change is too urgent to ignore. Christian Today has a succinct story, the BBC covered it in much greater detail.

Continuing Stories

Presiding Bishop Continues Commenting on Religion and Politics

Following the Presiding Bishop's comments in several forums last week on the events of January 6, 2021, and the Christian celebration of Epiphany, the Presiding Bishop held a recorded forum/conversation with the Pulitzer Prize winning canon historian of the Washington Cathedral, Jon Meacham.  Meacham has several books on leading political figures from the past and present and a recent book on faith.  Religion News interviewed the two just before the start of the forum.  That interview is found here, and was reprinted by the Episcopal News Service (ENS).  The two Episcopalians were hosted by the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy and Vanderbilt Divinity School.Both stressed that Christians need to reclaim faith from those who have used church symbols in ways that do not reflect Christ's message of love.  The whole forum is available on video.  ENS has a link to the video. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Week Ending 01/11/22

Reclaiming Epiphany

Last week was a busy week for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.  After presiding at the funeral of the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, he hurried back to Washington D.C. to participate in an Epiphany service at the Church of the Epiphany, give remarks at an outdoor gathering at the Lincoln Memorial,  and to offer a prayer at the moment of silence  organized by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi to mark the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the injuries and death of those defending Congress which was in session.  The Presiding Bishop minced no words, referring to the attack as a insurrection, and stressing that this attack was contrary to all that the season of Epiphany was supposed to mean.  While the sermon in the Church of the Epiphany was apparently marred by a bad sound system, his printed remarks have  been made available.

Continuing Stories 

Legal Issues Continue in Texas

In addition to the legal troubles still facing All Saints Parish in Fort Worth, St. Mary's Hillsborough, remains in court because the ACNA group is claiming it should receive a bequest worth $2 million  made to the Episcopal congregation in 2017, long after the separation.   It is clear that the donor's intent was for his estate to remain with those still in the Episcopal Church, both from his own membership in an Episcopal parish, other bequests, and his stipulation of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas as the residual heir should St. Mary's no longer exist.  The ACNA group is claiming they have exclusive rights to the name of the parish, and thus the money should be theirs.  The group affiliated with The Episcopal Church, has also continued to use the name St. Mary's and has found a new location in a former bank building.   The matter will be decided in probate court, with the next hearing January 14.

Conservatives Split Another Denomination

Conservatives continue to draw a line in the sand, unwilling even to accept same-sex marriage and full participation of LGBTQA people as something that Christians may hold different stances on.  The latest group to deal with the issue is the Reformed Churches of America.  The Reformed Church came to the Americas with Dutch colonists, and while it remains a small denomination, is among its oldest.  The governing body of the denomination created a plan for withdrawal of conservative congregations that was designed to avoid costly legal suits, and conservative congregations have withdrawn.  The are now forming a rival denomination, the Alliance of Reformed Churches,  other groups are also trying to draw in the congregation that leave the Reformed Church of America.  Conservatives have left other churches including, of course, the Episcopal Church, which continues to have property disputes. The Lutherans, Presbyterians, and the Methodists have all had withdrawals.  The Methodist split was the one most recently covered by Update.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Week ending 01/03/22

Pittsburgh Episcopalians Mourn the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis

The Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis led Calvary Episcopal Church, one of the three largest parishes in the diocese for over a decade.  He died, age 74 on December 31.  He had come to Calvary after serving as the staff person at the Church Center for African America ministry.  Dr. Lewis was a noted historian who published several books and articles, wrote poetry, and served on numerous Church Boards and as a Deputy to General Convention.  He is remembered as the rector of the parish in Pittsburgh who won a lawsuit against Bishop Duncan and the Episcopal Diocese as it was headed towards schism, thus preserving the property of the Episcopal Diocese for Episcopalians. You can read about more of his accomplishments here.  The notice of his death put out by the diocese includes a statement from the President of the House of Deputies.  A statement from Progressive Episcopalians is here

Colorado Episcopalians Begin Fire Relief Work

A devastating wildfire swept through two large, middle-class communities between Golden and Boulder with the lost of 991 homes and several other structures.  The fire spread very rapidly with little warning as winds up to 105 miles an hour drove the flames across plains already parched by drought.  Falling temperatures and a full winter snowfall followed the fires helping to put out the flames, but hindering recovery actions.  Episcopal churches in the area were not burned, but the homes of many parishioners were.  The churches are already mobilizing to provide basic needs for families left with nothing but the shirts on their back.The Episcopal News Service has the story.

Continuing Stories

Retrospective on Archbishop Tutu

Last week Update carried the news of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's death and the various ways he was being commemorated.  This week Anglicans On Line has a retrospective on his life and the many causes he upheld.  He was an  advocate for women's ordination, LGBTQA people, the poor, reconciliation, opposed governmental corruption in his own party, and spoke out against the mistreatment of Palestinians.