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, April 26, 2022

Week Ending 4/25/22

Fort Worth Episcopalians Explore Merger

Following the disappointing Texas Supreme Court opinion that  left loyal Episcopalians in Fort Worth without parish and diocesan property, the diocese (now calling itself the Episcopal Church in North Texas)needed to think outside the box.  It turns out that what diocesan leaders did was to look to a bigger box, the Diocese of Texas and began talking to that diocese about a possible merger.  Conversations reached the point that last week the two dioceses made a formal announcement jointly about their talks.  While there are still some legal cases pending, the remaining legal issues seem manageable.  The official press release for the diocese is here.  Provisional Bishop Mayer's pastoral letter provides some additional information, and the article by the Episcopal News Service has a larger context.  While it might have seemed natural to reunite with the neighboring Episcopal Diocese of Dallas from which the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was created, Dallas's conservative leadership is not a good match with the Episcopalians in the Fort Worth area.  Provisional Bishop Mayer is the bishop of Northwest Texas, and that diocese might have seemed an obvious match, but apparently it has been the much larger and wealthier Diocese of Texas that had stepped forward to help Episcopalians in North Texas, and thus was the best candidate to help in rebuilding.

Canadian Archbishop McDonald Resigns

Archbishop Mark McDonald, who has been the leader of Indigenous Anglicans in Canada since 2007, and was instrumental in the drafting and shaping of the Canadian Church's development of an Indigenous autonomous Church within a church, has resigned following sexual misconduct charges.  The nature of the charges are not public, but McDonald has confirmed their truth. His resignation is a major blow to the Anglican Church in Canada, and to Indigenous peoples in both Canada and the Episcopal Church.  Ordained in Minnesota, former bishop of the Diocese of Alaska and as an Assisting Bishop in Navajoland, McDonald was a respected leader and regular blogger.  Both The Living Church and the Anglican Journal have more to add about his leadership and the impact of his resignation.

English Church Leaders Criticize Plan to Send Refugees to Rwanda

 The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were among the church leaders in England to criticize and raise moral questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement of an agreement that would send asylum seekers trying to reach England without appropriate documents to Rwanda where they would be processed and settled.  Church leaders pointed out that Rwanda has a  growing list of civil liberty violations and the resettlement a deflection of England's own duties to welcome refugees.  That criticism  touched off a battle of words between Johnson (accused of a responding to Archbishop Welby with a "disgraceful slur") and English bishops who defended Welby. Newspapers have weighed in on both sides, leaving the actual policy issues behind to focus on the personal clash.   Thinking Anglicans has links to all of this.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Supreme Court Gives Split Decision

Last week saw the latest attempt of the South Carolina Supreme Court to settle the property issues created when Mark Lawrence tried to take the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church with all of its property.  In 2017 the court, in a decision where each judge wrote a separate opinion, seemed to award all diocesan property and most parish property to those who remained in the Episcopal Church.  They remitted the decision to a District Court for implementation.  That judge delayed for several years and then undid the Supreme Court decision by awarding all property to the schismatics.  South Carolina Episcopalians appealed and the case was argued in December 2021.  Update has covered all of that.  Now the Supreme Court has issued an opinion that is self-enforcing.  The Court deferred to the Federal Court trademark decision that gave the loyal Episcopalians full claim to the name, title, seals, and recognition of the diocese.  Thus it confirmed that all diocesan property belongs to the loyal Episcopalians (referred to in the opinion as the "Associated Diocese).  This includes the church camp, and the bishop's residence (where Mark Lawrence is living).  Parish properties were split with 15 parishes currently part of ACNA getting to keep their property, and 14 parishes having their property returned to the Episcopalians.   To do this the judges made some hairsplitting rulings about what constituted accession to the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons.  Because Mark Lawrence is retiring, and a new bishop has been elected by the schismatic (ACNA) group, the next steps may not be so hostile.  The bishops of the two groups have already met to begin looking at how to handle the transition.  Meanwhile, both sides are also deciding whether they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The court opinion is here.  The statements by  Episcopal Bishop Ruth Woodliff-Stanley and the new ACNA bishop, Chip Edgar are here and here. The official notice by  the Episcopal Diocese is here.  The April 20 entry in the blog scepiscopalians.com  has some interesting comments about the pressures on the state court.  The Episcopal News Service, The Living Church, and Anglican.ink all covered the story.  The Anglican.ink article is written by one of the lawyers who argued for schismatics in California, but gives a clear example of the hairsplitting logic used by the court.

Jesus College Won't Appeal Decision on Statue

Last week, Update carried a story on the outcome of a petition by Jesus College to remove from its chapel a memorial to a major benefactor of the college in its early years. Much of the benefactor's wealth had come from investments in slave trading. The College had intended to display it in another place on campus where it could be contextualized.  Because the Chapel is listed as a historic building the College needed approval from the Diocese.  The Chancellor ruled against the college.  This week, came word that the College did not want to spend additional resources on an appeal.  This disappointed many.  Archbishop Welby weighed in saying he understood that the court had ruled, but that he still hoped a way could be found to eventually move the memorial from the chapel.

Japan Consecrates Its First Woman Bishop 

In December 2021, Update noted the November election of Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori as bishop in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, (the Anglican Communion Province in Japan).  She would be the first woman to serve as bishop in East Asia, and the second in the whole of Asia.   On Saturday she was consecrated as Bishop of Hokkaido.  She has been a priest in the Diocese of Tokyo.  The diocese of Hokkaido has 24 parishes.  Bishop Sasamori will be a pioneer in Japan because although Japan began ordaining women as priests in 1998, three of their eleven dioceses still do not do so.  Sasamori had been the Dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Tokyo.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Week Ending 4/18/22

 Rising Antisemitism Prompts Look at  Good Friday Liturgy

The recent rise in hate actions against Jews has prompted church members to again look at the use and translation of the Gospel According to John.  That account is specified for Good Friday.  It is also the account that directly links Jesus's death to the Jewish community.  The text of John has been used in the past to justify action against Jews as those who killed Christ.  Episcopal News Service has a story on the discussion and on an alternative translation authorized for use by one of the Texas dioceses.  The articles is here

Anglicans Helped Pass New UN Resolution against One-Use Plastics

In response to growing concerns about the environment, the United Nations Environmental Assembly passed a resolution calling on all countries to reach an international accord by 2024 on the epidemic of one-use plastics.  The Anglican Consultative Council had representatives present at the assembly in Nairobi.  The ACC was the major drafter of a letter from faith communities that was submitted to the assembly, lobbied the 173 member nations, and testifying on the damage done by plastics not able to be recycled. For more on the resolution and the role played by the ACC, you can read the Anglican Communion News story here

Continuing Themes:

Parish Organizes Help for Ukrainian Refugees Sent to Italy

When the son and daughter-in-law of Grace Episcopal Church, Ocala FL members reported that the church they attended in Italy had been turned into a refugee center for Ukrainian refugees, the parish quickly sprung into action, raising money for needed supplies for the refugees.  The effort is on-going
More about the effort here.  The Italian congregation is not affiliated with the Anglican Communion, making the effort one of many interdenominational efforts to help refugees. Update has carried other stories of church efforts to help Ukrainian refugees. The most recent is here

Jesus College Chapel Denied Permission to Remove Statue 

The Episcopal Church has seen parishes and other institutions removing and re-interpreting memorials, art work, and windows commemorating those who participated in enslaving black or promoting forms of racism.  Update has posted a number of notices about these activities, most recently here.  In England, however, things are more complicated.  Jesus College, Cambridge had numerous memorials including a lecture series, annual dinner, portraits, and a statue in the college chapel in honor of Tobias Rustat who had been a major benefactor of the college in the 1600s.   Rustat, however, made at least part of his wealth by investing in the Royal African Company which was one of the largest transporters of enslaved Africans to British Colonies.  The college had petitioned to remove the statue to another location at the college where it could be contextualized.  However, because the building is listed on the British historic register, the college needed approval of the Diocesan Court.  The Diocese of Ely Chancellor ruled against removal, noting that all donors are flawed individuals and leaving the new head of Jesus College, Sonita Alleyne, the descendant of those enslaved on Barbados in the uncomfortable position of having to conduct her duties as College Master while staring directly at the memorial. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Week Ending 04/11/22

Chancellor Who Defended Church Property Dies

David Booth Beers served as the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishops under three different Presiding Bishops.  His service came in a very challenging times as  schismatics tried to leave the Episcopal Church and take property with them, contrary to the Canons of the Episcopal Church.  Beers was largely successful in his defense in secular courts.  He was also helpful to those in Pittsburgh who were trying to plan for life after schism, meeting with lay leaders several times as it became clear what was  transpiring.  He continued long after the usual retirement age, but eventually turned over those duties to others.  Beers, 86, died last week and his passing has brought out numerous statements of gratitude for his devotion and service to the church.  You can read more, here.

Graduate Theological Union Offers On-Line Short Courses

The Church Divinity School  of the Pacific (CDSP) is one of the participating theological schools that make up the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, CA.  GTU has announced an expanded effort to offer theological and religious studies courses to any and all who might be interested. Religion News Service picked up the story here.  The courses are on-line  and are shorter than a standard term.  They draw on all of the resources  and faculty of the very diverse  religious organizations that make up the union.   You can learn more about what CDSP, the participant from the Episcopal Church, has to offer, through links found here.  

Continuing Stories

Ukrainian Anglicans Connect Despite Diaspora 

Members of the Church of England parish in Kyiv have dispersed as refugees from the city, but they are managing to stay in touch with each other.  by connecting on the internet and participating in services on-line provided by the Diocese in Europe.  Update earlier carried a notice of the experience of a parish member during the siege of Kyiv. 

Trans Anglicans in England Concerned by Latest Move by Bishops

In May of 2021 the Church of England House of Bishops adopted a study report on sexuality that was supposed to provide welcome for the LGBTQ community. However, at the March 2022 House of Bishops meeting the bishops decided to separate out the trans community and while endorsing a ban on conversion therapy for others in the LGBTQ community, asked for a new study committee on conversion therapy for the transgendered. Frustratingly, the British government has left the trans community out of the law banning conversion therapy being considered by Parliament. There have been a series of protests that another study would be damaging, and expressing frustration that the resources already provided were being bypassed.  Two of these statements are here and here.  Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams is among the religious leaders who petitioned Parliament to make the ban inclusive of transgendered.  In the U.S., the trans community is facing state actions that are hurtful to the trans population (such as the law signed this week by the governor of Alabama, criminalizing any medical treatment for minors for gender dysphoria). Update earlier covered the statement by the TEC House of Bishops decrying these anti-transgender laws and urging a full welcome in TEC parishes.

Christ Church, Oxford to Do Governance Review

Christ Church, Oxford has announced that it is searching for an independent outside reviewer to do a thorough review of the college/cathedral governance.  The College did a study in 2011, but since that time has been embroiled in a long, and very nasty controversy between the faculty, and the Dean of the Cathedral and College.  Update carried numerous notices of the battles including the final settlement reached in February of this year.  The Board of Trustees provided as generous settlement to have the Dean at the center of the controversy resign. Problems with the governance structure were evident throughout the controversy, and the College and Cathedral's non-profit status threatened by a review by the Charities Board.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Week Ending 4/4/22

Anglican Communion Primates Focus on Refugees, Climate, and Persecution

After two years of meeting virtually, the titular heads of the independent churches (or provinces) of the Anglican Communion met in person in England at Lambeth Palace.  Originally scheduled for Rome covid-19 travel complications meant that the venue was changed at the end.  The Three most disaffected province leaders did not attend, and one or two others had complications that kept them away, but the may leaders present managed to find a number of issues that were shared concerns.  Their final communique reflected those.  They were concerned about the Ukraine and refugees there and in other parts of the world, about the effects of climate change and growing hunger in the world.  They expressed concern for political actions that harmed several provinces in Africa and the Middle East, and for forced conversions and attacks on Christians in several countries.  What did not come up in the Communique was any statement on sexuality or actions taken to affirm or penalize  LGBTQ people in various of the provinces.  The full communique is available here.

Continuing Stories

ACNA Misconduct Issues Spread

Members of the Christ Our Hope Diocese of ACNA have contacted the ACNAtoo group in the Midwest because they too have not received a complete hearing or action from their bishop following charges of abuse in a Washington D.C. parish. Christ Our Hope is made up of congregations located in 9 eastern states.  The Diocese originally was part of AMiA.   The number of ACNA bishops now caught up in charges of not adequately pursuing complaints of misconduct keeps growing.  Episcopal Cafe has the story here.  Update has carried several notices of events in the Midwest diocese. The most recent is here.

Old Issues Dredged Up by Anglican Fellowship

The American Anglican Fellowship, Inc. has sent a petition to the Episcopal House of Bishops asking the House submit a resolution to General Convention.  The resolution desired would ask  that all the clergy "deposed" following those clergy leaving the Episcopal Church as part of organized withdrawals of congregations from Episcopal Church be restored to their ministries and the Dennis Canon be repealed.  If you are wondering who this group is, Anglican.ink  answered that in 2014.  It is the American Anglican Council after a name change.  It now claims to be a philanthropic group.  The petition should be laughed out of the House of Bishops.  First of all many of the 700 plus clergy referred to in the petition were not deposed.  Those in Pittsburgh and South Carolina, (over a third of the total were "released."  See the actions reported on by Update here and here.  South Carolina started the deposition process, but chose to follow Pittsburgh's route and release the clergy which left them outside the Episcopal Church but still clergy and facilitated clergy returning to the TEC (which some have done in both dioceses).  Secondly, any depositions were done under the canons for abandonment of the communion, and clergy were given notice and opportunity to say they wanted to still be Episcopalians before the process was finished.  See the Update stories on Fort Worth and San Joaquin here and here.  Colorado clergy who went to the AMiA also were included in this petition. For those who may not recognize the name of the American Anglican Council, it is the group that promoted the Anglican Network which then morphed into the separate denomination the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).  It is not clear if the AAF asked any of the clergy if they wanted to come back to TEC.