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, May 31, 2022

Week Ending 5/30/22


All Posts are Updates on Continuing Stories

Diocese of Maryland Awards First Reparations

The Diocese of Maryland, which was one of the leaders in a movement to provide reparations to the African American Community for the church's participation in slavery and racism, has made its first set of reparation grants. Five grants of $30,000, and one of $25,000 went to Maryland organizations with goals ranging from helping black former prisoners find jobs, to raising self esteem and educational levels of black youths. While Maryland  led  reparation discussions, other Episcopal groups have also begun reparation grants.  Update has noted grants made by a Baltimore parish, the Virginia Theological Seminary, and the votes by the Dioceses of Virginia, New York, and Long Island to create reparation funds

The Road to Property Return in South Carolina

Update carried notice of the beginning of talks between the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the ACNA Diocese about the process for return of property currently in the hands of the ACNA group, but which the South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered to be returned to the Episcopalians.  The Episcopal News Service has an article with background information, and as usual the scepiscopalians.com blog has used its May 26 post to allay concerns and clear up misconceptions about the process.

Another Round in the Never-Ending Oxford Saga

Last week, Update carried notice of the Christ Church, Oxford Dean's use of a farewell sermon to make very pointed criticisms on his long ordeal and church and college missteps in the handling of the controversy.  Not to be outdone, the college has now released its own statement, a defensive rehashing of the controversy.  Thinking Anglicans has a summary of the statement and a link to the full release. The comments (mostly critical of the college's version) on the thinkinganglicans.org site are also worth reviewing.

Objections Raised to Florida Election of Bishop

Charles Holt's election as bishop of the Diocese of Florida is proving quite controversial.  Update noted that the election of conservative Holt had almost immediately raised objections and concerns from the LGBTQ community and its supporter.  Now a formal complaint based on the process used for the election has been filed.  At the heart of the complaint is an argument that the Diocese changed the rules at the last minute to allow clergy (but not laity) to participate in the election on Zoom.  The original deadline for convention registration had resulted in too few clergy registrations to meet quorum requirements.  As a result what had been announced as an in-person convention was switched just days before the election to a hybrid with an electronic option for clergy.  The official complaint now goes to the Presiding Bishop's office for transmission to the church's Court of Review. Both the Living Church and Anglican.ink have stories on the latest objection. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Week Ending 5/23/22

 I apologize for the silence of the last several weeks.  I was traveling and all attempts to reach the blog site to post were blocked by the internet providers.  What follows is a long post with notices from What would have been the posts for weeks ending  May 9 and May 16 as well as May 23.

Episcopal Church Leaders Affirm Commitment to Right to Choose

Following the leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that signals a major overturn of Roe v. Wade and abortion rights, the President of the House of Deputies and Office of Government Relations issued a statement reiterating The Episcopal Church's support of the right of a woman to make all decisions related to her health care with, including an abortion.   The church's position has always recognized the sacredness of life, but stresses that includes women's lives, and while not supporting abortion as a mere convenience, sees the right to make decisions about reproductive health as essential to affirming the value of women.   The full statement is here.

Short, Smaller General Convention May Discuss Resolution on Open Communion

In response to the recent surge in covid-19 infections, including those tied to  Episcopal Church meetings, including this one, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, asked for a small planning commission to propose a way to limit possible infection and shorten the length of the upcoming General Convention.  The result is a 4 day convention with all ancillary group meetings eliminated,  limited in attendance to active bishops, deputies and first alternates, and dealing with only crucial legislation and elections.  One of the major proposals slated to be discussed at convention was a resolution which would open communion to the unbaptized.  The convention agenda has not yet been formalized to with enough detail to know if this controversial proposal will be discussed and voted on or not.

Sri Lankan Bishops Urge Government to Address Economic Issues

Sri Lanka has been hit by a rampant inflation and other economic woes that have left many in that country desperate, leading to violent protests.  The Bishops of the Church of Ceylon (the Anglican Communion province for Sri Lanka) have issued an open statement calling on the government to address the economic crisis before a "catastrophe" occurs,  and "listen to the cries of the people."  Rather than focus on suppressing demonstrations, the government needs to create and publicize short and long term plans to address the crisis. 

No Surprise -Trinity School For Ministry Picks ACNA Priest as Head

Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA has announced the choice of a new Dean and President of the seminary.   The Rev. Canon Dr. Bryan C. Hollon  will take the reins from the Rev. Dr. Laurie Thomson.  A well-published scholar, Hollon is currently a professor  of theology at Malone University, a small liberal arts college with about 800 undergraduates and 300 graduate students.  The college has its roots as a Bible College, but now offers a wide range of majors.  Hollon is one of two faculty members in the Department of Bible, Theology, and Ministry and serves as the director of the University's Center for Christian Faith and Culture.  His Ph.D. is from Baylor University in Texas, and his M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary in California, and was ordained a priest in ACNA in 2015.
Trinity is confirming its position as an ACNA institution with this hire, and it remains a mystery why the Episcopal Church still lists it as one of its seminaries.

Continuing Themes

South Carolinians Begin Implementing Court Ruling

The fallout from the South Carolina Supreme Court Opinion giving all the diocesan property and 14 of the parishes currently participating in the ACNA diocese to the Episcopal diocese is still in its early stages. The ACNA Standing Committee has issued a statement saying that the diocese is not pursuing further legal hearings.  Eight individual parishes, have, however, asked for a rehearing of their cases Steve Skardon, Jr. who has had a blog focused on the SC Episcopal Church situation since 2004 has a May 4 essay that documents the initial reactions of the two groups, and provides commentary showing that the ACNA Diocese did not have the best interests of its parishes  in mind throughout the litigation.  Bishop Ruth Woodliff-Stanley of the Episcopal Diocese has noted that the talks about implementation have moved from an initial meeting between the two bishops to a larger group including others from the two dioceses in order to begin discussion of the handover of the property.

Australian Synod Divided on Same Sex Marriage

The Australian Anglican Church Synod met May 8-13, with one of its majors issues a response to a desire of several dioceses to bless same sex marriages, and a ruling by the church court that nothing stood legally in the way of doing this.  Two resolutions were presented to the synod, one supporting same sex blessing and one insisting that marriage  was between one man and one woman.  Neither resolution passed both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, leaving the province in a standoff. A majority of Bishops supported the same sex marriage resolution, and a majority of the Deputies supported the one man, one woman resolution.  In civil law, same sex marriage is legal in Australia. As a result, GAFCON, which had organized an alternative "diocese" in July 2021, has issued a statement of shock, and will probably move forward inviting parishes to affiliate with its alternative as they did in New Zealand

Pandemic Forces Changes in Homeless Ministries

Before the pandemic, a number of Episcopal parishes participated in rotational shelters for the homeless where several local churches each took a turn at providing a week of housing in their building.  When the pandemic struck and church buildings closed, so did the rotational shelter.  In a number of places those working with the homeless then scrambled to find alternative housing.  Some rented a fixed space (such as a motel or former school).  These proved to give the homeless greater stability and has resulted in a change in how the parishes participate in helping the homeless, with no intention to return to a rotation.  Christianity Today has an article on the change.  Update has had a series of articles on ministries to the homeless before and during the pandemic.  The most recent is here.

United Methodists Begin Dividing

Because the United Methodist Church has been in conversations about full communion with The Episcopal Church, and both churches were planning on bringing a proposal to their general governance, Update has been following the debate and divisions within the Methodists over the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in all aspects of the Methodist Church life.  Update recently carried a notice of the body conservatives have created for congregations withdrawing from the United Methodists.  Christianity Today had an article detailing more about the new group and how congregations may join it.  This leaves the United Methodist body to pursue greater inclusion, which would put it more in line with The Episcopal Church positions. 

Lawsuit Filed in ACNA Abuse Mess

Update has been following the growing problems ACNA is facing in the Midwest due to the cover-up of a prominent lay church worker at one of the diocese's largest parishes.  The fall-out caused the resignation of several bishops (including the Pittsburgh one), two different organized groups of survivors, and two different investigations. Now, the family of a child abused by the worker has filed a civil lawsuit for damages, naming parishes, dioceses, and the whole of ACNA as complicit in the abuse.  The family hopes it will lead to others who were abused stepping forward.


Episcopal Elections Reinforce Diversity of the Church

Recent news about bishop elections in three dioceses, and the announcement that the Chicago Bishop elect, Paula Clark, has finally recovered enough from a serious stroke to have a consecration scheduled for September 2022, illustrate the growing diversity of the Episcopal episcopate. Clark will be Chicago's first black and first female to serve the diocese as Bishop. The dioceses of Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Florida have just concluded elections with the result that one conservative white male Charles Holt in Florida), one white male in a same sex marriage (Paul Mello in Massachusetts), and one white woman (Shannon Rogers Duckworth in Louisiana)  are joining the Episcopate.   Thus by the end of the year, the Church will have added one more black, two women, one gay male and one conservative male to the episcopacy.  Holt's election raised concerns among LGBTQ+ people in the diocese, but Holt says he will be a bishop to all, and firmly supports the resolution B012 which provides a means for parishes to conduct marriages for same sex couples. Update has long followed episcopal elections that create diversity (see a recent post here).  Readers may enjoy a picture of the women bishops who attended the March 2022 House of Bishops meeting.

Oxford Controversy Just Won't Go Away

 The controversy at Christ Church, Osford between the Dean and the faculty and board, seemed to have come to a conclusion with the announcement in February of a buy-out settlement with the Dean.  Update did note that there was a study underway on the governance of the college, but the Dean was back in the news this week.  He and his bishop ended up at odds over the service marking the end of the Dean's time at  Christ Church.  The Dean wanted to preach, but the bishop said "no."  Then the ceremony was moved to a location not under the control of the bishop, and the Dean used his sermon to get in final jabs at his opponents.  The web site thinkinganglicans.org  has compiled several accounts of this (hopefully) final chapter in this controversy.

GAFCON and ACNA Continue to Snub Lambeth 2022

 When the initial invitations went out for what was to be Lambeth 2020 (now Lambeth 2022), the Archbishop of Canterbury invited ANCA bishops to attend as ecumenical observers.  This did not sit well with the ACNA Archbishop, and he called it an insult, since he thought he should be invited as a member of the Anglican Communion.  Now that Lambeth is drawing near, GAFCON (also currently headed by the ACNA Archbishop) has put out another statement saying why they won't be attending.  The usual Archbishops from Uganda, Nigeria, and Rwanda/Burundi have said they will boycott Lambeth because the Anglican Communion has invited bishops from countries where LGBTQ+ people are included.

Episcopal Church Responds to Latest Mass Shootings

The mass shootings in Buffalo and at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas have elicited very quick responses from the Episcopal Leadership, and offers of support for the families of the victims.   The Episcopal News Service has articles on the statements on Buffalo here, and the statement by Bishop Reed of West Texas here.  Update has carried notice of the demonstrations organized at recent General Conventions by Bishops Against Gun Violence, and of previous statements issued by church leaders.

Dioceses of Texas and North Texas Fast-Track Merger

The Episcopal Church in North Texas (i.e. Fort Worth) and the Diocese of Texas are wasting no time moving forward with a merger proposal.  A special diocesan convention in Fort Worth has been called for June 18, and the Diocese of Texas will meet June 9.  These dates will allow the dioceses to ask for approval of the merger at the July streamlined General Convention.  The dioceses have created a special web site with information here.  Update carried the original announcement of a possible merger here  This is the second of the five dioceses most directly affected by schism to merge with a larger diocese in the same state.  The Diocese of Quincy became a deanery within the Diocese of Chicago in 2011.  Earlier this year, three of the Wisconsin dioceses also moved forward with a plan to merge. While not a formal merger, and requiring no approval from General convention, the bishops of three dioceses in New England have announced an agreement where they will serve as assisting bishops in each other's dioceses, another creative way of dealing with changing circumstances in dioceses with small memberships. The bishops of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are involved in the arrangement. 

Latest on Church Responses to War in Ukraine 

The Church of Wales has sent a request to the World Council of Churches distance itself from the  Russian Orthodox Church  because of Russian Church's support for the  invasion of the Ukraine. The Anglican Communion News site has more on this action.  Update has had several notices of the response by churches to the Ukraine invasion.  The most recent is here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Week Ending 5/2/22

Supreme Court Rules on Christian Flag Issue

When an ultra conservative was denied approval to fly the so-called "Christian Flag on the Boston municipal offices, he sued for denial of freedom of speech.  The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Boston City Government should not have denied the flag flying because they had allowed hundreds of groups to fly their flags in place of the municipal flag on a flagpole in front of the municipal offices. The number and variety lent support to the idea that the lack of enforced regulations on the process for applying to fly a specific flag had created an open forum that gave them no grounds to refuse a religious flag.   The decision leaves open the possibility for Boston to create additional regulations on what flags may be flown on the pole.  Both rreligionnews. com and the Associated Press carried stories on the decision.

"Sacred Ground" Initiative Report Shows Impact

The recently concluded Executive Council meeting in Puerto Rico heard reports on the impact that the 3 year-old racial justice initiative, "Sacred Ground" had on participants.  The small group curriculum have been developed by Katrina Brown as a follow-up to her videos on the role her family had played in the slave trade. In three years, the curriculum has reached over 20,000 Episcopalians, and when a sampling of 2900 were surved and reached via focus groups,  over two-thirds said the experience had had a major impact on their understanding of racism.  Ninety-four percent said they learned things that had been left out of their school lessons.  The Sacred Ground curriculum is providing an antidote to recent conservative attempts to bar discussion in schools of racism. 

Continuing Stories

Welby Apologizes for Indigenous Schools Abuse

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used the occasion of a visit to Canada to announce his own apology to indigenous groups for the role that the Anglican Church has played in forced assimilation and through church-run residential schools. He termed it a "crime."  The children taken from their parents, were punished for any attempt to retain their native cultures, and a number died at the schools.  Canadian Church leaders had apologized in 1993, and more recently have been working to repatriate the bodies of children who died at the schools. 

More Perspective on South Carolina Court Decision

Steve Skardon, whose blog scepiscopalians.com has followed all the developments of the schism in South Carolina and the property law suits, has a piece posted April 25 that provides more perspective on the latest South Carolina Supreme Court opinion which gave diocesan property and 14 contested parishes  now participating in the ANCA group, to the South Carolina Episcopalians. Skardon notes that several of the 14 parishes are shocked at the outcome, and also that the new bishops of both dioceses have met and are trying to build as less contentious relationship.  Update carried the blog's announcement of the decision last week .

Misconduct Issues Grow Ever Larger

Attempts by ACNA leadership to limit the damage that might be done to their denomination by a sexual misconduct investigation continue to make things worse.  The group formed to provide support for the victims has apparently been more interested in mitigation of damages, and was not informing the members of their own committee who were supposed to provide victim support of complaints as they came in.  As a result, four women resigned.  Now one of them has written an article with a time line of ACNA actions and details on how the women with expertise in victim support were kept in the dark, or had their communications to victims suppressed or edited, and how both the Archbishop of ACNA and the bishop he appointed to lead an inquiry, put church reputation above victim support.   The official statement from ACNA  continues to downplay the issues.

Pittsburgh ACNA Elects Bishop

The ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh elected the one outsider among its three candidates for bishop.   The Rev. Alex Cameron supports ordination of women, which will make the women clergy in that diocese breathe a sigh of relief.  That election will have to be approved by the ACNA House of Bishops before it final. Cameron has led a Canadian Foundation, the Isaiah Forty Foundation since 1936.   It provides leadership and spiritual programs in Canada, and most recently in parts of the U.S.  Cameron is currently residing in Chicago where he is working with a parish;  the Foundation he heads is based in Montreal. The previous Pittsburgh bishop had resigned in 2020 due to his handling of someone connected to a misconduct case that has become a major scandal in ACNA (see previous story). 

Conservatives Begin Implementing Methodist Exit Strategy

When U.S. conservatives and international members joined forces at the last Methodist synod to put stronger provisions into governing documents against LGBTQ members, they touched off forces that have led to the division of the Church.  Initially, liberals talked of leaving, but then a groups worked out a proposal for conservative congregations to form a separate body and leave with their property. Full implementation has been caught up in delays of the next synod due to the covid pandemic.  Now conservatives have announced formation of the Global Methodist Church.  Congregations have to vote to leave the United Methodist Church for the new one, and this will take time.  This development, however, should help clear the way for a full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the United Methodists to be accepted at the next major meetings of both denominations. Discussion and approval of the full communion agreement was removed from the  General Convention delayed from 2021 to 2022, and has been referred to 2024 because of Methodist meeting delays.