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, June 28, 2022

Week Ending 06/27/22

Church Leaders Respond to Abortion Ruling 

The U.S. has been expecting the Supreme Court to issue an opinion on a Mississippi abortion law case ever since someone leaked a draft opinion.  At the end of last week, the opinion was issued upholding a Mississippi law that makes legal abortion almost impossible.  Presiding Bishop Curry and House of Deputies President Jennings, issued statements stressing that the Episcopal Church opposes national or state legislation on abortion because it interferes with a woman making choices guided by her conscience.  Curry stressed the ways that this would more heavily weigh on those women who are economically disadvantaged. especially racial minorities. Jennings noted that reproductive health affected trans, non-binary, and those who identify as women and that congregations would need to support clergy and health care workers who were providing services to those who people who were pregnant.

Virginia Theological Seminary to Manage General Theological Seminary

General Theological Seminary (GTS) has been struggling for almost a decade with financial problems and declining enrollment.  What began as exploration of a partnership sharing some courses, has instead resulted in a proposal that will have Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) taking over management of GTS.  It is not a merger for there will remain a separate reconstituted governing board for GTS.  General Convention will need to weigh in on the proposal since General Convention has elected some  trustees to the GTS Board since its founding.  There is a certain historical irony in this proposal since the seminary in Virginia was founded by low church evangelicals who considered General Seminary close to heretical because of its moderate high church orientation.

Continuing Stories

Church Responds to Gun Issues

Issues around gun control were in the news last week as the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling striking down a New York regulation requiring permits for concealed weapons.  The Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies had signed an Amica brief  supporting the regulation.  Needless to say, the Presiding Bishop issued a statement expressing his disappointment with the decision, and expressing his and the church's commitment to find ways to end gun violence. Given the shooting at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church outside of Birmingham just a few days before the decision was announced, the decision seemed doubly disheartening.  The Episcopal News Service had a follow-up article on that shooting with more detail on the three who died.

Long Island Diocese Awards Reparations First Scholarships

Update reported in early March that the Diocese of Long Island had decided to offer scholarships to students descended from those who were enslaved.  This last week the diocese announced the first 8 scholarship awards of $10,000 each as part of a Juneteenth celebration at the Cathedral of the Incarnation.  The diocese chose the 8 winners from a pool of 161 applicants.  All had to be residents of Long Island, Brooklyn, or Queens.

Australian Diocese Moves Towards LGBTQ Unions

For the last several years, the Anglican Church of Australia has been divided over same-sex marriages, especially after Australia made such marriages legal.  Two dioceses took steps towards blessing the civil marriages, but held off until the church's Tribunal could determine if the church's governing documents forbade such blessings or unions.  The Tribunal ruled that there were no legal barriers, and the matter went to the Church's Synod to settle things.  That ended in a draw, with the votes of clergy and laity opposing unions and a slight majority of the bishops favoring it.  As a result no action took place.  Now the bishop of a third diocese,  Gippsland, has said that the failure of Synod to settle the matter has left dioceses free to interpret as they wish, and he will not oppose any parish wishing to do blessings.  The statements were in both the issue of the monthly diocesan publication and in his diocesan synod address.  The  address is available only in video format on You-Tube. The GAFCON contingent in Australia is, of course, upset and threatening schism.

South Carolina Diocese Prepares to Welcome First Returned Parish

The transition for the first of the South Carolina parishes that the South Carolina Supreme Court confirmed belonged to the Episcopal Diocese has begun.  Bishop Woodliff-Stanley has designated Canon Callie Walpole as the priest in charge for St. John's, Johns Island.  The details are not yet wall worked out, but she could start offering the services there as early as mid July.  Walpole is known to the congregation since her ministry began in that parish.  Walpole is the former Archdeacon of the diocese during the time it was rebuilding following schism.  A gentle and successful transition at St. Johns should ease many of the concerns for the other parishes that the court determined needed to be returned to the Episcopal Diocese.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Week Ending 06/20/22

All Stories are continuing previous threads . . .

Shooting at an Alabama Episcopal Parish

For more than 40 years, the Episcopal Church has been on record as supporting  gun control and working to end gun violence, but up until last week the epidemic of mass shootings at churches and other community sites had not directly involved an Episcopal parish. On June 16, the 7th anniversary of the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston  however, a man attending St. Stephen's  Episcopal Church's "Boomers Potluck" on June 16, opened fire on people who had invited him a few minutes before to sit with them, and offered him food and drink.  One person died at the scene, two more died at the hospital.  The shooter was subdued by another attendee who hit the shooter with a chair, wrestled the gun away from him and sat on him until others could help restrain him. The shooter had attended a few of St. Stephen's services, but was not a member, and was unknown to others at the dinner.  St. Stephen's, Vestavia Hills, is a large parish located in the suburbs of Birmingham. The current Alabama bishop had been a member of the parish before being ordained.  Its rector had to rush back from a pilgrimage he was on in Athens, Greece.  Presiding Bishop Curry asked all parishes to pray for the congregation last Sunday and for all to actively work to end the gun violence. A number of religious p publications and national news stations carried the story, including the Episcopal News Service, Anglican.ink, Christian TodayReligion News, and the Associated Press.  Update has regularly carried notices of the efforts of the Episcopal Church to end gun violence, the most recent is here

Massachusetts Diocese Expands Innovative Housing Program

 The Diocese of Massachusetts is expanding an innovative housing program that provides housing for those interested in a community living arrangement. It is an attempt to provide housing affordable housing with a spiritual and community twist.  Each of the first three sites was paired with an Episcopal Parish that provided some personal support.  The latest addition, however is being done through a partnership with New Roots African Methodist Episcopal Church.   Update has carried notices of a number of innovative housing projects being sponsored by Episcopal parishes and dioceses.  The most recent previous notice is here.

Diocese Sponsors Resolution to Revise Disciplinary Canons

Bishop Whayne Houghland was bishop of the Diocese of Western Michigan, and provisional bishop of Eastern Michigan when he was suspended for a year for committing adultery.  The two dioceses were very frustrated by the lack of communication, and focus of the Office of Pastoral Development on "healing" and "reconciliation" for the bishop with little attention to the trauma that the two dioceses were experiences, and the financial hardship created by a financial package for the suspended bishop that was done with little consultation or input from the two dioceses and left the dioceses with few resources and little help to arrange for a part-time provisional bishop.  As a result, the dioceses have sponsored a resolution to General Convention asking for a study to improve the processes.  The Living Church has a more complete story, and links to the general convention resolution.  The resolution has two tabs, one for the rationale, and one for the motion itself. 

Vote on Merger of Two Texas Dioceses Going to General Convention

The vote was unanimously in favor of merging with the Diocese of Texas at the special convention of the Episcopal Church in North Texas.  The Diocese of Texas was the mother diocese for all of the Texas dioceses, and both Texas and the  the North Texas diocese have now voted very enthusiastically to reunite.  The Episcopal Church in North Texas is the name that Episcopalians adopted when the Texas Supreme Court awarded their diocesan name to the schismatic group that is now part of ACNA.   Of the neighboring Episcopal dioceses, (Dallas, Texas, West Texas, and Northwest Texas) the Diocese of Texas was the most compatible, and had the resources necessary to help the faithful congregations left in what had formerly been the Diocese of Fort Worth.  The proposed merger now goes to General Convention for final approval.  Update reported on the positive vote by the Diocese of Texas last week. North Texas is the second of the 5 dioceses (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, and South Carolina) to decide on merging rather than continuing independently.  Quincy was the smallest diocese in The Episcopal Church before the schism and merged after five years with the Diocese of Chicago.  The others have all elected diocesan bishops and are successfully operating as dioceses.

Church of England Continues Opposition to Shipping Refugees to Rwanda

Update carried notice of the Archbishop of Canterbury's criticism when the British government announced it had struck a deal with Rwanda to take the refugees who had reached Britain by crossing the English Channel without proper clearances.  Last week the government was stopped at the very last minute from sending its first plane load of refugees to Rwanda.  The Church leadership has issued further statements apposing the government's actions.  You can find them here.

More on the Florida Bishop Election Controversy

The election of conservative Charles Holt as the Bishop of Florida brought some immediate voices of concern from those who knew his earlier connections to the American Anglican Council, comments he made on racial issues, and his theological positions on LGBTQA participation in the Church and same-sex marriage.  Those voices were then joined by a formal challenge to the election procedure based on a last minute switch to a hybrid convention allowing clergy, but not laity, to attend virtually.  Update reported last week that the challenge has been sent to the appropriate committee for review.  This week, the Diocese and the bishop-elect have issued a statement addressing those concerns.  The Episcopal News Service has an article with links to the full statement here

First-Hand Account of Conditions in the Ukraine

There is one Diocese of Europe (Church of England) parish in Kyiv, Ukraine.  The Anglican Journal, the monthly news source from the Anglican Church of Canada, has a long post detailing in a calendar/diary form the experiences of one of the members of the parish, who left Kyiv as a refugee and has returned, and the traumatic experiences and hardships that face that entire country.  You can find the account, here.  Update has periodically posted notes on events from a church perspective dealing with the Ukraine.  The most recent is here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Week Ending 6/13/22

 All articles are continuing previous threads.

 Court Issues Additional Orders in South Carolina

In response to documents filed by both the Episcopal Diocese and the ACNA diocese, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued two additional orders last week.   The first dismissed the request for reconsideration for Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant stating that the parish had clearly acceded to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the property belonged to the Episcopal Diocese.  It also dismissed some of the claims made by 3 of the remaining 7 parishes who had asked for reconsideration.  It then asked the Episcopal Diocese and the Episcopal Church to respond to the issues raised by the remaining seven, concerning whether they had acceded to the Dennis Canon.  Responses are due by June 20.  A second order granted the Episcopal Diocese a partial remittitur which finalized the their decision that the diocesan property and the parish property of the 7 parishes (including Christ Church) are the property of the Episcopal Diocese.  The notice on the ACNA Diocese focused on the request for a response from Episcopalians on the ACNA parish appeals.  The scepiscopalians.com blog entry for June 8, 2022 has interesting commentary on the latest development, although it is wrong in saying that ACNA is governed by 6 African Archbishops. 

One Step Closer to Merger of Texas Dioceses

The Diocese of Texas has voted approval of a merger with the Episcopal Church in North Texas (the group of faithful Episcopalians from the Fort Worth Diocese who remained in the Episcopal Church.  The vote was 526 to 14.  The proposal to merge was announced publicly in  April. In May,the bishops of both groups issued a call for June special conventions. The Diocese of Texas has the largest membership of any of the Texas dioceses.  The Episcopal Church in North Texas is the smallest. Its special convention is set for June 18.  The object of both dioceses was to be able to present their request for merger to General Convention when it meets in July.

Parish Organizes Response to Mass Shootings

The Episcopal Church has been very active in its opposition to gun violence and advocacy of reasonable gun control.  Individual parishes have made their own responses to the recent shootings.  One of these is St. James Episcopal Church in Montclair, New Jersey.  Those who were shocked by the shootings in Buffalo, Laguna Woods, and Uvalde gathered on the church lawn for a time of remembrance and calls for action.  Those speaking ranged from local high school students, to family members and survivors of gun violence to  local officials.  A display of t-shirts hung over crosses with names of recent victims sat on part of the church lawn along side the gathering. The local on-line newspaper gave the event extensive coverage with a number of photographs.

Jesus College Relieved of Paying Court Fees

Update carried a recent story about the unsuccessful attempt of Jesus College, Cambridge, to move a memorial to one of its benefactors from the chapel to a less prominent place on campus.  The College wanted to move the memorial because of the benefactor's ties to the slave trade.  The issue was settled in court, and those who had opposed removing the memorial then filed to have their considerable court costs paid by the college.  The court, however, has denied that request.  Thinking Anglicans has full coverage of the decision here

AAC Continues to Stir Up Dead Issues

The American Anglican Council, which was one of the instigators of the actions leading to schism in 5 dioceses and withdrawal of a number of scattered congregations (or parts of congregations) has filed an open letter addressed to General Convention asking for the same things that its open letter to the House of Bishops in April.  Its major request is to reinstate all the clergy who were released from the Episcopal Church after they voluntarily left the church.  As Update noted in the early posting, the open letter misstates the conditions of the releases, and gives no indication that the majority of these clergy actually want to be in the Episcopal Church. 

Canada Starts Process to Find New Indigenous Archbishop

Following a complaint of sexual misconduct, Archbishop Mark MacDonald resigned his position as the leader of the Anglican Church of Canada's Indigenous Community  MacDonald had been the guiding force in the conversations that led to the creation of the Sacred Circle,  the new church-within-a-church for Indigenous People.  The Anglican Council of Indigenous People (ACIP) has now announced formation of a search committee to fill the vacancy.  The search may not be limited to those who are already bishops.  Should the search committee decide to open the field to candidates who are priests, an election process would have to be approved by the ACIP and Sacred Circle. The ACIP  provides the interface between the Sacred Circle and the rest of the Canadian church.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Week Ending 6-6-22

 St. Augustine University Plans HBCU Urban Access Hub

The Episcopal affiliated St. Augustine University in Raleigh, NC was long a pioneer in education for African Americans.  Its president has announced a new initiative which is designed to bring the its education to urban youth in cities not served by a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). The University has identified urban areas as a place where black youth are attending college at a lower rate than other youth. Its first hub will be in the Detroit area and involves arrangements with two area community colleges. The urban access program will help black youth attending local community colleges to seamlessly transition to St. Augustine's complete their baccalaureate. This is part of a large HBCU Urban Access Hub proposal. 

Chicago Abuse Law Suit Settlement  Involves Bishop Knudsen

Retired Bishop Chilton Knudsen, who has been serving in Chicago while the bishop-elect, Paula Clark recovered from a stroke, has found herself under scrutiny for actions taken over three decades ago when she was on the staff of Chicago's then-bishop, Frank Griswold.  The Diocese has just made a $750,000 settlement in a case of sexual abuse committed by a priest in the diocese on a minor boy.  Knudsen met with the victim in 1990 but delayed several weeks in reporting the matter to the police. At that point clergy were not required by state law to report such offenses.  In the time before Bishop Griswold could get the priest into a treatment program, the priest molested another boy.  The police only became active when a parent reported the abuse.

Continuing Stories

Presiding Bishop Sends Objection of Election to Review Committee

Update reported last week that a formal objection had been filed to the election process used in the recent Diocese of Florida election for a coadjutor bishop.  The Presiding Bishop's office has announced that the objection will be sent to a review committee on July 1.  The timing was picked because of the press of business during June as members of the review committee prepare for General Convention.  This timing also required a later date be set for consecration of Charles Holt as bishop, assuming the election is eventually ruled valid. 

TEC Participates in Successful Stockholder Action Against Gun Maker

The Episcopal Church has made its support of gun control and concern about gun violence clear in a number of ways.  The most recent action was to support a successful stockholders' resolution that will require the Connecticut firearms maker Sturm Ruger & Company to create a report assessing how its product impacts human rights.  The resolution declared that a 2019 report on company gun safety measures ""failed to put forward meaningful solutions to address gun violence,"  thus requiring further study.  The vote was taken just days after the school shooting in Uvalde. The Episcopal Church invested in the gun company as part of a strategy approved in 2018 to use stockholding as a means of leveraging greater responsibility from gun manufacturers. 

Dis-invite of Same-Sex Spouses to Lambeth Back in News

When in 2019 the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that same-sex spouses of bishops were not being included in the spousal invitation to Lambeth, he aroused some criticism.  It was defended as necessary to get bishops opposed to same-sex marriage to come.  The exclusion of those spouses is back in the news with comments of regret from the leader of the Canadian Church's bishops and the announcement that Bishop Singh of Rochester will not attend because of the exclusion. The Canadian Archbishop, Linda Nickells heads a church with one bishop with a same-sex spouse.  Singh is staying home in support of LGBTQA bishops.  Nicholls thins several Canadian bishops may make the same decision as Singh.   The heads of 3 African countries are boycotting for the opposite reason - i.e. that Anglican Communion provinces who are inclusive of LGBTQA people were invited and are coming. 

More on the Methodist Split

Update has carried several pieces (most recent is here) on the decision of those opposed to LBGTQA inclusion in the United Methodist Church to set up a new conservative body.  Individual congregations are now making decisions about joining that body.  The Christian Post reports that 70 congregations representing about 9% of the congregations in the North Georgia Conference have decided to join the conservative body. They represent about 3% of the Conference's members.  In Arkansas 35 congregation and about 100 in Florida are also pursuing a discernment process that my result in their leaving.