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, August 30, 2022

Week Ending 08/29/22

Climate Action Park Created in Ireland

A Church of Ireland priest in Galway has led an effort to convert 4 acres of land next to the rectory for the Aughrim and Creagh Parish Union into a "climate action park."  The goal is to plant it with native plants, trees, and hedgerows, lace the area with trails and engage the town in thinking about biodiversity and climate issues. The clergyman, John Godfrey is involving groups in the town, and the churches of other denominations to make it a true community effort.  The land previously was used to graze cattle and is a large open field. Some meadow areas have been planted, but the plans are on hold for an archeological review before they can start building trails or planting trees.  Eventually the park will have several different zone of plants, including an area with a creek running through it.

Continuing Stories

 Pittsburgh Parishes Join Medical Debt Forgiveness Plan

Update has carried a number of stories about Episcopal parishes that teamed up with a non-profit called RIP Medical Debt to extinguish the medical debts of a large number  of people in an area picked by the parish.  The most recent story is here.  Now two parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, St. David's in Peters Township and and St. Thomas in Canonsburg have launched a campaign and invited others in the diocese to join them in raising funds to extinguish debts for people in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia.  The non-profit buys the debt at a greatly discounted rate with money raised by their partners and then retires the debt.  The two parishes, both in Washington County, south of Pittsburgh hope to extinguish $500,000.00 of debt.  You can learn more here.

Florida to Re-Do Election of Bishop

The Diocese of Florida will hold a new election for Bishop, according to Bishop Howard.  His statement was in a video posted to You-Tube, but not linked to the Diocesan website.  (In fact, the website still has Holt featured as Bishop-Elect.) Howard did not give a timetable for when that convention might be held, but he did express a hope that the Rev. Charlie Holt, whose election was ruled irregular because of a lack of quorum  would remain a candidate.  Holt had left his post in Houston, TX and moved to Florida where is working for the diocese in anticipation of a fall consecration, which has of course been cancelled.  Last week Update carried the notice that Holt had withdrawn his acceptance of the election in response to the findings of irregularity by the Court of Review. 

Conservative Dioceses Not Leaving Australian Church

The bishops of two conservative Australian dioceses have made it clear that they are not joining the GAFCON sponsored schismatic diocese.  Both are in the Province of New South Wales where conservatism is strong, especially in Sydney. The Archbishop of Sydney (i.e. the bishop over all of the dioceses in the province, is Kanishka_Raffel.  Rafel is the bishop of the Diocese of Sydney, serves as the Metropolitan for the Province of New South Wales, and the primate for the Anglican Church of Sydney.  He made a statement saying that conservatives in conservative dioceses had no reason to leave for the new GAFCON Diocese of the Southern Cross since conservative dioceses would continue to uphold what they considered orthodox theology, and would work from the inside to "restore" the church to "orthodox" theology.  He could understand if some clergy in liberal diocese might need to find an "orthodox" haven [read "orthodox" as anti-LGBTQ].
The Bishop of Armidale had basically the same message to his diocese.  The Diocese of Sydney also has at least one liberal diocese (Newcastle) where the bishop is prepared to bless same-sex unions.  The announcement does suggest there will only a small, slow trickle of clergy and congregations to the GAFCON group.  Update last week posted  about the formal implementation of the GAFCON diocese.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Week Ending 08/22/22

Christians Facing Widespread Persecution in India

Hindu nationalists are increasingly making life difficult or impossible for Christians in India. The Anglican Communion has two provinces in India, both are "united" Churches (i.e. a union created by Congregatonists, Presbyterians, Methodists and Anglicans) with bishops who participate in the Anglican Communion and are part of the Anglican Consultative Council.  Although not mentioned directly in the Religion News story on the violence and unfair legal proceedings happening in India, members of the United Churches are subject to the persecution covered in the story. Churches are being attacked and seized, members, beaten and killed, and more. 

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Court Disappoints Episcopalians

The South Carolina continued its process of folding to political pressure from the ACNA parishes and decided that 4 of the six parishes that in 2 previous decisions had been listed as having acceded to the Dennis Canon and therefore belonging to the Episcopalians,  really had not acceded and could stay with the ACNA schismatics. Another two parishes the court decided had acceded, but had properly rescinded that accession (something which is impossible to do under Episcopal polity) and thus they could also stay with ACNA.  This leaves the Episcopalians  with 7 parishes to transition back to their control, and ownership all of the diocesan property, including Camp Christopher. It was disappointing to Episcopalians who had already begun planning return to their parish buildings based on the two earlier state Supreme Court opinions.  Episcopal Bishop Woodliff-Stanley has issued a statement here.  The new ACNA bishop has issued a statement here, and blogger Steve Skardon has much to say about this turn of events. Update has covered each twist of this legal battle, most recently here.

Holt Declines Election as Florida Bishop

Last week, Update reported that the Court of Review had issued its report on procedural issues during the election of Charlie Holt as Bishop of Florida.  The report listed a number of errors and confirmed that the election was invalid because there was not a quorum in the clergy order of the convention.  The Rev. Holt, has now issued a letter saying that he has withdrawn his acceptance of the election, and though he truly wants to be be Florida's bishop, there needs to be a correction to the process.  The Episcopal Church office has announced that they have stopped the process for requests for confirmation of the election by diocesan standing committees and bishops.  The Florida Standing Committee has not yet announced how they plan to go forward. 

GAFCON Implements Church Split in Australia

A split in the Anglican Church of Australia that has been in the works for several years is now full blown with the announcement that GAFCON has appointed the former Bishop of Sydney as the Bishop of the Diocese of the Southern Cross, and is inviting Anglican congregations to find a "haven" in their "orthodox" diocese. The choice of Glen Davies, a very low church, anti-women's ordination leader will complicate parish choices. The announcement also creates a dilemma for the current primate of the Australian Church who himself is a member of the international GAFCON.  He is arguing that the formation of a separate diocese not a part of the Australian Church is premature, that the church still affirms marriage as between a man and a woman.  Update has reported on the original creation of the diocese and on events within the Church of Australia that  have been claimed as the precipitating events (i.e. some dioceses saying that they will proceed with blessing of same sex unions).  In response the Bishop of Newcastle, one of the liberal dioceses adjoining Sydney, has sent a letter out requiring clergy to report if they are members of GAFCON or have had any ties to it.

Methodist Split Gets Very Litigious

Update has already reported on the suit filed by conservative congregations in Florida seeking to leave the United Methodist Church with their property.   However, congregations in other states are now filing suit. This last week it was parishes in North Carolina and Georgia. In addition the newly formed conservative umbrella organization the Wesleyan Conference, has sent a letter urging conservative parishes to withhold payments due to the United Methodist Church.  These actions make problematic the agreement that had been reached earlier for an amicable withdrawal.  Implementation of that has been held up by the delay in a national meeting due to the pandemic.

Episcopal Migration Ministries Offer Asylum Support

Many of those arriving at the U.S. borders are seeking asylum.  While applying for that status, they do not receive the same support that those officially granted refugee status have.  Episcopal Migration Ministries has developed a Neighbor to Neighbor program to help those seeking asylum settle in to a community.  EMM currently has 17 teams up and running.  The ministry is looking for both financial support and for those willing to part of teams.  For those who are interested in learning more there is a webinar on August 30.  The full Episcopal News Service article has full details and links to information of the webinar here.  Update has carried many stories on the work of Episcopalians with immigrants, refugees and those seeking asylum. One of the most recent is here.

Pittsburgh ACNA Consecrates Third Bishop

The ACNA diocese in Pittsburgh held the consecration of their new bishop earlier this month, but there appear to have been no local print coverage of the event except on the diocesan web site.  Local news did cover the election earlier this year of Alex Cameron as bishop.  He is the ACNA group's third diocesan bishop since they formed a diocese after leaving the Episcopal Church, although they claim to be the continuation of the Episcopal Diocese and thus he was proclaimed the ninth Bishop of Pittsburgh.  That title is actually held by Bishop Ketlin Solak of the Episcopal Diocese. It will be interesting to see how the two "Ninth" bishops relate to each other in ecumenical groups and on property  matters since the property agreements in effect have left several ACNA parishes occupying properties that all admit legally belong to the Episcopal Diocese;  another group of ACNA parishes have signed special agreements requiring some interaction and recognition of the Episcopal trust interest in their properties; and a final parish has a special arrangement where the Episcopal Diocese invested the value of the property in the parish ministry to veterans.    

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Week Ending 8/15/22

 Lutheran Synod Makes Familiar Moves

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which is in full communion with The Episcopal Church held its National Synod, i.e. their version of General Convention.Many of the actions they took will sound familiar to those who have followed Episcopal General Conventions.  Like the TEC, the Lutherans elected a racial precedent shattering vice president of the denomination (in their case a lay South Asian Muslim convert).  Like, TEC, the Lutherans are trying acknowledge and repair the damage they have done to indigenous people.  The Lutheran Synod voted to create a committee to study structural reorganization of the denomination, something Episcopalians did several General Conventions ago.  You can read more about the synod here

Continuing Stories.

Election of Florida Bishop Ruled Irregular

At the end of May, Update carried a story on protest/complaint challenging the procedures used to elect the Rev. Charles Holt as the next bishop of the Diocese of Florida.  The Presiding bishop sent the complaint to the Court of Review for such matters, and that body has now issued findings confirming the election was held without a legal quorum, and that there were numerous other irregularities in the way the diocese tried to institute a last minute on-line option for clergy only.  The report  (full report available here) will be sent to all Bishops and Standing Committees who are now able to vote on whether to approve the election. The challenge delayed the date of consecration, and has made the approval uncertain.

More Lambeth Fallout

Comments, reflections and attempts by the Global South leadership to redefine the Anglican communion, continue in the aftermath of the Lambeth Conference.  The web site Thinking Anglicans has a good collection of retrospective comments from English bishops and some others.  Most were grateful for a time to be with other bishops from around the world and learn about their challenges.  Most also noted that the conference was not focused on sexuality, but rather on a whole range of challenges from evangelism to climate change. All were relieved that the conference did not try to create some definitive statements. The Episcopal News Service did its own collective overview by using comments from a variety of social media posts by Episcopal Church bishops. Blogger Mark Harris has some good thoughts about the attempts of the Global South to redefine the Anglican Communion.  Update has listed many other reactions to the meeting in last week's post

Scottish Bishop Gets Reprieve from Suspension

The first woman to serve as a bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church, Anne Dyer,  has been the subject of complaints that she has been rude and bullied members of her flock.  This week in quick order the Scots bishops suspended her, and she appealed, an action that immediately lifted the suspension until the appeal has been heard and decided. Update has carried several notices on this controversy, the most recent previous one is here.

More on the South Carolina Property Transitions 

Both the ACNA diocese and the Episcopal Church now have materials on their web sites covering the property transitions for the 7 parishes where there is no further legal action.  The ACNA group has a listing where they are showing potential (or completed) transition dates and giving the location for worship of that part of the congregation that has chosen to stay in ACNA.  The Episcopal News Service has an article covering the transitions from the Episcopal Church side.  The South Carolina Episcopal Diocese is just putting up individual news stories announcing the name of the clergy person who is working with the parish and inviting people to the service.  There is going to be a fair amount of confusion as both ACNA and Episcopal congregations are using the historic parish name and ACNA groups are trying to find sites to use close by. (see the St. David's Cheraw sites as examples here and here.   It will be interesting to see how things shake out over time.  There are another 7 parishes who have asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to reconsider their decision that the property belongs to the Episcopalians, and it is not clear how long the court will let things drag out.   Update has covered the transitions that are already under way, most recently here

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Week Ending 08/08/22

Christopher Wells Appointed to Anglican Communion Post

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced the appointment of the Communion's Director of  Unity, Faith and Order.   Wells is the current chair of the Board of Directors, for the Living Church, and was the paper's editor from 2009-2019. He has a long association with Episcopal conservatives, especially the group called "Communion Partners," who are opposed to same sex marriage, but have not left the Episcopal Church.  Wells is also a part-time instructor at Nashotah House which walks a very fine line between ACNA and the Episcopal Church.  It is an appointment that should provide some reassurance the Global South bishops.  What his appointment means for the Episcopal Church and other liberal member churches of the Anglican Communion, such as Canada, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, and Scotland will only be apparent over time.

Continuing Stories

Lambeth Closes With Lines Drawn But No Decision 

The Lambeth meeting of Anglican Communion bishops concluded with a focus on issues ranging from climate change,  to persecution of christians and  gun violence.  On these issues bishops divided over sexuality could find common ground and compassionate listening. A good overview of the meeting is here.  However, the lines remain drawn.  For a summary of the standoff on sexuality go here.  The Global South issued a communique after the meeting which began with concerns and challenges facing the whole world but ended with a long section saying they would continue to push from what they considered orthodoxy and building a coalition against the members of the Communion they saw as holding heretical opinions. The liberal bishops published a document affirming their love and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people and their support for full inclusion in the church.  This document was signed by 164 bishops from at least 12 different Anglican Provinces.  The published list has signatures through August 7.  It does not include Pittsburgh's bishop, Ketlen Solak.   Update had a mid-meeting brief on Lambeth last week

Episcopal Leaders Participate in Legal Challenge to Abortion Law

With the media focused on Lambeth, the participation of the Episcopal Church in a lawsuit challenging a  Florida abortion law on the basis of religious freedom not gotten the attention it deserves.  The Episcopal Church is part of a religious coalition including Reform Judaism, Buddhism,  the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Church that filed suit in Miami -Dade courts to challenge the Florida law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The suit argues that the law violates the faith-based groups constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of religion, and the separation of Church and State because there are penalties for anyone who advises, consults or aids someone seeking an abortion after 15 weeks.  The Episcopal Church has long stated that abortion is a matter of conscience and that the state should not prevent a woman in consultation with a doctor choosing the best reproductive health options for herself. Update carried notice of statements issued earlier this year following the Supreme Court decision.    

Churches Respond to Latest Natural Disaster

The Diocese of Lexington and Episcopal Relief and Development are already providing help to the parts of Kentucky that were hit hard in recent flash floods.  This is the latest in a long list of examples of the Church responding to such events.  For more on the Kentucky aid go here, and for a past example carried by Update, look here.

Anglicans Concerned by Latest Chinese Actions in Hong Kong

The Chinese government has been exerting stronger and stronger controls over expression in Hong Kong, and now has sent an administrator to that city who is known for his crack-down and closing of christian worship communities.  The Chinese government insists it has the right to review all church publications and ensure they are in line with Chinese government positions.  In Hong Kong, this control is actually creating a shortage of Bibles because printers are afraid to print new copies.  While the article is mostly about pressure on the Roman Catholic Church, Anglicans are also quoted warning about the loss of religious freedom. The current Anglican Archbishop of Hong Kong has previously expressed concerns and will face new pressures on his return from Lambeth.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Week Ending 08/01/22

All Stories are Continuations of Previous Topics


Parish Number Three Returns to South Carolina

The Diocese of South Carolina has now announced plans for a third parish to return to the Episcopal Church following the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision specifying which parish properties had acceded to the Dennis Canon and thus could not leave the Episcopal Church and which were exempt.  Update has already noted the return of St.Johns on St. John Island, and  Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant.  Now the diocese has announced that in August St. David's in Cheraw will also reopen as an Episcopal Parish under the leadership of the priest who has been providing services to a group of Episcopalians meeting in alternative space in Cheraw. There are still a number of parish properties that have not begun the transition, including several that are still trying to get the decision overturned.  

Lambeth Conference Latest Updates 

The meeting of bishops from around the Anglican Communion at Lambeth is now under way, and the situation seems to change every day.  Update reported last week that many bishops felt blindsided by a document outlining the Lambeth Calls that they were to discuss and then either assent to, or promise to give it further study.  There was no way to say "no," and the whole idea of using letting electronic devices to record the votes seemed to violate the promise that this meeting would not be focused on voting on resolutions.  The most controversial item in the calls was slipped in to the document after the working group for that call had finished its work, and it was a reaffirmation of a statement  from 1998 opposing same sex marriage and homosexuality. Since last week's Update was posted, the organizers first added the possibility of voting "no," then scrapped the voting devices and went to oral affirmations through silence, rewrote the controversial call to drop any mention of the 1998 resolution, and reworded the statement so that it said there was no agreement on a position on sexuality in the Communion.  This needless to say, upset the GAFCON bishops attending, and they have written their own resolution to present, refused to take communion at the opening service, and have requested their own separate space for worship since the "sinners" are not being excluded. The outcome of the discussion on this call on "human dignity" has not been made public at this point. Thinking Anglicans has a page with links to the various responses and issues here.  As a warm-up to the human dignity discussion, the bishops took up a set of statements about what constitutes Anglican Identity, and even these raised some hackles since the classic definition outlined in the call does not address morality issues at all, but did propose a fourth body to be created as an instrument of communion.  This was voted down, but a world conference on mission did get the go-ahead.