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, October 25, 2022

Week Ending /10/24/22

 All Stories are continuing from previous posts

Pittsburgh Diocese Parishes Clear $1.6 Million Medical Debt

Update has carried several stories on the involvement of Episcopal parishes with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit that buys up medical debt at pennies on the dollar and then forgives those debts. The most recent notice was of two parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who were beginning a campaign to raise the funds to forgive medical debt in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  That campaign has come to a close and 1615 families have had notices mailed to them that their medical debts have been cleared.  The total debt retired was over $1.6 million. The two parishes are not large.  One is a small parish in Cannonsburg, PA and the other a congregation that had to rebuild membership after the diocese recovered the building from a departing ACNA group.  
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Latest on Racial Reconciliation

Christ Church, Cambridge, MA was surprised to learn that not only was a former slave buried in the church,  but that many of their members before the Civil War were slave owners.  As they learned more of the background of  Darby Vassall, a former slave buried in the same vault at the church as his former owners, the parish decided to make an 11 minute film about Vassall and his descendants.  The film premiered at an outdoor showing attended by many of the descendants of Darby Vassall.  The film is part of the parish coming to terms with a part of their history that shocked many of the current members, and is another aspect of the Episcopal Church's attempts to offer reparations and reconciliation.  Update has carried stories on the Sacred Ground curriculum, which explores the entanglement of the Church with slavery and of various reparation programs.

Latest on ACNA Abuse Scandal

Update has had several posts on the very messy sexual and spiritual abuse cases in the ACNA Diocese of the Upper Midwest.  That scandal managed to taint not only the Bishop of that diocese, Stuart Ruch, but spread to include the ACNA bishop in Pittsburgh James Hobby.  Ruch went on voluntary leave for a year.  Hobby resigned, and ACNA sent Martyn Minns to Pittsburgh to serve as interim until the diocese could search for, elect, and consecrate a new bishop. A new ACNA bishop for Pittsburgh was recently consecrated.  Now Minns has a new assignment, serving as a mentor/overseer for Ruch as he returns to duties in Chicago.  The scandal and lawsuits in the diocese are still ongoing

Florida Diocese Election Going Forward 

The clergy and laity who asked for a further delay in the election of a coadjutor bishop for the Diocese of Florida after the previous attempt in the spring was declared irregular for a lack of clergy quorum, received a disappointing answer.  The Standing Committee of the diocese announced that they were going ahead with the November election, and were providing transportation to a number of clergy (via busses) to try to make sure that the clergy presence would reach quorum. 

GAFCON Adds to Divisions

The GAFCON presiding officer, Foley Beach, Archbishop of ACNA, presided over the consecration of 3 new missionary bishops who would serve congregations in Europe, including Scotland.  A fourth consecration will take place later this year in the U.S.  The addition of these bishops fosters further parish withdrawals and the creation of alternative dioceses and "provinces" to those recognized by the Anglican Communion.  GAFCON has been setting up competing dioceses/provinces in several places, most recently in Australia. 
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GAFCON Protests Canterbury Dean Selection

 Last week Update carried a notice that the appointment of a new Dean of Canterbury Cathedral was raising some conservative hackles because the Dean had a formal civil partnership with another man.  This week a group of GAFCON leaders signed a formal letter of protest that this appointment made a mockery of the church's supposed position on sexual conduct of clergy and undermined the idea that marriage was reserved for heterosexual couples.  The Church of England and the Anglican Communion office responded saying that the protest letter included several factually incorrect statements, stressing that a Civil Partnership was not a marriage although it gave the couple legal standing and similar rights under secular law as a married couple.  The response also pointed out that the Church expected clergy in civil partnerships to refrain from sexual relations.  Just how the Church monitors this behavior is unclear.

Latest On Oxford College Battles

Christ Church, Oxford cannot seem to put the long term battle with its former dean which included several issues, including charges that he had mishandled a case involving inappropriate behavior towards a woman on the faculty.  This last has been investigated several times, and the Dean was cleared of formal charges, but  one further investigation popped up this year when the  new Independent Safeguarding Board of the Church of England decided to conduct a review of the previous investigations.  Now it has put that review on hold while it reviews the findings of the previous reviews of how the matter was handled, and whether in fact they have anything to add by doing a new review. 

Bishop Allison Formally Joins ACNA 

Bishop FitzSimons Allison, who had served as Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina in the 1980s, has formally resigned from the Episcopal Church and joined ACNA.  The only thing surprising about this is that it didn't happen sooner.   the 95 year-old Allison has been serving with an ACNA parish in the diocese since the schism and published a piece supporting the claims of the ACNA group to the property of the Episcopal Church.  His ability to stay in the Episcopal House of Bishops despite these actions showed the reluctance of the House of Bishops to move against a retired bishop.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Week ending 10/17/22

No Update appeared last week due to the travel schedule and illness of the editor

Church Offers Site for Grief Counseling in Uvalde

St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Uvalde has been offering temporary space to the Southern Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas, (CBCST) which has been providing services badly needed in a community still reeling and angry over the school shooting last spring that killed 19 children, 2 teachers, and wounded 17 more.  Now the church has offered the center its former thrift store building on its grounds to give the Center a permanent location.  The Center, with main offices in San Antonio has been providing bereavement counseling since 1991 and has several branches.  The Uvalde site is their most recent. Remodeling of the building is already under way, and it should open in 2023.

Tennessee Bishop Jointly Encourage Yes Vote on Constitutional Amendment

The three bishops of the dioceses in Tennessee have taken the unusual step of directly encouraging voters to vote yes on a proposed constitutional amendment by issuing a joint letter. Given the Episcopal Church's current emphasis on racial reconciliation and healing, the letter certainly makes sense. Amendment 3 on the Tennessee Ballot this fall would correct a long-term historical embarrassment in the state's constitution.  Article 1, Section 33 of the state constitution, currently reads, "That slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this state."   The Amendment would replace that section with this wording: "Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime." (See here for more.) The original language, included in the state constitution since 1870, was used to authorize forced labor (the infamous chain gangs) which was used especially to re-enslave blacks convicted of even minor offenses.

New President of House of Deputies Appoints Staff and Advisors

The new President of the House of Deputies, Ayala Harris has announced her staff and Council of Advice appointments.  She has brought together a very diverse team with experience at diocesan and provincial level, but with few carryovers from previous PoHD teams. Bishop Sean Rowe is continuing as the Bishop on the Council of Advice.  In General the group is largely younger and media savvy. 

New Canterbury Dean Has a Same-Sex Spouse

Normally Update would not comment on something as routine as the appointment of a new dean for the Cathedral at Canterbury, especially when the appointee was already a cathedral dean at Leicester, but this appointment, one of the last by Queen Elizabeth II, has raised conservative hackles.  Despite The Very Reverend Dr David Monteith's distinguished career, what is upsetting conservatives is that Montieth has a civil partner, David Hamilton.  Church of England clergy are supposed to either be married to someone of the opposite sex, or abstain from sexual activity.  This is certainly the most prominent position for a clergy person in the Church of England  in a same sex partnership. 

Treasurer of Church Fund in Pennsylvania Charged with Fraud

The Clergy Assurance Fund in Pennsylvania, a non-profit that began in the colonial period as the Widows and Orphan's Fund and provides support to clergy and their families in the 5 dioceses of Pennsylvania raised questions about $20,000 of charges with their then- treasurer, John Miller in March 2022.  He chose to retire rather than be terminated.  A follow-up forensic audit showed that Miller had between January 2016 and March 2022 directed $1.4 million of the charity's funds into his own accounts.  The Fund has referred the matter to the F.B.I. and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.  After two and a half centuries of investments, and payouts, the fund was valued in March of 2022 at $82 million, and so its operations have not been affected.  The Living Church broke the story  October 13.  The Episcopal News Service has a follow up article.

Continuing Stories

Canterbury Visit to Australia Comes Amidst Continued  Divisions

The Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to Australia, prompted statements about embarrassing past divisions and blind spots for the church, but did not do much to ease the growing schism fostered by the Sydney Diocese's refusal to recognize women clergy (including an Australian Archbishop), and upset at being unable to get the Church synod to forbid any recognition of same sex partnerships or marriages.  The primate for Australia, Archbishop Smith considers the formation of the GAFCON Diocese of the Southern Cross a "new denomination" while the Sydney archbishop has welcomed the diocese.  Update has reported on recent developments around the GAFCON diocese here and here.

Request Filed to Delay Vote on Florida Bishop

Eighteen clergy deputies (including one of the candidates for bishop in the first election), 13 lay deputies and numerous parishioners have signed a petition asking the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Florida to delay further the special convention called for a second try at electing a bishop for the Diocese of Florida.  The first election ended up being declared irregular because of a lack of a clergy quorum.  The letter lists 8 concerns, among the most pertinent being that the Diocese has still not confirmed the list of canonically resident clergy, and that appeals of clergy excluded are still under way. The signers are concerned that this election may also result in canonical challenges.  The large number of clergy (many of who are retired or no longer living in the diocese) makes it very hard to reach quorum.  The group also considered it unfair that one of the 3 candidates (the one apparently elected in the first meeting) has been hired by the diocese and is visiting parishes, thus giving him a means of quiet campaigning.  The Standing Committee has not yet responded to the letter.

Sudan Christians Face Hostile Environment

Sudan split several years ago into two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, and the Anglican Communion has likewise recognized the Anglican/Episcopal Church in each country to be a separate province.  Both are dealing with a Muslim majority that has made life increasingly dangerous for Christians.  In South Sudan, update has carried notices of attacks on Anglican leaders.  Now a legal case in the Sudan could put all Christian groups in real jeopardy.  The couple has been accused of adultery for living together.  They married as Muslims, then the husband converted to Christianity at a time when a secular government had removed laws forbidding any conversion by Muslims.  Her family forced her to leave her husband, return home, and divorce him in a Sharia court.  When a secular government returned to power and again removed the law making conversion a capital offense, the woman returned to living with her husband and converted to Christianity.  Although it is not a crime to convert, the couple is being charged in separate courts for adultery (because of the divorce) and conversion.  The concern is that the secular government is increasing under the influence of those who want to return to governing under strict Sharia law.  This would negatively affect all Christian groups.

Churches Raise Concerns About Biden Policy for Venezuelan Refugees

While the Biden administration's recently announced implementation for Venezuelans of a Trump policy requiring those seeking asylum to do so before entering the country, and wait for responses in Mexico, did promise entry for some, it also makes getting asylum a longer and more difficult process for most, and will permanently bar those deported from applying.  Thus the major Christian organizations (including the Lutherans) handling refugees, have signed a protest of the policy. Episcopal News Service took a more positive tack on the announcement and focused on those who will be admitted. The announcement has left all faith based resettlement groups scrambling because the Trump era policies had so cut refugee numbers that the 24,000 Venezuelans who will be admitted will stretch resettlement services to the utmost.  Update continues to follow immigration and refugee issues.  The recent surprise arrival of 50 Venezuelans in Martha's Vineyard may be affected by the change.

Texas Parish Opens Building to Jewish Congregation During High Holidays

On Halloween 2021, Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, Texas had their building burned in an apparent hate crime.  The congregation has been sharing space with another smaller Jewish Congregation, but that space was too small for the numbers who attend during High Holidays.  St. Matthew's Episcopal Church stepped forward and offered their building for the week of special services.  The Episcopal News Service has pictures.  This is not the first time that en Episcopal Congregation has stepped forward in this way.  Update reported on the 2019 High Holiday invitation by Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh to the Tree of Life Congregation which had been the object of a terrorist attack that killed eleven.   

Rebuilding Goes On in Texas and South Carolina

Three of the congregations who lost their homes due to the court proceedings in the Fort Worth area, have decided to  mark their fresh start by choosing new names.  Since the Diocese of North Texas's merger with the much larger Diocese of Texas has been implemented, it was an appropriate time for the rebuilding congregations to take on a new identities.  The mission congregation in Witchita Falls has chosen to be Faith Episcopal Church; the former St. Alban's is now All Souls; and St. Mary's in Hamilton is now St. Catherine's.  Meanwhile in South Carolina, the transfer of property back to the Episcopal Church continues.  One transfer (St. Bartholomew's in Hartsville) has been delayed from September to the end of October in order to accommodate the ACNA parish which is vacating the property, but had a delay in accessing their new location.   Its opening with  be closely followed by the first Services for St. James in Charleston will hold their first services on  All Saints Sunday.  The Diocese announced separately the appointment of a very experienced priest new to South Carolina for St. James.  The Diocese also regained control in September of Holy Trinity in Charleston where an on-going pre-school operation continues while the diocese continues to discern how to proceed with the church building.  Update has covered all the previous transitions, most recently here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Week Ending 10/03/22

Quiet Interfaith Network Aids Migrants

Religion News has an article on the way interfaith groups are essential to provide services to migrants from initial arrivals in the  U.S. to resettlement services, providing shelter, food, furnishings and the information needed to negotiate work and livinging in a community. whatholds thisnetwork together is a belefthat their faith calls them to work for social justice. The author mentions Episcopalians several times in the article.  You can read  more here.

Presiding Bishop Curry Catches Covid-19

Presiding Bishop Curry has announced that he has an active case if covid-19 virus.  He has been fully vaccinated and boosted, and is receiving appropriate treatment.  He is continuing meetings by zoom until he is cleared and feeling well again.  He has had a very  busy schedule recently including several consecrations of bishops indifferent parts of the country.  For the full announcement go here.

Bishop of Rio Grande Decries Shooting of Migrants

The Episcopal Church is onrecord as supporting migrants and also supporting gun control.  The recent unprovoked shooting in West Texas of two migrants (one of whom died) by two brothers who had a track record of violence towards immigrants led the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande to issue a strong statement asking the FBI to investigate the shooting as a hate crime,and to investigate the conditions at private migrant detention centers lkike the oine run by the shooter.  The statement linked the current migrants to several incidents inthe Bible and also to recent mass shootings.  Episcopal News Service has the full statement here.


Canadian Primate Says Church Shouldn't Oppose Assisted Dying

Archbishop Linda Nicholls,primate of the Anglican Church of Canada thinks it would be unproductive for the church to objectto the 2021 law passed allowing medically assisted deaths.  It has recently been extended to include mental illness. Rather the church should focus on pastoral care and making sure that appropriate care is fully available to all those with chronic illness, especially those who might be considering a medically assisted death.  By ensuriing that full care is available and that they have pastoral support the church can assure that people are not feeling pushed to choose "MAID" (Medical Assistance In Dying). The Canadian Church's Anglican Digest has a good discussion and critique of the Archbishop's statement.

Hurricane Ian Leaves Florida Parishes Rebuilding

Episcopal Church members and parishes in Southwestern Florida and strugglibg to assess damages to their buildings while helping the many who were displaced and lost homes or belongings during Hurricane Ian.  Several parishes sustained physical damage.  Rebuilding is complicated by the fact that some parishioners and clergy are storm refugees and dealing with their own personal losses.  The death toll from the storm continues to rise, and flooding in Florida and other parts of the East Coast continues to add to the storm's damages.  The Episcopal News Service has an initial article on the damage here.

Continuing Stories

Scottish Bishop's Suspension Reinstated

The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Ann Dyer, has been facing complaints about bullying.  She was suspended from duties by the Scottish Primate until the disciplinary process has been completed and she has been cleared or a suitable penalty  assessed.  Dyer appealed and thus was allowed to continue her duties until a Church Synod confirmed her suspension.  That happened this last week and she is once again suspended until the processes have been comleted.  Update reported on that here.

Hong Kong Police Film Attendees at Service for Queen Elizabeth

A chilling message was sent to Anglicans in Hong Kong when the police filmed those who attended an evensong service in honor of  the deceased Queen Elizabeth II.  The return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule happened during Elizabeth's long reign, but since the return, the Chinese government has increasingly ignored guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly that were a part of that agreement, and cracked down on Christian churches which are seen as remnants of western colonial rule.  Update has covered past issues with the government.  The implications of the filming of attendees is discussed in this article from Anglican.ink