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, November 29, 2022

Week Ending 11/28/22

Church of England Bishop Removed 

The Church of England has recently made public that in disciplinary proceedings last August retired Bishop Peter Hullah was sanctioned and forbidden to act in any capacity as a clergy person for the rest of his life.  The reason for the action was charges brought by two women that he had committed sexual improprieties with them in 1984 and 1999.  Hullah was already controversial for mishandling the disciplining a music director at the church school Hullah headed.  The faculty member had sexually abused children at the school.  This is the most serious penalty handed down under the "Safe Church" provisions of the Church of England.

Architect of Schism Dies

We note the death of The Rt. Rev. John Rogers at age 92.  Rogers was a founder and Dean of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge and was one of two priests ordained as a bishop by four bishops (from Rwanda, Southeast Asia and two retired TEC bishops) in a service not associated with any diocese or the Episcopal Church in 2000.  The church plants and congregations they oversaw became part of the Anglican Mission in America, and then were merged into ACNA when it formed.  Several of Rogers's students are now ACNA bishops.

Parochial Data for TEC Released

The parochial report data for 2020-2021 has just been released, much later than usual.  The on-going pandemic affected not only the date the data came into the church, but clearly affected the data itself.  Although the church membership shrank again by 3%, that was a slower decline than many larger denominations.  Attendance, however, took a very large hit.  With parish buildings closed for part of the reporting period, and difficulty in figuring out how to count attendance of those attending via live streaming, zoom, or viewing recordings after the fact, the attendance figures took a tremendous drop.  One bright spot was that giving was actually up.  Worth noting since this blog is based in Pittsburgh, that diocese was one of six dioceses that actually did not show a loss in memberships.  You can find more data here.

Continuing Stories

More on the Recent Bishop Elections

Last week update commented on the contrasting elections of bishops that had occurred  over the preceding weekend, one in Ohio and one in Florida.  This week, The Living Church took that contrast further with more detail.  Ohio elected the Rev. Anne Jolly on the second ballot, with a slate of all women.  In Ohio the question of full inclusion of LGBTQA people is a given, and was not an issue.  In Florida, although the Rev. Charles Holt was elected on the first ballot, the convention was much longer than in Ohio because of a number of protests and parliamentary maneuvers by those who challenged whether Florida's second attempt to elect a bishop was actually legal, a challenge that had sunk Florida's first attempt. Holt is a conservative who has opposed atempts to fully include the LGBTQA community in the church.  Despite his promise to fully implement the resolution B012 which requires every diocese to provide a means for same sex couples to have church blessings and marriages, many of those raising objections were skeptical. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Week Ending 11/21/22

Faithful America Sponsors Petition Opposing Trump Run in 2024

Faithful America, an organization founded in 2004 to oppose Christian Nationalism and ensure religious liberty for all has initiated a petition asking that Donald Trump not be allowed to run again for president in 2024.  Their goal was to get to 20,000 signatures by the beginning of December.  Faithful American is an independent interdenominational Christian group currently headed by an Episcopal priest, Nathan Empsall.   It is funded entirely by its membership. For those interested, the petition is collecting signatures on-line at their website.  The petitions wording is short and to the point. 

Central Florida Bishop Election Complicated by Diocesan Marriage Canon 

Central Florida is in the midst of the process of electing a new bishop to replace retiring bishop Brewer.  The problem is that the canons of the diocese not only forbid clergy from participating in a marriage of a same-sex couple, but set severe penalties.  General Convention passed a resolution (B 012) in 2018 requiring all dioceses to have a means to allow same-sex couples to be able to marry in a local church.  Bishop Brewer has only approved one congregation using a provision of delegated oversight to another bishop,but  because of the diocesan canons, other clergy are hesitant to come forward.  Candidates for the next bishop are thus caught between either ignoring a diocesan canon, or being out of compliance with General Convention.  The three candidates for bishop have all answered a questionnaire saying that they would obey both the canon and the General Convention resolution, despite that fact that one contradicts the other. 

New Jersey Parish Cooperates in K-9 Training

The Episcopal Journal had a story on the outreach St. John's Episcopal Church in Booton, N.J. has initiated with a local dog trainer who also is a police officer.  It began with a traditional blessing of the animals for during a fall community festival,  but led to the church building becoming the site for trainings sessions with a new explosive sniffing dog team.  The dog, Bowie, had been blessed at the fall animal blessing and so the trainer contacted the church when looking for a site to use for certifying the dog and its owner as an explosives detection team.  It is a good example of how one kind of outreach can foster others.

Continuing Stories

Latest Bishop Elections 

This last weekend, the Rev. Charles Holt was elected bishop of Florida on the first ballot in a repeat election held after the first was ruled to have failed to meet quorum.  The election was held despite a petition requesting that the election be delayed to ensure proper certification of deputies and clergy.  The conservative Holt was a controversial choice for those supportive of LGBTQA members, but has promised to implement General Convention Resolution B 012 which requires every diocese to provide access to church services for same-sex couples seeking marriage.   At the other end of the spectrum, the Diocese of Ohio elected the Rev. Anne B. Jolly as bishop coadjutor, the first woman to hold that office in the diocese. Jolly has a resume filled with congregation development leadership and served as chair of the Chicago Standing Committee during the challenging period when their bishop elect was rehabilitating following a stroke.

Brazil Elects Woman As Primate

While there are still provinces/dioceses in the Anglican Communion that do not ordain women to the priesthood, much less the episcopacy, the acceptance of women's ordained ministries continues to grow.  Update reported the consecration of the first woman to serve as a bishop in Japan earlier this year.  Update also reported on the election in November 2021 of  the first woman to serve as bishop in Mexico. Now Brazil offers a new first - first woman to serve as primate in all of Latin America.    Brazil chose Rt. Rev. Marinez Rosa dos Santos Bassotto to be their next primate.   Brazil has led the way on women's ordination in Latin America, allowing ordination of women as priests since 1985. 

Colorado Parishes Respond to Latest Mass Shooting

Colorado has been the site of several mass shootings, the most recent at a club with a LGBTQA clientele.  As in previous cases, the Episcopal Churches in have  responded with numerous prayer meetings and statements of support for the LGBTQA community.  Update has carried notices of previous shootings.

Update on Ballot Measures Supported by Dioceses

The mid-term elections also included ballot measures in a number of states.  Update reported on a constitutional amendment all the Bishops of Tennessee endorsed.  It was a measure updating the wording of a clause in the constitution to that had allowed re-enslavement of blacks through penal work requirements.  The rewording clearly abolished slavery and passed with an overwhelming 80% in support.  The Diocese of Oregon had lent its support to a gun control measure promoted by an interfaith group.  The measure passed with about 51% in favor.  It will make Oregon's gun control law one of the strictest in the U.S. 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Week Ending 11/14/22

Have Three Provinces Left Communion?

Archbishop Linda Nichols, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada's recent reply to an email asking for comments on the Lambeth Conference this last summer made clear that she thinks three provinces, Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda, have effectively left the Anglican Communion by boycotting the conference.  These same three provinces were among those who also deliberately absented themselves from the 2008 Lambeth meeting of bishops.  She went on to talk about the ways that the more than 650 bishops who attended the 2022 meeting found many points of mutual interest and while there was some underlying differences about LGBTQ matters, most left with a sense of hope that the Communion could work together on concerns of poverty, global warming, and other major challenges to the world.  She also noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury told the conference that he did not have the power to throw any province out of the Anglican Communion.  The Anglican Journal, the official publication of the Canadian church,followed up her statement by asking other bishops for comment, and  most agreed that the summer meeting had opened lines of communication and brought bishops closer together. The Journal also contacted the primates of the 3 named countries.  Only one, the Archbishop of Rwanda replied.  His rely, as expected said they were in compliance with the Communion. "Those who have a problem are those who have departed from the authority of Scripture and going against the teachings of the Scripture."

Oklahoma Bishop Signs Letter Opposing Death Penalty

Bishop Poulson Reed of Oklahoma was among the 26 original signers of an interdenominational letter opposing the decision of the state's Criminal Court of Appeals to recently set dates for the executions of 25 men on death row. Other original signers included the Catholic Archbishop, numerous pastors of protestant churches, and leaders of humanitarian organizations.  Since then another 198 people (including 32 identifying as Episcopalian) have added their signatures.  More are invited.  The letter is steeped in Biblical references, drawing heavily on the New Testament, and then goes on to point out the concerns that the Oklahoma justice system has a documented racial bias in sentencing and that 10 people on Oklahoma's death row have been exonerated and released.  It also notes that almost none of the recommendations of a 2017 study of the criminal  justice system in the state have been implemented.  The study commission had recommended continuation of a stay of all executions until the reforms were in place.  That stay, however was lifted by the court this year at the request of the state attorney general.  Read the letter here.

Continuing Stories

Massachusetts Diocese Creates Reparations Fund

The Diocese of Massachusetts has joined several other dioceses and other church organizations who have set up funds to provide reparations to the Black community in recognition of the participation of Episcopalians in the state in the practice of slavery, including the slave trade after the state abolished slavery in 1783. The diocesan convention passed the resolution put forward by the Diocesan Commission on Racial Justice after a year of study by parishes.  Beginning with a $3 million draw on existing diocesan funds the diocese committed to  an annual 15% draw from diocesan funds until the goal of $11.1 is reached.  Next year's convention will vote on a proposed process and guidelines for the distribution of funds.  In other resolutions, the diocese recognized the need for study and further reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of the state as well.

Federal Fraud Charges Filed Against Former Priest

In December 2021, Update reported that the Chicago Diocese had lifted a suspension against the Rev. Robert Smith whose financial handling of St. Francis Ministries, founded by Episcopalians in Kansas, had led to an investigation and his resignation as the head of the charity in 2020.  Smith worked in Kansas, but his canonical residency was in the Diocese of Chicago. At the time of the original restoration of ministry,  the Chicago diocese required he take courses in management, but noted that no criminal charges were forthcoming.  However, further evidence resulted in a second suspension in February 2022 which was lifted this September.  Now Smith has been charged with wire fraud and money laundering as a result of a 2 year F.B.I. investigation.  He has once again been suspended and barred from any access to church financial instruments of any kind.  Bishop Paula Clark has pledged full support for any investigation. 

Charity Commission Warns Oxford College

The Christ Church, Oxford, problems simply will not go away.  Update has followed the twists and turns of a story that began with a struggle between the faculty and dean of the college, but eventually led to other issues, including questions about the handling of a sexual harassment complaint, and misuse by the College board of College funds in pursuit of their campaign against the dean.  It is this latter issue that is the subject of a formal warning by the Charity Commission noting concerns of mismanagement and warning that further action might be taken if the college's board of trustees does not take steps to correct a number of management issues that surfaced as the college spent  L 6.6 million on legal and other fees in its struggle with the dean.  About L5.3 million of that was not approved until after it had been spent.  




Monday, November 7, 2022

Week Ending 11/7/22

Stained Glass to Show Jesus As Middle Eastern Man

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri has replaced the stained glass windows in a side chapel with ones done by a local artist with a national reputation.  The artist is known for his work murals and paintings portraying African Americans. The commission, by the Church of the Holy communion, however was the first time he had done work for a religious institution.  What makes the windows special is that the Biblical figures, including that of Jesus, are  brown-skinned, a certainly more accurate depiction of the figures than the customary European features and pale skin color.  The congregation has grown more diverse, and wanted some of the art work in the worship space to reflect that inclusion. 

Continuing Stories

Another Pittsburgh Parish Closes Successful Medical Debt Retirement 

Update reported on the successful conclusion of a campaign by two small parishes in the Pittsburgh Diocese to raise the funds needed to forgive over $1.68 million in Medical debt owed by families in Southwest Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.  A third parish, St. Paul's in Mt. Lebanon just concluded its own campaign in which they raised just under $38,000 which then was used by RIP Medical Debt to clear more the $3.32 million in medical debt.  St. Paul's is a large parish with over 1000 members. The three parishes together raised  over $44,000 which was then used to clear over $5 million in medical debt.

South Carolina Delays Opening of Another Regained Church

In their continuing attempt to make the transition of parish buildings being returned to the Episcopal Church as gentle as possible, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has delayed the opening of St. James Church in Charleston until December 4.  It was originally scheduled for the first Sunday in November.  The departing ACNA congregation, however, was not able to get access to their new location, and rather than leave them homeless for a month, the diocese has delayed the restart.  Update announced the earlier date last week.  

Presiding Bishop Signs Interfaith Request for Investigation of Christian Nationalism

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was one of the religious leaders who signed a letter in June 2022 asking the Jan. 6 Committee of the House of Representatives include  investigating Christian Nationalism as a part of its work. The letter outlines ways that Christian Nationalism served as a motivating force in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and the many ways that this ideology is contrary to the religious liberty and freedom guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. The letter has only been made public recently.  A Baptist group opposed to Christian Nationalism began the effort, but the final letter was signed by Bishop Curry, and leaders of the ELCA, the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Baptist groups as well as the president of the National Council of Churches.  In addition, other individual clergy who have been raising concerns about Christian Nationalism also signed the letter.  Last week Update carried a notice of the panel the Presiding Bishop participated in pointing out the problems with Christian Nationalism.

Fallout Continues On Latest Church of England Study on LGBTQA Inclusion

Last week Update noted that responses pro and con to the latest document issued by the Church of England on inclusion, especially of the LGBTQA community, were starting to appear.  This week, following discussion of the document at a meeting of the Church of England's College of Bishops, there is more.  The Bishop of Oxford has published a statement saying that he supports the Church allowing clergy to bless same sex marriages and to preside at marriages.  Two other bishops have followed suit.  Conservatives are also weighing in.  Thinking Anglicans links to a number of the comments here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Week Ending 10/31/22

Presiding Bishop Calls "Christian Nationalism" Unchristian

The growth of a particular interpretation of "Christian Nationalism" that argues the U.S. was intended to be a "Christian" nation, and that only "Christians" should be allowed to participate or hold office, and that a particular set of supposed "Christian" policies should be made law has concerned a number of religious leaders. (For more on the varieties of "Christian Nationalism," see this article from an evangelical source.)  Many arguing that the precepts actually go against what Christ taught.  Presiding Bishop Curry used part of his remarks at a Seminar at Georgetown University to express his views on "White Christian Nationalism.," including this statement, "If you look at the complex of white Christian nationalism, as an ideology, you lay it alongside Jesus of Nazareth and we’re not even talking about the same thing.”  For the whole panel discussion go here.

Northern Michigan Church Fights for Ecology

A joint ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in that area, is focused on appreciation and protection of the wilderness areas of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The group meets several times a month, worships in wilderness locations outdoors, and has begun an effort to prevent the building of a space launch site for satellites in the midst of an old growth forest.  The Episcopal News Service (ENS) has more of the details here.

ACNA Mission Joins Diocese of Indianapolis

As ACNA increasing doubles down on conservative social positions, some members of that organization have become increasingly uncomfortable.  One sign of this is the announcement by Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis that an ACNA mission founded in 2015 has after a year of discernment voted 44-4 to transfer from ACNA's Diocese for the Sake of Others to the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.  ENS also carried a story.

New Zealand Bishop Has Inclusive Take on Anglicanism

As GAFCON continues to set up competing organizations to Dioceses or provinces that it considers too liberal, and that they represent "true" Anglicanism and are the "real" Anglican Communion, a bishop in New Zealand has penned an essay offering a different take, arguing that is the inclusion that is the real historic position of the Anglican Communion, going back to its roots in the Church of England.  He notes the many times, that the church adapted in order to expand into areas with a different culture or language, and how it strove to encompass as many people as possible in a state church.  For more see the full essay here.

Continuing Stories

Responses to Church of England's Latest Document on LGBTQ

The Church of England continues to slowly muddle along trying to find a position that will be more welcoming to LGBTQ people while not driving out those who want affirmation of traditional marriage.  The latest study document was issued this fall and the Church of England Synod now awaits what the bishops of the church will propose as a response to its findings and recommendations.  Thinking Anglicans has the latest responses.  Same-sex marriage is the biggest sticking point with a set of alternative paths forward suggested here and a critique of those from the point of view of a supporter of same sex marriage here.

Church of Nigeria in America Groups Join ACNA

The Anglican Church of Nigeria has for a number of years been maintaining a "missionary" diocese supposedly for Nigerians in america, but actually attracting many of those unhappy with the Episcopal Church's move towards LGBTQA+ inclusion. The bishop of that Missionary diocese has just announced that he, and a number of the congregations under his charge are joining ACNA because the Nigerian mission was only supposed to be a temporary "fix" until there was a another American option.  The result has been to split the missionary diocese as some congregations decided to remain as part of the Nigerian church.  The Archbishop of Nigeria has suspended Bishop Orji.  This puts them in the awkward position of suspending a bishop who has joined the organization headed by the current presiding officer of GAFCON, of which Nigeria is a prominent member.

Latest on South Carolina Diocese Transitions

The transition following the legal opinions by the South Carolina Supreme Court continue.  On Sunday, October 30, Episcopalians held their first service in St. Bartholomew's Church in Hartsville.  There are no pictures yet from that service, but the web page for the revived congregation is up and functioning.  Meanwhile, Bishop Woodliff-Stanley announced that the diocese had decided to sell the building of St. Matthew's in Fort Motte to the ACNA congregation occupying it.  The money will become a fund that can be used to create a new regional church that will cover a fast growing area in a neighboring county.  Update has followed each step of the tranistion, with the most recent posting here.