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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, January 11, 2022

Week Ending 01/11/22

Reclaiming Epiphany

Last week was a busy week for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.  After presiding at the funeral of the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, he hurried back to Washington D.C. to participate in an Epiphany service at the Church of the Epiphany, give remarks at an outdoor gathering at the Lincoln Memorial,  and to offer a prayer at the moment of silence  organized by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi to mark the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the injuries and death of those defending Congress which was in session.  The Presiding Bishop minced no words, referring to the attack as a insurrection, and stressing that this attack was contrary to all that the season of Epiphany was supposed to mean.  While the sermon in the Church of the Epiphany was apparently marred by a bad sound system, his printed remarks have  been made available.

Continuing Stories 

Legal Issues Continue in Texas

In addition to the legal troubles still facing All Saints Parish in Fort Worth, St. Mary's Hillsborough, remains in court because the ACNA group is claiming it should receive a bequest worth $2 million  made to the Episcopal congregation in 2017, long after the separation.   It is clear that the donor's intent was for his estate to remain with those still in the Episcopal Church, both from his own membership in an Episcopal parish, other bequests, and his stipulation of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas as the residual heir should St. Mary's no longer exist.  The ACNA group is claiming they have exclusive rights to the name of the parish, and thus the money should be theirs.  The group affiliated with The Episcopal Church, has also continued to use the name St. Mary's and has found a new location in a former bank building.   The matter will be decided in probate court, with the next hearing January 14.

Conservatives Split Another Denomination

Conservatives continue to draw a line in the sand, unwilling even to accept same-sex marriage and full participation of LGBTQA people as something that Christians may hold different stances on.  The latest group to deal with the issue is the Reformed Churches of America.  The Reformed Church came to the Americas with Dutch colonists, and while it remains a small denomination, is among its oldest.  The governing body of the denomination created a plan for withdrawal of conservative congregations that was designed to avoid costly legal suits, and conservative congregations have withdrawn.  The are now forming a rival denomination, the Alliance of Reformed Churches,  other groups are also trying to draw in the congregation that leave the Reformed Church of America.  Conservatives have left other churches including, of course, the Episcopal Church, which continues to have property disputes. The Lutherans, Presbyterians, and the Methodists have all had withdrawals.  The Methodist split was the one most recently covered by Update.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Week ending 01/03/22

Pittsburgh Episcopalians Mourn the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis

The Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis led Calvary Episcopal Church, one of the three largest parishes in the diocese for over a decade.  He died, age 74 on December 31.  He had come to Calvary after serving as the staff person at the Church Center for African America ministry.  Dr. Lewis was a noted historian who published several books and articles, wrote poetry, and served on numerous Church Boards and as a Deputy to General Convention.  He is remembered as the rector of the parish in Pittsburgh who won a lawsuit against Bishop Duncan and the Episcopal Diocese as it was headed towards schism, thus preserving the property of the Episcopal Diocese for Episcopalians. You can read about more of his accomplishments here.  The notice of his death put out by the diocese includes a statement from the President of the House of Deputies.  A statement from Progressive Episcopalians is here

Colorado Episcopalians Begin Fire Relief Work

A devastating wildfire swept through two large, middle-class communities between Golden and Boulder with the lost of 991 homes and several other structures.  The fire spread very rapidly with little warning as winds up to 105 miles an hour drove the flames across plains already parched by drought.  Falling temperatures and a full winter snowfall followed the fires helping to put out the flames, but hindering recovery actions.  Episcopal churches in the area were not burned, but the homes of many parishioners were.  The churches are already mobilizing to provide basic needs for families left with nothing but the shirts on their back.The Episcopal News Service has the story.

Continuing Stories

Retrospective on Archbishop Tutu

Last week Update carried the news of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's death and the various ways he was being commemorated.  This week Anglicans On Line has a retrospective on his life and the many causes he upheld.  He was an  advocate for women's ordination, LGBTQA people, the poor, reconciliation, opposed governmental corruption in his own party, and spoke out against the mistreatment of Palestinians.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Week Ending 12/27/21

Archbishop Tutu Remembered

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's death from cancer has elicited statements and events in his honor around the world.  The 90 year old retired Anglican archbishop was a major voice for justice beginning with anti-apartheid, and continuing through issues of economic justice and LGBTQA rights.  South Africa is planning a week of events to honor his life and efforts.  Update has collected links to a number of statements.  Here are statements from retired Bishop Gene Robinson; Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; and the Rt. Rev. Josiah Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. Religion News and ChristianToday have stories with comments from a number of leaders. Secular sources also commented, including the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and numerous world leaders including President Biden, former Presidents Obama and Carter, the English Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and many others.  Stories carried by Reuters,  and the United Kingdom's Daily Mail provide a quick summary of many of the statements.

Episcopal Diocese Criticizes Roman Catholic Diocese on LGBTQ Policy

The Diocese of Northern Michigan posted an open letter on its home web page welcoming Transgender and other LGBTQA people in response to an announcement that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette was instructing its clergy to deny sacraments, including baptism to Trans, Transgender, and Binary individuals.  It criticized the policy as unchristian and offered a welcome and invitation to the whole LGBTQA community.  The letter was also published in the Sault News which serves the eastern half of the upper Penninsula of Michigan.  Episcopal Cafe covered the story.

Continuing Stories

Chancellor of Oxford University Weighs In On Christ Church Troubles

The battle between the Christ Church, Oxford dean and faculty has finally raised enough stink that the Chancellor of Oxford University, of which Christ Church is a part, has written to the college's board because the controversy is now threatening the reputation of the university.  Update has carried notices of each step in this scandal, most recently here. 

Covid Surge Sends Churches Back to On-Line Only

The combination of a continued Delta variant surge and the new, highly transmittable Omicron strain caused a number of churches to cancel in-person Christmas services and return to on-line only celebrations for Christmas.  Both the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and St. John the Divine in New York City were among the prominent churches returning to on-line only services.  Christianity Today noted that a number of the largest evangelical churches cancelled their in-person celebrations, and that a number of Manhattan churches had decided to celebrate Christmas on Sunday December 19 and skip special December 24 or 25 services.  Update has regularly covered changes in church services in response to the pandemic.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Week Ending 12/20/21

Chicago Diocese Disciplined Former Kansas Administrator

The Rev. Robert Smith remained canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago even though he was acting as the CEO of St. Francis Ministries, the largest single provider of foster care services in Kansas from 2014 to 2020.  He left St. Francis under a cloud because of questionable financial decisions he made.  Several were large payments for schemes to make money for St. Francis (such as scalping Cubs baseball tickets).  The Chicago diocese suspended him from ministry in August 2021 after an independent diocesan investigation suggested grave errors of judgement, and has required him as a condition of the lifting of his suspension  to take courses at Northwestern University on non-profit ethics and fiduciary responsibility.  The suspension was lifted when Chicago received confirmation that no further charges against Smith are pending in Kansas, by local officials or the F.B.I. 

Second Copy of Black Pieta Stolen

Kelly Latimore, an Episcopal iconographer, received a commission for an icon of a pieta (Mary cradling the body of the crucified Christ) from the Catholic University of America.  He created an image that showed both figures as people of color.  The painting was hung in the hall outside of the university law school chapel. What made the painting controversial was that Christ's face seemed to resemble George Floyd.  It was seen as an endorsement of Black Lives Matter by conservatives criticizing it.  The original was soon stolen, and the artist at the request of the university provided a smaller version as a replacement.  Now it has also gone missing.  In the controversy around the painting, Latimore received support from the Episcopal bishop of Missouri, Deon Johnson.  The university also has defended the image as a message against racism in world.  The Episcopal News Service article did not say what, if anything, will replace the second image.

Continuing Stories 

Albany Announces Assisting Bishop to Work with Bishop Smith

After Bishop Love of the Diocese of Albany was found guilty of violating his ordination oath by ignoring the canons and other actions by General Convention, he resigned and the Albany Standing Committee became the ecclesiastical authority.  Bishop Michael Smith (formerly of the diocesan Bishop of North Dakota) was named Assisting Bishop, a role he also holds in Dallas. The Standing Committee surprised everyone by announcing it would begin implementing the 2018 General Convention Resolution B012 to provide church marriages/and or blessings for same-sex couples. Now the Standing Committee has named Bishop Carol Gallagher to be the bishop providing pastoral services to the parishes wishing to implement B012.  Gallagher had served for several years as Assisting Bishop in North Dakota when Smith was the bishop, so the two are planning on working as a team to try to promote healing and unity in the diocese.  The announcement from the Albany Standing Committee is detailed and provides much more information on both bishops. 

Australian Church Regroups After Dismissal of Former Archbishop

Back in 2016 Update reported on the resignation of Australian Archbishop Roger Herft. Herft was facing an investigation on charges of ignoring reports of child abuse within the the Diocese of Newcastle.  In 2019, that review was still under way and the investigation had broadened to look at his handling of money.  The long process is finally over; Herft was found guilty of gross neglect and failure to investigate cases of possible child abuse, and removed from the church and stripped of all status as a member of the clergy.  Now the Australian Church is looking at ways to move forward and better respond to charges of abuse.

Soap Opera Continues in Oxford

The latest installment on the continuing saga of the battle between the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and the faculty of the college is a move for a medical review on the grounds that Dean Percy Martyn is "mad" and "unfit" and thus can be removed from his position. The motion was filed by a member of the faculty who has part of the group seeking to remove the Dean.  Thinking Anglicans has more on this chapter. Update reported recently that the college's efforts to remove the dean were so costly that they are resulting  in a possible review by the charities board which has the power to replace the entire college board.

Post Covid Attendance Struggles Affect Many Denominations

The on-line news service, Religion News, has a general article on the slow recovery of attendance at all sorts of houses of worship.  Among the parishes discussed is an Episcopal Parish in New York. The pandemic resulted in some regular church goers getting out of the habit, and either not returning or coming less often. Those attending on-line have become in many cases, observers rather than participants.  In addition, there are still a number of people hesitant to return to in-person services because of continuation of the pandemic.  Update has reported many times on the various ways covid-19 has affected worship, most recently here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Week ending 12/13/21

 Happy News to Brighten the Season

Trinity Episcopal Church in Covina, CA recently celebrated its 130th birthday.  What the local newspaper decided to highlight was not the typical anniversary story, although it covered the unique circumstances around the building of the parish's stone church.  What the paper highlighted was all the ways the parish gives back to the community through outreach, and its diversity.  The parish participates and supports many community events, is an integral part of the local food bank, Coalition for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity, and other outreach programs. 

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Hearing Brings Surprises

Update had carried notice of the South Carolina Supreme Court hearing of an appeal filed by the Diocese of South Carolina in the on-going property litigation.  The court had already ruled once, overturning a lower court decision and awarding most property to those who had stayed in the Episcopal Church.  Implementation, however was assigned to a district court judge, who proceeded to draw things out for several;years and then awarded the property, contrary to the Supreme Court opinion, to those who had left the Episcopal Church.  The Episcopal Diocese then appealed asking the Supreme Court to affirm its opinion.  The hearing, however brought a major surprise when the Chief Justice, who had provided one of the 3 opinions supporting ownership by the Episcopal Church, denied he had ever said that.  The hearing extended beyond its original time frame.  Now both the Episcopalians, and those who left have issued press releases in response to the hearing.  More insight, however is found in the December 8 commentary in the blog scepiscopalians.com

Ordination Revives Tension in Birmingham

The Cathedral in Birmingham, AL had been estranged from the bishop and rest of the dioceses for years, and came close to leaving The Episcopal Church for ACNA.  Update reported recently on the agreement worked out between the Cathedral and Bishop Glenda Curry that seemed to bring the estrangement to an end, while leaving both sides free to hold different views on matters such as ordination of LGBTQA people.  The diocese recently conducted the ordination of 4 clergy in a ceremony at the Cathedral with participation of the cathedral choir and staff.   However, on of those ordained was in a committed same-sex ordination, and a question was raised about whether the Cathedral had therefore endorsed such unions despite the stance of its vestry and clergy.  The diocese was surprised by the response, since the ordination and the backgrounds of the ordinands was publicized throughout the diocese, and it was a diocesan event, not a parish event.  However, the Cathedral's parish leadership was taken aback, and what both sides are calling a theological difference has led to tension resurfacing.

Sewanee Head to Leave 

Vice Chancellor Reuben E. Brigety II, who was the first African-American head of the University of the South in Sewanee has announced that he is leaving after only 18 months.  The university has been trying to emerge from a past tied to the myth of the old South and its white supremacy origins, however, Brigety and his family found they were subjects of vandalism and harassment on campus (see Update story here).  His stated reason is that President Biden is likely to appoint him to an ambassadorship and he did not want to disrupt the university more by leaving in the middle of a term.  However, it seems that not everyone in Sewanee was ready for a leader of color.   

Displaced Parish's New Location Blessed

St Mary's Hillsborough was one of the Episcopal Parishes that lost their building in the Fort Worth property case.  Update reported earlier that the parish had found a drive up bank building to convert.  This last week the bishop visited and blessed the building and its contents.  St. Mary's is the only displaced parish to have found a site that is not shared in some way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Week Ending 12/6/21

All stories are continuations of previous threads.

Faith Groups Ramp Up Climate Advocacy

Religion News had an article on the ways a wide variety of faith groups are ramping up their actions to encourage better stewardship of the earth and to  deal with the growing climate crisis.  An Episcopal priest who is head of a climate activist  organization is quoted in the article.  The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have been taking larger roles in climate activism as noted in a number of Update articles, the most recent of which is here.

Botswana Charts A Different Course

Recent attention to the severe legal restrictions on LGBTQA people in Ghana and other African nations, makes that much greater the contrast with the recent court decision in Botswana where the highest appeals court in Botswana has upheld a lower court decision striking down two laws criminalizing homosexual acts.   The courts declared that LGBTQA people have a right to privacy, equality, dignity, and liberty, and and that laws that made those who were convicted of same sex sexual acts liable to 7 years in prison were void. 

More Anglican Provinces Choose Women Bishops

Two weeks ago Update noted that the Anglican Church of Mexico had elected its first woman as a bishop.  Now Japan has joined the trend.  The election of the Rev. Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori as Bishop of Hokkaido in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai  makes her the first in Japan, and the second in Asia.  There also is a woman serving as a bishop  in South India. The two recent elections mean at least 13 of the 46 Anglican Provinces have chosen a woman as bishop.  Election of women as bishops has occurred frequently in the last several years in The Episcopal Church, and the Church of England has appointed a number of women to various sees, but the numbers in other parts of the world are now making the election more common throughout the Communion, and putting more pressure on the few holdout provinces where women are not serving as clergy.

Commentary Provides Background On Oxford Battle

For those who have been keeping track of the battle between Dean Martyn Percy and the faculty and board of Christ Church, Oxford (cathedral and college), update recently noted that there were signs the British Charitable Commission was not happy with efforts of the college to hold a third investigation of the Dean. A recent blog posting explains that the commission has a great deal of power if they find the college has been acting unfairly or wasting funds on continued pursuit of the Dean.  

Bishop Perry Responds to Michigan School Shooting

The recent school shooting in Michigan which resulted in 4 dead led Bishop Bonnie Perry of Michigan to issue a statement calling for time to grieve for those who died and were wounded and for their families and friends, and then to act on common sense gun regulation.  The whole statement is here. The Episcopal Church is on record supporting gun regulation and an end to gun violence, and many bishops are members of a group founded after an earlier school shooting, Bishops United against Gun Violence. Update has reported on the church's advocacy many times, most recently here.

More on Ministry to Refugees

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Newburyport, MA has been busy converting classroom and meeting space into temporary housing for Afghan refugees who are being resettled in the community.  The family of 13 arrived December 6, and  will stay until longer term housing is ready for them.  Getting beds, cribs, linens and other essentials to make them comfortable.  The Episcopal News Service article also recaps other parish and diocesan efforts to welcome refugees.  Update has covered these actions in earlier posts, such as this one.  Meanwhile the Episcopal Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe is also making waves.  The Convocation is part of The Episcopal Church and includes congregations in a number of European countries, with its cathedral in Paris.  Bishop Eddington has issued a statement calling on the French government to change its policies towards refugees after 27 refugees drowned while trying to cross the English Channel from France to England.  He put responsibility for the deaths on French authorities because of the inhospitable conditions imposed in refugee camps by the government .  Churches and non-profits, for example have restrictions on the amount of food they may provide the refugees. 

Oregon Food Ministry Defies City

At the beginning of November Update reported on an Oregon Episcopal Parish that was at odds with the local town council because people were complaining about the parish feeding the homeless four times a week.  The council did pass an ordinance restricting the parish to two feedings a week, but the parish has refused to cut down their efforts.  The Episcopal News Service reports that the diocese is backing the parish and its ministry and has offered to provide support for legal fees as the parish fights the ordinance.  All of this is happening at a time when Religion News reports a stepped up effort of faith-based groups to support food pantries and feeding the hungry. The article specifically mentions St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Woodstock, IL as the site of a regular food distribution to more that 160 families. Update has reported on similar parish efforts in the past.

Anglican Bishops Attend Search for Graves at Former School Site

Recent announcement of unmarked graves of many indigenous children who died while attending church boarding schools has led, in both Canada and the United States, to apologies by The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church who sponsored some of the schools.  It also led to the burning of several Canadian churches by angry members of the indigenous communities.  In Canada, two  Anglican bishops joined the search at a former school site in Saskatchewan for graves of children.  The school has been closed since 1947 when it burned down.  The site required a lot of clearing as part of the search.  The bishops met with local indigenous leaders and native people who are members of an Anglican congregation in the area.  Their presence was part of efforts of the Anglican Church to apologize and begin reconciliation.

Episcopal Sunday School Builds Tiny House

In 2019 Update reported on the efforts of the Sunday School  of St. Augustine  of Canterbury in Benton Harbor to raise the money for a tiny house to help the homeless.  The Sunday School was able to get a gift of land from Harbor Habitat for Humanity and with help from Andrews University.  They continued their own fundraising and now are about to bless the finished house with a 640 sq. foot main floor and a loft.  It will be turned over to Harbor Habitat to administer.  


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Week Ending 11/29/21

Church Leaders React to Guilty Verdicts in Georgia Trial

The jury of mostly whites who convicted three white men of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, who made the mistake of running through a white neighborhood provided a stark contrast to the jury last week that acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse.  Episcopal leaders offered responses to the guilty verdict, noting that it was a small step in the right direction to create a more racially just society.  The bishops of the two Episcopal Dioceses in Georgia and the Evangelical Lutheran bishop for the area issued a joint statement.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry also issued a statement here.

General Seminary to Start Hybrid Program in Fall 2022

The Board of General Seminary, the oldest of the seminaries serving the Episcopal Church and the only one with a board elected by General Convention, has issued a directive to the seminary to study and develop a hybrid track doe the M.Div., the degree leading to ordination.  A hybrid track includes courses on-line, and in other distributive models as well as some time on campus.  The goal is to reach potential students whose lives would make it unlikely that they could uproot from work and family to study for three years in a traditional seminary program.  The seminary has never fully recovered from a controversy that saw almost its whole faculty be fired or leave. The dean that was the center of the controversy retired last year.  Although the Anglican.ink story treats possibility of a hybrid track as path-breaking, Bexley-Seabury Seminary already has such a program.

Primates' Meeting Puts Climate Issues at Forefront

The Primates (leaders) of the various Anglican Communion provinces met virtually for several days last week.  While for a number of years, issues around  the efforts of various provinces, including The Episcopal Church, to be more inclusive of the LGBTQA population were the focus of these meetings, this meeting raised concerns that affected all of the provinces, especially global warming and the ongoing pandemic.  The Primates issued a communique for which a link was included in  The Living Church story on the meeting.  Climate issues have become a main focus of the Anglican Communion with their participation in the recent UN meeting on the climate crisis in Edinburgh.  Update carried stories on that meeting and the  role of Episcopalians at the meeting

Continuing Stories

More on the Property Handover in Texas

The scorched earth approach of the schismatics, who have been awarded the property of the Episcopal diocese in Fort Worth  was the subject of some additional news this week.  The six parishes who lost their buildings as a result of the Texas Supreme Court decision have not handed over all of the things they owned as of 2009 quickly enough to suit the ACNA diocese. All Saints Parish Corporation, declared bankruptcy to protect properties owned by the corporation and not the parish.  The Episcopal Cafe, posted this exchange of emails between the legal counsels of the two sides, which shows the level of animosity.  More interesting, however, might be the story by the public news station in North Texas, KERA.  Their story gives information on what has happened to the buildings turned over to the ANCA diocese.  Two have already been sold, and not to the parishes who had to give them up.  Update's most recent stories on the bankruptcy, parish status, and the property handover are here, here, and here, respectively. 

Oxford Dean Saga Continues

The saga of the battle between the Christ Church Dean (of both college and cathedral) and the college faculty continues.  Despite reviews by outside independent panels, the college seems intent on going ahead with a disciplinary tribunal.  Now the college board is being challenged to both itemize and justify its expenses in the legal battle.  Thinking Anglicans has more on this latest development.  Update's most recent previous post on these battles is here.

Church Continues Navajo Food Program

The Navajo nation has been hit hard by Covid-19.  Many people in Navajoland were already below the poverty level, and covid has depressed many of the sources of income for people.  The Episcopal Church has a mission diocese that encompasses most of the areas where Navajo live, and in 2020 when covid-19 hit, the Church began a food mission feeding more than 100 families.  The ministry continued throughout 2020, and with help from donors, Episcopal parishes, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints, the ministry has continued, providing 300 families with food (including Thanksgiving dinner) for a month.  Another distribution of food, managed by the Episcopal parishes in Navajoland, will provide a second month of food in time for Christmas.  The Church hopes to be able to finance monthly food distributions throughout the winter months of 2022 as well.  The Episcopal News Service has more details here.

Watch the Arguments on the South Carolina Property Appeal 

The hearing at the South Carolina Supreme Court on the appeal filed by the Episcopal Diocese of 
South Carolina will have oral arguments on December 8th at 9:30 E.S.T. Because of covid restrictions, only the two lawyers  for each side and the court judges and officials will be in the courtroom.  However, South Carolina provides a live stream for anyone interested.  That stream is here.