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 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.



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Week Ending 7/25/22

 Both stories are continuing from previous weeks.

South Carolina Diocese Moves Ahead

Several weeks ago Update gave notice that the first transition of an ACNA property being returned to the Episcopal Diocese would take place in July.  That first service led by Canon Walpole was a joyous occasion with a full church.  there was also a small service in a chapel that was part of the parish properties.  Now a second property, Christ Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant,  will transition in August and Bishop Ruth Woodliff Stanley has announced that the priest assigned to that property, is the Rev. Furman Buchannan, who is coming from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  Blogger Steve Skardon, Jr. has comments on the whole process now underway in his July 18 post.  Skardon is still unhappy with the South Carolina Supreme Court for backing off its first decision which gave more of the properties to the Episcopalians. 

Sexual and Anglican Politics Roil Lambeth Waters

The last minute publication of a study booklet with a list of "Calls" and an explanation of how voting would occur has had the effect of the proverbial excrement hitting the fan, and the posting of a lot of statements by Bishops on their way to Lambeth, and others in the Anglican Communion.  Update noted last week that the "Call" on human dignity has slipped in an endorsement of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 which denounced same sex marriage.  Bishops were going to be given only two options in voting: 1) to agree with the call and pledge to implement it, or 2) to say that they would commit to further study.  Bishops from The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Wales have all protested, as did some leaders in England.  The most vehement protest came from the Canadian bishop, Kevin Robertson, himself in a same sex marriage, and a member of the drafting committee for the human dignity "Call."  He protested that at no time did the drafting committee discuss or include anything about Lambeth 1.10.  That was inserted AFTER the committee had submitted its work. The protests from bishops used phrases such as "blind-sided," and "bait and switch," to describe what they saw as major changes in the way Lambeth was to function. The TEC bishops will meet on Wednesday to come to a coordinated response to this call.  The LGBTQ+ caucus of General Convention has compiled a web site with links to all of the statements here.  The fuss has been great enough that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the committee chair have already announced a change in voting responses to include a third option, rejecting the call.  There are promises of further rewriting.  Most of those protesting are also sorry that this  furor will take away from the other areas for discussion, many of which focus on the environment, climate, change, poverty, and racism.  If you are fuzzy about what happened in 1998 at Lambeth, Anglicans On Line has provided a summary of its reporting of  on the human sexuality discussion and resolution and the Episcopal News Service has a piece with background focused on more recent events. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Week Ending 07/18/22

Interviews with the New President and Vice President of the House of Deputies

The election of new officers for the House of Deputies resulted in several firsts.  It is the first time that both President and Vice President of the House would be women of color. It is the first time that both offices are occupied simultaneously by women.  It also was the first time that an ordained woman would serve as Vice President.  For those of you interested in learning more about the two women who will lead the House through the next General Convention, There is a You-Tube interview here, and a print interview with the new President Julia Ayala Harris here

Next Up the Deferred Lambeth Conference

The Bishops who attended General Convention, have barely got a chance to breathe before heading to England for the long-delayed Lambeth Conference of Bishops.  After some controversy, the same-sex spouses of several bishops will be allowed to attend worship and meals, but not the other events planned for spouses.  In order to try to make clear that Lambeth does not legislate, there are no resolutions planned for the Conference, but there are "Calls" that the bishops will discuss and vote on.  Buried in the "Call" on Human Dignity is a series of affirmations that deny same-sex marriage and recommit to statements made at the 1998 Lambeth  Meeting that the more inclusive parts of the Anglican Communion opposed then and have grown further away from in the 24 years since then. For an article on the upcoming Lambeth meeting see The Living Church here. Many of the other Calls deal with subjects of interest to progressives, including climate change, human trafficking, sexism and racism.

Continuing Stories

Methodist Split Goes to Court

Hopes for a more civil disengagement between "traditionalists" and more inclusive Methodist parishes in the United Methodist Church have been badly damaged by a law suit filed in Florida by 106 Methodist congregations that are challenging the terms of the withdrawal agreement that allowed them to keep their property but required them to meet certain financial obligations, including pension obligations, and assessments.  The churches claim that their property is being held hostage. Religion News has the story. Update has reported on the slow break up of the United Methodists a number of times, most recently here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Week Ending 07/13/22

General Convention Addresses Major Issues

Liturgy, Prayer Book, Racism, Governance all were major issues addressed by the shortened General Convention in Baltimore.  In addition, despite continuing technology problems that slowed almost every electronic vote, the House of Deputies managed to elect a new President and Vice President in landmark fashion.  The Convention began the process of amending the constitution and canons to give a variety of liturgical texts "prayer book" authority.  They also revised the canons so that Executive Council would bring the budget to Convention without it passing through a convention committee.  There would still be budget hearings, but they would be done by the Executive Council's Finance Committee.  Another "streamlining" attempt which would have put the Church Archives under the direct control of the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies was put on hold by the bishops who deferred it for discussion at the next General Convention.  A resolution requiring the establishment of an LGBTQA+ and woman's desk position as part of the National Church also passed.  The Beloved Community was funded for another triennium, and a new initiative begun to put major effort into researching the church's involvement in the boarding schools that did so much cultural damage while traumatizing their students.  (See notice below under Continuing Stories.) Voting for a new President of the House of Deputies took three ballots, but the eventual winner led on each ballot.  The Latina lay candidate from Oklahoma, Julia Ayala Harris will be the first woman of color to head the House.  The Vice President of the House is the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton a mixed race member of the Shakan tribe. She is the first woman priest and first indigenous person to hold that office.  You can get good summaries of the day's activities from The Episcopal Cafe section of the Episcopal Journal.  Here are summaries for day 1, day 2, day 3 part 1, day 3 part 2, and day 4.

Church of England Continues to Struggle with "Safe Church" Strategy

How to investigate charges against Church of England clergy or other officials who have violated trust through sexual impropriety has been an ongoing issue in the Church of England.  they have tried various investigative boards, and most recently set up a commission that was to come in with a safe church program and process for investigation.  The Church of England Synod which met almost simultaneously with the Episcopal Church's General Convention, discussed a presentation by that Commission.  However, the Commission has already set itself up as an independent board, a move that has been questioned as a step beyond any authorization.  It is safe to say that the matter has not yet been settled. 

Continuing Stories

Church to Engage in Major Fact Finding on Indigenous Schools

The Episcopal Church has now committed a major block of funds to organizing a systematic and wide-reaching search of church, diocesan, parish, and local archives to uncover the truth about the Church's participation in the system of indigenous boarding schools that were designed to replace indigenous culture, language and customs with that of the prevailing white culture.  The system separated young children from their families and treated them in ways that traumatized many.  Members of a variety of indigenous groups were among the deputies at General Convention, and they provided most of the testimony on this resolution.  Update had carried an earlier story on this proposal as a part of the attention to indigenous peoples who are members of the church.

Reunion Approved for Two Texas Dioceses

General Convention made the reunion of the Diocese of Texas and the Episcopal Church in Northern Texas official by approving the proposal already passed by both group's governing conventions. After the resolution passed the House of Deputies, the deputations from both groups were invited to the front of the house for recognition.   Update had reported on the reunion proposal and votes by both diocesan conventions.

Greater Voice for Communion Approved in Choice of Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby raised a question earlier this year about whether the Anglican Communion as a whole ought to have a little say in the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The problem is that the Archbishop has a dual set of duties, one as the leader of a large body of dioceses and parishes that are part of the Church of England, and a second symbolic role as one of the "instruments of communion" for the Anglican Communion.  The Synod has approved a change in the distribution of members on the committee that recommends to the crown the next Archbishop.  The see of Canterbury has relinquished some seats so that there can be 5 representatives from the larger Communion.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Week Ending 07/04/22

 Baptism Without Communion Dead in the Water

A controversial proposal that was much discussed, pro and con, by Episcopalians has been dropped from the agenda for the shortened and expedited General Convention beginning on Friday.  The measure would have eliminated the canon that makes baptism a requirement for receiving communion.  Some churches ignore the cannon and invite all present to partake in the "Lord's Supper."  Other congregations issue an invitation that welcomes those who are baptized to receive communion if they so desire and all to come forward for either the sacrament or a blessing. There has been pressure to drop the canon from some progressives for a number of years.  Other wish the canon to remain because of their interpretation of sacramental theology.  The proposal for the change could be filed again for the 2024 General Convention. 

Continuing Themes

Parish Responds to Abortion Decision

The Episcopal Church's response to the decision striking down Roe v. Wade has led to a number of statements on the Church's response, which is a nuanced version sully supporting choice and women's rights without denying the serious issues around the beginnings of life.  The church believes that government should not be legislating on this topic.  St. Stephen's, Charleston, SC has gone an extra step by inviting the community to a service of Lament and Healing with this description: "an open space for all to come together in the presence of God, in this time of grief, fear, confusion, hurt and lament."

Christ Church, Oxford Reviews Continue

Even with the departure of the controversial dean of Christ church, Oxford, people cannot seem to stop fighting. There are now two ongoing reviews of the college stemming from the controversy.   During the controversy, the Dean was accused of not appropriately dealing with some sexual harassment issues, but a review by a Church of England official appointed to investigate such issues, found that the matters did not rise to a level of substance.  Now the church of England's Independent Safeguarding Board is going to review the earlier review.  Meanwhile, the College is going ahead with an independent governance review and announced the name of the person who will head that.  The governance review is intended to provide guidance on reform of the college governance.

Bishops Issue Statement on Controversial Bishop of Aberdeen

Things have not gone smoothly for  Bishop Anne Dyer, the first woman to serve as a bishop in the Episcopal Church of Scotland.  Some parishes were unhappy with her election, as she was perceived as too liberal, but the real issue seems to be her leadership style.  Update carried an earlier notice that documented the decision of the House of Bishops of the Scottish Church to set up mediation between the Bishop and her diocese after complaints of bullying emerged. The new statement was issued because the bishops are more than a little peeved that while the mediation process is underway, some in her diocese have sent a list of charges to the secular Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, and have been leaking materials to the press.  The statement reminds people that discipline of clergy is a church, not secular matter.  It also stresses that they have special pastoral opportunities for those who feel they have been harmed by Dyer's actions.

Bangladesh Resumes Ordaining Women

Although the governing documents of the Anglican Church of Bangladesh permit women to be ordained as deacons, there have been no ordinations for fifteen years.  Now, with a change in moderator (their term for the primate), the province has again seen women ordained as deacons.  The hiatus illustrates how easily access for women to the offices of the church  can be reversed.  Update has covered questions of women's ordination in previous posts, including other provinces refusing to ordain women as deacons or priest, although most recently the focus has been on women becoming bishops

More On the Methodist Split

Update has carried numerous postings on the slowly occurring division of the United Methodist Church over LGBTQ+ inclusion. The pandemic led the Methodists to postpone their church-wide synod several times. The postponed synod was to vote on a compromise plan for parishes unhappy with inclusion to leave with property.  Conservatives got tired of waiting and Update has posted about the formation of a new conservative body and parish leavings.  The Episcopal News Service has an article exploring the whole situation, especially since the Methodists and Episcopalians are in conversation about full communion, votes on which  have also been deferred due to the pandemic. 

Both Sides File Papers in South Carolina Property Case

Both the Episcopalians and the seven parishes with remaining unsettled legal issues on parish property in South Carolina have filed their responses with the South Carolina Supreme Court.  The state Supreme Court had ruled that the seven had acceded to the Dennis Canon and thus belonged to the Episcopalians, but the court asked for additional material from both sides when the seven asked for a rehearing.  The Episcopalians filed their response on June 20, and the parishes participating in ACNA filed theirs on the 27th.  All the filings can be retried and read on the state Supreme Court site here.