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, June 21, 2022

Week Ending 06/20/22

All Stories are continuing previous threads . . .

Shooting at an Alabama Episcopal Parish

For more than 40 years, the Episcopal Church has been on record as supporting  gun control and working to end gun violence, but up until last week the epidemic of mass shootings at churches and other community sites had not directly involved an Episcopal parish. On June 16, the 7th anniversary of the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston  however, a man attending St. Stephen's  Episcopal Church's "Boomers Potluck" on June 16, opened fire on people who had invited him a few minutes before to sit with them, and offered him food and drink.  One person died at the scene, two more died at the hospital.  The shooter was subdued by another attendee who hit the shooter with a chair, wrestled the gun away from him and sat on him until others could help restrain him. The shooter had attended a few of St. Stephen's services, but was not a member, and was unknown to others at the dinner.  St. Stephen's, Vestavia Hills, is a large parish located in the suburbs of Birmingham. The current Alabama bishop had been a member of the parish before being ordained.  Its rector had to rush back from a pilgrimage he was on in Athens, Greece.  Presiding Bishop Curry asked all parishes to pray for the congregation last Sunday and for all to actively work to end the gun violence. A number of religious p publications and national news stations carried the story, including the Episcopal News Service, Anglican.ink, Christian TodayReligion News, and the Associated Press.  Update has regularly carried notices of the efforts of the Episcopal Church to end gun violence, the most recent is here

Massachusetts Diocese Expands Innovative Housing Program

 The Diocese of Massachusetts is expanding an innovative housing program that provides housing for those interested in a community living arrangement. It is an attempt to provide housing affordable housing with a spiritual and community twist.  Each of the first three sites was paired with an Episcopal Parish that provided some personal support.  The latest addition, however is being done through a partnership with New Roots African Methodist Episcopal Church.   Update has carried notices of a number of innovative housing projects being sponsored by Episcopal parishes and dioceses.  The most recent previous notice is here.

Diocese Sponsors Resolution to Revise Disciplinary Canons

Bishop Whayne Houghland was bishop of the Diocese of Western Michigan, and provisional bishop of Eastern Michigan when he was suspended for a year for committing adultery.  The two dioceses were very frustrated by the lack of communication, and focus of the Office of Pastoral Development on "healing" and "reconciliation" for the bishop with little attention to the trauma that the two dioceses were experiences, and the financial hardship created by a financial package for the suspended bishop that was done with little consultation or input from the two dioceses and left the dioceses with few resources and little help to arrange for a part-time provisional bishop.  As a result, the dioceses have sponsored a resolution to General Convention asking for a study to improve the processes.  The Living Church has a more complete story, and links to the general convention resolution.  The resolution has two tabs, one for the rationale, and one for the motion itself. 

Vote on Merger of Two Texas Dioceses Going to General Convention

The vote was unanimously in favor of merging with the Diocese of Texas at the special convention of the Episcopal Church in North Texas.  The Diocese of Texas was the mother diocese for all of the Texas dioceses, and both Texas and the  the North Texas diocese have now voted very enthusiastically to reunite.  The Episcopal Church in North Texas is the name that Episcopalians adopted when the Texas Supreme Court awarded their diocesan name to the schismatic group that is now part of ACNA.   Of the neighboring Episcopal dioceses, (Dallas, Texas, West Texas, and Northwest Texas) the Diocese of Texas was the most compatible, and had the resources necessary to help the faithful congregations left in what had formerly been the Diocese of Fort Worth.  The proposed merger now goes to General Convention for final approval.  Update reported on the positive vote by the Diocese of Texas last week. North Texas is the second of the 5 dioceses (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, and South Carolina) to decide on merging rather than continuing independently.  Quincy was the smallest diocese in The Episcopal Church before the schism and merged after five years with the Diocese of Chicago.  The others have all elected diocesan bishops and are successfully operating as dioceses.

Church of England Continues Opposition to Shipping Refugees to Rwanda

Update carried notice of the Archbishop of Canterbury's criticism when the British government announced it had struck a deal with Rwanda to take the refugees who had reached Britain by crossing the English Channel without proper clearances.  Last week the government was stopped at the very last minute from sending its first plane load of refugees to Rwanda.  The Church leadership has issued further statements apposing the government's actions.  You can find them here.

More on the Florida Bishop Election Controversy

The election of conservative Charles Holt as the Bishop of Florida brought some immediate voices of concern from those who knew his earlier connections to the American Anglican Council, comments he made on racial issues, and his theological positions on LGBTQA participation in the Church and same-sex marriage.  Those voices were then joined by a formal challenge to the election procedure based on a last minute switch to a hybrid convention allowing clergy, but not laity, to attend virtually.  Update reported last week that the challenge has been sent to the appropriate committee for review.  This week, the Diocese and the bishop-elect have issued a statement addressing those concerns.  The Episcopal News Service has an article with links to the full statement here

First-Hand Account of Conditions in the Ukraine

There is one Diocese of Europe (Church of England) parish in Kyiv, Ukraine.  The Anglican Journal, the monthly news source from the Anglican Church of Canada, has a long post detailing in a calendar/diary form the experiences of one of the members of the parish, who left Kyiv as a refugee and has returned, and the traumatic experiences and hardships that face that entire country.  You can find the account, here.  Update has periodically posted notes on events from a church perspective dealing with the Ukraine.  The most recent is here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Week Ending 6/13/22

 All articles are continuing previous threads.

 Court Issues Additional Orders in South Carolina

In response to documents filed by both the Episcopal Diocese and the ACNA diocese, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued two additional orders last week.   The first dismissed the request for reconsideration for Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant stating that the parish had clearly acceded to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the property belonged to the Episcopal Diocese.  It also dismissed some of the claims made by 3 of the remaining 7 parishes who had asked for reconsideration.  It then asked the Episcopal Diocese and the Episcopal Church to respond to the issues raised by the remaining seven, concerning whether they had acceded to the Dennis Canon.  Responses are due by June 20.  A second order granted the Episcopal Diocese a partial remittitur which finalized the their decision that the diocesan property and the parish property of the 7 parishes (including Christ Church) are the property of the Episcopal Diocese.  The notice on the ACNA Diocese focused on the request for a response from Episcopalians on the ACNA parish appeals.  The scepiscopalians.com blog entry for June 8, 2022 has interesting commentary on the latest development, although it is wrong in saying that ACNA is governed by 6 African Archbishops. 

One Step Closer to Merger of Texas Dioceses

The Diocese of Texas has voted approval of a merger with the Episcopal Church in North Texas (the group of faithful Episcopalians from the Fort Worth Diocese who remained in the Episcopal Church.  The vote was 526 to 14.  The proposal to merge was announced publicly in  April. In May,the bishops of both groups issued a call for June special conventions. The Diocese of Texas has the largest membership of any of the Texas dioceses.  The Episcopal Church in North Texas is the smallest. Its special convention is set for June 18.  The object of both dioceses was to be able to present their request for merger to General Convention when it meets in July.

Parish Organizes Response to Mass Shootings

The Episcopal Church has been very active in its opposition to gun violence and advocacy of reasonable gun control.  Individual parishes have made their own responses to the recent shootings.  One of these is St. James Episcopal Church in Montclair, New Jersey.  Those who were shocked by the shootings in Buffalo, Laguna Woods, and Uvalde gathered on the church lawn for a time of remembrance and calls for action.  Those speaking ranged from local high school students, to family members and survivors of gun violence to  local officials.  A display of t-shirts hung over crosses with names of recent victims sat on part of the church lawn along side the gathering. The local on-line newspaper gave the event extensive coverage with a number of photographs.

Jesus College Relieved of Paying Court Fees

Update carried a recent story about the unsuccessful attempt of Jesus College, Cambridge, to move a memorial to one of its benefactors from the chapel to a less prominent place on campus.  The College wanted to move the memorial because of the benefactor's ties to the slave trade.  The issue was settled in court, and those who had opposed removing the memorial then filed to have their considerable court costs paid by the college.  The court, however, has denied that request.  Thinking Anglicans has full coverage of the decision here

AAC Continues to Stir Up Dead Issues

The American Anglican Council, which was one of the instigators of the actions leading to schism in 5 dioceses and withdrawal of a number of scattered congregations (or parts of congregations) has filed an open letter addressed to General Convention asking for the same things that its open letter to the House of Bishops in April.  Its major request is to reinstate all the clergy who were released from the Episcopal Church after they voluntarily left the church.  As Update noted in the early posting, the open letter misstates the conditions of the releases, and gives no indication that the majority of these clergy actually want to be in the Episcopal Church. 

Canada Starts Process to Find New Indigenous Archbishop

Following a complaint of sexual misconduct, Archbishop Mark MacDonald resigned his position as the leader of the Anglican Church of Canada's Indigenous Community  MacDonald had been the guiding force in the conversations that led to the creation of the Sacred Circle,  the new church-within-a-church for Indigenous People.  The Anglican Council of Indigenous People (ACIP) has now announced formation of a search committee to fill the vacancy.  The search may not be limited to those who are already bishops.  Should the search committee decide to open the field to candidates who are priests, an election process would have to be approved by the ACIP and Sacred Circle. The ACIP  provides the interface between the Sacred Circle and the rest of the Canadian church.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Week Ending 6-6-22

 St. Augustine University Plans HBCU Urban Access Hub

The Episcopal affiliated St. Augustine University in Raleigh, NC was long a pioneer in education for African Americans.  Its president has announced a new initiative which is designed to bring the its education to urban youth in cities not served by a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). The University has identified urban areas as a place where black youth are attending college at a lower rate than other youth. Its first hub will be in the Detroit area and involves arrangements with two area community colleges. The urban access program will help black youth attending local community colleges to seamlessly transition to St. Augustine's complete their baccalaureate. This is part of a large HBCU Urban Access Hub proposal. 

Chicago Abuse Law Suit Settlement  Involves Bishop Knudsen

Retired Bishop Chilton Knudsen, who has been serving in Chicago while the bishop-elect, Paula Clark recovered from a stroke, has found herself under scrutiny for actions taken over three decades ago when she was on the staff of Chicago's then-bishop, Frank Griswold.  The Diocese has just made a $750,000 settlement in a case of sexual abuse committed by a priest in the diocese on a minor boy.  Knudsen met with the victim in 1990 but delayed several weeks in reporting the matter to the police. At that point clergy were not required by state law to report such offenses.  In the time before Bishop Griswold could get the priest into a treatment program, the priest molested another boy.  The police only became active when a parent reported the abuse.

Continuing Stories

Presiding Bishop Sends Objection of Election to Review Committee

Update reported last week that a formal objection had been filed to the election process used in the recent Diocese of Florida election for a coadjutor bishop.  The Presiding Bishop's office has announced that the objection will be sent to a review committee on July 1.  The timing was picked because of the press of business during June as members of the review committee prepare for General Convention.  This timing also required a later date be set for consecration of Charles Holt as bishop, assuming the election is eventually ruled valid. 

TEC Participates in Successful Stockholder Action Against Gun Maker

The Episcopal Church has made its support of gun control and concern about gun violence clear in a number of ways.  The most recent action was to support a successful stockholders' resolution that will require the Connecticut firearms maker Sturm Ruger & Company to create a report assessing how its product impacts human rights.  The resolution declared that a 2019 report on company gun safety measures ""failed to put forward meaningful solutions to address gun violence,"  thus requiring further study.  The vote was taken just days after the school shooting in Uvalde. The Episcopal Church invested in the gun company as part of a strategy approved in 2018 to use stockholding as a means of leveraging greater responsibility from gun manufacturers. 

Dis-invite of Same-Sex Spouses to Lambeth Back in News

When in 2019 the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that same-sex spouses of bishops were not being included in the spousal invitation to Lambeth, he aroused some criticism.  It was defended as necessary to get bishops opposed to same-sex marriage to come.  The exclusion of those spouses is back in the news with comments of regret from the leader of the Canadian Church's bishops and the announcement that Bishop Singh of Rochester will not attend because of the exclusion. The Canadian Archbishop, Linda Nickells heads a church with one bishop with a same-sex spouse.  Singh is staying home in support of LGBTQA bishops.  Nicholls thins several Canadian bishops may make the same decision as Singh.   The heads of 3 African countries are boycotting for the opposite reason - i.e. that Anglican Communion provinces who are inclusive of LGBTQA people were invited and are coming. 

More on the Methodist Split

Update has carried several pieces (most recent is here) on the decision of those opposed to LBGTQA inclusion in the United Methodist Church to set up a new conservative body.  Individual congregations are now making decisions about joining that body.  The Christian Post reports that 70 congregations representing about 9% of the congregations in the North Georgia Conference have decided to join the conservative body. They represent about 3% of the Conference's members.  In Arkansas 35 congregation and about 100 in Florida are also pursuing a discernment process that my result in their leaving.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Week Ending 5/30/22


All Posts are Updates on Continuing Stories

Diocese of Maryland Awards First Reparations

The Diocese of Maryland, which was one of the leaders in a movement to provide reparations to the African American Community for the church's participation in slavery and racism, has made its first set of reparation grants. Five grants of $30,000, and one of $25,000 went to Maryland organizations with goals ranging from helping black former prisoners find jobs, to raising self esteem and educational levels of black youths. While Maryland  led  reparation discussions, other Episcopal groups have also begun reparation grants.  Update has noted grants made by a Baltimore parish, the Virginia Theological Seminary, and the votes by the Dioceses of Virginia, New York, and Long Island to create reparation funds

The Road to Property Return in South Carolina

Update carried notice of the beginning of talks between the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the ACNA Diocese about the process for return of property currently in the hands of the ACNA group, but which the South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered to be returned to the Episcopalians.  The Episcopal News Service has an article with background information, and as usual the scepiscopalians.com blog has used its May 26 post to allay concerns and clear up misconceptions about the process.

Another Round in the Never-Ending Oxford Saga

Last week, Update carried notice of the Christ Church, Oxford Dean's use of a farewell sermon to make very pointed criticisms on his long ordeal and church and college missteps in the handling of the controversy.  Not to be outdone, the college has now released its own statement, a defensive rehashing of the controversy.  Thinking Anglicans has a summary of the statement and a link to the full release. The comments (mostly critical of the college's version) on the thinkinganglicans.org site are also worth reviewing.

Objections Raised to Florida Election of Bishop

Charles Holt's election as bishop of the Diocese of Florida is proving quite controversial.  Update noted that the election of conservative Holt had almost immediately raised objections and concerns from the LGBTQ community and its supporter.  Now a formal complaint based on the process used for the election has been filed.  At the heart of the complaint is an argument that the Diocese changed the rules at the last minute to allow clergy (but not laity) to participate in the election on Zoom.  The original deadline for convention registration had resulted in too few clergy registrations to meet quorum requirements.  As a result what had been announced as an in-person convention was switched just days before the election to a hybrid with an electronic option for clergy.  The official complaint now goes to the Presiding Bishop's office for transmission to the church's Court of Review. Both the Living Church and Anglican.ink have stories on the latest objection. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Week Ending 5/23/22

 I apologize for the silence of the last several weeks.  I was traveling and all attempts to reach the blog site to post were blocked by the internet providers.  What follows is a long post with notices from What would have been the posts for weeks ending  May 9 and May 16 as well as May 23.

Episcopal Church Leaders Affirm Commitment to Right to Choose

Following the leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that signals a major overturn of Roe v. Wade and abortion rights, the President of the House of Deputies and Office of Government Relations issued a statement reiterating The Episcopal Church's support of the right of a woman to make all decisions related to her health care with, including an abortion.   The church's position has always recognized the sacredness of life, but stresses that includes women's lives, and while not supporting abortion as a mere convenience, sees the right to make decisions about reproductive health as essential to affirming the value of women.   The full statement is here.

Short, Smaller General Convention May Discuss Resolution on Open Communion

In response to the recent surge in covid-19 infections, including those tied to  Episcopal Church meetings, including this one, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, asked for a small planning commission to propose a way to limit possible infection and shorten the length of the upcoming General Convention.  The result is a 4 day convention with all ancillary group meetings eliminated,  limited in attendance to active bishops, deputies and first alternates, and dealing with only crucial legislation and elections.  One of the major proposals slated to be discussed at convention was a resolution which would open communion to the unbaptized.  The convention agenda has not yet been formalized to with enough detail to know if this controversial proposal will be discussed and voted on or not.

Sri Lankan Bishops Urge Government to Address Economic Issues

Sri Lanka has been hit by a rampant inflation and other economic woes that have left many in that country desperate, leading to violent protests.  The Bishops of the Church of Ceylon (the Anglican Communion province for Sri Lanka) have issued an open statement calling on the government to address the economic crisis before a "catastrophe" occurs,  and "listen to the cries of the people."  Rather than focus on suppressing demonstrations, the government needs to create and publicize short and long term plans to address the crisis. 

No Surprise -Trinity School For Ministry Picks ACNA Priest as Head

Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA has announced the choice of a new Dean and President of the seminary.   The Rev. Canon Dr. Bryan C. Hollon  will take the reins from the Rev. Dr. Laurie Thomson.  A well-published scholar, Hollon is currently a professor  of theology at Malone University, a small liberal arts college with about 800 undergraduates and 300 graduate students.  The college has its roots as a Bible College, but now offers a wide range of majors.  Hollon is one of two faculty members in the Department of Bible, Theology, and Ministry and serves as the director of the University's Center for Christian Faith and Culture.  His Ph.D. is from Baylor University in Texas, and his M.Div from Fuller Theological Seminary in California, and was ordained a priest in ACNA in 2015.
Trinity is confirming its position as an ACNA institution with this hire, and it remains a mystery why the Episcopal Church still lists it as one of its seminaries.

Continuing Themes

South Carolinians Begin Implementing Court Ruling

The fallout from the South Carolina Supreme Court Opinion giving all the diocesan property and 14 of the parishes currently participating in the ACNA diocese to the Episcopal diocese is still in its early stages. The ACNA Standing Committee has issued a statement saying that the diocese is not pursuing further legal hearings.  Eight individual parishes, have, however, asked for a rehearing of their cases Steve Skardon, Jr. who has had a blog focused on the SC Episcopal Church situation since 2004 has a May 4 essay that documents the initial reactions of the two groups, and provides commentary showing that the ACNA Diocese did not have the best interests of its parishes  in mind throughout the litigation.  Bishop Ruth Woodliff-Stanley of the Episcopal Diocese has noted that the talks about implementation have moved from an initial meeting between the two bishops to a larger group including others from the two dioceses in order to begin discussion of the handover of the property.

Australian Synod Divided on Same Sex Marriage

The Australian Anglican Church Synod met May 8-13, with one of its majors issues a response to a desire of several dioceses to bless same sex marriages, and a ruling by the church court that nothing stood legally in the way of doing this.  Two resolutions were presented to the synod, one supporting same sex blessing and one insisting that marriage  was between one man and one woman.  Neither resolution passed both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, leaving the province in a standoff. A majority of Bishops supported the same sex marriage resolution, and a majority of the Deputies supported the one man, one woman resolution.  In civil law, same sex marriage is legal in Australia. As a result, GAFCON, which had organized an alternative "diocese" in July 2021, has issued a statement of shock, and will probably move forward inviting parishes to affiliate with its alternative as they did in New Zealand

Pandemic Forces Changes in Homeless Ministries

Before the pandemic, a number of Episcopal parishes participated in rotational shelters for the homeless where several local churches each took a turn at providing a week of housing in their building.  When the pandemic struck and church buildings closed, so did the rotational shelter.  In a number of places those working with the homeless then scrambled to find alternative housing.  Some rented a fixed space (such as a motel or former school).  These proved to give the homeless greater stability and has resulted in a change in how the parishes participate in helping the homeless, with no intention to return to a rotation.  Christianity Today has an article on the change.  Update has had a series of articles on ministries to the homeless before and during the pandemic.  The most recent is here.

United Methodists Begin Dividing

Because the United Methodist Church has been in conversations about full communion with The Episcopal Church, and both churches were planning on bringing a proposal to their general governance, Update has been following the debate and divisions within the Methodists over the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in all aspects of the Methodist Church life.  Update recently carried a notice of the body conservatives have created for congregations withdrawing from the United Methodists.  Christianity Today had an article detailing more about the new group and how congregations may join it.  This leaves the United Methodist body to pursue greater inclusion, which would put it more in line with The Episcopal Church positions. 

Lawsuit Filed in ACNA Abuse Mess

Update has been following the growing problems ACNA is facing in the Midwest due to the cover-up of a prominent lay church worker at one of the diocese's largest parishes.  The fall-out caused the resignation of several bishops (including the Pittsburgh one), two different organized groups of survivors, and two different investigations. Now, the family of a child abused by the worker has filed a civil lawsuit for damages, naming parishes, dioceses, and the whole of ACNA as complicit in the abuse.  The family hopes it will lead to others who were abused stepping forward.


Episcopal Elections Reinforce Diversity of the Church

Recent news about bishop elections in three dioceses, and the announcement that the Chicago Bishop elect, Paula Clark, has finally recovered enough from a serious stroke to have a consecration scheduled for September 2022, illustrate the growing diversity of the Episcopal episcopate. Clark will be Chicago's first black and first female to serve the diocese as Bishop. The dioceses of Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Florida have just concluded elections with the result that one conservative white male Charles Holt in Florida), one white male in a same sex marriage (Paul Mello in Massachusetts), and one white woman (Shannon Rogers Duckworth in Louisiana)  are joining the Episcopate.   Thus by the end of the year, the Church will have added one more black, two women, one gay male and one conservative male to the episcopacy.  Holt's election raised concerns among LGBTQ+ people in the diocese, but Holt says he will be a bishop to all, and firmly supports the resolution B012 which provides a means for parishes to conduct marriages for same sex couples. Update has long followed episcopal elections that create diversity (see a recent post here).  Readers may enjoy a picture of the women bishops who attended the March 2022 House of Bishops meeting.

Oxford Controversy Just Won't Go Away

 The controversy at Christ Church, Osford between the Dean and the faculty and board, seemed to have come to a conclusion with the announcement in February of a buy-out settlement with the Dean.  Update did note that there was a study underway on the governance of the college, but the Dean was back in the news this week.  He and his bishop ended up at odds over the service marking the end of the Dean's time at  Christ Church.  The Dean wanted to preach, but the bishop said "no."  Then the ceremony was moved to a location not under the control of the bishop, and the Dean used his sermon to get in final jabs at his opponents.  The web site thinkinganglicans.org  has compiled several accounts of this (hopefully) final chapter in this controversy.

GAFCON and ACNA Continue to Snub Lambeth 2022

 When the initial invitations went out for what was to be Lambeth 2020 (now Lambeth 2022), the Archbishop of Canterbury invited ANCA bishops to attend as ecumenical observers.  This did not sit well with the ACNA Archbishop, and he called it an insult, since he thought he should be invited as a member of the Anglican Communion.  Now that Lambeth is drawing near, GAFCON (also currently headed by the ACNA Archbishop) has put out another statement saying why they won't be attending.  The usual Archbishops from Uganda, Nigeria, and Rwanda/Burundi have said they will boycott Lambeth because the Anglican Communion has invited bishops from countries where LGBTQ+ people are included.

Episcopal Church Responds to Latest Mass Shootings

The mass shootings in Buffalo and at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas have elicited very quick responses from the Episcopal Leadership, and offers of support for the families of the victims.   The Episcopal News Service has articles on the statements on Buffalo here, and the statement by Bishop Reed of West Texas here.  Update has carried notice of the demonstrations organized at recent General Conventions by Bishops Against Gun Violence, and of previous statements issued by church leaders.

Dioceses of Texas and North Texas Fast-Track Merger

The Episcopal Church in North Texas (i.e. Fort Worth) and the Diocese of Texas are wasting no time moving forward with a merger proposal.  A special diocesan convention in Fort Worth has been called for June 18, and the Diocese of Texas will meet June 9.  These dates will allow the dioceses to ask for approval of the merger at the July streamlined General Convention.  The dioceses have created a special web site with information here.  Update carried the original announcement of a possible merger here  This is the second of the five dioceses most directly affected by schism to merge with a larger diocese in the same state.  The Diocese of Quincy became a deanery within the Diocese of Chicago in 2011.  Earlier this year, three of the Wisconsin dioceses also moved forward with a plan to merge. While not a formal merger, and requiring no approval from General convention, the bishops of three dioceses in New England have announced an agreement where they will serve as assisting bishops in each other's dioceses, another creative way of dealing with changing circumstances in dioceses with small memberships. The bishops of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are involved in the arrangement. 

Latest on Church Responses to War in Ukraine 

The Church of Wales has sent a request to the World Council of Churches distance itself from the  Russian Orthodox Church  because of Russian Church's support for the  invasion of the Ukraine. The Anglican Communion News site has more on this action.  Update has had several notices of the response by churches to the Ukraine invasion.  The most recent is here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Week Ending 5/2/22

Supreme Court Rules on Christian Flag Issue

When an ultra conservative was denied approval to fly the so-called "Christian Flag on the Boston municipal offices, he sued for denial of freedom of speech.  The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Boston City Government should not have denied the flag flying because they had allowed hundreds of groups to fly their flags in place of the municipal flag on a flagpole in front of the municipal offices. The number and variety lent support to the idea that the lack of enforced regulations on the process for applying to fly a specific flag had created an open forum that gave them no grounds to refuse a religious flag.   The decision leaves open the possibility for Boston to create additional regulations on what flags may be flown on the pole.  Both rreligionnews. com and the Associated Press carried stories on the decision.

"Sacred Ground" Initiative Report Shows Impact

The recently concluded Executive Council meeting in Puerto Rico heard reports on the impact that the 3 year-old racial justice initiative, "Sacred Ground" had on participants.  The small group curriculum have been developed by Katrina Brown as a follow-up to her videos on the role her family had played in the slave trade. In three years, the curriculum has reached over 20,000 Episcopalians, and when a sampling of 2900 were surved and reached via focus groups,  over two-thirds said the experience had had a major impact on their understanding of racism.  Ninety-four percent said they learned things that had been left out of their school lessons.  The Sacred Ground curriculum is providing an antidote to recent conservative attempts to bar discussion in schools of racism. 

Continuing Stories

Welby Apologizes for Indigenous Schools Abuse

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used the occasion of a visit to Canada to announce his own apology to indigenous groups for the role that the Anglican Church has played in forced assimilation and through church-run residential schools. He termed it a "crime."  The children taken from their parents, were punished for any attempt to retain their native cultures, and a number died at the schools.  Canadian Church leaders had apologized in 1993, and more recently have been working to repatriate the bodies of children who died at the schools. 

More Perspective on South Carolina Court Decision

Steve Skardon, whose blog scepiscopalians.com has followed all the developments of the schism in South Carolina and the property law suits, has a piece posted April 25 that provides more perspective on the latest South Carolina Supreme Court opinion which gave diocesan property and 14 contested parishes  now participating in the ANCA group, to the South Carolina Episcopalians. Skardon notes that several of the 14 parishes are shocked at the outcome, and also that the new bishops of both dioceses have met and are trying to build as less contentious relationship.  Update carried the blog's announcement of the decision last week .

Misconduct Issues Grow Ever Larger

Attempts by ACNA leadership to limit the damage that might be done to their denomination by a sexual misconduct investigation continue to make things worse.  The group formed to provide support for the victims has apparently been more interested in mitigation of damages, and was not informing the members of their own committee who were supposed to provide victim support of complaints as they came in.  As a result, four women resigned.  Now one of them has written an article with a time line of ACNA actions and details on how the women with expertise in victim support were kept in the dark, or had their communications to victims suppressed or edited, and how both the Archbishop of ACNA and the bishop he appointed to lead an inquiry, put church reputation above victim support.   The official statement from ACNA  continues to downplay the issues.

Pittsburgh ACNA Elects Bishop

The ACNA Diocese of Pittsburgh elected the one outsider among its three candidates for bishop.   The Rev. Alex Cameron supports ordination of women, which will make the women clergy in that diocese breathe a sigh of relief.  That election will have to be approved by the ACNA House of Bishops before it final. Cameron has led a Canadian Foundation, the Isaiah Forty Foundation since 1936.   It provides leadership and spiritual programs in Canada, and most recently in parts of the U.S.  Cameron is currently residing in Chicago where he is working with a parish;  the Foundation he heads is based in Montreal. The previous Pittsburgh bishop had resigned in 2020 due to his handling of someone connected to a misconduct case that has become a major scandal in ACNA (see previous story). 

Conservatives Begin Implementing Methodist Exit Strategy

When U.S. conservatives and international members joined forces at the last Methodist synod to put stronger provisions into governing documents against LGBTQ members, they touched off forces that have led to the division of the Church.  Initially, liberals talked of leaving, but then a groups worked out a proposal for conservative congregations to form a separate body and leave with their property. Full implementation has been caught up in delays of the next synod due to the covid pandemic.  Now conservatives have announced formation of the Global Methodist Church.  Congregations have to vote to leave the United Methodist Church for the new one, and this will take time.  This development, however, should help clear the way for a full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the United Methodists to be accepted at the next major meetings of both denominations. Discussion and approval of the full communion agreement was removed from the  General Convention delayed from 2021 to 2022, and has been referred to 2024 because of Methodist meeting delays. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Week Ending 4/25/22

Fort Worth Episcopalians Explore Merger

Following the disappointing Texas Supreme Court opinion that  left loyal Episcopalians in Fort Worth without parish and diocesan property, the diocese (now calling itself the Episcopal Church in North Texas)needed to think outside the box.  It turns out that what diocesan leaders did was to look to a bigger box, the Diocese of Texas and began talking to that diocese about a possible merger.  Conversations reached the point that last week the two dioceses made a formal announcement jointly about their talks.  While there are still some legal cases pending, the remaining legal issues seem manageable.  The official press release for the diocese is here.  Provisional Bishop Mayer's pastoral letter provides some additional information, and the article by the Episcopal News Service has a larger context.  While it might have seemed natural to reunite with the neighboring Episcopal Diocese of Dallas from which the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was created, Dallas's conservative leadership is not a good match with the Episcopalians in the Fort Worth area.  Provisional Bishop Mayer is the bishop of Northwest Texas, and that diocese might have seemed an obvious match, but apparently it has been the much larger and wealthier Diocese of Texas that had stepped forward to help Episcopalians in North Texas, and thus was the best candidate to help in rebuilding.

Canadian Archbishop McDonald Resigns

Archbishop Mark McDonald, who has been the leader of Indigenous Anglicans in Canada since 2007, and was instrumental in the drafting and shaping of the Canadian Church's development of an Indigenous autonomous Church within a church, has resigned following sexual misconduct charges.  The nature of the charges are not public, but McDonald has confirmed their truth. His resignation is a major blow to the Anglican Church in Canada, and to Indigenous peoples in both Canada and the Episcopal Church.  Ordained in Minnesota, former bishop of the Diocese of Alaska and as an Assisting Bishop in Navajoland, McDonald was a respected leader and regular blogger.  Both The Living Church and the Anglican Journal have more to add about his leadership and the impact of his resignation.

English Church Leaders Criticize Plan to Send Refugees to Rwanda

 The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were among the church leaders in England to criticize and raise moral questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement of an agreement that would send asylum seekers trying to reach England without appropriate documents to Rwanda where they would be processed and settled.  Church leaders pointed out that Rwanda has a  growing list of civil liberty violations and the resettlement a deflection of England's own duties to welcome refugees.  That criticism  touched off a battle of words between Johnson (accused of a responding to Archbishop Welby with a "disgraceful slur") and English bishops who defended Welby. Newspapers have weighed in on both sides, leaving the actual policy issues behind to focus on the personal clash.   Thinking Anglicans has links to all of this.

Continuing Stories

South Carolina Supreme Court Gives Split Decision

Last week saw the latest attempt of the South Carolina Supreme Court to settle the property issues created when Mark Lawrence tried to take the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church with all of its property.  In 2017 the court, in a decision where each judge wrote a separate opinion, seemed to award all diocesan property and most parish property to those who remained in the Episcopal Church.  They remitted the decision to a District Court for implementation.  That judge delayed for several years and then undid the Supreme Court decision by awarding all property to the schismatics.  South Carolina Episcopalians appealed and the case was argued in December 2021.  Update has covered all of that.  Now the Supreme Court has issued an opinion that is self-enforcing.  The Court deferred to the Federal Court trademark decision that gave the loyal Episcopalians full claim to the name, title, seals, and recognition of the diocese.  Thus it confirmed that all diocesan property belongs to the loyal Episcopalians (referred to in the opinion as the "Associated Diocese).  This includes the church camp, and the bishop's residence (where Mark Lawrence is living).  Parish properties were split with 15 parishes currently part of ACNA getting to keep their property, and 14 parishes having their property returned to the Episcopalians.   To do this the judges made some hairsplitting rulings about what constituted accession to the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons.  Because Mark Lawrence is retiring, and a new bishop has been elected by the schismatic (ACNA) group, the next steps may not be so hostile.  The bishops of the two groups have already met to begin looking at how to handle the transition.  Meanwhile, both sides are also deciding whether they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The court opinion is here.  The statements by  Episcopal Bishop Ruth Woodliff-Stanley and the new ACNA bishop, Chip Edgar are here and here. The official notice by  the Episcopal Diocese is here.  The April 20 entry in the blog scepiscopalians.com  has some interesting comments about the pressures on the state court.  The Episcopal News Service, The Living Church, and Anglican.ink all covered the story.  The Anglican.ink article is written by one of the lawyers who argued for schismatics in California, but gives a clear example of the hairsplitting logic used by the court.

Jesus College Won't Appeal Decision on Statue

Last week, Update carried a story on the outcome of a petition by Jesus College to remove from its chapel a memorial to a major benefactor of the college in its early years. Much of the benefactor's wealth had come from investments in slave trading. The College had intended to display it in another place on campus where it could be contextualized.  Because the Chapel is listed as a historic building the College needed approval from the Diocese.  The Chancellor ruled against the college.  This week, came word that the College did not want to spend additional resources on an appeal.  This disappointed many.  Archbishop Welby weighed in saying he understood that the court had ruled, but that he still hoped a way could be found to eventually move the memorial from the chapel.

Japan Consecrates Its First Woman Bishop 

In December 2021, Update noted the November election of Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori as bishop in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, (the Anglican Communion Province in Japan).  She would be the first woman to serve as bishop in East Asia, and the second in the whole of Asia.   On Saturday she was consecrated as Bishop of Hokkaido.  She has been a priest in the Diocese of Tokyo.  The diocese of Hokkaido has 24 parishes.  Bishop Sasamori will be a pioneer in Japan because although Japan began ordaining women as priests in 1998, three of their eleven dioceses still do not do so.  Sasamori had been the Dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Tokyo.