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.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

News for Week Ending 11/30/2009

Brazilian church expresses reservations about covenant

The Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) released its official response to Section 4 of the proposed Anglican covenant on November 24, 2009. (The 8-page English version of the document can be found here.) According to the Foreword, the statement is the result of broad consultation within IEAB. The document makes it clear that the church cannot yet commit to or reject the proposed covenant.

The Brazilian document raises various questions about the covenant process, including whether the agreement should be called a covenant at all. The IEAB finds that the first three sections of the Ridley Cambridge Draft do not break ground and questions why they are even necessary. It finds Section 4 legalistic and argues that it raises serious questions about its wisdom and clarity.

The Rev. Canon Francisco de Assis da Silva, who describes himself as “lawyer, Anglican clergyman, and Secretary General of the IEAB” on his blog, has provided a brief overview of the IEAB document here.

Canadian court rules for New Westminster in property case

The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled November 25, 2009, that the parish property of four congregations that left the Diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) to join the Anglican Network in Canada belongs to New Westminster. (See earlier Pittsburgh Update story here.) The story was reported by The Vancouver Sun. The Anglican Network in Canada is now part of the Anglican Church in North America, headed by Archbishop Robert Duncan. The Diocese of New Westminster’s approval of the blessing of same-sex unions (see chronology here) became, along with the 2003 General Convention’s consent to consecrate Gene Robinson Bishop of New Hampshire, became the topic of the October 2003 emergency meeting of the Anglican primates.

The judge ruled in his 98-page opinion, that parishes “are intrinsically part of the Diocese” without the “authority to unilaterally leave the Diocese.” He dismissed the argument by plaintiff congregations that they had a trust interest in the properties by virtue of their “orthodoxy”:
To repeat, the plaintiffs submit that the parish properties are held on trust for purposes of ministry consistent with historic, orthodox Anglican doctrine and practice. “Historic” and “orthodox” are uncertain and subjective terms that cannot, in my view, form the basis of an enforceable trust. The history of Anglicanism spans over 400 years, and thus it is simply not apparent what period “historic” is in reference to. “Orthodox” is similarly subjective and, therefore, equally problematic in defining a trust. Moreover, a trust which freezes doctrine at a point in history is inconsistent with the history of change and evolution in Anglicanism. For example, the ACC now permits the remarriage of divorced persons. The Church ordains women as priests, and there are also female diocesan bishops in the ACC. These developments are inconsistent with what many would consider historic and orthodox Anglicanism.
The ruling denied the bishop the power to replace trustees who had left ACC but bound the trustees to administer the property for the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Michael Ingham commented on the court decision on the diocesan Web site. In its press release about the decision, the Anglican Network in Canada emphasized its victories in the case and indicated that a decision about whether to appeal has not yet been made.