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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A Service of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh         

Monday, July 12, 2010

News for Week Ending 7/12/2010

CoE General Synod rejects archbishops’ plan

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were handed an embarrassing defeat at the hand of the Church of England’s General Synod on July 10, 2010. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The plan, put forward by Rowan Williams and John Sentamu at the eleventh hour before the General Synod convened, would have given women bishops less power than male bishops. It was intended to appease those opposed to women bishops on theological grounds. The archbishops’ amendment needed the approval of the three houses of the General Synod. Bishops voted 25–15 in favor of the plan. Laypeople voted for it 106–86, with 4 abstentions. Clergy voted against the measure, however, 90–85, with 5 abstentions. Forty percent of English clergy are now women. There are still many procedural hurdles that must be negotiated before there can be women English bishops.

Episcopal News Service has provided a good summary of what is happening in the General Synod, which concludes its work July 13, 2010. The Daily Telegraph has attempted to capture the state of the Church of England in its story “A divided church faces its darkest hour.” A helpful status report has also been provided by the Guardian. Other news and commentary can be found on Thinking Anglicans.

Jeffrey John again denied episcopal appointment

For the second time, Church of England priest Jeffrey John has failed in his bid to become a bishop. John, a talented, well-respected priest, has a male partner but is said to be celibate. The then new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, convinced John to step down after his having been selected as Bishop of Reading in 2003. In the recent instance, John was on the short list to become Bishop of Southwark, which is said to be the most liberal diocese of the Church of England. According to the Daily Telegraph, John was rejected because it was feared “that his consecration would have provoked a split in the Church.” Although deliberations regarding episcopal appointments in the Church of England are supposed to be confidential, John’s being considered was leaked to the press, presumably by opponents of his appointment. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, a member of the Crown Nominations Commission that was selecting a bishop for Southwark, is said to have been furious at the pressure created by the leak to the press.

First female Latin American bishop dies

The Rt. Rev. Nerva Cot Aguilera, 71, died suddenly July 10, 2010. Bishop Aguilera was the retired suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. She became the first female Anglican bishop in Latin America when she was consecrated in June 2007. The Episcopal News Service story on Aguilera’s death can be found here.

Presbyterians move forward on gay clergy

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to accept homosexual clergy, but it has not moved forward on gay marriage. The proposal now goes before the church’s presbyteries, which have to approve the measure before it becomes effective. The presbyteries have rejected similar measures in the past. Details are available from Beliefnet and Crosswalk.

Defense of Marriage Act partly declared unconstitutional

A federal judge in Boston declared parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional July 8, 2010. The 1996 law prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. This, according to U.S. District Judge Joseph Taur, prevents the government from giving benefits to gay couples that are given to heterosexual couples in Massachusetts, a state in which gay marriages are legal. This violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Moreover, he ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act infringes on the right of states to define marriage. Additional details are available in a story from the Los Angeles Times.

Georgia court rules for Episcopal Church

According to a July 9, 2010, story from Episcopal News Service, the Georgia Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision awarding control of the property of Savannah’s Christ Church to the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and the Episcopal Church. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The Episcopal Church and the Georgia diocese filed suit to regain control of Christ Church after the congregation voted in September 2007 to align with the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda. It is unclear whether the defendants will appeal the ruling. (As of this writing, “Christ Church Savannah,” associated with the Anglican Church in North America, has no statement about the recent court decision on its Web site.) A statement from the Episcopal parish is available here. A statement from the rector, the Rev. Michael White, can be read here.

Virginia churches ask state Supreme Court to reconsider ruling

VirtueOnline posted a June 10, 2010, press release from the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV, part of CANA, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America) and a related AP story indicating that the nine breakaway congregations in litigation with The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia have petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to reconsider its decision of June 10, 2010. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The court ruled that the state statute on which a lower court decision was based was misapplied. The lower court had awarded control of parish property to the ADV parishes. The defendants’ application for rehearing argues that the trial court was correct in its application of Virginia law.

San Joaquin targets Visalia property

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has filed another lawsuit seeking control of parish property currently controlled by former members of the diocese who are now members of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. Papers were filed July 6, 2010, with the Superior Court of California in Tulare County seeking the assets of what is now being called St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Episcopal News Service has details here.

NW Pa. bishop offers apology, asks victims to come forward

Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania Sean Rowe, in a letter read in all churches of his diocese July 11, 2010, apologized for the sexual abuse of girls by a former bishop of the diocese, Donald Davis. Davis, now deceased, was diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania from 1974 to 1991. Rowe said that he is aware of “four credible allegations of sexual abuse” by Bishop Davis. He invited other victims to come forward to seek healing and reconciliation.

According to Episcopal News Service, Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning, who had become aware of the abuse by Bishop Davis, quietly asked Davis to resign from the House of Bishops in 1994, when Davis was in retirement.