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, January 28, 2013

News for Week Ending 1/28/2013

N.Z. priest proclaims Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity

Implicitly, the conflict over issues of sexuality among Anglican Communion churches has been over the degree to which churches of the Communion can articulate different theological views. Communion unity, in the minds of some, requires Communion uniformity. Believing that such is not the case, New Zealand priest and blogger Bosco Peters has declared a Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity, which follows the well-established Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Week of Prayer for Christian Diversity runs from January 27, 2013, to February 3. Peters has provided a logo (“I Believe in Christian Diversity”) that he is encouraging people to display on their Web sites. His description of the week of prayer can be found on his Liturgy blog.

Marriage equity legislation moves forward in UK

A bill providing for same-sex marriages in the UK was introduced in Parliament January 24, 2013. Thinking Anglicans provides links to the bill itself, to additional information about the legislation, and to initial comments on it here. Thinking Anglicans also links to January 25 responses to the legislation by the Church of England and the Church in Wales here. Both churches have influenced provisions of the same-sex marriage bill, which reflects both the different statuses of the churches in their respective countries and their different attitudes toward same-sex marriage. The bill acknowledges the English church’s view that marriage is necessarily between one man and one woman and largely excepts the Church of England from the provisions of the bill. The Church in Wales, which has not yet accepted same-sex marriage, retains the right to do so and to perform such marriages in churches without further action of Parliament.

S.C. Episcopalians elect provisional bishop subject to TRO

South Carolina Episcopalians who did not follow former Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church met in special convention January 26, 2013, and elected the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg as their provisional bishop. Episcopal News Services offered extensive coverage of the event, publishing the sermon of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schoi, the remarks of President of the House of Bishops Gay Clark Jennings, and the address of Bishop vonRosenberg. An ENS story published in anticipation of the convention can be found here.

The special convention at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston was conducted subject to unanticipated legal restraints. On January 23, 2013, a South Carolina Circuit Court judge, Diane S. Goodstein, issued a temporary restraining order declaring, in part,
No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina as are set out below or any names or seal that may be perceived to be those names and mark or seal.
The right to use, for example, “the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” is granted by the TRO only to the breakaway group led by Mark Lawrence.  This required Saturday’s special convention—see the ENS story here—to refer to the entity it was representing not as the “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” but as “the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.”

Judge Goodstein’s order is only effective through February 1, when a hearing on the use of the name and seal of the diocese is scheduled. The conflict over intellectual property rights in South Carolina is hardly unique. After the October 2008 split of the Pittsburgh Diocese, the resulting groups each represented themselves as the “Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” Litigation focused not on the diocesan name and seal, however, but on more fundamental issues.

Filings made in Falls Church case

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has posted a number of new filings in support of the Episcopal Church’s appeal of the Virginia Supreme Court’s failure to consider the Dennis Canon in the Falls Church case. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) The diocese’s Property Recovery Litigation page contains links to documents in support of the Episcopal Church’s position: (1) an amici curiae brief from a variety of Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran parties, (2) a brief from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, (3) a brief from The Episcopal Church, and (4) an amicus curiae brief from A.E. Dick Howard, the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

The Virginia Supreme Court has, for many years, refused to consider denominational trusts in governing documents, such as that asserted by the Dennis Canon. The overall thrust of the filings, all made on the final day on which they were allowed, January 21, 2013, is that such a rule is constitutionally unsustainable and that the court’s position should be changed, while upholding the lower court ruling in favor of the diocese and against The Falls Church.