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         

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Week Ending 12/21/15

Presiding Bishop Curry Appoints Law Firm and Two Staff Members

This week Presiding Bishop Michael Curry appointed the law firm Curley, Hessinger & Johnsrud LLP to conduct the special investigation related to the suspension of The Episcopal Church Center COO Bishop Stacy Sauls, and two others.  Curry's letter announcing the appointment was brief and gave no additional information on what is being investigated.  The firm, however, specializes in employment and labor law.  The two attorneys identified in the letter (Michael Curley and Lindsay Vest) have impressive qualifications, especially in discrimination issues.  On a more upbeat note, the Presiding Bishop filled two senior staff positions.  The Rev. Stephanie Spellers was appointed Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation.  Spellers is currently on the staff of General Theological Seminary and has a strong reputation in evangelism. Tara Elgin Holley, currently the Vice President for Advancement at Southwestern Theological Seminary, was named Director of Development.

Christmas News Around the Anglican Communion

Severe flooding in the region around Chennai in the Anglican Diocese of Madras has led the local  bishop to ask parishes to cancel carol services and other "exuberant" Christmas celebrations in favor of reaching out to those whose lives have been devastated by the floods.  Meanwhile, the tiny Christian communities in Pakistan have announced that for the first time in several years they will celebrate Christmas with "pomp and show."  Natural disasters and attacks on Christians had resulted in very quiet Christmas observances for the last several years, but the actions of the Pakistani government and military has restored enough of a sense of security that Anglicans in Peshwar are once again celebrating Christmas joyously. These contrasting responses to Christmas were covered in a single Anglican Communion news story found here.  A third piece of Christmas news comes from Ireland where the primates of the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church issued a jointly signed Christmas letter. The letter reminded readers that Christ brought new hope into the world, and that today "Around us in this country, there are those who can feel no hope for themselves or their families, whether through deprivation or because they are refugees from violence. We can become envoys of hope in the name of the Christ, who was born in a stable in Bethlehem."

The Episcopal Church Was Active at Climate Summit

 Among the more than 40,000 who attended the Global Climate Summit Activities, was a deputation sent of eight sent by Presiding Bishop Curry.  ENS reports that the group was active in the forums, and showcases offered in addition to the diplomatic negotiations, including offering a worship service each day.  At the end of the two week summit, the deputation sent letters to the government representatives of the U.N. nations where the Episcopal Church has a presence.  The letters thanked them for their work in reaching an agreement, and included a statement of Episcopal Church positions on the issues of climate change.

Augusta County, VA Schools Closed Over Controversy in World Religion Class 

A teacher following an approved world religions curriculum and using assignments from a teacher's guide found herself the center of controversy after an angry parent claimed that she was indoctrinating her class in the Moslem faith.  In order to experience the complexity of arabic calligraphy, students were asked to copy one of the key phrases in Islam.  They were not given a translation of it or asked to repeat it.  Girls also were encouraged to try wearing a scarf as many Muslim women do.  The angry parent organized a protest meeting and set up a web page, but found that the web page was soon filled with staements of support for the teacher.  School and police officials however, decided that there was enough anger being expressed in the community to close all the schools in the district several days early for Christmas.  There have been numerous news stories on this.  The local Staunton newspaper followed the controversy closely.  The Associated Press ran a story that put this controversy in a larger context of anti-muslim reactions.