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, May 7, 2019

Week Ending 5/6/19

South Carolina Diocese Moves Towards Election of Bishop

Although no specific timetable has been set,  both the Bishop Provisional, Skip Adams, and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina have released letters to their diocese announcing that they are moving towards beginning the process for the election of a diocesan bishop.  Adams has remained longer as provisional bishop than the two year term he originally agreed to, and with legal issues seemingly in their final stages, South Carolina is poised to join San Joaquin and Pittsburgh in a step that signals their return to normal status as a diocese.

Popular Religious Writer Dies Suddenly

Rachel Held Evans, whose writings documented her transformation from literalist Evangelical to progressive Episcopalian died this last week. Author of 4 books, active blogger and influential social media poster, she was in a coma for several weeks following a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics used to treat an infection.  Evans had become a younger voice for progressive Christianity whose writing was know for its humor and incisive commentary on faith, evangelicals, and living as a Christian.  She was 37 and left a husband and young children.  The most complete news obituary is here.  

Continuing Stories

ACC Breaks Ground on Several Fronts

The meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council opened with several surprising statements which Update covered last week.  It continued to show that the meeting of the only Anglican body with lay, clergy and episcopal members, and the only Anglican body with official governing documents is ready to assert itself as leaders in the Anglican Communion.  The meeting heard reports and assented to resolutions related to the role of women in the Communion, among a number of other social justice issues. The ACC also flexed its muscles by approving a new process for the Anglican Communion to receive Ecumenical agreements and statements, a process that moved approval from the hands of bishops to the ACC. (See resolution B17-04.) This was a direct challenge to earlier statements by Archbishop Welby that the ACC did not have authority to deal with doctrine. The council also approved a new way to calculate how much money member Churches should contribute to the Anglican Communion based on a percentage of a member church's salaries for active bishops. This could raise the expectation for funds from TEC well above the amount budgeted by General Convention. Lay Deputy, from the TEC Rosalie Ballentine from the Virginia Islands, and a lawyer, was among those asking for more detail on the new formula.  TEC is already contributing over 21% of the Communion budget.  The clergy delegate from TEC was Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of General Convention. He posted interesting comments on the differences between the way the ACC functioned and the way TEC governs itself  on a Facebook page

But the biggest fireworks were provided around human sexuality and the upcoming Lambeth Conference 2020.  Archbishop Welby led off with an apology for those he has hurt with his decision to invite LGBTQ bishops, but not their spouses. But, despite the positive spin placed on this apology by the Episcopal News Service, it took a lot of hard work, complicated by language differences among the delegates present, before the ACC came to agreement.  A resolution supportive of LGBTQ people in the diocese submitted by Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny was rewritten entirely, but continues to commit the Communion to listening processes with the LGBTQ community, and affirms the Church should reach out to them. Bishop Konieczny also derailed a resolution supported by Archbishop Welby that would have allowed creation of a theological committee to “clarify the core identity and boundaries” of the Communion.  The measure was originally announced as adopted by assent without a vote, but Konieczny realized this could create a group able to read provinces in or out of the communion and asked for a formal vote.  The resolution then failed.  Three provinces did not participate in the 2017 ACC, all are African provinces active in GAFCON.  GAFCON, of course found nothing to like about the discussions at the ACC, and issued their own call for a meeting of Bishops in 2020 the month before  the Lambeth gathering. 

Former Bishop Heather Cook Leaving Prison

The former suffragan bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook, in prison for killing a bicyclist while texting and driving while drunk and then leaving the scene, has been trying to find a way to be released from prison early.  Her release is due in about a month and will be under provisions cutting prison time for good behavior.  Officials say she has been a model prisoner, running several recovery support meetings and events among other things.  After release, she will be on probation for 5 years.  The terms for the probation have not yet been released.

Dissident Group Files Appeal in Connecticut

The former vestry of St. Paul's Church in Darien, CT went to court to try to get back control of the parish building after Connecticut Bishop, Ian Douglas, intervened in a dispute between the parish and its rector, and the annual convention of the diocese voted to reduce the parish to the status of a worshiping community under the control of the bishop. The property-less dissident group has continued to worship together and is now acting as an independent congregation outside the Episcopal Church.  After multiple filings and legal maneuvers, the trial judge sided with the Episcopal diocese and dismissed the case in April since deciding the case would entangle the court in church affairs contrary to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  On the 25th of April, the disappointed former vestry appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court which has taken no action yet.  In a strange twist of alternative facts, the ultra conservative blogger David Virtue has published a story claiming that the legal outcome upheld the dissidents. He is also claiming the superior court opinion is actually the Supreme Court decision.   One would have to ask Virtue, "If the independent group won, then why are they appealing the judge's ruling?" 

Montana Joins Trend of All-Women Bishop Slate

The Diocese of Montana's search committee has announced their choice of three candidates for bishop.  All are women.  While it is possible that a slate including a male could result from the petition process, it seems likely that Montana is going to follow in the footsteps of Colorado,  Kansas,  Michigan, West Tennessee, Texas, San Diego, and Vermont.

Methodists Move Closer to Vote on Full Communion Agreement

The Episcopal Church- United Methodist Dialogue Committee met in Texas the last week-end of April and voted to send a resolution for full communion between the churches to the United Methodist Council of Bishops for approval.  If they approve, then it would go to the 2020 General Meeting of the United Methodist Church.  The statement of the group acknowledged the recent pain and turmoil caused by adoption of the resolutions against inclusion of LGTBQ clergy and against same-sex marriage by the special General Meeting held in 2019.  The inclusion of statements about "birth pangs" of something new coming from the pain of the 2019 seems a hint that United Methodists in the U.S. may go a different direction than the international United Methodist General Meeting.  These 2020 votes will determine whether or not TEC's General Convention will vote on full communion in 2021.  Update has covered the full communion discussions and the possible split of the Methodists following the 2019 General Meeting. One of the members of the joint dialogue committee, Tom Ferguson, (aka the "Crusty Old Dean") has provided additional background while tearing apart a poorly written Living Church article on the dialogue and proposals for full communion.

ACNA-CANA Agreement Sets Up Division of CANA

Recently the Anglican Church of Nigeria blind-sided ACNA by electing and ordaining four new bishops for one of the CANA diocese in the U.S. without getting ACNA College of Bishops approval. At the meeting of GAFCON this last week, Foley Beach, head of both GAFCON and ACNA signed an arrangement with Nigerian Archbishop Okoh that will allow the three dioceses to decide if they wish to be part of the Nigerian affiliated CANA or of ACNA. Currently the dioceses have affiliation with both ACNA and the Church in Nigeria. Two of the dioceses appear to be making the changes necessary to become ACNA dioceses. These have a majority of congregations that left The Episcopal Church and used CANA as a means of claiming ties to the Anglican Communion before ACNA formed.  The third, has a majority of the congregations filled with immigrants from Nigeria.