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         

Monday, April 13, 2020

Week Ending 04/13/20

England's Churches Closed Even to Clergy

The strict social distancing regulations in England have led to strong pressure for churches to be entirely closed.  The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement in support of closed churches.  A number of bishops have issued orders that their clergy are not to enter the buildings even to do silent prayer.  The London bishops were especially clear saying that any live streaming of services should be done from clergy homes, not the church. In the part the decision was justified by saying that the clergy needed to face the same restrictions as their congregation, and not be seen as some special class with access to churches when no one else had it. Similarly although there is a need for more hospital chaplains to be with those gravely ill or dying, orders have been issued that volunteer parish clergy should not be admitted to hospital wards because they could be sources of the spread of the virus.  They are allowed to do phone and tablet contact with the ill.   Because churches are closed and no one is entering, the most valuable pieces of religious art, silver and other rare items have been carefully packed and gathered for safe keeping at the Tower of London and other secure sites.

Easter Celebrations in a Social Distancing World

With most churches closed for public worship, and services being done virtually, Easter had a different feel this year. The CBS affiliate station in Madison, Wisconsin has a nice summary of the approaches taken by several different Christian churches, including the Episcopal Church. Although almost every Episcopal parish (from tiny ones to the largest offered some form of an Easter service on-line), the national Cathedral service has received the most attention, given that its preacher was Presiding Bishop Curry who did his part on-line from his North Carolina home.  The biggest splash at that service, however was an anthem performed by a virtual orchestra and choir of more than 600.  Cheer-up your spirit by listening to their rendition of "The Strife is O'er".  The Living Church provides a little background and a link to the actual recording. [ Note of disclosure, the current editor of this blog was among the singers.]

Churches Testing Legal Limits of Lock-Downs

Local government officials and courts in different parts of the country are coming to very different conclusions about what to do with those congregations continuing church meetings despite official orders to end all public gatherings as part of the efforts to slow spread of covid-19.  In some cases the meetings are drive-in church gatherings (a trend Update has covered), and in other they are outdoor meetings of hundreds of people.  The question of freedom of religion is being pitted against public health directives since those who attend can spread the illness to others. In some places church leaders have been arrested, or meetings broken up by clergy.  In Kansas, the governor ordered all public gatherings cease.  The state legislature then passed a law exempting churches from the order, and then the state supreme court ruled that the legislation violated the state constitution and restored the governor's order.  In other areas, courts have ruled against rules that require churches to stop meeting.  It is a situation ripe for a case to move up through the courts to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Continuing Story Updates

Wyoming Parishes Use Holy Week to Discern Use of Grants

The foundation of the Diocese of Wyoming sent each parish in the diocese $10,000 as the first installment in their commitment to provide $1 million in grants to ease economic and social suffering caused by the covid-19 pandemic.  The parishes were to use Holy Week to discern how they would use the grant money in their area.  Parishes are exploring everything from Wi-Fi hot spots to help school children with distance learning, to support of food banks and direct grants to unemployed for utility bills.  You can read more here.

Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina Issues Statement on Latest Ruling

Last week Update reported that the South Carolina Supreme Court had denied the writs requested by Episcopalians which would have pushed Judge Dickson to stop dragging out the process of implementing the state supreme court's decision that the Episcopalians were the owners of most of the church property now in the hands of those who have left the Episcopal Church.  However, there was no comment or statement available from the Episcopal Diocese.  That was issued after Update was posted.  You can now find the statement here

Latest on Covid-19 Ministries

Continuing Update's ongoing summary of the ways the Church is reaching out during the pandemic, this week we call attention to a story found in the Canadian Church's magazine, the Anglican Journal,  on The work of the Episcopal Church on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation in South Dakota.  The minister there has been organizing distribution of meals, fuel, groceries, hand sanitizer, and other supplies.  The article also covers ways she has handled drive-up communion, and funerals to ensure they meet all social distancing regulations set by the tribal government. 

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City has also been in the news this last week, first as it prepared its sanctuary to host a hospital extension for Mt. Sinai Hospital, secondly as it was announced that Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse would run the hospital , and finally that the hospital extension would not happen at all because the hospital had determined that they were not going to need the extra beds.  Questions arose over whether the Cathedral had withdrawn its offer of space becuase Samaritan's Purse has an anti-gay hiring policy, but church and hospital officials say the decision was purely based on a changed assessment of need by the hospital.

Australia Elects New Primate

A month ago Australia was unable to get agreement among all three orders (lay, clergy, bishops) in the special synod that elects the Anglican Church's primate there.  The synod consists of all diocesan bishops and a select group of lay and clergy electors chosen by the Church's General Synod.  There were two candidates, a conservative who was head of Australia's GAFCON and a conservative centerist, the current Archbishop of Adelaide, Geoffrey Smith.  Smith had a majority of votes of the lay order and of the bishops, but a majority of the clergy held out for Bishop Condie of Tasmania.   An interim primate was appointed until the impasse could be ended.  This last week the special synod voted electronically because of the Covid-19 virus, and this time Smith received a majority in all three orders.  He has immediately assumed the duties of Primate.