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, July 28, 2020

Week Ending 07/27/20

Churches Call for Criminal Justice Reform

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, PA has created a platform of criminal justice reforms.  They are now working to have the Episcopal Church as a whole adopt this platform, and are hoping to carry it beyond the church to the larger community.  The platform includes items asking for better data collection, transparency in policing, gun control,  Using unarmed professionals to handle some kinds of calls that police now deal with, collaboration between police an community and more.  The full platform and more about the parish's actions go here.

Accord Reached in Sexual Misconduct Case

Early in the ministerial career of the former dean of St. John the Divine, was guilty of sexual misconduct with an underage girl.  His misconduct, now several decades in the past, was investigated recently after the Episcopal Church removed time limits on such charges.  Bishop Ian Douglass of Connecticut has announced that  an "accord" has been reached with the priest after investigation.  The content of the accord was not made public in the announcement, but apparently does not result in his removal or suspension as a priest.  It does require actions that are designed to aid in healing and righting the wrong incurred.  The Newtown CT newspaper has more on the agreement.

Ongoing Stories

Legal Cases And More on Reopening Churches

Reopening the churches for in-person worship continues to be contentious.  The U.S. Supreme Court waded in last week by ruling against churches in Nevada who sued to be allowed to exceed attendance restrictions set under an Nevada order in response to the pandemic. The court ruled that the Churches had not been treated unfairly and had been grouped logically with other institutions where people might stay for extended periods of time in closed indoor spaces.  The matter is of great interest among evangelical churches.  A recent survey by the Barna group suggests 70% of Protestant churches are currently holding in-person services.   Surveys suggest, however that well over half of Americans are uneasy about returning to worship services in-person.  The Episcopal Church, however is moving much more cautiously, in part to avoid the experience of several churches where the virus was spread among many of their congregation.

Religious Freedom or an End to Civil Rights

Decisions of the Supreme Court on July 2 included several creating a larger version of religious liberty. One of those decisions has raised great concerns for  employees of church-owned institutions.  The decision raises issues of whether anyone who even tangentially participates in religious activities is thus a minister and can be fired if they make any statements or do anything contrary to church positions or doctrine. Can a social studies teacher be fired if he or she does not follow the church's interpretation of historic events?  Religion News provides a fuller discussion of the issues here. LGBTQ teachers are also concerned because earlier decisions on their right to employment specifically excluded religious institutions. 

Ministries During the Covid Pandemic

The Episcopal Church continues to find ways to serve public health during the pandemic. Update has reported on a number of these. ( The most recent is here.)  Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has announced two recent partnerships.   Trinity Church, Wall Street has given a large grant to ERD to use with partners in Africa to help contain the covid-19 virus. In Columbia, Maryland, Christ Church Episcopal teamed up with ERD, a local hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital to become a testing center for the virus.  The parish is in an area with a large Hispanic population and has a largely Hispanic membership.  The testing was done at the church and Johns Hopkins processed the results for tests within 24 hours. 

New Twist on the Church Monument Issue

Calvary Episcopal in downtown Memphis was surprised to find that vandals had knocked down  the historical marker they had worked to have revised to acknowledge that the church land had been owned by Nathan Forrest, who was not only a Confederate General and KKK leader, but had operated a slave trading business on what became the church grounds.  The parish had worked to have the historical marker changed as part of their efforts for racial reconciliation. It is not clear if the vandals objected to the marker because it was about a Confederate or because it told his unsavory connections.  Update has been regularly reporting on the efforts of parishes to more appropriately deal with monuments to those who owned slaves or were Confederate leaders.

Egyptian Anglicans Continue Fight for Legal Identity

In 2016 the Anglican Church in Egypt was shocked to find that the Egyptian government had placed it in a category of foreign churches and that it was required to work through the Presbyterian Church if it wanted to do anything to its property.  The Presbyterians have since tried to assert authority over Anglican clergy and all aspects of the church.  The Anglicans have been fighting in court to be recognized, especially since their presence in Egypt predates the Presbyterians.  This legal battle may be partially behind the creation of the new Anglican Province of Alexandria.  While Christians were encouraged when the government licensed a number of buildings earlier this year, that did not change the legal status of the Church.  The Anglican Communion has now come out with a statement backing the Church in its legal struggles. Both The Living Church and the Episcopal News Service have recently issued stories on this struggle.

Responding to Migrant Needs in West Texas

The Episcopal Church has an active ministry to immigrants, about which Update has given frequent posts.  Among the more recent were the efforts of those in Mississippi to deal with families torn apart after an ICE raid on a factory in Georgia, and the efforts in the Diocese of Rio Grande to meet needs of migrants waiting to hear about their refugee status.  What may surprise people is that the migrant detention centers along the Texas border are housing people from a variety of continents, not just  Central and South America.  In fact the Diocese of West Texas most recently scrambled to find potential housing for a large group of women and children from Haiti.  The group was cleared to be released to wait for their hearing date if there were places for them to go. The diocese went into high gear to respond rather than have the women and children continue in the grim conditions in the detention center for two years or more until their hearing dates. 

More on the Oxford Dean Squabble

Update has been following the struggle between a number of faculty at Christ Church College, Oxford, and the dean of the cathedral and college.  The latest move had been an investigation of the dean as to whether he had handled appropriately instances brought to him of possible sexual misconduct on campus.  The professors have been suggesting that the dean himself was being investigated for misconduct.  Now  Lord Carlile a noted Queens Counsel, has come out with a report saying that the investigation may be illegal because of gross conflicts of interest among those doing the investigating and he chided the dissidents at the college for "weaponizing" the investigation.  Thinking Anglicans has the details.