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 13, 2021

Week Ending 7/12/21

 Surveys Reveal Changes in American Religious Bodies

Two recent surveys revealed very interesting trends affecting the Episcopal Church.  The Verdant Labs conducted a survey on the political identity of those in a a wide range of occupations, including the clergy.   Librarians, Pediatricians, and Flight Attendants were mostly Democrats.  Motel Owners, Urologists, and Pilots were usually Republicans.  In the religion category,  there were 91 Democrats for every 9 Republican Episcopal Priests, the highest  percentage Democratic of any of the religious groups.  Catholic priests were the most Republican 73 Republicans for every 27 Democrats.  The full results for that survey are here.   
The other survey was done by the Public Religion Research Institute and was their 2020 general survey of American religious denominations.  With an annual survey they are able to track changes over time.  The data now shows an interesting change in church membership demographics.  The percentage of unaffiliated Americans peaked in 2018 and has fallen slightly.  It seems to be stabilizing at a little under one-quarter of Americans.  The real surprise was that for the first time in many years the traditional mainline liberal churches had not only improved their share of those claiming a religious affiliation but they now had a larger share than white evangelicals Protestants or Roman Catholics.  The Catholic decline, while noticeable, was not as dramatic as the loss of members for white Evangelical Protestants since 2007.  A look at demographic data shows that the evangelical group has lost younger members and now is older on average than the mainline protestants. You can explore their data here.

Church of England Declines to Implement Major Anti-Racism Proposal

A major task force on exploring racism in the Church of England and proposing corrective measures was shocked to learn that a key part of their plan for combating racism in the Church had been rejected as too expensive.  The task force had recommended that every diocese appoint a full-time racial justice coordinator.  The Guardian carried the general reaction to the announcement and the Church Times focused their story on the reaction of the task force members

Continuing Stories

Parishes Erases All New Mexico Medical Debt

Update has carried notices of the efforts of Episcopal Parishes in the Dioceses of Illinois, Alabama, and Upper South Carolina to relieve families in their communities of worrisome medical debts.  All of the parishes teamed up with a company that buys up medical debt at greatly discounted rates and then matches those debts with a church or other non-profit which raises the money to retire the discounted debt.  The latest parish to sign on, St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, was able to raise enough to retire the medical debts of everyone in the entire state and six counties in Arizona.  The Arizona counties are ones with large Native American populations. The effort cleared $1,380,119.87 of debt.  The 782 families each will receive a letter notifying them that the debt has been paid by the Church.  

More on the Fate of Dispossessed Texas Congregations

Update has been carrying stories on what has happened to the  Episcopal Parishes who lost their buildings when the U.S. Supreme Court failed to grant an appeal hearing to the Episcopal Church in North Texas (formerly the Diocese of Fort Worth). The latest mention was here.  The local media in Wichita Falls, TX (about half way between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City) has carried a story on the fate of the one remaining Episcopal Congregation in that city.  There used to be three, but  the other two were claimed by ACNA earlier and only one of those has survived.  St. Stephen's has lost its building and all of its liturgical appointments, but has found a temporary home at Park Place Christian Church which lets them hold services on Saturday night.  St. Stephen's tried to negotiate a lease or sale that would let them stay in their building, but the ACNA diocese would not consider it. The congregation has not yet begun to plan beyond the first steps, but its priest is hopeful that the parish will make a comeback. 

LGBTQ Face New Resistance 

One of the newest congregations for the Episcopal Church in Europe ( a part of The Episcopal Church) is in Tbilisi, Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state).  Its growth has been tied to being a welcoming and safe place for Georgian LGBTQ people in a country where there anti-gays are openly hostile and their violent counter protests to Gay Pride supporters have resulted in street riots.  The riots have created great anxiety among St. Nino's Episcopal Mission LGBTQ members.  The congregation, however continues to offer a haven of welcome for all.  
Meanwhile in Australia where the Anglican Church is organized into provinces with several dioceses attached to each, the ultra conservative Province of Sydney continues to make waves.   The Diocese of Sydney Bishop is also the Archbishop of the Province of New South Wales.  Sydney is an active participant in GAFCON and used Church money to oppose passage of the bill that legalized same-sex unions in Australia.  Some of the dioceses in the province are more sympathetic to LGBTQ people and two made moves to permit blessings of same-sex unions. Those moves resulted in a High Church Tribunal ruling that what they did was legal under church canons.  However, Sydney continues to try to impose its views on the other dioceses in the province.  Most recently an organist resigned at a parish in the Diocese of Armidale after being told that he and his same-sex spouse would have to live separately and celibately if the couple were  to keep their posts at the church.  The congregation was shocked because they were quite happy to welcome the couple.  The couple has gone public about the matter to raise the issue.  Diocesan officials deny that they forced the couple out and that the two resigned their roles voluntarily. 

Virginia Seminary Begins Reparation Payments

Virginia Theological Seminary had announced in late 2019 that it intended to set aside a part of its endowment to provide reparations for the descendants of those enslaved African Americans either owned or hired by the seminary before emancipation, and for those who later were employees of the seminary during the era of segregation.   Now VTS has announced that the payments have begun.  They have  spent over a year doing intensive family tracing to identify descendants and to consult with each family on how they wished the reparation funds be used.  The payments will continue for a number of years.

More on the Oxford Dean Battle 

The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford has been the object of institutional bullying of the worst kind, according to a recent church commentator, and the situation as resulted in questions being asked at the most recent Church of England Synod as to why the restrictions on his work and ministry have not been lifted given that he has been cleared of misconduct.  The columnist criticizes the Bishop of Oxford for not providing appropriate support to the Dean, does not mince words.  You can read the column here.  Update has followed the saga of this dean for several years, the most recent previous posts is here.