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         

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Week ending 10/17/22

No Update appeared last week due to the travel schedule and illness of the editor

Church Offers Site for Grief Counseling in Uvalde

St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Uvalde has been offering temporary space to the Southern Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas, (CBCST) which has been providing services badly needed in a community still reeling and angry over the school shooting last spring that killed 19 children, 2 teachers, and wounded 17 more.  Now the church has offered the center its former thrift store building on its grounds to give the Center a permanent location.  The Center, with main offices in San Antonio has been providing bereavement counseling since 1991 and has several branches.  The Uvalde site is their most recent. Remodeling of the building is already under way, and it should open in 2023.

Tennessee Bishop Jointly Encourage Yes Vote on Constitutional Amendment

The three bishops of the dioceses in Tennessee have taken the unusual step of directly encouraging voters to vote yes on a proposed constitutional amendment by issuing a joint letter. Given the Episcopal Church's current emphasis on racial reconciliation and healing, the letter certainly makes sense. Amendment 3 on the Tennessee Ballot this fall would correct a long-term historical embarrassment in the state's constitution.  Article 1, Section 33 of the state constitution, currently reads, "That slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this state."   The Amendment would replace that section with this wording: "Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime." (See here for more.) The original language, included in the state constitution since 1870, was used to authorize forced labor (the infamous chain gangs) which was used especially to re-enslave blacks convicted of even minor offenses.

New President of House of Deputies Appoints Staff and Advisors

The new President of the House of Deputies, Ayala Harris has announced her staff and Council of Advice appointments.  She has brought together a very diverse team with experience at diocesan and provincial level, but with few carryovers from previous PoHD teams. Bishop Sean Rowe is continuing as the Bishop on the Council of Advice.  In General the group is largely younger and media savvy. 

New Canterbury Dean Has a Same-Sex Spouse

Normally Update would not comment on something as routine as the appointment of a new dean for the Cathedral at Canterbury, especially when the appointee was already a cathedral dean at Leicester, but this appointment, one of the last by Queen Elizabeth II, has raised conservative hackles.  Despite The Very Reverend Dr David Monteith's distinguished career, what is upsetting conservatives is that Montieth has a civil partner, David Hamilton.  Church of England clergy are supposed to either be married to someone of the opposite sex, or abstain from sexual activity.  This is certainly the most prominent position for a clergy person in the Church of England  in a same sex partnership. 

Treasurer of Church Fund in Pennsylvania Charged with Fraud

The Clergy Assurance Fund in Pennsylvania, a non-profit that began in the colonial period as the Widows and Orphan's Fund and provides support to clergy and their families in the 5 dioceses of Pennsylvania raised questions about $20,000 of charges with their then- treasurer, John Miller in March 2022.  He chose to retire rather than be terminated.  A follow-up forensic audit showed that Miller had between January 2016 and March 2022 directed $1.4 million of the charity's funds into his own accounts.  The Fund has referred the matter to the F.B.I. and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.  After two and a half centuries of investments, and payouts, the fund was valued in March of 2022 at $82 million, and so its operations have not been affected.  The Living Church broke the story  October 13.  The Episcopal News Service has a follow up article.

Continuing Stories

Canterbury Visit to Australia Comes Amidst Continued  Divisions

The Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to Australia, prompted statements about embarrassing past divisions and blind spots for the church, but did not do much to ease the growing schism fostered by the Sydney Diocese's refusal to recognize women clergy (including an Australian Archbishop), and upset at being unable to get the Church synod to forbid any recognition of same sex partnerships or marriages.  The primate for Australia, Archbishop Smith considers the formation of the GAFCON Diocese of the Southern Cross a "new denomination" while the Sydney archbishop has welcomed the diocese.  Update has reported on recent developments around the GAFCON diocese here and here.

Request Filed to Delay Vote on Florida Bishop

Eighteen clergy deputies (including one of the candidates for bishop in the first election), 13 lay deputies and numerous parishioners have signed a petition asking the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Florida to delay further the special convention called for a second try at electing a bishop for the Diocese of Florida.  The first election ended up being declared irregular because of a lack of a clergy quorum.  The letter lists 8 concerns, among the most pertinent being that the Diocese has still not confirmed the list of canonically resident clergy, and that appeals of clergy excluded are still under way. The signers are concerned that this election may also result in canonical challenges.  The large number of clergy (many of who are retired or no longer living in the diocese) makes it very hard to reach quorum.  The group also considered it unfair that one of the 3 candidates (the one apparently elected in the first meeting) has been hired by the diocese and is visiting parishes, thus giving him a means of quiet campaigning.  The Standing Committee has not yet responded to the letter.

Sudan Christians Face Hostile Environment

Sudan split several years ago into two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, and the Anglican Communion has likewise recognized the Anglican/Episcopal Church in each country to be a separate province.  Both are dealing with a Muslim majority that has made life increasingly dangerous for Christians.  In South Sudan, update has carried notices of attacks on Anglican leaders.  Now a legal case in the Sudan could put all Christian groups in real jeopardy.  The couple has been accused of adultery for living together.  They married as Muslims, then the husband converted to Christianity at a time when a secular government had removed laws forbidding any conversion by Muslims.  Her family forced her to leave her husband, return home, and divorce him in a Sharia court.  When a secular government returned to power and again removed the law making conversion a capital offense, the woman returned to living with her husband and converted to Christianity.  Although it is not a crime to convert, the couple is being charged in separate courts for adultery (because of the divorce) and conversion.  The concern is that the secular government is increasing under the influence of those who want to return to governing under strict Sharia law.  This would negatively affect all Christian groups.

Churches Raise Concerns About Biden Policy for Venezuelan Refugees

While the Biden administration's recently announced implementation for Venezuelans of a Trump policy requiring those seeking asylum to do so before entering the country, and wait for responses in Mexico, did promise entry for some, it also makes getting asylum a longer and more difficult process for most, and will permanently bar those deported from applying.  Thus the major Christian organizations (including the Lutherans) handling refugees, have signed a protest of the policy. Episcopal News Service took a more positive tack on the announcement and focused on those who will be admitted. The announcement has left all faith based resettlement groups scrambling because the Trump era policies had so cut refugee numbers that the 24,000 Venezuelans who will be admitted will stretch resettlement services to the utmost.  Update continues to follow immigration and refugee issues.  The recent surprise arrival of 50 Venezuelans in Martha's Vineyard may be affected by the change.

Texas Parish Opens Building to Jewish Congregation During High Holidays

On Halloween 2021, Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, Texas had their building burned in an apparent hate crime.  The congregation has been sharing space with another smaller Jewish Congregation, but that space was too small for the numbers who attend during High Holidays.  St. Matthew's Episcopal Church stepped forward and offered their building for the week of special services.  The Episcopal News Service has pictures.  This is not the first time that en Episcopal Congregation has stepped forward in this way.  Update reported on the 2019 High Holiday invitation by Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh to the Tree of Life Congregation which had been the object of a terrorist attack that killed eleven.   

Rebuilding Goes On in Texas and South Carolina

Three of the congregations who lost their homes due to the court proceedings in the Fort Worth area, have decided to  mark their fresh start by choosing new names.  Since the Diocese of North Texas's merger with the much larger Diocese of Texas has been implemented, it was an appropriate time for the rebuilding congregations to take on a new identities.  The mission congregation in Witchita Falls has chosen to be Faith Episcopal Church; the former St. Alban's is now All Souls; and St. Mary's in Hamilton is now St. Catherine's.  Meanwhile in South Carolina, the transfer of property back to the Episcopal Church continues.  One transfer (St. Bartholomew's in Hartsville) has been delayed from September to the end of October in order to accommodate the ACNA parish which is vacating the property, but had a delay in accessing their new location.   Its opening with  be closely followed by the first Services for St. James in Charleston will hold their first services on  All Saints Sunday.  The Diocese announced separately the appointment of a very experienced priest new to South Carolina for St. James.  The Diocese also regained control in September of Holy Trinity in Charleston where an on-going pre-school operation continues while the diocese continues to discern how to proceed with the church building.  Update has covered all the previous transitions, most recently here.