February 24, 2015

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Celebrates 150 Years

The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh has revamped its Web site. Its new incarnation is less cluttered, but I haven’t attempted to inventory everything that’s there and that isn’t. I found particularly interesting the pastoral letter from Bishop Bob Duncan. (The letter is also available here as a PDF file.)

Duncan begins by asserting that the diocese is celebrating its sesquicentennial, i.e., its 150th anniversary this year. He concludes his remarks about this milestone with this somewhat garbled sentence: “The sesquicentennial adaptation of our logo—used for the first time in this letter’s letterhead—will also serve us as a reminder of the great foundation on which we continue to build.” Is the logo one to be used during this year only or, is it going to be used beyond 2015, possibly with a different number in the center? I don’t know. Here is the logo to which he refers:
Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh logo
Everything in black is new. The rest of the graphic has been in use since before the 2008 schism in the diocese. After the news about the sesquicentennial, Duncan discusses other diocesan issues, about which I will make no further comment.

Several things need to be said about this logo. First, there is some honesty in the legend “REALIGNED A.D. 2008.” The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, like breakaway groups elsewhere in The Episcopal Church, have tried to maintain the fiction that it is the same diocese that existed before conservative conspirators broke with The Episcopal Church and walked off with the property. Likewise, the Episcopalians left behind were said to have organized a “new” Episcopal Church diocese. This view was always a hard sell in Pittsburgh, in part, because one member of the Standing Committee was not part of the conspiracy and represented continuity in leadership. In any case, the Anglican diocese has continued to number its conventions from the first Episcopal convention, rather than starting over after 2008. At least the 150th anniversary logo acknowledges that something significant happened in 2008.

Then, there is the curious legend “‘FAMOUS FOR GOD.’” Syntactically, this is a classic misuse of quotation marks. Quotation marks are most commonly used in three contexts: (1) to set off quoted material, such as speech; (2) to name certain things, such as chapter titles; and (3) to indicate that something is not quite what the word or words suggest. In the logo in question, neither case (1) nor case (2) applies. This suggests—though it is surely not intended—that the diocese thinks it’s famous for God, but really isn’t.

I suspect that “Famous for God” is a reference to the work of the Rev. Sam Shoemaker, who spoke of Pittsburgh at some time in the future being as famous for God as for steel. (In a certain sense, that has been achieved, but not how Shoemaker intended.) It is ironic that Shoemaker was rector of Calvary Church, whose lawsuit against Duncan and his colleagues many years later is largely responsible for keeping most of the assets of the diocese in the hands of Episcopalians and keeping the question of whether a diocese can secede from The Episcopal Church out of the courts. In any case, Shoemaker was speaking of Pittsburgh, not the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and surely not the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

I think that the Anglican diocese is famous for Duncan and for conservative subversion of The Episcopal Church. Make of that what you will. I am reminded of my many visits to Episcopal churches outside the area before the diocesan schism. I would introduce myself as a visitor to the rector after the service, and the rector would ask where I was from. His or her face immediately turned noncommittal when I answered, “Pittsburgh.” After giving assurance that I was a loyal Episcopalian, I was invariably offered sympathy. Our diocese was famous, but not for God. Of course, those who left The Episcopal Church for what has become the Anglican Church in North America may have a different view,

The founding year of the Anglican diocese of Pittsburgh is really 2008, but I will grant that the organization shares a history before then. Just as the Christian Church found it useful to claim continuity with the ancient Jewish religion, which provided more respect in the eyes of Romans, the Anglican diocese finds it useful to claim it is older than it actually is. All things considered, a more honest logo might be the following:
An Episcopalian’s take on the logo

February 19, 2015

A Long-forgotten Curve-stitch Design

A couple of days ago, I had occasion to look for a curve-stitch design I made years ago. I had to search through files I had backed up but never transferred to my current computer. In the process, I found some designs I had completely forgotten about, including the one below.

Click on image for a larger view

I tweaked this figure before posting it here, and it could be improved by adjusting line widths to be more uniform, but I really like the design. Anyone familiar with curve-stitching will be able to recognize how unusual it is.

February 16, 2015

Islamic State

With the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by the so-called Islamic State, IS seems to be continuing its campaign  of offending every country on earth. Egypt is only the latest implacable enemy that IS has created by its outrageous behavior.

President Obama is asking for authority to target IS and its allies. Opponents of granting such authority assert that IS does not represent an existential threat to the United States and that our country should not be the world’s policeman. There is some validity to those points, of course. And yet, when Hitler began what would become World War II, it was not clear that Nazi Germany was an existential threat to the U.S. As it turned out, it was.

Once before, Islamic militants overran most of the Western world. Arguably, it’s happening again.

February 14, 2015

Absalom Jones

Yesterday, February 13, was the day the church celebrates the life of Absalom Jones, the first black priest in The Episcopal Church. Jones was born on November 7, 1746, and died on February 13, 1818. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh had its Absalom Jones Day celebration a week ago. I was very much struck by the story of Jones, which was recounted in the service bulletin. His story is quite dramatic. Wouldn’t that story make a great opera? Is there a composer out there who would like to take on that project?

Here is the summary of Jones’s life, taken from Holy Women, Holy Men:
Absalom Jones was born a house slave in 1746 in Delaware. He taught himself to read out of the New Testament, among other books. When sixteen, he was sold to a store owner in Philadelphia. There he attended a night school for Blacks, operated by Quakers. At twenty, he married another slave, and purchased her freedom with his earnings.

Jones bought his own freedom in 1784. At St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, he served as lay minister for its Black membership. The active evangelism of Jones and that of his friend, Richard Allen, greatly increased Black membership at St. George’s. The alarmed vestry decided to segregate Blacks into an upstairs gallery, without notifying them. During a Sunday service when ushers attempted to remove them, the Blacks indignantly walked out in a body.

In 1787, Black Christians organized the Free African Society, the first organized Afro-American society, and Absalom Jones and Richard Allen were elected overseers. Members of the Society paid monthly dues for the benefit of those in need. The Society established communication with similar Black groups in other cities. In 1792, the Society began to build a church, which was dedicated on July 17, 1794.

The African Church applied for membership in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania on the following conditions: 1, that they be received as an organized body; 2, that they have control over their local affairs; 3, that Absalom Jones be licensed as layreader, and, if qualified, be ordained as minister. In October 1794 it was admitted as St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. Bishop White ordained Jones as deacon in 1795 and as priest on September 21, 1802.

Jones was an earnest preacher. He denounced slavery, and warned the oppressors to “clean their hands of slaves.” To him, God was the Father, who always acted on “behalf of the oppressed and distressed.” But it was his constant visiting and mild manner that made him beloved by his own flock and by the community. St. Thomas Church grew to over 500 members during its first year. Known as “the Black Bishop of the Episcopal Church,” Jones was an example of persistent faith in God and in the Church as God’s instrument.
Additional information about Absalom Jones can be found in the Wikipedia article about him.

The Rev. Absalom Jones
"Absalom Jones" by Raphaelle Peale, Delaware Art Museum