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Historic Anglican-Oriental Orthodox agreement on the Holy Spirit signed in Dublin

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 3:52pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Theologians from the Anglican Communion and Oriental Orthodox Churches have signed an historic agreement on the Holy Spirit. The Agreed Statement on the Procession and Work of the Holy Spirit was signed on Oct. 27, the end of a week of discussions by the Anglican Oriental-Orthodox International Commission (AOOIC) and concludes two years of work on the subject.

Read the entire article here.

Episcopal News Service launches new website

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 2:30pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopal News Service (ENS), the award-winning news service of the Episcopal Church, has launched a leading-edge new website at  www.episcopalnewsservice.org.

Visually appealing, easy-to-navigate and mobile-friendly, the new ENS website was designed to improve the overall user experience, raise awareness of the news service and generate further interest and engagement in the life-changing ministries of the Episcopal Church.

ENS offers in-depth reporting and analysis of local, regional, national and international news for Episcopalians and others interested in the church’s mission and ministry. Providing written and multimedia coverage, it is the officially sponsored online news source of the Episcopal Church.

“ENS will continue to place an emphasis on reporting about issues of social justice, and inspiring people to act, engage and connect to make a difference in the world,” noted the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg,  ENS interim managing editor. “ENS will also continue its reliable coverage of the ongoing work of the church through its governance and mission priorities.”

Among the many new features and improvements that will enhance the user experience are: news content organized in fewer sections with an emphasis on issues and topics and an advanced search function.

“The Episcopal News Service is a long-standing ministry of storytelling that is pivotal in digital evangelism and informing Episcopalians and others about how the Episcopal Church lives into the Jesus Movement and lives out the gospel in the world,” noted Matt Davies, ENS advertising and web manager. “With our new responsive website and our continued editorial emphasis on issues of social justice, the ENS team believes it has blended together crucial ingredients to satisfy the hunger for advocacy and engagement, and hopefully ignite the palates of a new generation of activists who long to add to the recipe for global change.”

Key elements of www.episcopalnewsservice.org

  • New ENS website incorporates the popular reader-generated sections for advertising Jobs & Calls, Events, Books, Press Releases and People news items.
  • ENS continues to encourage dioceses and congregations to submit news stories about local ministries and important developments in the life of the church. The ENS submission guidelines are available here.
  • Opportunities for sponsorship and publicity will continue to be offered to church-related agencies and organizations wishing to raise awareness of their ministries, services, events, brands and products.

Further information about opportunities on ENS is available from Davies at mdavies@episcopalchurch.org.

Submitting information

ENS offers the following ways to share your news.

  • To submit a press release for inclusion on the Episcopal News Service, click here.
  • To publish a People news item (e.g. a new position, ordination, award or honor), click here.
  • To publish a Job or Call listing, click here.
  • To publish an Event listing, click here.
  • To publish a Book listing, click here.

Church of England bishops to remain in reformed House of Lords

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The 26 Church of England bishops with places in the upper house of the United Kingdom’s Parliament will retain their places under new plans to reform the House of Lords. Bishops have been part of England’s governance since absolute rule by monarchs in the days long before the emergence of democracy in the country. Today the House of Lords includes the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishops of London, Durham and Winchester, and 21 other diocesan bishops by seniority of service. For a short transitional period, women in the episcopate take precedence over male colleagues in filling vacancies in the 21 other bishops.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop Welby’s comment leads to development of African solar project

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:52pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A comment made by the archbishop of Canterbury during his visit to the Holy Land in April has resulted in a pioneering green energy project for churches in Africa. During his two-week visit, Archbishop Justin Welby met Rabbi Yonatan Neril, the founder and executive director of the Jerusalem-based NGO, the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (ICSD). Welby heard about ICSD’s collaborative project with the social enterprise Gigawatt Global (GWG) to deploy solar fields on church lands in Africa. In Rwanda, GWG installed Africa’s first commercial-scale solar field on land belonging to the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village for orphans from the genocide. Welby suggested that Neril contact the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), which gives a significant priority to environmental action.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of Cape Town says ‘the ANC’s time may have passed’

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:47pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Time may be coming to an end for the “glorious movement” of the ANC, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said in an outspoken attack during a discussion on the Power98 radio program “Power Talk.” The ANC – the African National Congress – has its roots in the anti-Apartheid struggle. It was the party of Nelson Mandela and has formed the government in South Africa since the end of Apartheid.

Get the entire article here.

In this hour of our testing: New York bishop writes to diocese after terror attack

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 10:32am

[Episcopal Diocese of New York] 

My Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

The news of what appears to have been a terror-related attack in Lower Manhattan comes to me as Bishop Glasspool and I are continuing our visit to Bishop Chilongani in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika. How difficult it is to be away from our city when it is in crisis!

I join with all in our diocese, all people of faith, and all our city in mourning the lives lost and the chaos visited upon our own streets. I know that opportunities for prayer are already being planned for tomorrow and following days. I urge you to go and be with one another, and pray with one another, and turn a common face toward the God who is balm for weary and broken hearts.

I know that in every church the victims of this violence will be remembered in prayer today, tomorrow and at our Sunday liturgies. Pray also for our country, and for God’s guidance for our leaders. Pray for peace. Pray for understanding across religions, cultures and political philosophies. And pray for ourselves, that we may guard our hearts, that we may by the grace of God respond to hatred with love, and violence with peace.

Once again it is crucial that we do not extrapolate from the violence committed by one man to condemn or blame the larger Islamic community, or to view all Muslims as dangerous. Faithful, peaceful Muslims are as bereaved and angry about these killings as anyone else in our city, and we know the Islamic community to be our friends.

Now is the time when we who follow a God of peace, across our several religions, must stand together against all forces of destruction. Indeed, the love of peace and the renunciation of the evil powers which corrupt and destroy are contained within the heart of our baptismal life. That is who we are.

I long to return to you, and pray for you every one in this hour of our testing. And always I remain 


The Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche

Bishop of New York

Episcopalians invoke values in range of anti-hunger efforts, from soup kitchens to global aid

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 4:41pm

Guests and volunteers pray together during one of the free breakfasts offered by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, one of range of anti-hunger ministries involving the Episcopal Church at all levels. Photo: Sara Bates/St. Luke’s

[Episcopal News Service] In Christianity, food is inseparable from faith. It underlies a wide spectrum of the Bible’s teachings and Christian traditions, from individual fasting to Jesus’ Last Supper and the celebration of the Eucharist. The faith journey is a path from hunger to fullness.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled,” Jesus says in Luke 6:21.

But Jesus’ followers also were called to give to the poor, providing physical food along with Jesus’ spiritual food. Defining that mission, let alone fulfilling it, can be difficult, and churches and believers have wrestled since Jesus’ time with the question of how to best address the problem of hunger. Today, physical hunger remains a persistent scourge around the world, including in countries of great wealth like the United States.

‘Food and Faith’

Episcopal News Service kicks off a five-part series on anti-hunger efforts in the Episcopal Church. Future stories will focus on food pantries, a soup kitchen, a food truck and the church’s advocacy on government programs that fight hunger. Part 2 will post Nov. 6.

Hope remains, too. Episcopal News Service found it in a homeless outreach program in Seattle, Washington, in a food truck ministry in Houston, Texas, and in a New York City soup kitchen. Those and other examples of faith-based solutions to the problem of hunger form the heart of the “Food and Faith” series this November, in which ENS tells the stories of various anti-hunger efforts underway in all corners of the Episcopal Church.

The need is well documented. More than 41.2 million Americans and 12 percent of households are deemed food insecure because they lack access to enough food to maintain active and healthy lives, according to Feeding America’s most recent “Poverty and Hunger Fact Sheet.” And hunger is not solely a problem of poverty. More than half of all food-insecure Americans live in households above the poverty line.

Nor is hunger a sudden emergency for many households. It can be an unforgiving, intractable fact of daily life.

“For a lot of people that live below or close to the poverty line, they’re left wondering where their next meal is going to come from,” said Catherine Davis, chief marketing and communication officer for Feeding America, which distributes food through its member food banks to faith-based and secular food pantries across the country.

The Episcopal Church emphasizes anti-hunger efforts at all levels. Congregations everywhere operate food pantries and meal ministries to assist the needy, one canned good or bowl of soup at a time. There’s Grace Food Pantry in Madison, Wisconsin, distributing food to needy guests for 38 years. There’s Abundant Harvest, a relatively new Episcopal food truck ministry in the Houston area that is part of a congregation aimed at finding communion around the dinner table.

Volunteers Clare Manthey and John Mitchell prepare to serve St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s daily free breakfast through the Edible Hope Kitchen ministry. Photo: Sara Bates/St. Luke’s

For ministries like these, the goal is to do more than put food in needy mouths.

“It’s a witness to our community and our neighborhood of what it means to live a Christian life,” said Sara Bates, coordinator of the Edible Hope Kitchen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, which serves free breakfast every weekday to hundreds of homeless residents of its Ballard neighborhood.

The fight against hunger isn’t just local. Money donated to Episcopal Relief & Development supports programs fighting famine overseas in places like South Sudan. Churchwide advocacy campaigns seek to influence U.S. policy on hunger relief in ways that reflect Christian values through the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations.

In May, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined “For Such a Time as This,” an ecumenical campaign of prayer, advocacy and fasting, timed to the 21st of each month during the current Congress to highlight the difference government programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps, can make in the lives of people struggling with hunger.

Curry told Episcopal News Service the church was following in Jesus’ footsteps by feeding both the body and soul.

“Jesus fed 5,000 people with physical, tangible bread because they were hungry.  At the same time, he fed their souls by teaching them the Gospel way,” Curry said. “Sacraments, the word of God, worship, bible study, prayer groups, feed the soul. Soup kitchens, food pantries, ecumenical and interfaith food shuttles, community gardens, feed the body. In these ways, we seek to end hunger … hunger of the body and hunger of the soul.”

Biblical roots for feeding ministries

Jesus also alludes to this duality in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” he says in Matthew 5:1-12.

The Greek word for righteousness was the same as the word for justice, noted the Rev. Jane Patterson, associate professor of the New Testament at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. How the ancient world understood hunger and fasting, though, was different from how we understand it today.

“Most people in the ancient word were hungry most of the time,” Patterson told ENS, and the prophets made the moral case for feeding the hungry.

The idea of Jesus as the “good shepherd” has roots in Ezekiel 34, Patterson said. God asks the shepherds why they feed themselves but don’t care of the flock. God pledges to tend to his sheep, the Israelites, and “provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations.”

References to abundance and scarcity continue through the New Testament. The words “hunger” and “hungry” are found 19 times in the Gospels. “Eat” appears several dozen more times. In Mark 11:12-14, Jesus is hungry but finds no figs on the fig tree, so he condemns the tree to wither. The prodigal son in Luke 15 is so hungry he covets the pigs’ food, “but no one gave him anything.” And in Matthew 6:25, Jesus says, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink. … Is not life more than food?”

For the disciples, Jesus shared his Last Supper in a time of uncertainty and with a great injustice about to happen, Patterson said. It is recounted today before every Eucharist because of how Jesus joined the meal to his coming sacrifice, offering himself as bread and wine.

“Food is so basic to life,” Patterson said, but spiritual needs are just as essential. There often is little distinction between the two in the Bible. “People who are hungry need real food, and they also need spiritual sustenance.”

One of the best-known gospel stories involving food is the one cited by Curry, the feeding of the 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish as recounted in all four gospels. That miracle is followed by Jesus’ teaching about “the bread of life.”

“Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” he says in John 6:35.

Jesus’ disciples “needed to be taught as much as they needed the bread,” Patterson said. She also emphasizes the communal nature of the miracle. Jesus is not said to have multiplied the loaves and fish. The miracle is that all who gathered are fed from what little food was available, and no one lacks food for giving to those in need.

“In God’s economy, it’s never zero sum,” she said.

Giving much, lacking nothing

The Rev. Melanie Mullen, the Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, looks to Proverbs 28 for inspiration in the fight against hunger: “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing.”

Mullen oversees Jubilee Ministries and the United Thank Offering, two programs in which the Episcopal Church provides substantial financial support for antipoverty efforts. Jubilee Ministries focuses specifically on poverty through its network of 600 Jubilee centers, which provide a range of services, including food, shelter and health care.

United Thank Offering, or UTO, collects donations from individuals across the Episcopal Church and distributes the money to a wide variety of worthy ministries, many of them feeding ministries.

More than $1.2 million in UTO grants was awarded this year. Recipients included a farm run by the Diocese of Ohio, a church garden in Connecticut and food ministries in central California. Food ministries regularly benefit from UTO grants, such as the $12,500 given in 2016 to support this garden at St. James Episcopal Church in Kent, Washington.

The Episcopal Church can lead from a position of moral clarity based on Jesus’ teachings, Mullen said.

“When we help the poor we’re not just doing charity work, we’re living as Jesus did,” she said.

The Episcopal Church, through the Anglican Communion, also can leverage a worldwide network of believers willing to give their money, supporting strangers who need help putting meals on the table. Episcopal Relief & Development plays a leading role in those efforts on behalf of the Episcopal Church.

Alleviating hunger is a core area of Episcopal Relief & Development’s work, with an emphasis on community-based programs. “These locally developed programs address the specific context of hunger and have a wider impact on the health and economic well-being of the community,” the agency’s website says. “Working with church partners and local organizations, we empower people to live healthier and more productive lives.”

Episcopal Relief & Development was able to spend $6.9 million on food security in 2015 and nearly $4 million in 2016, according to the agency’s annual reports, with help from Episcopalians who have been financially generous through the years.

There also are seemingly limitless examples of Episcopalians working in their own communities to help next-door neighbors put food on the table.

The food ministry at St. Luke’s in Seattle started about 30 years ago as a weekly community lunch, the labor of love of the church’s Bible study group. More recently it also has helped save the congregation, which was struggling after a major split over gay ordination.

In 2011, the church lost an estimated 80 percent of its members in the split, leaving attendance at worship services as low as a dozen people some Sundays, Bates said. Among those who stayed were the older women who hosted the church’s food ministry, and they were determined to keep it going.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, Washington, where a daily free breakfast is served to hundreds of people each week, has seen a rise in homelessness in its Ballard neighborhood. Photo: Sara Bates/St. Luke’s

By that time, the meal had become a breakfast served five days a week, as the group noticed more and more homeless people in the neighborhood but with no feeding programs in the morning. As the meals became more and more popular, they took on the name Edible Hope Kitchen a couple years ago based on the suggestion of one of their regular guests.

“He said, ‘You guys don’t just serve food here. You serve edible hope,’” Bates recalled.

She began working at the church as an intern in 2015, soon after a new vicar arrived and began injecting new life into the congregation. Bates, 33, now works 20 hours a week as the church’s paid coordinator of Edible Hope Kitchen, partly thanks to the $22,000 UTO grant St. Luke’s received this year.

St. Luke’s gets most of its food from donations or at a reduced cost from the Feeding America-affiliated food bank in Seattle. The UTO grant will also help the church upgrade equipment in its kitchen. Buying a new bread slicer, for example, is a big improvement, because Edible Hope offers unlimited slices of toast from loaves that often are not precut.

The goal is to be able to feed up to 250 people from 7 to 10 a.m. each weekday by this winter. That means a lot of toast. The church also goes through at least six dozen eggs a day, sometimes as many as 14 dozen. Four to 10 volunteers prep the meals the night before, and about a dozen people help each morning by setting up the meal, serving it and then cleaning up.

“Honestly, it shouldn’t be possible to do all that we do with what we have. It’s truly miraculous,” Bates said.

The meals have helped connect two groups in the neighborhood – the homeless and the affluent – that otherwise may find little reason to interact. Bates also thinks the food ministry is one of the reasons new people are finding the congregation and becoming members, especially young people and families. Edible Hope Kitchen offers a way for them to be active in their faith, she said, noting that Sunday attendance at St. Luke’s now is sometimes as high as 80 people.

“It’s not always convenient to have 200 homeless people on our property. It’s not always clean and comfortable, and yet we want to be a place where all of our neighbors feel welcome and comfortable,” Bates said. “We feel very, very called to feed our hungry neighbors.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org

Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Reformed and Anglicans ‘drawn into deeper communion’

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 4:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An agreement between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches, which settled one of the historic disagreements at the centre of the Reformation, was the focus of a special service at Westminster Abbey on Oct. 31. On this day 500 years ago, Martin Luther kickstarted the Reformation by posting his 95 theses on the door of All Saints’ Church – the Schlosskirche – in Wittenberg, Germany. Central to his argument was the theological principle that man can be reconciled to God – justification – through faith alone, rather than through good works, penance or the buying of indulgences.

Read the entire article here.

Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Reformed and Anglicans ‘drawn into deeper communion’

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 4:03pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An agreement between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches, which settled one of the historic disagreements at the centre of the Reformation, was the focus of a special service at Westminster Abbey on Oct. 31. On this day 500 years ago, Martin Luther kickstarted the Reformation by posting his 95 theses on the door of All Saints’ Church – the Schlosskirche – in Wittenberg, Germany. Central to his argument was the theological principle that man can be reconciled to God – justification – through faith alone, rather than through good works, penance or the buying of indulgences.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Communion appoints director for theological education

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 4:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The vice principal of St. Hild College in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, the Rev. Stephen Spencer, has been appointed as director for theological education in the Anglican Communion. Spencer will work to build up companionship links between theological colleges and courses in the Global North and the Global South. “There are resources and inspiration which can be shared in both directions, for the benefit of all,” he said, “and the director will need to be a kind of matchmaker facilitating this.”

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Communion appoints director for theological education

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 3:59pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The vice principal of St. Hild College in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, the Rev. Stephen Spencer, has been appointed as director for theological education in the Anglican Communion. Spencer will work to build up companionship links between theological colleges and courses in the Global North and the Global South. “There are resources and inspiration which can be shared in both directions, for the benefit of all,” he said, “and the director will need to be a kind of matchmaker facilitating this.”

Read the entire article here.

Episcopales alegan valores en toda una variedad de empeños contra el hambre, desde comedores de beneficencia hasta ayuda global

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 9:14am

Invitados y voluntarios oran juntos durante uno de los desayunos gratuitos que ofrece la iglesia episcopal de Sn Lucas en Seattle, uno  de los varios ministerios para combatir el hambre en que participa la Iglesia Episcopal en todos los niveles. Foto de Sara Bates/San Lucas.

[Episcopal News Service] En el cristianismo, el alimento es inseparable de la fe. [Esa unión] la subraya un amplio espectro de las enseñanzas bíblicas y de las tradiciones cristianas, desde el ayuno individual hasta la Última Cena de Jesús y la celebración de la eucaristía. El viaje de la fe es un trayecto del hambre a la plenitud.

“Bienaventurados los que tienen hambre, por que ellos serán saciados”, dice Jesús en Lucas 6:21.

Pero los seguidores de Jesús también fueron llamados a dar a los pobres, proporcionando alimento físico junto con el alimento espiritual de Jesús. Definir esa misión, para no decir cumplirla, puede ser difícil, y las iglesias y creyentes se han enfrentado desde los tiempos de Jesús con la pregunta de cuál es la mejor manera de abordar el problema del hambre. En la actualidad, el hambre física sigue siendo un azote persistente en el mundo, incluidos países de gran riqueza como Estados Unidos.

‘Alimento y fe’

Episcopal News Service inicia una serie en cinco partes sobre los empeños para combatir el hambre en el ámbito de la Iglesia Episcopal. Otros artículos se centrarán en despensas de alimentos, un comedor de beneficencia, un camión de alimentos y la intervención de la Iglesia en la defensa de los programas del gobierno que combaten el hambre. La segunda parte aparecerá el 6 de noviembre.

La esperanza también se mantiene. Episcopal News Service la encontró en un programa de servicio a indigentes en Seattle, Washington, en el ministerio de un camión de comidas en Houston, Texas, y en un comedor de beneficencia en la ciudad de Nueva York.  Esos y otros ejemplos de soluciones al problema del hambre basadas en la fe forman el tuétano de la serie  “Alimento y fe” en este mes de noviembre, en el cual ENS cuenta las historias de varios empeños contra el hambre que se llevan a cabo en todos los confines de la Iglesia Episcopal.

La necesidad está bien documentada. Más de 41,2 millones de estadounidenses y el 12 por ciento de las familias se definen como alimentariamente inseguros por carecer de acceso al alimento suficiente para mantener vidas activas y sanas, según la más reciente “Ficha descriptiva de la pobreza y el hambre” de Feeding America. Y el hambre no es solamente un problema de pobreza. Más de la mitad de todos los estadounidenses con inseguridad alimentaria viven en familias por encima del nivel de la pobreza.

Ni es el hambre una emergencia súbita para muchas familias. Puede ser una realidad implacable e insuperable de la vida diaria.

“Muchísima gente que vive por debajo o cerca del nivel de la pobreza se preguntan de dónde les llegará su próxima comida”, dijo Catherine Davis, encargada principal de mercadeo y comunicaciones de Feeding America, [organización] que distribuye alimento a través de sus bancos de alimentos a despensas de beneficencias tanto religiosas como seculares en todo el país.

La Iglesia Episcopal hace énfasis en los empeños para combatir el hambre en todos los niveles. Las congregaciones en todas partes funcionan como despensas de alimentos y ministerios de comida para asistir a los necesitados con alimentos enlatados o un plato de sopa en cualquier momento. Existe la Despensa de la Gracia  [Grace Food Pantry] en Madison, Wisconsin, que ha distribuido alimentos a personas necesitadas durante 38 años. Existe Cosecha Abundante [Abundant Harvest] un ministerio episcopal relativamente nuevo de camión de comidas en el área de Houston que es parte de una congregación que se propone encontrar la comunión en torno a la mesa de la comida.

Los voluntarios Clare Manthey y John Mitchell se disponen a servir el desayuno diario gratuito a través del ministerio Cocina de la Esperanza Comestible. Foto de Sara Bates/San Lucas.

Para ministerios como éstos, el objetivo es hacer más que poner alimento en las bocas de los necesitados.

“Es un testimonio para nuestra comunidad y nuestro barrio de lo que significa vivir una vida cristiana”, dijo Sara Bates, coordinadora de Cocina de la Esperanza Comestible [Edible Hope Kitchen] en la iglesia episcopal de San Lucas [St. Luke’s Episcopal Church] en Seattle, que sirve desayuno gratuito todas las mañanas a cientos de indigentes de su bario de Ballard.

La lucha contra el hambre no es sólo local. El dinero donado al Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo [Episcopal Relief & Development] sostiene programas que combaten el hambre en lugares como Sudán del Sur. Las campañas denominacionales de promoción social procuran influir la política de EE.UU. sobre la mitigación del hambre, a través de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal,  de maneras que reflejen los valores cristianos.

En mayo, el obispo primado Michael Curry se unió a “Para un tiempo como éste”  [For Such a Time as This] una campaña ecuménica de oración, activismo social y ayuno, programada para el día 21 de cada mes durante el actual período congresional a fin de resaltar el cambio que pueden hacer en las vidas de personas que luchan con el hambre algunos programas gubernamentales , como es el Programa de Asistencia Nutricional Suplementaria, también conocido por SNAP [su sigla en inglés] o sellos de alimentos.

Curry dijo a Episcopal News Service que, al alimentar tanto el cuerpo como el alma, la Iglesia estaba siguiendo los pasos de Jesús.

“Jesús alimentó a 5.000 personas con pan físico y tangible porque estaban hambrientos. Al mismo tiempo, alimentó sus almas al enseñarles el camino del Evangelio”, expresó Curry. “Los sacramentos, la palabra de Dios, el culto, el estudio bíblico, los grupos de oración, alimentan el alma. Los comedores de caridad, las despensas de alientos, las distribuciones de alimentos ecuménicos e interreligiosos, los huertos comunitarios, alimentan el cuerpo. De estas formas, buscamos ponerle fin al hambre… hambre del cuerpo y hambre del espíritu”.

Raíces bíblicas de los ministerios de alimentación

Jesús también alude a esta dualidad en las Bienaventuranzas: “Bienaventurados los que tienen hambre y sed de justicia, porque ellos serán saciados”, dicen Mateo 5:1-12.

En griego, la palabra que se traduce [al español] como justicia era la misma para equidad, hacía notar la Rda. Jane Patterson, profesora asociada de Nuevo Testamento en el Seminario del Sudoeste en Austin, Texas. Sin embargo, la manera en que el mundo antiguo entendió el hambre y el ayuno era diferente de cómo la entendemos hoy.

“La mayoría de la gente en el mundo antiguo estaban hambrientos la mayor parte del tiempo”, dijo Patterson a ENS, y los profetas plantearon el argumento moral de la alimentación de los hambrientos.

La idea de Jesús como el “buen pastor” se basa en Ezequiel 34, dijo Patterson. Dios le pregunta a los pastores por qué se alimentan ellos, pero no cuidan del rebaño. Dios promete cuidar de sus ovejas, los israelitas, y “proporcionarles una tierra famosa por sus cosechas, y donde ellos no sigan siendo víctima del hambre ni el escarnio de las naciones”.

La referencias a la abundancia y a la escasez continúan a través del Nuevo Testamento. Las palabras “hambre” y “hambriento[s]” se encuentran 19 veces en los evangelios. “Comer” aparece varias docenas de veces más. En Marcos 11:12-14, Jesús tiene hambre, pero no encuentra higos en la higuera, y condena el árbol a secarse. El hijo pródigo Lucas 15 está tan hambriento que codicia la comida de los cerdos, “pero nadie le da nada”. Y en Mateo 6:25, Jesús dice “no se preocupen por vuestra vida, lo que han de comer o de beber… ¿No es la vida más que la comida?”

Para los discípulos, Jesús compartió la Última Cena en un momento de incertidumbre y cuando una gran injusticia estaba a punto de ocurrir, dijo Patterson. Hoy se vuelve a contar antes de cada eucaristía debido a la manera en que Jesús vinculó la comida con su próximo sacrificio, ofreciéndose como pan y vino.

“El alimento es básico para la vida”, siguió diciendo Patterson, pero las necesidades espirituales son igualmente esenciales. Con frecuencia hay poca distinción entre las dos en la Biblia. “Las personas que están hambrientas necesitan alimentos reales, y también necesitan sostén espiritual”.

Uno de los relatos evangélicos más conocidos es el citado por Curry, la alimentación de los 5.000 con sólo cinco hogazas de pan y dos peses tal como lo cuentan los cuatro evangelios. A ese milagro sigue la enseñanza de Jesús sobre “el pan de vida”.

“El que a mí viene nunca tendrá hambre, y el que en mí cree no tendrá sed jamás”, dice en Juan 6:35.

Los discípulos de Jesús “necesitaban que les enseñaran tanto como necesitaban el pan”, apuntó Patterson. Ella también enfatiza la naturaleza comunal del milagro. No se dice que Jesús multiplicara los panes y los peces. El milagro consiste en que todos los que estaban reunidos se alimentaron del poco alimento que había disponible, y nadie se quedó sin comer por darles a los necesitados.

“En la economía de Dios, nunca las cosas se reducen a cero”, afirmó ella.

Dar mucho, carecer de nada

La Rda. Melanie Mullen, directora de reconciliación, justicia y cuidado de la creación de la Iglesia Episcopal, busca inspiración en Proverbios 28 en la lucha contra el hambre: “El que le da al pobre no carecerá de nada”.

Mullen supervisa el Ministerio de Jubileo y la Ofrenda Unida de Gracias, dos programas a través de los cuales la Iglesia Episcopal brinda un apoyo económico substancial a las iniciativas para combatir la pobreza. El Ministerio de Jubileo se centra específicamente en la pobreza a través de su red de 600 centros de jubileo, los cuales ofrecen toda una gama de servicios, que incluyen alimento, albergue y atención sanitaria.

La Ofrenda Unida de Gracias o UTO [por su sigla en inglés] recoge donaciones de individuos a través de la Iglesia Episcopal y distribuye el dinero a una amplia variedad de ministerios valiosos, muchos de ellos ministerios de alimentación.

Este año se otorgaron más de $1.200.000 en subvenciones de la UTO. Entre los beneficiarios se incluían una granja dirigida por la Diócesis de Ohio, un huerto de una iglesia en Connecticut y ministerios de alimentación en California Central. Los ministerios de alimentación regularmente se benefician de subvenciones de la UTO, tal como los $12.500 otorgados en 2016  en apoyo de este huerto en la iglesia episcopal de Santiago Apóstol [St. James] en Kent, Washington.

La Iglesia Episcopal puede ejercer su liderazgo desde una posición de claridad moral basándose en las enseñanzas de Jesús, dijo Mullen.

“Cuando ayudamos a los pobres no sólo estamos haciendo una obra de caridad, estamos viviendo como Jesús dijo”, afirmó ella.

La Iglesia Episcopal, a través de la Comunión Anglicana, también promueve una red mundial de creyentes dispuestos a dar su dinero, a apoyar a extranjeros que necesitan ayuda para poner comida en la mesa. El Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo desempeña un papel protagónico en esos empeños en nombre de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Mitigar el hambre es un área esencial de la obra del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo, con un énfasis en lo programas comunitarios. “Estos programas que se elaboran localmente abordan el contexto específico de los hambrientos y tienen un impacto más amplio en la salud y el bienestar económico de la comunidad”, dice el sitio web de la agencia. “Al trabajar con iglesias asociadas y organizaciones locales, capacitamos a las personas para vivir vidas más sanas y productivas”.

El Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo pudo gastar $6,9 millones en seguridad alimentaria en 2015 y casi $4 millones en 2016, según los informes anuales de la agencia, con la ayuda de episcopales que han sido económicamente generosos a través de los años.

Hay también al parecer ilimitados ejemplos de episcopales que trabajan en sus propias comunidades para ayudar a sus vecinos a poner alimentos en la mesa.

El ministerio de alimentación de la iglesia de San Lucas en Seattle comenzó hace unos 30 años como un almuerzo semanal comunitario, la labor de amor del grupo de estudio bíblico de la iglesia. Más recientemente también ha ayudado a salvar la congregación, que se esfuerza por sobrevivir luego de sufrir una importante división debido a la ordenación de homosexuales.

En 2011, la iglesia perdió aproximadamente el 80 por ciento de sus miembros en esa división, lo cual redujo la asistencia al culto a una docena de personas algunos domingos, dijo Bates. Entre los que se quedaron estaban las mujeres mayores que se encargaban del ministerio de alimentación de la iglesia, y que estaban decididas a mantenerlo.

La iglesia episcopal de San Lucas en Seattle, Washington, donde se sirve diariamente un desayuno gratuito al que acuden cientos d personas cada semana, ha visto un aumento de la indigencia en su barrio de Ballard. Foto de Sara Bates/San Lucas.

Por ese tiempo, la comida se había convertido en un desayuno que se servía cinco días a la semana, en tanto el grupo notaba la presencia de más y más indigentes en el barrio, pero sin programas de alimentación en la mañana. Hace un par de años, según las comidas se fueron haciendo cada vez más populares, tomaron el nombre de Cocina de la Esperanza Comestible a partir de la sugerencia de uno de sus clientes habituales.

“Él les dijo, ‘chicos, ustedes no sirven aquí solo comida. Ustedes sirven esperanza comestible’”, recordaba Bates.

Ella comenzó a trabajar en la iglesia como pasante en 2015, poco después llegó un nuevo vicario y empezó a inyectar nueva vida en la congregación. Bates, de 33 años, ahora trabaja 20 horas a la semana pagada por la iglesia como coordinadora de la Cocina de la Esperanza Comestible gracias a una subvención de $22.000 que San Lucas recibió de la UTO este año.

San Lucas consigue la mayor parte de sus alimentos de donaciones o a costo reducido de un banco de alimentos afiliado a Feeding America en Seattle. La subvención de la UTO también ayudará a que la iglesia actualice el equipo de su cocina. Comprar, por ejemplo, una nueva cortadora de pan es una gran mejora, porque Esperanza Comestible ofrece ilimitadas tostadas de hogazas pan que con frecuencia llegan sin rebanar.

El objetivo es poder alimentar hasta 250 personas entre las 7 y la 10 A.M. todos los días hábiles este [próximo] invierno. Eso significa muchísimas tostadas. La iglesia también consume por lo menos seis docenas de huevos al día, y a veces hasta 14 docenas. De cuatro a 10 voluntarios preparan las comidas la noche anterior, y alrededor de una docena de personas cada mañana las instalan, las sirven y luego se ocupan de la limpieza.

“Sinceramente, no debería ser posible hacer todo lo que hacemos con lo que tenemos. Es verdaderamente milagroso”, dijo Bates.

Las comidas han ayudado a conectar dos grupos en el barrio —los indigentes y los pudientes— que de otro modo pueden encontrar pocos motivos para relacionarse. Bates cree también que el ministerio de alimentación es una de las razones por las que nuevas personas están descubriendo la congregación y haciéndose miembros, especialmente jóvenes y familias. La Cocina de la Esperanza Comestible les ofrece un modo de estar activos en su fe, afirmó ella, haciendo notar que la asistencia el domingo a San Lucas ahora llega a ser a veces de 80 personas.

“No es siempre conveniente tener 200 personas indigentes en nuestra propiedad. No siempre resulta limpio y cómodo, y sin embargo queremos que sea un lugar donde todos nuestros vecinos se sientan acogidos y cómodos”, dijo Bates. “Nos sentimos muy, pero muy llamados a alimentar a nuestros vecinos hambrientos”.

– David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él a dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.