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Updated: 1 hour 41 min ago

Episcopal Migration Ministries hosts World Refugee Day interfaith conversation

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 3:54pm

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, left, Rabbi Victor Urecki, of B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston, West Virginia, center, and Hani Hamwi, of Islamic Relief USA, during a June 20 interfaith panel discussion for World Refugee Day.  Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Judaism, like all religious traditions, calls Rabbi Victor Urecki to welcome the stranger, the refugee. In the Torah, God tells the Jews no less than 36 times to “love the strangers in their midst,” reminding them they were once strangers in Egypt, he said.

Still, it’s not Urecki’s Jewish faith that drives him to welcome and to assist refugees arriving in Charleston, West Virginia. “As a Jew, I feel I’m called to be there for refugees because the refugee story is very personal for Jews,” said Urecki, a West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry adviser. “It’s my people’s story. The image of every refugee should be an image imprinted on every Jew’s heart.”

Urecki spoke on a six-person panel during a June 20 interfaith conversation and prayer for World Refugee Day hosted by Episcopal Migration Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. An iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan, followed the panel conversation. (The holy month of Ramadan, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad, began May 26 and ends June 24.)

EMM encouraged congregations across the country to host similar interfaith conversations, and the June 20 panel was recorded on video for future use, said moderator Allison Duvall, EMM’s manager for church relations and engagement.

The refugee narrative is encoded in Jews’ spiritual DNA. They were forced to flee pogroms in Europe, withstood anti-Semitism and hatred across the globe and endured centuries of war and bloodshed. “We’ve been swept up as bystanders and brutalized as victims. We’ve been killed in our homelands … because of who we were, what we believed and what we practiced,” said Urecki, an immigrant whose grandparents and father were refugees.

Refugees are forced to flee because of who they are, what they believe and their religious practices, as another panelist confirmed. Anastasia Orlova is an asylum seeker from Russia. She arrived in the United States last October with her wife. Russia’s intolerance of LGBT people meant the couple kept few close friends, and Orlova would tell acquaintances she had a husband. She didn’t realize how depressed she was until she left Russia.

“When you are scared or ashamed of yourself, you live in inner isolation,” Orlova said. In the United States, Orlova and her wife can be married legally, practice their beliefs and speak up for themselves. “Here in the U.S. we finally feel protected.”

Refugees on the panel acknowledged that though they feel secure and free to be themselves in the United States, the country’s polarized politics and overarching economic and security fears are worrisome. The Trump administration has sought to suspend and reduce the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program; as a result, EMM was forced to reduce its resettlement work.

“Maybe the stakes now are so high and the fear is so deep and the walls are so thick that the only way we can heal the soul of a nation is for a wider-than-ever circle of allies to gather around to stand with refugee and resettlement agencies,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation. Spellers represented the Episcopal Church on the panel.

In Charleston, for example, West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry operates, “in the heart of Trump country,” said Urecki. But if anything gives him hope, it’s that the people, even those who fear for their security and the economy, are open to conversation. “If you can get your foot in the door and have a conversation, you can win,” he said.

West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry became an EMM affiliate in December.

As the Episcopal Church’s refugee resettlement agency, EMM is one of nine agencies partnered with the U.S. State Department to welcome and resettle refugees; it operates 31 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, providing direct assistance to recent arrivals. The Episcopal Church has worked to resettle refugees since the 1930s. The federal government formalized the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in 1980, partnering with religious and secular organizations to provide direct assistance to newly arrived refugees in communities nationwide. Six of the government’s resettlement partners are faith-based; the program has historically, for the most part, enjoyed bipartisan support. Over the last two years, however, Americans’ attitudes toward refugees have begun to shift from quiet acceptance to fear of the other.

Recently, EMM held a conference to train refugee supporters as advocates. EMM also offers ways for congregations to engage in refugee resettlement in their communities. The agency encourages Episcopalians to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network and advocate for policies that protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

World Refugee Day is held annually on June 20; the day is set aside to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. An unprecedented 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide. Among them 22.5 million have received refugee status and less than 1 percent will be resettled. Over half of all refugees are younger than 18 years old. Many were born in refugee camps where the average stay is 20 years.

-Lynette Wilson is managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Auckland Cathedral reaches out to Shia Muslim communities during Ramadan

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 1:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Auckland, New Zealand’s Holy Trinity Cathedral and the city’s Shia Islamic community have been praised for coming together for a Ramadan fast-breaking meal. New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission Race Relations Adviser Rakesh Naidoo and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff congratulated the two communities for their mutual gesture of goodwill.

Full article.

Episcopal Migration Ministries organise un dialogue interconfessionnel pour la Journée mondiale des réfugiés

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 5:13am

La révérende Stephanie Spellers, chanoine auprès de l’Évêque Primat pour l’évangélisation, la réconciliation et la création, à gauche, le rabbin Victor Urecki, de la Synagogue B’nai Jacob de Charleston (État de Virginie Occidentale), au centre, et Hani Hamwi, d’Islamic Relief USA, lors d’un panel de discussion interconfessionnel le 20 juin pour la Journée mondiale des réfugiés. Photo : Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Le judaïsme, comme toutes les traditions religieuses, appelle – dit le rabbin Victor Urecki – à accueillir l’étranger, le réfugié. Dans la Torah, Dieu dit aux juifs pas moins de 36 fois d’« aimer les étrangers en leur sein », leur rappelant qu’ils étaient jadis des étrangers en Égypte, a-t-il déclaré.

Et pourtant, ce n’est pas la foi juive qui conduit Victor Urecki à accueillir et aider les réfugiés qui arrivent à Charleston (État de Virginie Occidentale). « En tant que juif, je me sens appelé à être là pour les réfugiés car l’histoire des réfugiés touche de près les juifs », explique Victor Urecki, conseiller de West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry . « C’est l’histoire de mon peuple. L’image de chaque réfugié devrait être imprimée dans le coeur de chaque juif ».

Victor Urecki est intervenu dans le cadre d’un panel de six personnes lors d’un dialogue et prière interconfessionnels, organisé le 20 juin par Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) à l’Episcopal Church Center à New York.  Un iftar, le repas que font les musulmans après le coucher du soleil pendant le Ramadan, a suivi le dialogue. (Le mois sacré du Ramadan, observé par les musulmans dans le monde entier comme un mois de jeûne pour commémorer la première révélation du Coran au prophète Mahomet, a commencé le 26 mai et se termine le 24 juin).

EMM a encouragé les congrégations à travers le pays à organiser des dialogues interconfessionnels semblables et le panel du 20 juin a été enregistré en vidéo pour une utilisation future, a déclaré l’animatrice Allison Duvall, responsable d’EMM pour les relations de l’église et l’engagement.

L’histoire des réfugiés fait partie de l’ADN spirituelle des juifs. Ils ont été contraints de fuir les pogroms en Europe, ont été confrontés à l’antisémitisme et à la haine partout dans le monde et ont enduré des siècles de guerre et de carnage. « Nous avons été injustement pris en tant que spectateurs et brutalisés en tant que victimes. Nous avons été tués dans nos pays… en raison de qui nous étions, de ce en quoi nous croyions et ce que nous pratiquions », a déclaré Victor Urecki, immigré dont les grand-parents et le père étaient des réfugiés.

Les réfugiés sont contraints de fuir en raison de qui ils sont, de leurs croyances et de leurs pratiques religieuses, comme l’a confirmé un autre membre du panel. Anastasia Orlova est demandeur d’asile en provenance de Russie. Elle est arrivée aux États-Unis en octobre dernier avec son épouse. Du fait de l’intolérance de la Russie vis-à-vis des personnes LGBT, le couple n’avait que quelques amis proches et Anastasia Orlova disait à ses connaissances qu’elle avait un mari. Elle ne se rendait pas compte à quel point elle était déprimée jusqu’à ce qu’elle quitte la Russie.

« Lorsque vous avez peur ou que vous avez honte de vous-même, vous vivez dans un isolement intérieur », explique Anastasia Orlova. Aux États-Unis, Anastasia Orlova et son épouse ont le droit d’être mariées légalement, de pratiquer leurs croyances et elles peuvent s’exprimer en leur propre nom. « Ici aux États-Unis, nous nous sentons finalement protégées ».

Les réfugiés qui participaient au panel ont reconnu que, bien qu’ils se sentent en sécurité et libres d’être eux-mêmes aux États-Unis, la politique partisane du pays et les craintes économiques et en matière de sécurité dominantes sont inquiétantes. L’administration Trump a cherché à suspendre et réduire le Programme américain de réinstallation des réfugiés ; en conséquence, EMM a été contraint de réduire ses actions de réinstallation.

« Il se peut que les enjeux soient maintenant si élevés, les craintes si profondes et les murs si épais que la seule manière de guérir l’âme d’une nation soit dans le rassemblement d’un cercle d’alliés plus vaste que jamais pour soutenir les réfugiés et les organismes de réinstallation », déclare Stephanie Spellers, chanoine auprès de l’Évêque Primat pour l’évangélisation, la réconciliation et la création. Stephanie Spellers représentait l’Église épiscopale au sein du panel.

À Charleston, par exemple, West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry exerce ses activités « au cœur du fief Trump », explique Victor Urecki. Mais si quelque chose lui donne de l’espoir, c’est que les gens, même ceux qui craignent pour leur sécurité et l’économie, sont ouverts au dialogue. « Si vous arrivez à passer la porte et à engager un dialogue, vous pouvez réussir », poursuit-il.

West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry est devenu affilié d’EMM en décembre. En tant qu’organisme de réinstallation des réfugiés de l’Église épiscopale, EMM est l’un des neuf organismes qui travaillent en partenariat avec le Département d’État des États-Unis pour accueillir et réinstaller les réfugiés. Au travers de ses 31 organismes de réinstallation affiliés dans 26 diocèses, EMM apporte une aide directe aux réfugiés récemment arrivés. L’Église épiscopale œuvre à la réinstallation des réfugiés depuis les années 1930. Le gouvernement fédéral a officialisé le Programme américain de réinstallation des réfugiés en 1980, en établissant des partenariats avec des organisations religieuses et laïques pour apporter une aide directe aux réfugiés nouvellement arrivés au niveau du pays tout entier. Six partenaires du gouvernement pour la réinstallation sont confessionnels ; le programme a dans l’ensemble bénéficié d’un large soutien bipartisan. Toutefois, au cours des deux dernières années, l’attitude des Américains à l’égard des réfugiés a commencé à changer et à passer d’une acceptation sans protestation à un sentiment de peur.

Récemment, EMM a organisé une conférence pour former les défenseurs des droits des réfugiés. EMM propose également aux congrégations des moyens pour participer à la réinstallation des réfugiés dans leur communauté. L’organisme encourage les épiscopaliens à rejoindre le réseau Episcopal Public Policy Network et à défendre les politiques qui protègent les droits des réfugiés et des demandeurs d’asile.

La Journée mondiale des réfugiés se tient chaque année le 20 juin, la journée sert à commémorer la force, le courage et la persévérance des millions de réfugiés. Un chiffre sans précédent de 65,6 millions de personnes ont été déplacées par la force dans le monde entier. Parmi elles, 22,5 millions ont reçu le statut de réfugié et moins de 1 % fera l’objet d’une réinstallation. Plus de la moitié de tous les réfugiés ont moins de 18 ans. La plupart sont nés dans des camps de réfugiés où le séjour moyen est de 20 ans.

– Lynette Wilson est rédactrice en chef de l’Episcopal News Service.

Spanish-language ministry coordinator appointed in Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:16pm

[Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina] Bishop Robert Skirving is pleased to announce the appointment of the Rev. Frederick Clarkson as Spanish-language ministry coordinator in the Diocese of East Carolina. The Rev. Clarkson will begin in the position July 15.

Clarkson will be coming back to North Carolina after having spent 4 1/2 years with the Diocese of Texas, serving as vicar to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church of Houston, where he started the Spanish-language service.

The Spanish-language ministry coordinator is a full-time staff position for an Episcopal priest with work principally focused on the support, interconnection and leadership development of existing and emerging Spanish-language congregations and ministries of the Diocese of East Carolina. This new position in the diocese has been created, in part, through the generous funding of the Isabel James Lehto Foundation.

Prior to Houston, Clarkson served in the Diocese of North Carolina as vicar to St. Matthew’s of Salisbury and The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Cooleemee, near Winston-Salem. Clarkson has served on the Hispanic Ministry Board of both Texas and North Carolina, Black Ministry Commission, Board of St. James Seniors, Chaplain to the Houston Chapter of Integrity and the internet radio station CBE (Church Broadcast Entity).

His goal in Eastern North Carolina will be to organize Hispanic ministry and reinvigorate Episcopal Latino communities with economic development programs. Clarkson knows that there must be an economic component to the equation to truly help minister and establish a ministry of sustainability and vibrancy. The long-term goal will be to develop full participation of Hispanic leadership within The Episcopal Church throughout eastern North Carolina.

The Rev. Clarkson will spend his time divided between Diocesan House in Kinston, St. Peter’s in Washington (where he will reside) and other Spanish ministries within the diocese.

Clarkson was born in Bogota, Colombia, to parents who had met while at American University in Washington, D.C. His father worked in Colombian banking and government positions, which led to the family traveling during the Colombian conflicts of the 1980s. Growing up, Clarkson spent time living in Maryland, New York, and finally living with his grandparents in Santa Barbara, California, for his high school years. After high school, he attended St. Andrews University in Scotland followed by a career in banking.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, sounded a call for him to serve in ministry and change his career course. Clarkson enrolled in Virginia Theological Seminary, graduated and took his first post with the Diocese of North Carolina, where he spent 4 1/2 years, before heading to the Diocese of Texas. Frederick loves staying active, reading, swimming and spending time with his two dogs, and he is always happy to see a good play.

The Diocese of East Carolina is excited to welcome The Rev. Clarkson’s experienced world view and approach to ministry.

Anglican Communion announces appointment of new representative to UN

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The social and public affairs adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury has been appointed as the new Anglican Communion representative to the United Nations in Geneva. Jack Palmer-White has worked at Lambeth Palace since 2012, initially as parliamentary assistant and then as a policy adviser focusing on marriage and family life, before taking up his current role two years ago.

Full article.

Anglican Alliance joins ecumenical statement released for World Refugee Day

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Alliance has joined a group of 20 Christian organizations in issuing a statement to mark World Refugee Day. The statement celebrates the opportunities for solidarity and learning that come with opening our arms to welcome refugees and calls for more shared responsibility in responding to current large-scale movements of refugees in every region of the world.

Full article.

Collars on the Corner brings prayer, spiritual connection to streets of Milwaukee

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 3:00pm

Clergy members from the Milwaukee area pray with Luria Sampson, center, during a Collars on the Corner session in May at West Center and North 51st streets. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Milwaukee, Wisconsin] Luria Sampson had plans Saturday morning, and they didn’t include prayer – not at first.

Driving east down West Center Street in Milwaukee, he was on a course for his daughter’s house, his thoughts focused on her safety in a city suffering through a surge in shooting deaths. But when he slowed for the stoplight at 51st Street, an unexpected sight gently altered his morning travels.

Sampson, 59, stopped his car, and prayer found its way into his plans.

He turned to park the Pontiac Vibe next to St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, exited the car and, grabbing his cane, walked up to the sidewalk where men dressed in black and wearing white clergy collars were waiting to greet him.

It is called Collars on the Corner, a public ministry that an Episcopal deacon and Roman Catholic deacon launched after a Milwaukee police shooting last August. The killing of a black man during a chase by an on-duty city officer, also black, sparked days of protests and unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood and thrust the city’s stark segregation into the national spotlight.

Although the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee’s congregations are well represented in the city’s surrounding suburbs, there are no Episcopal churches in city neighborhoods with majority black or Latino populations. Despite lacking a structural presence, the diocese’s commitment to a personal presence in such neighborhoods is embodied by the Rev. Kevin Stewart, the diocese’s missioner for community engagement.

Stewart has spent much of the past year growing the ecumenical Collars on the Corner ministry with fellow deacon the Rev. Jim Banach, with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They invite clergy of all denominations to join them outside collecting and responding to prayer requests, and they encourage churches to host the ministry on their own nearby corners.

The intersection at Center and 51st is the unofficial home base for Collars on the Corner. On this Saturday morning in May, the warm sun rose over the sidewalk at the corner where a card table was set up. Taped to the side was a sign that read, “Prayer Requests.” Atop the table, a prayer box invited submissions.

“We’d be happy to pray with you right here and now,” Stewart announced.

“Yes, please do. I could use a good prayer,” Sampson replied.

The men gathered in a huddle as one of them, the Rev. Anthony Luckett of the nondenominational Saint Paul Church, led the prayer. Luckett called on God to bless Sampson and his family and give him strength as he spreads his compassion to those around him.

The prayer lasted little more than a minute. After tearfully offering his thanks and shaking hands, Sampson continued on, leaving the men in white collars to await their next prayer requests.

Praying here has become a routine Stewart repeats every Saturday morning, as his schedule and the weather will allow. He and Banach teamed up last year after discussing their shared desire to get outside and connect with Milwaukee-area residents in new ways.

“My understanding of scripture is Jesus spent more time out on the streets than Jesus did in a building, so we felt that we should go,” Stewart said. “But go where, and do what?”

The Rev. Kevin Stewart, the Diocese of Milwaukee’s missioner for community engagement, talks in May about his work on the Collars on the Corner ministry. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

They settled on this street ministry, offering a handshake or hug and a prayer – and wearing their white collars so their calling and purpose would be immediately discernible to passersby. Banach, who was familiar with St. Catherine’s Catholic Parish, suggested the location even before the police shooting in Sherman Park brought wider attention to the neighborhood.

“I thought to myself, it’s busy. There’s a need. This tends to be a pretty proactive social justice parish. I bet if we ask, they’ll say yes,” Banach said. “Then Sherman Park happened.”

Three weeks later, they set up their first Collars on the Corner in front of St. Catherine’s. They found people were hungry for personal and spiritual connection, Stewart said. “They were hungry to pray, on day one.”

Deacon is force for street-level ministries

Stewart, 60, has a track record of addressing hunger. After being hired by the diocese as missioner in 2011, he founded the Hospitality Center in Racine as an outreach ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The day center, under Stewart’s leadership, became known in the community and the diocese for its success in providing food and services for the homeless.

“Kevin has a gift for meeting people where they are, learning and listening to their needs and then building a community to address these needs,” Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller said in an email to Episcopal News Service.

In 2015, with the Hospitality Center well established in Racine, Stewart stepped down to turn his focus to Milwaukee, where the diocese was looking to create ministries that would respond to the city’s sudden spike in deadly violence. The number of homicides in the city hit 145 that year, the most in two decades, and the number of nonfatal shootings had been on the rise since 2010, the Journal Sentinel reported while noting that the causes were hard to pin down.

“As a diocese, we are committed to making a difference in Milwaukee,” Miller said. “This ministry of building relationships is the beginning.”

Stewart was given the freedom to venture into the community, listen to residents and local leaders and use what he learned to develop new ministries, like Collars on the Corner.

That ministry continued to grow in the fall, but over the winter, Stewart and Banach moved it indoors. They distributed prayer boxes across the Milwaukee area, and Stewart now collects prayer requests weekly from 25 locations, including seven congregations and 12 laundromats, from Cedarburg to Waukesha to Racine. He then sends them out to an expanding prayer chain, by email and on Collars on the Corner’s Facebook page.

“To maintain my sobriety,” reads one prayer request.

Another asks for prayers “for my family’s safety and happiness. I also ask you to pray for my strength to overcome things that bring me down.”

Busy corner is Saturday morning hub of prayer

The collars returned to the corners in the spring, with prayer request stations set up in downtown Waukesha, in Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood and at multiple anti-violence events in Milwaukee. And while Stewart and Banach work to involve more churches, they maintain a regular presence at Center and 51st.

“The beauty of it is we’ve already got some friends in the neighborhood,” Banach said. “They see us out here and they come running.”

The Rev. Anthony Luckett of the nondenominational Saint Paul’s Church prays in May with Darren Haywood on the corner of West Center and North 51st streets in Milwaukee. Haywood, 48, has grown used to seeing the men in collars here Saturdays and asked them to pray to stop the violence plaguing the city. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Some of the foot traffic on this corner is generated by St. Catherine’s Saturday food pantry. Jacqueline Garcia, 46, said she stops by the food pantry once a month, but this was her first time seeing the prayer request station.

Stewart prays with Jacqueline Garcia, 46, who was stopping by a nearby food pantry when she saw the Collars on the Corner. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

She and her friend, Micha Jones, 38, each scribbled their prayers on paper and put them in the box. Then, over the sound of cars cruising by on Center Street and the drone of the lawnmower at St. Catherine’s, they prayed – Jones with Luckett and Garcia with Stewart.

By the time they were done, tears were running down Garcia’s cheeks. Jones had been similarly moved by her prayer, and “I don’t cry for nobody,” she said after regaining her composure.

Jones said she sometimes attends church services, but not regularly. That tenuous connection to a physical church is common among the people served here, but these sidewalk parishioners need not be churchgoers. The goal of Collars on the Corner isn’t to fill the pews.

Stewart recalled welcoming someone on the corner who feared going back to church. The person had been away “too long” and had “done too much wrong.”

“Maybe that person will walk inside a church door again, we don’t know,” Stewart said. “But on that day, the church was out here meeting people where they’re at.

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

Bishop Fisher delivers testimony to Massachusetts legislative committee

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 1:53pm

[Diocese of Western Massachusetts] Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas J. Fisher attended a hearing June 19 held by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary that featured testimony on a range of proposed criminal justice reform measures focused on sentencing and correctional services. The following statement is based on Fisher’s prepared testimony and received the support of bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts, Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris.

Bishops and others from the two Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently had the opportunity to visit Dismas House in Worcester and Dismas Family Farm in Oakham. The house and the farm are named for the Good Thief in the Gospel of Luke. Dismas is one of two criminals crucified next to Jesus. He asks Jesus to remember him when he enters paradise. Dismas accepts personal responsibility for the wrongs he has committed, yet believes that God can save anyone. His last breath is a leap of faith. 

One of us also recently had the opportunity to meet with inmates and conduct the Rite of Confirmation at the Devens federal correctional facility. The men we met recently at Dismas Farm and Devens are like Dismas. Many speak honestly about the impact of drugs and alcohol on their lives, their failures to “get clean” or “stay sober.” Most importantly, they acknowledge that their actions have had consequences for society and for those who love them. Those at the farm, they spend their days tending a harvest that will feed the local community. They have the chance to do good again, to feel connected to the needs of others. We experienced men who own their failure but who believe their lives are meant for something better. We experienced hope.

The men we met at Dismas were imprisoned for crimes related to drugs and alcohol. Addiction is killing us in the Commonwealth. Instead of sending these people to prison, we need to offer treatment. Some must go to prison for their crimes, but a prison system that reinforces shame, strips away dignity and hope – such a system does not do the good we intend.  Prisons are in need of a deep, cleansing ideological shift. We must seek to reconcile the incarcerated person with the community they have damaged. We need to seek restorative justice which emphasizes the role of the whole community in the reintegration of the offender. 

Somehow, we’ve made jail an end in itself. Get sent there and that becomes your story. We’ve forgotten that removal from the community is a consequence – not the last chapter in a flawed human being’s story. Restoration to the community must be the end of incarceration whenever possible.

We must also ask the legislature to consider the staggering inequity of incarceration by race. Many of us have been deeply affected by our reading of The New Jim Crow, or viewing of the documentary “13th.”  We are striving honestly to examine our own Episcopal Church systems to rid them of the sin of racism; we urge you to do the same as you consider reform of our judicial system.  Racial reconciliation is of ultimate concern to us as people of faith. We ask you to be conscious of our nation’s need to own the mass incarceration of young black and brown men.

Our governing bodies have been given power to wield justly and for the good of all people. If we pass the Justice Reinvestment Act, we’ll be able to tell a new story – a story of justice and redemption, a story of second chances and greater safety for our communities. Be assured of our prayers for you and for all leaders in government who strive to respect the dignity of all human beings.

Europe bishop represents Anglicans, Episcopalians at launch of Interfaith Rainforest Initiative in Norway

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 2:09pm

[Episcopal News Service] Religious and indigenous leaders from across the globe launched an unprecedented initiative June 19 in Oslo, Norway, aimed at bringing “moral attention and spiritual commitment” to bear on global efforts to end deforestation and protect tropical rainforests—forests that are fundamental to human life, the planet’s health and reducing the emissions fueling climate change.

“The Norwegian government has made major investments in protecting the rainforest, but this is the first attempt to bring together religious leaders, scientists and indigenous peoples,” the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, said from Oslo in a telephone interview with Episcopal News Service.

Whalon helped organize the conference and was scheduled to speak during a June 19 dinner. Indigenous people from across Africa, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Indonesia have joined Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Daoist and Buddhist religious leaders for the June 19-21 launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative aimed at framing rainforest protection in moral terms.

The conference is meant to “change minds and hearts and get people working together,” said Whalon. The urgency is clear, he added, from the stories shared by indigenous people living in the rainforest and from satellite images.

“Rainforest destruction is not just tearing down all the trees and turning into soy fields. It’s literally ethnic cleansing,” said Whalon. There’s a real moral and spiritual imperative to protecting the rainforest. Conference organizers made sure to give indigenous peoples a chance to share their stories from the front lines, and what they have to say will “curl your hair,” he said.

Palm oil plantations; cattle, soy and other crop production, and illegal mining and logging operations are destroying tropical rainforests in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia at high rates. Rainforests are home to indigenous people; provide food, water and income to 1.6 billion people; contain most of the planet’s land-borne biodiversity; help regulate rainfall and temperature globally, regionally and locally, and store billions of tons of carbon, which is essential for curbing global warming.

“The world’s rainforests are a stunning example of the life-sustaining beauty of the planet; they are spectacular, vital to life and at grave risk. This meeting represents a tremendously important first step forward for faith communities, who must join First Peoples and commit to rainforests’ health and restoration,” said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest based in New Jersey and the executive director of GreenFaith, in a press release.

Religious and indigenous leaders from 21 countries will have discussions with forest advocates, climate scientists and human rights experts to develop goals and actions, along with milestones to mark their progress. They expect to follow up with an action plan and a global interfaith rainforest summit in 2018. The group was convened by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, Rainforest Foundation Norway and the United Nations Development Program in cooperation with the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, GreenFaith, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Religions for Peace, REIL Network and the World Council of Churches.

The rainforest initiative is linked to a surge of grassroots action over the last few years in which environmental, climate and indigenous rights issues are being embraced as spiritual imperatives that strike a chord with multiple faiths and traditions. Other leaders of Evangelical Christian and Muslim organizations, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, have stressed the shared human responsibility to protect the planet.

“Tropical rainforests occupy a sacred place in many faiths, religions and spiritual traditions,” said Mary Evelyn Tucker, director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, in a press release. “Indeed, spiritual reverence for nature and all life can be found across the world’s religions, including among indigenous peoples and other residents of the world’s tropical rainforests. Given what we are hearing from religious and indigenous leaders worldwide, we believe we can create a global movement around this shared vision.”

Whalon became involved in the conference’s planning because of previous involvement in roundtable discussions related to the environment and communicating the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and human ecology. He was invited into the roundtable discussions following the December 2015 U.N. climate negotiations in France, when he and American Cathedral in Paris Dean Lucinda Laird organized several events for conference attendees.

‘Cathedral of the Confederacy’ reckons with its history and charts future

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 2:06pm

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, has historically been known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Photo: Courtesy of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

[Episcopal News Service – Richmond, Virginia] Looking around the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church here nothing suggests an altered space. Enough plaques, stained-glass windows, wall sconces and other adornments remain that the sanctuary is anything but bare. Its columns, deep-red pew cushions and the Tiffany Last Supper mosaic above the altar offer much for the eye to behold. And although St. Paul’s has long been known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy, the space feels cozier than a cathedral. The ceiling and walls hug close. When congregants huddle near the altar for a ceramic-cup and rustic-bread communion at the 9 a.m. service, it feels as right as the church’s later, more staid liturgy.

But when Linda Armstrong, who chairs St. Paul’s History and Reconciliation Initiative, pointed to the three spots where plaques used to be – two in the sanctuary and one in the narthex – on a Saturday in late April, the emptiness left by a Confederate past becomes apparent; each a blank spot amidst the visual richness, awaiting its fate.

St. Paul’s Rector the Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, left, with Barbara Holley, a member of the History and Reconciliation Initiative’s steering committee and its Memorials Working Group. Photo: Heather Beasley Doyle

The History and Reconciliation Initiative germinated in the wake of shooter Dylann Roof’s racially motivated attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. On a Sunday soon after the June 17, 2015, massacre, the Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, St. Paul’s rector, asked in a sermon, “What if in this, the last summer of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, we begin a conversation here at St. Paul’s about the Confederate symbols in our worship space?”

That question could not have come from just any pulpit. And coming from where Adams-Riley stood, in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Confederacy, it made waves. “I thought it was very important that it be done with a tone of seriousness and invitation, to invite our people to lean into this moment in a discerning way,” said Adams-Riley. “It quickly became clear to me that there was some anxiety.”

Richmond was the capitol of the Confederacy during the American Civil War; Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, worshipped at St. Paul’s during the war. Davis was a member of the church. Their pews still bear plaques attesting to their affiliation with the church, and stained-glass windows dedicated to them allow light into the sanctuary. In the 1890s, when it became popular to memorialize family members with sanctuary wall plaques, several sprung up in St. Paul’s honoring Confederate soldiers, some decorated with Confederate battle flags. Additional battle flags had been embroidered into the kneelers by the altar.

Adams-Riley’s question called for parishioners to pay attention. Small and spread out, the battle flags were hidden in plain sight; many people had never even noticed them. “I’d been here for 45 years and had never read the plaques,” said St. Paul’s member Lee Switz, who chairs the History and Reconciliation Initiative’s Memorial Working Group.

A plaque honoring Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, is one of the items St. Paul’s removed from its walls. Photo: Courtesy of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Now those Confederate battle flags are gone, removed after a November 2015 vestry vote, a decision that followed several tabled discussions on the topic. At the same time, the vestry also voted only to keep Confederate-related memorials without the battle flag, including plaques paid for by the families of congregants who fought in the Civil War. Moreover, the governing body established the History and Reconciliation Initiative, appointing vestry member Armstrong as chair. She has since spearheaded the parish’s deep dive into its history and its relationship with race since its 1845 founding. The History and Reconciliation Initiative has laid out a four-year plan to be completed in 2020, when the church marks its 175th anniversary.

In parsing out what to leave in the sanctuary and what to remove, “we have really considered those families,” said Armstrong. In looking at a plaque, she remembered that “this was a human being who was loved by his family; it’s the humanity of it.” By contrast, the battle flag communicates “I believe this is right, and I’m willing to kill you for it, too.” Some flags simply unscrewed from the plaques to which they were affixed. The removed items remain in a vault at the church until their fate, whether becoming part of an exhibit somewhere in the church or a traveling educational display, is determined.

In establishing the History and Reconciliation Initiative, St. Paul’s committed to push its parish conversation beyond the Confederate flag, beyond “Confederate iconography” to what Confederate symbols fundamentally evoke: a national history with thick scars around race. They would look at these scars and at their own part in staunchly defending an economic system based on the subjugation of African-Americans. In fact, the parish took its efforts a step beyond, to racial reconciliation, an attempt to figure out the church’s role in perpetuating racism, recognizing that role, and moving forward with those insights in a way that heals and repairs. “It’s doing some interior work so that we can move out into the world in ways that would not have been possible without that,” Adams-Riley said. “Isn’t that [also] true on an individual level?” And while Adams-Riley’s June 2015 sermon triggered anxiety, “It was also clear to me that there was great excitement and hope – and possibility,” he said.

St. Paul’s began by hosting two “Prayerful Conversations” in the summer of 2015, and hired an outside consultant to facilitate the events. Of the parish’s 300-400 active members (on average, 200 show up for Sunday services), 100 turned out for those initial events. Adams-Riley and Armstrong agree that hiring a consultant played a crucial role in setting a relaxed tone that invited people to share deeply. The discussions were frank, sometimes emotional, and condoned conversations about race at St. Paul’s. From there, “we didn’t talk about it officially for a couple of months, because it was just too hot,” Associate Rector the Rev. Molly Bosscher said.

Christopher Graham, left, with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Associate Rector the Rev. Molly Bosscher. Graham chairs the History Working Group of St. Paul’s History and Reconciliation Initiative. Photo: Heather Beasley Doyle

Bosscher underscored the interpersonal complexities of a process that aims to give St. Paul’s a new reputation: the Cathedral of Reconciliation. “You understand the enormity of the work, right?” she asked. “It’s changing our very flavor as a church. You could not stop this process now if you tried. It’s too far in bloom.”

As messy as St. Paul’s reconciliation work has sometimes been, the 60-member History and Reconciliation Initiative lends it a framework, a timeline and concrete goals. While Armstrong stressed that the goals are not set in stone, they offer a structure that participants value and respect. “It’s a four-year process, but we do have some deadlines,” said Memorial Working Group chair Lee Switz, “and that gives it a sense of urgency.”

Along with the Memorial Working Group, two more working groups are nestled under the initiative: the History Working Group and the Music & Liturgy Working Group. With the History Working Group’s research as a foundation, the Memorial Working Group and the Music & Liturgy Working Group will determine St. Paul’s visible, audible reconciliation pieces. Revisions are planned to the church’s walking tour brochure, and its 175th anniversary book will be reimagined from the 150th anniversary predecessor.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry will visit next March. Prayerful Conversations remain ongoing and the church will hold a special service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. And in some way, whether by stopping at stations of reconciliation along Richmond’s Slave Trail or with a different ritual, History and Reconciliation Initiative members plan to commemorate African-American slaves in the city that had the second-largest slave market in the United States.

In the meantime, as chair of the Initiative’s History Working Group, Christopher Graham has helped St. Paul’s to discover how racial ideas throughout the church’s history have determined how parishioners live their lives and faith. Originally 20 to 25 members, the History Working Group now has a core of seven active researchers. A historian by profession, Graham gave working group members guidance on what to look for as they research. “And that’s been a remarkable success,” he said.

The group is uncovering the church’s relationship era by era, in five chunks of about 40 years, starting in 1844. They have scoured U.S. Census data, diocesan records, vestry records and private journals. They delve into Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com. And then there are secondary sources, including “Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia” by J. Douglas Smith, which Graham recently read.

Cross-referencing the records from First African Baptist Church and St. Paul’s with census data, the History Working Group has confirmed that from its founding until the Emancipation, most St. Paul’s members “were engaged with slavery or in the slavery economy,” Graham said. This was not surprising. More illuminating has been learning St. Paul’s attitude toward race between the Emancipation and today. While its membership remains overwhelmingly white, in 2017 St. Paul’s is a “liberal” church with longstanding outreach projects and ties to social justice initiatives throughout Richmond, a city that initiative leaders described as more conservative than their church. St. Paul’s members “have always done what they thought was the Christian thing to do,” Armstrong said, “even if they thought it was segregation.”

And for a long time, it was. “At the turn of the 20th century, Episcopalians and other white people were arguing that black people were evolutionarily behind whites,” Graham said. For generations after emancipation, St. Paul’s members participated in a government that enforced Jim Crow and segregation. This mindset continued, Graham suspects, until the early days of the civil rights movement, “and it’s more complicated than ‘we hate them.’ ”

As St. Paul’s “whole story” emerges, the damage done by upholding the racial status quo is clear, Graham said. “So what does it mean? What are we doing about it?” he asked. He was working on a narrative of his working group’s findings.

That narrative will feed the other working groups’ efforts. The Music & Liturgy Working Group has met twice. They began by asking why St. Paul’s needs reconciliation music and liturgy. The answer became, “We’re finding things at St. Paul’s that we need to mourn, and (in) the Episcopal Church music and liturgy is how we do that,” said Music & Liturgy Working Group chair Pam James, quoting fellow group member Michelle Walker.

In the fall, James’s group will introduce a new collect, with the idea of adding one for each church season. The largest task ahead of them is sifting through the history group’s narrative to find lyrics for a piece of music. St. Paul’s will commission music to allow St. Paul’s to mourn its past. “Yet we are also cognizant of the fact that we’re going to send it out into the world for other churches to [use] for their own mourning,” said James.

Things weren’t as immediately clear for the Memorial Working Group. “One of the first meetings was a free-for-all,” recounts Switz. “Everybody was talking past each other, but there were some strong emotions in the room.” The Memorial Working Group is charged with “seeking a physical or living/legacy expression of acknowledgment, commemoration, and reconciliation,” according to a History and Reconciliation Initiative flier. Initially, that mission got lost in the tumult, Switz said.

She considered how to proceed in keeping with the yearlong theme of “Be Reconciled,” landing on the church’s congregation-wide read, “The Book of Forgiving,” by retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “Let’s all tell our story,” Switz said at the next meeting. The half-dozen working group members did just that for two hours, she said, opening the path to more discussion. They’re currently working on “a very concise statement” on what “visceral, spiritual message” a 21st century St. Paul’s wants to convey through its history and reconciliation memorial.

Deep into research and reflection, parishioners seem patient with the process as it unfolds. “They’re taking their time, they have not rushed the process, and that’s been notable,” said Carl Stauffer, an associate professor at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Stouffer has visited St. Paul’s twice since December, guiding parishioners in reflection and workshop, and preaching. “There’s been a tremendous amount of effort in having the congregation buy into the process,” he added.

When St. Paul’s clergy and initiative leaders talk, consensus around one point quickly reveals itself. “I don’t think we’re finished. I think we’re still working on reconciling with each other,” Armstrong said. “If we sincerely want reconciliation, if we’re serious about it, it should be a different church [in 2020],” she said.

Beyond the process, beyond the memorial, the music and the liturgy, some at St. Paul’s wonder when reconciliation will conclude. “So how long will this process go, and how will we evaluate what the process achieved?” wondered St. Paul’s member Michelle Whitehurst-Cook. While she wants the History and Reconciliation Initiative’s efforts to remain ongoing, “I think there are lots of ways to continue [the work] and also to measure what we’ve achieved.” Whitehurst-Cook points to possibilities for measuring the initiative’s impact, from changes in outreach and church participation to gauging the number of sermons on social justice or talking with small groups.

And Memorial Working Group member Barbara Holley offered a caveat as St. Paul’s moves forward. “It’s more than a black-white issue,” she said. “I don’t want to just hear from somebody, ‘I’m sorry.’ That would just make me mad. I want to know that by your actions.” Racial reconciliation wasn’t on Holley’s mind when she joined St. Paul’s, but being a part of the History and Reconciliation Initiative has catalyzed an internal shift. “I do believe it’s changing me, in just bringing more awareness to the divisiveness of racism,” she said.

Holley’s sentiment represents another thread at St. Paul’s: Participants agree that as they target a communal paradigm shift, working with the initiative has already affected them personally. “For this to mean anything, it has to be personal,” said Adams-Riley.

“I’m a Southerner, and I still am, in all the good and the bad,” said Armstrong. “(Notwithstanding) the brutality of slavery, I love Southern culture.” Nonetheless, she’s had “almost a transfiguration” regarding race. She recognizes it more, continues to learn and is increasingly dedicated to reconciliation, group to group, within herself and with God.

However reconciliation unfolds at St. Paul’s, Stauffer credits the church with courage and vision. “What they’re doing is setting a national precedent for how faith communities can work through racial reconciliation,” Stauffer said.

That this racial reconciliation has sprouted in the unlikeliest of places, in the Cathedral of the Confederacy, is never lost on Adams-Riley. Nor is the reality that that his forebears included slave owners and Confederate soldiers. “People who knew me growing up never would have expected that I would have been a part of this (kind of reconciliation),” he said.

Yet he is. And he’s certain that it is important work with a connection beyond anyone’s intellectual grasp. “It becomes about how we live our lives today, about the spirit doing deep soul work that leaves us living differently,” he said. “I say lead on, spirit, lead on.”

— Heather Beasley Doyle is a freelance journalist based in Massachusetts.

WCC deputy chief speaks on ‘tragic reality’ of violence against children at Geneva event

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The World Council of Churches deputy General Secretary Isabel Apawo Phiri has told a Geneva-based event that churches and organizations working together can prevent and address “tragic reality” of violence against children.

As part of a World Vision campaign called “It takes a World to End Violence against Children” speakers included children who told their stories.

Full article.

Anglican Overseas Aid joins Australian government’s humanitarian response

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican Overseas Aid has been selected to be one of the aid agencies involved in the Australian Humanitarian Partnership, set up by the Australian government with the aim of responding rapidly to global crises. The partnership has a particular focus on Pacific preparedness and resilience work.

Full article.

Old Christ Church restoration project highlights local mission work in Vermont

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:01pm

[Diocese of Vermont] When asked to describe the Old Christ Church in Bethel, Vermont, two parishioners recently wrote, “just pulling in the driveway you get the sense that this is no ordinary building.” Built in 1823, the historic structure lacks electricity, heat and plumbing, which certainly contributes to its uniqueness. But there is something more, an indescribable energy that attracts people to the maple-lined drive off Route 12 for worship and respite.

Now the building that has been a source of spiritual restoration for so many is being prepped for a restoration of its own.

Planning is underway for a series of projects aimed at securing the foundation and repairing the steps, windows and clapboards. The members of neighboring Christ Episcopal Church, stewards of Old Christ Church, look forward to implementing the updates so that the historic building can continue to accommodate seasonal worship, weddings, funerals, special services, concerts, book discussions and community events.

The restoration, however, comes at a steep cost for the small congregation, which has embraced a model of ministry that relies on volunteer clergy, musicians and lay preachers and has no paid personnel. To date, Christ Episcopal Church has set aside $28,000 and won a $7,000 grant from the State of Vermont Division of Historic Preservation. Additionally, the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont has approved a $21,000 diocesan loan. While this only begins to cover the estimated expense of $56,000 to $109,000, church members remain hopeful that a combination of fundraising and competitive bids will enable them to bring their plans to fruition.

“At Christ Church Bethel, we continue to grow in faith and in our impact on the wider community,” said Nancy Wuttke, senior warden. And she gives numerous examples to back her claim.

“Our liturgical minister was recently ordained as transitional deacon. … Our Local Ministry Support Team has also received five new members, two of whom are called to pursue a path to ordination and service to our parish as priests, one of whom is called to pursue a path to ordination and service to our parish as deacon, one of whom is called to serve as preacher liaison and one of whom is called to serve as community liaison.”

With a view to ongoing formation, Christ Episcopal Church has recently launched an Education for Ministry study group. Such high levels of spiritual engagement serve to strengthen the ties between Christ Episcopal Church, the Old Christ Church building and the Bethel community.

For example, on the fourth Tuesday of each month, Christ Episcopal Church hosts the Bethel Bold Ideas Group—an interfaith discussion group started by the Rev. Shelie Richardson and other members of the Bethel community—that is well attended by parishioners and community members alike.

The church and community partners co-host the Community Meal, a popular local program that supports the Bethel Food Shelf, sources food from local farms, features great music and builds community.

“To date we have hosted six free and festive community events,” Wuttke said, “using the Wedding Feast at Cana to inspire our preparations: tablecloths, candles, live music, a sacramental feast … feeding about 150 people per event, whoever walks in the door, regardless of economic circumstance, and generating an average of $1,400 per event in free will donations, 100 percent of which goes to the Bethel Food Shelf.

“In addition, we provide free Winter Shares of vegetables for Food Shelf clients who meet with other community members to cook together, eat together and leave quarts of healthy, locally sourced food in the Food Shelf freezers. Many of our parishioners are active at the Food Shelf, as volunteers, and on the board.”

After a brief visit with the stewards of Old Christ Church it becomes clear: The energy that draws people here shows no signs of decreasing, which is why maintaining the building has become such a priority. As support for the restoration project grows, so does the Jesus Movement in Bethel, Vermont.

To learn more about the restoration of Old Christ Church, please send an email to nwuttke@gmail.com.

— Maurice Harris is communications minister for the Diocese of Vermont.

Disciplinary panel sanctions Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:46am

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno spent nearly seven hours March 29 and 30 talking to the Hearing Panel considering the disciplinary action against him. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church ecclesiastical disciplinary panel considering a complaint against Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno has sanctioned the bishop for again trying to sell St. James the Great Episcopal Church.

The Hearing Panel told Bruno on June 17 that he is prohibited from “selling or conveying or contracting to sell or convey the St. James property until further order of the Hearing Panel.”

The original case against Bruno involves his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the church in Newport Beach, California, to a condominium developer for $15 million in cash. That effort prompted the members of St. James to bring misconduct allegations against Bruno. The members alleged Bruno violated Church law. The Hearing Panel is still considering whether or how to discipline Bruno.

One of the complainants in the case contacted the Hearing Panel earlier this month with what is known as a “colorable” or plausible legal claim that Bruno may have entered into another contract to sell the St. James property, according to the panel’s notice. Bruno then refused to confirm or deny the alleged contract.

The Hearing Panel said that if Bruno has tried to sell the church property, or has sold it, before the panel decided the original case against him that conduct is “disruptive, dilatory and otherwise contrary to the integrity of this proceeding.” The same is true of his failure to give the panel the information it asked for about the accusations, the notice said. Such behavior violates the portion of canon law which governs the behavior of clerics who face disciplinary actions (Canon IV.13.9(a) page 151 here).

A hearing on the original accusations, including engaging in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy took place March 28-30 in Pasadena, California. Attorneys representing the Episcopal Church and Bruno filed written closing briefs a month after the hearing ended. The Hearing Panel has not ruled on the initial complaint.

St. James was one of four properties that the diocese spent close to $10 million in litigation to recover from disaffiliated Episcopalians who broke with the Church over its policies on women’s ordination and the full inclusion of LGBTQI members in the life of the Church, including ordained ministry.

Diocese of Los Angeles Chancellor Richard Zevnik and Vice Chancellor Julie Dean Larsen have asked the panel to dismiss the entire case against Bruno. They have said that a “civil lawsuit, political actions and social media campaign” mounted by members of St. James the Great in Newport Beach were “wrongfully, but successfully and strategically, designed to stop the sale of [the] 40,000-square foot church property” on what is known as Lido Island, a prosperous housing development sporting a yacht club.

The Church’s clergy disciplinary canon, the chancellors argue, is “not intended to be used as a weapon to challenge a diocesan bishop’s decisions regarding the administration and stewardship of his or her diocese.”

Episcopal Church Attorney Raymond “Jerry” Coughlan has said that Bruno is guilty of “serious misconduct” in violating three sections of the Title IV canons: “failing to exercise his ministry in accordance with applicable church canons,” “conduct involving dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation” and “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. He said in his closing brief that the panel must conclude that Bruno’s conduct was “calculated, pervasive and long-running.”

Because of those violations and because “he shows no sign of recognizing even the possibility of his misconduct,” Coughlan recommended that panel suspend Bruno from ministry for at least a year.

However, because he said such a sentence would only exacerbate the conflict and not lead to reconciliation, Coughlan urged the panel to use its “broad authority” to craft a remedy that “looks forward creatively to heal the division now existing in the Los Angeles diocese.”

Bruno turns 72, the Church’s mandatory retirement age, in late 2018. Incoming Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor, his successor, is scheduled to be ordained and consecrated on July 8.

Because none of the previous steps of the Title IV disciplinary process resolved the issue, when the complaints against Bruno got to the point of seating a Hearing Panel, the Episcopal Church replaced St. James as the complainant in the case. Coughlan, representing the Episcopal Church, presented the case to the panel. According to the Title IV process, the Church pays for the costs of the disciplinary process for bishops.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the Hearing Panel. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members, also includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

Previous ENS coverage is here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Nominations accepted for Diocese of Haiti bishop coadjutor

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 3:48pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Nominations are being accepted for candidates for the position of bishop coadjutor for the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti.

The Diocese of Haiti Profile is available in English here and in French here.

The open nomination process for the Bishop Coadjutor of Haiti continues through June 29.

Please note:

  • Candidates must be fluent in French and Creole, and able to understand English.
  • Nominations must be signed by six lay members and six clergy from the diocese.
  • Deadline for submitting nominations is June 29.
  • The election for the bishop coadjutor for the Diocese of Haiti is slated for January 27, 2018.

For information, contact the Very Rev. Ronald H. Clingenpeel, transitions consultant rhclingenpeel@yahoo.com.

Note: the French version of this release will be available shortly.

Trinity School for Ministry appoints David Ney as assistant professor of church history

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 12:10pm

[Trinity School for Ministry] Trinity School for Ministry is pleased to announce the appointment of the Rev. David Ney as its new assistant professor of church history. The Board of Trustees of Trinity School for Ministry ratified the call to the Rev. David Ney after a unanimous vote of the faculty in May. Ney’s area of research is the relationship between science and the Bible in the 18th century Church of England.

Ney received his doctorate in theology from Wycliffe College in Toronto, Canada. He is an ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Canada and currently serves the congregation of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Calgary, Alberta.

Ney will join the Trinity faculty on August 1, 2017, for the fall semester. He will be joined by his wife Jamie, a staff worker for Intervarsity, and their four children.

Trinity School for Ministry is an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition. Begun in 1976, the seminary has trained more than 1,100 graduates and many others who serve in ministries all over the world. As a global center for Christian formation, Trinity continues to produce outstanding leaders who can plant, renew, and grow churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Church of England parish at heart of relief efforts following London inferno

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 12:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] In the hours since a massive blaze ripped through a tower block in west London early on June 14, nearby St. Clement’s Church has been rapidly turned into an emergency relief center. It sheltered more than 100 residents as the blaze raged and has subsequently been overwhelmed with donations. People have given clothes, bedding and toiletries for the residents of the tower, many of whom fled the block in their nightwear and have lost everything. Volunteers from churches throughout the area are running the relief operation.

Full article.

Video: Presiding Bishop’s message for World Refugee Day

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:55am


[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] “In the name of Mary, Joseph and the Lord Jesus, aid all refugees today, for most of the refugees like the Holy Family themselves, are families, and most are children,” commented Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry in his 2017 World Refugee Day Message. “I invite you to observe June 20 as World Refugee Day to learn more about the crisis and to find ways that you can both pray and help in other ways.”

In 2000, the United Nations named June 20 as World Refugee Day, deeming it an annual opportunity to celebrate the resilience and success of the former refugees who bless our communities with their wisdom and irrepressible spirit and to examine the root causes of violence and persecution that force people to flee at an alarming rate.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is a ministry of the Episcopal Church, and is one of nine national agencies that work in partnership with the government to resettle refugees in the United States. Episcopal Migration Ministries currently has 31 affiliate offices in 23 states.

The Presiding Bishop’s video message is here.

Episcopal Migration Ministries toolkit
Episcopal Migration Ministries has prepared a comprehensive toolkit, located here, with ideas and guides for individuals and congregations to observe World Refugee Day on June 20.

In 2017, World Refugee Day falls within the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and one of the toolkit items provides ways to host an Interfaith Panel Discussion & Prayer for refugees followed by an Iftar meal (literally translated to breakfast).

“Faith is one of the primary drivers for many involved in the important work of refugee resettlement,” commented the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries. “We hope, by gathering members of and in communities across this land to eat together and share aspects of their own particular faith traditions regarding welcoming, that we can deepen our relationships and inspire even greater ministry on the local level.”

• Find a local World Refugee Day event on this RCUSA list of Nationwide Events
• Host a #StandTogether Interfaith Conversation, Prayer and Dinner in honor of World Refugee Day, resources available here
• Start a conversation in your congregation and community about how you can be involved in this life-saving work. World Refugee Day bulletin insert here.
• Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network to learn more about how you can work with local and elected leaders to support refugees.


Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry
2017 World Refugee Day Message

In the late 1930s, as the world was on the verge of being plunged into an apocalyptic Second World War, Episcopalians and the Episcopal Church gathered together and began work to resettle those who were refugees fleeing terror in Europe, helping to resettle families, helping to resettle young people, helping to resettle people in this country in safety and security.

Since the 1930s, Episcopalians have been involved in the work of resettling families and people who are refugees, some 80,000.

At that time, in the 1930s there was a poster that depicted Mary, the baby Jesus, and Joseph. Mary was on the donkey. They were clearly on a journey. They were fleeing Palestine. They were seeking to find safety in Egypt. They were refugees. The poster from the 1930s read, “In the name of these refugees, aid all refugees.”

In the name of Mary, Joseph and the Lord Jesus, aid all refugees today, for most of the refugees like the Holy Family themselves, are families, and most are children.

I invite you to observe June 20 as World Refugee Day to learn more about the crisis and to find ways that you can both pray and help in other ways.

God bless you, God keep you, and you keep the faith.

Alabama judge orders mediation in Sauls’ lawsuit

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 10:42am

[Episcopal News Service] An Alabama judge has ordered the corporation of the Episcopal Church, called the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), and former Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls to engage in state-mandated mediation.

Mobile County 13th Judicial District Judge Ben Brooks’ June 12 order came after he had heard oral arguments on the Church’s request that he dismiss a lawsuit Sauls filed after he was let go from his post. Brooks told the parties to submit proposed orders on the dismissal motion by July 14.

The suit against the DFMS and an unspecified number of unnamed defendants associated with the Church claims that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s decision to replace him as chief operating officer had damaged his reputation and has made it difficult, if not impossible, for him to be employed elsewhere in the Church. The Church had argued that the case did not belong in the Alabama courts but, instead, in New York where Sauls was based as COO.

Brooks also said in his order that the parties in the lawsuit must submit to the sort of mediation that Alabama requires in civil lawsuits. Brooks appointed Michael Upchurch, an Alabama lawyer and mediator, to lead that process. Upchurch must finish the mediation and report to Brooks by Aug. 18.

Upchurch attends St. James Episcopal Church in Fairhope, Alabama, according to his profile on the website of the Mobile law firm Frazer, Greene, Upchurch, and Baker.

Sauls filed suit in early February, nearly a year after Curry relieved him of his job. In announcing the lawsuit, the presiding bishop said that, in consultation with legal counsel, he had “tried his best to negotiate a severance with Bishop Sauls.” Curry said he made “a good faith and compassionate offer, but that offer was not accepted. The presiding bishop also said that “as a steward of church resources” he could not go beyond that offer and explain it in good conscience to the Church.

The presiding bishop had announced April 4, 2016, that Sam McDonald, deputy chief operating officer and director of mission, and Alex Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communications, were terminated after an investigation found they “violated established workplace policies and have failed to live up to the church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees, which contributed to a workplace environment often inconsistent with the values and expectations of the Episcopal Church.”

At that time, Curry said Sauls would not continue as chief operating officer even though he had “operated within the scope of his office,” did not violate workplace policy and was unaware of the policy violations by McDonald and Baumgarten (both of whom reported to him). The three senior managers had been on administrative leave since Dec. 9, 2015, pending an investigation into formal complaints and allegations from multiple members of the presiding bishop’s staff that the three had violated personnel policies.

Episcopal Women’s History Project conference focuses on women of color

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 3:23pm

Sandra T. Montes, right, a consultant with the Episcopal Church Foundation, takes a selfie with the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, center, and Denise Treviño-Gomez, missioner for intercultural development in the Diocese of Texas, during the Episcopal Women’s History Project conference underway at the Maritime Center in Maryland. Photo: Sandra T. Montes via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Rt. Rev. Jennifer L. Baskerville-Burrows was deep into her sermon, rhythmically invoking the names of a great cloud of witnesses whose presence was deeply felt by those who gathered in near Baltimore this week for the Episcopal Women’s History Project conference.

“You know them, women like Pauli Murray; say her name!  Verna Dozier; say her name!  Margaret Bush, first black woman to serve in the House of Deputies; say her name,” said Baskerville-Burrows, the newly-elected bishop of Indianapolis and the first black female bishop diocesan elected in the Episcopal Church. “Shout them out! Who else? Say her name! The Rev. Carmen Guererro; say her name! Shout out these names to our children, so they know who they are.”

The June 12-15 conference, the first in the group’s history to focus on women of color, brought together lay and ordained women from across the country. Araceli Ma, who works with the Latino ministries in the Diocese of Washington, said she came to ensure a Latino presence at the conference and to show her two daughters, ages 13 and 10, the opportunities open to them.

During their time together, the women shared stories of their own hopes and challenges, often finding an overwhelming sense of connection in their particular experiences.

“My story is our story,” Baskerville-Burrows said during her June 12 homily.

The Rev. Matilda Dunn, president of the History Project, said planning for this year’s conference began about two years ago. The project had been collecting oral histories and stories from women throughout the Episcopal Church, from the famous to the faithful parishioners and altar guild members who often form the backbone of a parish.

“We need to honor them because they’re also doing the work of the church,” she said. “It’s important to me because the history has to be kept for all of us, men and women.”

Yet, Dunn and others felt a need to set aside some time for women of color to honor and celebrate their collective history. Working with the Rev. Nan Peete, they secured Baskerville-Burrows as homilist and the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, newly-appointed dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, as the keynote speaker. The conference opened Monday, the 87th birthday of the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, the first woman ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion.

On the morning of June 13, Douglas urged those attending the conference to speak the truth about their experiences and how their lives have shaped their view of the world.

“We have to tell the truth about who we are. This country does not like to tell the truth about itself,” she said. “Now, if the Episcopal Church tells the truth about itself, what it is. It will be telling the truth about this nation.”

During her address, she cited recent census statistics to offer a glimpse of the struggles and challenges faced by many women and in particular women of color. About 25 percent of all black and Hispanic women live poverty, with the figure reaching 28 percent for Native American women. Consequently, children also suffer. Poverty rates range from 13 percent of Asian children to 36 percent of African-American children, said Douglas.

Criminal justice figures are equally grim with incarceration rates for black and Hispanic women far exceeding population rates.

“Given these facts, what does all of this mean to us who are gathered here?” said Douglas. “We are called to show forth what it means to be church. We are called to remember [Jesus] by acting and doing as he would in the world.”

For Douglas, Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman as told in Gospel of John, was a perfect example of how one crosses social barriers, lays aside social privilege and finds true and authentic communion. She reminded them that even though their lives have brought them inside the world of the Episcopal Church, they often remain outsiders with a unique perspective. She also urged them to find common ground with the women who were not in the conference center, where dessert trays and coffee urns filled the tables outside the air-conditioned meeting room.

“The Samaritan women of our day are the women who look like us,” she said. “It is to these women that we must be accountable.”

During a question-and-answer session following the keynote address, Grecia Adriana Rivas, who lives near San Diego, California, spoke of the fear and anxiety rampant in the immigrant and undocumented communities in recent months. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are seen patrolling the county fair, or keeping an eye on churches, she said.

“I was so mad,” she said. “We can’t even have fun anymore. We can’t even practice our faith anymore.”

Douglas responded with a repeated call for solidarity.

“We need to show up when it’s our cause and when it’s not our cause because it is our cause,” she said. “We need to be there for each other.”

Throughout the conference, the women spent time questioning the meaning of diversity, the practical aspects of being a welcoming church, and the cultural histories each brings to the church. During worship, when they were invited to pray the Lord’s Prayer in the language of their hearts, the familiar words might be heard in English, Spanish or Navajo.

The Rev. Cornelia Eaton, a deacon who serves in the Diocese of Navajoland, mentioned the painful story of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where in the 1860s the U. S. government forcibly moved thousands of Navajo off their land to live in miserable conditions on the Bosque Redondo. The relocation effort failed and after a few years, the Navajo were returned to their homes. But, the story lives on and the fort and its environs are remembered as “the place of suffering,” said Eaton.

“We are all weavers of many cultures and traditions,” she said. “I became a weaver of the Christian tradition and the Navajo tradition.”

Some of the stories shared involved quirky encounters that resonated with those in attendance and brought laughter to the room. Sandra Montes, who is Afro-Peruvian and is from the Diocese of Texas, recounted a time when she and her mother were shopping for greeting cards in Boston, Massachusetts. Montes said that as they were laughing and reading the cards, two older white women walked up to them and said: “’The Mexican cards are over there.’” Montes said she and her mother looked at the women and replied: ‘”But we’re Peruvian.’”

The Rev. Yein Esther Kim, ordained in 2014 from the Episcopal Divinity School and now serving in the Diocese of Los Angeles, shared that “showing up” can take on a particular nuance for a woman of color.

“When they feel [an event] is not diverse enough, or multicultural enough, they’ll invite me, as if I could bring them just a little diversity,” said Kim, who is Korean-American. “So, I go, because nothing will happen if I don’t show up.”

Indeed, the value of showing up, of being seen and bringing their voice to the cultural conversation, whether in marches, on social media, or in the life of the Episcopal Church was not lost on the women.

”God is faithful—so let us be as well,” Baskerville-Burrows said during her opening homily. “Women of color will not be erased. We will not be made to be invisible.  Let us learn to see as Jesus sees.  For God says to us all, not the least to women of color in the church, “I see YOU”.

— The Rev. M. Dion Thompson is a priest in the Diocese of Maryland.