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Updated: 1 hour 29 min ago

EPPN: Pray, fast, act for environmental programs

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 12:52pm

[Episcopal Public Policy Network] Today, the 21st of August, we pray, fast, and act to protect funding for domestic and international programs that address the health effects of environmental degradation impacting the poorest among us.

PRAY for our nation’s elected leaders and for all who struggle with the impacts and effects of environmental degradation that result in hunger, poverty and death.

FAST to call attention to the needs and circumstances of those suffering from the impacts of air and water pollution, chemical exposure and natural disasters.

Share on social media using #PrayFastAct and @TheEPPN. Post a picture of a dinner place setting with the reason you are fasting this month.

ACT by urging your elected representatives to continue funding crucial programs that care for all of creation by addressing environmental degradation and its impact around the world.

Urge Congress to protect funding for domestic and international environmental programs!

Anglican Communion offers prayers for victims of Barcelona attack

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 12:47pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Spain Don Carlos Lopez-Lozano has expressed thanks for the support received from throughout the Anglican Communion in the wake of the deadly attack in Barcelona’s main tourist area on Aug. 17. Priests from the Spanish Episcopal Church have attended to the wounded in hospital and are offering support to families of the victims.

Full article.

Episcopal-supported intentional community in Charlottesville embodies radical discipleship — and permaculture

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 4:15pm

Claire Hitchins tends the food garden that supplements the diet of those living at the Charis Intentional Community, a mission of Grace Church, Red Hill, southwest of Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Eze Amos/For Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] In the 95-degree heat, a young, bearded white man wearing a hat with a “Black Lives Matter” pin sprawls on a lawn chair past the graveled driveway of the house nestled in a valley off Monacan Trail Road southwest of Charlottesville, Virginia. A rainbow of origami cranes strung together like garland hovers between two posts behind him. When a visitor approaches, he stretches as he gets up and leads her through the front door, where young people huddle in a colorful living room packed with books and art.

Within the hour, the house and lawn will fill with more than 30 people, bringing chatter, singing, children’s laughter, a strumming banjo and serious conversations — along with the salads, enchiladas, quiches and cookies of a casual summer potluck party.

This is home base for the Charis Community. Pronounced kaar-is, Charis means “grace” in ancient Greek.

Cofounded in 2015 by Episcopal youth leader Grace Aheron and the Rev. Neal Halvorson-Taylor of Grace Church, Red Hill, the Charis Community is a gathering of people living together under the shared values of simplicity, prayer and hospitality. This intentional Christian community is housed at an unused Episcopal Church property. The eight acres owned by the Diocese of Virginia include a small cobblestone church, a ranch-style house, a food garden and a forest of tulip poplars and dogwoods. The Charis Community is a partnership with Grace Church, a nearby mission parish. This Charis mission is supported by the church’s vestry, and members keep in contact with Halvorson-Taylor weekly on an informal basis.

The Charis Community idea formed through a connection followed by discussions and prayer. Halvorson-Taylor is married to Aheron’s Hebrew professor at the University of Virginia, and they got in touch a year after Aheron graduated and was living in San Francisco. Halvorson-Taylor knew of this property no one was using.

“I felt like God was calling me to go and do this in Charlottesville. It took me a long time to figure that out. We were in conversations for months,” Aheron said.

Trusting in the transformation of the spirit, the young adults living at Charis are discerning their vocational call, sitting in the tensions of injustice and inviting others into the journey.

Charis cofounder Grace Aheron and partner Rowan Hollins chat at the potluck party in front of the garland of origami cranes created in support for people of color, hanging outside the intentional community’s home south of Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Eze Amos/For Episcopal News Service

“We understand that all of what we do is interconnected, from the radical activism to the ecological,” said Claire Hitchins, 26, a musician and one of the five long-term residents.

These young adults share an explicit passion “to respond to our context of empire, capitalism, and alienation, along with the environmental and social destruction that those forces perpetuate,” according to the community’s official mission statement. They want to model Jesus’ vision of community, resist society’s violence and accompany each other on their individual journeys of discipleship and growth.

An intentional community can take many forms, but it always involves a group of people living together with a clear mission. While a commune usually means all individual resources are pooled and shared, other intentional communities share only some of their resources.

Charis housemates share chores posted on the refrigerator, including gardening, tending chickens and bees and general household upkeep. They contribute monthly to a fund for the house’s food and supplies, and they maintain an account at a credit union for house bills. Once or twice a week, they join for a morning prayer, also considered an open-faith meditation. There’s no discrimination based on religion, color, culture, race, ancestry, sexual orientation, disability, gender or gender expression. And they dine together at a weekly community meal, where they have a meeting to address projects — some ecological, others outreach-based.

A monastery is yet another type of intentional community. Monasteries are cloistered from the outside world to varying degrees and require members to take religious vows. But many kinds of intentional communities don’t fall along these lines. The Episcopal Service Corps helps develop and support a network of 26 intentional communities from Hawaii to New Hampshire, united by shared values of service, justice and prayer. Charis isn’t listed under this network but resembles this style.

Located on land where the Monacan Indian Nation lived centuries earlier, according to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Charis Community comprises people in their 20s and early 30s who are devoted to radical discipleship. They share a belief in the importance of hospitality, outreach and permaculture.

Hospitality within and beyond

The friendly, generous reception of visitors to the Charis home is a Christian act, and it’s something members take seriously. This place is a refuge for people in need of moral support, safety from tenuous living situations and hope for a better future.

Friends, parishioners and fellow activists gather at the Charis Community home south of Charlottesville, Virginia, for a monthly potluck party. Photo: Eze Amos/For Episcopal News Service

People flock to their monthly potlucks, where it’s tradition to start the meal with a song. David Slezak, 70, arrived at the July potluck bearing his organic beef cabbage rolls, a family recipe. Slezak is a parishioner and singer at St. Paul’s Memorial Church at the University of Virginia and manager of Haven Kitchen, a homeless shelter kitchen. He also attended the Charis sunrise Easter service and brunch, along with about 75 other people.

He’s inspired by Aheron’s leadership and energy. “She’s an Episcopal powerhouse,” he said. “I’ve been just so moved by Grace and her work.”

Short-term residential guests at Charis may be experiencing housing insecurity because they can’t afford market-rate rentals, they recently arrived in the Charlottesville community, were released from the hospital or from prison, and or their family is in transition from divorce, domestic violence or ending foster care.

Charis housemates Rowan Hollins and Mark Heisey relax at the monthly potluck party outside the house where the Christian intentional community resides south of Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Eze Amos/For Episcopal News Service

They could be anyone from single parents with low-wage jobs who experience a crisis to former refugees whose formal support has ended, said Mark Heisey, 29, the bearded guy from the front lawn, as he, Aheron and Hitchins gave a tour of the house.

Hospitality plays a role in a larger sense too — especially considering the violence and upheaval in the larger Charlottesville community after the summer’s white supremacy rallies protesting the removal of Confederate statues.

“We want to help Charlottesville become more hospitable to people for whom conditions have become inhospitable,” said Ann Marie Smith, a Buddhist-Christian and member of Grace Church who attended the potluck. She leads weekly meditation sessions in the Charis living room.

Outreach in times of peace and trouble

The property can feel like a secluded haven where tomato leaves rustle and crickets sing. But the swoosh of Route 29 traffic and the clunky hum of the parallel-running Amtrak train just beyond are tangible reminders that the outside is always near.

Most of the Charis residents have outside jobs to go to during the day. Maria Niechwiadowicz, 25, is a Charis resident who works as a program coordinator for Bread & Roses, a nutritional outreach ministry of Trinity Episcopal Church in Charlottesville. “I think we all went into this thinking permaculture would be our thing, but with the changing political landscape, we found racial justice and hospitality, which means inviting people here so conversations can happen in a deeper sense, and for people to feel safe,” Niechwiadowicz said.

A University of Virginia graduate in religious studies, youth minister and program manager at Restoration Village Arts in Charlottesville, Aheron, 26, has worked for social, environmental, racial and women’s causes on her own and through the Episcopal Church. For instance, she was on the Episcopal Church’s delegation to the 2015 meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She participated in an eco-justice panel discussion at a Diocese of California event in San Francisco in her role as a member of Cultivate: The Episcopal Food Movement. She was also an adult member of the 2017 Episcopal Youth Event Mission Planning Team.

Aheron and the other Charis members joined counter-protesters at the July 8 Ku Klux Klan rally and at the Aug. 11 and 12 white supremacy rallies in downtown Charlottesville.

Tension was already thick after the July rally, before the more extreme violence of the second rally. Hours before the potluck, Charis members were still reeling from the first protest, the police reaction to it and all the implications.

A rainbow garland, created in support for people of color during the summer’s white supremacy rallies, is made of origami cranes, each of which contains a message, such as this one: “Don’t hurt my friends.” For a potluck party, the garland hung outside the Charis house, an intentional community south of Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Amy Sowder/Episcopal News Service

“Police tear-gassed people, and we were downwind of it, wiping our eyes. It’s a very emotional time right now,” Aheron said as she and other Charis housemates gathered in the living room anchored by a velvety silver couch and matching chair. A megaphone sat atop a piano. Three counter-protest signs leaned against the fireplace. Each of the small paper cranes on the garland outside had written intentions to eradicate white supremacy in Charlottesville. One message peeked out from pink paper crane: “Don’t hurt my friends!”

Then, at the Aug. 12 rally, one young woman was killed and 19 people injured when a man associated with white supremacy groups plowed his car into counter-protestors. No one from Charis was injured, but Aheron and Charis guest Rowan Hollins were standing on the corner of the street where the attack happened.

White supremacists have since protested by the vigils and memorial services, and Heisey has helped with security, Aheron said.

“Everyone’s physically fine, but not emotionally. We’re pretty traumatized,” said Aheron, who had a dream that a white supremacist drove into her mother’s house. “No one in Charlottesville has been able to get rest. It’s not over, by any means.”

Smith, 48, doesn’t live at Charis, but she’s there often as part of the larger community participating in outreach. “These guys are putting themselves on the front line of this, all in Christian discipleship, so I accompany them and help provide a meditative grounded space,” Smith said.

A permaculture of many layers

Charis had quieter beginnings and practices, namely, permaculture as a guiding principle. For many, permaculture means closed systems of production, efficiency and high-intensity homesteading. Charis wants to apply these principles plus more.

Permaculture in general focuses on letting the land speak for itself. Rather than simply extracting products from a space of land, Charis members pay attention to the soil composition, needs of the plants and natural curvature of the land, which is assessed for best use. In their permaculture, the land has so much more to say, and that land carries memory. They call it “listening permaculture.”

“You usually hear this whitewashed, like a homestead Disneyland,” Aheron said. “But a lot of what we learned in growing processes came from indigenous people.”

Martha Morris, 30, has lived in the Charis community off-and-on since it began. After earning her graduate degree in urban and environmental planning, she became a stewardship assistant at the Virginia Outdoors Association. “I do like the land-based part of it, and that’s part of what drew me here,” Morris said about the community. “It fits into the larger philosophy of Charis, including outreach activities.”

Charis cofounder Grace Aheron tends bees for honey farming, a sustainable practice that’s part of the permaculture values of this intentional community on Episcopal land. Photo: Eze Amos/For Episcopal News Service

For this community, that respect for the land means a plan to replace the lawn with a forest garden that will help them be as food self-sufficient as possible. Also called a food forest, a forest garden is a key part of permaculture. It’s a sustainable garden designed to produce the beneficial relationships that a natural plant-and-animal community has in that climate.

Morris is excited about what they can do: nurture indigenous, perennial plants including medicinal plants, herbs and fruit trees. They already have a garden yielding all sorts of produce: strawberries, Anaheim peppers, basil, large red tomatoes, little yellow pear tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, summer squash, parsley, prickly cucumbers, and summer squash. They have two beehives, and they’d also like to create a flower garden to serve the church’s cemetery.

In the basement, about a dozen 10-day-old fluffy heritage chicks hopped and pecked about in their wooden pen, warmed by a red light. These chicks aren’t fancy heritage breeds. “It’s about preserving the tradition of well-bred, healthy, old lines of animals, chickens not bred to get huge, lay tons of eggs and die young,” she said.

Behind the house, Heisey pointed to the ChickShaw, or mobile chicken coop, he built from wood and wire after the last flock was plucked off by predators. “Having chickens in one spot for only a limited time has an ecological benefit,” Heisey said. “By moving them regularly, they’ll have grubs to eat and fortify the soil.”

Other values
Integrated with permaculture are the values of simplicity, resilience, sustainable cultivation, responsible revenue generation, closed-loop systems and homesteading.

Composting is an easy example of a closed-looped system, using food waste to fertilize their food garden — instead of disposing of it. Worms found in compost are integral to the process.

“Worm poop is super good for nutrients, which is good for the soil,” Hitchins said as she riffled through the compost with gloved hands to expose the wrigglers. It’s a natural, and some say superior, alternative to store-bought fertilizer for gardening.

To some, living in this kind of community can seem idealistic. But it’s living with a deep awareness of the history of the earth and its people, in the spirit of Jesus’ teachings, Aheron said. That awareness transforms into action. And that action can have benefits expanding beyond these eight acres.

As the potluck party-goers tossed a Frisbee on the front lawn where lightning bugs pulsed in the darkening sky, Hitchins sat at the piano inside the house with a friend, creating a song:

“We are more than conquerors/
If we only believe another world is possible/
Victory is in our eyes/
I’m gonna stay on the battlefield until the day I die.”

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a Brooklyn, New York-based freelance writer.

New York bishop gives ‘full support’ to church providing sanctuary to immigrant, child

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 1:27pm

[Episcopal Diocese of New York] A statement on sanctuary by the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, the Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche, and on the Aug. 17 widely-publicized announcement that Holyrood Parish in Manhattan had provided sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant.

August 18, 2017

The Episcopal Diocese of New York has numerous Latino/Latina congregations, and thousands of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries who worship at our altars and live as our brothers and sisters in sacred communion. In April I wrote a letter to the diocese encouraging parishes to protect their members who may be in danger, and to provide legal and pastoral resources to assist undocumented people in the actions they may be facing.  I asked our parishes to explore the possibility of sanctuary, and the different forms that sanctuary might take. My colleague, Bishop Mary Glasspool, gathered resources for churches which may be found on our diocesan website.

It is our conviction that decisions made to offer sanctuary must be made at the local, parochial level, and we know that what “sanctuary” means will differ from community to community. I have made it clear that I will in every case respect the pastoral decisions and judgments made by the clergy and leaders of our parishes in their care of their people. Providing safe refuge inside the church is only one of those possibilities, but it has a long and noble history in the Christian church. In America, government agencies have generally respected the sanctity of the church threshold.

Yesterday, Holyrood Parish in Washington Heights held a press conference in which they announced that they were providing sanctuary refuge in the church to an undocumented immigrant and her American-born children. I am not unmindful of the risks that this means both for the parish and for the sanctuary family. Yet in the changing landscape regarding immigration and deportations in which we find ourselves, I believe this is a well-considered choice marked by integrity and faith. The clergy and people of Holyrood Parish have my full support, the support of this diocese, and this imperiled family has my prayers.

The Rt. Rev. Andrew ML Dietsche, Bishop of New York

Episcopalians, tell us your solar eclipse plans and share your stories

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 12:04pm

[Episcopal News Service] Has solar eclipse fever struck your Episcopal congregation? We want to hear about it.

A rare total solar eclipse will pass across the continental United States on Aug. 21, potentially offering an awe-inspiring display along its narrow path, from Oregon to South Carolina and 10 other states. But even communities who aren’t in the path of “totality” will get to see the partial eclipse as long as skies are clear.

Numerous Episcopal dioceses, congregations and institutions are advertising solar eclipse viewing parties. If your church is hosting a gathering on Aug. 21, email dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org so we’ll know to follow up with you after the eclipse. And we’re encouraging Episcopalians to share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #episcopaleclipse.

You can get more info on the solar eclipse, including a caution about proper eye protection, at NASA’s eclipse page.

 

Wisconsin clergy members take corner prayer ministry to county fair

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 10:05am

From left, the Rev. Kevin Stewart, the Rev. Mindy Valentine Davis and Frankie A. Aliota staff the prayer booth at the Washington County Fair south of West Bend, Wisconsin. Photo: Diocese of Milwaukee

[Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee] The theme of the Diocese of Milwaukee’s Leadership Days in the spring was trying new things to engage the community. The Rev. Mindy Valentine Davis decided to respond to that call by taking her cue from a Milwaukee ministry called Collars on the Corner.

Along with members of her parish, St. James Episcopal Church in West Bend, Wisconsin, she spent six days at the Washington County Fair at the end of July sitting at a booth inviting people to submit their prayers in prayer boxes.

The Rev. Kevin Stewart, a deacon and the diocese’s missioner for community engagement, had spoken at a meeting Davis attended about his work in and around Milwaukee with Collars on the Corner. Stewart is one of the driving forces of the ministry of prayer and presence. Clergy members gather  on Milwaukee-area street corners with prayer boxes and an offer to pray with passersby. They also have placed prayer boxes at a number of locations throughout the region.

“Every time you drive south [from West Bend] to Milwaukee, you pass by the fairgrounds,” Davis said. “As I was passing by one day, I thought, maybe we should have a prayer booth. It just had to be the Holy Spirit.”

So, inspired by Stewart’s ministry, Davis gathered members of her parish, a couple prayer boxes, hundreds of pens imprinted with the words “God loves you” and headed to the fair.

For Davis, spending time being present and praying with people is done in service of the public, not to get more people in church.

“Jesus didn’t command us to fill pews,” she said. “Instead, he said, ‘Feed my sheep.’”

The prayer booth was a way that St. James could be in the community and be Christ to people. “Episcopalians like the fact that we’re free thinkers and we don’t like to have Jesus shoved down our throats. People (in our community) believe in God and the power of prayer, but many don’t have to have a church community to pray with and for them. The booth was a non-threatening way to serve them and others.”

Davis and the other members of her church showed up wearing T-shirts that read, “Can I pray for the you?” and sat at a table in the pavilion with a sign that said, “Prayer Booth―All Prayers, No Preaching.” The group waited to see if anyone would bring their prayers.

And they did.

In their six days at the fair, the booth volunteers gave away 700 pens, received hundreds of slips of papers with prayers written on them and prayed with at least a dozen people. They even had a prayer box for kids. “Children were encouraged to write their prayer or even draw a picture of what they were praying for,” Davis said.

“Some of the prayers just get to you,” she said. “There was this little boy who kept coming back.” Returning several times, he wrote out several prayers, including the following:

All foster children will be adopted.

“We got real prayers in the boxes, prayers that one wouldn’t ordinarily admit to someone,” Davis

Please pray for my drug addiction.

“I have stories about speaking with and praying with adults,” she said. “Walking to the booth and around the fair, my parishioners and I got stopped a few times by people who wanted us to pray for them. To our surprise, people would read our shirts that said, ‘Can I pray for you?’ and just say, ‘Yes.’ It would take us a second to realize what they meant.  We’d then stop and pray with them right then and there.”

David and members of St. James were joined by Stewart two of the days at the fair. “The good people of St. James invited me to join them in reaching out in their community,” he said. “I was moved by the whole experience. In my time serving as missioner for community engagement, a theme has emerged: Where is the church other than on Sunday mornings? Being with the good people of St. James at the fair helped to answer that question. It was an expression of the people of God being visible and present and caring outside their church walls.”

One of the most touching stories involved a little girl with short curly hair and beautiful blue eyes.  She couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old. She came with her family, which included two other children. They were invited to write down their prayers.

The girl was wearing a shirt that read something about Hayley and leukemia. “I said, you know a Hayley with leukemia? We can pray for her. The little girl then pointed to herself,” David said. “It then dawned on me, and I asked, ‘You’re Hayley?’ So, I told her that if she drew a picture of herself that we’d pray for her.”

Prayers submitted by children at the Washington County Fair prayer booth. Photo: Diocese of Milwaukee

There was no real training for the church members that manned the booth. “I gave them instructions and told them that they were there for presence, and the Holy Spirit will guide them and give them utterance,” Davis noted. “I had the prayer books there, but they weren’t needed. I knew no matter what, the Holy Spirit will give the words.”

After such a meaningful week at the fair, Davis plans to get her parish members together to reflect and share stories.

“The Episcopal Church has got to get out of its doors,” she said. “I think God loves our worship, but we’re called to do more than sit in a building. If we can be out showing that God is present in a non-threatening way, then we’re planting seeds.”

— Sara Bitner is communications officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee.

West Missouri: bishop’s statement on Charlottesville violence

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 9:50am

[Epicopal Diocese of West Missouri]

Aug. 17, 2017

I was on the road when it happened, away from my home and my office, booked solid from dawn ‘til dusk for 10 straight days. I was swamped. Then the news broke from Charlottesville. Confrontation and violence on the streets of a normally beautiful college town.

I asked myself, “Marty, shouldn’t you respond? Shouldn’t you post something, blog something, offer a word or a thought or – well, something?” It felt like the answer should be “Yes”, but what should I say or do? From my point of view, decrying the white supremacists and pointing out how wrong they are would be an exercise in informing people of what they already know. It’s just so obvious. To me that is. Consequently, what could I contribute?And even as I’m thinking all this inside my head, the knee-jerk reactions start pouring out and into my phone, TV, computer, and iPad. OK. To be honest, castigating some of the responses as “knee-jerk” may be too pejorative. Some of them were well thought-out and worthy. Others were just the literary equivalent of a string of four-letter words. Some of them actually and literally were a string of four-letter words! A member of my own family could only respond by dropping an “F-bomb” on Facebook. Some of the most awful reactions came from people with whom I am in absolute agreement about the scourge of racism, white nationalism, and Neo-Nazism. I was ready for the vitriol from those who back that morally bankrupt line of thought. I was not ready – though I should have been (I guess I’m still a bit naïve) – for the hate that came from the mouths and pen and keystrokes of progressives.

And even as I’m thinking all this inside my head, the knee-jerk reactions start pouring out and into my phone, TV, computer, and iPad. OK. To be honest, castigating some of the responses as “knee-jerk” may be too pejorative. Some of them were well thought-out and worthy. Others were just the literary equivalent of a string of four-letter words. Some of them actually and literally were a string of four-letter words! A member of my own family could only respond by dropping an “F-bomb” on Facebook. Some of the most awful reactions came from people with whom I am in absolute agreement about the scourge of racism, white nationalism, and Neo-Nazism. I was ready for the vitriol from those who back that morally bankrupt line of thought. I was not ready – though I should have been (I guess I’m still a bit naïve) – for the hate that came from the mouths and pen and keystrokes of progressives.So, seeing the early and emotional reactions sprouting up from private persons, prognosticators, and pundits alike, I decided to wait a bit. The moment seemed to call me to stop and think. Do I need to react at all? If I posted or blogged or offered my tortured verbiage every time one of the ills of our society was put on display (as so graphically happened in Charlottesville), I would hardly ever get anything else done but writing comments. And that’s not all a bishop is elected to do. By a long shot. Besides, if I comment on everything, I’ll be the boy who cried wolf. No one will pay any attention, and I will have effectively drowned myself out by the volume of my own commenting.

So, seeing the early and emotional reactions sprouting up from private persons, prognosticators, and pundits alike, I decided to wait a bit. The moment seemed to call me to stop and think. Do I need to react at all? If I posted or blogged or offered my tortured verbiage every time one of the ills of our society was put on display (as so graphically happened in Charlottesville), I would hardly ever get anything else done but writing comments. And that’s not all a bishop is elected to do. By a long shot. Besides, if I comment on everything, I’ll be the boy who cried wolf. No one will pay any attention, and I will have effectively drowned myself out by the volume of my own commenting.

Obviously, my second thoughts didn’t clear matters up, but they helped me to know that I needed time to think. I’ve had a few days to do that, now. So, helpful or not, here’s what I’ve been thinking …

Charlottesville, Virginia. It used to bring to me historic remembrances of the Civil War in which it figured somewhat prominently. Now it reminds me that the causes of the Civil War have not gone away. They’re egregiously, terrifyingly present in our society and our day. Racism, one group feeling superior to another, and the accompanying, pervasive sense of entitlement – all these have not gone away. Yes, these, and so many other faults in our national life, are just too ubiquitous to ignore.

How do I react to that truth? What do I do about it?

Right now, my thoughts take me back to the five baptismal promises that, together with the Nicene Creed, form The Baptismal Covenant of The Episcopal Church (see p. 304-5, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979). They’re all pertinent to this sad occurrence, but the 2nd, 4th, and 5th are most applicable:

2.) Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

4.) Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

5.) Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

To all these questions, each individual answers: “I will, with God’s help.” This is her or his expression of intent. Here are the lessons I learn anew in this moment by revisiting numbers 2, 4, & 5.

To resist evil, I must acknowledge that evil is also part of me. Resisting evil will not make me good. Whenever I resist evil, I stand the very real chance of falling into sin. I may become the mirror image of that which I resist. I think that happened in Charlotte. Clearly there was enough confrontation, enough in-your-face derision and contempt from both sides to set off what happened. Yes, a single fanatic drove the car into the crowd injuring many and killing a woman who, by all reports, was a concerned and caring person. But this was mob mentality. And there was a bit too much of it on all sides. So, repent we must. I must. For even though I wasn’t there, I cannot say I have had no part in racism’s persistence on this globe. My sins are surely sins of omission as well as commission. When I resist evil, I may fall into sin. I must keep that in mind lest I sanctify my hate, consecrate how I dehumanize another, or hallow my false assumption that I am superior because my beliefs are so much purer.I am called to love Christ in all persons because each person I meet is Christ in disguise. Jesus made that clear, so I am called to love Christ in all persons. Not white ones or black ones or those of any other hue. All persons. I promised to do that. I’ve renewed that promise uncounted times. I’m supposed to mean it. Loving my neighbor as myself is hard because I don’t get to choose who my neighbor is. I have never had control of who enters my life – maybe over who continues in my life – but never over who enters. I have promised to love that person be she a stranger, newly met, or be he a beloved friend of long-standing. I have vowed to love my neighbor as myself even if he joins the White Nationalists, even if she rallies with Neo-Nazis, even if he puts on the bed-sheet hood of a KKKlansman. That person too is the Christ I am to seek and serve.

I am called to love Christ in all persons because each person I meet is Christ in disguise. Jesus made that clear, so I am called to love Christ in all persons. Not white ones or black ones or those of any other hue. All persons. I promised to do that. I’ve renewed that promise uncounted times. I’m supposed to mean it. Loving my neighbor as myself is hard because I don’t get to choose who my neighbor is. I have never had control of who enters my life – maybe over who continues in my life – but never over who enters. I have promised to love that person be she a stranger, newly met, or be he a beloved friend of long-standing. I have vowed to love my neighbor as myself even if he joins the White Nationalists, even if she rallies with Neo-Nazis, even if he puts on the bed-sheet hood of a KKKlansman. That person too is the Christ I am to seek and serve. Wow that’s hard.It strikes close to home, too. My extended family, in the last several years, has become gloriously colorful. By that I mean, we are no longer all of

It strikes close to home, too. My extended family, in the last several years, has become gloriously colorful. By that I mean, we are no longer all of European descent, aka white. My son is married to a woman who is at least partly of African descent, who unabashedly shares that she has a multi-racial background. She is my daughter. Period. My wife’s sister’s daughter, our niece, just got engaged to a man she met in college; he too is of African descent. I look forward to the day when he is my nephew. My niece’s brother, our nephew, recently married a Turkish woman who is Muslim. I’m going to Maine in September to their U.S. wedding reception (the big party in Turkey was a couple of weeks ago). I am happy beyond words that they found each other.

Resist evil. Repent. Love your neighbor who is Christ in disguise. What else?

Oh yes. Strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all. These certainly go hand-in-hand with and build upon the other two. To seek justice and peace is not to seek victory. Justice is not served by squashing our neighbor, nor by using war to impose peace. Everyone — and this includes those who believe their white supremacist creed, or any other belief I would classify as bigotry — are children of their Creator God. That — not their actions — means they deserve their dignity; that means I must respect their dignity as I have promised. It would be nice if they’d respect me in return, or respect their neighbors, their fellow human beings, in return. However, the promises I made to God, when I answered the Baptismal Covenant questions as I did, do not have a proviso about reciprocity. It is not, I’ll respect their dignity if they respect mine. My promise has no quid pro quos.

In the end, this is not about politics and groupings as much as it is about values. Both sides need to respect the other side. Though I’m not so naïve as to think that respect will blossom like wild flowers in the near future, that is the world we are called to build. That is God’s dream for his creation.

I pray that I will be a voice who can promote the civility needed to seek the ground of our common humanity. There’s too much shouting. Never once has another person or group of persons been converted to my point of view because I screamed at him or her. Or threatened. Or hurled insults. But sometimes — if I respect their dignity, love them as a neighbor because they are Christ present to me, strive for justice and peace for them not just for me, and resist evil and repent when I fall into sin — just sometimes, I am able to understand where another person is coming from, share my values, and help that person see another way to live and move and have their being.

The Church spread through the first century world, one person at a time. The Christ-given values the Church espouses can be spread the same way.

The Rt. Rev. Martin “Bishop Marty” Field

Alabama: bishop’s statement on Charlottesville

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 9:35am

[Episcopal Diocese of Alabama]

August 17, 2017

Hello, friends

I hope you all know I’m not one to burden you with my opinions every time there’s a story in the news; I hope you know I really don’t want to use my position to talk about politics. But at some point I think I’m failing in my responsibility as a bishop in God’s holy Church if I bury my head in the sand in this difficult moment for our nation, if I don’t try to call us back to the values we share as Christians, as Americans, as decent people.

I don’t want to talk about the President, the liberals or the conservatives – I want to talk about the Good News of the love of God in Jesus Christ; I want to talk about us, and what I think we believe.

We believe that the Lord God, eternal Creator of all that is, reached out to His wayward children when we had strayed into selfish and cowardly sinfulness, reached out through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah to save not only the people among whom He was born, but the whole world: the Jews, the Gentiles, the Samaritans, the Romans, the poor, the rich, the lepers, the Pharisees and Saducees, the tax collectors, the prostitutes – all of them, all of us.

We believe that Jesus is still reaching out to the children of God, of all political assumptions and opinions, no matter what color we are or language we speak or who we love.

Bigotry, hatred, violence, racism, antisemitism, and the idea that I or we are superior to her or him or them because of the immutable qualities of our births are contrary to Christian faith and teachings. They are not American values; they are not how decent people think or behave.

Some of you reading these words will be disappointed that I didn’t go far enough; others will be distressed that I went too far. Some of you are more conservative than I am, and others more progressive. We disagree. And still you are all my brothers and sisters, because we are all children of our Father in heaven.

That’s the Good News of Jesus; that’s what we believe. Even in the darkest and most difficult moments, you and I have the Light of Christ to shine, and the love of God to share. Amen – so be it.

+Kee

(the Rt. Rev. John McKee Sloan)

Connecticut: Statement on Charlottesville violence

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 9:31am

[Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut]

Aug. 14, 2017

Dear Companions in Christ,

We write to you on this day following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Once again a community in our nation has been torn apart by senseless violence resulting in bloodshed and death. We celebrate and uphold our country’s rights of free speech and assembly. We cannot condone, however, any actions motivated by racism and hate. Each and every one of us is created in the image of God. To believe or act as if one race is of more value in God’s eyes than another is sinful. We stand against such brokenness, hatred and division. And we stand with those who work for peace and justice for all.

Our prayers go out for all who have been affected by this violence. We pray for the people and community leaders of Charlottesville that they may find wholeness and healing. We pray for the 19 individuals who have been injured and for Heather Heyer who lost her life in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called an act of domestic terrorism. And we pray for all first responders and law-enforcement officials who worked to bring order and stability to the situation remembering especially Virginia State Police, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates who died when their helicopter crashed en route to the scene.

We invite you to join us in prayer and action to decry the violence and racism that infect our own hearts, our local communities, and our nation. Let us pray together the collect, For our Country, found on page 820 in the Book of Common Prayer that says in part: “Save us from violence, discord and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues …” Let us indeed join together in solidarity and humbleness of heart to pray and work for unity, wholeness, and reconciliation in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop Diocesan
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan

Rhode Island: Religious leaders call Christians to prayer this weekend

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 4:23pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island] The following statement was issued Aug. 17 from the Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, and the Rev. Dr. Tom Wiles, executive minister, American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island:

As leaders of majority-white churches in Rhode Island, we want to be clear: there is no place in Christianity, or in our country, for a belief that white people are superior or deserve preference and advantage over other people. White supremacy is sin. It rejects the teaching of the Bible and the traditions of the Church, teachings and traditions that our churches have many times failed to observe. Systems that perpetuate racial advantages for some and disadvantages for others are sinful. We must repent so that we all can be restored to a right relationship. God created us all, and because of that we are all of one family (Galatians 3:26-29). If one part of the family suffers, we are all suffering, for we are all children of the same God. 

Over the weekend and the days that have followed, we have all seen the unmasking of long-hidden and often-ignored strains of racism and hatred of the other. We have seen self-professed Nazis carrying burning torches shouting slogans that we hoped had been consigned forever to history and insulting our Jewish neighbors. We have witnessed racially motivated violence, clergy peacemakers being beaten and spit upon, people being injured and one person dying. This is not of God. This fresh eruption of racial violence and hatred must be resisted by people of faith. 

Our call to resist drives us to our knees in prayer. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians that we as members of the Body of Christ contend with the principalities and the powers of this world (Ephesians 6:12-13). As people of faith we have been given authority over the forces of darkness and hate, but it is an authority that is expressed by loving actions and selfless service to people who are being rejected by the powers of this world.
 
Our response as members of faith communities is first to be clear in our rejection of racial violence and systematic preferment, and second to pray for God to bless the work of reconciliation that can repair the damage that has been done. 

We call on people around the State of Rhode Island, in Christian faith communities small and large, to join us in prayer this weekend: 

“God of all the nations, who created us of one blood, and who invites us all to be part of the Beloved Community; strengthen us to work for racial reconciliation and peace in our community. Use us to be peacemakers and to help restore all to right relationship to each other and to you. Give us wisdom when we speak and courage when we must act. We ask this in the name of your Son, our crucified and risen Lord, who conquered once and for all the evil powers and principalities of this world. Amen.”

Presiding Bishop reflects on Charlottesville and its aftermath

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 4:05pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] In his message for those gathering to worship this Sunday, occasioned by recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the readings of Scripture Episcopalians will hear this weekend, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry asks, “Where do we go from here: chaos or community?”

Noting that “the stain of bigotry has once again covered our land” and that “hope, frankly, sometimes seems far away,” Curry says the way of Jesus of Nazareth shows the way through the chaos to the Beloved Community of God. Commitment to that way, he says, “is our only hope.”

  • The text of the presiding bishop’s message is presented below.
  • A video of the presiding bishop’s message is available here.
  • Resources are available here and here.
  • Reactions from throughout the Episcopal Church are available here.

A Message to the Church from the Presiding Bishop

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

In this moment – when the stain of bigotry has once again covered our land, and when hope, frankly, sometimes seems far away, when we must now remember new martyrs of the way of love like young Heather Heyer – it may help to remember the deep wisdom of the martyrs who have gone before.

The year was 1967. It was a time not unlike this one in America. Then there were riots in our streets, poverty and unbridled racism in our midst, and a war far away tearing us apart at home. In that moment, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a book, his last one, with a message that rings poignant today. It was titled, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”

One of his insights then was that a moment of crisis is always a moment of decision. It was true then and is true now. Where do we go from here? Chaos? Indifference? Avoidance? Business as usual? Or Beloved Community?

I’m a follower of Jesus of Nazareth because I believe the teachings, the Spirit, the Person, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have shown us the way through the chaos to true community as God has intended from the beginning.

Through the way of love, he has shown us the way to be right and reconciled with the God and Creator of us all. Through his way of love, he has shown us the way to be right and reconciled with each other as children of God, and as brothers and sisters. In so doing, Jesus has shown us the way to become the Beloved Community of God. St. Paul said it this way: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” and now he has entrusted us with “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

I know too well that talk of Beloved Community, which Jesus was describing when he spoke of the kingdom of God in our midst, can be dismissed as nice but naive, idealistic yet unrealistic. I know that.

But I also know this. The way of Beloved Community is our only hope. In this most recent unveiling of hatred, bigotry, and cruelty, as Neo-Nazis marched and chanted, “The Jews will not replace us,” we have seen the alternative to God’s Beloved Community. And that alternative is simply unthinkable. It is nothing short of the nightmare of human self-destruction and the destruction of God’s creation. And that is unthinkable, too.

We who follow Jesus have made a choice to walk a different way: the way of disciplined, intentional, passionate, compassionate, mobilized, organized love intent on creating God’s Beloved Community on earth.

Maybe it is not an accident that the Bible readings for the Holy Eucharist this Sunday (Genesis 45:1-15; Isaiah 56:1,6-8; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; and Matthew 15:21-28) all point toward and bear a message of God’s passionate desire and dream to create the Beloved Community in the human family and all of the creation.

This Sunday and in the days and weeks to come, as we gather in community to worship God and then move about in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, social circles and more, we will be faced with a choice. I ask and invite us as congregations and individuals who are together the Episcopal Church of the Jesus Movement to intentionally, purposely, and liturgically rededicate ourselves to the way of Jesus, the work of racial reconciliation, the work of healing and dismantling everything that wounds and divides us, the work of becoming God’s Beloved Community. Resources that can assist us in doing this work are included with this message, including an adapted version of the Becoming Beloved Community vision that our church’s key leaders shared this spring. I urge you to spend time reflecting with them individually and in your churches.

Where do we go from here? Maybe the venerable slave songs from our American past can help us. In the midst of their suffering, they used to sing …

Walk together children
And don’t you get weary.
Cause there’s a great camp meeting
In the promised land.

We will walk there … together. We will make this soil on which we live more and more like God’s own Promised Land. So God love you. God bless you. And let’s all keep the faith!

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

Canadian indigenous bishop slams ‘doctrine of discovery’

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 3:15pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The “doctrine of discovery” – the idea that indigenous people need to be discovered and westernized – has been criticized by the national indigenous bishop of Canada. Bishop Mark MacDonald made his comments during a visit to Australia, where he attended a number of events, including a retreat for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican leaders retreat in central Australia.

Full article.

Southern Virginia: Statement from Bishop Herman Hollerith

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 1:01pm
[Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia] Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Aug. 13, 20017 Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I am writing to you from South Carolina where I have been taking time off at the beach with my family.  Late yesterday afternoon I learned shocking news of the terrible events that have taken place back home in our Commonwealth.  The town of Thomas Jefferson, the town distinguished by one of the finest universities in our country, has, in the last 24 hours, been a place of unspeakable hate and violence.  I am appalled by the manner in which the “white nationalists” and “alt- right” have trampled and abused the liberties of free speech and assembly. I am outraged by their attempts to spread a distorted and destructive message of white superiority and privilege.  And I am deeply sadden by the death and woundings that have resulted from such evil. I respectfully ask that all Episcopalians in the Diocese of Southern Virginia commit to prayer and hold up to God all those involved. I also ask you to pray for the people of the city of Charlottesville and the churches and clergy in the Diocese of Virginia whose lives are being directly impacted by this tragedy. While it will take some time for us to digest the meaning of what has happened,  these events remind us that the principalities and powers of evil are much closer to home than we sometimes – naively – want to believe.  It’s now time to stand together against hate with all our brothers and sisters and proclaim the power of God.

+Holly

Southwestern Virginia: Bishop’s statement on Charlottesville violence

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 11:46am

[Episocpal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia] On behalf of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, and in solidarity with the church and its bishops in the Diocese of Virginia, I strongly condemn the violence and hate currently taking place in Charlottesville. There is no place, whatsoever, for white supremacy or hate-filled rhetoric in the streets of Virginia or anywhere else in this country. As disciples of Jesus, we are to be peacemakers and reconcilers. I ask all Episcopalians in Southwestern Virginia to come together with bold courage and the hope of Christ to counter those who dwell in the darkness of fear and hate.

Let us strive to create a vision for our common life with no room for bigotry and intolerance. I commend the people of Charlottesville to your prayers and offer the Prayer for Social Justice from our Book of Common Prayer as a guide.

“Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
move every human heart and especially the hearts of the
people of this land, that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.
-Book of Common Prayer, pg. 823

The Rt. Rev. Mark A. Bourlakas

Michigan: ‘Hate has no home here’

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:49am

[Episcopal Diocese of Michigan] Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Bigotry, hatred and fear have resulted in the loss of life in Virginia this past weekend. Violent, detestable and racist actions do not just affect those who were physically present; they ripple across the country and around the world and continue to wound us physically, mentally and emotionally. And, regrettably, we have not had the reassurance of a strong moral voice from the “Leader of the Free World” unequivocally denouncing those whose main focus is prejudice, intolerance and narrow-mindedness. What a disgrace!

In light of this news and the current state of our nation, it may feel to some that all is lost. Others may believe that we are too divided to ever become the Beloved Community we strive to be. Yet, as Jesus’ disciples, commanded to bring God’s love and justice to the oppressed; to speak the truth of God’s love, and to pray for those with hate and violence in their hearts.

When we see these evil acts of violence and intolerance, ours must be the voices and actions of protest and prayer. We must know that we have the ability and the responsibility to change the world and to change the hearts of the hateful. Together can begin to heal our wounds: to listen to each other and to create a future of hope, compassion and love. The dreams of those who have marched and protested and cried out for justice in the past require our action – our labor – to become reality. All is not lost!

As Nelson Mandela has written and President Barack Obama has quoted: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

We have work to do teaching love: from the mansions of the State to the houses of the poorest among us. It is not going to be easy, and it is work that must be done for the cause of justice and because it is the work of the Jesus Movement.

May there be peace among us.

The Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr.
Bishop

Reacting to Charlottesville violence, Long Island removes Confederate memorial from Episcopal church

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 7:12pm

Crew working with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island saw into one of the plaques commemorating Robert E. Lee. Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

[Episcopal News Service] A work crew sawed off two Robert E. Lee plaques from a tree on church property in south Brooklyn, New York, fewer than 24 hours after the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island received the first of many calls about the Confederate memorial.

The Rev. Khader El-Yateen, a community activist and founder of Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, one of the area’s neighborhoods, made the first call, responding to concerns he heard Monday from community residents.

At issue: Two tree plaques at St. John’s Episcopal Church at Fort Hamilton, near the still-active military base. More than a decade before Robert E. Lee led the Confederate Army, he was stationed from 1842 to 1847 at the U.S. Army’s Fort Hamilton. He was a member of the church, along with Stonewall Jackson, who was baptized there, said Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano. Lee planted a tree near the church, and the plaques commemorate him.

The Brooklyn plaques was placed there in April 1912 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, according to the sign. The maple tree died, and the Confederate group replanted it in 1930, and then again in the 1960s, Provenzano said. The church’s last service was in September 2014, and it is under contract to be sold. The congregation merged with Christ Church in Bay Ridge.

El-Yateen called the diocese at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 15. By 10 a.m. Aug. 16, the plaques were being taken down, to be stored in diocesan archives. He said he’s grateful for the quick response. “We needed to take that sign down in support and solidarity of those who are victims of hate and racism in this country,” El-Yateen said.

The removal was covered by local and national media, as well as being featured on social media platforms.

 

The Brooklyn removal was part of a wave of swift actions taken by leaders across the United States to remove public memorials of Confederate leaders. The removals come days after white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis converged onto the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville this past weekend, protesting the removal of a Lee statue. After violent clashes with counter-protestors, three people were killed and dozens injured. Clergy from Charlottesville’s three Episcopal churches were part of a peaceable faith-based contingent of the counter-protesters, and none were injured.

Bishop Lawrence Provenzano addresses reporters with Pastor Khader El-Yateem outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fort Hamilton before the plaques were removed. Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

“We’re in a mess with the rhetoric coming out of the White House and how people are feeling emboldened by the rhetoric,” Provenzano said. “I think this is a moment for the church. We’ve got to preach the gospel and more importantly, live it. Shame on us for not removing those plaques before it was brought to our attention. This pastor reminded us that when people pass this church property, there’s a commemoration to a general who fought to preserve slavery.”

In the last two days, Provenzano’s office has fielded about 120 calls and emails about the church’s plaques, a ratio of 2-to-1 in favor of removal, from his estimation. The negative calls and emails included people he identified as neo-Nazi and white supremacist. “Those were nasty,” Provenzano said.

Responding to President Donald Trump’s Tuesday afternoon press conference in which he warned of the slippery slope of removing statues of historical figures who had anything to do with owning slaves, including Jefferson and Washington, El-Yateen said that’s not the same. There’s a big difference between a historical figure who owned slaves and one who led a war against the United States to preserve slavery, El-Yateen said.

“General Lee needs to be remembered, but not celebrated in our churches and streets. Because of his actions, over 300,000 people died as he fought to preserve slavery in this country,” El-Yateen said. “These plaques and statues belong in archives and in museums, but not celebrated in our streets.”

“We’re not denying history, and maybe that some of those times, the church was complicit in it,” Provenzano said. “If we did nothing, I think that would have made us complicit in furthering the concerns of people that issues like this are not important enough for the church to pay attention to.

“I think we did the right thing.”

— Amy Sowder is a freelance writer and editor in Brooklyn.

Charlottesville faith community looks ahead after uniting against white supremacist march

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 5:56pm

Mourners and clergy, including the Rev. Elaine Thomas, second from right, pray outside the memorial service for Heather Heyer on Aug. 16, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal clergy and other Charlottesville, Virginia, religious leaders joined hundreds of mourners Aug. 16 in remembering the woman killed amid the weekend’s violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters, as the city’s interfaith community takes stock and begins looking ahead.

“They tried to kill my child to shut her up,” Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, said at a memorial service held in Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater. “Well guess what? You just magnified her.”

Heyer's mom: "They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well guess what? You just magnified her" https://t.co/GFp1fi3XlS

— Meg Wagner (@megwagner) August 16, 2017

Heyer, 32, was part of a crowd of counter-protesters that was rammed by a car Aug. 12, killing her and injuring 19 others. A 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer from Ohio has been charged with her murder.

The Rev. Elaine Thomas, associate rector at St. Paul’s Memorial Church, was among the Episcopal clergy who turned out for Heyer’s memorial service, part of a larger group of interfaith clergy that gathered earlier in the morning for their first weekly meeting since the weekend melee. Members of the group, known as the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, were prepared to stand outside the theater as a peaceful, protective barrier if necessary – “We want to make sure we are there in prayerful presence,” Thomas said – but no major disruptions were reported at the service.

The collective began meeting nearly every Wednesday this summer to coordinate its response as Charlottesville braced for hundreds of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white supremacists to descend on the city for what they billed as a “Unite the Right” rally. The city became a magnet for leaders of the self-described “alt-right” movement after the City Council voted to take down a statue of Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee, a decision now being disputed in court.

The rally Aug. 12, however, was canceled just before it was to start. The city deemed it an unlawful assembly after club-wielding and gun-toting white supremacists began clashing with counter-protesters, some of whom also carried weapons. Heyer, a Charlottesville paralegal, was killed later in the afternoon.

Several dozen clergy members regularly participate in the Charlottesville Clergy Collective meetings, and Thomas said much of the Wednesday breakfast gathering was spent discussing the weekend’s events and preparing for Heyer’s memorial service.

Charlottesville has become a flashpoint in the national debate over removal of Confederal statues and memorials, said the Rev. Cass Bailey, vicar of Trinity Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, but the collective’s mission remains focused on local outreach.

“The underlying tone has been kind of, how do we define the narrative ourselves, in the sense of here is what Charlottesville is all about,” Bailey said, “as opposed to letting others, who for the most part were outsiders, come into Charlottesville and define that.”

Bailey was traveling on Aug. 16 and wasn’t able to attend the collective’s meeting or the memorial service, but he was part of the group of clergy members who stood in solidarity against racial hatred in the Aug. 12 counter-protests. Bishops from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Episcopal clergy from across the country also linked arms on the streets of Charlottesville.

For Bailey, the importance of participating in such action is written into the mission of his church, a historically black congregation that describes itself today as “an intentional multiracial community of reconciliation, transformation and love.”

“We take our mission statement very seriously and think of that as our work in Charlottesville,” Bailey said. “And the events of Aug. 12 kind of show us that our work is not done and there is much to be accomplished. And we have a role to play as people of God in saying there is some reconciliation that needs to happen and can happen with the power of God.”

Charlottesville isn’t alone in such work. The removal of Confederate statues and monuments has inflamed tensions in other cities, including New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Louis, Missouri, Efforts to promote racial reconciliation face resistance from those who see it as an attack on local culture and history.

When Baltimore, Maryland, removed its statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson overnight Aug. 15, it did so without fanfare and under cover of darkness in the interest of public safety after the unrest in Charlottesville.

And in New York City on Aug. 16, Episcopal Diocese of Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano removed two plaques honoring Lee at an Episcopal church where the Confederate general once attended while he was stationed at the nearby Fort Hamilton army base. The army base recently drew both support and criticism for its decision not to rename two streets on the base that bear the names of Lee and Jackson.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention also has weighed into the debate, passing a resolution in 2015 condemning the Confederate battle flag as “at odds with a faithful witness to the reconciling love of Jesus Christ.”

Episcopal clergy protest with nonviolent prayer

Bailey, the Trinity Episcopal vicar, noted that Charlottesville residents chose different ways to show their opposition to the white supremacists who came to town. Some preferred to ignore the racist demonstration altogether, so as not to validate the supremacists. Others, like the Episcopal clergy members, felt it was important to present alternative views peacefully and publicly.

And some counter-protesters chose to be more confrontational.

For the Episcopalians who joined with the Charlottesville Clergy Collective in the counter-protest, “our role was to show that there is a nonviolent way to stand up against the ideas of the so-called alt-right … a way to do that with integrity, without violence.”

When asked about the subset of counter-protesters who chose to bring rifles, clubs and chemical spray, Bailey said, “I think when you show up with a weapon, it’s pretty hard not to use it when you are threatened or when the situation escalates.”

Bailey thinks tensions will subside with the removal of the Lee statue. The City Council voted in February in favor of removal, but that has been on hold while opponents of the decision pursue a lawsuit seeking to stop it.

“It would be a release valve,” Bailey said while acknowledging that it is impossible to say whether supremacist groups would focus more or less attention on Charlottesville if the statue were removed.

For many in this city, life goes on – possibly with a greater sense of purpose.

Heyer’s family and others who knew her described her at the Aug. 16 memorial service as someone with a passion for fighting injustice, a passion they hoped the community would carry on.

“Make my child’s death worthwhile,” Heyer’s mother said at the memorial service. “I’d rather have my child, but by golly, if I’ve got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”

The events of the weekend have influenced and in some ways strengthened ongoing efforts to improve the local community, said Maria Niechwiadowicz, the parish administrator at Trinity Episcopal who runs the church’s Bread and Roses nutritional outreach program.

All the social injustices that Charlottesville faced before last weekend are still present – food insecurity, lack of affordable housing, racial inequality – but “there’s momentum in the community right now,” Niechwiadowicz said.

She wasn’t on the front lines of the counter-protests, playing more of a support role back at the church and at the memorial service for Heyer. After an intense several days, some socially active city residents are “on the verge of burnout,” but it is important to return to the work of improving Charlottesville for all, she said.

The church garden will host its Thursday work gathering, as it does every week, she said. The Bread and Roses mobile kitchen demonstration will continue as scheduled this weekend at a city farmers’ market.

Niechwiadowicz and others also attended a previously scheduled Charlottesville Food Justice Network roundtable discussion on Aug. 15. Organizers said canceling would send the wrong message, that it’s time to remain active.

Thomas and other clergy members chose not to go inside for the memorial service for Heyer, remaining outside the theater and filling that space with prayer. They also are planning a candlelight vigil and additional prayer services, but they also need to balance their public activism with ministering to their congregations.

“The work of the church has to continue, because that’s our job, to be priests and pastors to our people,” Thomas said. Sunday school classes will resume soon, she said. The St. Paul’s congregation also is closely tied to the student community at the University of Virginia, which the church overlooks, and the fall semester is about to start.

“At some point we’re going to need to step back and take care of each other,” Thomas said, before deciding what the faith community will do next in response to the threat of a return of racist hate groups.

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

Texas bathroom bill’s defeat means 2018 General Convention stays in Austin

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 5:17pm

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings expressed thanks Aug. 16 for the defeat of a “bathroom bill” in Texas and said General Convention will convene in 2018 in Austin as planned.

“We give thanks for all of the Texan Episcopalians, elected officials, business leaders, and advocates who raised their voices publicly against this proposed law and the physical, spiritual and emotional damage it threatened to do to transgender people,” the two presiding officers wrote. “Now that we can be more confident that transgender deputies, exhibitors, advocates and guests can travel to Texas safely and with dignity, we have no plans to ask Executive Council to reconsider the location of the 2018 General Convention.”

The Episcopal Church General Convention is scheduled to meet July 5-13, 2018, in Austin.

However, Curry and Jennings warned that they, the bishops of Texas and other Episcopalians are still concerned about Texas Senate Bill 4, which goes into effect Sept. 1 of this year. The bill threatens law enforcement officials with stiff penalties if they fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and it forbids municipalities from becoming sanctuary cities. The bill also allows police officers to question people about their immigration status during arrests or traffic stops.

“Between now and next summer, we plan to follow the progress of legal challenges to Senate Bill 4 closely and to explore ways to lend the support of the Episcopal Church to Texans who oppose this discriminatory, anti-immigrant law,” they said.

Saying that recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, shows that “there is darkness in our land,” Curry and Jennings asked Episcopalians to “join us in continuing to pray and to speak out for all of God’s children who have reason to be afraid in these frightening times. Dear people of God, let the light shine!”

While the Texas Senate had passed the latest iteration of the so-called bathroom bill, Senate Bill 3, earlier in the special session, the bill failed when the state House refused to even hold a hearing on it. Well-financed and visible opposition by major Texas employers, including energy companies, also helped defeat the bill.

The bill said using public multiple-occupancy restroom, shower or changing facilities at Texas, including public and charter schools, must use the gender-labeled facility that matched the sex stated on a person’s birth certificate, driver’s license, personal identification certificate or state license to carry a handgun. It also would’ve overturned local and individual school district’s policies on bathroom use.

Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus had firmly opposed the bill and Curry and Jennings have supported him in that stance. They wrote to him in July before the special session convened to follow up on a letter they sent him in February.

They reminded him that General Convention moved from Houston to Honolulu in 1955 because the Texas city could not offer sufficient guarantees of desegregated housing for its delegates.

In March, Curry and Jennings were the lead signers on an amicus brief filed by 1,800 clergy and religious leaders in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving transgender-bathroom use policies.

The text of their Aug. 16 letter follows.

Letting Our Light Shine in Texas:

A Letter from the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies

August 16, 2017

Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:

Yesterday, the Texas legislature adjourned its special session without passing a so-called “bathroom bill,” which threatened to write discrimination against transgender people into state law. We give thanks for all of the Texan Episcopalians, elected officials, business leaders, and advocates who raised their voices publicly against this proposed law and the physical, spiritual and emotional damage it threatened to do to transgender people.

Now that we can be more confident that transgender deputies, exhibitors, advocates and guests can travel to Texas safely and with dignity, we have no plans to ask Executive Council to reconsider the location of the 2018 General Convention. We are delighted and relieved to assure the Episcopalians of Texas that we look forward to being with you in Austin next summer.

Along with the bishops of Texas and many other Episcopalians, we remain concerned about Senate Bill 4, a Texas law scheduled to go into effect on September 1 that requires local police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and forbids local municipalities from adopting sanctuary city statutes. Between now and next summer, we plan to follow the progress of legal challenges to Senate Bill 4 closely and to explore ways to lend the support of the Episcopal Church to Texans who oppose this discriminatory, anti-immigrant law.

There is darkness in our land, as the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville last weekend demonstrated with sickening and deadly clarity. But we follow Jesus, about whose coming John’s Gospel said, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” And it cannot! So when the evil one divides us from one another through darkness of racism, bigotry and intolerance, we must witness even more steadfastly to the light, the power of the risen Christ to overcome hatred, cease division, and bind us all even more closely to one another.

Even as we give thanks that justice for transgender people has prevailed in Texas, we ask you to join us in continuing to pray and to speak out for all of God’s children who have reason to be afraid in these frightening times. Dear people of God, let the light shine!

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies

Welsh electoral college to choose next archbishop and primate

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 5:10pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An electoral college of the Church in Wales will meet in the small town of Llandrindod Wells next month to choose the province’s next archbishop and primate. Three lay people and three priests from all six Welsh dioceses will join the six bishops as they pray and vote on a successor to the former Bishop of Llandaff, Barry Morgan, who retired in January.

Full article.

Anglican archbishop in Australia speaks against euthanasia legalization

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 5:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier has joined six other Christian leaders in Australia from the region in calling on the state premier to reconsider plans to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. In a letter to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox church leaders say that “human dignity is honored in living life, not in taking it.” The church leaders published their letter as an advertisement in the daily Herald-Sun newspaper.

Full article.

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