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Archbishop of Canterbury recognizes outstanding service to the church

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 2:21pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than 35 people from around the world have been recognized with awards for outstanding service to the church in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby presented the awards saying he wanted the lives and actions of those receiving these awards, which exemplified the Church’s beliefs and values, to be visible to the Church and the wider world: “Many of us will know that great prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola: “Teach us, good Lord,  to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will,” he said.

Recipients included religious, political and community leaders, musicians and others, from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Full article.

Podcast: EYE17 prepares to take its ‘Path to Peace’ message to Oklahoma

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 11:45am

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Youth Event is gearing up for its 2017 conference July 10-14 in Edmond, Oklahoma. In advance of the big event — expected to draw 1,300 teenagers from across the Episcopal Church — Episcopal News Service sent Miranda Shafer to meet with the EYE17 planning committee and produce an audio story about how this year’s theme, “Path to Peace,” came to be.

Have a listen.

Tray Light joins St. John’s, Roanoke, Virginia

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 10:36am

Tray Light has joined the staff of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Roanoke, Virginia, as minister to youth. A graduate of Virginia Episcopal School, Light finished a Bachelor of Arts in history at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. Prior to his work at St. John’s, he worked for Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now) in Virginia, managing and training employees and volunteers, running one of the organization’s warehouses and assisting with Rise Against Hunger events.

Light is no stranger to youth ministry in the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. He grew up Episcopalian in Lynchburg and attended Youth at Council from 2002 through 2006. In 2006 he attended the 75th General Convention as the Province III member of the General Convention Official Youth Presence. He attended 76th General Convention as an alternate for the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia. He is currently a postulant for holy orders and studied for a year at the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee.

Pauli Murray Center aims to inspire ‘young, future firebrands’

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:43pm

[Episcopal News Service] A recent National Park Service historic landmark designation and $237,575 grant has ignited hopes for completion of a project to convert the wood-frame childhood home of Pauli Murray into a social justice center dedicated to the legacy of the early civil rights activist, fiery feminist and the first African-American woman ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.

Pauli Murray’s childhood home in Durham, North Carolina, will open to the public in 2020 as a center for dialogue, the arts, education and community activism for all people. Photo: Courtesy of the Schlessinger Library at Harvard University

“She was a fiery feminist, an early civil rights advocate, arrested for riding in the white section on buses back in the 1940s, long before the Freedom Riders of the 1960s,” recalled the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee, 79, assisting bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, during a recent telephone interview.

After Murray’s 1977 ordination, he invited her to preach and celebrate the Eucharist at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, where he was rector.

“It was where her grandmother was baptized when she was a slave child, in that same parish,” Lee said. “It was amazing, that she carried the Bible her grandmother Cornelia had given her. It rested on a lectern engraved in the memory of the slaveholder who brought her grandmother to baptism.

“You could feel barriers of gender, sex, social class, racism dropping in that moment. It was an electric event.”

Pressed into the pages of that Bible were dried flowers sent by Eleanor Roosevelt when Murray graduated from Howard University. Their friendship is chronicled in a 2016 book, “The Firebrand and the First Lady.” Murray had appealed for assistance to President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill rejected her application to its law school because of her race and Harvard University rejected her because she was a woman. Eleanor Roosevelt responded with a personal letter.

While Murray is not exactly a “hidden figure” in the church—she was elevated to sainthood in 2012—or in the nation, Lee and others say that the center hopes to share much of her legacy that is either unknown or forgotten.

Pauli Murray’s and Eleanor Roosevelt’s decadeslong friendship began when Murray asked Franklin D. Roosevelt for help after she was denied admission to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University. Eleanor Roosevelt replied personally with a letter. Photo: Courtesy of the Schlessinger Library at Harvard University

Like, staging lunch counter sit-ins in Washington, D.C., in the 1940s; and, helping to develop the legal strategy used to strike down “separate but equal” laws, paving the way for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court-ordered desegregation of the nation’s schools in Brown v. Board of Education.

In awarding the National Historic Landmark designation, the Park Service said Murray was a bridge figure between social movements. Her efforts were critical to retaining “sex” in Title VII, a legal protection for women against employment discrimination. After decades of work for black civil rights, her vision for a civil rights association for women became the National Organization for Women, or NOW.

A poet, author, educator, lawyer, activist and priest, Murray worked for the NAACP, and also identified with the LGBTQ community, courageously embodying decades ago many human rights issues that remain challenges today and symbolizing hope to those on the margins, the Pauli Murrays today, said Barbara Lau, director of the Pauli Murray Project at the Duke University Human Rights Center.

“Pauli is a woman of our day,” Lau said. “When she was alive, people weren’t ready for her. Her story teaches us to think about our own experience and value it. Her theories about life really grew from her own experience and, instead of trying to be like everyone else, she taught us it is important to accept who we are and try to build a world in which someone like Pauli Murray could truly live out her potential. That continues to be our work.”

‘Proud Shoes’: Nurturing a new generation of young firebrands

When Murray was targeted during the McCarthy era by the House Un-American Activities Committee, she responded with a 1956 book chronicling her family’s roots in slavery: “Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family.”

Pauli Murray was the first African-American woman to be ordained in the Episcopal Church. In 2012, she was included in the church’s commemorative “Holy Women, Holy Men.” The first Eucharist she celebrated was at the Chapel of the Cross, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where her grandmother, a slave, had been baptized. Photo: Courtesy of the Schlessinger Library at Harvard University

Born in 1910, at about 4 years old, Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray, was sent to live with relatives in Durham, North Carolina, after her mother died. Murray’s grandfather, Robert Fitzgerald, a Civil War veteran who fought for the Union Army, oversaw construction of the simple, wood-frame home where she grew up and which is a planned centerpiece for the Pauli Murray Project.

Murray graduated from Hunter College in New York City, and earned a degree at the Howard University School of Law, after being denied admission to both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University. She later earned advanced degrees in law from the University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University. She was affiliated with many social justice organizations and served on President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women.

In 1951, she authored “States’ Laws on Race and Color,” which Thurgood Marshall called “the Bible of Civil Rights law.”

All of which makes the anticipated 2020 opening of the Pauli Murray Center “really important, to make her life and ideas visible on the physical landscape … to bring visibility not only to her story but also to “’young firebrands, future firebrands’ like her,” Lau said.

Mayme Webb-Bledsoe, the center’s board chair and a local community resident, said she grew up hearing Murray’s story in Durham’s west end, a small, segregated African-American community that “fed on itself, with neighborhood stores. We walked to things; we supported one another.”

She felt it important that Murray’s story be told in the spirit of that community, she said, “and that it’s important for the world to know, the nation to know, others to know” Murray’s legacy of inclusivity, dedication to true community and truth-telling.

The center’s goal is to create “a visitor-ready historic site in 2020, focused on history, arts, education and activism, where learning and thoughtful discussion that advances Pauli’s vision for an inclusive America takes place,” she said.

Inspired by a Duke University community revitalization effort, the Southwest Central Durham Quality of Life Project, the center in April 2017 hosted a homecoming celebration attended by 1,500 people, offered workshops, a walking tour, and photo exhibit, documented oral histories and helped to create a series of murals depicting Murray’s likeness.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry heralded the effort.

“Pauli Murray was, to paraphrase the late martyr Oscar Romero, ‘a prophet of a future not her own.’ Long before these things could be realized, and often with great pain and personal sacrifice, she courageously followed what St. Paul called the ‘upward Call of God in Christ Jesus,’” said Curry, in a statement to ENS.

“As such, she crossed chasms and challenged humanly-created barriers preventing anyone from realizing the fullness of God’s dream for their life, because of their race, their gender, sexual orientation or identity. In that sense, she truly was a bridge person who charted a way beyond socially constructed nightmares connecting us to the very dream of God for us and all creation.”

Webb-Bledsoe said that individuals, corporations and foundations have contributed to the effort. The funds support the renovation of Murray’s circa 1898 childhood home, and an adjacent property to be used as a welcome center.

“It is important to know that we can now share this space and save it, not just as a moment in time, but to begin to really think of ways we can use her message, her challenges, her strength, to grow and explore new ways of being a part of a community, learning to be good neighbors, helping to be part of helping our new generation to understand where they came from and how they’ve benefitted from it,” Webb-Bledsoe said.

Above all, the center hopes to “allow people to be able to dream and to live that dream because we encourage it, we feed it,” she said. “My hope is that it is going to be useful, to provide tools, allow people an opportunity to engage in something wonderful, a change of life, a change of thinking, to at least be moved, to be provoked to something.”

Honoring Murray’s ‘true community’

The Rev. Brooks Graebner, rector of St. Matthew’s, Hillsborough, North Carolina, said the complexity of Murray’s story has guided his ministry as diocesan historian as the diocese grapples with its racial history.

One of four community murals in Durham, North Carolina, depicting Pauli Murray at various stages in her life. Photo: Courtesy of the Schlessinger Library at Harvard University

Murray’s autobiography, “Song in a Weary Throat” was published posthumously two years after her 1985 death from cancer.

“She was willing to draw strength from all her roots and to chronicle what she called both the dignity and the degradation of her own family past” as a descendant of both slaves and slaveholders, as well as struggling with issues of gender identity, he said.

“Everything she did and what she stands for is to hold out the goal of living in that notion of true community, a community where we meet on grounds of equality, mutuality and reciprocity. Where we are allowed to be ourselves in our own diversities and complexities but at the same time acknowledge others as fellow members of society and the church,” Graebner said.

“She saw herself pulling the disparate strands of American life, culture, disparate strands of her own life and weaving them together.”

A recent profile in the New Yorker magazine sheds more insight into Murray’s life.

The Episcopal Church’s ‘best kept secret’

In July 2016, Lau took Murray’s story to Houston, Texas, for a weekend fundraiser, at the invitation of the Houston area chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians and Integrity Houston, according to Ayesha Mutope-Johnson, UBE chapter president.

The weekend included: panel discussions about race, gender and sexuality issues in the church; a forum about the intersectionality between issues of race and gender; and, an original play, written and produced by John Cornwell. The event raised $1,500 for the center, Mutope-Johnson said.

She was inspired to organize it after realizing that, although Murray had been included in the Episcopal Church’s “Holy Women, Holy Men” commemorations in 2012, “I had never really heard much about her.”

Afterward, she realized “Murray’s life was this amazing story. She was the best kept secret in the Episcopal Church.”

A playwright and artistic director, Cornwell quickly creating a play about Murray’s life for the weekend, and both he and the cast feeling transformed by it and by her life.

“That’s the power of Pauli Murray; she inspires and speaks to people in ways that you suddenly just do things,” he said. “It’s a grace that inspires you and makes it all happen.”

He noted the poignancy of Murray’s struggles, frequent arrests and life on the margins. “Not only was she a woman working hard on women’s rights, but an African-American working hard on the rights of ethnic minorities, and she was also struggling with her own sexual identity. At times, she considered that she must have a mental illness because that’s how society portrayed it.”

While researching her life as background for the play, Cornwell recognized Murray’s struggle led her to the priesthood: that over time she understood true reconciliation couldn’t be achieved by the law solely, but also by touching spirits and hearts. She earned a master of divinity at The General Theological Seminary in New York City and served as an Episcopal priest until she was 72, the mandatory retirement age.

Still, he said, she continued to serve, he said. “She just kept on and kept on … for any of us, one of her challenges might have been enough to shut us down and make us not try, but she just kept going.”

But he added, “What is scary is that there are so many parallels that we are still living through that were occurring in her life 75 to 80 years ago.”

Lau agreed. “I don’t associate her just with civil rights, or just with women’s rights, or just with the faith community, or just with Durham. She operated in the spaces between that weren’t easy to categorize. She helps us navigate the whole 20th century of human rights movements, which makes her amazing.”

The center aims to continue Murray’s legacy, Lau said. “The question is not just talking about how she’s fantastic, but to think about what she calls us to do. She said human rights are indivisible, that if we just work for the rights of one group, we’re not doing our job.

“The other message from her (is) … we’re related by common history, culture, suffering, blood. When are we going to admit we’re related and get on with the business of healing those wounds? We’re not going to heal them until we face the truth.”

She added, “That’s the hard truth of our past, the hard truth of white supremacy, the hard truth of greed and the way the capitalist system has pushed some people to the bottom while raising other people to the top. That’s the hard truth of patriarchy. Like Pauli, we have to face the degradation and the dignity of all the ancestors. That’s the hard truth she asks us to face.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service, based in Los Angeles.

Anglican Church of Melanesia supports islands hit by tropical cyclone

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 9:31am

[Anglican Alliance] The Anglican Church of Melanesia is working closely with the National Disaster Management Committee in Vanuatu, with support from Anglican agencies in the Pacific, after a tropical cyclone battered the Torres Islands at the beginning of May.

Full article.

European churches call for day of prayer commemorating refugees who’ve died in transit

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 9:27am

[Conference of European Churches] Since 2000, more than 30,000 migrants and refugees have lost their lives on their way to Europe, often drowning at sea or suffocating in containers on trucks and ships. Churches throughout Europe have responded through intensive solidarity and humanitarian efforts at Europe’s borders and by advocating for safe and legal passage.

Full article.

Wellington elects its first female bishop

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 2:15pm

[Anglican Taonga] An estimated 900 worshippers packed into the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul to celebrate the evening ordination of the Rt. Rev. Eleanor “Ellie” Sanderson as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Wellington, New Zealand. Sanderson has ministered in the Wellington diocese for 16 years, 11 of those as a priest.

Full article.

Urdu-language Anglican worship in UAE

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 2:12pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of St Luke in  Ras al Khaimah – one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates –  has a new Urdu-language, Anglican congregation.

Full article.

WCC encourages renewed climate efforts after US withdrawal

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 2:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Expressing its deep disappointment at U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement, the World Council of Churches has urged renewed commitment by churches and praised local communities and governments for their reaffirmation of climate commitments.

Full article.

Q&A: Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris says, ‘people have got to live boldly’

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

Now-retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris, left, helped ordain and consecrate the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows on April 29 in Indianapolis when the latter became the first black female diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Church. Harris became the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion in 1989. Photo: Miguel Hampton/Diocese of Indianapolis

[Episcopal News Service] Now-retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris’ historic ordained ministry has always included advocacy for the full inclusion of all people in the life of the Episcopal Church.

Harris began making history with that advocacy as a lay woman on July 29, 1974. She lifted high the cross as crucifer during a service at Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when 11 women deacons and four bishops broke the then-existing prohibition against the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Episcopal and Anglican Churches. (Women had been allowed to be deacons in the church since 1889. They were known as deaconesses until 1970.)

At General Convention in 1976, the Episcopal Church resolved the rebellion that began with the Philadelphia 11 and agreed to allow women to become priests and bishops.

Harris was ordained a deacon in 1979 and in October 1980, became a priest.

The former public relations executive made her largest mark on church history in 1989 when she became the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion. Her election and subsequent ordination and consecration prompted rejoicing but also brought obscenities, death threats and the departure of some Episcopalians from the Church.
In April, 28 years and 266 Episcopal Church bishops later, Harris helped ordain and consecrate the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows as the first black female bishop diocesan in the Episcopal Church.

Now as the Church considers how to encourage a more diverse House of Bishops, Harris spoke to Episcopal News Service about why the house is still mostly male and white.

You were there April 29 when Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows made history by becoming the Episcopal Church’s first black female diocesan bishop. What did that mean to you?

I thought it represented a milestone in the Church, particularly for black women. One of the things that impressed me was the strong presence of black women clergy from around the country who were there to support and celebrate on that occasion. I was very moved by the whole day, that whole weekend.

Bishop Barbara Harris

Age: 87 (on June 12, 2017)
Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education: Attended Villanova University and the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, England, and also graduated from the Pennsylvania Foundation for Pastoral Counseling.
Work and activism: Harris worked in public relations before ordination and was active in the civil rights movement, including the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. From 1980-84, she was priest-in-charge at St. Augustine of Hippo Church, Morristown, Pennsylvania. She was also a prison chaplain. In 1984, she became executive director of Episcopal Church Publishing Co., publisher of The Witness, which advocated peace and justice ministries in the Church. She was an associate at Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, which sponsored her for ordination, from 1984 until 1988 when she was appointed interim-in-charge.

During your nearly 38 years of ordained ministry, what sort of changes have you seen in Episcopalians’ attitudes toward women and people of color in church leadership positions?

Certainly, there has been some change with the election and consecration of several women, including just three black women, as bishops. I have regretted that more women have not been elected as bishops, but I think some of that is that some women are reluctant to offer themselves in the process of election.

Why do you think that is?

I think there is still some resistance to women in the episcopate. I do not think that the Church is as open as people might think it is.

Who ought to be responsible for changing those attitudes?

I think it lies with all of us in the Church to be more open to women and to gay and lesbian people, to people of color. I don’t think this Church is as open sexually and racially as people tend to think it is.

What should dioceses consider when searching for and nominating candidates for bishop?

When they begin the search process and form a search committee, and develop their profiles and criteria for the office, they ought to expand their thinking about the role and what kind of person with what kind of experience should be considered. Usually a search committee has a consultant, and I think the people who serve as consultants to search committees ought to encourage a broadening of perspective on the profile.

How should the laity and clergy who elect bishops discern their choice?

They don’t really discern their choice until the walkabouts occur. They need to be exposed a broad spectrum of candidates or nominees.

What advice do you have for women and people of color about discerning a call to the episcopacy?

I think people need to examine themselves very carefully and be open to a call to a broader dimension of ministry as represented by the episcopacy. I think a lot of women and people of color are reluctant to do that. Historical rejection has a large part to play in that. People conclude: “Why should I put myself through that process that isn’t going to lead to anything?” When I was asked to allow my name to go into the process here in Massachusetts, I said to myself, well, nothing will come of this but people ought to at least have the opportunity to consider it. Particularly as I did the walkabouts, which we then called “the dog-and-pony show,” I said to myself, I am never going to see these people again in life so I might as well say exactly what is on my mind. I did, and look what it got me. People said to me after the election: “You were the nominee who gave us honest answers and did not tell us what you thought we wanted to hear.”

Do people of color and women and LGBT folks get nominated as tokens so that dioceses can check off a box labeled “diversity”?

I think that happens a lot. [That makes a decision to participate in a particular election harder.] People don’t want to allow their names to go forward in a process because they may be asked to allow their name to go forward someplace else, and if you participate in too many episcopal elections without being elected, then you become kind of soiled goods. People have a tendency to say: “Oh, well, she’s been in three episcopal elections and didn’t make it.” I think people need to look very carefully at the diocese in which they may be asked to let their name be considered, and if it looks totally hopeless, then, given the makeup of the diocese and their operation — not just their history but their current focus — people need to consider that very carefully. Search committees also have to be aware of the climate of their dioceses.

Now-retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris, lower right, stands next to Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a window in the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that honors black saints and black bishops past and present. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

You did not have a quiet episcopacy, at least at the start when you became a new focal point of the debate about women’s ordination, especially as bishops. If you had the choice to go back, and knowing what you know now, would you still do it?

I think I might have on the same basis that I made the decision back then that they ought to at least have the opportunity to consider it, whether it goes anyplace or not. I think I would make the same decision. I think it was the right decision despite some of the ugliness associated with the outcome. All in all, it’s been a good ministry for me. I’m editing the manuscript for a book I am doing. I open each chapter with a verse either from a hymn or spiritual. The last chapter will open with a gospel hymn: “I don’t feel no ways tired. I’ve come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me the road would be easy, but I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me.” That’s the way I would sum up my ministry.

Is there anything else about this subject of diversity in the House of Bishops that you would like to say?

I think more women and more people of color, not just African-Americans, but more people of color ought to have the courage to make it known that they are open to being considered. Now I know that’s asking a lot, but people have got to live boldly. That’s what ministry in any capacity, lay or ordained, is all about.

A more detailed biography of Harris is here.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

‘Love God, Love Neighbor’ trains refugee supporters to become advocates

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 12:13pm

Wendy Grace, diocesan liaison for refugees in the Diocese of Vermont, plays the role of a Colombian refugee during a mock meeting with a Congressional aide, while Lynn Zender, chair of the Diocese of Northern California’s immigration and refugee ministries group, looks on. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Hartford, Connecticut] A year ago, the Episcopal Migration Ministries was worried about how it might rally the Church to assist in the resettlement of an additional 25,000 refugees in the fiscal year 2017. Now, EMM and other resettlement agencies are struggling for existence in an increasingly polarized environment dominated by fear, misinformation and misunderstanding.

The Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, Episcopal Migration Ministries’ director preached during a June 5 Eucharist to begin the “Love God, Love Neighbor” refugee advocacy training at St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“A year ago, the primary concern we had was how were we going to move from 85,000 refugees to 110,000 … and our thinking was then that if we don’t have advocacy, if we don’t have people to start embracing this very important ministry, we’re never going to be able to resettle 110 or more thousand refugees,” said the Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, EMM’s director.

“Our advocacy now is to simply educate people so that they can filter out the nonsense that they see and hear so much in the news media. Refugees are fleeing the same kinds of problems that we want to stop in our own national security. They are folks who have been attacked and we’re afraid of being attacked.”

Advocacy and storytelling that humanizes the refugee experience are two ways Episcopalians and others can correct the false, fear-based narrative that currently characterizes refugees. With that goal in mind, EMM hosted a three-day training here June 5-7 training to empower Episcopalians to be agents of reconciliation as allies, advocates and ambassadors for their refugee neighbors.

“We had this idea and wrote this program based on relationships we’ve built with dioceses and individuals — priests and deacons and lay people — over the last several years. People who are very eager to come together to not only network and meet and understand how they are doing refugee ministry in their own context, but also learn skills, especially now, to change public perception and to truly change hearts and minds in a time when refugees are deeply misunderstood,” said Allison Duvall, co-sponsorship and church relations program manager for EMM.

The Episcopal Church has resettled refugees in the United States since the 1930s. EMM is one of nine agencies partnered with the U.S. State Department to welcome and resettle refugees. EMM operates 31 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, providing direct assistance to recent arrivals. EMM has resettled 3,404 refugees this fiscal year, which began in October 2016. The previous year, EMM resettled 3,071 refugees.

The Rev. Twila Smith, who serves two parishes in the Diocese of Bethlehem and coordinates a refugee community center, standing right, and the Rev. Michael Coburn, priest-in-charge of the Chruch of the Ascension, Cranston, Rhode Island, seated across the table, and other take part in a mock meeting with a Congressional aide, played here by Allison Duvall, co-sponsorship and church relations program manager for Episcopal Migration Ministires, during the June 5-7 “Love God, Love Neighbor,” refugee advocacy training. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Eleven people from across the Episcopal Church – from California, Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina and Kentucky – attended EMM’s “Love God, Love Neighbor” training.

Funded by a Constable Fund grant, the training was the pilot in a series of advocacy trainings scheduled over the next 12 months.

“The Constable Fund is one more example of how the Episcopal Church finds creative ways to do ministry in critical times. The governing bodies of the Episcopal Church were looking for various ways to help us get the word out,” said Stevenson, in an interview with Episcopal News Service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, the training site.

Allison Duvall, co-sponsorship and church relations program manager for Episcopal Migration Ministries, takes part in a discussion June 8 during the “Love God, Love Neighbor” refugee advocacy pilot training. EMM plans to make refugee advocacy a permant part of its ministry. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“They [the governing bodies] recognized the fact that truly effective ministry is done at the grassroots level and the goal of this program is to give people at the grassroots level the tools they need to advocate on behalf of refugees … this is a fantastic example of how a governing body can put into action a process that actually does hit at on-the-ground ministry.”

The Constable Fund provides support for Christian formation initiatives across the Episcopal Church that are not included in the Church’s budget. EMM plans to hold two to three additional refugee advocacy trainings before the 2018 General Convention; and, to make advocacy training a permanent part of its ministry.

For Amanda Payne, a youth minister in the Diocese of Dallas who works with refugees at St. James Episcopal Church, learning about the intensive security screenings refugees face before they’re cleared for resettlement in a session called “Refugee 101” was new information that will help her in her advocacy efforts, she said. The Rev. Paula Ott, a deacon at Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, Kentucky, and the daughter of a Syrian Jew who came to the United States as a refugee in the 1920s, said learning storytelling skills to personalize refugees’ experiences is just one advocacy tool she plans to use as she intensifies her advocacy efforts.

Besides Refugee 101, other education and training sessions included storytelling techniques to reframe the narrative; the principles of Asset Based Community Development; and context, strategies and actionable tools for advocacy.

The Rev. Sean Lanigan, associate rector of St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, takes part in a June 6 Asset Based Community Development training exercise as part of the June 5-7 “Love God, Love Neighbor” refugee advocacy training. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Sean Lanigan serves as associate rector of St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a church that works with a local refugee resettlement agency to co-sponsor a family of Bhutanese refugees. For him, the conference reinforced the message that storytelling needs to include not just the refugees’ stories, but stories about how co-sponsorship changes church volunteers and congregations.

Throughout the United States, Episcopalians partner with EMM and other affiliates to resettle refugees; church co-sponsorship is an important part of the resettlement program. And while community-level engagement and church co-sponsorship and one-to-on ministry are important, advocacy also is an important engagement tool.

“Advocacy absolutely must be a component especially when you are talking about refugee resettlement,” said Lacy Broemel, the Episcopal Church’s refugee and immigration policy analyst. Congress approves the funding and the president annually determines the number of refugees to be resettled. “If you want refugees in your community, you have to talk to them [elected officials]. You don’t have to be an expert to be a good messenger, you don’t have to have worked in refugee resettlement for 45 years as a case manager to know, to see someone’s humanity to know that this program is good and right and beneficial.”

The Episcopal Church is non-partisan, but Episcopalians do engage in politics at the local, national and international level from a Christian values-based approach.

The advocacy training comes at a critical time. Since its formalization in 1980, the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program has, for the most part, enjoyed bipartisan and widespread public support. Additionally, the United States historically has led the world in welcoming large numbers of refugees fleeing violence and persecution. In 2015, however, Americans’ acceptance and attitude toward refugees began to change from one of mostly quiet acceptance to fear.

Lacy Broemel, the Episcopal Church’s refugee and immigration policy analyst, leads a “Prophetic Ministry of Advocacy” training June 7 during the “Love God, Love Neighbor” pilot training. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Two things happened, explained Broemel during a June 7 session she led on the prophetic ministry of advocacy.

First, in early September of that year, a photograph a drowned, 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a beach on Turkey’s southwest coast, went viral and initiated a worldwide outpouring of support for Syrian refugees fleeing the country’s ongoing civil war. Alan Kurdi, his older brother and his mother, when the crowded dingy they’d boarded to travel from Turkey to Greece capsized minutes into their journey.

Then, two and a half months later, on Nov. 13, 2015, terror attacks killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more in six locations across Paris, France. Immediately following the attacks, the media erroneously reported that one of the attackers was a Syrian refugee, when in fact the attackers were Belgian and French nationals. Regardless of the attackers’ identity, fear, nationalism and massive influx of refugees fleeing Syria and other crisis zones arriving in Europe began to turn public opinion against refugees in Western Europe and the United States.

After the Paris attacks, the rhetoric of anti-refugee fringe groups became mainstream, fear flourished and refugee resettlement became a polarizing political issue exacerbated by misreporting and misunderstanding of the resettlement process, said Broemel.

Still, in 2016, then-President Barack Obama increased the number of refugees from 85,000 to 110,000 during 2016 and pledge to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States during the fiscal year 2017, which ends Sept. 30.

Earlier this year, when President Donald Trump took office, one of his first acts as president was to sign an executive order suspending the U.S. resettlement program. A federal court stayed the order, which is likely to end up in front of the Supreme Court later this year. The order also reduced by more than half the number of refugee admissions this fiscal year; an action that has forced Episcopal Migration Ministries to reduce the size of its affiliate network.

Trump’s proposed 2018 budget reduces funding by 25 percent for the resettlement program.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is a partner in the June 12-16 Stand With Refugees national campaign.

-Lynette Wilson is managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

Silvestre Romero elected bishop coadjutor of Diocese of Guatemala

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 11:24am

The Rev. Silvestre Romero. Photo via Facebook

[Diocese of Massachusetts] The Rev. Silvestre Romero, rector of St. Peter’s-San Pedro Church in Salem, was elected bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Guatemala during its May 26-27 convention held at the Cathedral of St. James the Apostle in Guatemala City.  Pending the consent process, Romero will succeed the current bishop, the Rt. Rev. Armando Guerra.

“We rejoice at Silvestre’s election in Guatemala, and extend our prayers for their future partnership as diocese and bishop.  Silvestre and his family will be greatly missed here in the Diocese of Massachusetts,” Massachusetts Bishop Alan M. Gates said.

Text from the official notification from Guerra to fellow bishops, dated June 7, follows below.

Guatemala is among the five dioceses, along with El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, that comprise the Anglican Churches in Central America, or IARCA in its Spanish acronym, one of the newest provinces in the Anglican Communion.

Por este medio y con gran gozo y satisfacción les notifico que la Convención Extraordinaria IX convocada para los día 26 y 27 de Mayo en la Catedral Episcopal Santiago Apóstol con el propósito de elegir un Obispo Coadjutor para la Diócesis de Guatemala, se realizó y eligió al  R.P. Silvestre Enrique Romero León.

El Padre Silvestre Enrique Romero tiene 49 años y es actualmente el Rector de la Parroquia San Pedro en Salem Massachusetts, congregación y  Diócesis a las que les estamos muy agradecidos por habernos dado al Padre Romero.

En Cristo,
Rvdmo. Armando Roman Guerra Soria,
Obispo Diocesano

Executive Council begins turning its attention to next year’s General Convention

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 10:25am

Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Advocacy and Networking for Mission conducts its business June 10. During the council meeting, other members jokingly referred to the committee as having the best view of any of the committees, most of which met in rooms without windows. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – San Juan, Puerto Rico] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council spent three days in an historic meeting here marked by relaxed conviviality during which the members trained their sights on the next General Convention, a year from now.

This was the first time that council met in a Province IX diocese since February 2008 and it is believed to be the first meeting ever in Puerto Rico. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said during a post-meeting news conference June 11 that it was important for council to have come to the U.S. territory “as Puerto Rico is struggling and seeking to discern its future.”

Puerto Ricans voted that day to become the country’s 51st state. The vote was contentious and attracted the fewest number of people to the poll since 1967. Most observers say that the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress will never grant Puerto Ricans’ request, in part because the territory leans towards the Democratic Party.

The Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church, speaks June 10 to Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission. The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation listens. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Puerto Rico’s economy has been in a recession for nearly a decade, many residents live in poverty and last month it was forced into the largest municipal bond market bankruptcy in U.S. history. That bankruptcy has destroyed the savings of many Puerto Ricans. Many residents resent the fact that they pay in full for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security but can only collect a smaller amount of benefits compared to other U.S. citizens. Those benefits are now facing cuts from the Trump administration.

Curry said the diocese is “serious about being an instrument” that can fill the gaps in medical and other social service needs.”

As Executive Council prepares for the 79th meeting of General Convention July 5-13 next year in Austin, Texas, the churchwide budget is getting a lot of attention. Its Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission constructs the proposed budget to present to the entire council for its approval. According to Joint Rule II.10.c.ii (page 227 here), council must give that proposed budget to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) no less than four months before the start of convention (essentially by February of convention year). Council has two more meetings before that deadline, Oct. 18-21 and Jan. 22-24.

The FFM committee spent much of the Puerto Rico meeting continuing to sort through the large amount of information it has received in beginning steps of a budgeting process that has reached deeper into the workings and financing of the churchwide mission and ministry than has previously been the case. The committee also met on its own in mid-May, an unusual move by one of council’s committees, and plans additional meetings in the coming months.

“We will be presenting a draft budget in the near future for your review,” FFM chair Tess Judge told the entire council on June 11.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention, listen June 11 as the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, answers a question during a news conference following the conclusion of Executive Council’s June 9-11 meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

During the post-meeting news conference, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, praised the budget process thus far. “I have seen some budget process that have been contentious, difficult, painful, draining,” she said of her time on council. “Budget work is hard especially when any organization has big dreams and has have restraining forces regarding the amount of money” available.

“This time it has been a partnership between Program, Budget and Finance, Executive Council, the churchwide staff and the officers,” she said.

Jennings acknowledged that there are some unknowns in the process at this point “but it hasn’t been tense; it has really been quite creative.”

That partnership and creativity hint at a growing and perceptible change in feeling of council meetings. Partially, Jennings said, the change is due to what she said is a common tipping point that is often achieved near the halfway point of a triennium. The workings of council, she said, begin to mesh new members who feel that they have their stride with the members who will finish their six-year terms at the end of the next convention.

She added that this particular group of council members, staff and the officers have clarified their roles and responsibilities with the aim that “we’re in a partnership; we all have one goal in mind, which is building up this beloved Church and our mission and ministry.”

Curry called the Puerto Rico meeting “an extraordinary meeting of a really fine council.”

“This council laughs. We do hard work and have difficult conversations and we debate and we wrestle and we try to figure things out, but we also laugh and there’s something just profoundly human and helping and healing” about the ability to do all those things, he said.

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention, attributed some of the change in feeling to another practice. Early at the beginning of the triennium the officers of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society committed to daily prayer for each other, by name, and to regularly meet together, not just to conduct business but get to know and better understand each other.

“I think when the leadership of the Church prays and spends time together, that has a profound change on everything,” he said.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry elevates the host and cup at the end of the Great Thanksgiving during Eucharist June 11 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. He was joined at the altar by, from left, Cathedral Dean Mario H. Rodríguez, Puerto Rico Bishop Provisional Wilfrido Ramos Orench, Puerto Rico Bishop-elect Rafael Morales and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

During its final plenary on June 11, Council took several other actions, some of which are detailed below. A complete list of resolutions is here.

Among those actions was one to expand the types of data collected in the annual parochial report. Each Episcopal Church congregation files the report that is, essentially, the Church’s official data-gathering instrument. The major revision involves adding an entire page to the report to gather information about each congregation’s outreach ministries and volunteer activities. The report will also have a question to identify languages used in worship services.

The revisions will pertain to activities in 2017. The parochial report is completed early in the following year. The recommendations came to council from the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church in response to General Convention 2015 Resolution A084.

In other action, council:

* Consented to Curry and Jennings’ appointment of an acting chief legal officer. General Convention created the canonically required position during its 2015 meeting. The name of the person will be released as soon as the appointee has been notified. Council met in executive session to discuss the appointment before consenting to it during the meeting’s last plenary session.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, listens June 11 as Dinorah Padro translates her sermon during Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

* Established a committee to continue to support and understand the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the important relationship with those schools. The committee will be made up of the members of the council’s task group formed in early 2015, along with other appointees. Council charged the new committee to make recommendations to council by General Convention 2021 on the long‐term needs of the schools to ensure access to students of color for future generations.

* Received a recommendation from the Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention, that it consider returning to a four-day meeting pattern in the 2019-2021 triennium. Council had discussed that possibility earlier in this triennium. Barlowe, who is also council secretary, suggested that council revive its previous tradition of holding its meetings in each of the Church’s nine provinces over the course of the triennium. “Obviously, that has budgetary implications,” he said of his recommendation, which is dependent, in part, on amount of money

General Convention budgets for council. Convention meets again in July 2018. Council has typically held three-day meetings this triennium. Council has not had a four-day meeting schedule since the 2004-2006 triennium. The move to a three-day pattern happened, in part, after General Convention reduced council’s budget for the 2007-2009 triennium. The other concern was a concern that three annual four-day meetings made it hard for younger, working people to serve on council.

The June 9-11 meeting took place at the Condado Hilton Plaza.

Previous ENS coverage of the meetings is here. Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

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


Conference on Anglican reconciliation efforts puts divisions in historical, theological context

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 5:49pm

Several dozen clergy members, professors, students and lay people attended this week’s “Living Sacrifice” conference at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Nashotah, Wisconsin] The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have wrestled with pointed internal divisions for more than a decade, leading some to identify this as a “broken” communion. The path forward, as described to the dozens attending a conference here this week, first will require looking backward, as well as further inward.

“We didn’t want to try and present the idea of division as if it was a recent phenomenon,” said the Rev. Andrew Grosso, associate dean for academic affairs at Nashotah House Theological Seminary.

Instead, Nashotah House teamed up with the Living Church Foundation to host this week’s conference, “Living Sacrifices: Repentance, Reconciliation and Renewal,” to illuminate the deeper historical and theological context of recent Anglican divisions.

“Our conviction is, to resolve Anglican differences and disagreements, we need to go back to older and richer discussions about the nature of the church, what is the church, in scripture and in history, and ecumenically,” Living Church Foundation Executive Director Christopher Wells said.

The four-day conference that ended June 9 drew 50 to 75 attendees – a mix of clergy, professors, students and lay people interested in the topic – to this 175-year-old Episcopal seminary in rural Wisconsin. Grosso and Wells said they hoped attendees will take what they’ve learned and incorporate these resources for healing into their churches, their classrooms and their conversations with other Christians.

Often divisive topics hinder conversation. Wells alluded to the conference’s opening presentation June 6 by Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Anglican Communion secretary general, who noted that Anglicans and Episcopalians sometimes find it easier to talk to other Christian denominations than to establish internal dialogue.

Ecumenical dialogue was a specific focus of the conference’s first full day, June 7, including a presentation by Sister Susan Wood, a Roman Catholic nun who teaches systematic theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Another Marquette professor, the Rev. Michael Cover, kicked off the presentations June 8 with a detailed analysis of Paul’s letter to the Romans, which supplied the name of the conference, “Living Sacrifices.” Cover, a New Testament professor, said the Anglican Communion is in a “Romans moment,” highlighting both the Communion’s missional character and its historical connection to Rome.

The concept of the Christian church in a constant state of movement underpinned the conference’s marquee presentation, by the Rev. Ephraim Radner, a pre-eminent conservative Episcopal theologian.

The Rev. Ephraim Radner, professor at Wycliffe College in Toronto, speak June 8 at the “Living Sacrifice” at Nashotah House.

For Radner, a professor of historical theology at Toronto’s Wycliffe College, Christianity has never been fixed to one place, geographically or theologically, but constantly moving and evolving, and “each church … cannot possibly ever be the definitive referent of the finished work of God.”

The proposal he laid out in his presentation was the formation of a new Anglican synod, a communion-wide body empowered to initiate voluntary faith conversations that would seek common ground on spiritual issues across the Anglican Communion. He compared participation in this synod to the United Nations – certain countries may diverge from others on issues like climate change, but they remain in the UN.

“Communion is a common dynamic that Christians follow together as they are in fact changed by God,” Radner said. “Communion then is a path, not a place. It is a road, not a locality. But of course, it’s a road together.”

Nashotah House and The Living Church typically come at these issues from a more traditional perspective, and Wells argued that conservative Episcopalians are “in a perfect place to host a discussion about reconciliation” because of the fact they remain in the Episcopal Church, in contrast with other groups that sought to split from the church over the ordination of women and, more directly, the election of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson in 2003 as the church’s first openly gay bishop.

That recent history informs much of the current talk about divisions in the Anglican Communion, though Garwood Anderson, a professor at Nashotah House, told Episcopal News Service between presentations this week that when seeking answers in the church’s historical context, Christians should not forget the church’s origins, in which Jesus’ early followers faced persecution simply for practicing their faith.

“The early Christians didn’t have that luxury (of debating ecclesiological divisions). They were trying to make their way in the world,” said Anderson, who would speak on that topic on the conference’s final day.

Those early Christians may have something to teach today’s church about renewal, now that Christians, particularly in the United States, have become a cultural minority, Anderson said.

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

Presiding Bishop: Following Jesus means being a living witness, not a slogan

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 4:15pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry tells Executive Council June 9 that Episcopalians are called to behave in a way that truly resembles the way of Jesus. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – San Juan, Puerto Rico] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council heard a call to authentic Christian action from its two leaders on the opening day of its June 9-11 meeting here.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry suggested that Episcopalian ought to look to the biblical hero Esther for a model. Set during the time of Jewish exile in Persia, she was initially seen as the beautiful, obedient, and relatively passive woman who was queen to the king of Persia. She came to believe that she was called to save her people and used rhetoric to persuade the king to save her Jewish people living in exile in Persia. Up until then, she had not revealed her Jewish identity.

“I say this with all humility, I really do: Perhaps this Episcopal Church has come to the kingdom for such a time as this,” Curry said.

“Maybe we have had a period of being part of the establishment, which is no longer the case, and maybe we have enjoyed the benefits of being part of that establishment, but it may not be the case much longer,” Curry said.

He said such a time as this is a “strange national, cultural and global moment – when things are being turned upside down, when old patterns don’t work anymore, when the old rules don’t even seem to apply anymore, truth doesn’t seem to be what the truth used to be, and all of a sudden what’s wrong is right.  All of a sudden, even Christianity is co-opted by injustice, by lack of compassion, by inhumanity, by indecency.”

Curry said part of the Episcopal Church’s vocation is to bear witness to a way of being Christian that actually looks something like Jesus of Nazareth. That way of being Christian is “not complicit with the culture, whatever that culture,” he said.

“It is not a way of being Christian that is in the pocket of anybody’s political party, left or right or center, but a way of being Christian that dares to follow Jesus, to love the way of Jesus,” giving and forgiving as Jesus did while loving justice and mercy and walking humbly before God.

The Church has had many slogans and campaigns, the presiding bishop said.

“Yet, I don’t believe this is not a new slogan, a new campaign, a new program. In fact, it’s nothing new at all,” he said. “The truth is what we’re talking about now is a way of following Jesus. It is about being formed as followers of Jesus and, out of that, making a witness in the world that makes difference and bearing witness to a way of being Christian, which doesn’t sound like much” but deeply matters when “even Christianity has been hijacked.”

Curry, saying he feared he might be treading on dangerous ground, urged Episcopalians to listen to political rhetoric with what might be called biblically-informed ears. “When you sometimes listen to voices that portend to represent Christianity in our public life and public sphere, listen carefully to what is said and what is not,” he said. Do you hear the words of the Sermon on the Mount, or Matthew 25, the summary of the law or Jesus’ words at the Last Supper about love and serving others, he asked.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies and Executive Council vice chair, tells council members June 9 that Episcopalians need to commit themselves to specific actions in the world as Christian witnesses. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings echoed those sentiments in her opening remarks. This, she said, “is a very difficult time in the United States to be a Christian committed to justice and peace among all people and the dignity of every human being, and it is good to come together in the midst of that difficulty.”

Jennings said she is especially paying attention to three things: the treatment of refugees across the world; the specific treatment of refugees in Texas, along with that state’s efforts to pass a so-called “bathroom bill”; and the Church’s on-going response to caring for creation and President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

The Episcopal Church is scheduled to meet July 5-13, 2018, in Austin, Texas, and Jennings said, “we are watching the situation closely with an eye to ensuring the safety and dignity of everyone traveling to General Convention next summer.”

Texas Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on what the bill calls their “biological sex” as stated on their birth certificate. The bill would also overturn local nondiscrimination ordinances in cities like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

The state Senate has passed the bill but the House has not acted. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called the legislature back for a special session beginning July 18 and said that he wants legislators to pass the bill.

Curry and Jennings wrote a letter to Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus in February, thanking him or his stand against the bill. However, the letter notes that the Church moved General Convention from Houston to Honolulu in 1955 because the Texas city could not offer sufficient guarantees of desegregated housing for its delegates.

“We would be deeply grieved if Senate Bill 6 presented us with the same difficult choice that church leaders faced more than 60 years ago,” Curry and Jennings wrote.

Jennings told council that she, Curry and others are also watching the legal challenges to Texas Senate Bill 4, which threatens law enforcement officials with stiff penalties if they fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The bill also allows police officers to question people about their immigration status during arrests or traffic stops.

Jennings praised Curry’s recent statement on Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the climate accord. She called on Episcopalians to ensure “that our decades-long witness to the stewardship of God’s creation and the compatibility of science and faith remain strong and steady during this perilous time for our planet.” She said it was appropriate for council to think about the issue in Puerto Rico, which she said is “one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to the impacts of climate change.”

The rest of the meeting

After the opening plenary on June 9, council spent the rest of the day meeting in its five committees. On June 10, council member Bishop Edward J. Konieczny of Oklahoma will lead his colleagues in a discussion of the recent Unholy Trinity conference, that was meant to find and commit to working toward solutions to the problems of poverty, racism and gun violence. Council, staff members and guests will travel to the Catedral Episcopal San Juan Bautista for Eucharist on the morning of June 11. That afternoon, council’s committees will each report to the full body, proposing resolutions for the full body to consider.

The June 9-11 meeting is taking place at the Condado Hilton Plaza.

Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

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

Spanish Episcopal Church holds synod in Salamanca

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 12:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Spanish Episcopal Church of Spain recently celebrated its biannual Synod in the historic golden city of Salamanca. Guests were housed in the student center named after Atilano Coco, one of the priests of the church who was martyred under the Franco dictatorship.

Full article.

Podcast Test

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 8:57am

Scottish Episcopal Church votes to allow equal marriage

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 1:21pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has voted in favor of allowing gay couples to marry in church. The vote means that the Church’s canon law will be changed – to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman. It means that gay Christians from any Anglican Church can now ask to be married in a Scottish Anglican Church.

Full article.

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion responds to Scottish Episcopal Church vote to allow same-sex marriage

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 1:02pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Scottish Episcopal Church voted June 8 to amend canon law to allow same-sex couples to marry in the church. The vote required a two-thirds margin in each house: bishops, clergy and laity. Clergy wishing to perform same-sex marriages will need to “opt-in,” according to a BBC report.

Scotland legalized same-sex marriage in 2014. The Scottish church’s vote puts it at odds with most of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church made canonical and liturgical changes allowing for marriage equality in 2015, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage that same year.

After the June 8 vote, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, issued this statement followed by a Q and A:

“The churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous and free to make their own decisions on canon law. The Scottish Episcopal Church is one of 38, soon to be 39, provinces covering more than 165 countries around the world.

“Today’s decision by the SEC to approve changes to canon law on marriage is not a surprise, given the outcome of the vote at its Synod a year ago.  There are differing views about same-sex marriage within the Anglican Communion but this puts the Scottish Episcopal Church at odds with the majority stance that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. This is a departure from the faith and teaching upheld by the overwhelming majority of Anglican provinces on the doctrine of marriage. The Anglican Communion’s position on human sexuality is set out very clearly in Resolution 1.10 agreed at the Lambeth conference of 1998 and will remain so unless it is revoked.

“As Secretary General, I want the churches within the Anglican Communion to remain committed to walking together in the love of Christ and to working out how we can maintain our unity and uphold the value of every individual in spite of deeply-held differences. It is important to stress the Communion’s strong opposition to the criminalisation of LGBTIQ+ people.

“The primates of the Communion will be meeting in Canterbury in October. I am sure today’s decision will be among the topics which will be prayerfully discussed. There will be no formal response to the SEC’s vote until the primates have met.”

Some Questions and Answers

Q:  What does the change in canon law mean?

A:   It removes the doctrinal clause which states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Q:  When will the changes come into force?

A:  The changes come into force 40 days after the end of General Synod – in late July.

Q:  Who will be affected?

A:  This applies only to marriage within the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Church of Scotland – which is a separate entity – is also considering changing its laws on marriage but has not done so yet.

Q:  What about the rest of the UK?

A: The Church of England, the Church in Wales and the Church of Ireland are the other Anglican churches within the UK. The canon law on marriage in all three is unchanged: none is able by [canon] law to marry couples of the same sex and their teaching is the same as before.

Q:  Will any measures be taken against the Scottish Episcopal Church now?

A: The primates’ meeting in Canterbury in October will consider how the Anglican Communion should respond. No action will be taken before then.

Q:  Isn’t this is a further sign that the Anglican Communion is bound to split?

A: There is a very strong desire within the Communion to remain together – there is so much that we hold in common. The Task Group, which was set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year, is dedicated to maintaining conversation between us and restoring relationships and trust where they have been damaged. That work will continue.

Q: What do you think of Gafcon’s plan to appoint a missionary bishop for Scotland

A: We note the planned appointment. We will not be commenting on it at this stage.

Membership of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission announced

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 12:47pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The membership of the newly established Safe Church Commission has been announced. The Commission has been established to promote the safety of people within the churches of the Anglican Communion.

The establishment of a Commission to promote the safety of people within the churches of the Anglican Communion was requested by the Anglican Consultative Council in 2016.

Full article.