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New Jersey: Pastoral letter from the bishop on events in Charlottesville

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 1:29pm

[Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey]

The Feast of Jonathan Myrick Daniels – August 14, 2017

Dear People of the Diocese of New Jersey,

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good….Romans 12:21

This past weekend great evil was manifested in Charlottesville, Virginia, as white American nationalist terrorists openly marched and fomented violence, hatred, and murder. Unregulated militia in uniform, carrying long-rifles, used the power of threat in an attempt to intimidate those who oppose them. Imitating other terrorists in other countries, Nazi-sympathizer and White Nationalist, 20-year old James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly used his car to mow down 19 people, in addition to killing Heather Heyer who was there as a peaceful demonstrator showing her opposition to the injustice and hatred Fields and his companions spouted.

No one should be surprised by what happened in Charlottesville. In our current political climate, so-called white supremacy, white nationalism, neo-Nazism and the overt racism of the KKK have been empowered and emboldened to spew hatred publicly and without shame. Sadly, some counter-protesters allowed themselves to be baited and responded to the violence with violence. There is no moral equivalence, however. White nationalists and white supremacists holding hateful, racist positions armed themselves and came to Charlottesville to instigate violence and hatred. They succeeded.

I was thankful for the clergy who were present in Charlottesville, including my colleagues in the Diocese of Virginia, The Right Reverend Shannon Johnston, The Right Reverend Susan Goff, and Right Reverend Ted Gulick. They went to Charlottesville to pray, to evidence that authentic Christianity has no place for the kind of hatred peddled by white supremacists and white nationalists. They were resolute, calm and overtly non-violent.

It needs to be stated without equivocation that racism, the tenets of white supremacy, white nationalism, Nazism and similar ideologies cannot be reconciled with the teachings of Jesus or the Christian faith. Those who claim Christian identity while holding these types of views can only be viewed as heretics and in error. As Episcopalians, we are sworn to oppose these. Our baptismal promises allow no room for compromise:

Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you sin, repent and return to the Lord?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?

(BCP pp. 304-305)

All are welcome in the Episcopal Church; hatred and bigotry are not. Being clear with those who hold hateful, bigoted views, or who act in hateful and bigoted ways, that these views and actions are not acceptable and cannot be harmonized with authentic Christian faith and living is an act of love. A wise priest once said to me, “Sometimes ‘no’ is the language of love.”

Sadly, racism and bigotry still infect not only our nation, but also our Church and our diocese. With society, we all still have much work to do. I will be consulting with our Anti-Racism Commission and Team to consider how we might deepen our work and be more effective in the days and weeks ahead.

Today, August 14 on the Church calendar, we remember Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who as a seminarian went to Selma, Alabama in 1965 to confront racism and oppression and and who became a martyr protecting a teenage African-American girl when he was killed by a shotgun blast at the hand of a white  supremacist.

On Saturday, Heather Heyer joined Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a long list of martyrs – of many races and creeds – who died striving to oppose racial injustice and hatred in this country. The last post on Heather Heyer’s Facebook page stated, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

Needless to say, she was right.

I direct all congregations to pray the following prayer in unison either at the Offertory or after the postcommunion prayer beginning August 20th and for the next four Sundays:

For the Human Family – (BCP p. 815)

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessings and peace.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. William H. Stokes

Massachusetts: Bishop calls for prayer following Charlottesville violence

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 1:24pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts] We condemn the hatred behind Saturday’s gathering in Charlottesville of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other purveyors of bigotry, which is equally un-American and un-ChristianWe affirm, with the bishops of Virginia, that as followers of Christ “we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) … [and] cannot remain silent in the face of those who seek to foment division.”

We pray with and for those who have sought to maintain peaceful witness in Charlottesville. In the face of continuing volatility there, all congregations are urged to pray on Sunday for peace, and for the courage to maintain our gospel ideals in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of hate-mongering.

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates

North Carolina: Episcopal bishops respond to violence in Charlottesville

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 11:48am

[Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina] The violence this past weekend in Charlottesville is both heartbreaking and sickening. Heartbreaking that innocent lives were lost and others were seriously injured, and that violence was used to try and silence and intimidate those who stood against hatred, racism and evil. The events were sickening in that our divisions in this country have reached a crisis point that resulted in an eruption of violence with deadly consequences.

How are we to respond, as Christians, in a way that condemns these actions, but does not contribute to the rhetoric of hate? We will need to rediscover the deep roots of non-violence embedded in the gospel and the Jesus Movement: non-violence that calls us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute others, to refuse to fight evil with evil, but to overcome evil with good.

Anger, even righteous, thirst-for-justice-anger, may be too volatile in this particular moment in time to be effective, especially if it escalates the situation. What we may need to do is to refocus and re-immerse ourselves in the powerful love of the vulnerable Jesus of Nazareth. We may need, now more than ever, to rededicate ourselves to principles Paul wrote about in his letter to the Philippians: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God …” (Philippians 4:4-6)

Pray for the safety of the peacemakers who came to let their lights so shine. Pray for those who have been sucked into the powerful vacuum of evil that finds its force through the absence of love. Pray that those who resort to violence – no matter what their political perspective – will be met with soul force of goodness that must rise up, organize and unite people of faith from all traditions that teach and practice love of one’s neighbors.

Overcoming evil with good can happen only with an infusion of the holiness that comes from God. Our prayer is that we will be channels and vessels of the goodness and grace whose source is the author of life, the one who proclaims that all life is sacred, holy.

Yours faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman
Bishop, Diocese of North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple
Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of North Carolina

Indianapolis: A word from the bishop

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 11:29am

[Episcoapl Diocese of Indianapolis] Dear Ones,

In days like these I can’t help but think of my grandparents. My paternal grandfather grew up on the Shinnecock Indian reservation—a place awash with poverty surrounded by a sea of wealth in the Hamptons of Long Island—land they once owned. My paternal grandmother and maternal grandparents hailed from the Jim Crow south and eventually made their way north in one of the urban migrations to New York City. None of them lived to see the election of a black U.S. president. The hatred and violence of this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA was all too familiar to them. The stories of run-ins my paternal grandparents had with the KKK were told in hushed tones so that the children would not hear—but we did. And there were places my Grandma Anne, would not visit because of those incidents. Grandma Anne was tougher than nails—ask anyone who knew her—but fear of the Klan would keep her from visiting me when I lived outside of Binghamton, NY. I would tell her, my faith in God as revealed in Jesus Christ compelled me not to fear. It is perhaps both irony and destiny that as bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis, I now visit churches in places where confederate flags fly on the houses next door. I wonder all the time what Grandma Anne would make of it.

All over our diocese, wherever the Episcopal Church is present, we offer sanctuaries of hope and communities of transformation where we learn over and over again how to die and rise again with Jesus Christ. This is not a dress rehearsal: the death and resurrection of Jesus, the triumph of love and light over evil and death is constant and we must be vigilant in naming both the evil and the love that defeats it. The events in Charlottesville this weekend, and the demonstrations of white supremacist hatred known all too well in Indiana and every corner of these United States show us evil without nuance. So let us be even more clear about our witness of love. Let our prayers be met in equal measure by our actions to dismantle systems of injustice and oppression that dehumanize and deny dignity to God’s beloved. This is what being “beacons of Jesus Christ for Central and Southern Indiana and the world” looks like. This diocese has been about this work for a long time, we must keep at it. As your bishop, I join you, encourage you, and support you in being relentless for the love of Jesus.

Be well, dear ones. May you know the love of God deeply that you may be fearless in sharing that love with the world.

Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

Virginia Theological Seminary: Statement from the dean

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:50am

[Virginia Theological Seminary] Charlottesville, Virginia, August 2017 will unfortunately go down in history. The shocking murder of Heather D. Heyer, just 32 years of age, while she protested the white supremacists who had come to Charlottesville, is a crude and brutal reminder that racism is still an ever present reality that forms a tragic worldview that expresses itself in violence and death. Along with Heather, we remember in our prayers Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, the two State Patrol troopers who died on Saturday, and the many others wounded, including those who remain in a critical condition.

For a seminary committed to the Gospel, we read the events of Charlottesville 2017 through the lens of the Gospel. We see the sinfulness of humanity—we see the persistence of conspiracy theories, hatred, and paranoia that forms the basis of the white supremacist worldview. We see the persistence of sin. For all of us who imagined that the victory of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was enduring and secure, Charlottesville 2017 is a cruel reminder that just below the surface racism is seeking to “take the country back again.” We see the tragedy of suffering, where we trust the Crucified Christ is present. And we see the Church seeking to witness to a Gospel that rejects any ideology that denies the full humanity of all.

I am proud of all of our VTS alumni who were present in Charlottesville. Bishop Shannon Johnston had encouraged clergy to attend. His call was heard. And the Episcopal Church wants to point to a world which is different—a world in which racism is explicitly condemned and persons commit to anticipating the reign of God in our society.

Let us hear the challenge of Charlottesville, VA August 2017. The mystery of white sinfulness that allowed centuries of slavery and decades of segregation and even now seeks to recreate a racist society was present on Saturday. We must not be complacent. We must all work hard to eradicate the sinful dispositions that allow racism to thrive.

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President

Washington: What we saw in Charlottesville

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:44am

[Episcopal Diocese of Washington] Hatred cannot drive out hatred. Only love can do that.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Once again our nation’s demon of racism has reared its head, spewing hatred and inciting violence. What we saw in Charlottesville was unmasked and ugly, culminating in a deadly act of domestic terrorism.

But something else was also present in Charlottesville: the power of collective resolve and mobilized love.

Among the hundreds of people who took to the streets, stood firm in the face of evil, and did not respond in kind were members of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective (CCC). Established after the racially motivated murders in Charleston, the CCC’s mission is “to establish, develop, and promote racial unity within the faith leadership of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Region.”

For more than two years, CCC clergy and lay leaders have met monthly to strengthen friendships across racial lines; to highlight issues of race and social justice in their community; to promote strong relationships of accountability with law enforcement and community government; and to prepare themselves for the times when their united witness is needed.

Their witness was needed on Saturday, and they were ready. As white supremacists shouted words of hatred and violence, people of faith stood resolute in prayer and song. And the Episcopal Church was strong among their number: “Our purpose,” wrote the Virginia Episcopal bishops, “is to bear visible witness to the entirety of the beloved community in which people of all races are equal.”

I also give thanks for all in the Diocese of Washington and the communities we serve who are already working to meet this grotesque display of hatred with organized love. I’m proud to stand among you as we strengthen our resolve to work proactively for racial justice and prepare ourselves to stand firm in love wherever hatred rears its head. We, too, need to be ready for times such as this.

The Spirit of God is at work in our world and will prevail. The evil of racism is real, but it is not stronger than God’s love embodied in the lives of those committed to justice.

There is another important lesson here: there can remain no doubt that symbols carry tremendous power. It was chilling on Saturday to hear white supremacists chant the Nazi slogan, “Blood and Soil,” and to see them carry swastikas.

Likewise, the symbols and monuments of the Confederacy serve as touchstones and rallying sites for  racial hatred.  We must treat them accordingly. There are, in my mind, only two morally defensible options: either remove Confederate symbols and monuments or contextualize them with the truth of their origins and a broader narrative of our past to include the voices we’ve silenced and the stories we’ve never heard.

We cannot expunge the sin of racism from our past and present, but we can redeem it. And we must.

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde

Washington National Cathedral: Dean says ‘racism grieves the heart of God’

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:39am

[Washington National Cathedral] For too long, too many Americans have falsely believed that the evil of racism is largely a thing of the past. We have failed to take seriously the cancer of white supremacy that lurks beneath the surface of our collective life. Today, in Charlottesville, that ugliness exploded into public view, and we must not look away.

Let me be perfectly clear: Violence and extremism in the guise of racial identity or racial pride are as sinful and twisted as violence and extremism committed in the name of God. The tragic events in Charlottesville today, and the hatred that fueled them, grieve the heart of God. All of us need to repent of the racism that still flourishes in our nation.

Together, we join with all people of conscience and goodwill to pray, in the words of our Prayer Book, that God would “take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth.”

We will pray for the victims of this tragedy; for God to soften the hearts of those blinded by racial hatred; and for all Americans to find the courage and strength to do the hard work of repairing the racial divisions among us.

The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean

Central Pennsylvania: Bishop’s statement on Charlottesville

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:35am

[Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania] Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The events that unfolded on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia resulting in the death of one person and the injuries of dozens of others have put a spotlight on the deeply disturbing, profound dysfunction in our country that is personal, systemic and institutional racism. The brutal violence in Virginia that led to declaring a state of emergency and the involvement of the police and National Guard is intolerable and sinful.

On Saturday afternoon we looked to television and computer screens to inform us of the developing tragedy in the South. To do so without reflecting on the same behavior and attitudes in our own towns here in Central Pennsylvania would be shortsighted. As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers. We vow to embrace the dignity of every human being. We are called to a ministry of reconciliation in the name of Jesus. And this work is vital in our own neighborhoods and our own hearts.

I hope that you will keep the people of Charlottesville in your prayers and ask for God to comfort those who were involved in the violence this weekend. Pray for the dead and injured and their families, pray for those who witnessed the viciousness, pray in thanksgiving for those who came to control the chaos, and pray for the perpetrators. And then, commit to work in your own sphere of influence for change. Educate yourself about the sin of racism. Discover the resources that our diocese has for leading change. Open your heart to understanding that change must be broad and deep – even for those who believe themselves already redeemed- for the sake of a just and whole society.

God dreams of our complete restoration, and our final consummation as One – One in Christ, One with each other, One in peace. Together, we will strive for this wholeness and freedom.

+Audrey Scanlon

All Saints in Pasadena: ‘If we do not resist evil, we do not follow Jesus

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:30am

[All Saints Episcopal Church]

What’s happening in Charlottesville is America.
It has always been America.
This ain’t new. – Brittany Ferrell

Last night and this morning, we have seen the images from Charlottesville.

Some evil is clear. The evil of race hatred. Of police standing by doing nothing while white nationalists attack nonviolent counter-protesters. Of a terrorist driving a car into a crowd of people marching for love and basic human rights.

When we see evil like this, we must name it, confront it, resist it and defeat it. If we do not, we should not pretend that we follow Jesús. And churches and supposed Christians who are silent at this moment are making a clear choice for hate over love, Empire over the Kin-dom of God and the false Gospel of white supremacy over the revolutionary love of Jesús.

I hope we all are deeply grateful for All Saints’ own Lauren Grubaugh and the hundreds of other people of faith who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend and quite literally put their lives on the line to stand up against evil.

And yet, it is not enough for us to admire her, to admire them. We must be just as willing to sacrifice in the fight against evil.

And we must be aware that as much as the White Nationalists in Charlottesville are deathly dangerous because of the boldness with which they express the evil that has infected their hearts. As much as their boldness must be met equally boldly with, as our brother the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou says, “deep, abiding, militant, nonviolent love.” We must be aware that there are two other dangers at least as powerful in this moment.

The first is that we look at the White nationalists spewing hate and committing abominations in Charlottesville and think that is all White supremacy looks like. That the sum total of our response is to pray, like the Pharisee, “Thank God I am not like these sinners.”

Because while some evil is clear, other evil is more subtle – unless you find yourself in its crosshairs. But our call to name, confront, resist and defeat it is no less binding.

For white supremacy is not only the man carrying the torch or weaponizing the car.

White supremacy is liquor counters instead of produce sections in neighborhoods of color.

White supremacy is needing school supply drives for black and brown children to have even the most basic materials they need for class.

White supremacy is people of color needing to put up GoFundMe pages to pay for funerals and therapy.

White supremacy is America selling fear to white people and power to people of color in the form of a gun.

White supremacy is all these things and more. And we must name them, confront them, resist them and defeat them.

Second, as Ferguson Freedom Fighter Brittany Ferrell reminds us:

This ain’t new.

If the images we have seen in the past 24 hours surprise us, it means we haven’t been paying attention. Our nation was founded on White supremacy. Growing up black or brown in this nation means and has always meant second-class citizenship at best and your life and your family’s lives being in danger of being taken away with impunity at worst.

Slavery became convict leasing and peonage and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline. Lynching never stopped, we just found different things to call it and different ways to do it. We kill our siblings of color quickly with guns and drugs and we kill our siblings of color slowly with inferior education, nutrition, health care, security, economic opportunity, with poverties of goods, services, wealth and hope.

This ain’t new. All that has happened this weekend is people standing up with disturbing boldness and saying what life in this nation has said to our siblings of color all along. You don’t matter here. You are in danger here. This land is not your land, and if you start acting like it might be (say, by electing a black president or taking to the streets demanding basic respect), we will find you and make you pay.

And there’s one more thing…

To quote another Ferguson Freedom Fighter, Kayla Reed:

“White people, save all your heartbreak and sadness and get off your ass and collect your people. #Charlottesville.”

Fellow white folk, make no mistake, these are our kin. These are our cousins, our aunts and uncles, our classmates and friends and it is well past time for us to get our house in order. It is time for us to collect our people.

After all we have put people of color through in this nation’s history, while we must listen deeply to their experience and be informed by their wisdom, as white people, we must not burden them with the responsibility of dismantling these systems and defeating this evil.

Fellow white people, this sin is ours. And it is up to us to go through the process of self-examination, confession, repentance, reparation (yes, I said reparation) and amendment of life before we can dare to hope for absolution from God and from those we have injured and killed.

At All Saints Church, we have, for more than 100 years, stood for God’s abiding love for all God’s children. We have stood up for justice and stood up against evil. The images we see this weekend are evil, and this ain’t new. And it is clear that although our efforts have been considerable and faithful, they have not nearly been enough.

It is well past time for us – individually and as a community – to rededicate ourselves to the eradication of white supremacy. A vestry resolution is nice, and it is not nearly enough. We must realize that this must be at the very core of our following of Jesús. And in dedication to that path of discipleship, we must, as Lauren and the other courageous saints who stood up in Charlottesville this weekend did, pledge to one another, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

The Rev. Michael Kinnman, rector, All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California


Pittsburgh: A Message from Bishop McConnell

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:30am

[Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh] Dear Friends in Christ,

We mourn for our country this evening. The most violent public assembly of hate groups in decades has taken place yesterday and today in Charlottesville, Virginia. The deaths and injuries are the direct result of the white nationalist ideology at the core of the gathering.

Some of those espousing these views see their movement as a holy crusade, and even invoke a Christian God to support their efforts.  Yet, nothing could be further from the love of Christ in His Cross than the politics of racial purity.

Our Lord founded His Church to be a Kingdom of priests to our God, gathered from every family, language, people and nation (Revelation 5: 9-10). Any suggestion that God desires the triumph of any race over others is a slander against the Holy Spirit, and must be rejected by Christians of every party.

In the wake of this terrible day, I call upon the churches to be obedient to our calling: pray fervently for justice, reconciliation, and peace. Pray that God will turn all our hearts toward Him and to one another. Then, beloved sisters and brothers, act on what you pray for.  Reach out to those who may fear or suspect you. Particularly in this time, I ask my white brothers and sisters humbly to offer to African American and other people of color an expression of sorrow and repentance, not only on our behalf, but on behalf of those who do not know they need to repent.  Above all, let us remember that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and let us act accordingly.

I thank God that, through the fledgling movement we are calling the Church Without Walls, the Holy Spirit is building bridges to racial unity among many Christian bodies in our region. I ask us to pray that the work of these groups, and other efforts from many people of good will, may be strengthened and may spread, and that God may use us mightily in healing the legacy of racism that underlies so much of our history.

In the meantime, pray for the dead and the wounded in Charlottesville, and for all those whose actions and words have injured or offended. We pray that we may have the grace to see what God would next have us do in the furtherance of His Kingdom, and that we may have the courage and power to accomplish it.

Faithfully your bishop,
The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W.M. McConnell, D.D.

Oklahoma: A Message from Bishop Ed about Charlottesville, Virginia

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:25am

[Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma] My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

By now, many of you have heard the news or seen the horrific acts of violence from the political demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia. Acts that have left one person dead and several others injured.

As people of faith, we cannot let these actions occur without speaking out against the hatred, bigotry, and injustice perpetrated by those who commit these cruel and violent acts.

We are a nation founded upon the principles that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, orientation, religious persuasion, or station in life. The violence and rhetoric witnessed today do not reflect these principles, they should be condemned in the strongest possible manner, and those responsible should be held accountable.

I fear that we have lost the desire to live in community. I fear that the world has been telling us far too loudly, and for far too long, that our primary desire above all else should be promotion of self-interest. I fear that the opinion that the ends justify the means, has resulted in a common message that whatever course of action we see fit to use to accomplish our goals can be justified: dishonesty, hatred, violence, etc.

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ, I write to you today to remind you that the world doesn’t have the final say! We have the ability and the power to change the trajectory in which we find our world and society. Through the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, our Savior, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can and will make a difference. We must not allow acts of violence, hatred, bigotry, and injustice to continue. We must speak out in love; extend a hand to our neighbor; give hope to the lost and cast aside. Together our voices can drown out the vicious rhetoric that has taken over our country; and we can create a new conversation.

In the urgency of this moment, I ask your prayers for all who have been affected by today’s events. Pray for our first responders; medical personnel; victims and their loved ones; the community of Charlottesville; and all those affected by this situation. I ask you also, as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us, to pray for those who commit these acts of injustice and violence that they may find amendment of heart, and be filled with a desire to live in the peace and love of Jesus Christ!

I ask all congregations to include the Prayer for the Human Family in their worship services, and I ask you to pray with me now:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+Bishop Ed Konieczny

Western North Carolina: A statement from the bishop in solidarity with Charlottesville

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:23am

[Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina] Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As followers of Jesus, we boldly proclaim that he is the perfect manifestation and fulfillment of the promises echoed in the 85th Psalm:

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other

By word and action, Jesus taught his disciples that hatred, bigotry, racism and violence is anathema to the Kingdom of God. Our Lord modeled peace and unity by naming the evil voices of discord, division and oppression. Indeed, there is no other way to be faithful servants of God.

Like many of you, I’ve been watching with uneasiness as extremist groups have gathered in Charlottesvile, Virginia. Today, we saw these groups violently clash with counter-protestors, and the governor of Viriginia has declared a state of emergency.

I want to be clear that as Jesus’ disciples, we are commanded to not only pray for peace but to also be the embodiment of God’s love and justice. As Christians, we must speak out against both the bigotry and hatred espoused by these extremists as well as the violence that has occurred because of their actions.

I invite all Episcopalians of the Diocese of Western North Carolina to join me in prayer for those who were injured or died in the violent outbreaks in Charlottesville. Pray for the safety of all who live in that community and pray for those charged with keeping the peace. Tomorrow, as you gather in your churches, I encourage you to remember our Baptismal Covenant — may we persevere in resisting evil, hatred, violence and prejudice in any form, and may we respect the dignity of every human being, striving for peace and justice in all things.

Finally, I also ask everyone to join me in taking measurable steps to build bridges in our communities and be agents of our Lord’s mercy, grace, truth and love. There is great strength in the unity of our faith. Together, we will stand as one body holding fast to the teachings of Christ.


The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin
VII Bishop of Western North Carolina

ENS managing editor to take leave of absence, updated contact information

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 1:13pm

[Episcopal News Service] Lynette Wilson, managing editor of Episcopal News Service, will be on leave of absence beginning Aug. 14 and returning in May 2018. Wilson is one of five 2017-18 Scripps Fellows at the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, senior editor and reporter will serve as interim managing editor.

Please direct editorial inquiries to Schjonberg at mfschjonberg@episcopalchurch.org and continue to address advertising inquiries to Matthew Davies mdavies@episcopalchurch.org.


National Council of Churches calls for cessation of ‘hostile acts and rhetoric’ between US, North Korea

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 4:13pm

[National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA] The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA calls for an immediate cessation of hostile acts and rhetoric between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. Steps must be taken immediately to avoid the possibility of a cataclysmic nuclear war. Increased tension and destabilizing actions and rhetoric by both sides make such a war more likely.

In the past months, we have seen aggressions by both the United States and North Korea.  In May the United States deployed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea. This was seen as a destabilizing move by China and other neighbors and a threat by North Korea (see previous NCCCUSA and NCCK letter to President Trump on this matter). Critics point out that THAAD is incapable of countering North Korean missiles with their low-angle trajectory; thus, this so-called defensive system is being used in an aggressive manner.

At the same time, North Korea’s testing of missile technology is well known.  The nation’s development of a miniaturized nuclear weapon brings destabilization unseen since the end of the Cold War, and its apparent new capacity to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles is of great concern.

Recent comments by the leaders of the United States and North Korea threatening hostilities are beyond alarming.  Such threats, of “fire and fury…the likes of which the world has never seen” by President Donald J. Trump, and “all-out war wiping out all the strongholds of enemies, including the US mainland” by spokespersons of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, only serve to bring our countries, and the world, to the brink of war.  We therefore urgently call upon both leaders to tone down their similar and mutually inflammatory rhetoric.

Further, the movement of US military assets to the region, including aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, places the world on the brink of war. Threats by North Korea regarding an attack on Guam place the US and its allies in a precarious position, bringing the world closer to the possibility that a quick and devastating nuclear exchange will take place.

Threats and bluster will not help this situation but are likely only to provoke hostilities.  Indeed, if this rhetoric were to become a reality, it would only mean the horrifying exchange of nuclear weapons.  This would not only threaten US and North Korean civilians, soldiers, and territories; nuclear and conventional war would be a complete disaster for the people of South Korea, Japan, and other countries in Asia and the Pacific.

It is therefore essential that bilateral dialogue take place, that aggressive language be discarded, and that paths to peace be pursued.  We will continue to urge our government to tone down its rhetoric and to utilize diplomacy and work with the many partners, both governmental and nongovernmental, who stand ready to assist both the United States and North Korea to de-escalate this crisis.

The National Council of Churches USA is praying fervently and will continue to pray for peace. We stand in solidarity with the National Council of Churches of Korea (South Korea), the Korean Christian Federation (North Korea), and all others who are committed to a nonviolent resolution of this conflict.

National Council of Churches in Korea issues emergency letter to Moon

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 4:07pm

The Rev. Kim Young Ju, general secretary of National Council of Churches in Korea. Photo: NCCK

[World Council of Churches] In an emergency letter to South Korean president Moon Jae-In, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) urged immediate dialogue to ease military tension in the Korean Peninsula.

In the letter, the NCCK reiterated its hope to see a peaceful reunification of South and North Korea, but tension has has caused grave concern. “To make matters worse, President Trump has declared that ‘North Korea would face fire and fury, one never witnessed by the world,’ ” states the letter. “Military tension is at its height in the Korean peninsula and there is fear of war spreading among the people.”

The lives of the people in South Korea should not be threatened by the provocative acts of the US and North Korea, said the letter. “The road to peace is a difficult one, but the harder it gets the more important it is that we keep the principle,” the letter states. “We cannot start sincere dialogues when we place blame for the opponent’s extreme actions or when we insist various pre-conditions for dialogue.”

The NCCK expressed its readiness to take active participation. “In order to transform the present crisis into an opportunity and open the door for dialogue, we humbly ask you to immediately dispatch a special envoy to North Korea,” the letter concluded. “Our prayers will be with you always, as you are desperately struggling for a better future of our country.”

For more information:

NCCK Emergency letter to president Moon Jae-In urging immediate dialogue

Read the WCC statement on 9 August 2017

Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula

Banning nuclear weapons, 122 governments take leadership where nuclear powers have failed (WCC press release, 8 July 2017)

Mutuality and cooperation focus at Korean peace meeting in Leipzig (WCC news release, 14 July 2017)

‘Summer in the City’ offers refugee youth a domestic mission field

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 4:55pm

Kay Yeh, center, offers watermelon to two men sitting under a tree in Garrett Park. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Dallas, Texas] On a hot, humid Wednesday evening in late June, 18 youth set out from St. Matthew’s Cathedral in central Dallas to nearby Garrett Park, a popular spot for homeless people. They carried a cooler of Gatorade and trays of sliced watermelon.

Offering a cold drink and watermelon to the homeless men and women seeking shade and to the children playing in the park was the last task on the day’s packed agenda. The youth had already visited residents of a nursing home; practiced a skit based Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man; and eaten lunch with neighborhood low-income children enrolled in Bishop’s Camp, an annual diocesan summer camp.

It was all part of “Summer in the City,” a weeklong, domestic mission trip where youth in the Diocese of Dallas camp out at the cathedral, sleeping on inflatable mattresses on the floor in a classroom, and spend their days engaged in mission, including encounters with people living on the margins.

“[Part of it] is focused on serving homeless people, impoverished people in the Dallas area,” said Amanda Payne, youth minister at St. James Episcopal Church in Lake Highlands, a neighborhood in northeast Dallas. “We’re about 15 minutes away from our church, so it’s not far, but it’s removing the kids from their everyday environment and letting them see that there is poverty and need so close to home.”

Youth from St. James Episcopal Church and Church of the Epiphany spent a morning harvesting fruits and vegetables in a garden at Our Saviour Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

It was the second year that Payne’s group, the majority Burmese refugees, mostly of the Karen ethnic minority, participated in Summer in the City, and like the previous year, some of the most intense interactions happened between the youth and homeless people in Garrett Park.

“How many times do you get a chance to stop in a safe situation, especially as a teenager, to interact with someone whose been on the street for 10 years,” said Payne, adding that the gospel calls on Christians to reach out to the poor, not shy away from them. “People that are poor get life; and, interacting with them helps us understand why Christ had such a heart for the poor.”

Understanding life and hardship is something the Karen youth also get. Of the Karen ethnic group, many of them were born in refugee camps in Thailand, their families fleeing violence in Myanmar, formerly Burma, the site of Southeast Asia’s decades’ long civil war. Some 100,000 Burmese refugees, many of them ethnic Karen, continue to live in refugee camps along the border in Thailand.

It continues to be a place where people “are running for their lives,” said Moo Eh Hser, 18, who spent the first half of her life living in and around the refugee camps in Thailand. Her parents, she said, fled Burma because the military was driving Karen out of their villages. “There was no freedom for them, no peace for them.” If the military came and a person couldn’t hide, they would kill them.

“It’s still happening. There’s still war going on. It’s just that they have to run for their lives, people taking over their land, it’s just hard for them,” she said.

Moo Eh Hser carried the watermelon. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Moo Eh Hser’s family as lucky. Less than 1 percent of refugees worldwide ever are resettled. Many children are born and raised in refugee camps. Of the 22.5 million people with refugee status, more than half of them are under the age of 18, according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Images of people running for their lives and the hardships faced by refugees in the camps remains on the minds of the youth as they go about their daily lives and serve others. And the Karen youth themselves come from working poor families and often live in food-insecure households. Witnessing another side of poverty can lead to interesting questions and compassion.

The youth, said Payne, sometimes struggle to understand how someone who speaks English cannot find a job. Many of their parents work long hours in meat processing plants or other low-skilled jobs, their opportunities limited by their level of English proficiency.

“We’re asking them to show compassion for these people who live on the street who is some ways have more resources than they do,” said Payne, who often sees the youth reach into their wallets to give what little money they have, to those on the street.

“Giving when it doesn’t make sense …  for me it rages against what is fair, they are giving even though it doesn’t make sense for them to give,” she said. “But that’s the Kingdom of God.”

St. James’ youth group this year has grown from eight to 50 youth, most of them Karen. They live in a cluster of low-income apartments not far from Vickery Meadow, a neighborhood just west of Lake Highlands and home to a diverse population of immigrants and refugees. Youth from Church of the Epiphany in Richardson, a suburb to the north, also attended Summer in the City.

St. James began working with Karen refugees when Catholic Charities, a refugee services provider, contacted the Rev. Cliff Gardner, the former rector, and asked him if he was interested in working with a group of Karen Anglicans in Vickery Meadow. Gardner began offering communion in an apartment complex and a year or so later families began coming to the church. Karen children attended vacation Bible school, parishioners, led by Ginny Keeling, stepped up to help the new members learn English, and relationships began to form.

“There’s a really nice community of people out here. A lot of people support us, like St. James, the church community, they really helped me and my family come up from scratches,” said 17-year-old Soe Win, who came to the United States when he was 9.

Soe Win fist bumps Sel during lunch with the Bishop’s Camp kids. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Soe Win spent his early years in a refugee camp, where there was chaos and a scarcity of resources. His parents were luckier than others because they have permission to work outside the camp. They got picked up early in the morning and worked all day for maybe the equivalent of $2 or $3, and that was just to cover food, there wasn’t money left for clothing or other necessities. He never expected to leave the camp.

“I thought that’s where my life would start and that’s where my life would end,” Soe Win said. “I didn’t even know about this place. People would talk about it but I didn’t have an interest to come here. My mom, she didn’t have an interest to come here, either, but my dad wanted us to come over here. My dad told me we moved here so that I could have a better life and not have to struggle like he did.”

When Soe Win’s family first arrived in the United States they received little help from the resettlement agency assigned to their case, he said. Through Karen connections, they found St. James.

“That’s when I started knowing a lot of people who loves me and my family,” he said, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in the garden at Our Saviour Episcopal Church in southeast Dallas, where the youth spent the morning harvesting figs from trees and cherry tomatoes and squash from the garden, some of which was donated to a food pantry.

As one of the older members of the youth group, Soe Win is a role model. It’s obvious in his interactions with younger members and with the children enrolled in Bishop’s Camp. During lunchtime, while eating with the Bishop’s Camp children, Soe Win held his table’s attention and later led the youth group in the cleanup, stacking chairs on tables and sweeping the floor.

“The Karen have a real servant’s heart,” said Payne.

That servant’s heart can also be seen in Moo Eh Hser, who joined the St. James’ youth group two years ago. Once, while serving meals at a homeless shelter, she decided to stand at the end of the serving line and hug people. She hugged 411 people that day.

She isn’t afraid to serve others, in fact, she said, “It’s also beautiful while you are doing it, God shows miracle and mystery … everybody has a story.”

Moo Eh Hser graduated from high school this year and this fall plans to study business and theology at Howard Payne University, a private, Baptist university in Brownwood, Texas. Moo Eh Hser goes to St. James and to Dallas Karen Baptist Church, where services are in Karen.

At Garrett Park, while many of the youth sat talking around a picnic table, or playing soccer, Moo Eh Hser, flanked by Payne, offered watermelon to the mostly men sitting or lounging in the shade. One man lay asleep under a tree, and she left him a cup of Gatorade.

“God shows you things through service,” she said. “It’s like Jesus; he came to serve not to be served.”

To learn more about refugees and ministry among refugees visit Episcopal Migration Ministries.

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

Solar eclipse on Aug. 21 is outreach opportunity for Episcopal congregations along its path

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 2:50pm

A total solar eclipse is seen from the beach of Ternate island, Indonesia, March 9, 2016. A total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States on Aug. 21, 2017. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Dixie Nelson, parish administrator at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Alliance, Nebraska, was working at a motel several years ago when she got a call from a professor in California. He was planning to be in town on Aug. 21, 2017, and wanted to book some rooms – all the rooms.

It was Nelson’s first taste of solar eclipse fever, which has since swept up her town and many more along the path of the coming total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. Episcopal churches along that path, from Oregon to South Carolina, are throwing out the welcome mat to eclipse-watching tourists this month, turning churchyards into campgrounds, hosting viewing parties and inviting the public to contemplate the mysteries of God’s creation.

“God made the universe. This is one of his spectacular shows,” Nelson told Episcopal News Service by phone this week.

She has been busy making arrangements for a makeshift campground at St. Matthew’s. By Aug. 21, the church property will accommodate campers at 30 RV sites and 26 tent sites. The congregation hopes to raise about $4,000 by collecting a suggested donation of $25 per night from some of the thousands of visitors expected to descend on this small city in Nebraska’s Panhandle.

An even bigger celebration is expected in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which is said to be near the point of greatest eclipse. Astronomers describe that as the point where the moon’s shadow will take its most direct aim at the Earth during the total eclipse. With that the distinction, Hopkinsville is marketing itself “Eclipseville.”

“The community’s been talking about it for years and getting ready,” said the Rev. Alice Nichols, rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Hopkinsville.

Nichols said she has heard estimates that more than 100,000 visitors may converge in Hopkinsville on Aug. 21, which would quadruple the city’s non-eclipse population of about 32,000. She has contacted Episcopal churches across Kentucky inviting parishioners to come to Grace Episcopal to view the eclipse. Grace Episcopal isn’t offering camping, but visitors can pay $30 per adult and $15 per child to reserve one of 75 parking spots and join the church viewing party, with proceeds benefiting the church’s Graceworks ministry.

Grace Episcopal also will offer its guests a boxed lunch before the total eclipse begins at 1:24 p.m. Eye protection is included as well. Nichols stocked up with 300 certified sunglasses, a must for anyone wishing to view the eclipse.

“I hope that it starts people asking questions,” Nichols said in a phone interview with ENS. “I hope that it will kind of bring attention to the fact that religion and science are not at odds with each other.”

Solar eclipses are not unusual. Partial solar eclipses can occur several times in a year, as they will in 2018. In a partial eclipse, the moon passes in front of the sun but does not block it altogether. A total solar eclipse is rarer, occurring only when the moon passes fully in front of the sun, darkening part of the Earth and creating a thin, shimmering corona around the edges of the moon.

Nowhere in the world will experience a total solar eclipse again until July 2019, when South America will get its turn in the shadow. The eclipse this month is generating additional excitement in the U.S. because it is the rare total solar eclipse that will only be experienced in this country, and from coast to coast.

Peak eclipse, known as totality, will only occur on a narrow swath of the country and will last less than three minutes. The longest duration of totality will occur near Carbondale, Illinois, making that another top destination for eclipse watchers. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Carbondale is holding a cosmic-themed hymn sing the evening before the eclipse, and the church is raffling an eclipse quilt.

Over in the Diocese of Oregon, campers are invited to pay $250 for the privilege of staying in the path of totality in Silverton, home of St. Edward’s Episcopal Church. Included in that price is space enough for an RV up to 30 feet, two pairs of sunglasses and access to St. Edward’s labyrinth.

The real reward, though, is viewing “the most beautiful thing you can see in the sky,” as one astronomer described the corona to NPR.

Not able to travel on Aug. 21? A partial eclipse will be visible across all of North America. If you’re in Spokane, Washington, the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection invites you to their viewing party starting at 10 a.m. If you’re in Lexington, Kentucky, the Episcopal Church Women of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church want you to join them starting at noon.

Those two churches are both in the zone where it will be possible to see an eclipse of more than 90 percent – weather permitting, of course.

“I’m afraid to look at the forecast,” said Nichols, the rector in Hopkinsville.

Being at the point of greatest eclipse won’t mean as much if the skies are cloudy. Even then, Nichols said she would count on “a really interesting experience” of passing through the moon’s shadow. If the skies are clear, it will be “an amazing experience.”

Fare weather odds is one of the selling points for Nebraska, where Alliance is promoting itself as offering better than an 80 percent chance of clear skies on Aug. 21.

“Alliance won the geographical lottery,” Nelson said, adding the city’s popularity as an eclipse destination has been bolstered by the nearby outdoor art installation Carhenge. (Think Stonehenge, but made out of old cars.)

As parish administrator, Nelson, 63, typically spends most of her time producing St. Matthew’s newsletter, helping church committees, updating Facebook and taking care of other church business. Lately, eclipse planning has taken over her days, as the congregation prepares its 56 campsites.

The church took reservations for minimum three-night stays, so the excitement will stretch across the weekend that leads up to the eclipse, which falls on a Monday. The St. Matthew’s outreach committee will serve breakfast to campers that Sunday and Monday, and a cookout is planned for Sunday evening.

The city began stepping up its preparations about six months ago, Nelson said. Hotels are all booked, eclipse-related events are scheduled over the weekend and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is expected to make an appearance. Many of her neighbors underestimated at first what the eclipse would mean for Alliance, but they’re now bracing for a big turnout.

“It’s going to be huge,” she said. “It took them a while to wrap their minds around it.”

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

WCC calls for peaceful democratic process in Kenya

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 2:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] As general elections take place in Kenya, the World Council of Churches (WCC) joins the churches and people of the country in prayer for the peaceful and successful conduct of this pivotal democratic process.

“We call for all people and groups in Kenya to participate  in the democratic expression of the will of the people,” said WCC deputy general secretary Isabel Apawo Phiri, “to refrain from violence  or incitement to violence, and to respect the legitimate confirmed outcome of this election.”

Full article.

Brotherhood of St Andrew names Joe McDaniel Jr. to new racial reconciliation post

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 2:07pm

[Brotherhood of St. Andrew] Floridian Joe McDaniel Jr. has been appointed national vice president of  the Brotherhood of St Andrew’s newly created Committee on Racial Reconciliation.

He is tasked with creating a strategy to expose the 5,000-member men’s ministry to the Episcopal Church’s Ministry of Racial Reconciliation.

A former corporate finance attorney in New York City, McDaniel was a deputy to General Convention in 2018. He also served as the legislative assistant to the House of Deputies Committee for the Confirmation of the Presiding Bishop at the 2015 General Convention.

He is a trained facilitator in conducting racial reconciliation workshops in the Episcopal Diocese of The Central Gulf Coast, where he also serves on its Commission on Ministry and its Cursillo Commission. He has been a delegate at numerous diocesan conventions and has served as senior warden for Christ Church Episcopal Parish and on a various number of its committees and sub-committees.

“We are very excited about the ability to make a statement about expanding the men’s ministry movement into this vital area, which is a priority for The Episcopal Church,” Brotherhood President Jeffrey Butcher said making the announcement July 21 in Louisville during the Brotherhood’s annual national council meeting.

“We need men to address the issue of racism within the wider church and within our own organization.

“The creation of this Committee on Racial Reconciliation is a statement that tells the church and our members we are very serious concerning the challenges that racism presents us in bringing men and youth closer to Christ,” President Butcher said. “We are stepping up to the plate to address this serious issue.”

McDaniel quoted Matthew 15:21-28, where it states: “Yea. Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables.” This story in Matthew’s Gospel details Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman. Her nationality makes her an outsider and on this basis even Jesus rejects her when she comes seeking help for her daughter. But the Canaanite woman challenges Jesus on his refusal and Jesus praises her faith and heals her daughter after all.

This story demonstrates that God’s love is so expansive, it can surprise and stretch even Jesus Christ himself. It encourages Christians to be mindful of our own prejudices and understand that God’s love isn’t as restrictive as our own.

It is in this spirit of the furtherance of justice, that the Brotherhood of St. Andrew has created the Committee on Racial Reconciliation where we will conduct an examination of our own unconscious and in some cases conscious prejudices. The work will sometimes be painful for some but it will be enlightening and hopefully rewarding as we seek to bridge an understanding between the races that led to the killings in Charleston at the AME Church of nine African American parishioners as they welcomed Dylann Roof to join them in a Bible study.

Roof is a self-confessed white supremacist whose goal was to create a race war. Yet in a move that stunned many observers, many of the family members of those who were murdered expressed their forgiveness to him for the unbelievable carnage which he had unleashed upon them and their family members.

It is this sense of reconciliation for the past sins of racism that we must achieve if we are to move forward reconciled to one another in a sense of love and unity, and to do so we must acknowledge the sins of the past. We must engage in active dialogue to discuss it, no matter how uncomfortable such a discussion may be.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Our common experience in fact is the opposite – that the past, far from disappearing or lying down and being quiet, has an embarrassing and persistent way of returning and haunting us unless it has in fact been dealt with adequately.

“Unless we look the beast in the eye we find it has an uncanny habit of returning to hold us hostage.”

To confront the beast, our goal is to conduct a series of workshops across the nation and invite all the Brotherhood of St. Andrew chapters in the applicable dioceses to attend these one-day workshops, where they will be exposed to the national curriculum developed by The Episcopal Church on Racial Reconciliation. The goal of such training is to expose and uncover the unconscious biases, in a non-threatening way, which we all harbor towards one another, with the purpose of learning who we are and why we think the way we do.

The goal is for The Brotherhood to be on the forefront of the Jesus Movement in its Ministry of Racial Reconciliation as we seek the furtherance of the beloved community.

— Jim Goodson is editor of the St. Andrew’s Cross, the publication of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.