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General Convention prepares for expansive conversations on racism and racial healing

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 12:17pm

The Rev. Paul Walker, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, talks to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in front of the city’s statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in September. The statue had been shrouded in a tarp while the city dealt with challenges to its decision to remove the statue of the Confederate general. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Church leaders already had begun thinking about spiritual responses to racism in 2015 when a shock of events underscored the urgency of that discernment.

A young, white supremacist gunman with a fondness for the Confederate flag opened fire June 17, 2015, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people. That massacre, along with news reports of arsons at black churches and police shootings of unarmed black men, helped fuel passage at the 78th General Convention of Resolution C019, which called on church officers to develop a churchwide response to racial injustice, and up to $2 million was approved for that work.

The Charleston massacre, in particular, left bishops and deputies “feeling a sense of shock and outrage, because I don’t think they thought that that could happen in 2015,” Heidi Kim, staff officer for racial reconciliation, told Episcopal News Service.

Kim had been on the job about a year at that time. Since then, she has helped lead a team of church staff members in carrying out the mandate of Resolution C019 through a framework agreed on by church officers, including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who was elected in 2015 as the church’s first black leader.

The racial reconciliation team developed the framework into Becoming Beloved Community, which now is the centerpiece of the Episcopal Church’s racial reconciliation efforts. How to follow through with those efforts will be the core question before the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee when it convenes at the 79th General Convention next week in Austin, Texas.

But racism and racial healing are such big topics, both socially and spiritually, that the discussion is expected to expand well beyond a single resolution, or even a single committee, to include meetings, events and exhibits in all corners of the convention center from July 5 to 13.

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon the the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, delivers the keynote speech Jan. 17 at the All Our Children Conference in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“The world needs us to get serious about racial healing, reconciliation, and justice,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, the presiding bishop’s canon for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, said in an email. “That only happens as we tell the truth about our churches and race, proclaim the dream of Beloved Community, practice Jesus’ way of love with one another and repair the breach in our society and institutions.

“I’m eager to see our church sharing the wisdom and resources to support even more local adaptation and engagement with this vision.”

Resolution C019 was only the most prominent in a series of resolutions on racism in 2015, and it was hardly General Convention’s first time addressing racism. Resolutions dating back decades have helped guide the church as it responds to racism and atones for its own complicity in racial injustice and support for racist systems, from slavery to segregation.The mandate in 2015 sought to carry those efforts a step further.

“The abomination and sin of racism continue to plague our society and our Church at great cost to human life and human dignity; we formally acknowledge our historic and contemporary participation in this evil and repent of it,” C019 readsAnother resolution, A182, called on the church to address systemic racism at all levels.

Racial reconciliation also was identified by General Convention in 2015 as one of three priorities for the 2016-18 triennium, along with evangelism and care of creation. All three priorities will be highlighted in Austin in three joint sessions of the upcoming General Convention.

Those sessions, named TEConversations, will feature three-member panel discussions on each topic. The TEConversation on racial reconciliation will kick off the series on July 6, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, with panelists Catherine Meeks, who heads the Diocese of Atlanta’s anti-racism commission, the Rev. Nancy Frausto, a “Dreamer” from the Diocese of Los Angeles who was brought to the United States from Mexico as a child, and Arno Michaelis, an author and former skinhead. (The evangelism discussion is July 7. Care of creation will be the topic July 10.)

Meeks also is founder of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia. The center will hold a luncheon on racial healing at noon July 6 at the Hilton hotel across the street from the Austin Convention Center.

Other exhibits on racial healing are planned for the same day in the exhibit hall, Kim said.

“It’s actually kind of an exciting time,” she said. “The convention will have an opportunity to talk about what it is we’re trying to engage in.” And she expects those conversations to be lively and illuminating, as well as instructive for the coming triennium.

For example, one resolution before the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee (B004) questions whether “anti-racism” should be replaced with a term that better encompasses the spiritual transformation sought in this work.  Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright is listed as the proposer.

A resolution (A042) submitted separately by the Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism seeks to change the committee’s name by adding “Reconciliation.” A companion resolution (A043) would adjust the committee’s mandate accordingly.

Another resolution (A138) focuses on the church’s track record of diversifying its leadership. The resolution, submitted by the Task Force on the Episcopacy and assigned to the Churchwide Leadership Committee, would give dioceses 60 days after a bishop election to submit demographic info on all nominees.

“Progress towards the church’s goals and aspirations in the diversity of its leadership, including bishops, is dependent to a significant extent on gathering critical data to inform plans to achieve those goals and be faithful to those aspirations,” the Task Force said.

The church’s work on Becoming Beloved Community is detailed at length in the Blue Book report generated by church officers in response to Resolution C019 from 2015. Becoming Beloved Community is broken into four parts that are illustrated as a labyrinth: telling the truth about our churches and race, proclaiming the dream of Beloved Community, practicing the way of love in the pattern of Jesus and repairing the breach in society.

Becoming Beloved Community with Heidi Kim and Charles Wynder Jr – #episcopal church Executive Council’s critical Board Development #excoun pic.twitter.com/x9OFfs0T2d

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 20, 2017

That framework was finalized in early 2017, Kim said, and it was released to the church that May. About half of the $2 million approved for this work has been spent so far, to implement Becoming Beloved Community at the diocesan and congregation level, and implementation is expected to continue in the new triennium, Kim said.

Becoming Beloved Community is referenced by the Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism in its resolutions assigned to the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee. The stated aim of Resolution A044  is “building capacity for Becoming Beloved Community,” and it recommends a certification framework for the anti-racism training that was mandated by a 2000 resolution. The Committee on Anti-Racism also submitted a resolution to this General Convention (A045) clarifying that training requirement and reminding dioceses of it. And it is proposing a racial reconciliation awards program (A046) to recognize successful local efforts.

Resolution D002 would approve $1 million to provide grants to local ministries engaged in racial reconciliation work. That kind of direct financial support is not included in the scope of the past resolutions that produced and have supported Becoming Beloved Community.

Leona Volk greets Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during Curry’s September 2016 visit to to South Dakota, where Episcopalians were involved in demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The importance of such efforts has been punctuated over the past three years by the continued shock of current events, from high-profile police shootings to the violent clashes last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacist groups and counter-protesters. Kim said she also sees the need for racial healing in how Americans respond to migrants on the Mexican border. And environmental issues often are interwoven with race, as seen in the Standing Rock Sioux’s fight to preserve the tribe’s drinking water and Native Alaskan efforts to protect caribou breeding grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

She also hopes Episcopalians will embrace the work of racial reconciliation as a personal spiritual journey, not as a way to shame those whom we may see as racist.

“We all have our own work to do, so we can’t just externalize the problem of racism,” she said. “We all can be better at being reconcilers and healer.”

Spellers said she finds hope in the visionary work of General Convention in measures such as Resolution C019 from 2015, and she expects that vision to carry the church through the next two weeks of discernment on systemic racism.

“When I look to our church’s work so recently begun toward Becoming Beloved Community, and when I hear today’s fierce racial justice and healing conversations among bishops, deputies and dedicated networks – I am deeply encouraged.”

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

Bishops propose solution for full access to same-sex marriage rites

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 10:11am

“Liturgical Resources 1: I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing” was one of the rites General Convention authorized in 2015 for trial use. Photo: Church Publishing Inc.

[Episcopal News Service] Three bishops have proposed a resolution on same-sex marriage that “seeks to ensure that all of God’s people have access to all the marriage liturgies of the church, regardless of diocese, while respecting the pastoral direction and conscience of the local bishop.”

Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell and Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely said in a news release late on June 28 that their Resolution B012, is “an attempt to move the church forward in an atmosphere of mutual respect, reconciliation and the love of Jesus Christ.”

The resolution continues to authorize the two trial-use marriage rites first approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention without time limit and without seeking a revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

“Given our particular time in history, this resolution provides a way forward for the whole church without the possible disruption of ministry that might be caused by the proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer,” the three bishops said.

Resolution B012 proposes that access to the liturgies be provided in all dioceses, without requiring the permission of the diocesan bishop. Instead, congregations that want to use the rites but whose bishops have refused permission may request and will receive Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) from another bishop of the church who would provide access to the liturgies. DEPO is a 14-year-old mechanism devised by the House of Bishops for congregation that disagree with their diocesan bishops on matter of human sexuality and other theological matters.

Access to the rites has been a sticking point from the beginning in a small number of dioceses.

General Convention in 2015 authorized the two marriage rites for trial use (Resolution A054) by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The bishops and deputies also made the canonical definition (via Resolution A036) of marriage gender-neutral.

The Task Force on the Study of Marriage said in its Blue Book Report it found widespread acceptance of the rite across the church except that eight diocesan bishops in the 101 domestic dioceses have not authorized their use.

The task force is proposing (via Resolution A085) that convention require all bishops in authority to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this church to have reasonable and convenient access to these trial rites.” It also would have convention say that bishops will “continue the work of leading the church in comprehensive engagement with these materials and continue to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

Episcopalians who support that effort have been active ahead of convention. Claiming the Blessing, which formed in 2002 to advocate for the “full inclusion of all the baptized in all sacraments of the church, according to its website, has published an advocacy piece. Some Episcopalians in the Diocese of Dallas have developed a website called “Dear General Convention” that includes videos and written stories about people who cannot be married in that diocese.

The task force’s Resolution A085 also calls for adding the trial use liturgies to the Book of Common Prayer. And, it proposes changes to the prayer book’s other marriage rites, prefaces and sections of the Catechism to make language gender-neutral.

The Episcopal Church includes 10 dioceses in civil legal jurisdictions outside the United States that do not allow marriage for same-sex couples. Since church canons require compliance with both civil and canonical requirements for marriage, convention in 2015 did not authorize the trial liturgies for use in those dioceses.

Five Province IX diocesan bishops and one retired bishop representing the dioceses of Ecuador Litoral, Ecuador Central, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Honduras had warned the task force that if convention makes changes about marriage that would force them “to accept social and cultural practices that have no Biblical basis or acceptance in Christian worship,” the action would “greatly deepen the breach, the division and the Ninth Province will have to learn to walk alone.” The bishops of Colombia and Puerto Rico did not sign the statement.

To address their concerns, Resolution B012 also calls for a Task Force on Communion Across Difference, “tasked with finding a lasting path forward for all Episcopalians in one church, without going back on General Convention’s clear decision to extend marriage to all couples, and its firm commitment to provide access to all couples seeking to be married in this church,” the three bishops’ news release said. The task force would seek a path consistent with the church’s polity and the 2015 “Communion across Difference” statement of the House of Bishops, prompted by bishops who objected to convention’s actions on marriage.

Five bishops, three who refuse to authorize the rites and two of the five bishops who signed the Province IX statement, said on June 28 that they will implement Resolution B012 if it is passed.

“Should the proposal before us pass, we would entrust in charity congregations that do not read Holy Scripture in this way to the care of other bishops in the Episcopal Church with whom we remain united in baptism,” they wrote. “While we cannot endorse every aspect of this proposal, we will be grateful should it help us all to continue contending with one another for the truth in love within one body.”

Provenzano, McConnell and Knisley praised that pledge. In addition, they said,since the canons of the church state that General Convention may set terms and conditions for trial use rites, the terms and conditions specified in this resolution have by extension canonical force. All bishops are obliged to abide by these terms and conditions, as by canon law. We believe that they will hold if challenged.”

The proposing bishops contend in their news release that their proposal “allows conservatives to flourish within the structures of the Episcopal Church, but not at the expense of progressive congregations in conservative dioceses. While at first glance it may sound unnecessarily complex, it is a ‘middle way’ that makes room for all in one church.”

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

A previous version of this story gave the wrong name for the Diocese of Pittsburgh bishop. This version corrects that error and cladifies that the proposal would require bishops to grant all requests for Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.

General Convention asked to strengthen further its commitment to creation care

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 2:46pm

[Episcopal News Service] Supporting local food growers, carbon taxes and offsets, opposition to environmental racism and Episcopalians’ continued participation in the Paris Climate Agreement are some of the stewardship of creation and creation care resolutions set for discussion at the 79th General Convention.

“There will be a bumper crop of environment-related resolutions coming before the General Convention in Austin in July. Such abundance reflects the coming together at the level of the whole church of the work of many individuals and organizations who have been faithfully working away, in many cases for decades,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, co-chair of the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation, in an email to Episcopal News Service. “Now these environmental efforts by Episcopalians are connecting up and gaining currency as a focus area in the Jesus Movement, along with racial reconciliation and evangelism. It is a signal moment for ministry in the Episcopal Church, and this is certainly true with respect to environmental activism.”

Most of the environmental stewardship and care of creation resolutions are listed here. In September 2016, Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry identified care for creation as one of the three pillars, along with reconciliation and evangelism, of the Episcopal branch of The Jesus Movement.

The 79th General Convention officially gets underway July 5 at the Austin Convention Center and runs through July 13. The 78th General Convention created the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation during its meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2015.

That year the Science, Technology and Faith Committee put forth a resolution to consider the impact of climate change and practical ways for parishes to mitigate and respond to environmental issues, out of that resolution, it created the advisory council, said the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, co-chair of the advisory council and rector of St. Paul’s in Riverside, Connecticut, in a telephone interview with ENS.

The advisory council is composed of one person from each province, organized regionally as “consultative groups,” tasked with implementing a program to develop parish and diocesan resources for teaching the theology of stewardship of creation and for supporting practical applications of local ecologically responsible stewardship of church-related properties and buildings.

The council also oversees a small grants program to support innovative environmental projects and oversees three environmental justice sites in Alaska, Los Angeles, California and the Dominican Republic.

In 18 months, the advisory council received 100 grant applications and funded 40 projects. “It shows a real hunger to engage,” said Johnson.

The advisory council prioritizes innovative projects that can serve as a model and be replicated elsewhere. For example, it awarded a grant to the organizers of last year’s 40-day River of Live Pilgrimage, an intentional community near Charlottesville, Virginia, that’s experimenting with permaculture and Honoré Farm and Mill, which bakes communion bread from ancient strains of wheat. Honoré will provide the communion bread for the General Convention Eucharists.

Resolution A008 calls for the continuation of the advisory council, but reconsiders the consultative groups. It may make sense, said Johnson, that people organize by watershed or area of interest rather than provinces.

Over the years, General Convention has passed more than 50 resolutions addressing environmental stewardship and creation care. This years, the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation submitted 14 resolutions (read its Blue Book report here), many strengthening previous resolutions, some addressing more contemporary concerns.

Resolution A011 opposes environmental racism, or the environmental injustices low-income and marginalized communities face, including greater risks from the effects of climate change and health risks associated with proximity to extractive, manufacturing and waste disposal sites.

Resolution A014, recognizing the amount of travel done on behalf of the Jesus Movement, asks General Convention to direct the presiding bishop’s office to draft a policy requiring the use of carbon offsets by the Episcopal Church Center and that such a program be tested and piloted during the triennium for the work of the Episcopal Church, including the travel of its staff, standing commissions and interim bodies. Resolution C020, calls on the church to support a national tax on carbon-based fossil fuels.

“Carbon offsets for travel is part of the realization that we have to pay the cost of what we do, the travel that we do,” said Johnson, adding the church needs an analysis of the real cost of meetings and needs to pay for it.

Resolution C049 encourages churches to serve and promote locally grown food.

Resolution A018 calls for a further advancement of the House of Bishop’s 2011 Pastoral Teaching on the Environment commitment to “advocate for a fair, ambitious, and binding climate treaty,” make every effort to fully and completely participate in future meetings of the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change as an active, faithful and engaged voice for all of God’s good Earth. It also calls on dioceses, parishes and individuals to commit to the Paris agreement.

An Episcopal delegation led Andrus has represented the presiding bishop at the annual United Nations climate talks since 2015, when nations, including the United States, negotiated and reached the Paris agreement.

“I and the other Episcopalians who were in Paris heard first-person witness to the seriousness of climate change for everyday people’s lives from Anglicans living in Pacific Island nations. Already, in 2015, these Anglicans were experiencing the destruction of villages where they and their ancestors have lived for millennia,” said Andrus. “And again, when the House of Bishops met in Alaska in September of 2017, we heard Episcopalians who rely for their lives on the salmon runs tell what wildlife biologist affirm – the salmon runs have decreased by more than fifty-percent in a generation. While this decrease is due to a complex of factors, climate change and warming oceans is a major reason for the decline.”

The Paris agreement calls on the countries of the world to limit carbon emissions voluntarily, which will require a decrease in dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources; and for developed countries, those responsible for the majority of emissions both historically and at present, to commit to $100 billion in development aid annually by 2020 to developing countries.

In June 2017, as part of his “American First” strategy, President Donald J. Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the international agreement saying it undermines the economy and places the United States at a disadvantage.

“President Trump made a campaign promise to take the United States out of the Paris Agreement. For me, though there is added difficulty and no smooth path ahead, I can see that the president’s actions have energized United States citizens to act. As perhaps the major grassroots movement to keep the U.S. commitment to Paris even without federal participation puts it, ‘We Are Still In,’” said Andrus.

“We will stay in the Paris agreement by a robust coalition of businesses, cities, states, regions, faith bodies and tribes working together. As environmental ethicist Larry Rasmussen said recently, ‘There is no greater transformation ever undertaken in history than that of the move from an industrial, extractive-industry-based life to a sustainable life.’ The role of faith bodies in this is crucial and indispensable.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

Presiding Bishop leads wave of excitement for evangelism heading into General Convention

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 2:39pm

Bread & Roses, a ministry of Trinity Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, has partnered with International Rescue Committee to hold cooking demonstrations at a city farmer’s market aimed at promoting nutritional cooking techniques and vegetables grown by refugees living in Charlottesville. Bread & Roses was backed by Mission Enterprise Zone grants. Photo: International Rescue Committee

[Episcopal News Service] The Most Rev. Michael Curry, in his three years as presiding bishop, has regularly described Episcopalians as being part of “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement,” underscoring the church’s call to evangelism.

The Episcopal Church’s push for greater evangelism is not new. Curry’s embrace of his self-proclaimed role of “chief evangelism officer” continues years of growth in the church’s organizational and financial support for such efforts.

“I believe that we had a move toward increasing our work in evangelism and church planting even before the election of Michael Curry as presiding bishop,” said the Rev. Frank Logue, an Executive Council member with a longtime focus on evangelism. Curry has further elevated those efforts since 2015, Logue said.

General Convention approved $1.8 million for church plants and Mission Enterprise Zones in the 2013-15 triennium, and $3.4 million was allocated for such ministries from 2016 to 2018. The Evangelism and Church Planting Committee, which Logue chairs, has been assigned a resolution (A005) that would approve $6.8 million in spending over the next three years to build on recent successes of these “holy experiments.”

Some students in Appleton Episcopal Ministries’ 2017 session of its Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School learn to play chess. The ministry benefited from a Mission Enterprise Zone grant. Photo: Appleton Episcopal Ministries

“I see there being a move within the church to invest within this area,” Logue said. And while church planting plays a major role – Episcopal News Services recently profiled several examples of successful grant recipients – the church is investing in innovation at all levels, including in established congregations and by dioceses.

Eight resolutions have been assigned to the Evangelism and Church Planting Committee so far, though more may be added by the July 6 filing deadline. Among them is a measure (A030) submitted by Executive Council to renew funding of a small evangelism grant program at $100,000.

Those grants are limited to $2,000 for congregations and up to $8,000 for dioceses or regional ministries, and typically they support one-time events rather than the ongoing work of church plants, Logue said. Like church plants, some of these smaller initiatives may provide models for new ministries churchwide.

“We’ve seen some good things happen with a small amount of money,” said Logue, who serves as canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Georgia.

Evangelism is one of three priorities that General Convention set for the current triennium, along with racial reconciliation and care of creation. The three will serve as focal points for separate joint sessions of General Convention in a new series of panel discussions called TEConversations.

The discussion of evangelism will be at 2:30 p.m. July 7, and the panel will feature the Rev. Lauren Winner, a priest and author; Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe, who led revivals at every congregation in his diocese last year, and the Rev. Daniel Velez-Rivera, a church planter in the Diocese of Virginia. The racial reconciliation discussion is July 6. Care of creation will be the topic July 10.

All three priorities inform the Episcopal Church’s mission, and they relate to each other, said California Bishop Marc Andrus, who is co-chair of an advisory body that submitted a resolution (A019) on the intersection of evangelism, church planting and care of creation. The Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation’s resolution calls for creation of a task force to study and encourage those connections.

“They’re not really separate things,” Andrus said, and while many church plants already approach their work by incorporating racial reconciliation and environmental stewardship into their evangelism, he hopes the proposed task force would provide the groundwork for making that approach commonplace.

“An integrated approach to planting churches and evangelism is a healthy way of doing evangelism,” he said. “It relates to the one spirit of Christ, who’s not divided. Christ doesn’t prefer one cause of justice over another.”

The Rev. Stephanie Johnson, the advisory council’s other co-chair, agrees.

“By recognizing that care of creation is central to our faith, we understand that reconciliation with all God’s creatures is part of who we are,” said Johnson, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Riverside, Connecticut.

This also might enhance the church’s outreach to younger generations, which was another consideration alluded to in the resolution submitted by the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation.

“It’s important to them to know that the church cares about their future and the generations that come after them,” Johnson said.

Some resolutions assigned to the evangelism committee are intended to continue work already underway, such the budgetary resolution submitted by the Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting and Executive Council’s resolution on small evangelism grants. Executive Council also submitted a resolution (A031) to affirm the creation of a new staff officer position to help administer the church planting network.

Another resolution submitted by the Genesis Group (A006) calls for the collection of demographic info about the church leaders behind new evangelism ministries, so that data can be compared with info on the communities they are trying to serve.

The resolution doesn’t call for any further action in response to that information, but Logue, who is the Executive Council liaison to the Genesis Group, said simply having that information may encourage ministers to think more about representation. A Latino outreach ministry, for example, would benefit from Latino leaders, just as it makes sense to have a young person taking the lead in a ministry that targets millennials.

Other resolutions ask General Convention to commend advisory bodies’ findings to the church. One of those is the Evangelism Charter (A029) drafted by Executive Council’s Local Ministry & Mission Committee to promote a common language for describing and carrying out the work of evangelism.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the evening of Nov. 17 helps start the Diocese of San Joaquin’s three-day revival. The kickoff event was held on the campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Curry has led the way in the past 16 months by presiding at large, public revivals in dioceses around the church, but despite the presiding bishop’s talk of being part of the “Jesus Movement,” many Episcopalians may not fully understand the call to evangelism underlying that term, Logue said. The Evangelism Charter, then, is a reference point for common action.

Logue, too, stressed it is important not to construe evangelism as suggesting the Episcopal Church or Episcopalians have all the answers. Evangelism “will also change us,” he said.

The Task Force on Leveraging Social Media for Evangelism submitted a resolution (A081) asking General Convention to disseminate its white paper, “A Practical Theology of Episcopal Evangelism: Face-to-Face and in Cyberspace,” included in its Blue Book report.

The report takes a deep theological dive into what it means to promote evangelism in a contemporary world where much of our communication with other people happens online.

“Our call to share the Good News does not go away when we log on to Facebook or Instagram,” the white paper says. “We have the opportunity to follow the Holy Spirit’s invitation into a joyful, surprising adventure that changes us as much as it changes the people and communities we encounter.”

Much of the document’s advice will be useful for Episcopal evangelists working on any platform, from street corners to cyberspace. Walker Adams, the task force’s chair, said social media is a valuable tool for evangelism, but a digital evangelist still needs to ground that work in a personal faith journey.

“I think it would be best if we spent some time thinking about who we are, what we believe and how we articulate that,” said Adams, a Diocese of West Missouri member now working in admissions at Sewanee: The University of the South. “If we can’t come up with sort of the basic concepts of sharing your own story and your own relationship with Jesus, it doesn’t really matter how you put it online.”

General Convention called for creation of the task force in 2015, to develop a curriculum for digital evangelism.  At the same time, Adams said, Curry’s efforts as chief evangelism officer “really brought evangelism to the forefront,” including through the hiring of the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, and Jeremy Tackett, digital evangelist. Curry’s evangelism team created something called the Evangelism Toolkit, intended to train Episcopalians at all levels in new ways of sharing their faith.

It's Social Media Sunday this Sunday. Time to share the Good News in word and image. #SMS17 #chsocm #evangelism pic.twitter.com/BjdQAWFjua

— Episcopal Maryland (@episcomd) September 21, 2017

Adams’ task force submitted a second resolution (A082) asking General Convention for $100,000 to follow through with such training. One option, he said, would be to identify a digital evangelism point person in each diocese who can work with congregations and parishioners. Rather than waiting for the presiding bishop’s staff to visit every congregation, it may be more effective to train more regional trainers.

“I think evangelism isn’t something that can wait,” Adams said. “The church is wrapped up I evangelism now. The church is excited.”

Spellers told ENS in an email that she, too, is excited about where the continuing conversation about evangelism will lead at General Convention.

“Walking into this General Convention, our church now has dozens of vibrant new ministries with the coaching and support and training Convention dreamed of,” Spellers said. “We’ve seen two Evangelism Matters summits and conferences and launched a network of Episcopal Evangelists. We’ve partnered with dioceses to organize six Episcopal Revivals and trained more than a thousand evangelists in those host communities. We’ve got a comprehensive, multilingual, online set of resources called the Evangelism Toolkit and a new Evangelism Grants program.

“If ‘Episcopal Evangelism’ was an oxymoron before, those days are over.”

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

Group of bishops propose compromise on thorny issue of paying House of Deputies president

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 12:08pm

[Episcopal News Service] A group of bishops has proposed a compromise on the question of whether the president of the House of Deputies should be paid, an issue that has proved divisive at previous General Conventions.

The compromise comes as the result of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s desire for the issue to get a “full and fair conversation” in the House of Bishops, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania Sean Rowe told Episcopal News Service June 28.

That conversation began informally at the March House of Bishops meeting. Rowe and the group then crafted Resolution B014 that would direct the church’s Executive Council to pay the House of Deputies president director’s fees “for specific services rendered in order to fulfill duties required by the church’s Constitution and Canons.”

The resolution, and others related to the issue, will be debated during the July 5-13 meeting of General Convention in Austin, Texas.

Corporations typically pay director’s fees to board members for providing services to the corporation. Rowe acknowledged that directors of non-profit corporations and organizations are not always compensated in the same way. However, he said, “it does happen.”

Resolution B014 addresses two important concerns that the bishops group gleaned from the conversations, Rowe said. One was that the House of Deputies’ president role requires a significant enough time commitment that some aspects of the work need to be compensated. The other concern was that the compensation should happen in a way that does not change the polity of the church.

Providing director fees, the resolution’s explanation says, “does not alter the governing documents of the Episcopal Church or the scope and responsibilities of the position.”

Rowe officially proposed the resolution and Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Tom Breidenthal and Diocese of Western New York Bishop Bill Franklin are the endorsers.

The question of a salary for the now-unpaid position of House of Deputies president prompted a rare conference committee between bishops and deputies in the waning hours of the last convention. The 2015 meeting of convention eventually agreed to postpone making a decision, instead calling for the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies to appoint a task force to study the issue.

The Task Force to Study Church Leadership and Compensation concluded in its report to convention that the president of the House of Deputies’ work amounts to a full-time job. Its Resolution A-028 calls for a salary but does not set an amount.

The task force asked Executive Council to include a proposed salary in the draft 2019-2021 budget, which it gave to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) in January. The council did not set an amount, but it included $900,000 for a full-time salary and benefits for the three years in the draft budget (line 557 here).

Diane Pollard, who chaired the task force, told Episcopal News Service that she appreciates the effort at a compromise solution and supports Rowe’s resolution.

“We can do no less than to come together around this issue and move it forward in a definitive way in which it can be effective,” she said. “If [Rowe’s] resolution will do that, fine. If they want to take [the task force’s] resolution and do it, that’s fine, too.”

Pollard said the issue of compensation is both a justice issue for any potential holder of the office and an issue of widening the pool of those potential candidates. “You either have to be wealthy or old, because you have to have income,” she said. “You give up a lot.”

She added that despite the tendency to personalize the issue, “this is not about getting a salary for an incumbent.”

In addition to chairing the House of Deputies during convention, the president also is canonically required to serve as vice chair of Executive Council and vice president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, or DFMS, the nonprofit corporate entity through which the Episcopal Church owns property and does business. He or she has a wide swath of appointment powers. The president also travels around the church, speaking at conferences and other gatherings, meeting with deputies and other Episcopalians.

The position, which is filled by election during each meeting of convention, has a travel budget and a paid assistant. Each president is limited to three consecutive terms.

The president’s role has been changing since 1967 when the convention gave the position a three-year term instead of simply being elected to preside during convention. It also made the president the vice chair of Executive Council and thus a vice president of the DFMS, and defined the president’s authority in making appointments. Rowe’s resolution notes that expansion of the duties of the office has paralleled an expansion of the presiding bishop’s role.

The deputies who served on the task force have issued questions and answers about the issue of compensating the president of the House of Deputies.

Meanwhile, Province IV of the church proposes a different approach to the salary issue. Its Resolution C042 would have Executive Council set what it calls per diem compensation for the president when she or he is at council meetings, consults with the presiding bishop in making appointments required by canon, and when doing official work related to General Convention. Calling it a way to address the “short-term the fairness issue of compensating the president,” the resolution also proposes that a special task force “clarify and enumerate the comprehensive role” of the president.

The issue of compensating that officeholder has been discussed for decades. General Convention considered the salary issue in 1997, 2000 and 2015. Each time, Rowe said, the deputies were clear each time that they wanted to see their president compensated.

Supporters of the change say making the office a paid job would broaden the pool of people able to consider running for election. No House of Deputies president has held regular paid employment since the election in 1985 of the Very Rev. David Collins, who retired early at age 62 from his position as dean of the cathedral in Atlanta in order to adequately carry out his presidential duties, according to the report.

The task force suggested that only people who are older and/or have what it called favorable “personal economic circumstances” can realistically hold the office. Thus, presidents are not always chosen based solely on gifts and skills, the members said.

“The task force came to the conclusion that providing a salary for the president of the House of Deputies is not only a good thing, but also essential for the growth of the Episcopal Church,” the task force said. “Moreover, it is demanded by good stewardship of the human resources entrusted to us in those who would devote their full-time service to the Episcopal Church.”

Other disagree, some saying they fear “mission creep” in the form of an expansion of the president’s duties and authority.

Some cite Resolution A099 proposed to this convention that would allow the president to call a meeting of the House of Deputies at times other than the triennial gathering of convention.

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

Dos programas diarios desde la Convención General: Adentro de la Convención General e Inside General Convention

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 6:49am

Dos programas transmitidos diariamente desde el evento ofrecerán una perspectiva interna de la 79. ª Convención General a todos los miembros de la iglesia episcopal.

“Para muchas personas, la Convención General puede resultar abrumadora”, dijo el Rdo. Lorenzo Lebrija, el anfitrión de los dos programas Adentro de la Convención General e Inside General Convention “sin embargo este año queremos cambiar eso. Vamos a llevarlos a todos los rincones del centro de convenciones. Vamos a conocer a todo tipo de personas dentro de la Iglesia y les daremos una perspectiva privilegiada”.

Adentro de la Convención General se estrena el 4 de julio a las 6:30 de la tarde (Hora del Centro de los Estados Unidos). Junto con Lebrija estarán los corresponsales Hugo Olaiz para Adentro de la Convención General y Hannah Wilder para Inside General Convention.

Tanto Adentro de la Convención General como Inside General Convention son producciones de la Oficina de comunicación. Los programas se transmitirán por 30 minutos y tendrán formato de revista. Cada programa ofrecerá noticias y temas destacados además de su propia lista de invitados y entrevistas. A partir del 4 de julio los espectadores pueden encontrar Adentro de la Convención General o Inside General Convention aquí. Los programas también estarán disponibles en el Centro de Medios de Comunicación, en vivo y por pedido (on-demand).

El productor Jeremy Tackett, evangelizador en los medios digitales dijo, “usamos por primera vez este formato en marzo pasado durante la conferencia “La Evangelización Importa” y de inmediato supimos que era el método ideal para nuestra cobertura durante la Convención General”.

El Servicio Episcopal de Noticias también proveerá cobertura diaria de la Convención General.

La 79.ª Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal se llevará a cabo del jueves 5 al viernes 13 de julio en el Austin Convention Center, en Austin, Texas Diócesis de Texas

Conozca al presentador y a los corresponsales

El Rdo. Lorenzo Lebrija es el Director General de Desarrollo de la Diócesis Episcopal de Los Ángeles, un papel que asumió después de servir en varias congregaciones en el área del Sur de California.

Hugo Olaiz es editor asociado de los recursos Latino/Hispanos de Forward Movement, una agencia de la Iglesia Episcopal encargada de inspirar a los discípulos y empoderar a los evangelistas. Sirve en la sacristía de la iglesia de la Santa Trinidad (Holy Trinity Church) y en el Consejo Asesor del Misionero para el Ministerio Latino/Hispano de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Durante los últimos once años, Hannah Wilder, ha sido la directora de comunicaciones de la diócesis episcopal de San Diego. Ella es una apasionada acerca de transmitir un mensaje cristiano progresivo y socialmente-activo y está siguiendo un periodo de formación para convertirse en una sacerdote episcopal.

La Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal se celebra cada tres años para deliberar los asuntos legislativos de la Iglesia. La Convención General es el organismo bicameral que gobierna la Iglesia, compuesta de la Cámara de los Obispos, con más de 200 obispos activos y jubilados, y la Cámara de los Diputados, con más de 800 diputados clérigos y laicos elegidos, de entre las 109 diócesis y las tres zonas regionales de la Iglesia. Entre convenciones, la Convención General continúa su trabajo a través de sus comités y comisiones. El Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal lleva a cabo los programas y políticas aprobados por la Convención General.

General Convention will have its #MeToo moments

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 3:26pm

[Episcopal News Service] The 79th meeting of General Convention will ponder the Episcopal Church’s role in and response to the #MeToo movement with resolutions, reflections and the hope for reconciliation.

In what could be an extraordinary session, the House of Bishops is inviting Episcopalians to a “Liturgy of Listening” event. The session, planned for 5:15 to 7 p.m. CT in the worship space set up in the Austin Convention Center, has been called “a sacred space for listening and further reconciliation.”

Meanwhile, close to 30 related resolutions have been filed. The bulk of them are from the 47 members of the special House of Deputies Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation appointed in February by the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, deputies’ president.

Purpose and shape of ‘Liturgy of Listening’

Diocese of Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, who chairs the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Response to #MeToo Planning Team, hopes that the groundwork for convention’s debate and passing of resolutions aimed at ending sexual harassment and exploitation will be set during the liturgy. Planned for the day before convention formally opens, participants will be invited to open themselves to the idea that sexual harassment and exploitation happen “because we aren’t seeing the image of Christ in one another.”

The session, Duncan-Probe told Episcopal News Service, will be anchored in the idea that Episcopalians believe in the transformational power of liturgy. “We come in our pain and our sorrow, and we hold it before God’s dream for the church and God’s mercy and grace,” she said. “As we do that, Jesus is in our midst and we have a moment where a new future is possible.”

The bishops in May invited Episcopalians to “share reflections on sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation,” saying that a selection of the reflections, with no names attached, would be read as part of the liturgy.  The planning team later clarified the confidential nature of the process for receiving and sharing those reflections. Planners have stressed that the session is not a clergy discipline, or Title IV, hearing.

About 40 people chose to share their stories with the planning team, and 10 will be read aloud during the service by bishops. The stories will be told in the first person with no identifying details. Even the so-called “reading bishops” do not know the name of the person whose story they will read, Duncan-Probe said. Using the first-person voice, she said, “when you hear something in the first person, you automatically project yourself into it.”

She said that “most of the time, these stories are told in secret. They are told in private to a bishop with a chancellor present, and it’s all confidential. And then they’re whispered about at coffee hour and told behind the water cooler, but never have we gathered as a church and heard these stories told out loud without any hidden agenda.”

The liturgy, which will be live streamed here, was specifically written by the team for this purpose and will have a simple structure, Duncan-Probe said. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry with invite those present into “sacred listening.” Each story will be prayed over and meditated on in silence. The bishops who will be seated throughout the congregation will stand and repent their role in damage that has been done. All participants will also be asked to repent the times they were “silent observers” and predators, failed to honor one another and failed to recognize one another as beloved children of God.

“Some hard things are going to be said that I think will be a surprise because people have thought that this was going to be c.y.a. by the bishops or something like that,” Duncan-Probe, said.

There will be a pastoral response team made up of clinical psychologists, therapists and spiritual directors  available before, during and after the service and throughout General Convention, she said. Moreover, a group of people who understand the Title IV clergy disciplinary procedures will also be available to help explain that process.

Resolutions coming to convention

The House of Deputies committee’s 24 resolutions focus on inclusive theology and language; disparities in pay, hiring, leave and pensions; changes to the Title IV disciplinary process and training; truth and reconciliation; and systemic social justice beyond the church. Jennings, who chaired the committee, told Episcopal News Service via email that the committee has “worked efficiently, collaborative and creatively to draft an impressive array of legislation. The Rev. Ruth Meyers, an alternate deputy in the Diocese of California, was vice-chair of the committee, and Jennings said she “led an enormous amount of work on a tight timeline.” Jennings said she is grateful to Meyers and to “all of the women whose efforts are leading the Episcopal Church to confess our sins of gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence against women and girls and to end the systemic sexism, misogyny and misuse of power that plague the church and the culture.”

The committee’s 38-page report is here.

The General Convention Office is in the midst of posting the special committee’s resolutions here. Some are awaiting numbering, and other need information. The 24 resolutions are:

* A178 halt the intensification, implementation of immigration policies, practices harmful to migrant women, parents and children (proposed by Jennings)
* B011 inclusive language policies for Episcopal seminaries, formation programs (resolution written by committee members and proposed by Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal)
* D016 a task force for women, truth, and reconciliation
* D017 reducing sexual harassment, assault and exploitation in the workplace
* D020 a task force to survey the church to understand sexual harassment and assault in the church
* D021 revision of Office of Transition Ministry portfolio information
* D022 reinstatement of the Women’s Desk
* D023 required training for clergy and bishops establish an anti-sexism task force
* D025 required training for clergy and bishops
* D026 non-discrimination in hiring and clergy deployment
* D036 revision of the Book of Common Prayer to include inclusive and expansive language
* D040 study the status of women musicians in the church
* DXXX Church Pension Fund to report triennially on clergy compensation
* DXXX expansive-language liturgical resources
* DXXX using bias-free, expansive language for God and humanity
* DXXX pension equity for lay employees
* DXXX recommendation for ecumenical agreements
* DXXX: reconciliation and mediation between clergy
* DXXX: change Title IV on clergy discipline to prevent retaliation
* DXXX: change Title IV to provide whistleblower protection
* DXXX: suspend statute of limitations in Title IV for a period of time
* DXXX a churchwide intake officer in clergy discipline cases
* DXXX: recognizing and ending domestic violence in our congregations
* DXXX: equal access to health care regardless of gender

In addition, the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons has filed two canonical-change resolutions. Resolution A108 concerns sexual misconduct prevention training for priests and deacons. Resolution A124 clarifies language about sexual misconduct used in the Title III canons. In addition, the standing commission is calling for a task force on sexual harassment (A109) and for the church to adopt the Charter for Safety of People Within the Churches of the Anglican Communion (A115).

There are three resolutions (A048A049 and A50) from the Task Force to Update Sexual Misconduct Policies.

The roots of the listening session and the resolutions coming to convention are in a Jan. 22 letter from Curry and Jennings, calling on Episcopalians to spend Lent and beyond examining the church’s history and its handling or mishandling of cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. Curry and Jennings said in the letter to the church that they wanted General Convention to discuss these issues because they “want to hear the voice of the wider church as we determine how to proceed in both atoning for the church’s past and shaping a more just future.”

Jennings appointed the special deputies committee after she said she had be contacted by “scores of women” who wanted to share their stories.

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

Church of English bishops in nationwide evangelism and church planting drive

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 3:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Nearly half of Church of England churches have fewer than five under 16-year olds, a report to next month’s General Synod says. But the Church is seeking to change this through a new Youth Evangelism Task Group chaired by the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Paul Williams; who has also become the lead bishop on youth evangelism. The Church has also appointed a national Youth Evangelism Officer, Jimmy Dale, as part of “structural change” designed to tackle “the challenge the Church of England faces in reaching and discipling young people.”

Read the full article here.

Task force proposes plans to meet ministerial needs in small congregations

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 11:59am

[Episcopal News Service] Although capacious churches, glorious choirs, multiple clergy and the smells and bells of Holy Day services may capture the imagination of Episcopalians, the reality is that the majority of congregations in the Episcopal Church tend toward the smaller size with often dramatically different backdrops and ministerial needs than large churches.

In fact, according to data presented by the Task Force on Clergy Leadership Formation in Small Congregations, 69 percent of Episcopal congregations have an average Sunday attendance of less than 100, placing them in the category of “small congregation.”  To take this even further, bishops surveyed by the task force reported that a “substantial minority” of their congregations number less than 20 on an average Sunday.

Recognizing their unique needs and issues, the 78th General Convention three years ago asked for a task force to “develop a plan for quality formation for clergy in small congregations that is affordable, theologically reflective and innovative.”

In other words, the task force was charged with recommending steps to provide the “resources to help God’s mission go forward” in small congregations, the Rev.  Susanna Singer said in a telephone interview.  And unless more and different resources are provided, she added, the traditional model of seminary trained clerics serving small congregations cannot be sustained.

Singer serves as chair of the task force and is also associate professor of ministry development at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

Among the issues facing small congregations is that many are located in rural communities and often remote locales that may not appeal to clergy, especially those fresh out of seminary, she said.  Since most seminaries are in cities, Singer said seminarians tend to remain in urban areas

“The pool of people who are discerning ministries are not in rural areas,” she said. “Persuading traditionally formed clergy to move to rural areas is difficult for small congregations.”

Another headwind that small congregations confront is their inability to pay a full-time rector or compete financially with what large, urban congregations can offer.  Consequently, small congregations may need to rely on clergy who serve with little or no pay or have vocations in addition to the ministry.

“The findings of the task force indicate that in the future, an increasing number of ordained ministers in the Episcopal Church will be non-stipendiary or bi-vocational,” the task force’s report concluded. “The data also shows that small congregations will depend more heavily on these clergy.

To confront these challenges, the task force will propose a pair of resolutions to present to the General Convention next month in Austin aimed at improving clergy and licensed lay leadership formation in small congregations and to provide funding for theological education and formation for those wishing to serve small congregations through non-traditional pathways.

“To meet the need of small congregations for clergy and to avoid burdening these clergy with substantial debt, new strategies to provide funding for their theological education are needed,” the report said.

To prepare its recommendations, the task force first identified specific areas to concentrate its focus. These include the capacities and skills considered most necessary for clergy and lay leaders in small congregations, ways to financially support those seeking ordination to serve in small congregations, how to encourage more under-represented populations to serve as lay leaders and ordained ministers, and how to better share and make available formation, theological and educational resources.

The task force also conducted a survey of bishops, canons and chairs of commissions on ministry to obtain their input.  Although lay members of small congregations were not specifically included in the survey, a number of those surveyed had experience in these settings.  The task force considered surveying small and rural congregations but concluded it was not feasible to obtain a representative and valid sampling.

Based on its work, the task force concluded that there is “already a wealth of resources available for leadership formation” from many different cultural and theological orientations.  The problem, however, is the lack of awareness of the existence of the resources, the lack of staff to access them and a “siloing” effect that hinders the sharing of resources throughout the Episcopal Church.

“Small dioceses don’t have the kind of staffing to find the resources,” Singer said.  “People only know about a narrow sliver of what’s out there.”

Another area of identified needs was “for robust discernment and formation for clergy and lay leadership so that small congregations…may be most effectively served,” the task force said.

Availability of “appropriate and culturally-sensitive vocational discernment and formation materials and strategies for clergy leaders called from ethnic minority communities” was also found to be lacking. And “there is also a clear need for greater availability of suitable resources in Spanish.”

When the task force submitted its report for the General Convention’s Blue Book, it requested $900,000 in Resolution A022 to create a “Formation Networking Team” to serve as a referral hub for existing and specially developed resources for the discernment of clergy and lay vocations, formation and training.

The task force met the early deadline requirements for submissions to the convention’s reports but has done “substantial work” and interviews after its initial report was submitted, Singer said.

Based on its subsequent work and interviews, the task force intends to submit a substitute resolution that combines its proposed Resolutions A022 through A026. The substitute resolution will reduce its budget request to $300,000 by relying more on part-time team members with minimal stipends “just so we have a chance” to get its funding approved, Singer said.

Another significant change planned for the substitute resolution concerns renaming the proposed Formation Networking Team name as the Theological Education Networking Team (TENT) to make it “more indicative” of its purpose and goal, she said.

The task force also submitted Resolution A027 which would direct the Executive Council to establish a committee to “develop and implement a plan to provide need-based central scholarship funding to individuals pursuing theological education to serve as priests or deacons” in small congregations on a non-stipendiary positions or in bi-vocational basis.

Singer said the task force was presented with an “enormous task” but focused its work on generating a plan that is doable and a start, not the “do all, end all. It’s very concrete and specific and will probably open the doors for other developments.  It provides a stepping stone.”

— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry meets backstage with U2, Bono to talk about Reclaiming Jesus

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 10:51am

This photo released by U2 shows Presiding Bishop Michael Curry posing with band members, from left, Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton backstage at Madison Square Garden on June 25.

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry met backstage this week with U2 and front man Bono at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where the Episcopal Church leader and the globally renowned rockers discussed Curry’s Reclaiming Jesus initiative.

The meeting happened in the evening June 25 just before the first of a series of U2 concerts in New York on the band’s Experience + Innocence tour. A photo released by the band shows the foursome posing with Curry.

“I know of no other group that has sung and witnessed more powerfully to the way of love than U2,” Curry said June 27 in a written statement to Episcopal News Service. “It was a real blessing to sit with them to talk about Jesus, the way of love, and changing our lives and the world. They are an extraordinary community gift to us all.”

U2, which formed in the late 1970s, has been one of the most popular rock bands in the world for more than 30 years, and Bono – among that rarefied group of musicians known globally by a single name – makes headlines these days as much for his support for humanitarian causes as for his music.

Curry, too, has become something of a minor global celebrity since his sermon on the power of love at the royal wedding on May 19. After the wedding, he was invited to discuss the sermon on a dizzying variety of media outlets, from the BBC to celebrity gossip site TMZ. Curry told ENS last month that he sees the sudden attention as a unique opportunity for evangelism, as he tries in interviews to bring the conversation around to what he often calls the “Jesus Movement.”

Reclaiming Jesus is a new initiative he spearheaded this year with the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners to address “a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches” and to affirm what it means to be followers of Jesus in today’s world.

U2 and Bono have not yet commented publicly on Reclaiming Jesus, though Curry said he spoke with them about its origins and intention.

“I shared with them our commitment to reclaim Jesus of Nazareth as the center of Christian  faith and life,” Curry said in his statement to ENS. “And this means a way of faith with love of God and Love of neighbor at the core. A love that is not sentimental but a disciplined commitment and spiritual practice infusing every aspect of life, personally, intra personally and politically.”

It’s a beautiful day.

Episcopales participan en concentración y marcha de la Campaña de los Pobres en Washington

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 7:36am

Miembros de la Catedral Nacional de Washington asistieron el 23 de junio a la concentración de la Campaña de los Pobres en el Paseo Nacional. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Hace cincuenta años, el Rdo. Martin Luther King Jr. encabezó una Campaña de los Pobres. Como parte de esa campaña, durante un viaje a Memphis, Tennessee, en abril de 1968, en apoyo de obreros sanitarios afroamericanos que se encontraban en huelga en demanda de mejores salarios, King fue asesinado. Hoy, una nueva Campaña de los Pobres está en marcha y hay episcopales participando en ella.

“Hoy, ustedes son los miembros fundadores de la Campaña de los Pobres del siglo XXI: un llamado nacional al avivamiento moral’ Nos reunimos hoy para un llamado a la acción. Nos reunimos aquí para declarar que es el momento de un alzamiento moral en todos los Estados Unidos’, dijo el Rdo. William Barber el 23 de junio. El copreside la Campaña de los Pobres: Un llamado al avivamiento moral, junto con la Rda. Liz Theoharis.

“Esto no es la conmemoración de lo que sucedió hace 50 años, esto es la reconstrucción, y la reinauguración. Porque ustedes no conmemoran a profetas ni a movimientos proféticos. Ustedes van a la sangre donde ellos cayeron y recogen y asumen el relevo y lo llevan por la próxima milla. Durante tres años hemos estado echando los cimientos de abajo hacia arriba, no de arriba abajo”.

King y la Conferencia de Líderes Cristianos del Sur organizaron la original Campaña de los Pobres en que exigían derechos económicos y humanos para los pobres en Estados Unidos.

El Rdo. William Barber y la Rda. Liz Theoharis copresiden la Campaña de los Pobres. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Barber, ministro y activista, dirigió la campaña de los Lunes Morales [Moral Mondays] en Carolina del Norte y es el presidente de Reparadores de la Brecha [Repairers of the Breach] una organización sin fines de lucro que procura crear una agenda moral y redimir el corazón y el alma de Estados Unidos. Theoharis, ministra presbiteriana, y fundadora y codirectora del Centro Kairos para las Religiones, los Derechos y la Justicia Social y coordinadora de la Iniciativa de la Pobreza en el Seminario Teológico Unión.

Miles de personas, entre ellas al menos 100 episcopales, de todas partes del país en representación de organizaciones de justicia social, iglesias e iniciativas de carácter religioso, se reunieron el 23 de junio en Washington, D.C. para una manifestación y marcha de la Campaña de los Pobres. Durante tres horas y media en el Paseo Nacional, los oradores, la mayoría de ellos viviendo en los lindes de la pobreza, compartieron sus historias personales respecto al racismo sistémico, la degradación medioambiental y otros indicadores de pobreza. Luego de la manifestación, los asistentes se fueron a la calle y desfilaron hasta el edificio del Capitolio, coreando consignas como “A esto se parece la democracia” y “El pueblo unido no será dividido”.

La concentración y la marcha en Washington fue el resultado de 40 días de acción a nivel estatal organizada en torno a seis temas: racismo sistémico, pobreza y desigualdad, devastación ecológica, economía de guerra y militarismo y ética nacional.

La concentración y la marcha también siguieron a una semana intensa de cobertura noticiosa sobre las normas migratorias de EE.UU. La política migratoria de “tolerancia cero” del gobierno de Trump que desde principios de abril ha estado separando a los niños de sus padres en la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos. La política de separación familiar de la Administración y la crisis humanitaria que se desarrolla en la frontera ha suscitado la condena internacional y ha afectado la reputación de Estados Unidos en el extranjero.

“Estados Unidos es grande porque es bueno”, dijo el obispo primado Michael Curry, citando a Alexis de Tocqueville en una alocución videográfica transmitida en una gran pantalla a la multitud reunida en el paseo.

“Debemos hacer a Estados Unidos grande otra vez, no por la fuerza, no por el poder, no por mi poderío, sino por la bondad. Hacer a Estados Unidos grande por la justicia, hacer a Estados Unidos grande por la libertad, hacer a Estados Unidos grande por la igualdad. La Campaña de los Pobres no está simplemente conmemorando el pasado, no obstante recuerda el pasado, recuerda el valor del Dr. King y de otros que llevaron adelante la primera Campaña de los Pobres”, dijo Curry.

“La Campaña de los Pobres se congrega a fin de ayudar a esta nación a vivir a la altura de sus verdaderos valores: su decencia moral, su humana compasión, su sentido de la justicia y de la equidad. Queremos que esta nación sea una nación donde haya libertad y justicia para todos. Queremos que ésta sea una nación donde el racismo no mancille nuestro carácter moral, donde el prejuicio no se oiga ni se vea nunca más en nuestra patria. Donde las injusticias del pasado se corrijan construyendo un futuro nuevo. Ese es el Estados Unidos que buscamos. Por eso es que ustedes se han reunido, por eso es que marchan. Por eso es que juntos buscamos ponerle fin a la pobreza humana en esta tierra de abundancia. Debemos hacer posible el día en que ningún niño se acueste con hambre en este país nunca más”.

En Estados Unidos de hoy día, 43,1 millones de personas, o el 12,7 por ciento de la población, vive en la pobreza. Las estadísticas se equiparan con el porcentaje de personas pobres en 1968, cuando la población era de 200 millones, en comparación con los 327 millones de hoy.

La Rda. Melanie Mullen, directora de reconciliación, justicia y cuidado de la creación de la Iglesia Episcopal, y el Rdo. Stan Runnels, rector de la iglesia episcopal de San Pablo en Kansas City, Misurí, y miembro del Consejo Ejecutivo, se disponen a marchar hacia el edificio del Capitolio el 23 de junio. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

“La Iglesia Episcopal fue la segunda denominación que firmó oficialmente como coauspiciadora de la Campaña de los Pobres y esta es probablemente la primera vez que nuestra denominación ha hecho eso. Se produjo mediante el decreto del Consejo Ejecutivo en que quedaba definido que el liderazgo de la Iglesia la conduciría en esta asociación deliberada y productiva no sólo nominalmente, sino que llevaría a personas al movimiento y reintroduciría los temas en la Iglesia”, dijo la Rda. Melanie Mullen, directora de reconciliación, justicia y cuidado de la creación de la Iglesia.

Episcopales, laicos y ordenados, han participado en la acción directa en sus capitales estatales a lo largo de los 40 días que ha durado esta actividad, pero la Campaña de los Pobres, trasciende eso.

“Esto no se trata sólo de unos 40 días y se acabó. Queremos ser capaces de alentar y educar a nuestros laicos, a nuestra gente en las congregaciones, de cómo vivir la fe en la vida pública”, dijo Mullen. “también queremos crear una nuevo paradigma de lo que significa ser un clérigo; es seguro y aceptable dar público testimonio de fe y aprender de los ejemplos los unos de los otros, la manera de enseñar, de predicar, de dirigir al pueblo en las calles. Estamos haciendo algo nuevo y ojalá que, avanzando con el apoyo del Consejo Ejecutivo, podamos ayudar a hacer un cambio cultural en nuestra Iglesia que ayudara a cambiar el país”.

Hace cincuenta años, cuando King lanzó la primera Campaña de los Pobres, la Iglesia Episcopal y las otras principales denominaciones blancas, rehusaron amablemente participar, dijo el Rdo. Stan Runnels, rector de la iglesia episcopal de San Pablo [St. Paul’s ] en Kansas City, Misurí, y miembro del Consejo Ejecutivo.

El Rdo. Stan Runnels, rector de la iglesia episcopal de San Pablo en Kansas City, Misurí, y miembro del Consejo Ejecutivo, la Rda. Hershey Mallett Stephens, coordinadora de proyectos del Departamento de Reconciliación, Justicia y Cuidado de la Creación del Centro Denominacional de la Iglesia y Katelyn Kenney, una pasante de la Ofrenda Unida de Gracias, marchan hacia el Capitolio el 23 de junio como parte de la Campaña de los Pobres. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

“Lo importante acerca de esto, cuando el Rdo. Dr. Barber lo reconsideró en el 50ª. Aniversario, para mí y para muchos, es que la Iglesia Episcopal no cometió el mismo error de hace muchos años”, dijo Runnels, en una entrevista con Episcopal News Service luego de la Oración Matutina en la iglesia de la Epifanía [Church of the Epiphany].

A lo largo de los años, la Iglesia Episcopal ha sido estupenda respecto a “decir lo que corresponde”, pero ha rehusado encarnar el llamado moral y a ser un testigo encarnado, dijo Runnels. “Así como el obispo Curry habla de la rama episcopal del Movimiento de Jesús, también tiene que ser el movimiento de la justicia”.

Al crear una estrategia para una nueva Campaña de los Pobres, Barber y otros líderes reconocieron que los problemas de justicia sólo se han expandido y se han empeorado desde 1968, afirmó él.

“Con un importante granito de valor y previsión, el liderazgo de la nueva Campaña de los Pobres ha expandido el alcance de los problemas que aborda… se ha convertido en una especie de expresión holística de todos los problemas que afectan a la gente, cada uno de los cuales de una manera u otra se conectan con el problema subyacente de la pobreza”, dijo Runnels.

“Donde en el 68 resultaba claro que el racismo se traducía en pobreza para un componente de la población, el componente afroamericano, en 2018 los problemas de la pobreza afectan una sección representativa mucho más amplia y se manifiestan de muchas maneras diferentes. Lo emocionante respecto a esta campaña es su naturaleza polimórfica, se relaciona con muchos problemas diferentes”.

Los episcopales se reunieron no lejos de la Casa Blanca a las 8:30 AM del 23 de junio en la iglesia de la Epifanía para la Oración Matutina y para compartir sus ideas y experiencias acumuladas en los 40 días de acción previos a la concentración y a la marcha.

“Este movimiento es una campaña a largo plazo, no algo de una sola vez”, dijo la Rda. Glenna J. Huber, rectora de la Epifanía, durante la Oración Matutina. “No es para los débiles ni los pusilánimes, no todos somos llamados a ser arrestados o a actuar, pero todos somos llamados a orar, y todos somos llamados a testificar”.

-Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Voces interreligiosas que exigen cambios en la política migratoria marcan la pauta en Washington

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 7:31am

Familias migrantes de México, que huyen de la violencia, escuchan a agentes del Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza antes de entrar en Estados Unidos para solicitar asilo por el Puente la frontera internacional de Paso del Norte en Ciudad Juárez, México, el 20 de junio. Foto de José Luis González/REUTERS.

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Los legisladores cuentan que los teléfonos de sus oficinas en el Capitolio federal no cesan de sonar con las llamadas de estadounidenses exigiendo que los niños migrantes se reúnan con sus padres, y que le pongan fin a la política migratoria del gobierno de Trump de separar a las familias en la frontera sudoccidental.

El representante Jim McGovern, demócrata de Massachusetts. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

“Las llamadas al Capitolio han alcanzado un máximo histórico, de demócratas y republicanos, de la comunidad empresarial”, dijo el representante Jim McGovern, demócrata y catolicorromano de Massachusetts, a los reunidos el 21 de junio en una vigilia de más de 12 horas de oración por la unidad de la familia en la capilla en memoria [del obispo metodista] Simpson en la vecindad del Capitolio.

“Esta [separación de familias] no puede ser el rostro de quienes somos, luego, agradezco que estén aquí, agradezco vuestras oraciones, agradezco vuestro activismo”, dijo McGovern. “Siempre he creído que la fe es más que un mero ritual, es acción; y todos ustedes tienen poderosas voces, y esta es la ocasión de usarlas por amor a estos niños, por amor a estos padres y por amor a este país”.

La Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal, con sede en Washington, D.C., organizó la vigilia de oración en la capilla del edificio de la Iglesia Metodista Unida de la avenida Maryland N.E. De los miembros del Congreso invitados —el senador Tom Carper, presbiteriano y demócrata por Delaware; McGovern y otros dos demócratas: los representantes Jim Clyburn, metodista de Carolina del Sur; y Dwight Evans, bautista de Pensilvania— todos se presentaron e hicieron sus comentarios. La vigilia en la capilla comenzó con una Oración Matutina a las 8:00 AM y concluyó con el rito de Completas.

William Franklin, obispo de Nueva York Occidental, predicó, durante la Oración Matutina, acerca del papel del primer obispo primado William White, el primer capellán del Congreso Continental, quien veía dos autoridades para los cristianos: la Biblia y la razón.

“Somos llamados por la Escritura a ser compasivos, y la razón nos compele a ver que las políticas del gobierno no nos brindan una mayor seguridad, y que es posible tener un política migratoria justa y humana”, dijo Rebecca Linder Blachly, directora de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales.

Al menos 150 personas asistieron a la vigilia en Washington y otras 20.000 la sintonizaron en directo por Facebook.

El senador federal Tom Carper, demócrata de Delaware, el obispo de Nueva York Occidental William Franklin y Rebecca Linder Blachly, directora de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal, durante una vigilia de más de 12 horas que tuvo lugar en la capilla Simpson el 21 de junio. Foto de Alan Yarborough.

“Estamos conmovidos y energizados por la pasión y la compasión que estamos viendo. Estamos comprometidos a orar y a actuar y a ponerle fin a este atropello”, dijo Blachly. “Desde un punto de vista político, hemos visto que políticos de ambos partidos se han pronunciado contra esta crueldad —sabemos que el trauma infligido a los niños se extenderá a la próxima generación”.

El representante Dwight Evans, demócrata por Pensilvania. Foto de Alan Yarborough.

En tanto personas de todas las creencias, entraban y salían de la capilla donde habían acudido en busca de oraciones, historias, testimonio, himnos y fraternidad, la Cámara de Representantes se reunía en la acera de enfrente para votar sobre dos proyectos de ley sobre la inmigración.

“Desafortunadamente, vamos a votar hoy lo que yo llamo ‘leyes de deportación’, no ‘leyes de inmigración’, y eso no resuelve el problema”, dijo Evans de Pensilvania, quien acudió [a la capilla] después de la primera votación.

“[La legislación] no hace nada respecto al problema inmediato de la separación de los niños y las familias a que el Presidente se refirió ayer, sin contar que no hace nada acerca de la ciudadanía a largo plazo de los “soñadores” [dreamers]”, expresó Evans en una entrevista con Episcopal News Service fuera de la capilla.

Dos proyectos de ley se pusieron a votación en la Cámara de Representantes el 21 de junio. El primero, un proyecto de ley de línea dura, no se aprobó. Los republicanos de la Cámara retrasaron la votación sobre un proyecto de ley de concertación que le brindaría a jóvenes inmigrantes indocumentados, a quienes se les conoce como “Dreamers” una vía para acceder a la ciudadanía y les permitiría a las familias estar detenidas juntas.

Sin embargo, el proyecto de ley de concertación no le brinda un arreglo permanente a por los menos 3,6 millones de estos “soñadores”, o inmigrantes indocumentados que fueron traídos ilegalmente a Estados Unidos como menores y que están protegidos de deportación por la norma migratoria de 2012 Acción Diferida para los Llegados en la Infancia.

“Sin embargo, el camino a la ciudadanía en el proyecto de ley de concertación está asociado a la financiación de la seguridad fronteriza y de la construcción del muro. Si un Congreso futuro revoca los fondos asignados a la frontera en esa ley, el camino a la ciudadanía sería revocado”, dijo Lacy Browmel, asesor de política migratoria y de refugiados de la Iglesia.

Desde el verano de 2014, cuando menores solos comenzaron a llegar a la frontera en números sin precedentes, cada verano trae otra crisis humanitaria. “Este verano es una situación desastrosa que ocurre porque están separando los niños de sus padres”, dijo Eva María Torres, presidente de Madres de los Soñadores [Dreamers Moms] de Virginia, que vino a Estados Unidos de México en 2006.

Todos los días, Torres, que fue la última persona que habló en la capilla, dijo que oía historias de madres separadas de sus hijos, ya fuera porque se quedan detrás con la familia en Honduras, El Salvador o Guatemala, tres de los países más violentos del mundo, de manera que ellos [los hijos] pudieran enviar dinero a casa. Ella también oye [los testimonios| de madres indocumentadas que temen la deportación y el separarse de sus hijos nacidos en EE.UU. Ahora, los relatos, las imágenes y llantos de niños y madres al ser separados en la frontera como resultado de la política de cero tolerancia de la Administración ha creado nuevos temores y ansiedades, dijo Torres.

Las mujeres corren riesgos y enfrentan peligros para proteger a sus hijos y están siendo separadas de aquellos de los que ellas vienen a proteger, afirmó. “Las imágenes me han hecho reflexionar: ¿cuánto más vamos a permitir que suceda… como comunidad de fe que cree en Dios y conoce y cuenta con la protección de Dios? Yo me preguntaba, ¿qué acciones Dios pide de nosotros? Ahora es el momento de actuar”, afirmó Torres. “La comunidad inmigrante está corriendo muchísimos riesgos, pero no sólo los latinos —son inmigrantes de todas las nacionalidades”.

Torres imploró que los ciudadanos estadounidenses se pronuncien.

“Ustedes, los que son ciudadanos, ustedes tiene el poder de producir un cambio y de hacer algo”, dijo ella. “Seamos proactivos de manera que no nos arrepintamos más tarde de la situación o las acciones que han tenido lugar. El apoyo que se necesita no es una limosna; eso no es lo que la comunidad necesita hoy. Como ciudadanos, yo les pediría que se preparen para hablar con los que están en el poder”.

No son sólo los migrantes que huyen de América Central: en el mundo entero, una población sin precedentes de 68,5 millones se ha visto obligada a desplazarse de sus hogares, 24,5 millones de ellos son refugiados y la mitad son menores de 18 años. Durante más de un siglo, la Iglesia Episcopal ha acogido refugiados y ha abogado por políticas migratorias que protejan a las familias, ofrezcan un vía para acceder a la ciudadanía y respeten la dignidad de todo ser humano. Parte de esta labor tiene lugar tras bambalinas; otras veces tiene lugar en declaraciones públicas, en acciones de defensa social y en testimonios públicos.

Los legisladores están de acuerdo en que las llamadas telefónicas, las cartas y los correos electrónicos fueron los que forzaron a que el Presidente cambiara de actitud, no algo que sucediera en los pasillos del Congreso,

Bajo intensa presión pública, el presidente Donald Trump cambió el rumbo el 20 de junio y firmó un decreto ejecutivo para que los hijos y los padres [de inmigrantes ilegales] se mantengan juntos por un período de detención indefinido. Sin embargo, no resulta claro cómo el gobierno va a poner en práctica la normativa, y el decreto dice que más de 2.000 niños que ya han sido separados de sus padres no serían “apadrinados”, creando confusión en la capital y en la frontera.

El representante Jim Clyburn, demócrata de Carolina del Sur. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Más tarde esa noche en una concentración en Duluth, Minnesota, el presidente retornó a su retórica basada en el miedo, insistiendo en su prohibición de viajes y en su plan de construir un muro a lo largo de la frontera entre EE.UU. y México.

Para Clyburn, de Carolina del Sur, ver las noticias en la televisión y en los periódicos lo ha llevado a pensar en la época cuando el historiador francés Alexis de Tocqueville viajó a través de Estados Unidos, primero para estudiar sus prisiones, pero finalmente en busca de la grandeza de la nación. De Tocqueville indagó en los recintos del gobierno y en las zonas rurales, y finalmente la encontró en las iglesias, durante la época de la esclavitud, nada menos, dijo Clyburn.

“Él vio en las personas religiosas una cierta cantidad de bondad, y dijo al hablar acerca de esa experiencia que ‘Estados Unidos es grande por que Estados Unidos es bueno’, y si Estados Unidos alguna vez dejara de ser bueno, cesaría de ser grande’. Lo que estamos viendo hoy es una política desacertada, no una ley, sino una política. Es una pérdida, si alguna vez existió, de la bondad. No podemos, como pueblo de fe sentarnos pasivamente e ignorar esto”, afirmó Clyburn.

Desde octubre de 2017 hasta fines de mayo, los agentes del Servicio de Aduanas y Protección de la Frontera han detenido a más de 252.000 personas —32.371 menores no acompañados y 59.113 familias. A principios de abril, el gobierno de Trump puso en vigor su política migratoria de “tolerancia cero”, encaminada a procesar a los migrantes que crucen ilegalmente la frontera y a separarlos de sus hijos; 2.322 niños han sido separados de sus padres, según el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanitarios. La normativa tenía por objeto desalentar a otras familias —muchas de las cuales huyen de la violencia en América Central— de intentar solicitar asilo en la frontera entre EE.UU. y México.

Nunca en las peores pesadillas del Rdo. Grey Maggiano, rector de la iglesia episcopal Memorial en Baltimore, Maryland, y ex empleado del Departamento de Estado que trabajó en la reforma carcelaria en Afganistán, pensó que vería a madres e hijos en centros de detención en Estados Unidos. No era inusual en Afganistán ver a muchachos que huían de la violencia sexual, niñas que buscaban protección de un matrimonio infantil y madres que escapaban de violencia doméstica y a sus hijos en centros de detención para su protección, pero aun eso estaba sujeto a horribles circunstancias y tenía efectos traumáticos para todos.

“Es como una pesadilla … ver todas las cosas que uno nunca pensó que ocurrirían aquí, ver que es posible que en nuestro país sucedan en tiempo real”, dijo Maggiano, fuera de la capilla después de dirigirse a los presentes.

Cuando Carper, el senador por Delaware, habló más temprano ese día, se refirió a la violencia en el triángulo norte de América Central y contó la historia de un hermano y una hermana. Al hermano lo obligaron a unirse a una pandilla y su iniciación incluyó la violación de su hermana. En lugar de permitir que eso ocurriera, sus padres los ayudaron a salir y ellos terminaron en Delaware.

“Hay esperanza en Honduras, Guatemala y El Salvador; hay esperanza en esos países del Triángulo Norte, pero hay muchísima miseria, y nosotros somos cómplices de su miseria”, dijo él refiriéndose a la apetencia de los estadounidenses por las drogas.

La crisis humanitaria de la frontera suroeste ha provocada la condena internacional, críticas bipartidistas e indignación de parte de ciudadanos y líderes religiosos estadounidenses, en particular después de que el secretario de Justicia Jeff Sessions y otros miembros del gobierno de Trump se valieran de la Escritura para defender la política de la separación de familias.

“Me siento profundamente desencantado con este gobierno, y estoy profundamente desencantado, no sólo con el Presidente, sino con mis colegas que apoyan esto”, dijo McGovern. “Yo sencillamente no sé cómo la gente puede hacer esto. Me preocupa que estemos perdiendo nuestra humanidad, y cuando oímos que se invocan versículos bíblicos para justificar esto, saben, seré sincero con ustedes, quiero dar gritos. Seguiremos diciendo que esto no representa quienes somos; vamos a lograr demostrarlo”.

Trump hizo de la reducción de la inmigración un eje central de su campaña y su administración. A los pocos días de asumir su cargo, Trump firmó tres decretos ejecutivos por el que reducía la financiación federal de las llamadas ciudades santuario, solicitaba la erección de un muro a lo largo de la frontera entre EE. UU. y México y suspendía el ingreso de inmigrantes provenientes de siete países de mayoría musulmana. Trump también hizo una reducción significativa del programa de reasentamiento de refugiados de la nación, al fijar el número de refugiados que pueden ingresar en el país en 2018 en 45.000, menos de la mitad de los 110.000 admitidos en 2017.

“Nuestro país ha estado en medio de un debate moral grande y profundo respecto a mantener a las familias juntas”, dijo el obispo primado Michael Curry en un vídeo en el que promovía la vigilia del 21 de junio. “Si los niños deben separarse de sus madres y de sus familias, si bien parece que hubiera alguna lógica de resolución acerca de ese problema inmediato, se mantiene la preocupación más general respecto a la detención de las familias. Las formas en que implementamos nuestros intereses migratorios, las formas en que aseguramos nuestras fronteras, no deben separarse de nuestra compasión y de nuestra decencia humana”.

Para más información sobre este tema en Episcopal News Service, haga clic aquí. Para sumarse a la Red Episcopal de Política Pública, haga clic aquí, y para emprender alguna acción, haga clic aquí.

— Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a ella en lwilson@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Three Cantors reunion brings relief to Canadian town suffering ‘pastoral emergency’

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 4:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The trio of singing clergy known as The Three Cantors bought joy wherever they performed. But the consecration of group member William Cliff as bishop of Brandon in 2016 put an end to their exploits.

But, in response to a “pastoral emergency” in Churchill, Manitoba, the group reformed for a special concert in front of around 70 of the town’s 900 residents. The town of Churchill has suffered from the closure of its two major employers. Flooding has forced the closure of the rail lines, and the only way in and out of Churchill is by plane.

Read the full article here.

Lambeth-based monastic order of young people concludes ‘year in God’s time’

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 4:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The third group of young people to spend “a year in God’s time” as members of the Community of St. Anselm – the new monastic order based at Lambeth Palace, have been commissioned to “be Jesus to the world” at the end of their year. Lambeth Palace is the official London residence and offices of the Archbishops of Canterbury. The Community was started by Archbishop Justin Welby, who serves as Abbot of the community, as part of his priority of renewing prayer and spiritual life.

Read the full article here.

Convention to face ‘tough societal questions’ confronting the Episcopal Church

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 9:48am

[Episcopal News Service] When the 79th General Convention considers the resolutions proposed by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, it will confront “tough questions” facing the Episcopal Church in the current social environment.

House of Deputies President, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, asked the 2016-2018 Committee State of the Church to to focus on social justice and advocacy ministries, multicultural and ethnic ministries, and the Church Pension Group. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

The pressing areas of social justice, multiculturalism and ethnic ministries were all examined during the committee’s three-year study for how the Episcopal Church can better equip itself and minister effectively in multiple social contexts in “these deeply troubled and divisive times,” the committee’s report stated.

If there is an overarching takeaway the committee’s chair, the Rev. Winnie S. Varghese, the Diocese of New York, hopes deputies glean from the report, it’s that “we need to find more ways to release the gifts of the church from communities that we tend to position as ‘being served’ by the church,” she said in an email in response to questions submitted by the Episcopal News Service.

“There is very creative work being done in local ministries that could be used as resources for the whole church, and that a staff empowered to work across areas in ethnic and multicultural work at the churchwide level would be a great gift for us,” she said.

While the committee is mandated to provide the House of Deputies a report on the state of the church, it received the special charge from the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, deputies’ president, at the beginning of this triennium to focus on social justice and advocacy ministries, multicultural and ethnic ministries, and the Church Pension Group.

Recommending changes to the parochial report also falls under the committee’s purview. Since data gathering is a component of the parochial report, Varghese assumes this is why the State of the Church committee was assigned the task of exploring the rapidly changing context of the Episcopal Church.

“I found the charge from the president of the House of Deputies to the committee challenging and insightful about areas of the church that are high priorities and areas of some interest, concern, maybe confusion,” Varghese said.  “I agree with her that engaging the tough questions is a good use of the wisdom of the broader church.”

To prepare its report, the committee conducted surveys, interviews and reviews of church membership, stewardship and average Sunday attendance and found changes that reflect “modest decline in relation to the recent past,” “radical decline” compared to the 1950s and early 1960s and “a profound and shocking decline when compared to the growth in population of the United States.”

Census data also revealed that while births are barely outpacing deaths in the United State, immigration is fueling the fastest growth in the U.S. population, which in turn has implications for the context of the entire Episcopal Church.

“As a church, more and more of our congregations are visibly diverse, and we must equip ourselves to minister effectively in contexts in which there are multiple social norms, and the weight of discrimination and privilege in society present themselves to us in our congregations,” the committee’s report states.

The committee examined how each of the Ethnic and Multicultural Ministries, which include Latino/Hispanic Ministries, Asian Ministries, Black Ministries and Native American Ministries, began in official roles out of the Episcopal Church Center, recent and current dynamics and strategies of the ministries, and an understanding of the current direction of church leadership with respect to these ministries.

Among its findings is that “racism is active within the structures of the Episcopal Church.”

“Clearly our church has been a prophetic voice in calling out the sin of racism in our society,” the report said, but “little is heard when it comes to exploring the realities within our own church.”

For example, Episcopal churches fail to reflect the diversity of their local communities; clergy from non-dominant cultures face unequal access to theological education, unequal compensation and unequal training and continuing education; and the mutuality of the exchange of gifts, skills, grants, financial gifts and “the way we tend to tell our stories” assumes a flow from the dominant to the “ethnic” minorities rather than sharing with each other or the rest of the church, the report said.

“In the presiding bishop’s ‘The Beloved Community’ plan, we see progress toward understanding the complexity and the need for mutuality in Ethnic and Multicultural Ministries,” the report continued.  “By asking the question, ‘Where is Jesus in this community?’ we shift from the assumption that we are bringing Jesus to the assumption that Jesus is already there with and in the people.”

During interviews with the Church Center’s multicultural missioners, the committee learned that missioners are themselves ministering to diverse communities, nationalities and cultures.  “The result has been the development of strong skills of how to successfully deal with a pluralistic community,” the committee said.  “This is a skill set greatly needed by the church as a whole.”

The committee concluded that the church has “hidden the light of these communities instead of bringing them to the center of church life.”

The committee has proposed resolutions “as practical and doable steps of commitment on a long journey that has already been undertaken and will go on for a long time, a journey that can begin to help us open the deep gifts of developing bridges and mutual accountability and communication.”

Resolution A054 requests $15,000 for multicultural ministers and linguists to create “a small book of prayer, liturgy and music” in recognition of the presence of Christ in all church communities. Resolution A055 invites multicultural ministers to develop ways for sharing the gifts of their ministry with the wider church.

Taking up its charge to explore the work of social justice and advocacy ministries, the committee concluded that while the church is “doing many different types of work, social justice work is not robust across the church.”

Most especially, the committee discovered that the understanding of “social justice” varies broadly and that activities across the church tend to fall more “into the realm of alleviation of suffering and the work of charity than the work of justice.”

To clarify misunderstandings, the committee defined social justice work as “acts to address and heal the root cause of the injustice which prompted our need for charity in the first place.”

Committee research did uncover some “anxiety from the grassroots of the church” over whether “social justice preaching” should advocate a particular view on reform or that “emphasis should be on ‘outreach ministry’ but not social justice.”

Respondents to a survey conducted for the committee were eager for resources, suggestions and people to reach for help and “almost all who responded acknowledged a need for this work and many a desire to do it.  They wanted to connect with others doing this work but did not know how to find them.”

The committee is proposing resolutions to help address these concerns. Resolution A056 proposes a task force to study how the Episcopal Church “currently fosters theological understanding and leadership for social justice, and recommend ways to foster theological and practical conversation across the church on this topic.”

Resolution A057 supports strengthening churchwide resources and collaboration to support the grassroots work of the Episcopal Church in the areas of social justice advocacy and ethnic and multicultural ministry.

Faced with the rapidly changing context of the church, the committee also proposed Resolution A053. This requests that a new parochial report be developed that is “appropriate to the current context of the Episcopal Church including but not exclusive to multicultural congregations; aging populations; outposts of ministry in challenging economic contexts; and creative use of space and local engagement, to be administered and shared in networked, visible tools such as the Episcopal Asset Map.”\

“We decide what we measure and what we measure tends to form what we value,” Varghese said in her email.

“For the sake of data, it is good to measure a few vital things consistently for a long time, but the sake of our formation, and our self-understanding of what makes a great congregation, the committee believes it is important for the church to revisit the entire form to align with what we say today are the characteristics that we value in a church, and make it fully and more robustly electronic, synced with the ways we would record such data, and appropriately shareable through the asset map or a resource like it that helps us to identify and develop networks of mutual support,” she added.

Finally, the committee reviewed how the “traditional” model of clergy employment has changed. For example, more females are clergy and many clerics continue to work after their retirement. The committee asked, in Resolution A060 that a task force be created to study the work on the Church Pension Fund. (See the ENS story  “Ahead of General Convention, Episcopalians consider Church Pension Fund’s service to a changing church” here.)

Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Warriors of the Dream uses African drumming, scripture reflection to build community

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 9:41am

Warriors of the Dream, an Episcopal Church Mission Enterprise Zone grant recipient, hosts a gathering based in Episcopal liturgy and using African drums both at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Harlem and elsewhere in the neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Warriors of the Dream

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the Episcopal Church’s recent work planting new churches and other faith communities. Other stories about recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Genesis Advisory Group on Church Planting can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service] Sometimes you hear a phrase and it just sticks with you. You ponder its meaning, knowing at some level that there is a message in it for you.

For the Rev. Steve Holton an experience he had in 1995 has been “a blessing and a guide” to what is now Warriors of the Dream, an innovative program of community building and leadership training with people on the economic and social margins of their neighborhood based at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church in the heart of Harlem and supported in part by two Episcopal Church Mission Enterprise Zone grants.

Back in 1995, Holton was the rector of St. Paul’s on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in Ossining, New York, about three miles from Sing Sing prison. He heard African-American actor and activist Ossie Davis speak at the first graduation ceremony for the Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. Davis marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and was the emcee for the 1963 March on Washington when King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Davis, Holton said, often visited the 20 inmates in the program as a kind of  “elder.”

“He leaned over the podium and said, ‘You are my sons, you are my warriors of the dream,’” Holton recalled in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “And, of course, he was referring to Martin’s dream of the Beloved Community.” That sort of community, Davis knew as an actor, is built through what Holton calls “creative community.”

The Rev. Steve Holton says the idea for Warriors of the Dream began to take shape more than 25 years ago. Photo courtesy of Steve Holton

Fast-forward to 2013, as Holton was about to earn a second theology degree to follow the Master of Divinity degree he received from The General Theological Seminary in 1988. The question he explored was, “what is it about the Episcopal Church that lends itself to community ministry with everybody who’s there.” Holton studied the Anglican monastic tradition’s elements of “food, music and sacred speech.”

As he was thinking about the music part of a potential ministry, a friend told Holton that he had 12 African drums that needed a home. “I said, I’ll take them,” Holton said.

Warriors began at St. Philip’s because its now-deceased rector, the Rev. Keith Johnson, was “open to hosting us so that we could work in the neighborhood,” Holton said. Johnson’s goal was ministry to the neighborhood and “not specifically church growth.” Johnson wanted to explore how to connect the church to the people who live around it.

Holton’s recollection of Ossie Davis’ elder role came to the foreground. “Being an elder has been a theme of Warriors and, in terms of the larger macro goal, is to teach adults how to be elders, because one thing I’ve learned in my discussions with neighborhood leaders both in Westchester and Harlem is what makes neighborhood a neighborhood is elders,” he said. “What makes children think is elders, not just learning stuff, but kind of being in the shelter of elders.”

Holton formed two important partnerships. Jeannine Otis, the director of music at St. Mark’s Church In-The-Bowery, joined him, following, he said, Jesus’ command to go out to minister two by two. “As a twosome you model and experience community,” Holton said. Moreover, when a white man and a black woman create that sort of community “you expand community beyond the borders people usually draw around themselves and you automatically become available to a whole lot of information you never grew up with,” he added.

Holton and Otis then connected with Akil Rose, “the kind of neighborhood leader who never darkens the door of the church,” who Holton said is interested in African religions as well as Islam and “the mutual nourishment of all religions.”

They initially thought Warriors of the Dream ought to try reach children “who are at risk because they don’t join things” like church. However, early Warriors gatherings attracted people who worked with at-risk kids and “needed a place of nourishment themselves.” Warriors also began to attract formerly incarcerated neighbors who felt their families and churches didn’t welcome their return. Moreover, folks whom Holton called “church folk who are on the edges of their churches” for a variety of reasons began coming.

“In a world that is wrestling over the right doctrine, whether it’s one extreme or the other, having a group of people that says it’s all about fellowship and the ancient prayers and making music together, that’s serious antidote,” he said.

The antidote was to create a time for, as the Warriors of the Dream brochure calls it, “a sanctuary for the dreams and hopes of many, and neighborhood transformation.”

The gatherings, which began on All Saints Sunday in 2013, have a simple structure. They begin with a breathing meditation and drumming, which Holton describes as “the best of who we are, that’s mysticism.” He uses the example in Genesis 14 in which Melchizedek’s “open offer of hospitality… and giving his best to this stranger” Abraham who has been wandering in the wildernesses, getting caught up in tribal warfare.

Otis shares a scripture passage and people discuss what those verses mean in their lives, “and we rapidly go deep.” Holton listens for a theme around which he crafts into a “final message.” A “drum blessing” follows, and people disperse.

New people come to the gathering and “rapidly go to the same deep level we’ve all been because, as you know as an Episcopalian, the liturgy has that effect of opening that doorway in time into the heart of God, and you’re just there and feel it and you realize you were there, and then you leave and go back out on the street,” Holton said.

He has always been convinced that “it’s our liturgy that converts people,” in part because that is how he became an Episcopalian and was baptized as an adult.

Holton “showed that you can gather people with drum circles, you can adapt Episcopal liturgies to people who have no interest in becoming Episcopalians. They just want to follow Jesus or even follow the Spirit,” the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s manager for church planting and mission development, told ENS.

“Steve invited us to learn with him that following Jesus into the neighborhood asks us to serve people, to serve our brothers and sisters in ways that bless them. And the byproduct of that, many times, is that it also blesses the church at large, sometimes with new members and new pledges and a worshipping community, but not always.”

Warriors of the Dream received one of the 30 first $20,000 Episcopal Church Mission Enterprise Zone grants awarded in December 2013. Mission Enterprise Zones are designated geographic areas, congregations or dioceses with a mission focused on serving under-represented groups, such as young people, poor and less-educated people, people of color and those who never, or hardly ever, attend church.

Warriors then received a renewal grant in October 2016, one of three such grants for Mission Enterprise Zones originally funded in the 2013-15 triennium.

Warriors of the Dream hit a rough patch earlier this year. “We were having a lot of trouble just getting people [to come] and also running low on funding,” Holton said. He was discerning if the project “had lived its natural life” and along the way had taught him things that he is using in his ministry in North Salem, New York, where he is the interim rector of St. James Episcopal Church. He is using the same ideas from Harlem for gathering people who live near St. James and are outside the church.

However, Holton began looking at who was still coming to the Warriors gathering to see where the Holy Spirit might be pointing. What he saw was many of the newer people were former educators “who had real heart for reaching out to those young kids that we had tried to get back in the beginning, but we just grew in a different direction.”

One of those folks, who was also getting nourished by the gatherings, said she wanted to work with a local Roman Catholic deacon at the Lt. Joseph P. Kenney Community Center near Harlem Hospital. The center, Holton said, is a magnet for mothers looking for good places for their children to hang out. He hopes the work that is beginning there can be “the doorway into the larger Warriors experience.”

In addition, Holton said his St. James congregation, which he says is both wealthy and politically conservative in the classic definition of that stance, is happy to have the connections that Holton brings from Harlem to northern Westchester County. His parishioners have become interested in ministry with incarcerated people. They are eager to learn and to minster to and with them, Holton said.

The Warriors musicians are being asked to lead religious services of all kinds. They will continue to be open to those sorts of calls, he said.

All the while, Holton said, he operates from a stance that he wishes more Episcopalians would take. “We should own our identity as radical liturgists,” he said, stressing again that “it’s that the liturgy is profoundly formational.”

Episcopalians need to “believe again in the heart of our faith and in the heart of God incarnate and present in the world and then come out of those walls as Melchizedek did. Don’t just do it inside the church building,” he said. “Think of ways to get it out beyond the doors.”

“This is not really the continuation of church by other means. It is really Mother Church midwifing the next generation, and the next generation will be something new,” he said. “It will have a whole lot, biologically, in common with the last generation but will be a part of the new spirit, just as Mary gave birth to Jesus. The church is always Mary and the new ministry is always Jesus, and she is going to be worried sick about him. But, it is going to go on to new stuff and appeal to a whole bunch of people who never would have made it in the door. That’s where we are now.”

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