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78th General Convention digest June 26

Friday, June 26, 2015

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Much happens each day during General Convention. In addition to Episcopal News Service’s other coverage, here are some additional news items from June 26, the second day of the June 25-July 3 gathering.

Persecuted Pakistani Christians need church’s solidarity, says Bishop Azariah

Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Church of Pakistan addressed General Convention’s Legislative Committee on World Mission June 26. He spoke about the persecuted Christian population in Pakistan, one of the world’s epicenters for terrorism where minorities are targeted by religious extremists for having different beliefs or affiliations.

He also spoke about the draconian Pakistani blasphemy law that identifies it as a crime to defile the Holy Quran, with a possible sentence of life imprisonment, while offenses against the Prophet Muhammad may be punishable by death.

Yet the Pakistani Christian community – 1.5 percent of 180 million people – remains steadfast in faith despite the daily persecution they face, he said.

Azariah commended proposed Resolution D035 urging continued solidarity with the Christian community in Pakistan and calling on the Government of Pakistan to ensure adequate protections for all religious minorities, “specifically with respect to the prevention of the abduction, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriage of young women from minority religious communities.”

Azariah told the world mission committee that prayer and advocacy are important, but he said that the partnerships with the Episcopal Church are “very loose and not well organized,” calling on Episcopalians to arrange mission trips and visit the Church of Pakistan. That sort of action, he said, is the kind of solidarity Pakistani Christians need during this difficult time.

Nominations made official
The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop formally nominated four bishops as candidates to become the 27th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church during a joint session of the houses of Deputies and Bishops at General Convention here on June 26. The nominations were accepted without comment from the floor.

On June 27, the House of Bishops will gather at St. Mark’s Cathedral here to elect the next presiding bishop. The candidates are Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry, Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas and Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop Dabney Smith.

After the election Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will send a delegation to House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to inform her.

Jennings will refer the bishop’s name to the House of Deputies legislative committee on the Confirmation of the Presiding Bishop without announcing the name to the full house. That committee will recommend to the House of Deputies whether or not to confirm the election, and the deputies immediately will vote on the recommendation. Jennings then will appoint a delegation of deputies to notify the House of Bishops of the action taken, and the presiding bishop-elect will come to the House of Deputies.

Prayer Book revision planning proposed
The Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee has filed a resolution (A169) asking General Convention to “Direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the current Book of Common Prayer” and present it to the next convention. The committee asks for a $30,000 allocation to fund this work.

“We are aware that [at] every convention we have attempts to revise the prayer book piecemeal, and we feel that it is time, as we say, ‘Surf’s up!’ It is time to begin the process of prayer book revision,” said the Rev. Scott Allen, deputy from the Diocese of Bethlehem, as he presented the draft resolution from the prayer book subcommittee to the full committee June 26.

The resolution directs that the plan to “utilize the riches of our church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship.” The funding would allow consultation on the plan for revision with members of various cultural and ethnic groups across the church, said the Rev. Devon Anderson, deputies committee chair. “It’s about bringing those communities in very early on.”

Several committee members questioned whether the process might proceed too slowly, while others expressed concern that initiating a plan leading to revision might be premature.

The Rev. Gary Meade, Diocese of West Tennessee deputy, noted that it was interesting to hear “on one hand urgency” and on the other a “sense of understandable reticence.”

“I think what we’re proposing offers up really a middle way,” he said. Having heard many people talk about the revision process leading to the 1979 prayer book as being “too drawn out and in some ways too chaotic,” he said, “if we could … encourage the commission to formulate a more orderly plan to move forward, maybe it wouldn’t be as urgent as some would like but perhaps it would avoid throwing out the baby with the baptismal water.”

Added the Rev. Jeremiah Williamson of the Diocese of Ohio, “My sense is that a lot of people in the church would prefer we do this really, really well as opposed to really, really fast.”

Talking about the structure of the church
Deputies and bishops met in a special joint session on June 26 for an hour-long conversation about The Episcopal Church’s structure and governance and how it can best support and enable mission at all levels.

“Structure, governance, polity, canons, rules of order – most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear these words,” Diocese of Minnesota Deputy Sally Johnson said in her opening remarks, made with Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Clifton Daniel.

They are deputy and bishop chairs of the Legislative Committee on Governance and Structure, which is in the process of hearing testimony on numerous restructuring proposals.

“What do rules and structure have to do with what God is doing in the world, and our place in it as individual followers of Jesus, or as The Episcopal Church, this particular incarnation of the body of Christ?” Johnson asked.

She and Daniel gave a brief historical overview of how The Episcopal Church’s polity and governance came into being, noting that the way the church organizes itself for mission has been evolving since the adoption in 1789 of its original constitution and canons.

“The great thing about The Episcopal Church is that we decide all these things for ourselves. And if we don’t like our previous choices, or they don’t serve us anymore, we can change them,” Johnson said. “It has never been static, it has continuously changed and evolved and so too, today, the goal of our considerations is how we might best change our structures and governance to give greater viability to our congregations and ministries.”

“Governance is about our identity and our mission,” Daniel said. “Who are we? What do we care about? What are we going to spend our time, talent and treasures on? Who decides and how will we decide?”

They asked diocesan deputations to split up into small groups with deputations seated nearby and discuss the structures, programs and activities of the church at all levels that support or enable their congregations and dioceses to more fully participate in God’s mission. The groups also discussed what changes in those same structures, programs and activities would better serve congregations and dioceses in mission.

They were invited to tweet their responses using the hashtag #gcgas.

— Episcopal News Service members Matthew Davies, Sharon Sheridan and Tracy Sukraw contributed to this digest.

Supreme Court marriage ruling draws applause in Salt Lake City

Friday, June 26, 2015

Casey Kend of New York, a supporter of same-sex marriage, holds a sign in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on June 26, 2015. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Applause broke out in legislative committee meetings around the Salt Palace Convention Center here when General Convention participants received word about the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling June 26 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to be married.

The ruling came just as Episcopalians began debating the church’s understanding of sacramental marriage and the accompanying canonical definition of marriage, and whether to extend that definition to include same-sex couples.

The court’s 5-4 ruling settled the issue of access to civil marriage and fulfilled one of The Episcopal Church’s long-held public-policy stances. The Episcopal Church officially has advocated for equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in both the civil and ecclesial arenas for years.

The church’s advocacy for civil equality for LGBT persons began in 1976 with Resolution A071 in which it said “homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens, and calls upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality.”

That same convention said (in Resolution A069) that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.”

(A complete list with links to all related General Convention resolutions from 1976 to 2012 on liturgy, marriage and ordination in addition to resolutions on LGBT civil rights is here).

However, it was not until 2012 that the General Convention voted to consider anew the church’s theology of marriage, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Episcopalians’ access to the sacramental rite. Those are the questions facing this meeting of convention.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori cited 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 about love in reacting to the decision.

“I rejoice that the Supreme Court has opened the way for the love of two people to be recognized by all the states of this union, and that the court has recognized that it is this enduring, humble love that extends beyond the grave that is to be treasured by society wherever it exists,” she said. “Our society will be enriched by the public recognition of such enduring faithful love in families headed by two men or two women as well as by a woman and a man. The children of this land will be stronger when they grow up in families that cannot be unmade by prejudice or discrimination. May love endure and flourish wherever it is to be found.”

House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings issued a statement saying “As we Christians are known to say from time to time: ‘Alleluia’.”

“I am elated that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. In March I had the great privilege of signing on to an amicus brief urging the justices to make the decision they announced today, and I am deeply grateful that they have granted a fundamental human right to people whom had been denied it for so long.”

Jennings said she supports marriage equality “not in spite of my faith but because of it.”

“In more than 35 years of ordained ministry, I have known many faithful, committed same-sex couples whose love gave me a deeper understanding of God’s love and whose joy in one another testified to the goodness of God’s creation,” she said. “I have also learned through simple, everyday experience that same-sex couples make vital contributions to our common life, and I rejoice at the security today’s ruling affords them.”

The Supreme Court cases that the justices ruled on attracted much attention and at least 145 amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs were filed. Nearly 2,000 individual lay and ordained religious leaders, led by Jennings and Episcopal Church bishops in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee (the states included in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals), filed one of those briefs.

Those bishops included Kentucky Bishop Terry Allen White; Lexington Bishop Douglas Hahn; Michigan Bishop Wendell N. Gibbs Jr.; Western Michigan Bishop Whayne M. Hougland Jr.; Northern Michigan Bishop Rayford J. Ray; Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley; Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr.; Ohio Assisting Bishops David C. Bowman, William D. Persell and Arthur B. Williams Jr.; Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal; retired Southern Ohio Bishop Suffragan Kenneth L. Price Jr.; Southern Ohio Assisting Bishop Bavi Edna Rivera; West Tennessee Bishop Don E. Johnson; and East Tennessee Bishop George D. Young III. All of the bishops have authorized the blessing of same-sex couples in their dioceses, including for couples who have already entered into civil marriages in other jurisdictions.

Diocese of Vermont Bishop Tom Ely, Diocese of Hawaii Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick, Diocese of Southeast Florida Bishop Leo Frade, Diocese of Maine Bishop Steve Lane, Diocese of Atlanta Assistant Bishop Keith Whitmore and nearly 200 ordained and lay Episcopalians also signed onto the brief.

The court’s ruling clarifies the work facing the General Convention’s Special Legislative Committee on Marriage, according to Ely, a member of that committee who also served on convention’s Task Force on Marriage.

The Rev. Ruth Meyers, chair of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in the last two triennia, and  Diocese of Vermont Bishop Tom Ely, a member of that committee, discuss the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality ruling before the June 26 Eucharist in the General Convention worship hall. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Ruth Meyers, who chaired the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in the last two triennia and is a consultant to the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music legislative committee this convention, said the decision “changes the context” of the special committee’s work because the ruling changes the law of the United States.

The committee, which is handling all of the marriage-related resolutions coming to this meeting of convention, was meeting when the ruling was announced. Ely said the members applauded and also reflected on how the news would bring joy to some and difficulty to others.

Meyers and Ely chaired the blessings subcommittee of the legislative committee at the 2012 convention, when convention approved Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be A Blessing, the liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships and accompanying resources whose provisional use was authorized in 2012.

Episcopalians react to the court’s decision

“I believe that God works for justice night and day, and when the church doesn’t follow God’s lead, God sometimes works in the culture. And so, this is a victory for God. Now, The Episcopal Church gets to decide if it wants to join God in that justice,” retired Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson told Episcopal News Service just before convention’s daily Eucharist began.

The Eucharist’s prelude was a rousing rendition of “We are Marching in the Light of God” complete with a conga line, and numerous participants hugging each other.

“I am so excited, I’m very, very proud to be a part of The Episcopal Church, which has been dealing with marriage equality in a variety of different forms for a long number of years,” said Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles Mary D. Glasspool.

“Of course my excitement is couched by other areas of our life together where there isn’t such equality, but every bit helps. We’ve been moving toward trying to say all really means all, the (U.S.) Constitution applies to everybody. When The Episcopal Church says we are open to everybody, and all of the sacraments are available to all of the people, that’s what we mean, so we are living into that.”

Glasspool said the decision will “change, and really call attention, to the conversation we are having in the church because we need to really look at, and perhaps, tease apart what is the civil aspect of our lives doing, what does civil union look like, what is the appropriate responsibility of the state to guarantee civil rights and what does the church want to say sacramentally to the people of God, where are we pointing to God’s presence and God’s holiness and God’s love and God’s justice, and how that gets manifested in our lives.”

The Rev. Susan Russell, a longtime advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, Integrity past president and senior associate at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, and the Rev. Michael Sniffen, rector of the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in  Brooklyn, New York, Integrity chaplain and a self-described “straight ally,” celebrate the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the General Convention worship hall before the daily Eucharist. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Susan Russell, a longtime advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, called the ruling “a momentous win for freedom, for equality, for inclusion and, most of all, for love.”

“It is a day to celebrate with deep joy that our country is one step closer to keeping the promise of the pursuit of liberty and justice for all. Today’s historic ruling means same sex couples will soon have both the freedom to marry and equal respect for their marriages across the country – it is a triumph of justice over bigotry.”

The last meeting of General Convention in 2012 passed Resolution D018, which Russell sponsored. The resolution noted that The Episcopal Church “is a period of discernment about the meaning of Christian marriage, with faithful people holding divergent views,” and urged Congress to repeal federal laws that discriminate against same-sex civilly married couples; and pass legislation allowing the federal government to provide benefits to them.

Russell said “as momentous as today’s historic decision is, we must now harness the momentum from marriage conversation to the work of securing additional advances towards equality especially nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans. It is absolutely unacceptable that LGBT people can still be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes and denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are.”

Noting the convention’s on-going marriage debate, Russell said she prays “for justice to roll down like waters in Salt Lake City for The Episcopal Church just as justice prevailed today in our Supreme Court” and give same-sex couples access to the sacrament of marriage.

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson, Integrity (http://www.integrityusa.org/) vice president for national affairs, said in the group’s official statement that Integrity members and leaders “can hardly contain our emotion on this day of jubilee throughout the nation.”

“We are thrilled that LGBT Episcopalians can know full civil marriage equality everywhere, and we continue in our fervent hope that the church will answer the call to equality with the same prophetic witness as the U.S. Supreme Court has,” he said.

Russell, Richardson and others also couched their reaction in the context of the discrimination people will continue to face because of their color and sexual orientation.

“Personally, I’m overjoyed; it’s a long time coming,” said Lizzie Anderson, a deputy from the Diocese of Michigan, a youth minister at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak. “For The Episcopal Church, it’s fitting as we are discussing what changes to make to our prayer book and canons to include all of our brothers and sisters in the right to marry.”

“At the same time, I recognize the diversity of The Episcopal Church and that there are people in our church and our country who are hurting because of this decision. As members of the church, I hope we can hold them in our prayers and be compassionate toward them in this difficult time they’re facing,” Anderson said.

Diocese of Michigan Deputy Emily Wogaman, a high school student, said “it’s about time” the court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

The Rev. Altagracia Perez-Bullard, canon for congregational vitality for the Diocese of New York said she is “so proud of our nation. The decision was a strong defense of the constitution. I don’t expect everyone to agree, but this was a fight for basic human rights.”

And, with tears in her eyes, she added: “I didn’t think I would see it in my lifetime, but I thought it should pass because it is a basic constitutional issue. It renewed my faith in that branch of government.”

Anne Brown, Diocese of Vermont, said the decision “allows me to celebrate our marriage more openly,” she said of her 25-year marriage to the Rev. Lee Crawford.

Crawford said the decision is “like the Berlin Wall coming down.”

“I can’t help but think about how it will affect our conversations at General Convention about marriage equality,” she added.

“My heart does go out for those for whom it is not celebratory news. I’ve been at conventions like that. I know what it feels like to stand in that place,” she said. “But, I think the time has come and the time is now. I’m so glad to be able to offer this up at the Eucharist.”

Bishop Raul Tobias of the Philippine Independent Church, with whom The Episcopal Church is in full communion, said that while he “rejoices in as much as it is an answer to prayers for many, it is not yet time for us” in the Philippine Independent Church to consider these discussions.

He said the decision “created an opening for joy. I rejoice for their joy. Because we’re not ready doesn’t mean we’re against it. We’re just not ready for it.”

Convention faces various same-sex marriage proposals

The General Convention is considering a number of resolutions urging it to move toward greater clarity in its understanding of the availability of the sacramental rite of marriage to both different- and same-sex couples.

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music asks in its report (beginning on page 3 here) that convention authorize an expanded version of Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be A Blessing, the liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships and accompanying resources whose use was authorized in 2012. The new version (on pages 2-151 here) includes three additional liturgies: “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage”; “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2”; and “The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony.” Those rites offer the option of using “wife,” “husband,” “person,” or “spouse,” thus making them applicable for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

The commission’s proposed Resolution A054 says diocesan bishops must approve use of the rites. It also says that bishops within civil jurisdictions where same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal may continue to provide “generous pastoral response” to meet the needs of church members (an echo of Resolution 2009-C056).

And the proposed resolution repeats the provision in Resolution 2012-A049 that “no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities” as a result of his or her theological objection to or support of the resolution. The resolution also would extend to these new rites the provision in the church’s Canon I.18.4, which says that clergy may decline to solemnize any marriage.

The Task Force for the Study of Marriage asks that The Episcopal Church go further, proposing in its Resolution A036 to revise Canon I.18 titled “Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony” (page 58 of The Episcopal Church’s canons here).

Among many edits, the revision removes references to marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The revision would recast the requirement in the canon’s first section that clergy conform to both “the laws of the state” and “the laws of this Church” about marriage. The rewritten portion would require that clergy conform to “the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage.”

And the proposal preserves the canon’s provision that clergy may decline to solemnize any given marriage and extends that discretion to include the choice to decline to bless a marriage.

Among the six diocese-proposed actions, Resolution C017 from the Diocese of Chicago and Resolution C0022 from the Diocese of California both ask the convention to authorize the use of the marriage rites in The Book of Common Prayer 1979  and in Liturgical Resources I “for all marriages legal in the civil jurisdiction in which the liturgy takes place.” In civil jurisdictions with same-sex marriage, the rites’ language would be interpreted as gender-neutral. C022 also proposes a rewrite of the solemnization canon, as does Resolution C024, also proposed by Chicago, and Resolution C026 from Northern California.

The Diocese of Rochester, in Resolution C007, and the Diocese of Los Angeles in C009 simply ask that convention “take any and all steps necessary to make the Rite of Holy Matrimony available to same-sex couples throughout The Episcopal Church immediately.”

The Rev. John Dwyer, deputy from the Diocese of Minnesota, has proposed Resolution D026 that would have General Convention declare that the terms “man and woman” and “husband and wife” in the services of The Book of Common Prayer are equally applicable to two persons of the same gender.

All of these resolutions, and other related ones that might arise, have been assigned to Special Legislative Committee on Marriage, formally a bishop committee meeting alongside a deputy committee but voting separately. The resolutions assigned to that committee are here.

The night before the Supreme Court announcement, the marriage committee held its second resolutions hearing, this one on five resolutions suggesting changes to the church’s marriage canon.

The proposals would remove gender-specific language from the canon, and would streamline and reorder it, according to the Rev. Brian Taylor, chair of the marriage task force.

“What it does by using gender-neutral language is open the door, so that should we authorize new rites or should continue with the generous pastoral response option, their use would be supported canonically,” Taylor said at the hearing.

More than 300 people filled the Radisson Hotel ballroom for the hearing. Twenty-two people offered testimony, 16 in support of the various proposals and six against.

The Rev. Jim Papile, Diocese of Virginia alternate deputy, also urged support. “For all our trials, I believe we are a stronger church today than before. We can deal with the challenges if we will do what is right. We are so close. It’s time for us to finish this thing and get on with building the body of Christ, all of us together,” he said.

Diocese of Albany Deputy the Ven. David Collum spoke against the measures, asking that the church’s unity and allowance for diocesan discretion be taken into account.

Referencing the rite for blessing same-sex unions that the General Convention approved in 2012, for use at the discretion of local bishops, Collum said, “It’s hard to be a gay or lesbian person in the Diocese of Albany because we’re not using that rite. It’s hard for people who are on the other side of the issue because we’re still talking about it. It’s tough, but we’re talking,” Collum said.  “I would just ask that any resolution you put forward to advance this agenda, think about the unity of the church in addition to how important this specific issue is.”

His colleague, the Rev. Canon Robert Haskell, the Diocese of Albany canon to the ordinary, said the changes would amount to The Episcopal Church “turning its back on 2,000 years of Scripture, history, the history of the church’s interpretation of marriage.”

“It breaks my heart to see this church, the wonderful Episcopal Church that I love, departing from this,” Haskell said.

Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon Johnston spoke against canonical changes and urged instead revision of the Prayer Book and Constitution as a stronger and better means for accomplishing the task force’s goals. “I want to say first of all that I am absolutely and utterly committed to full marriage equality in the life and witness of The Episcopal Church, full stop,” he said. “I want the strongest possible witness this church can make for marriage equality, and doing it simply by canonical means, I think, is the weaker case.”

The committee holds its third and final hearing in the Marriott Hotel Downtown at City Creek at 7:30 p.m. MDT on June 26.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service. ENS reporters and correspondents Lynette Wilson, Pat McCaughan, Sharon Sheridan and Tracy Sukraw contributed to this story.

President of the House of Deputies preaches at 78th General Convention

Friday, June 26, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “We don’t seek solutions whose only virtues are that they save us time, save us energy and save us money,” the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies said in her sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 26.  “We seek solutions that serve the kingdom.”

The following is the text of the sermon:

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
78th General Convention
June 26, 2015

In the Name of our Living, Loving, and Magnificent God!  Amen.

Our first two readings today speak of visions. They paint frightening pictures, even for those of us who look at them from a distance of almost two thousand years, in one instance, and more in the other. Isaiah gives us six winged creatures tending a sovereign the hem of whose garment—just the hem—fills a temple. John of Patmos tops that with his four living creatures whom an earlier passage tells us looked like a lion, an ox, an eagle and a human being, only with lots of wings. Which were covered with eyes.

Visions are a kind of language. They are the way writers help us glimpse truths that are beyond what any of us has seen or even imagined. Christians have resorted to visions throughout our history, and in its way, the language of vision is an admission that our minds can neither comprehend nor communicate the fullness of God’s majesty and mercy.

If you listen to the gospel closely—and you kind of have to listen to this Gospel closely—you will see that even Jesus has a hard time using language to speak about the nature of God. The sentences keep twisting back on each other: I am in you, you are in me, they are in us. Put these sentences in front of someone who hasn’t been listening to them their whole life and they’d have a hard time telling you what they mean.

His language is bursting at the seams. In a metaphor that probably has fresh relevance for you after your journey to Salt Lake City, the suitcase of human comprehension is not big enough for the concepts Jesus needs to stuff into it in this passage.

Throughout Christian history, mystics and visionaries, like John of Patmos, Hildegard of Bingen, and Julian of Norwich, have resorted to forbidding and ecstatic language to tell us about divine experiences that ordinary prose just can’t contain.

And yet, here is the thing about visions, as Joseph and Daniel and Ezekiel knew:  they have to be interpreted; they have to be rendered sensible to the people who credit their authenticity but who aren’t seeing them themselves.

It’s appropriate then, that these readings celebrate the feast of Isabel Florence Hapgood. She was among other things, a translator. We celebrate her for the 11-year project of translating the Service Book of the Holy-Orthodox Catholic Church into English. But she also gave readers of the English language Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, a magnificent gift, although I expect my 16-year-old technology assistant, who has to write a paper on “Anna Karenina” by the middle of next month, doesn’t think so.

I’d like to think that each of us is involved every day in the act of translation, of living and speaking in ways that try to put an every day wardrobe on phenomenal beings with wings covered with eyes.

As Christians, it is our job to take the ecstatic, frightening, demanding dreams of our great prophets and seers, and make them sensible to the people around us.  It is our task to speak and act in ways that make it obvious what we believe and why we believe it. It is our task to give people some sense of the incredible power of the magnificent, living God whom we worship.

It may seem that there are few human enterprises further from visions of spectacular garments with hems that fill a temple of creatures with eyes on their wings than General Convention. I am not a digital native. I was born well before computers and online culture transformed the world and transformed the church, but I know what a mashup is and I’ve wondered what would happen if John of Patmos ran headlong into the House of Deputies. I think it might sound something like this: I saw the temple filled with deputies in shimmering raiment and a creature with six arms and a voting device in each one said, “I rise to a point of personal privilege during which I would also like to amend the amendment on the previous motion and immediately end debate and refer the resolution back to the parallel committee for further consideration.” And the Lamb, in a voice that caused all to tremble said, “Sit down deputy. You are out of order.”

But listen: ours is an incarnate faith. We believe that the Word takes flesh. Our faith is transformative. We believe that the Word having becomes flesh redeems the world. We do not believe in untethered visions, but we also don’t believe in reality untethered from vision.

We don’t seek solutions whose only virtues are that they save us time, save us energy and save us money. We seek solutions that serve the kingdom.

The work of disciples is spinning the golden threads that tie the ecstatic vision of a loving, powerful God to your life, to mine and to the life of the church on earth. We weave these threads when we study scripture to understand the source of visions, when we delve into our history to learn about mystics and seers and the societies that produce them; when we act in ways that make it obvious that we are inspired by a God of breathtaking power and love, when we tend the sick, feed the hungry and advocate for the voiceless.

And we weave those threads between holy vision and ordinary life when we gather to order our common life, to discern what God is calling us to do and how God is calling us to do it. It isn’t easy to spin these threads, and it isn’t necessarily exciting every minute. Reading resolutions, testifying in hearings, finding yourself frustrated because people are disagreeable, or conversely, finding yourself frustrated because people avoid conflict, is all part of bringing God’s vision to rest in the church. I ask you to count it all as blessing, to understand that the labor required to see and then serve a shared vision is holy work.

We will fall short. Visions exist because the God we serve can neither be fully understood nor perfectly served. And yet, and yet—to invoke another seer and another vision—if we wrestle this angel, it will bless us.

Amen.

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises theHouse of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

The video services of the daily Eucharist during General Convention 2015 have been produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

Watch on the Media Hub here

Israel and Palestine issues addressed at legislative hearings

Friday, June 26, 2015

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the focus of three legislative hearings June 25 as the Social Justice and International Policy Committee opened the floor for public testimony at the Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention.

Some 50 people rose to testify on the seven resolutions related to Israel and Palestine that range from calling for deeper investment in Middle East partnerships to calling the church to boycott against and divest from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel.

Several speakers addressed the need to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land through economic pressure, saying that the church’s current policy of positive investment has proved inadequate. Others underscored the Christian imperative for engagement and dialogue, citing concerns for any action that might cause further widespread hardship for the Palestinian people and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

During an evening hearing, Bishop Nick Knisely of the Diocese of Rhode Island presented his two resolutions (B012 and B013), backed by 10 other bishops, urging The Episcopal Church to endorse a model of restorative justice in seeking “new, creative and effective ways forward in its work toward peace and justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and to call political leaders to a conclusive negotiation of a two-state peace agreement.

Knisely said his resolutions are about reconciliation, trying to find a process within The Episcopal Church where conversations are had and “where we can see one another not as the person who has caused the pain, but as the person who is also in pain … . I am not naïve about how long it will take, but I do not know of a more effective way.

“I realize there is a disparity of views,” he said, “but we need to find ways to invest in Palestinian businesses so that they can build their economy and hopefully become an equal partner.”

Paul Schumacher from Hawaii said the two resolutions complement and extend existing policies and offer some suggestions on how to move forward from the 2012 General Convention Resolution B019, which affirms positive investment “as a necessary means to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure” in the Palestinian Territories.

Lynn Gottlieb, an American rabbi in the Jewish Renewal movement, is not so convinced. “As Palestinians are pushed into an apartheid-like situation … it is almost impossible for them to export anything,” she said. “I encourage you to invest, but know that until the occupation ends, Palestinians will always be vulnerable to having their exports destroyed. Palestinian business people will always say to me, ‘yes invest and divest.’ They are not in conflict. This is restorative justice.”

Earlier in the day, testimony was heard on five other resolutions, three of which call for divestment.

The Rev. Vicki Gray, a deputy from the Diocese of California who spoke in support of Resolution C012, said that “divestment is not about anti-Semitism; it’s about justice … The people of Palestine want action, not more talk … It should be clear that after 20 years of talk in the never-ending peace process, our policy of positive investment has not worked … To do nothing would also have an impact: It would put us on the side of oppression.”

Clark Downs of the Diocese of Washington, speaking in favor of Resolution C018, said that for several decades The Episcopal Church “has been aware of the strife in the Holy Land and vainly hoped that the people there would do something about it. Israeli leadership has turned a blind eye to injustice and kept up the illegal occupation. The Episcopal Church should respond more boldly to this tragedy than it has in recent years.”

T. Dennis Sullivan, chair of the Executive Council Investment Committee, said the committee has discussed these issues and unanimously requests that any resolutions calling for divestment should be rejected “until the economic and social consequences of such divestment are thoroughly evaluated.”

A liaison to the Committee from the Presiding Bishop’s staff confirmed that the investment portfolio of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society contains no holdings in any of the corporations some of the resolutions flag as problematic, such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, G4S, and Motorola Solutions.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, however, did invest $500,000 in the Bank of Palestine in 2013 for the purpose of economic development in the Palestinian Territories.

The Church Pension Fund, whose investment policies are not required to mirror those of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, currently owns holdings in Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard, according to Church Pension Group chief investment officer Roger Sayler.

CPF “is committed to its fiduciary responsibility to protect the pensions and related benefits” of some 15,000 clergy and lay employees of The Episcopal Church, Sayler said during the hearing. “We must be positively involved in the situation rather than using divestment as a tool.”

The Church Pension Fund and its affiliated companies collectively form the Church Pension Group.

The Rev. Jose Luis Mendoza-Barahona, a committee member from the Diocese of Honduras, challenged Church Pension Group to revise its practices.

“Approximately 15,000 people are being protected by this pension plan. But I do believe that a life is more important and has more value than anything we can do,” he said through an interpreter. “I would like to invite you to re-engineer the investment process so that it would allow those 15,000 people to maintain their stability but also to allow us to assist those people in Israel and Palestine whose rights are being taken away from them. I hope that you find a way to place the money where it can do some good and take it away from companies that are hurting poor people in Palestine.”

The Rev. Canon John E. Kitagawa, a deputy from the Diocese of Arizona, has served on the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace With Justice Concerns, one of the church’s interim bodies that are proposing Resolution A052 for consideration at General Convention.

A052 calls for an “intentional process of Ubuntu,” and “peaceful, mutual discernment” regarding Episcopal Church policies “toward advocacy, economic investment or divestment, humanitarian mission, and peacemaking in Palestine and Israel.”

Ubuntu is a Zulu/Xhosa word that describes human identity as being formed through community and encompassing a sense of caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

The resolution suggests that a collaborative group should facilitate the process, collect and disseminate educational resources, and consult with a wide range of policy experts, humanitarian aid organizations, and ecumenical and interfaith groups “to inform and enliven a process of listening and conversation among those of differing convictions … so that The Episcopal Church in its deliberations and advocacy efforts might model the love of God and the possibility of civil dialog over controversial and confounding issues of global conflict.”

Kitagawa, vice chair of General Convention’s international policy legislative committee, believes that Resolution A052 is the best approach at this time for The Episcopal Church on peacemaking in Israel and Palestine.

The Rev. Susan Snook, a deputy from the Diocese of Arizona and a member of Executive Council, also supports Resolution A052. She said that following a visit to the Holy Land last year and talking to people on all sides, “I’ve learned that there are no simple solutions [that] will solve all the problems” and that the best way forward as Christians “is to remain engaged in relationships. … We need to use those relationships to help change minds and hearts.

Snook said that she spoke with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and others who traveled to the Holy Land in January as part of an interfaith pilgrimage recommended by Resolution B019 from the 2012 General Convention. “They heard from people on all sides that Christians … can show people how to disagree respectfully and remain in relationship. I support the Ubuntu resolution. It’s what people in the Holy Land have asked of us. Diocesan institutions and ministries are possible because we have been remained engaged even though we deplore the violence. Divestment hurts the economy and hurts Palestinians.”

Newland Smith, a deputy from the Diocese of Chicago spoke in favor of Resolution D016, which was drafted by the recently formed Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine, calling on The Episcopal Church to begin a process of divesting from companies that continue to profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

“U.S. companies that are contributing to the infrastructure that supports occupation must be held accountable,” said Smith, a member of the international policy committee. “This resolution provides a reasoned and prudent pathway for the church to be faithful for the cause of justice in this long and painful conflict.”

Walid Issa, 26, a Palestinian from Bethlehem said he was “sad … that the people who matter the most in these discussions are not represented here. The importance of helping and investing in the Palestinians is more urgent than punishing the Israeli government. The problem is where to invest. We need to shift and find new, innovative and creative ways for the young Palestinian voices to be represented … Change is possible and fear can be defeated.”

Issa, along with Israeli Lior Frankiensztajn, run the Shades Negotiation Program, which creates opportunities for Palestinian and Israeli decision-makers, politicians, educators and other leaders to meet and engage with their counterparts. The program is sponsored by Harvard University and partly funded by the U.S. Department of State.

During the committee hearing, Frankiensztajn, 29, said that after serving in the Israeli army for five years, he “realized there is no military solution to this problem – it has to be a social solution.”

Frankiensztajn’s world changed a few years ago after he lived with a Palestinian man for two months. He got to learn many things about himself and his roots, but most importantly, he saw “how reality looks from a different perspective,” he told the interfaith pilgrims following lunch in a Tel Aviv restaurant. Unfortunately, “politicians manage the relationships, which limits the opportunity for progress. … There has to be a different approach to policymaking, to education.”

Acknowledging that it is easy to engage the converted, Frankiensztajn said that Shades is trying to identify the obstacles, areas that need more attention in helping people “to become better negotiators, better communicators through this experience [and] really getting to understand the nuances and the culture of the other side.” Creating trust, he added, is a critical part of the peace process.

Kim Byham, an alternate deputy from the Diocese of New Jersey, spoke in support of Resolution C018, submitted by the Diocese of Washington, with the exception of the fifth paragraph, which calls for a full and public report “documenting all actions, including corporate dialogues and shareholder resolutions … regarding companies that contribute to the infrastructure of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and companies that have connections to organizations responsible for violence against Israel.”

The rest of Resolution C018 calls for continued support of the Diocese of Jerusalem and its institutions and calls on “individual parishes to take immediate steps to increase their understanding of the issues so they can engage actively to this end, especially with respect to considering non-violent approaches and actions to ending the occupation in light of the failure of peace talks and continued expansion of settlements.”

Byham has served as chair of the Episcopal Church’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility for last six years. He previously served as chair of the church’s Social Responsibility in Investments committee, which in 2005 affirmed “positive investment” and “corporate engagement” to encourage positive change in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Divestment is something our committee has been skeptical about, said Byham, although he said that despite corporate dialogue with Caterpillar for the past 15 years, “they continue to take the same position that they don’t sell directly to the Israeli army, and that’s true, they sell to the U.S. army and the U.S. gives it to Israel.”

However, he said, “divestment is a really limited tool [and] it has relatively few positives.”

The Rev. Gary Commins, deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles, disagrees.

“We have an opportunity to move on divestment, to do something honorable and memorable,” said Commins, a member of the international policy committee. “To continue on our current policy is to do something forgettable and regrettable.”

Many Episcopal Church dioceses and individuals have long-standing partnerships with the Jerusalem diocese and support the ministry of its more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. The institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities.

The diocese and the institutions also are supported by the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization established in 1985.

Anne Lynn, director of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, spoke in support of mission in the Holy Land and of Resolution C018. “Many view the place where Jesus walked and talked only through the political lens,” she said. “Families need to put food on the table tonight and children need to go to school tomorrow. We should be very proud of the work that is being done by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Their schools are educating 7,000 children of all faiths. The diocesan hospitals serve the poor and saved hundreds of lives in Gaza. We can change the future of our Holy Land by building peace from the ground up.”

Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has previously told Episcopal News Service that he prefers to hear about investment rather than divestment.

Graham Smith, dean of St. George’s College, Jerusalem, spoke during the hearing and confirmed that Dawani has not changed his mind on the issue. “I hope this convention does not adopt any resolution about the conflict without checking with the archbishop,” he said. Such action “costs deputies nothing while making it more difficult for the archbishop to manage his institutions. We need to support the institutions as much as possible.”

Cynthia Schumacher, a visitor from the Diocese of Hawaii, also spoke against C012. “Israel is the only free nation in the Middle East, but its institutions are constantly under ideological assault. This resolution forgets that many Palestinians support terrorist activities against Jews in Israel and the rest of the world. Israel is an open, multiethnic, multiracial democracy. It is not without fault, but it still offers Christians and Muslims protection from totalitarian states in the region. This is the reality that BDS [boycotts, divestment and sanctions] glosses over and chooses to ignore.”

Several supporters and members of the U.S. organization Jewish Voice for Peace spoke out in favor of divestment.

Jade Brooks said that Palestinians have been suffering far too long under the occupation. “You have the opportunity to be leaders in the movement for justice,” she told committee members.

Other speakers said that the church needs to be doing more in engaging dioceses and congregations, and in educating people around the issues.

Retired Bishop of Washington John Chane said that he’d fought against divestment for many years “but times have changed. … This is a matter of human rights. At the same time divestment is an issue that has lots of nuances.” However, he said that he hopes General Convention could pass a resolution that would allow Executive Council “to really make a clear statement on divestment.”

The Rev. Scott Gunn, a deputy from the Diocese of Southern Ohio, said that from his two trips to the Holy Land he has realized that “relationships and positive encounter are the way forward … Why don’t we take a positive action of re-investment? It may be that a change in divestment policy would be good at some point, but we mustn’t do it irrationally. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is what we need to be doing.”

The international policy committee will discuss the resolutions and make its recommendations to the initial house of action, which will be the House of Bishops.

If the bishops approve a resolution, it would require the House of Deputies to concur with the legislation before it could become an act of General Convention

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.

Ruling makes our nation fairer, more loving, and more just

Friday, June 26, 2015

[Episcopal Church House of Deputies] The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies and lead signer of the amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in March and signed by nearly 2000 religious leaders who support marriage equality, released this statement on today’s Supreme Court ruling:

“As we Christians are known to say from time to time: Alleluia.

“I am elated that the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. In March I had the great privilege of signing on to an amicus brief urging the justices to make the decision they announced today, and I am deeply grateful that they have granted a fundamental human right to people whom had been denied it for so long.

“Like many of my fellow Christians, I support marriage equality not in spite of my faith but because of it. In more than 35 years of ordained ministry, I have known many faithful, committed same-sex couples whose love gave me a deeper understanding of God’s love and whose joy in one another testified to the goodness of God’s creation. I have also learned through simple, everyday experience that same-sex couples make vital contributions to our common life, and I rejoice at the security today’s ruling affords them.

“Today is a special day for Episcopalians, and I want to mention just a few—all of whom are former or current deputies—who have worked so hard and so long to get us here. Thank you to Louie Clay, founder of Integrity, the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender caucus in the Episcopal Church. Thank you to the Rev. Stan Baker, who was the plaintiff in the 1999 court case that brought civil unions to Vermont and to Tom Little, who chaired the committee that wrote the civil union legislation. Thank you to Bishop Gene Robinson, who had to wear a bulletproof vest at his consecration. Thank you to the Rev. Michael Hopkins, a pioneering spokesman and to the Rev. Susan Russell, the indispensible leader and strategist. Thank you for making our church and our nation to become fairer, more loving and more just.”

Presiding Bishop on Supreme Court’s ruling for marriage equality

Friday, June 26, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued this statement following today’s Supreme Court ruling:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  [1Corinthians 13:4-8]

I rejoice that the Supreme Court has opened the way for the love of two people to be recognized by all the states of this Union, and that the Court has recognized that it is this enduring, humble love that extends beyond the grave that is to be treasured by society wherever it exists.  Our society will be enriched by the public recognition of such enduring faithful love in families headed by two men or two women as well as by a woman and a man.  The children of this land will be stronger when they grow up in families that cannot be unmade by prejudice or discrimination.  May love endure and flourish wherever it is to be found.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

 

La Convención General comienza con una eucaristía comunitaria

Friday, June 26, 2015

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori, al centro, celebró la eucaristía de apertura de la Convención General asistida en el altar por la diácona Lauren Welch, de la Diócesis de Maryland, a la izquierda, y Margaret McLarty, maestra de ceremonias. El oficio utilizó 49 cestas de pan de una panadería local y 25 jarras de vino en el altar, así como 12 estaciones de comunión. Foto de Sharon Sheridan/ ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] La 78ª. Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal comenzó con un llamado a incorporarse al arduo trabajo comunal de construir el camino al reino de Dios.

Predicando en el Centro de Convenciones de Salt Palace, en esta ciudad, sede de la Convención desde el 25 de junio al 3 de julio, la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori le dijo a miles de feligreses: “Esta puede ser una convención episcopal, pero todos nosotros se supone que seamos juanes y juanas bautistas. Nuestra tarea es levantar esa calzada recta, derribar las alturas privilegiadas, rellenar los pantanos de la desesperanza y allanar el camino para todo el pueblo de Dios: y eso incluye a bautistas, episcopales, judíos, hindúes y no creyentes.

“Hemos sido bautizados en el bautismo de Jesús, así como en el bautismo de Juan, y llamados a la obra del reino que todos los profetas proclaman: ser luz en las tinieblas, fortaleza y consuelo para el pueblo de Dios, reunir a los corderos y las ovejas en el refugio y mostrar el poder restaurador del perdón. Ese es el camino al reino pacífico”, dijo la Obispa Primada. La eucaristía celebró la Natividad de Juan el Bautista (transferida del 24 de junio).

“No llegaremos al final de nuestro viaje”, concluyó diciendo ella, “a menos que vayamos juntos en compañía, en solidaridad y asociación, confiando que Dios ha provisto lo que necesitamos —si compartimos el trabajo y los dones. Ese es el significado más profundo del perdón de nuestros pecados, que siempre están vinculados al egocentrismo y al egoísmo. ¡Recuerden eso en el calor del debate! Dios nos ha dado una variedad de perspectivas, y el cuerpo necesita de esos dones”.

El texto completo del sermón de la Obispa Primada se encuentra aquí.

Por primera vez, esta Convención General no está usando boletines impresos para las eucaristías diarias. Los fieles tuvieron acceso al orden del culto mediante aparatos electrónicos durante el oficio de apertura el 25 de junio. Foto de Sharon Sheridan/ ENS.

El organismo deliberativo donde esos debates tendrán lugar es la legislatura bicameral de la Iglesia, compuesta de la Cámara de Diputados y la Cámara de Obispos. Al abrirse la Convención, la Cámara de Diputados tenía 839 diputados inscritos, entre clérigos y laicos, 550 de los cuales son miembros de comités legislativos. Entre los diputados se cuentan 398 nuevos miembros y 12 diputados nacidos en la década del 90. Aproximadamente el 66 por ciento de la Cámara de Diputados está compuesta por miembros que asisten por primera o segunda vez.

La cifra de asistencia de la Cámara de Obispos no se ha dado a conocer aún.

Además de diputados y obispos, millares de otros liturgistas, voluntarios, visitantes y expositores asisten a la Convención. Para el 24 de junio, cerca de 4.500 personas se habían inscrito para asistir, y más del doble de esa cifra se espera que asistan al menos a parte de la Convención, según el Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Convención General.

La reunión trienal de las Mujeres Episcopales (ECW) está teniendo lugar al mismo tiempo que la Convención General, y sus miembros asistirán a la recolección de la Ofrenda Unida de Gracias durante la eucaristía del 28 de junio.

Al igual que el resto de la Convención, los oficios de culto serán sin papeles impresos en la medida de lo posible. En la eucaristía de apertura, la mayoría de los participantes siguió el orden del oficio en sus iPads o en otros aparatos electrónicos.

El oficio consumió caja y media de vino de oporto (Taylor Tawny Port) y 96 hogazas de pan de una panadería local (Eva’s Boulangerie). Los elementos fueron distribuidos por 144 ministros de la eucaristía en 12 estaciones. Cada oficio de culto diario conlleva la participación de 36 a 40 diáconos, de dos a seis ujieres de vara y una docena de miembros de la sociedad del altar.

 

Una intérprete de lenguaje de signos traduce en la eucaristía de apertura de la Convención General. Los organizadores de los servicios devocionales se esforzaron en que los oficios fuesen integrados de muchas maneras, incluido el uso de varios idiomas. El oficio del 25 de junio incorporó lecturas y oraciones tanto en inglés como en español. Foto de Sharon Sheridan/ ENS.

Cualquiera que asista a la Convención es bienvenido a servir de voluntario cuando entra en el salón de cultos, a convertirse en ministro de la eucaristía para ese oficio, dijo Margaret McLarty, maestra de ceremonias para la Convención. “Queremos una amplia participación. Eso por eso que la llamamos 66eucaristía comunitaria”.

Esa comunidad incluye a los niños presentes en la Convención. Los que participan en el programa de los niños se sientan en un área reservada al frente del espacio de culto. Antes del oficio, muchos de los niños se encontraban echados en mantas en el suelo.

“Todos se van a quedar dormidos durante el oficio y luego vamos a tener que despertarlos para la Comunión”, predijo la consejera Georgia Atkinson de Concord, Nuevo Hampshire.

“Todas las partes [del culto] son muy deliberadas”, dijo McLarty. “Estamos tratando de tener un ambiente sagrado en medio de la Convención General donde todos se sientan inspirados a encontrar una verdadera presencia de Dios”.

— Sharon Sheridan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Histórica sesión conjunta le permite a obispos y diputados conocer a los nominados a la primacía

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lloyd Allen, obispo de la Diócesis de Honduras, dirige la oración de apertura el 24 de junio durante la histórica sesión conjunta de la Cámara de Obispos y la Cámara de Diputados para encontrarse con los cuatro obispos nominados a la elección del 27º. obispo primado de la Iglesia Episcopal. Allen es miembro del Comité de Nominaciones Conjunto para la Elección del Obispo Primado. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Los cuatro obispos nominados [para la elección] del 27º. obispo presidente y primado de la Iglesia Episcopal participaron en una primera sesión de este género para que tanto los obispos como los diputados oyeran a los nominados.

Thomas Breidenthal, obispo de la Diócesis de Ohio Sur; Michael Curry, obispo de la Diócesis de Carolina del Norte; Ian Douglas, obispo de la Diócesis de Connecticut y Dabney Smith, obispo de la Diócesis del Suroeste de la Florida, pasaron casi tres horas respondiendo preguntas y haciendo declaraciones de apertura y de clausura.

“El comité cree que el obispo primado deberá dirigir, amar e inspirar al pueblo en una época en que tanto la incertidumbre como la oportunidad definen el momento”, dijo Sally Johnson, copresidente del Comité de Nominaciones Conjunto para la Elección del Obispo Primado.

La sesión tuvo por objeto ayudar a obispos y diputados a discernir quién de los cuatro obispos es la persona que proporcione esa triple respuesta al llamado de Dios y de la Iglesia.

Cada nominado fue presentado por medio de un breve vídeo informal que cada uno de ellos hizo valiéndose de un aparato digital, después de lo cual cada uno tenía tres minutos para hablarles a los reunidos en persona y vía webcast. Los nominados respondieron luego a preguntas del comité, de los obispos, los diputados y los suplentes a la Convención General y de miembros de las congregaciones episcopales.

Johnson dijo que el comité sintetizó 186 preguntas en ocho categorías con cinco preguntas en cada grupo. Las categorías fueron asuntos de liderazgo; asuntos de teología y liturgia; asuntos basados en la fe; asuntos de reconciliación; asuntos de homosexualidad, bisexualidad y transexualidad; asuntos de desinversión; asuntos espirituales y de cuidado personal y asuntos de estructura. Los obispos tuvieron conocimiento de estas categorías con antelación, pero no de las preguntas específicas, según Ed Konieczny, obispo de la Diócesis de Oklahoma y copresidente del comité.

Los cuatro obispos extrajeron de un tazón papelitos de colores numerados durante cada ronda de preguntas y les hacían una de las cinco preguntas de esa categoría. No todos los nominados extrajeron todas las preguntas en todas las categorías. Las preguntas las hicieron miembros del comité de nominaciones desde el pleno de la Cámara de Diputados, y cada una comenzaba con esta fórmula: Sr. Obispo, la Iglesia quiere preguntar…”

La primera pregunta para cada obispo fue específica sobre la visión que cada nominado eligió en los materiales que se publicaron el 1 de mayo. Ese material se encuentra aquí.

A Breidenthal le preguntaron de qué manera, tal como él había dicho, le daría lugar a las personas que estaban en una trayectoria de fe, pero que no habían encontrado un lugar en la Iglesia Episcopal. Él replicó que la Iglesia tenía que dejar de preguntarse cómo atraer a más personas porque esa era una pregunta equivocada.

En lugar de eso, dijo, los episcopales deben entender que son llamados al mundo, donde pueden estar en “auténtica y santa conversación” con aquellas personas que todavía no han encontrado un lugar en la Iglesia —y estar dispuestos a aprender de ellas.

Y, si bien los episcopales se enorgullecen con todo derecho de sostener sólidas relaciones entre sí, la firmeza de esos vínculos a veces significa que hay poco espacio para otros, incluso para Jesús, dijo él. Cuando los episcopales se sienten cómodos contándose mutuamente “historias de nuestra fe, historia de nuestra duda” ese espacio se abrirá y enseñará a la gente a ver a Cristo en el extraño.

Curry había dicho que el obispo primado debe ser un director ejecutivo de dos tipos: un director ejecutivo y un director de evangelización. Le preguntaron cómo desempeñaría las responsabilidades fiduciarias, legales y corporativas de un director ejecutivo al tiempo de ser también director de evangelización. Curry dijo que él encontraría “la gente mejor y más capaz” para dirigir la organización, pero advirtió que sólo contar con las personas “que saben contar y saben invertir y saben llevar los libros no es suficiente”.

“Debería de haber una razón para hacerlo”, dijo, explicando que la razón es posibilitarle el testimonio a Jesús, que debe ser el centro en torno al cual se construye la estructura de la Iglesia.

Douglas había dicho que él quería alentar a los episcopales a descubrir y participar en lo que Dios está haciendo en el mundo y en sus barrios. “Creo en un Dios que está vivo, un Dios que ciertamente sale al encuentro de los que están tan necesitados de restauración y de integridad y de nueva vida”, dijo cuando le pidieron que se explicara mejor durante la sesión.

Este Dios invita a las personas, por virtud de su bautismo, a participar de esa restauración. “Es en el mundo que somos llamados a ser fieles a la nueva vida de Dios en Cristo. Así pues, es en nuestro barrio donde encontramos, celebramos y hacemos realidad esa acción restauradora de Dios que es tan necesaria”, apuntó.

 

A Smith le preguntaron respecto a su deseo de buscar una reconciliación que pudieran mantener a la Iglesia Episcopal como “una gran carpa desde el punto de vista teológico” sin perder “las ganancias pastorales y teológicas que se hicieron en años recientes”.

Él le dijo a la sesión que procuraría perseguir ese objetivo como obispo primado siendo un “constructor de puentes, un constructor de confianza, compartiendo la responsabilidad, siendo constantemente una fuente de aliento para reconocer que Dios me ha llamado a ser evangelista y pastor y a procurar la reconciliación que el mundo constantemente necesita, a mantenerme siempre conectado con las personas que se sientan en los bancos”.

Dijo que quiere ser capaz de trabajar en “asuntos cambiantes” en diócesis y congregaciones, y en relaciones en la Comunión Anglicana y en la Iglesia Episcopal “de manera que podamos transitar juntos en el amor de Jesús”.

El Rdo. David Jackson, miembro del comité y proveniente de Hawái, fue el moderador de la sesión.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori se sentó en la sección de visitantes a un lado del salón para escuchar la sesión.

El resto del proceso de elección

Los cuatro nombres serán formalmente presentados a la Convención General durante una sesión conjunta el 26 de junio, el día antes del fijado para la elección por la Cámara de Obispos del 27º. obispo Presidente y Primado.

El 27 de junio, los obispos se reunirán en la eucaristía de la Convención a las 9:30 A.M., hora local, en el Centro de Convenciones de Salt Palace. Luego de eso, los obispos con asiento, voz y voto abordarán unos autobuses para viajar hasta la catedral de San Marcos [St. Mark’s Cathedral], donde tendrá lugar la elección en un contexto de oración y reflexión.

Una vez que la elección haya tenido lugar, Jefferts Schori enviará una delegación a Jennings para informarla del nombre del obispo que ha resultado electo. Jennings referirá el nombre al comité legislativo para la confirmación del Obispo Primado de la Cámara de Diputados, sin anunciar el nombre al pleno de la Cámara. El Comité legislativo hará una recomendación a la Cámara de Diputados de confirmar o no confirmar la elección, y la Cámara de Diputados votará inmediatamente sobre la recomendación. Jennings luego nombrará una delegación de diputados para notificarle a la Cámara de Obispos de la decisión tomada y el obispo primado electo irá entonces a la Cámara de Diputados.

No se permite ninguna comunicación procedente de la Cámara de Obispos durante la elección y hasta que la confirmación se reciba.

El obispo primado electo predicará en la eucaristía de clausura de la Convención el 3 de julio y Jefferts Schori presidirá. El período de nuevo años del obispo primado electo comienza a partir del 1 de noviembre de 2015.

El Obispo Presidente y Primado es pastor principal de la Iglesia, y preside el Consejo Ejecutivo y la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera.

— La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

General Convention journey begins with community Eucharist

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, center, celebrated the opening Eucharist of General Convention, assisted at the altar by the Rev. Lauren Welch, Diocese of Maryland deacon for mission, left, and Margaret McLarty, platform master of ceremonies. The service used 49 baskets of bread from a local bakery and 25 flagons of wine at the altar and 12 Communion stations. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/ Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church opened with a call to join the hard communal work of building the road to God’s kingdom.

Preaching at the Salt Palace Convention Center here, home to the June 25-July 3 convention, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told thousands of worshipers: “This may be an Episcopal convention, but we are all supposed to be John Baptists and Jane Baptists. Our task is to build that straight road, knock down the privileged heights, fill in the sloughs of despair and make the road flat enough for all God’s people – and that includes Baptists, Episcopalians, Jews, Hindus and ‘nones.’

“We’ve been baptized into Jesus’ baptism as well as John’s, and called to the kingdom work all the prophets proclaim: to be light in the darkness, strength and comfort for God’s people, gathering the lambs and leading ewes to shelter, and showing the healing power of forgiveness. That is the road to the peaceable kingdom,” the presiding bishop said. The Eucharist celebrated the Nativity of John the Baptist (transferred from June 24).

“We won’t reach our journey’s end,” she concluded, “unless we go together in company, in solidarity and partnership, trusting that God has provided what is needed – if we share the work and the gifts. That is the deepest meaning of forgiveness of our sins, which are always bound up with self-centeredness and selfishness. Remember that in the heat of debate! God has given us a variety of perspectives, and the body needs those gifts.”

The full text of the presiding bishop’s sermon is here.

For the first time, this General Convention is not using printed worship bulletins for the daily Eucharists. Worshipers accessed the order of worship via electronic devices during the opening service on June 25. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/ Episcopal News Service

The deliberative body where those debates will take place is the church’s bicameral legislature, composed of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. As the convention opened, the House of Deputies had 839 registered clergy and lay deputies, with 550 of them serving on legislative committees. The deputies include 398 new members and 12 deputies born in the 1990s. About 66 percent of the House of Deputies is made up of first- and second-time members.

An attendance figure for the House of Bishops is not yet available.

Beyond deputies and bishops, thousands of other liturgists, volunteers, visitors and exhibitors attend the convention. As of June 24, nearly 4,500 people had preregistered to attend, and more than twice that number is expected to attend at least part of the convention, according to the Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention.

The Episcopal Church Women’s Triennial Meeting is taking place concurrently with General Convention, with its members attending the United Thank Offering ingathering during the June 28 Eucharist.

Like the rest of the convention, the worship services will be as paperless as possible. At the opening Eucharist, most participants followed the order of service on their iPads or other electronic devices.

The service used one-and-a-half cases of Taylor Tawny Port and 96 loaves of bread from a local bakery, Eva’s Boulangerie. The elements were distributed by 144 eucharistic ministers at 12 stations. Each daily worship service also involves 36 to 40 deacons, two to six vergers and a dozen altar guild members.

A sign-language interpreter translates the opening Eucharist of General Convention. Worship planners work to make the services inclusive in many ways, including using multiple languages. The June 25 worship service incorporated both English and Spanish readings and prayers. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/ Episcopal News Service

Anyone attending the convention is welcome to volunteer when entering the worship hall to become a eucharistic minister for that service, said Margaret McLarty, platform master of ceremonies for the convention. “We want broad participation. That’s why we call it the community Eucharist.”

That community includes the convention’s children. Those participating in the children’s program sat in a reserved area at the front of the worship space. Before the service, many of the children snuggled up in blankets on the floor.

“They’re all going to fall sleep during the service, and then we’re going to have to wake them up for Communion,” predicted counselor Georgia Atkinson of Concord, New Hampshire.

“Every part of [the worship] is very intentional,” McLarty said. “We’re trying to have a sacred environment within the midst of General Convention where all will be inspired to know a real presence of God.”

— Sharon Sheridan is an Episcopal News Service correspondent.

Muestran iniciativas de ministerios ‘revolucionarios y radicales’ a la Iglesia en este trienio

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] La Diócesis Episcopal de la República Dominicana dio recientemente un gran paso adelante para garantizar su misión y ministerio para el futuro gracias a una subvención única de $950.000 otorgada por la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS).

“La contribución que la Iglesia Episcopal hace a la [Iglesia en la] República Dominicana representa un estímulo a favor de los esfuerzos que ha estado haciendo la diócesis para alcanzar el objetivo de la sostenibilidad económica”, dijo Julio César Holguín Khoury, obispo de la [Diócesis de la] República Dominicana, en un correo electrónico a Episcopal News Service. “Contribuirá de manera significativa al continuo desarrollo de la obra de evangelización y de servicio social concentrada en la misión que hemos estado haciendo desde la llegada del anglicanismo al país en 1897”.

(La Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) es el nombre legal y canónico con el cual la Iglesia Episcopal está incorporada, funciona empresarialmente y lleva a cabo la misión).

La subvención, un componente clave para el plan de [la Iglesia en] la República Dominicana de dotar sus operaciones de misión, significa el compromiso a largo plazo de la DFMS para garantizar la misión y el ministerio en la IX Provincia, dijo Samuel A. McDonald, subdirector de operaciones y director de misión de la DFMS.

“La importancia es que ésta es la primera subvención cuantiosa que la DFMS ha hecho en apoyo a la sostenibilidad”, dijo McDonald.

Desde 2013, la DFMS ha estado trabajando con todas las diócesis de la IX Provincia —la República Dominicana, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras y Puerto Rico— para desarrollar un plan de autosostén y además garantizar sus ministerios.

El plan de 18 años para garantizar la misión y el ministerio en la IX Provincia es coherente con la segunda de las Cinco Marcas de la Misión de la Comunión Anglicana: enseñar, bautizar y formar a nuevos creyentes. El presupuesto del actual trienio se basó en las Cinco Marcas de la Misión.

Las diócesis de la IX Provincia adoptaron el autosostén como un punto focal en 2012; además de la República Dominicana, Honduras y Ecuador Central han hecho avances significativos para garantizar su misión y ministerio.

El presupuesto 2013-2015 asignó $2,9 millones en subvenciones globales a lo largo del trienio y también incluyó $1 millón adicional para la IX Provincia con el objetivo de “fortalecer a la provincia para una misión sostenible”.

El Plan de sostenibilidad de la IX Provincia fue adoptado por el Consejo Ejecutivo en 2014.

A la Convención General se le pedirá mediante la Resolución A015 que continúe su apoyo del plan en el trienio 2016-2018.

El plan de la 2ª. Marca significa un notable cambio en el enfoque de la Iglesia para ayudar a las diócesis extranjeras, y fue un resultado directo de la labor de sostenibilidad que comenzó en 2011 durante una conferencia en Tela, Honduras, que reunió a las diócesis de la IX Provincia para explorar la sostenibilidad, dijo McDonald.

“El aspecto realmente notable del plan de la Marca de la Misión… es el valiente liderazgo y la visión de los dirigentes de la diócesis de la IX Provincia. Si bien a menudo conversamos acerca de ‘garantizar el ministerio’ y de ‘planes sostenibles’, los líderes de la IX Provincia opinan que es bueno para la vida espiritual de la IX Provincia. Están rompiendo los viejos modelos coloniales de dependencia y conduciéndonos a todos a un modelo de ministerio que se asienta en la asociación, dijo McDonald. “Esa es la verdadera visión de este trabajo”.

Cada una de las diócesis de la IX Provincia contemplada en el plan recibirá finalmente una subvención específica basada en un plan estratégico para el autosostén, además de las subvenciones globales que se distribuyen anualmente.

En los próximos años, el monto de la subvención global recibida por la República Dominicana irá decreciendo y dentro de diez años cesará. Lo mismo ocurrirá con las restantes diócesis de la IX Provincia en la medida en que alcancen la sostenibilidad económica. Según cada diócesis se hace sostenible, se compromete a trabajar con las otras diócesis de la provincia para ayudarles a alcanzar el mismo objetivo.

“Le damos infinitas gracias a Dios por la iniciativa de la Obispa Primada y la Convención General de designar los fondos para contribuir a que las diócesis de la IX Provincia se liberen gradualmente de la dependencia económica, al tomar sus propias iniciativas, que conducen a la sostenibilidad de la misión en sus respectivos lugares”, dijo Holguín,

La [Diócesis de la] República Dominicana recibió la primera subvención específica porque la diócesis tenía una un plan vigente y había avanzado más en el camino de la sostenibilidad económica.

Por ejemplo, en la República Dominicana:

  • Las congregaciones locales, la mayoría de las cuales tienen recursos limitados, han comenzado a asumir responsabilidades por algunos de sus propios costos, mayordomía, servicios públicos, mantenimiento, salarios del clero, educación cristiana y programas sociales.
  • Las congregaciones han comenzado programas empresariales.
  • Las escuelas, centros de conferencia e instituciones de la diócesis continúan creciendo conforme a sus propias capacidades administrativas y los servicios que ofrecen, aumentando así sus ingresos y su contribución a la diócesis y su misión en el país.
  • El Grupo Dominicano de Desarrollo y el subsidio anual de la Iglesia Episcopal brindan ayuda continua.

En 1998, se creó el Grupo Dominicano de Desarrollo con el objetivo fundamental de buscar los “recursos humanos, materiales y económicos que se necesitan para mantener el índice de crecimiento de la diócesis y proporcionarle a la diócesis la capacidad de conservar programas de calidad”.

En el transcurso de unos 15 años, el GDD ha recaudado más de $10 millones para financiar la construcción de infraestructuras, incluidas iglesias, escuelas, guarderías infantiles y clínicas en la República Dominicana. Se alza como un modelo de empresarismo a través de la IX Provincia.

La subvención específica de $950.000 servirá para apoyar los fondos que ya existen en la diócesis, los cuales están invertidos en los mercados financieros locales de la República Dominicana. Actualmente, la economía dominicana es una de las de más rápido crecimiento en América Latina.

En 2014, la diócesis ganó un rédito de un 15 por ciento sobre su inversión. Su plan de sostenibilidad estipula que el 20 por ciento de las ganancias se añada al activo de la diócesis, dijo Holguín.

— Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church: June 25 sermon by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release]  “Follow Jesus into the neighborhoods,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her sermon at the opening Eucharist to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 25. “Travel light.”

Watch the Eucharist on the Media Hub here.

The following is the text of the sermon

General Convention
Opening Eucharist
June 25, 2015

It’s pretty hot for camel hair right now. You may not have had locusts for breakfast, but I can tell you where to buy protein bars made from cricket flour.[1]   And I saw honey for sale in the exhibit area.  This may be an Episcopal convention, but we are all supposed to be John Baptists and Jane Baptists.  Our task is to build that straight road, knock down the privileged heights, fill in the sloughs of despair, and make the road flat enough for all God’s people – and that includes Baptists, Episcopalians, Jews, Hindus, and “nones.”

We’ve been baptized into Jesus’ baptism as well as John’s, and called to the kingdom work all the prophets proclaim: to be light in the darkness, strength and comfort for God’s people, gathering the lambs and leading ewes to shelter, and showing the healing power of forgiveness.  That is the road to the peaceable kingdom.

John was a pretty edgy dude.  Like those who dwell on our streets and sleep in our parks, he wasn’t terribly welcome in the palaces of his day.  And like them, John scratched out a living in the desert.  Locusts and honey were probably luxuries, for lizards and carrion are likelier sources of protein.  In the desert water is always scarce and frequently alkaline. We are sitting here on the edge of a desert where death is ever present.  Many died by violence [2]  before the trek to this oasis began, and others were murdered or died of disease and exposure as they sought their destiny even farther west.[3]

We live in a world filled with deserts of death – wars in the Middle East and Africa, racial and ethnic strife almost everywhere, and exploitation of human beings and the whole created order.  The song is more than 50 years old but it’s hauntingly current:
They’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!
It ends even more tellingly:
They’re rioting in Africa, there’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us, will be done by our fellow man.[4]

We are grieving nine African-American Christians murdered while at Bible study.  Women and girls are being raped and kidnapped as spoils of war in Central Africa. The Dominican Republic is expelling people of Haitian descent some of whose ancestors have been there for generations.  Brazil has seen vicious attacks on Candomblé[5] communities recently.  An 11 year old girl was stoned by militant Christians as she left a worship gathering last week, and a 90 year old priestess died of a heart attack when her worship space was invaded.[6]

We can help to build a different kind of road. One with light bearers rather than death dealers.  The good news is there are forerunners at work in all the places of the world’s conflict and hate – forerunners pointing to the Prince of Peace.  Members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston made their light-filled witness at the arraignment of the young man charged with shooting their fellow parishioners.  They stood up and said, ‘we forgive you, even in the midst of our nearly boundless pain; hate must not win.’[7]    Their statements echoed the forgiveness offered by the Amish community whose daughters were slaughtered at school in 2006.[8]   The Anglican Church in DR Congo is leading the work of healing and reintegrating women struck down in war.[9]   In the Dominican Republic, Bishop Holguin and other religious and civic leaders are moving mountains to address the growing injustices meted out to people with darker skins.[10]   In Porto Alegre, Brazil, an interreligious group of leaders stands in solidarity with all.[11]

We are gathered here to let our own light shine, to foster the work of peace everywhere, to stand in solidarity with people struggling to survive in the desert.  On Sunday I met a group of young people in the Birmingham airport, whose T-shirts said “the Road.”  They were on a Methodist mission trip, coming to work somewhere in an Alabama desert.  What Road gear will you put on for the way to the Reign of God?

This convention is about road-building in the desert.  That kind of work that has always required teams of people, usually poor, often enslaved, sometimes a chosen vocation.  Building a road home into the kingdom of God requires solidarity with those who are dragooned into construction work without compensation for their labor as well as those who cannot find a road.  It’s one reason Jesus called himself a road warrior, with no place to lay his head.  There are many roles –you can join the chain gang, the litter crew, the Good Samaritan posse…

Our conversations about structure, mission, and marriage can prepare us for the journey, but they will not build the roadbed.  They are a necessary prelude, a community-building exercise to get us focused and moving.  The longer task is to build a road that will accommodate wheelchairs as easily as feet, that will gather the little ones and the ancient ones together into an ever-increasing company taking the road for home.  We’re bound for a world without predators, with plentiful food and water for all, where all God’s children are greeted with dignity reflecting their divine image, and the gifts of creation are shared and available to all, as each one has need.

We won’t reach our journey’s end unless we go together in company, in solidarity and partnership, trusting that God has provided what is needed – if we share the work and the gifts.  That is the deepest meaning of forgiveness of our sins, which are always bound up with self-centeredness and selfishness. Remember that in the heat of debate!  God has given us a variety of perspectives, and the body needs those gifts.

This road will be built by the bruised and broken, imperfect body of Christ.  We’re in transit in this world, on our way to the beloved community and the peaceable kingdom.  Stony the road may be, it’s built by blood, sweat, and tears, and bound together by the solidarity of countless feet, marching upward to Zion.

Follow Jesus into the neighborhoods. Travel light.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

1 https://www.exoprotein.com/two-bars-free?campaignid=29338&mbsy=clnZ6&mbsy_source=37b57380-ad1f-4aa1-86a2-5d17f7b6e80a
2 http://www.pbs.org/mormons/peopleevents/e_opposition.html
3 https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/09/the-mountain-meadows-massacre?lang=eng
4 “The Merry Minuet,” Kingston Trio:  http://www.lyrster.com/lyrics/the-merry-minuet-lyrics-kingston-trio.html
5  Afro-Brazilian religious tradition originating with West African slaves transported by the Portuguese
6 Joanildo Burity, personal communication, 20 June 2014; http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/19/candomble-brazil-rio-de-janeiro-evangelical
7 http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/21/South-Carolina-Charleston-Shooting-Emanuel-African-Methodist-Church.html
8 Amish Grace  http://amishgrace.com/
9 http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2014/11/work-to-help-drc-rape-victims-wins-peace-prize.aspx
10 http://www.thenation.com/blog/209745/we-regret-inform-you-4-days-you-and-your-family-will-be-deported-haiti#
11 Grupo de Dialogo Inter-Religioso de Porto Alegre http://wp.clicrbs.com.br/blogdasreligioes/?topo=13,1,1,,,13

En sus declaraciones de apertura, funcionarias ejecutivas instan a la Iglesia a correr riesgos y a examinarse la conciencia

Thursday, June 25, 2015

 

La trayectoria que la Iglesia tiene por delante “exige valor: aventurarse en el futuro desconocido, amistarse con extraños, enfrentarse a todo lo que niegue la vida y la vitalidad, y seguir aprendiendo maneras interdependientes de vivir”, dijo la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori a una sesión conjunta de la Cámara de Diputados y de la Cámara de Obispos el 24 de junio, el día antes del inicio oficial de la Convención General. El globo en forma de caballo flota sobre la mesa de la diputación de la Diócesis de Lexington. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Diputados y obispos se reunieron en el Centro de Convenciones Salt Palace para una sesión conjunta en la mañana del 24 de junio para escuchar las declaraciones de apertura de la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori y de la presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, Rda. Gay Clark Jennings.

La sesión conjunta, que tuvo lugar un día antes del inicio de las tareas legislativas de la Convención General que oficialmente comienza el 25 de junio, establece un contexto de colaboración para el trabajo a seguir.

Con todo lo que la Convención General tiene que llevar a cabo a lo largo de los próximos nueve días, tanto Jefferts Schori como Jennings se concentraron en la necesidad de la Iglesia Episcopal de cruzar nuevas fronteras, incluso cuando se concentra en su estructura y gobierno institucionales.

Ellas instaron a la asunción de riesgos, al examen de conciencia, al valor y a la apertura en esa empresa.

Jefferts Schori describió la travesía de la Iglesia Episcopal como una “expedición misionera”, usando un término de la exploración espacial [trek] que encaja con TREC, la sigla en inglés del Equipo de Trabajo para Reinventar la Iglesia Episcopal, cuyas propuestas de restructuración constituyen un tema de gran relevancia que se presenta ante la Convención General.

“Hay sobrada aventura por delante en este viaje hacia el cielo, y exige nuestro valor para relacionarnos con seres desconocidos, con nuevos desafíos e inesperadas oportunidades”, dijo Jefferts Schori.  “Vamos rumbo a una Galaxia llamada Galilea y a los límites del mundo conocido, porque es allí donde Jesús nos envió y donde él promete encontrarnos”.

Ella enfatizó la interdependencia como la vocación y el destino de la Iglesia.

“Nadie va solo; juntos cuidamos de los más necesitados. Nuestra creciente comprensión de la interrelación humana con el resto de la creación significa el cuidado consciente de la tierra y de todos sus habitantes, no sólo de los humanos”, afirmó.

Ella reconoció que a la Convención General “le aguardan muchísimos desafíos” y dijo que las decisiones tomadas en Salt Lake City “pueden ayudar a edificar un mundo más justo y pacífico”.

“Este cuerpo está llamado a ser un sacramento de Dios, una demostración externa de la vida y esperanza que está dentro de nosotros”, añadió.

“Estamos en una expedición misionera, esparciendo simientes de vida y amor a los cuatro vientos y a través de la tierra. Sobran riesgos en esa siembra pródiga, porque no todas [las simientes] echarán raíces y crecerán para la cosecha”, dijo Jefferts Schori, pero no obstante instó a la Iglesia hacia los nuevos modos de ser y de extenderse.

“¿Cómo este cuerpo aquí en Salt Lake seguirá fomentando ese tipo de siembra?”, preguntó.

La Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, le recordaba a la sesión conjunta de la Cámara de Diputados y de la Cámara de Obispos que ambas cámaras tienen mucho trabajo por delante antes de que la Convención General concluya el 3 de julio. “No sólo reuniones y audiencias y sesiones legislativas, sino también escucharnos los unos a los otros y prestar atención a las cosas nuevas que están surgiendo entre nosotros”, dijo. “Gran parte de la labor que tenemos que hacer es sobre nuestro futuro institucional. Pero eso no es todo lo que hacemos”. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Jennings, mencionó también cómo la Iglesia se encuentra “de pie en una frontera entre lo viejo y lo nuevo”.

“Al reunirnos aquí para luchar con el futuro de nuestra amada Iglesia Episcopal, estamos en suelo sagrado, esforzándonos para oír hablar a Dios por encima de todo el ruido”, dijo ella.

En la preparación para el trabajo a realizar, “silenciemos el escándalo a nuestro alrededor y escuchemos lo nuevo dentro de nosotros mismos” dijo ella, refiriéndose a un sermón del teólogo Paul Tillich.

“Bajemos el volumen de las estadísticas del Pew Center acerca de la decadencia de la Iglesia institucional, los interminables argumentos en la Red respecto a lo que la generación del milenio realmente quiere y lo que alguien llamó recientemente en Tweeter el ‘complejo industrial de la decadencia eclesiástica’. Tranquilicemos nuestras almas”.

El debate de la Iglesia respecto a qué forma debe asumir su estructura para posibilitar la misión es en verdad acerca de la identidad, dijo.

“Estamos hablando sobre nuestra visión de la amada comunidad, y nos hacemos importantes preguntas. ¿Podemos reestructurarnos de una manera que inspire y energice a las personas de nuestra Iglesia? ¿Podemos reestructurarnos de una manera que siga respetando los dones de todos los órdenes de ministerio? Nos referimos a lo que somos como pueblo de Dios si no somos la Iglesia que hemos sido siempre”, apuntó ella. “Nos referimos al hecho de que Dios no ha terminado con nosotros todavía”.

Enfrentarse a los problemas del futuro institucional de la Iglesia no el único quehacer que tenemos por delante, le recordaba ella a la asamblea.

“La Iglesia no es el único segmento de nuestra sociedad que está tambaleándose ahora mismo”, dijo Jennings. “La desigualdad en los ingresos es mayor de lo que ha sido desde 1928, nuestras ciudades están asediadas por la violencia armada y la injusticia racial, y demasiados jóvenes negros se ven atrapados en la ruta de la escuela a la cárcel”.

“Este verano, especialmente, debemos arrepentirnos” de no hacer lo bastante “para corregir las injusticias de la discriminación, del privilegio de los blancos y de la desigualdad en el mundo que nos rodea”, subrayó Jennings.

“La Convención General es donde nosotros los episcopales tenemos la capacidad no sólo de proclamar que las vidas de los negros importan, sino también de tomar medidas concretas para ponerle fin al racismo y hacer realidad el sueño de Dios de reconciliación racial y justicia. No podemos hacer menos”.

La sesión conjunta, el 24 de junio, de la Cámara de Diputados y de la Cámara de Obispos se reunió en el enorme salón de la Cámara de Diputados, que tiene suficiente espacio para cerca de 900 diputados y suplentes, traductores, una galería de visitantes y un espacio para los medios de prensa, los invitados [nacionales e] internacionales y los miembros del Consejo Ejecutivo. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

La sesión conjunta también escuchó a la Rda. Nancy Crawford, presidente de la Junta Ejecutiva de Mujeres Episcopales (ECW), cuya reunión trienal se celebra al mismo tiempo que la Convención General.

Ella informó sobre varios empeños de justicia social de las ECW, incluida la labor durante el último trienio para crear conciencia sobre la trata de personas —mediante el apoyo de Servicios Educativos y de Mentoría de Niñas, o GEMS, un servicio de educación y mentoría que se les brinda a niñas y mujeres jóvenes que han sido víctimas de explotación sexual; el apoyo este año al Centro de Recursos para Jóvenes sin Hogar en Salt Lake City; y el proyecto De Mujeres a Mujeres de las ECW, que ofrece pequeñas subvenciones a mujeres para microempresas en todo el mundo.

— Tracy J. Sukraw es parte del equipo de Episcopal News Service presente en la Convención. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

La paz y la justicia en Tierra Santa se destacan en la agenda de la Convención

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Paz, justicia y seguridad en Tierra Santa son el foco de siete resoluciones que se han sometido a la consideración de la Convención General, y que van desde llamados a mayores inversiones en asociaciones del Oriente Medio hasta ejercer mayor presión económica mediante boicots o desinversiones en compañías y corporaciones dedicadas a ciertos negocios con el Estado de Israel.

Las relaciones interreligiosas de la Iglesia Episcopal y sus asociaciones con la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén y sus instituciones de servicios sociales hace mucho que han sido un factor importante a la hora de tomar decisiones políticas sobre la pacificación en el Oriente Medio.

Estas consideraciones condujeron a la Convención General de 2012 a aprobar la Resolución B019, que afirma la inversión positiva “como un medio necesario de crear una economía sólida y una infraestructura sostenible” en los Territorios Palestinos.

Avanzando a partir de la B019, el obispo Prince Singh de la Diócesis de Rochester, copresidente del comité legislativo sobre justicia social y política internacional de la Convención General que abordará las resoluciones, le dijo a Episcopal News Service que él espera que “las deliberaciones sobre paz y seguridad en Tierra Santa serán seriamente discutidas por los diputados y los obispos para diferenciar sobre el terreno a los palestinos, israelíes y otros ciudadanos comunes que viven allí, y que en general se abstendrán de apuntarse tantos políticos”.

Singh fue parte de una peregrinación interreligiosa, dirigida por la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori, que viajó a Tierra Santa en enero para oír una amplia gama de perspectivas sobre los intereses del Oriente Medio y discernir cómo las tres fes abrahámicas podrían ser mejores agentes de la pacificación.

La delegación de 15 miembros integrada por judíos, cristianos y musulmanes se reunió con agrupaciones [que llevan a cabo] iniciativas de paz en la base y participó en una serie de reuniones políticas y religiosas de alto nivel en Israel y los Territorios Palestinos, incluidos los encuentros con el ex primer ministro israelí Shimon Peres y el actual primer ministro palestino Rami Hamdallah.

Si bien el grupo escuchó profundas preocupaciones, frustraciones y fuertes sentimientos de desconfianza en medio de un proceso de paz paralizado, sus miembros convinieron en que una solución pacífica del conflicto israelí-palestino exige personas de fe que sean asociados eficaces, comprometidos a oír múltiples narrativas y a invertir en iniciativas que busquen edificar una comunidad.

Recomendada por la Resolución B019, la peregrinación “demuestra ser un patrón icónico y dinámico para interactuar cara a cara con personas de varias creencias a partir de un profundo deseo de escuchar y de buscar la justicia con la paz para nuestra común transformación”, dijo Singh a ENS.

El obispo Nicholas Knisely de la Diócesis de Rhode Island, el proponente de dos resoluciones secundadas por otros 10 obispos, dijo que la Iglesia Episcopal debe “ser un agente de reconciliación en el mundo” y que la desinversión no forma parte del mandato del evangelio.

La Resolución B012 llama a la Iglesia Episcopal a buscar “formas nuevas, creativas y efectivas de progresar en su labor hacia la paz y la justicia en el conflicto israelí-palestino, respalda un modelo de justicia restauradora que invita a todas las personas afectadas por el conflicto a laborar hacia una justa relación mutua mediante la identificación y la atención de las necesidades de todas las comunidades afectadas y, a su vez, la creación de una atmósfera de paz, justicia, reconciliación y cooperación”.

 La Resolución B013 insta al gobierno de Estados Unidos —en coordinación con sus aliados globales— “a ofrecer un nuevo marco operativo amplio y limitado en el tiempo al gobierno de Israel y a la Autoridad Palestina para la negociación concluyente de un acuerdo de paz de dos estados y la resolución de todos los problemas del estatus final… reconociendo que simples llamados a las partes a regresar a la mesa de negociaciones ya no son suficientes para la urgencia de la situación”.

“Se nos pide que seamos misioneros”, dijo Knisely, “de manera que romper relaciones con las personas no parece que responda a los valores del evangelio. Ayudar a las víctimas, pero manteniendo la relación con esas personas con quienes uno está en desacuerdo y llamar al arrepentimiento en tanto uno se sienta a su mesa y comparte una comida con ellas, ese es el modelo del evangelio”.

Los otros obispos que secundaron la resolución presentada por Knisely son: Sean Rowe de las diócesis de Pensilvania Noroccidental y Bethlehem; John Tarrant de Dakota del Sur; el vicepresidente de la Cámara de Obispos Dean Wolfe de Kansas; Jon Bruno, Diane Bruce y Mary Glasspool de Los Ángeles; Greg Rickel de Olympia; Barry Beisner de California Norte; James Magness de los Servicios Armados y Ministerios Federales, y Peter Eaton Florida Sudoriental (o del Sudeste).

El Rdo. canónigo John E. Kitagawa, diputado de la Diócesis de Arizona, ha sido miembro de la Comisión Permanente sobre Asuntos de Paz con Justicia Anglicanos e Internacionales, uno de los organismos interinos de la Iglesia que somete la Resolución A052 a la consideración de la Convención General.

La A052 pide un “proceso deliberado de Ubuntu” y un “discernimiento mutuo pacífico” respecto a las políticas de la Iglesia Episcopal “hacia la defensa social, la inversión o desinversión económicas, la misión humanitaria y la pacificación en Palestina e Israel”.

Ubuntu es una palabra zulú/xhosa que describe la identidad humana como formada a través de una comunidad y que conlleva la idea de cuidar, compartir y estar en armonía con toda la creación.

La  resolución sugiere que una agrupación colaboradora debería mediar en el proceso, recoger y diseminar materiales educativos y consultar con una amplia gama de expertos en políticas, organizaciones de ayuda humanitaria y agrupaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas “para conformar y animar un proceso de diálogo entre aquellos de diferentes convicciones… de manera que la Iglesia Episcopal en sus deliberaciones y en sus empeños de defensa social pueda representar el amor de Dios y la posibilidad de un diálogo civilizado que se sobreponga a los problemas frustrantes y controvertidos de un conflicto global”.

Kitagawa, vicepresidente del comité de política legislativa de la Convención General, cree que la Resolución A052 es el mejor enfoque en este momento de parte de la Iglesia Episcopal sobre el proceso de paz en Israel y Palestina.

La Rda. Vicki Gray, diputada de la Diócesis de California, discrepa.

Como la persona que propone la Resolución C012 de la diócesis, Gray le dijo a ENS que la política de larga data de inversión positiva de la Iglesia Episcopal “ha demostrado ser tristemente inadecuada para abordar la situación en Tierra Santa o expresar una apropiada indignación moral. En presencia de la deteriorada situación sobre el terreno, las posibilidades de una solución de dos estados está desapareciendo rápidamente. Nos enfrentamos ahora con la necesidad de una acción urgente y enérgica”.

Gray, que ha visitado Israel y los Territorios Palestinos tres veces, dijo que su respaldo al movimiento que apoya la presión económica mediante boicots, desinversiones y sanciones (BDS) proviene fundamentalmente de lo que ella describe como una “dolorosa experiencia personal”, del encuentro con palestinos cuyas vidas han sido devastadas por la ocupación.

“Sé que algunos llaman a la C012 unilateral”, dijo Gray. “Lo es – porque la situación que aborda es unilateral. Un pueblo – los palestinos – está de rodillas. El otro – los israelíes – le apunta con un fusil a la cabeza. Y nosotros – los norteamericanos – hemos pagado el fusil”.

Gray reiteró que la C012 resuelve rechazar los intentos “de igualar una crítica honesta y legítima de políticas insensatas del gobierno de Israel con antisemitismo”.

“Sé que existe un temor en las altas esferas de la Iglesia de adoptar una resolución BDS que afectaría o le pondría fin al diálogo interreligioso con los que pretenden hablar por los judíos norteamericanos”, dijo. “Sin embargo, debe hacerse la pregunta: ‘¿De qué vamos a hablar?’ Los amigos no le piden a los amigos que cierren los ojos a la injusticia. Los amigos no les piden a sus amigos que ignoren [la voz de] su conciencia como precio para continuar un diálogo. Los amigos no le dictan a los amigos lo que pueden o no pueden hablar. Y los amigos no actúan como facilitadores de la mala conducta de sus amigos. Actuemos como nos dicta nuestra conciencia, confrontemos la injusticia y mantengamos abierto nuestro deseo de un diálogo honesto y sincero. Eso es lo que hacen los amigos”.

Desde 2012, el mundo ha observado el colapso de las conversaciones de paz mediadas por el secretario de Estado de EE.UU. John Kerry; una guerra devastadora entre Israel y el movimiento palestino Hamás en la Franja de Gaza cobró más de 2000 vidas, la mayoría de ellas de civiles palestinos; un aumento de los ataques terroristas; la continua construcción de asentamientos israelíes en territorio palestino y una serie de acciones y declaraciones divisivas de los líderes israelíes y palestinos.

En respuesta a estos hechos, un pequeño grupo de diputados creó recientemente el Comité Episcopal pro Justicia en Israel y Palestina, que redactó la Resolución D016 que le pide a la Iglesia Episcopal que comience un proceso de desinversión en compañías que continúan lucrando de la ocupación israelí de tierras palestinas.

Propuesta por el Muy Rdo. Walter Brownridge, diputado de la Diócesis de Hawái, la D016 le pide al Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal que compile una lista de corporaciones estadounidenses y extranjeras que proporcionan bienes y servicios que apoyan la infraestructura de la ocupación de Israel y determine si alguna de esas compañías es parte de la carpeta de inversiones de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera. Por tanto, la Resolución sugiere que la Iglesia Episcopal debería retirar sus inversiones de tales compañías si esas empresas, siguiendo un compromiso corporativo, no se retiran de las operaciones antemencionadas.

Brownridge, en un correo electrónico a Episcopal News Service, enfatizó que la resolución no pide “una desinversión total o general, ni boicot o sanciones”. Más bien, afirmó, “estamos diciendo que como asunto de responsabilidad social corporativa, la Iglesia Episcopal no debería invertir en compañías que sirven a la infraestructura de la ocupación ilegal del territorio palestino”.

Además de California, las diócesis de Hawái y Washington, D.C. también han presentado resoluciones a la consideración de la Convención General.

La Resolución C003 de la Diócesis Hawái, donde Brownridge es deán de la catedral de San Andrés [St. Andrew] en Honolulu, pide también un proceso de desinversión selectiva y una “política de no comprar” a compañías que puedan estar sosteniendo la infraestructura de la ocupación, entre ellas Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, G4S y Motorola Solutions.

T. Dennis Sullivan, presidente del Comité de Inversiones del Consejo Ejecutivo, dijo que el comité había discutido estos temas y había pedido por unanimidad que cualesquier resoluciones que pidieran desinversión debería “ser rechazada o no procesada hasta que las consecuencias económicas y sociales de tal desinversión fuesen completamente evaluadas”.

Knisely dijo que un inconveniente significativo de la desinversión es que “nos causaría perder nuestra voz en las juntas de accionistas, y reduciría significativamente nuestra capacidad de hablar a ambas partes en este conflicto. Yo en verdad me siento atraído por la idea de la inversión estratégica.

“Al viajar por Cisjordania y hablar con los líderes palestinos, ellos también piden inversiones en la construcción para el pueblo palestino… El uso de recursos económicos de una manera inteligente y constructiva parece muchísimo más atractivo”.

Muchas diócesis e individuos de la Iglesia Episcopal tienen asociaciones de muchos años con la diócesis de Jerusalén y apoyan el ministerio de sus más de 30 instituciones de servicio social a través de Israel, Jordania, Líbano, Siria y los Territorios Palestinos. Las instituciones incluyen escuelas, hospitales, clínicas y centros para personas con discapacidades.

La diócesis y las instituciones también reciben el apoyo de los Amigos Americanos de la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén, una organización no política y sin fines de lucro fundada en 1985.

El arzobispo Suheil Dawani de la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén, ha dicho que prefiere oír hablar de inversiones que de desinversiones.

En respuesta a tales solicitudes de asociados de la Iglesia Episcopal en Tierra Santa, así como a la Resolución B019, la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera invirtió $500.000 en 2013 en el Banco de Palestina con el fin de [promover] el desarrollo económico en los Territorios Palestinos. El Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal ha respaldado la expansión de esa inversión.

Los partidarios del BDS han comparado la situación en Israel y los Territorios Palestinos a la del apartheid de Sudáfrica, reconociendo que la desinversión y las sanciones económicas tuvieron éxito en derrocar ese régimen.

Sin embargo, un informe del comité de Responsabilidad Social e Inversiones de la Iglesia Episcopal hacía notar en 2005 que la situación de Israel y los Territorios Palestinos no es la misma que la lucha contra el apartheid en Sudáfrica.

“En el caso de Sudáfrica, el completo sistema del apartheid era ilegítimo, y la comunidad mundial no podía consentir en nada menos que su desmantelamiento. El objetivo era el fin de ese régimen sudafricano”, dice ese informe. “El caso de Israel es diferente. Las políticas de la Iglesia claramente apoyan el derecho de Israel a existir, y ninguna compañía debe participar, no obstante inadvertidamente, en actos de violencia contra los israelíes. Las compañías pueden y deben funcionar adecuadamente en Israel”.

Con excepción de la situación de Sudáfrica, donde el régimen del apartheid era visto globalmente como un paria, Knisely dijo que utilizar el dinero como un arma ha sido rara vez una estrategia efectiva.

Él citó ejemplos de corporaciones que han respondido positivamente a compromisos de inversores y accionistas, tales como las iniciativas medioambientales de Apple en respuesta a los retos de Greenpeace. “Esas corporaciones no boicotearon el producto, sino que participaron de la conversación”.

Las desinversiones en el carbón tampoco están funcionando, explicó él. “Los movimientos medioambientales convienen en que necesitan relacionarse con las compañías” para efectuar cambios en políticas y hábitos.

“Debo abordar toda esta cosa con profunda humildad y apertura para todas las voces”, dijo Knisely, “y en la medida en que he escuchado las voces me he convencido cada vez más que todo lo que ocurra en una situación tensa tiene que ser muy prudente y cuidadoso”.

Brownridge dijo que él entiende, a partir de sus contactos con la comunidad cristiana palestina, que ellos favorecen la inversión positiva en la economía palestina y en su infraestructura de servicio social.

“Yo apoyo y abogo por esa inversión en escuelas, hospitales, servicios de bienestar social y en compañías que levantarán la comunidad palestina”, añadió. Sin embargo, “debo preguntarles a los que se oponen a nuestra resolución, qué hay de ‘positivo’ en invertir en compañías que destruyen hogares palestinos, que espían al pueblo palestino y que de otro modo mantienen la maquinaria que permite la ocupación ilegal del territorio palestino. Esas acciones tienen un impacto negativo en el pueblo palestino y en las posibilidades de una paz justa y duradera tanto para israelíes como para palestinos”.

La Resolución C018 de la Diócesis de Washington pide el continuo apoyo a la Diócesis de Jerusalén y sus instituciones, especialmente el hospital Al Ahli Arab en la Ciudad de Gaza, que fue seriamente dañado por la guerra de Gaza de 2014.

Si bien la resolución pide un informe completo y público que “documente todas las acciones, incluidos los diálogos empresariales y las resoluciones de [las juntas de] accionistas… respecto a las compañías que contribuyen a la infraestructura de la continua ocupación de Israel de Cisjordania y la Franja de Gaza y de las compañías que tienen conexiones con organizaciones responsables de la violencia contra Israel”,  no llega a pedir la desinversión. Sugiere más bien que la Iglesia Episcopal “debe contribuir a una solución justa y pacífica a la continua crisis en Tierra Santa a través de medidas responsables e informadas”.

A partir de su experiencia en la peregrinación interreligiosa, Kitagawa dijo que resultaba claro que la transformación ocurre en un nivel muy personal, mediante el contacto de persona a persona, y que la mejor oportunidad para una paz y seguridad duraderas puede encontrarse en las iniciativas de base que buscan combatir el temor y crear la confianza entre israelíes y palestinos a través del diálogo y de un proceso de reconciliación.

Entre esas iniciativas de base está el Programa de Negociación Shades  y Raíces [Roots] que reúnen a israelíes y palestinos para que escuchen y aprendan de sus mutuas narrativas, y para construir una sociedad pacífica en la cual todo el mundo pueda prosperar.

Aunque las negociaciones entre los líderes israelíes y palestinos se han atascado, Kitagawa reconoció que si la gente en el terreno no está preparada para la paz cuando ésta llegue, será difícil de que algún acuerdo diplomático tenga éxito.

“El poder de Dios de tocar y transformar una vida no se quedó en el pasado. Como comunidad bautizada y bautizante, somos llamados a ser vehículos del poder de Dios para tocar y transformar la vida”, afirmó. “Contra toda esperanza, muchos individuos y grupos trabajan diaria y arduamente hacia la paz con justicia y seguridad mutuas. Muchas veces oímos hablar de las pocas oportunidades que existen para un contacto creativo entre israelíes y palestinos. Ahora es el momento de alentar y apoyar los contactos entre personas, y las formas creativas de reunir a los hijos de Abraham.”

— Matthew Davies es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

Muestran iniciativas de ministerios ‘revolucionarios y radicales’ a la Iglesia en este trienio

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bajo la mirada vigilante de anteriores obispos de Pensilvania, un grupo de “pioneros en el ministerio” se sienta en un círculo en la iglesia de Cristo, Filadelfia, y conversa sobre sus experiencias en las Zonas de Empresas de Misión y el proyecto de Comienzo de Nuevas Iglesias de la Iglesia Episcopal. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Nota de la redactora: Este es el último de una serie de artículos acerca de la promesa de la Iglesia Episcopal en la 77ª. Convención General de asociarse con diócesis para comenzar estrategias de misión innovadoras. Los artículos anteriores se encuentran aquí.

[Episcopal News Service]  Los primeros tres años del proyecto de la Iglesia Episcopal de concederle mayor libertad a las personas que quieren tratar de llegar a nuevos creyentes de maneras nuevas han enseñado a sus participantes sobre la necesidad de asociaciones y diálogos regulares y la disposición de correr riesgos, estar abiertos a la transformación y de participar por un largo trayecto.

“Lo que quiero que la gente sepa y comience a entender es cuán revolucionario y radical es esto”, dijo Anne Watkins, que preside desde hace poco el Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Misión Local y Comité del Ministerio del Consejo Ejecutivo.

El comité sopesó las propuestas de los $2 millones que la Convención General asignó para iniciativas de Zonas de Empresas de Misión y Comienzo de Nuevas Iglesias en el presupuesto trienal de las Cinco Marcas de la Misión 2013-2015.

Ahora, con poco más de seis meses para finalizar el trienio, Watkins le dijo a Episcopal News Service que le resulta claro que el proyecto “nos llama a ser fundamentalmente transformados porque tenemos que empezar por mirar las cosas y conversar y hablar y comportarnos de maneras que son radicalmente diferentes de las que estamos acostumbrados”.

Los obispos y los diputados asignaron dinero para el proyecto como parte del compromiso de la Iglesia Episcopal con la primera de las Cinco Marcas de la Misión de la Comunión Anglicana: proclamar las buenas nuevas del reino.

Las zonas se definieron en la resolución que las establecía (A073) como “un área geográfica, como un grupo de congregaciones o como toda una diócesis comprometida con la misión y la evangelización que interactúa con grupos subrepresentados, entre ellos jóvenes y jóvenes adultos, personas de color, pobres y gente de clase obrera, personas graduadas de escuela secundaria o menos y/o personas con poca o ninguna participación —o antecedente— en la iglesia”. Las zonas habían de tener planes estratégicos con líderes adiestrados en antirracismo, desarrollo comunitario intercultural, desarrollo del ministerio y evangelización. Los obispos y otras partes del liderazgo diocesano se esperaría que les concedieran a las zonas “mayor libertad” en lo que respecta a su estatus congregacional, la formación de liderazgo y los tipos de textos litúrgicos que podrían usarse.

Había subvenciones de hasta $20.000 para una zona de empresa de misión y hasta $100.000 para comenzar una nueva iglesia. Las diócesis tenían que tener disponible un monto igual de dinero y estar dispuestas a equiparar las subvenciones. La lista completa de la primera ronda de subvenciones está aquí y la lista de la segunda ronda de subvenciones se encuentra aquí.

En total se otorgaron 40 subvenciones, que van desde el Ministerio Latino a Guerreros del Sueño [Warriors for the Dream], un proyecto de beneficio comunitario en Harlem, y del Centro Comunitario Occidental Kairós [Kairos West Community Center] un centro comunitario en West Asheville, Carolina del Norte, hasta la Abadía [the Abbey] en Birmingham, Alabama, donde el lema es “Pecadores, Santos, Café”. En cuatro casos los episcopales se han asociado con colegas de otras denominaciones para realizar la labor.

La Resolución A012 de la Convención General 2015 propone una continuidad de la financiación. Y el presupuesto del Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia propuso al comité del presupuesto de la Convención aumentar el capital inicial trienal disponible a $3 millones (véase aquí el renglón 27).

Aprender de las experiencias del primer trienio
Watkins, cuyo comité de Misión y Ministerio Locales se volcaron y oraron por cada propuesta para conseguir que los 40 fueran financiados, dijo que el proceso en su totalidad es radical por varias razones, entre ellas el hecho de que la Iglesia oficialmente se ha dispuesto a escuchar “las voces marginadas… tanto de las personas en nuestras parroquias como de las personas en la calle”. La disposición de la Iglesia de “brindarles nuestra confianza y que ellos sean tan capaces de percibir a Dios obrando tal como nosotros profesionales de la Iglesia; creo que es revolucionario porque no lo hacemos muy bien”.

Ha sido un caso de “no sólo hablar del ministerio local o de la misión local o de la obra de Dios localmente, sino de entender en verdad que Dios está obrando localmente y no necesariamente dentro de nuestras estructuras institucionales”, afirmó.

“Dios es mucho más grande que nuestras estructuras institucionales”, continuó Watkins. “Sé que decimos eso y lo creemos, y sé que usamos esas palabras y ciertamente confiamos que las personas en su fuero interno crean eso, y no obstante creo que nos sorprendemos incurriendo en conductas interiorizadas y aprendidas que se oponen enormemente a eso”.

La Rda. Stephanie Spellers, que con Ora Houston copresidía la Comisión Permanente sobre la Misión y Evangelización de la Iglesia Episcopal durante el trienio 2010-2012, dijo que la experiencia mostraba que estas clases de iniciativas misionales necesitan apoyo de sus diócesis además de la ayuda de tipo económica.

(Spellers; la Rda. Deborah Royals, que presidió la comisión en el trienio 2013-2015; y la miembro Megan Anderson formaron el subgrupo de la comisión que desarrolló el proyecto a partir de toda la información reunida durante un trienio de escucha).

Después de las primeras dos rondas de Zonas de Empresas de Misión y Comienzo de Nuevas Iglesias, la Iglesia Episcopal tiene los “relatos de los líderes que se enamoraron de lo que Dios estaba haciendo en el mundo en torno a ellos, y ese era realmente el lugar de lanzamiento”, dice el Rdo. Tom Brackett, misionero para la plantación de iglesias y redesarrollo del ministerio de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Si bien “la disposición de la diócesis a contribuir ha sido alentadora” también resultó claro “que no pueden abandonarnos en un rincón sin un obispo y otras personas que entablen una conversación con nosotros”, dijo Spellers.

Llevó tiempo para algunos de la diócesis conectarse con las nuevas iniciativas que se estaban creando en su medio, según Spellers, pero se propagó la noticia a través de la Iglesia, y otras diócesis que no hicieron propuestas de asociaciones en la nueva empresa se sintieron dejadas fuera.

“Creo que es una buena señal cuando algo tiene bastante impacto que otra gente mire y pregunte, ‘¿cómo es que no tenemos una de esas zonas de empresas de misión?’”, dijo Spellers.

Pero en este primer trienio, varias cosas comenzaron a surgir como temas, agregó Spellers, gracias en parte a la manera en que el Rdo. Tom Brackett reunió a los líderes de las iniciativas y, en ocasiones, a algunos de sus obispos y otros funcionarios diocesanos, para sostener conversaciones acerca de su quehacer. Brackett es el misionero de la DFMS para la plantación de iglesias y el redesarrollo del ministerio.

(La Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) es el nombre legal y canónico con el cual la Iglesia Episcopal está incorporada, funciona empresarialmente y lleva a cabo la misión).

Brackett dijo que su objetivo ha sido formar una comunidad de aprendizaje cuyos miembros pudieran “reducir el costo del fracaso” en el futuro al transmitir un conocimiento arduamente adquirido.

Durante una reunión en abril en la iglesia de Cristo [Christ Church] en Filadelfia, la mayoría de los líderes de las iniciativas se reunieron para intervenir en una de esas discusiones. Una de las cosas que resultó clara, dijo Brackett, fue que a varios de los líderes “realmente no les gustaba la idea de que los vieran dirigiendo un experimento” porque algunos de ellos habían venido de otros estados para hacer este trabajo y no querían que la estructura diocesana los desenchufara después de tres años.

Durante una reunión reciente en la iglesia de Cristo, en Filadelfia, los líderes del proyecto Zonas de Empresa de Misión y Comienzo de Nuevas Iglesias apuntaron en notas adhesivas una lección que les costó algo, y que ellos esperaban que al compartirla no le costara mucho a otros. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Los líderes llenaron parte de la pared de un salón de reuniones con notas adhesivas en las cuales apuntaron una lección que les costó algo y que ellos querían transmitir a otros con la esperanza de que los futuros líderes puedan evitar pagar ese precio. Una de las oraciones dice: “No importa cuando creas que sabes ni los muchos años que has estado en el ministerio, aún puedes ser capaz de recibir nuevos conocimientos con corazón humilde del que probablemente menos lo sospeches”.
Mientras los líderes, a quienes Bracket llamó “pioneros en el ministerio”, se sentaban en un círculo y conversaban de sus experiencias, muchos advirtieron que sentían lo que uno de ellos llamó “aislamiento del día a día”.

Sentados en el círculo exterior y escuchando esos comentarios estaban los participantes en la Conferencia de Ejecutivos Diocesanos de la Iglesia Episcopal, que también se reunieron en Filadelfia. “Ayúdenos a derribar los silos”, le pedía uno de los líderes de la iniciativa misional a los miembros de CODE.

Otra dijo que se sentía agradecida por haberle “concedido la flexibilidad de intentar algo, que no había funcionado y luego volver e intentar otra cosa—en ocasiones ayudándola a recuperarse y probar algo más”.

Una líder misional dijo que quería compartir con el grupo grande un asunto que había surgido con frecuencia en las discusiones en los grupos pequeños: cuán difícil es tener que dedicar la mayor parte del tiempo a recaudar dinero para su ministerio. “Nos preocupamos del dinero todo el tiempo”, dijo. “Tendríamos muchísima más libertad para ocuparnos del ministerio si eso fuera menos cierto”.

Después que los miembros del CODE pasaron al círculo interno y los líderes misionales se mudaron al borde exterior, uno de los miembros del CODE dijo que los líderes diocesanos debían de escuchar las historias acerca de cómo esos ministerios están transformando vidas. “Ayúdennos a adquirir nuevos ojos”, dijo otro.

Encontrar un nueva forma de medir la misión y el ministerio de la Iglesia
Los proyectos también han vuelto a suscitar la debatida nueva cuestión de si el informe parroquial anual que toda congregación de la Iglesia debe presentar, mide realmente la totalidad de la misión y ministerio de una congregación.

“Ahora mismo, yo creo que nuestro informe no nos permite levantarnos y celebrar y aprender de” las experiencias ministeriales de congregaciones, dijo Spellers. “[Ese informe] tiende a inclinarse hacia lo que obtienen las cifras”, recalcó ella. No quiere decir que los números no importen. Yo tampoco estoy necesariamente en ese campo”.

Ella y otros quieren que la Iglesia celebre tanto la congregación pequeña y nueva que están entablando “una nueva conversación respecto a quién es Jesús y cómo vivimos en su cuerpo” y la parroquia de 2000 miembros con todos sus ministerios.

El Rdo. Andrew Green, presidente del Comité sobre el Estado de la Iglesia de la Cámara de Diputados, dijo que su comité está de acuerdo con ese deseo. “Hay muchísimas historias allí y necesitamos un vehículo para compartirlas”, le dijo él a ENS en una entrevista reciente.

Y agregó, la Iglesia necesita un modo de medir la vitalidad de las congregaciones. Por tanto, el comité propuso en su informe a la Convención, la Resolución A038 que le pide a la Iglesia que cree un “índice de vitalidad congregacional”. La resolución se produjo en parte como respuesta a la Resolución 2012-A010, que le pedía al comité que identificara que nueva información debía añadirse al informe basada en “cambios actuales y realidades nuevas” en la Iglesia.

“Si bien el Informe Parroquial de la Iglesia Episcopal contiene datos estadísticos vitales que debemos saber, no es ni la única forma, ni tal vez la mejor, de evaluar la vitalidad congregacional”, dice la explicación de la Resolución A038, haciendo notar que algunas diócesis han añadido una “quinta página” al informe en “un intento de captar una sensación de apasionantes nuevos ministerios y signos de una novedosa y creciente profundidad espiritual, aunque otros parámetros puedan estar estáticos”.

El cartel de la página de Facebook del Centro Comunitario del Oeste Kairós resume los objetivos de la organización. El ministerio de Asheville, Carolina del Norte, responde a la iniciativa de 1 año de existencia de “la Iglesia en el mundo” de la catedral de los Fieles Difuntos [Cathedral of All Souls] en Asheville y la Diócesis de Carolina del Norte Occidental. El ministerio, que tiene su sede en una antigua tienda de tejidos en la cada vez más aburguesada Hayward Road de West Ashville, recibió una subvención de Zona de Empresa de Misión. Foto Centro comunitario del Oeste Kairós vía Facebook.

El Muy Rdo. David duPlantier, deán de la iglesia catedral de Cristo [Christ Church Cathedral] en Nueva Orleáns, se muestra de acuerdo. “Medimos algo que era importante en 1967 y era importante en 1980 y es importante ahora en alguna medida”, le dijo él a ENS en una entrevista reciente. “Pero la asistencia dominical, los miembros bautizados, cuándo dinero obtenemos de ellos, cuando uno mira a miles de personas que están en nuestros espacios episcopales, que están haciéndose conscientes de nuestra ‘marca’, que tal vez se sienten cómodos al dar otro paso dentro de nuestra comunidad cultual —eso no lo medimos”.

Junto con todas las otras razones de encontrar maneras de medir ese ministerio, dijo duPlantier, la otra razón de hacerlo es contrarrestar la impresión de algunos episcopales de que su Iglesia se está achicando y tornándose irrelevante, una impresión con la cual duPlantier no está de acuerdo.

(El informe parroquial incluye las cifras de los miembros bautizados y comulgantes activos, el promedio de asistencia dominical, el número total de oficios y sus tipos, la matrícula de la escuela dominical, mayordomía y otra información económica, entre otras cifras estadísticas. Una copia del formato del informe parroquial 2014 se encuentra aquí).

Entre tanto, la Comisión Permanente sobre la Misión y Evangelización de la Iglesia Episcopal propuso una revisión diferente al informe parroquial en su informe a la Convención 2013-2015. La Resolución A084 agregaría una sección para que las congregaciones añadan sus actividades en tanto se relacionen con las Cinco Marcas de la Misión. También agregaría una categoría de asistencia llamada Promedio de Asistencia Distinta, definida como la asistencia semanal a todos los oficios de culto no dominicales.

La Resolución A084 también le permitiría a comunidades tales como las formadas como zonas de empresa de misión y comienzo de nuevas iglesias empezar a presentar informes parroquiales y a captar algo de la información acerca de esa labor.

Para algunos “el alcance del trabajo que han propuesto va a ser mucho más largo que el trienio y va a exigir que ahonden más en la comunidad que lo que la típica comunidad religiosa o iglesia tiende a hacer. Luego, ¿cómo medimos su progreso?”, preguntó Brackett.

El comité legislativo sobre vitalidad congregacional tomará en cuenta ambas resoluciones, así como la A085 y la A012, que continuarían la iniciativa de Zonas de Empresa de Misión y Comienzo de Nuevas Iglesias. Todas las resoluciones asignadas al comité hasta la fecha están aquí.

¿Cómo se presentaría el proyecto del próximo trienio?
Suponiendo que la financiación prosiga en el trienio 2016-2018, Watkins dijo que ella espera que las iniciativas de Zonas de Empresa de Misión y Comienzo de Nuevas Iglesias llevarán a “obispos y su personal, incrementando su capacidad de usar un lenguaje diferente, a aplicar diferentes clases de lentes para mirar las cosas a fin de permitir una mayor libertad” en los comienzos de un ministerio.

Y agregó ella, “me gustaría ver que llegan propuestas de lugares de los cuales ni siquiera hemos hablado en este trienio”.

Brackett cree que la financiación local para ministerios tales como estos es difícil de conseguir con la actual estructura de la Iglesia, pero está allí. Se pregunta si un grupo de congregaciones podría recaudar el dinero que ascienda al monto que exigen las subvenciones como equiparación y también si se comprometería a aprender a apoyar tales nuevos ministerios de manera regular, con la ayuda de los miembros del personal de la DFMS donde sea adecuado.

“Podríamos conseguir muchísimo más de esa manera y podríamos realmente financiar más iniciativas que si acudiéramos estrictamente al presupuesto general diocesano”, apuntó él, añadiendo que el problema de financiar nuevas iniciativas misionales en las diócesis que no tienen dinero para equiparar los fondos podría también abordarse.

Spellers le dijo a ENS que ella espera que la iniciativa de Zonas de Empresa de Misión y Comienzo de Nuevas Iglesias no se ve como una iniciativa “de excepción” concebida tan sólo para el trienio 2013-2015.

“Esto tiene que ser un proceso continuo de experiencia, de aprendizaje, de desarrollo de nuestra capacidad como pueblo en misión, invirtiendo y esencialmente creando un instrumento de investigación y desarrollo para la Iglesia Episcopal”, afirmó ella. “Uno no puede hacer eso en un solo trienio”.

Spellers y Brackett dijeron que esperan más por el entrenamiento de uno en uno de las personas que se sienten llamadas a estos tipos de ministerios. A Spellers le gustaría ver más empeño en evaluar qué tipos de destrezas y dones se necesitan para este tipo de trabajo, así como aprender como Iglesia respecto a la manera de adiestrar a líderes laicos y ordenados en un ministerio empresarial, y formarlos en su quehacer.

“Pienso cada vez más en la sostenibilidad y en la manera de crear una infraestructura sana y flexible de manera que estos ministerios puedan en verdad comenzar a despegar para Dios”, añadió.

“Estoy asombrada y feliz, y lo que sé es que todos sólo estamos arañando la superficie de lo que es necesario para abarcar la misión en nuestro presente, muchos menos en nuestro futuro”.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Invitados internacionales, ecuménicos e interreligiosos amplían la perspectiva de la Convención

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Están dadas las dimensiones globales para que repercutan a través de la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal al tiempo que invitados internacionales en representación de muchas de las 38 provincias de la Comunión Anglicana viajan a Salt Lake City.

Entre los invitados que asistirán a la Convención del 25 de junio al 3 de julio, se contarán también varios asociados ecuménicos e interreligiosos que buscarán obtener una comprensión más profunda de la política y los procesos legislativos de la Iglesia Episcopal y celebrar la misión común a todos.

En pasadas convenciones, el programa de visitantes se ha descrito como “mutuamente enriquecedor”.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori ha dicho que la inclusión de invitados internacionales es “un magnífico recordatorio de cómo estamos relacionados más allá de nuestras fronteras. Cuando aprendemos los unos de los otros, buscamos maneras de trabajar que podríamos no haber esperado”.

El Rdo. Chuck Robertson, canónigo de la Obispa Primada, que ha coordinado gran parte del programa de visitantes internacionales en colaboración con el personal de la Oficina de Asociaciones Globales de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera, dijo que “es importante ayudar a líderes de otras partes de la Comunión Anglicana, así como a nuestros asociados ecuménicos e interreligiosos, a entender quiénes somos como Iglesia y cómo tomamos decisiones. Pero es importante también para nosotros aprender de ellos”.

Los visitantes internacionales son invitados por la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori, la Agencia Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo, el Grupo de Pensiones de la Iglesia y varias diócesis que comparten relaciones de compañerismo con otras diócesis a través de la Comunión Anglicana.

Representantes de asociados del pacto de la Iglesia Episcopal —tales como las iglesias anglicanas episcopales en Brasil, Liberia, Filipinas, América Central y México— también asistirán a la Convención General y están invitados a participar en las cámaras de obispos y de diputados con asiento y voz.

La Rda. Margaret Rose dijo que la presencia de invitados ecuménicos e interreligiosos “nos ayuda a vernos mejor a nosotros mismos”.

Rose, encargada de asuntos ecuménicos e interreligiosos de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera, dijo: “somos muy conscientes de que estos invitados no son extraños, sino asociados en la obra de la misión común. Fuera de la Convención General trabajamos juntos en todo desde conversaciones en torno a la doctrina y el culto comunes hasta la participación en [iniciativas de] promoción social y proyectos comunes. Con nuestros asociados ecuménicos e interreligiosos buscamos unidad en la edificación de la paz en tanto miramos más allá de nosotros mismos a un mundo tan necesitado”.

Otra importante razón para acoger a los invitados “es el darnos cuenta de que no estamos solos cuando miramos al futuro de nuestras instituciones”, afirmó Rose. “Todos nos enfrentamos a muchos de los mismos problemas y es bueno compartir tanto las alegrías como los conflictos”.

Entre los invitados internacionales se incluyen:

  • Francisco de Assis da Silva, primado de la Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (Iglesia Episcopal Anglicana del Brasil).
  • Arthur Cavalcante, secretario general de la Iglesia Episcopal Anglicana del Brasil.
  • Francisco Moreno, primado de la Iglesia Anglicana de México.
  • Jonathan Hart, obispo de la Diócesis de Liberia.
  • Floyd Lalwet, secretario provincial de la Iglesia Episcopal en las Filipinas.
  • Renato Abibico, obispo primado de la Iglesia Episcopal en las Filipinas.
  • Samuel Azariah, moderador de la Iglesia de Pakistán.
  • David Chillingworth, primado de la Iglesia Episcopal Escocesa.
  • Paul Kim, primado de la Iglesia Anglicana de Corea.
  • Ibrahim Faltas, sacerdote de la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén.
  • Arcediano Paul Feheley, director nacional de la Fraternidad Anglicana de Oración del Canadá y principal secretario del primado de la Iglesia Anglicana del Canadá.
  • canónigo Phil Groves, moderador del programa Indaba Continuo de la Comunión Anglicana.
  • canónigo Michael Rusk, sacerdote de la Iglesia de Inglaterra.
  • Stephen Lyon, coordinador del proyecto de la Comunión Anglicana “La Biblia en la Vida de la Iglesia”.
  • Peter Koon, secretario provincial de la Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (Iglesia Anglicana en Hong Kong).
  • Canónigo David Porter, director de reconciliación del arzobispo de Cantórbery.
  • Daniel Sarfo, primado de la Iglesia Anglicana de África Occidental.
  • El Muy Rdo. Graham Smith, decano de George’s College, Jerusalén.
  • Walid Issa y Lior Frankiensztajn del Programa de Negociación Shades.
  • Andy Bowerman, codirector de la Alianza Anglicana.
  • Albert Chama, primado de la Iglesia de la Provincia Anglicana de África Central.
  • John Deane, director ejecutivo de la Junta Anglicana de Misión en Australia.
  • Adele Finney del Fondo de los Primados para Ayuda Mundial de la Iglesia Anglicana del Canadá.
  • Nathaniel Uematsu, primado de la Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Iglesia Anglicana en Japón).

Entre los invitados ecuménicos se cuentan:

  • Arzobispo Vicken Aykazian de la Iglesia Armenia de América.
  • Rabino Neal Borovitz del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  • Melissa Garrett Davis, funcionaria ecuménica de la Iglesia Presbiteriana EUA.
  • Ephraim Fajutagana, obispo máximo de la Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
  • Natasha Klukach, ejecutiva de programa para la Iglesia y las Relaciones Ecuménicas del Consejo Mundial de Iglesias.
  • Kathryn Lohre, ejecutiva para las Relaciones Ecuménicas e Interreligiosas de la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en América.
  • Christopher Meakin, principal secretario ecuménico de la Iglesia de Suecia.
  • Betsy Miller, presidente de la Conferencia de Ancianos de la Provincia Norte de la Iglesia Morava.
  • Ron Roberson de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos.
  • Stephen J. Sidorak de la Iglesia Metodista Unida.
  • Emily D. Soloff, directora nacional asociada de relaciones interreligiosas e interagrupaciones del Comité Judío Americano.
  • Raúl Tobías, obispo de la Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
  • Anders Wejryd, arzobispo emérito de la Iglesia de Suecia.

— Matthew Davies es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Video: Palestinian-Israeli initiative Roots promotes dialogue, builds trust

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Palestinian activist Ali Abu Awwad and Israeli Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger have spent their lives living in fear of one another’s neighboring communities in Gush Etzion, located in the Judean Mountains south of Jerusalem.

But when they met for the first time 18 months ago, their worldview began a process of transformation as they heard one another’s narratives and their understanding of truth was broadened.

The two men are now coordinators of Roots, a grassroots initiative that brings together Israeli settlers in Gush Etzion with Palestinians from neighboring villages to promote dialogue and build trust as a path to peace. They believe it is imperative for the communities to put aside political retrenchment, divisive actions and rhetoric in order to begin sowing the seeds necessary to make an eventual peace agreement take hold.

A 15-member interfaith pilgrimage – co-led by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America – met with the leadership of Roots in Gush Etzion one Sunday afternoon in January.

The Episcopal Church recently co-sponsored an event with interfaith partners at the U.S. Capitol where Awwad and Schlesinger spoke about their journey together, their experiences of transformation and encouraged.

Historic session lets bishops, deputies meet presiding bishop nominees

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen leads the opening prayer June 24 during the historic joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies to meet with the four bishops nominated to be the 27th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church. Allen is a member of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

Editor’s note: On-demand video of the presiding bishop nominees session can be accessed by clicking here.

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] The four bishops nominated to become the 27th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church June 24 joined in a first-of-its-kind session for both bishops and deputies to hear from the nominees.

Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry, Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas and Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop Dabney Smith spent nearly three hours answering questions and making opening and closing statements.

“The committee believes the presiding bishop will need to lead, love, inspire the people at a time in which both uncertainty and opportunity define the moment,” said Sally Johnson, co-chair of Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop.

The session was meant to help bishops and deputies discern who of the four bishops is the person to provide that three-pronged response to God’s and the church’s call.

Each nominee was introduced by way for a short informal video they each made using a digital device, after which they each had three minutes to speak to those gathered in person and by webcast. The nominees then responded to questions from the committee, from bishops, deputies and alternates to General Convention, and from members of Episcopal Church congregations.

Johnson said the committee synthesized 186 questions into eight categories with five questions in each group. The categories were leadership matters; theology and liturgy matters; faith-based matters: reconciliation matters; lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and queer matters; divestment matters; spiritual and self-care matters; and structure matters. The bishops knew the categories ahead of time, but not the specific questions, according to Diocese of Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny, committee co-chair.

The four bishops drew color- and number-coded slips from a bowl during each round of questions and were asked one of the five questions in that category. Not every nominee drew all the questions in every category. The questions were asked from the House of Deputies floor by members of the nominating committee, and each began with “Bishop, the church wants to ask …”

The opening question to each bishop was specific to the vision each nominee cast in the committee’s materials released May 1. That material is here.

Breidenthal was asked how he would, as he had said, make room for people who are on a faith journey, but have not found a place in The Episcopal Church. He replied that first the church has to stop asking the question of how to attract more people into the pews because it is the wrong question.

Instead, he said, Episcopalians must understand that they are called into the world where they can be in “true and holy conversation” with those people who have not yet found a place in the church – and be willing to learn from them.

And, while Episcopalians rightly pride themselves on being in strong relationships with each other, the tightness of those bonds sometimes means there is little space for others, even Jesus, he said. When Episcopalians get comfortable telling each other the “stories of our faith, stories of our doubt” that space will open and teach people how to see Christ in the stranger.

Curry had said the presiding bishop must be two kinds of a CEO: a chief executive officer and a chief evangelism officer. He was asked how he would live into the fiduciary, legal and corporate responsibilities of a chief executive officer while also being the chief evangelism officer. Curry said he would find “the best and most capable people” to run the organization, but he cautioned that just having people “who know how to count and know how to invest and know how to take care of the books is not enough.”

“There’s got to be a reason for doing it,” he said, explaining that the reason is to enable the witness to Jesus that must be the center around which the structure of the church is built.

Douglas had said he wanted to encourage Episcopalians to discover and participate in what God is doing in the world and in their neighborhoods. “I believe in a God that’s alive, a God who actually meets those who are so much in need of healing and wholeness and new life,” he said when asked to elaborate during the session.

This God invites people, by virtue of their baptism, to participate in that healing. “It’s in the world that we are called to be faithful to the new life of God in Christ. So, it’s in our neighborhood where that healing action of God so much needs to be met, celebrated and made real,” he said.

Smith was asked about his stated desire to pursue reconciliation that would keep The Episcopal Church as a “theologically big-tent church” without losing the “pastoral and theological gains made in recent years.”

He told the session that he would pursue that goal as presiding bishop by being “a bridge builder, a trust builder, to share accountability, to constantly be a source of encouragement, to recognize that God has called me to be an evangelist and a pastor, and to work towards reconciliation which the world constantly needs, to stay connected always to the people in the pews.”

He said he wants to be able to work on “turn-around issues” in dioceses and congregations, and in relationships in the Anglican Communion and in The Episcopal Church “so we can journey together in the love of Jesus.”

The Rev. David Jackson, a committee member from Hawaii, emceed the session.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sat in an unmarked visitor section on the side of the hall listening to the session.

The rest of election process

The four names will be formally submitted to the General Convention during a joint session on June 26, the day prior to the day set for the election by the House of Bishops of the 27th presiding bishop.

On June 27, bishops will gather at the Convention Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. MDT in the Salt Palace Convention Center. Following that, the bishops with seat, voice, and vote will board buses to travel to St. Mark’s Cathedral, where the election will take place in the context of prayer and reflection.

Once the election has taken place, Jefferts Schori will send a delegation to Jennings to inform her of the name of the bishop who has been elected. Jennings will refer the name to the House of Deputies legislative committee on the Confirmation of the Presiding Bishop without announcing the name to the full House. The legislative committee will make a recommendation to the House of Deputies whether to confirm the election or not confirm, and the House of Deputies will immediately vote on the recommendation. Jennings will then appoint a delegation of deputies to notify the House of Bishops of the action taken and the presiding bishop-elect will then come to the House of Deputies.

No communication was permitted from the House of Bishops during the election and until confirmation was received.

The presiding bishop-elect will preach at the convention’s closing Eucharist on July 3, and Jefferts Schori will preside. The presiding bishop-elect’s nine-year term officially begins Nov. 1, 2015.

The presiding bishop is primate and chief pastor of the church, chair of the Executive Council, and president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

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

 

Sustainability grant helps Dominican Republic secure mission, ministry

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic recently took a big step toward securing its mission and ministry for the future with a one-time $950,000 sustainability focus grant awarded by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

“The contribution The Episcopal Church is making to the Dominican Republic represents a boost in favor of the efforts the diocese has been making to achieve the goal of financial sustainability,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín Khoury, in an email to Episcopal News Service. “It will contribute significantly to the continued development of the mission-focused work of evangelization and social service that we have been doing since the arrival of Anglicanism to the country in 1897.”

(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.)

The grant, a key component to the Dominican Republic’s plan to endow their mission operations, signifies the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s long-term commitment to securing the mission and ministry in Province IX, said Samuel A. McDonald, deputy chief operating officer and director of mission for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

“The significance is that this is the first major, sizable grant the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has made in support of sustainability,” said McDonald.

Since 2013, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has been working with all Province IX dioceses – the Dominican Republic, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras and Puerto Rico – to develop a plan for financial self-sustainabilty and to further secure their ministries.

The 18-year-plan to secure mission and ministry in Province IX is consistent with the second of Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers. The current triennium’s budget was based on the Five Marks of Mission.

The Province IX dioceses adopted self-sustainability as a focus in 2012; in addition to the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ecuador Central have made significant strides toward securing their mission and ministry.

The 2013-2015 budget allocated $2.9 million in block grants over the triennium and also included an additional $1 million for Province IX with the goal of “strengthening the province for sustainable mission.”

The Province IX sustainability plan was adopted by Executive Council in 2014.

General Convention will be asked via Resolution A015 will to continue its support of the plan in the 2016-2018 triennium.

The Mark 2 plan signified a remarkable shift in the church’s approach to aiding overseas dioceses, and was a direct result of sustainability work that began in 2011 during a Church Pension Group-sponsored conference in Tela, Honduras, that brought together the Province IX dioceses to explore sustainability, said McDonald.

“The really remarkable aspect of the Mark of Mission plan … is the courageous leadership and vision of the leaders of the dioceses of Province IX. While we often talk about ‘securing ministry’ and ‘sustainable plans,’ the leaders of Province IX talk about how they believe it’s good for the spiritual life of Province IX. They are breaking old colonial models of dependency and leading us all into a model of ministry that is built on partnership. McDonald said.  “That is the true vision for this work.”

Each of the Province IX dioceses considered in the plan will eventually receive a focus grant based on a strategic plan for self-sustainability in addition to the block grants distributed annually.

In the coming years, the block grant amount received by the Dominican Republic will decrease, and in 10 years’ time it will stop. The same will happen in the remaining five Province IX dioceses as they reach financial sustainability. As each diocese becomes sustainable, they have committed to working with the province’s other dioceses to help them achieve the same goal.

“We give infinite thanks to God for the initiative taken by the Presiding Bishop, the General Convention to designate the funds to contribute to the dioceses of Province IX to gradually overcome the financial dependence, by taking their own initiatives, which lead to sustainability of the mission in their respective places,” said Holguín.

The Dominican Republic received the first focus grant because the diocese had an existing plan and was further along the path toward financial sustainability.

For instance, in the Dominican Republic:

  • Local congregations, most of which have limited resources, have begun to take responsibility for some of their own costs, stewardship, utilities, maintenance, clergy salaries, Christian education and social programs.
  • Congregations have started entrepreneurial programs.
  • The diocese’s schools, conference centers and institutions continue to grow in their own administrative capacities and the services they offer, increasing their income and contribution to the diocese and its mission in the country.
  • The Dominican Development Group and the Episcopal Church’s annual subsidy provide continued support.

In 1998, the Dominican Development Group was formed with the primary goal of seeking the “human, material and financial resources that are required to maintain the diocese’s rate of growth and to provide the diocese with the ability to maintain ‘quality’ programs.”

In some 15 years, the DDG has raised more than $10 million to finance the building of infrastructure, including churches, schools, day care centers and medical clinics, in the Dominican Republic. It is held up as a model of entrepreneurship across Province IX.

The $950,000 focus grant will shore up the diocese’s existing endowment, which is invested locally in the Dominican Republic’s financial markets. Currently, the Dominican economy is one of the fastest growing in Latin America.

In 2014, the diocese earned a 15 percent return on its investment. Its sustainability plan stipulates that 20 percent of the gains be added to the endowment, said Holguín.

— Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter with the Episcopal News Service.

In opening remarks, presiding officers urge church to take risks, soul search

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The church’s journey ahead “requires courage – to venture into the unknown future, to befriend strangers, to confront whatever denies life and liveliness, and to keep learning interdependent ways of living,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori tells a joint session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops on June 24, the day before General Convention’s official start. The horse balloon floats above the Diocese of Lexington’s deputation table. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: On-demand video of the presiding officers’ remarks can be accessed by clicking here.

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Deputies and bishops gathered in the Salt Palace Convention Center for a joint session the morning of June 24 to hear opening remarks from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings.

The joint session, coming a day before the General Convention’s legislative business officially begins on June 25, set a collaborative context for the work ahead.

With all that General Convention has to accomplish over the next nine days, both Jefferts Schori and Jennings focused on The Episcopal Church’s need to cross boundaries into new frontiers, even as it focuses on its institutional structure and governance.

They urged risk taking, soul searching, courage and openness in the enterprise.

Jefferts Schori described The Episcopal Church’s trek as “a missionary expedition,” using a space exploration analogy that played off the TREC acronym for the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church, whose restructuring proposals are a high-profile topic coming before General Convention.

“There is abundant adventure ahead on this heavenward trek, and it asks our courage to engage unknown beings, new challenges and unexpected opportunities,” Jefferts Schori said.  “We’re bound for the galaxy called Galilee and the edges of the known world, because that’s where Jesus sent us and that’s where he promises to meet us.”

She emphasized interdependence as the church’s vocation and destiny.

“No one goes alone; together we care for those most in need.  Our growing understanding of human interrelationship with the rest of creation means conscious care for the earth and all its inhabitants, not just the human ones,” she said.

She acknowledged “plenty of challenge ahead” for General Convention, and said that the decisions made in Salt Lake City “can help to build a more just and peaceful world,” she said.

“This body is meant to be a sacrament of God, an outward demonstration of the life and hope within us,” she said.

“We are on a missionary expedition, scattering seeds of life and love to the winds and across the earth.  There is abundant risk in such profligate sowing, for not all will take root and grow to harvest,” Jefferts Schori said, but nonetheless urged the church toward new ways of being and reaching out.

“How will this body here in Salt Lake continue to foster that kind of sowing?” she asked.

The text of the presiding bishop’s remarks is here.

House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings reminded the June 24 joint session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops that both houses have a lot of work ahead of them before General Convention’s July 3 adjournment. “Not just meetings and hearings and legislative sessions, but also listening to each other and paying attention to what new things are arising among us,” she said. “Much of the work we have to do is about our own institutional future. But that’s not all of what we do.” Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Jennings, too, referenced how the church finds itself “standing on a boundary between the old and the new.”

“Gathering here to wrestle with the future of our beloved Episcopal Church, we are standing on holy ground, straining to hear God speaking above all the noise,” she said.

In preparation for the work ahead, “let’s quiet the din around us and listen for the new within ourselves,” she said, referencing a sermon by theologian Paul Tillich.

“Let’s turn down the volume on the Pew Center’s statistics about the decline of the institutional church, the endless online arguments about what millennials really want and what one tweeter recently called the ‘church decline industrial complex.’  Let’s quiet our souls,” Jennings said.

The church’s debate about what form its structure should take to enable mission is really about identity, she said.

“We’re talking about our vision of the beloved community, and we are asking important questions.  Can we restructure in a way that inspires and energizes the people of our church?  Can we restructure in a way that continues to respect the gifts of all orders of ministry?  We are talking about who we are as the people of God if we are not the church we have always been,” she said.  “We’re talking about the fact that God isn’t done with us yet.”

Wrestling with issues of the church’s institutional future is not the only work ahead, she reminded the gathering.

“The church isn’t the only segment of our society that’s reeling right now,” Jennings said. “Income inequality is greater than it has been since 1928, our cities are besieged by gun violence and racial injustice, and too many young black men are caught in the school-to-prison pipeline.”

“This summer, especially, we must repent” of not doing enough “to right the wrongs of discrimination, white privilege and inequality in the world around us,” Jennings said.

“General Convention is where we Episcopalians have the ability not only to proclaim that black lives matter, but also to take concrete action toward ending racism and achieving God’s dream of racial reconciliation and justice.  We can do no less,” she said.

The text of Jennings’ remarks is here.

The June 24 joint session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops met in the cavernous House of Deputies hall, which has enough space for close to 900 deputies and alternates, translators, a visitor gallery and space for media, international and other invited guests, and Executive Council members. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The joint session also heard from the Rev. Nancy Crawford, the president of the Executive Board of Episcopal Church Women, whose triennial meeting is held concurrently with General Convention.

She reported on several ECW social justice efforts, including work over the past triennium to raise awareness of human trafficking — through support of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, or GEMS, an education and mentoring service provider for girls and young women who have experienced sexual exploitation; support this year for the Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City; and the ECW’s Women to Women project, which provides small micro-enterprise grants to women around the world.

— Tracy J. Sukraw is part of the Episcopal News Service team covering convention.

Peace and justice in the Holy Land high on convention’s agenda

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Peace, justice and security in the Holy Land are the focus of seven proposed resolutions to be considered by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, ranging from calls for deeper investment in Middle East partnerships to placing economic pressure through boycotts against, and divestment from, companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel.

The Episcopal Church’s interreligious relations and its partnerships with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and its social service institutions have long been a major factor when taking policy decisions on peacemaking in the Middle East.

These considerations led to the 2012 General Convention passage of Resolution B019, which affirms positive investment “as a necessary means to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure” in the Palestinian Territories.

Moving forward from B019, Bishop Prince Singh of the Diocese of Rochester, co-chair of General Convention’s legislative committee on social justice and international policy that will tackle the resolutions, told Episcopal News Service that he hopes “the deliberations on peace and security in the Holy Land will be thoughtfully engaged by the deputies and bishops to make a difference on the ground for common Palestinians, Israelis and others who dwell there, and for the most part refrain from scoring political points.”

Singh was a member of an interreligious pilgrimage, led by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, that traveled to the Holy Land in January to hear a wide range of perspectives on Middle East concerns and to discern how the three Abrahamic faiths might be better agents for peacemaking.

The 15-member delegation of Jews, Christians and Muslims met with grassroots peacemaking initiatives and engaged in a series of high-level political and religious meetings in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, including with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and current Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

While the group heard deep concerns, frustrations, and strong sentiments of distrust in the midst of a stalled peace process, they agreed that a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires people of faith to be effective partners, committed to hearing multiple narratives and investing in initiatives that seek to build community.

Recommended by Resolution B019, the pilgrimage “is proving to be an iconic and dynamic template for interacting face to face with people of various persuasions out of a deep desire to listen, learn and pursue justice with peace for our common transformation,” Singh told ENS.

Bishop Nicholas Knisely of the Diocese of Rhode Island, the proposer of two resolutions endorsed by 10 other bishops, said The Episcopal Church needs “to be an agent of reconciliation in the world,” and that divestment is not part of the gospel mandate.

Resolution B012 calls on The Episcopal Church to seek “new, creative and effective ways forward in its work toward peace and justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, endorse a model of Restorative Justice that invites all persons affected by the conflict to work toward the right relationship with one another by identifying and meeting the needs of all affected communities and, in turn, creating an atmosphere of peace, justice, reconciliation and cooperation.”

Resolution B013 challenges the United States government – in coordination with global partners – “to offer a new, comprehensive, and time-bound framework to the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority for the conclusive negotiation of a two-state peace agreement and the resolution of all final-status issues … recognizing that simple calls for the parties to return to the negotiating table are no longer sufficient to the urgency of the situation.”

“We are asked to be missionaries,” Knisely said, “so to break relations with people doesn’t seem to be keeping the gospel value. Helping the victim but maintaining the relationship with those people with whom you disagree and calling for repentance while you sit at their table and share a meal with them, that’s the gospel model.”

The additional bishops endorsing the resolution offered by Knisely are Sean Rowe of the Dioceses of Northwest Pennsylvania and Bethlehem; John Tarrant of South Dakota; House of Bishops Vice President Dean Wolfe of Kansas; Jon Bruno, Diane Bruce, and Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles; Greg Rickel of Olympia; Barry Beisner of Northern California; James Magness of the Armed Services and Federal Ministries; and Peter Eaton of Southeast Florida.,

The Rev. Canon John E. Kitagawa, a deputy from the Diocese of Arizona, has served on the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace With Justice Concerns, one of the church’s interim bodies that is proposing Resolution A052 for consideration at General Convention.

A052 calls for an “intentional process of Ubuntu,” and “peaceful, mutual discernment” regarding Episcopal Church policies “toward advocacy, economic investment or divestment, humanitarian mission, and peacemaking in Palestine and Israel.”

Ubuntu is a Zulu/Xhosa word that describes human identity as being formed through community and encompassing a sense of caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

The resolution suggests that a collaborative group should facilitate the process, collect and disseminate educational resources, and consult with a wide range of policy experts, humanitarian aid organizations, and ecumenical and interfaith groups “to inform and enliven a process of listening and conversation among those of differing convictions … so that The Episcopal Church in its deliberations and advocacy efforts might model the love of God and the possibility of civil dialog over controversial and confounding issues of global conflict.”

Kitagawa, vice chair of General Convention’s international policy legislative committee, believes that Resolution A052 is the best approach at this time for The Episcopal Church on peacemaking in Israel and Palestine.

The Rev. Vicki Gray, a deputy from the Diocese of California, disagrees.

As a sponsor of the diocese’s Resolution C012, Gray told ENS that The Episcopal Church’s long-standing policy of positive investment “has proved woefully inadequate in addressing the situation in the Holy Land or expressing proper moral outrage. In the face of the deteriorating situation on the ground the possibilities for a two-state solution are rapidly disappearing. We are now faced with the need for urgent, forceful action.”

Gray, who has visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories three times, said that her support for the movement that supports economic pressure through boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), comes primarily from what she describes as a “painful personal experience,” meeting with Palestinians whose lives have been devastated by the occupation.

“I know that some call C012 one-sided,” Gray said. “It is – for the situation it addresses is one-sided. One people – the Palestinians – are on their knees. The other – the Israelis – has a gun to their heads. And we – we Americans – have paid for the gun.”

Gray reiterated C012’s resolve that rejects attempts “to equate honest and legitimate criticism of unwise policies of the Government of Israel with anti-Semitism.”

“I know that there is a fear in the upper reaches of the church that adopting a BDS resolution would damage or end the interfaith dialogue with those purporting to speak for American Jewry,” she said. “The question must be asked, however: ‘What do we talk about?’ Friends don’t ask friends to close their eyes to injustice. Friends don’t ask friends to ignore their conscience as the price for continued dialogue. Friends don’t dictate to friends what they can or cannot talk about. And friends don’t act as enablers of their friends’ bad behavior. Let us act as our conscience dictates, confront injustice, and hold open our desire for honest, sincere dialogue. That is what friends do.”

Since 2012, the world has observed the collapse of peace talks brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; a devastating war between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip that claimed more than 2000 lives, mostly Palestinian civilians; an increase in targeted terrorist attacks; the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land; and a series of divisive actions and statements by Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

In response to these developments, a small group of deputies recently formed the Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine, which drafted Resolution D016 calling on The Episcopal Church to begin a process of divesting from companies that continue to profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Proposed by the Very Rev. Walter Brownridge, a deputy from the Diocese of Hawaii, D016 calls on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council to compile a list of U.S. and foreign corporations that provide goods and services that support the infrastructure of Israel’s occupation and determine if any of the companies fall into the investment portfolio of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Thereafter, the resolution suggests that The Episcopal Church should divest from such companies if those businesses, following corporate engagement, should not withdraw from the aforementioned operations.

Brownridge, in an email to Episcopal News Service, emphasized that the resolution is not calling for “total or across-the-board divestment, boycott, sanctions.” Rather, he said, “we are saying that as a matter of corporate social responsibility, The Episcopal Church should not be investing in companies that serve the infrastructure of the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.”
In addition to California, the dioceses of Hawaii and Washington, D.C., also have submitted resolutions for consideration at General Convention.

Resolution C003 from the Diocese of Hawaii, where Brownridge is dean of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Honolulu, also calls for a process of selective divestment and a “no-buy policy” from companies that may be supporting the infrastructure of the occupation, including Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, G4S, and Motorola Solutions.

T. Dennis Sullivan, chair of the Executive Council Investment Committee, said the committee has discussed these issues and unanimously requests that any resolutions calling for divestment should “be rejected or not moved forward until the economic and social consequences of such divestment are thoroughly evaluated.”

Knisely said that a major downside of divestment is that it “would cause us to lose our voice at the stockholders meetings, and make our ability to speak to both sides in this conflict significantly reduced. I really am drawn to this idea of strategic investment.

“As I’ve traveled along the West Bank and talked to Palestinian leaders, they also are asking for investment in construction for the Palestinian people. … Using economic resources in a thoughtful and constructive way seems a lot more appealing.”

Many Episcopal Church dioceses and individuals have long-standing partnerships with the Jerusalem diocese and support the ministry of its more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. The institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities.

The diocese and the institutions also are supported by the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization established in 1985.

Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has said that he prefers to hear people talk about investment rather than divestment.

In response to such calls from the Episcopal Church’s partners in the Holy Land, as well as to Resolution B019, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society invested $500,000 in the Bank of Palestine in 2013 for the purpose of economic development in the Palestinian Territories. The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council has endorsed expansion of that investment.

Supporters of BDS have compared the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories to that of apartheid South Africa, acknowledging that divestment and economic sanctions succeeded in overthrowing that regime.

However, a 2005 report from the Episcopal Church’s Social Responsibility in Investments committee noted that the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is not the same as the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

“In the case of South Africa, the entire system of apartheid was illegitimate, and no actions short of dismantling it could be countenanced by the world community. The goal was the end of that South African regime,” that report said. “The case of Israel is different. Church policies clearly support Israel’s right to exist, and no companies should be involved, however inadvertently, in any way with organizations engaged in violence against Israelis. Companies can and should operate in Israel proper.”

With the exception of the situation in South Africa, where the apartheid regime was seen globally as a pariah, Knisely said that using money as a weapon has very rarely been an effective strategy.

He cited examples of corporations responding positively to engagement from investors and shareholders, such as Apple’s environmental initiatives in response to challenges from Greenpeace. “Those corporations didn’t boycott the product but engaged in the conversation.”

Carbon divestment also isn’t working, he said. “The environmental companies are agreeing that they need to engage with the companies” to effect change in policies and practices.

“We must approach this whole thing with a deep humility and openness to all the voices,” Knisely said, “and as I’ve listened to voices I’ve been more and more convinced that whatever happens in a tense situation has to be very thoughtful and careful.”

Brownridge said that he understands, from his contacts in the Palestinian Christian community, that they favor positive investment in the Palestinian economy and their social service infrastructure.

“I support and advocate such investment in schools, hospitals, social welfare services, and companies that will build up the Palestinian community,” he said. However, “I must ask those opposed to our resolution, what is ‘positive’ about investment in companies that destroy Palestinian homes, spy on Palestinian people, and otherwise maintain the machinery that allows for the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. Those actions have a negative impact on the Palestinian people and the prospects for a just and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Resolution C018 from Diocese of Washington calls for continued support of the Diocese of Jerusalem and its institutions, especially Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, which was deeply impacted by the 2014 Gaza War.

While the resolution calls for a full and public report “documenting all actions, including corporate dialogues and shareholder resolutions … regarding companies that contribute to the infrastructure of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and companies that have connections to organizations responsible for violence against Israel,” it stops short of calling for divestment. Rather, it suggests that The Episcopal Church “should contribute to a just and peaceful solution to the continuing crisis in the Holy Land through responsible and informed action.”

From his experience on the interreligious pilgrimage, Kitagawa said it was clear that transformation happens at a very personal level, through person-to-person contact, and that the best chance for a lasting peace and security can be found in the grassroots initiatives that seek to combat fear and build trust between Israelis and Palestinians through dialogue and a process of reconciliation.

Among those grassroots initiatives are the Shades Negotiation Program and Roots, which bring together Israelis and Palestinians to hear and learn from one another’s narratives, and to build a peaceful society in which everyone can prosper.

Although the political negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders have stalled, Kitagawa acknowledged that if people on the ground are not prepared for peace deal when it comes, it will be difficult for any diplomatic agreement to succeed.

“God’s power to touch and transform life is not stuck in the past. As the baptized and a baptizing community, we are called to be vessels of God’s power to touch and transform life,” he said. “Against all odds, many individuals and groups work daily and sacrificially hard towards peace with justice and mutual security. Many times we heard how few opportunities there are for creative contact between Israelis and Palestinians. Now is the time to encourage and support people-to-people contacts, and creative ways to bring the Children of Abraham together.”

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.