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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.

President of the House of Deputies’ opening remarks to General Convention

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next nine days,” President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings said in her opening remarks to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 24. “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.”

Watch the presentation on the Media Hub here.

The following are the opening remarks by President Jennings.

Good morning, and welcome to the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church! My name is Gay Clark Jennings, and I’m a deputy.

Today is a big day. For us deputies, it’s our first chance to be together in three years, and it’s our first chance to welcome our 398 new members. First-time deputies account for 46 percent of our house, and taken together, first- and second-time deputies make up 66 percent. The potential is enormous!

Today is also our chance to meet the nominees for presiding bishop in person and hear each one’s vision for how he would help lead the Episcopal Church into the future God wants for us. I’m looking forward to this afternoon.

Now, I’m sure it’s a coincidence that we’re greeting our presiding bishop nominees on the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. And I’m sure we will all enjoy the special lunch of locusts and wild honey that the Salt Palace staff has prepared for us.

But I think it’s not a coincidence that we’re beginning the work of the 78th General Convention on this feast day. Here’s how Luke’s Gospel tells part of the story:

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Now, remember that Zechariah had been struck dumb some months earlier for doubting God’s messenger. He didn’t think things could change for him and Elizabeth, and he said so. It appears that he came by this reluctance honestly:  his neighbors and relatives who came to circumcise the baby didn’t even think it was okay to step out by trying a new name.

But Zechariah had spent his period of silence well. And when the people assembled had witnessed the miracle and heard his praise, they knew they were on the edge of a strange and wonderful future.

“What then will this child become?” they asked. What indeed?

You won’t be surprised that now I’m going to turn from preaching to meddling. The first thing I want to point out about this reading is that in order for Zechariah to hear God speaking to him, he had to stop talking and listen. For a long time. You know who you are.

The second thing to notice about this text is that what’s at stake is the baby’s identity. God is moving, strange things are happening, and no one is sure what’s going on. So they disagree about what the baby’s name should be. We have had a version of this naming problem in the Episcopal Church these last few years, as you may have noticed.

Just like Zechariah, we are 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. And we are not quite sure who we are.

Whenever I find myself on a boundary, Paul Tillich is my go-to guy. Tillich, a theologian who taught at Harvard Divinity School and the University of Chicago, said this in a sermon reprinted in his collection titled “The Shaking of the Foundations:”

Nothing is more surprising than the rise of the new within ourselves. We do not foresee or observe its growth. We do not try to produce it by the strength of our will, by the power of our emotion, or by the clarity of our intellect. On the contrary, we feel that by trying to produce it we prevent its coming. By trying, we would produce the old in the power of the old, but not the new. The new is being born in us, just when we least believe in it. It appears in remote corners of our souls which we have neglected for a long time.

So, thinking of Zechariah and of Tillich, for a few moments, let’s quiet the din around us and listen for the new within ourselves. 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.

When we can do that, I think we’ll sense the rise of the new within ourselves and know, as Tillich says, that it arises from what’s already in the corners of our souls, from what we have been neglecting, discounting or taking for granted.

What will we find there, in the corners of the collective soul of the Episcopal Church?

I think we’ll find our Baptismal Covenant, in which we affirm the Creed, repent of our sins, proclaim the Good News, and promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being. All of them—not just the ones with orthodox theology, or any theology; not just the ones who make us comfortable; not just the ones whose understanding of marriage or access to communion or the calendar of commemorations accord with our seminary training or our bishop’s direction. Not just the ones who know how the Virtual Binder works.

I think we’ll find our history of seeking the kingdom of God by distributing authority among clergy, bishops and laypeople so that all voices are heard, all people are welcome, and all visions of justice and mercy are honored.

I think that in the neglected corners of our souls we’ll find the saints who have gone before us. There are a lot of them, and you might be surprised who you’ll find lurking in your soul. As I have been preparing for this General Convention, which marks the 230th anniversary of the House of Deputies, I have been keeping close company with Deputy and later Bishop William White, with Deputy Thurgood Marshall and Seminarian Jonathan Daniels, with the women of the Philadelphia Eleven, and with my sister Pamela Chinnis, the first woman to lead this house, just to name a few.

By the way, on Saturday after the Community Eucharist, we’ll have a party to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the House of Deputies, and we’ll celebrate these saints who have gone before us and some saints who still blessedly walk among us. I’m told that the bishops have other plans for Saturday, but if you’re nice to your deputies, they might save some M&Ms for you.

Now, unless you’ve been off the Internet for about three years, you know that we’re going to spend a lot of time at this General Convention talking about church structure. I think it is safe to say that we are not always going to agree. I think we have probably had our last unanimous structure vote for a while. And that is okay. Because when we’re talking about structure, we’re really talking about our identity. We’re talking about what’s growing in the neglected corners of our souls. We’re talking about what to name the baby.

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. We’re talking about what it means to be a deacon or a priest or a bishop if it doesn’t mean what it meant—or what we thought it meant—when we finished a local formation program or seminary. We are talking about the fate of the governance structures through which we have progressed—sometimes haltingly, sometimes kicking and screaming—toward equality for people of color, for women, and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians. We’re talking about the shared leadership by which we have achieved our prophetic stands on the death penalty–which we have stood against as a church since 1956—on racism, gun safety and poverty, and the enormous amount of work we still have to do. We’re talking about the fact that our governance structures gave many of us a seat at the table for the very first time, but that when we sat down, some of our brothers and sisters stood up and left.

We’re talking about the fact that God isn’t done with us yet.

We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next nine days. 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. Much of the work we have to do is about our own institutional future. But that’s not all of what we do.

The church isn’t the only segment of our society that’s reeling right now. 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. Even as we wrestle with the church’s future, we must reckon with its past. We must realize that the long, hard struggle to eliminate discrimination within the church required so much energy and vigilance, that we did not do enough to right the wrongs of discrimination, white privilege, and inequality in the world around us. This summer, especially, we must repent of that. Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore, Charleston – 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.

We have a lot of work to do. We are people of God who have been shaped, in ways that endure, by our history, by the fundamentals of our faith and by our common prayer. Surely we need to change, to restructure, to adapt, and surely we need to do it drawing upon the strengths of the identity given to us by God and shaped by the saints who have gone before us.

After the baby who Zechariah named John had lived and died, Jesus was traveling when some people brought to him a man who couldn’t hear and couldn’t speak clearly. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus took him aside, put his fingers in his ears, spat and touched his tongue. “Then looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said to him, ‘Ephaphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’”

May we be the man who Jesus healed. This General Convention, may we hear and may we speak, but most of all, my brothers and sisters, may we be opened.

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

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be held June 25 – 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 the House 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.

Presiding Bishop’s opening remarks to General Convention

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “This body is meant to be sacrament of God, an outward demonstration of the life and hope within us.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her opening remarks to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 24.

Watch the presentation on the Media Hub here.

The following are the opening remarks by the Presiding Bishop.

When we gathered as a body three years ago, we were intensely excited about boldly going where only one man has gone before.  We authorized a study of how the Episcopal enterprise works, and how it might be renovated for its current mission.  TREC started the work, and they’ve given us a map for the long journey ahead.  It’s not a final product, but an invitation to warp up and get moving.  There is abundant adventure ahead on this heavenward trek, and it asks our courage to engage unknown beings, new challenges, and unexpected opportunities.  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.  The journey is likely to be a long one, in spite of the glimpses of heaven around us.  We will measure this journey in light-years, and expect those years to be filled with growing awareness of the light of the world.  We’re in this for the long haul, as we call on ancient truth while responding to the new thing that God continues to do in our midst.  This is not a trek for the faint-hearted.  We must keep that long view AND attend to the joy and suffering around us.

Reflect for a moment on what has brought us to this place.  Our recent history as a Church has been filled with warring, chaos, and quite a bit of collateral damage – and we live in a larger society that has shrinking interest in “church” as they understand it.  Yet today we are leaner and more focused on essentials.  We’ve rediscovered some of what is most central to being part of the body of Christ – that it already has a head, and that isn’t any one of us, and that our lives, our health and wholeness and holiness are ultimately bound up with all God’s children and all creation.  We don’t make this trek alone, and we can’t go alone even if we’d prefer a solo journey.  We’re tied to one another through the bonds of affection called the love of God.  We will never live that interrelated life perfectly, but interdependence is our vocation and our destiny – and we know it as the Reign of God.  This journey 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.

We are living in a new world – digitally connected and more diverse than we might ever have imagined, where people are deeply hungry for the greater life that courageous living can bring.  We are leaving behind the fortresses of the past, the bastions of privilege, and the overconfident assumptions that we have all the truth that is needed.  Those realities are scaring the socks off of a lot of us, and they should, for the truth is that we must engage God’s transforming spirit or die.  It’s probably accurate to say that we must die AND engage the transformation being offered, because we cannot do one without the other.

The dying and rising so central to Christian life is all around us, and it applies to all parts of the body of Christ.  The way of living together we seek has similarities at each level of the organism.  The behavior of holy living is holographic – similar at different magnifications – and it applies to individuals, families, congregations, community relationships, church relations, nations and their struggles.  Another way to describe that is integrity or congruence, where each part of the body is consistent with, and accountable to, the whole.  But it does not mean uniformity, for the diversity of peoples, and creatures, is a gift of God’s creation!  Loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves is about building a larger society that is mutually responsible and interdependent.  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, for our lives are bound up in the health of the whole oikos (the whole household or ecosystem).

Our work at the last General Convention demonstrated some of the ways of interdependent life, as we found joy in creative responses to what at first appeared to be intractably opposed viewpoints – around same-sex unions, a denominational health plan, and how to prioritize churchwide budgetary resources.  We let go of a lot of our fears and found synergy in trying ways that no single party or person had conceived of alone.  That kind of behavior reflects the mutual interdependence of a Trinitarian God.  We have found greater peace within this body as a result.

We begin this General Convention with plenty of challenge ahead.  We will reflect on the canons and liturgy related to marriage, consider how to tune our interdependent governing structures, and seek to promote justice and foster peace in areas of conflict here and across the world.  Yet it is not only the decisions we make here that can help to build a more just and peaceful world.  If we live and act together as a vibrant and diverse body, focused on the upbuilding of all, our very being will bring forth transformation.  This body is meant to be sacrament of God, an outward demonstration of the life and hope within us.

We’ve been promised that holding our life lightly leads to finding more of it, and we’ve experienced that before.  Holding our life with open hands, and traveling light mean relinquishing our death grip on nonessentials and dead wood.  What no longer brings life must be laid down to fertilize future growth.  We will not all agree about precisely what that includes, but we need to be fearless in examining what will come before us, whether it is marriage, the size of this deliberative body, or where we store up our treasure.  Be fearless, not foolish.  Godly judgment will not come in solitariness; it must be discerned in community.  Consider how NASA’s space exploration missions run – the supposed “heroes” are launched into space, yet the essential support comes from mission control in Houston – a focused group of technical experts with lively connections to global networks.  When there’s a problem or a crisis, the word flashes out to the far corners of the world – help, we need you to weigh in, offer your insight, gifts, and perspectives.  And the good news of kingdom sightings flash out as well – see what we found, and look for it with your own lenses, in your neighborhood.  The whole enterprise is an interdependent system with a singular focus and goal.  No part functions alone; the gifts of multitudes are needed for the onward journey.

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.  But it is abundantly clear that many of the older plantings have reached the end of their lives.  We need to find new ways of tending the birds of the air who haven’t found sheltering trees or nourishing fruit.  St. Lydia’s dinner church, Love in the Laundromat, Common Cathedral, camps for the disabled or children of the incarcerated, micro-housing and elder housing and co-housing and homes of healing for the trafficked – all are taking root in new fields and showing interdependent love of neighbor.  How will this body in here Salt Lake continue to foster that kind of sowing?

Christians everywhere are beginning to rediscover our marginal DNA, the same genes that led Jesus to focus his work with the least and lost, the left behind and the left out.  The Episcopal Church is beginning to understand that we are never whole when we exclude members of the wider community, however subtly or overtly.  We ARE becoming more diverse in almost every aspect, growing in migrant communities and overseas, slowly getting better at bridging socioeconomic divides, and increasingly understanding our place as solidarity with the least of these.  Recovering our edgy DNA also means crossing those boundaries more willingly to partner with other Christian bodies, other religious communities, and anyone who shares our vision for a healed and reconciled world.  This is not just about post-denominational Christianity. It is about recognizing the spirit of God at work in places we’ve failed to look before.  Religious affiliation may seem to be waning across the developed world, yet at the same time there is a far greater eagerness in civil society to work with religious leaders and religious bodies – in advocacy, compassionate human service, and ethical dialogue.  Much of the world around us yearns for a greater sense of human dignity – and the belief that every human being is created in the image of God is core to our identity.  We cannot be laborers in the vineyard if we shun engagement with those who are not overtly part of this body.  Our good news is the reality of these unsought solidarities, and the reality that Christ has bound us all together in the love of God.

This missionary expedition doesn’t need updated instructions – we know where we’ve been sent, and what the prime directive is:  love God, love neighbor, work to heal the world.  We do need a next-generation operations manual, with more granular ways of teaching and encouraging the missionaries and expedition crew.  One size does not fit all, even though the shape will be similar – it’s that ancient Anglican holographic principle of congruity.  Trees have to grow in local soil, and adapt to those conditions, but whatever their size or stature, all are challenged to be fruitful.  We need to consider Prayer Book and Hymnal revision and an expanded vision of how the crew comes together to be fed.  This is another place where we’re learning from the margins and distant outposts.  We need to be brave enough to go and see, to learn, test, and practice, and to join in creating new forms and adapting old ones.

The work we begin and continue here should keep us in mind of the larger body – the Anglican Communion, our ecumenical and interreligious partners, many of whom are represented here today – and the entire body of God’s creation.  Our decisions must consider how they might contribute to more abundant life for others.  We do not travel alone, but in company with many we do not see or hear in this gathering.  May we go together, aware that we live and move and have our being in solidarities we have not chosen.[1]

Go with integrity, each reflecting the divine lover and creative spirit, mutually grounded in one society, humble enough to learn from partners and strangers, with eyes fixed firmly on the eternal prize of right relationship with God, neighbor, and all creation.   Go into the neighborhood, across the tracks, and across the galaxy.  Meet and befriend the other, whether poor or bruised or differently abled or too beautiful for words.  No matter who you’re afraid of, we need each other, and we need to meet on the field of peace, drawing the circle ever wider.  Trade hate for greater life.  We know how, if we will GO out there, unburdened by all the prejudices and presuppositions we use as crutches and weapons.  Turn guns into swing sets. Turn chains into park benches.  Go out there and find God already at work, preparing the ground for the peace that brings abundant life for us all.  Go, for Jesus sends us on the only journey truly worth our lives.

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

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be held June 25 – 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 the House 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.

 

Decatur church’s solar panels help clear the air and balance the books

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] In response to Pope Francis’ recent call for “all people of goodwill” to mitigate human-induced climate change and respond to environmental degradation members of Georgia’s faith leadership and scientific and environmental communities gathered at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church to support his historic message.

“The Pope’s clarion places high importance on lifting up the world’s most vulnerable populations, who will be the worst impacted by a changing climate and environmental pollution,” said the Rev. Daniel Dice. The Decatur church was chosen because it recently installed solar panels, Dice said.

Rev. Kate Mosley, executive director, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, said environmental pollution disproportionately affects those with the fewest resources.

“In Georgia, the youngest, oldest, and poorest will shoulder the worst effects of poor air quality from the same fossil fuel infrastructure shown to drive climate chaos,” Mosley said. The interfaith leaders and environmental advocates called for stewardship of Georgia’s natural heritage and swift response from state and federal leadership to protect critical clean air safeguards.

The solar panels on the roof of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church make  both financial and ecological sense, Dice said. They will provide a consistent revenue stream for the small congregation, but taking a stand for the ecology is equally important.

“Any energy that can be produced with a negative carbon footprint helps,” Dice said.  “If the problem seems like an ocean too big to combat, just think of that the ocean simply as a collection of drops. With this drop, St. Timothy’s strives to be a part of the change.”

St. Timothy’s, formed in 1898, is accustomed to facing challenges. After a period of decline due to white flight the church’s neighborhood rebounded as it became home to Caribbean immigrants. St. Timothy embraced the newcomers and the congregation now combines the best of Episcopalian traditions with Southern American experiences and the vibrancy of Caribbean Anglicanism.

St. Timothy’s outreach is especially important to the disenfranchised of diverse backgrounds in the community.

The church has a vibrant choral ministry, now planning its third international tour, and a dedicated outreach program, including feeding hundreds of people each month through the food pantry.

One of the parish’s newest and most exciting projects is its focus on the stewardship of the earth.

Dice said the congregation’s environmental ministry was taken up as penance for prior abuses of the land: “’Accept our repentance, Lord, for our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us.’ As temporary caretakers of this planet, every decision we make impacts the quality of air, water, and earth our children’s children will have.”

Earlier this year, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church was able to install approximately $200,000 worth of solar panels zero cost to the parish through the Advanced Solar Initiative, a Federal Program originally signed into law by President George W. Bush.

St. Timothy’s solar panels were installed by Hannah Solar, LLC, of Atlanta.  Pete Marte, Hannah Solar CEO said his company is one of the fastest growing certified solar energy companies in Georgia.

St. Timothy’s long term agreement with Hannah Solar will deliver meaningful energy production with environmental benefits.  By selling the clean energy produced at St. Timothy’s back to the grid, the photovoltaic array atop St. Timothy’s will also help financially support the church’s mission and ministry to its  community.

“The Holy Spirit’s work in us leads us as faithful consumers and investors in a global economy to make responsible choices to reduce energy use, carbon emissions, and the wasteful consumption of water and other natural resources,” Dice said. “We have the resources and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those most vulnerable to the effect of climate change.”

– Don Plummer works in media and community relations in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. 

Una guía para abordar la agenda de la 78ª. Convención General

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

El Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Convención General, enfatiza un punto durante una conferencia de prensa el 23 de junio, mientras lo escuchan, de izquierda a derecha, Neva Rae Fox, encargada de Relaciones Públicas de la Iglesia Episcopal; la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, y la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service –Salt Lake City] Obispos y diputados —y multitud de otros episcopales— se reúnen aquí en el Centro de Convenciones Salt Palace, en preparación para el comienzo oficial, el 25 de junio, de la reunión de nueve días [de la Convención General].

Las dos cámaras enfrentan una agenda repleta, como es usual durante la Convención General, que esta vez adquiere mayor relieve por la elección del sucesor de la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori. Entre las interrogantes que enfrentan los obispos y diputados están qué cambios estructurales y de otra índole necesita la Iglesia Episcopal en todos los niveles para respaldar la misión y el ministerio en este siglo, cómo la Iglesia debe responder a la creciente aceptación del matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo, qué declaraciones debe hacer y qué iniciativas debe instar respecto a multitud de asuntos de política nacional e internacional, así como acerca de otras cuestiones referentes a la vida común de la Iglesia, tales como la liturgia y la disciplina del clero. Resúmenes de muchas de esas propuestas se encuentran a continuación.

“Nos concentramos cada vez más fuera de nosotros mismos que sólo en nuestros miembros”, dijo Jefferts Schori durante una conferencia de prensa el 23 de junio. “Creemos que somos un pueblo que ha tenido el propósito de participar en la transformación de este mundo hacia algo que se parezca más a lo que Dios tenía en mente cuando lo creo, y hay un largo trecho [que recorrer] a partir de esa visión de plenitud, de manera que tenemos mucho que hacer”.

A ese fin, la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, hacía notar que la Convención está por reunirse a raíz de la muerte violenta de siete personas negras en una iglesia de Charleston, Carolina del Sur. Esos asesinatos “han electrificado a la gente de fe y a todas las personas de buena voluntad”, dijo Jennings en la conferencia de prensa. “Creo que Dios nos llama a desmantelar los sistemas de racismo y privilegio que están inextricablemente vinculados a la historia de Estados Unidos y de nuestra Iglesia, la cual se fundó, como ustedes saben, en los primeros tiempos de la república”.

La Convención es un lugar, dijo Jennings, donde “los episcopales tienen la capacidad no sólo de proclamar que las vidas de los negros son valiosas, sino también de tomar decisiones concretas para ponerle fin al racismo y hacer realidad el sueño de Dios de… la reconciliación racial y el fin de la injustica”.

La 78ª. Reunión de la [Convención General] de la Iglesia Episcopal tiene lugar en el Centro de Convenciones Salt Palace en Salt Lake City, Utah. El céntrico local de convenciones cuenta con un espacio de 47.800 metros cuadrados. Foto de Salt Palace Convention Center.

La Convención General misma parecerá diferente a los obispos, diputados y observadores veteranos en algunos rasgos significativos. Jefferts Schori y Jennings han reformado y redefinido los comités legislativos de la Convención para alinearlos más estrechamente con el marco de las Cinco Marcas de la Misión de la Comunión Anglicana (aquí aparece una lista que muestra cómo los comités se han desglosado conforme a estos lineamientos).

Ajustar la labor de la Iglesia Episcopal a esos objetivos tiene sentido, dijeron Jeffers Schori y Jennings porque la lista “ha configurado nuestra obra de misión en el actual trienio, y confiamos que continuará configurando nuestra participación en la misión de Dios en el próximo trienio”.

Un centro de prensa, dirigido por la Red Digital Episcopal y el Departamento de Actividad Pública y Comunicación de la Misión, le permitirá a todo el mundo seguir los procedimientos de la Convención. Incluirá transmisiones en directo de las sesiones de la Cámara de Obispos y de la Cámara de Diputados, oficios diarios y reuniones informativas de prensa, así como información acerca de la labor de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera [DFMS]. Los titulares de Episcopal News Service tendrán cabida en el sitio.

La Convención intenta funcionar sin papeles en la medida de lo posible, reemplazando cada carpeta de obispos y diputados —una carpeta que con frecuencia crecía hasta hacerse muy voluminosa— con sistemas digitales que hagan la reunión de Salt Lake City una “convención de pantallas”. Gran parte de la labor legislativa de ambas cámaras se desplegará electrónicamente en tabletas electrónicas o en pantallas de proyección. A cada diputado y cada obispo, junto con los primeros clérigos y laicos suplentes, se le facilitará un iPad para usarlo durante la Convención General como su “carpeta virtual”. Más información disponible aquí.

Otros que sigan la Convención pueden ver aquí el proceso de las resoluciones legislativas, una página que también incluye las agendas diarias de cada cámara, los calendarios de cada día y diarios (una lista de mensajes enviados entre las cámaras en las que informan a la otra de las decisiones tomadas). También se incluyen en los iPads los órdenes del culto para los oficios eucarísticos diarios, con lo cual se elimina la necesidad de imprimir todos los días cientos de folletos para el culto.

El Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Convención General, dijo que este personal había tomado en serio la curva del aprendizaje para obispos y diputados, añadiendo que Apple mismo no proporciona un manual de instrucción para el iPad porque el uso del aparato se supone que sea muy intuitivo. “Creo que va a ser fácil. Todos estamos juntos en esto como aprendices”, dijo él durante la conferencia de prensa. “A partir de mi experiencia, cuando se trata de una cosa nueva y ninguno de nosotros es experto, el Espíritu encuentra una nueva apertura”.

Encuentre más información aquí.

Además, una aplicación gratuita puede obtenerse aquí para cualquiera con un Android o un IOS7 o un teléfono inteligente o una tableta. La aplicación contiene horarios, mapas, información de vendedores, órdenes de culto de los oficios diarios y otros materiales útiles. La aplicación también puede usarse en una computadora.

Si bien la Convención puede no comenzar oficialmente hasta el 25 de junio, una sesión de reuniones del comité legislativo comenzará informalmente, en la noche del 23 de junio, la labor de la reunión trienal. El 24 de junio habrá dos sesiones más de la reunión legislativa y las 12 horas entre ambas contemplarán una presentación de la Convención General por Jefferts Schori and Jennings, además de una sesión programada de tres horas con los cuatro obispos nominados a la elección del 27º. obispo primado. El borrador del horario completo de la Convención puede verse aquí.

El principal quehacer de la Convención General incluye:

La elección del 27º. obispo primado.

 

La Cámara de Obispos se reunirá el 27 de junio en la catedral de San Marcos [St. Mark’s Cathedral], justo en la misma calle del Centro de Convenciones Salt Palace, para elegir al próximo Obispo Primado. Foto de St. Mark’s Cathedral.La 78ª. Reunión de la Convención General elegirá a uno de cuatro hombres para suceder a Jefferts Schori, cuyo período de nueve años concluye el 1 de noviembre.

El Comité de Nominaciones Conjunto para la Elección del Obispo Primado presentará los nombres de:

El Rvdmo. Thomas Breidenthal, de 64 años, Diócesis de Ohio Sur

El Rvdmo. Michael Curry, de 62 años, Diócesis de Carolina del Norte

El Rvdmo. Ian Douglas, de 56 años, Diócesis de Connecticut

El Rvdmo. Dabney Smith, de 61 años, Diócesis del Sudoeste de la Florida

a la Convención General durante una sesión conjunta el 26 de junio, la víspera de al elección.

Según ha dicho el comité, no habrá ningún nominado adicional desde el pleno durante la Convención.

Los detalles de la elección y la información acerca del proceso previo a la elección, se encuentran aquí.

El obispo primado electo predicará en la eucaristía de clausura de la Convención el 3 de julio, y Jefferts Schori presidirá el oficio.

La estructura de la Iglesia

De las casi 400 resoluciones presentadas a la Convención General en 2012, más de 90 se relacionaban con la reforma estructural. La mayoría de esas resoluciones se sintetizaron en la Resolución C095, la cual aprobaron por unanimidad tanto los obispos como los diputados. La resolución pedía que un comité elaborara un plan para “reformar las estructuras, el gobierno y la administración de la Iglesia”. El resultado fue el Equipo de Trabajo para Reinventar la Iglesia Episcopal (TREC). El equipo de trabajo dedicó aproximadamente dos años y varios cientos de miles de dólares a emprender, a través de la Iglesia Episcopal, un amplio proceso consultivo de diálogo acerca de la estructura y su relación con la misión.

En su informe el equipo de trabajo propuso nueve resoluciones que piden una mayor y más clara supervisión de parte del Obispo Primado de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera y de su personal; una Convención General unicameral; un Consejo Ejecutivo más pequeño; la eliminación de la mayoría de las 14 comisiones permanentes de la Iglesia y un proceso para el nombramiento de equipos de trabajo interinos cuando se necesiten; un estudio de la formación y compensación del clero (incluida la pensión), un nuevo proceso para el discernimiento, la formación, la búsqueda y la elección de obispos; el discernimiento con las diócesis vecinas para una posible colaboración cuando llegue el momento de llamar a un nuevo obispo; una solicitud presupuestaria diocesana menor y de participación forzosa y el desarrollo de una red de personas que puedan “hacerse diestras en crear, formar y desarrollar espacios y momentos para encuentros espirituales que transformen vidas y estructuras injustas”.

El TREC no es el único comité que propone resoluciones sobre cambios estructurales a esta reunión de la Convención. La Comisión Permanente sobre la Estructura de la Iglesia ha propuesto varios cambios. Esas resoluciones se encuentran aquí y su informe a la Iglesia se encuentra aquí.

La mayoría de las resoluciones relacionadas con el cambio de estructura de la Iglesia Episcopal hasta la fecha se encuentran aquí.

La teología del matrimonio de la Iglesia Episcopal

El Equipo [o Grupo] de Trabajo de la Convención General sobre el Matrimonio, la Comisión Permanente sobre Liturgia y Música y, hasta la fecha, cinco diócesis y un diputado están instando a la Convención [a pronunciarse] con mayor claridad en su interpretación de la disponibilidad del rito sacramental del matrimonio tanto a parejas de diferente sexo como del mismo sexo.

Nueve resoluciones existente y otras afines que podrían surgir se han asignado al Comité Legislativo Especial sobre el Matrimonio de la Convención General, formalmente un comité de obispos que se reúne junto a un comité de diputados pero que votan por separado. Las resoluciones asignadas a ese comité se encuentran aquí.

Formulación del presupuesto trienal 2016-2018

El Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Programa, Presupuesto y Finanzas (PB&F) ya ha comenzado a trabajar en el anteproyecto del presupuesto trienal 2016-2018 que el Consejo Ejecutivo aprobó en enero.

La 78ª. Convención General sesionará a unas pocas cuadras de la Plaza del Templo, el centro de Salt Lake City y donde se encuentra el mayor templo de la Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días. El templo es un símbolo internacional de esta Iglesia, la cual tiene su cede principal en Salt Lake City. La plaza del Templo también incluye el tabernáculo, sede del Coro del Tabernáculo Mormón. Foto/www.ldstemples.org

El ingreso total en el anteproyecto de presupuesto del Consejo es de $120.470.577 y el total de gastos proyectados es de $120.468.248. Además de los pagos diocesanos, el lado de los réditos incluye ingresos de otras fuentes tales como $28,2 millones de una extracción de un 5 por ciento de activos irrestrictos de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera, cerca de $10 millones en ingresos por concepto de alquileres del Centro Denominacional de la Iglesia Episcopal, $2,1 millones de un programa de cobro de préstamos de refugiados del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración, $2 millones a ser recaudados por la oficina de desarrollo y $1.200.000 en ingresos de la Convención General, junto con otras fuentes más pequeñas.

El PB&F tendrá una audiencia sobre ingresos a las 7:30 P.M. (hora local) el 26 de junio en el Brand Ballroom A,B,C del Hilton Salt Lake City Center. El comité volverá a ese lugar a la misma hora el 27 de junio para una audiencia sobre gastos.

El PB&F usará los comentarios que reciba, el anteproyecto de presupuesto del Consejo y cualquier legislación aprobada por la Convención General o sometida a su consideración para crear una propuesta presupuestaria final. Ese presupuesto debe presentarse a una sesión conjunta de la Cámara de Obispos y de la Cámara de Diputados a más tardar el tercer día antes del que está programado que concluya la

Convención. Según el borrador del calendario de la Convención, esa presentación ha de tener lugar a las 2:15 P.M. del 1 de julio.

Sostenibilidad económica de la IX Provincia

Las diócesis de la IX Provincia en América Latina y el Caribe adoptaron el autosostén como un punto central en 2012. Mediante la Resolución A015 se le pedirá a la Convención General que continúe manteniendo el sostén económico de la provincia.

La DFMS ha estado colaborando con las siete diócesis —República Dominicana, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras y Puerto Rico— en un enfoque global hacia la sostenibilidad económica motivado por las necesidades individuales de cada diócesis.

Desinversión en combustibles fósiles

Se espera que prosiga en esta Convención un debate sobre si la Iglesia Episcopal debería transferir sus inversiones de compañías dedicadas a la extracción de combustibles fósiles y de industrias que usan grandes cantidades de combustibles fósiles.

La Resolución C013 de la Diócesis de California le pide al Comité sobre Responsabilidad Social Corporativa del Consejo Ejecutivo y al Fondo de Pensiones de la Iglesia, en consulta con expertos en los campos de economía e inversiones, ética y desarrollo de energía renovable, que evalúe si el beneficio de una estrategia de desinversión estaría en conformidad con los valores de la Iglesia. El Comité Legislativo de Mayordomía Ambiental y Cuidado de la Creación de la Convención, uno de los nuevos comités creados por Jefferts Schori y Jennings, considerará la resolución y hará una recomendación al pleno de la Convención.

Revisiones del Título IV

La Comisión Permanente sobre Constitución y Cánones ha propuesto 25 resoluciones que dice tienen por objeto fundamentalmente ajustar los cánones de la Iglesia sobre la disciplina del clero conocidos como Título IV. Esos cambios esclarecerían los deberes de los funcionarios del Título IV y “promoverían un proceso más eficiente, pastoral y responsable para todas las partes afectadas por el Título IV, según el informe a la Iglesia de la comisión.

La versión actual del Título IV fue promulgada por la Convención General en 2009, y creó un proceso enteramente nuevo para manejar la disciplina del clero. La comisión en 2013 solicitó reacciones sobre cómo funcionaba el proceso. Las quejas generales que recibió, dijo la comisión, fueron que el proceso lleva demasiado tiempo y cuesta mucho dinero; que los funcionarios de la Iglesia con frecuencia no están seguros de su autoridad y sus deberes; y que a los demandados se les permite a menudo que perturben y dilaten el proceso, causando importantes prejuicios pastorales adicionales a los demandantes y a los perjudicados por la mala conducta de clérigos, mientras las congregaciones permanecen en un limbo tocante a la resolución o el cierre del caso.

La comisión dijo encontrar que, en la mayoría de los casos, los problemas descritos eran el resultado de una preparación inadecuada en el proceso del Título IV más bien que en el proceso mismo. Por consiguiente, propone que la Convención asigne $339.220 para materiales educativos dentro y fuera de la Red, y otros $224.820 para traducirlos al español y al creole. También propone un panel de expertos en el proceso para responder a preguntas.

“Es nuestra esperanza que con mejor preparación y más recursos, el sistema funcionará más eficiente y pastoralmente, tal como fue concebido”, dijo la comisión.

Política internacional, paz y justicia, misión global y la Comunión Anglicana

Dos resoluciones retarán a la Convención a comprometerse con el apoyo y el desarrollo permanentes de los programas del Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos de la Iglesia Episcopal (YASC) y de los Voluntarios Episcopales en Misión (Información completa aquí).

La paz, la justicia y la seguridad en Tierra Santa son el foco de varias resoluciones, algunas de las cuales piden una inversión más a fondo en las asociaciones del Oriente Medio, especialmente con la Diócesis Episcopal de Jerusalén y sus instituciones sociales en atención sanitaria y educación, y otras sugieren una estrategia de desinversión de compañías que participan en cierto tipo de negocios con el gobierno israelí.

Varias docenas de visitantes internacionales —en representación de muchas de las 38 provincias de la Comunión Anglicana— y asociados ecuménicos e interreligiosos asistirán a la Convención General como invitados para adquirir una comprensión más profunda de la política y los procesos legislativos de la Iglesia Episcopal y para celebrar y explorar las oportunidades para la misión común.

– Matthew Davies, la Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg y Lynette Wilson de Episcopal News Service colaboraron en este artículo. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Domestic Poverty Ministry Grants announced

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The five recipients of the Domestic Poverty Ministry Grants have been announced by Samuel McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

The five grants, totaling $103,000, represent ministry focusing on Mark IV of the Anglican Marks of Mission: To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.

“There clearly is a tremendous depth of energy and commitment across The Episcopal Church to help transform unjust structures in our society by ministering among the economically impoverished,” McDonald said.

The recipients are:

• The Diocese of Arkansas – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fayetteville – Magdalene-Fayetteville – $9,500
• The Diocese of Minnesota – Engaging Low-Income, Isolated Young Adults – $23,450
• Navajoland Area Mission – Developing Advocacy Among the Dine’ – $22,450
• The Diocese of Rochester – St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Rochester – SewGreen@Rochester – $30,000
• The Diocese of Southern Ohio – St. John’s Episcopal Church, Columbus – Transforming a Community – $17,600

The grants center on new or revitalized efforts in domestic poverty ministry. The purpose of the grants is to engage Episcopalians in ministry among the economically impoverished in the United States; to provide opportunity to the marginalized to overcome chronic adversities; to challenge unjust structures that perpetuate the cycle of poverty; and to inspire the wider church to more deeply engage with the poor.

A committee of lay and clergy from across the Church read and evaluated the 129 applications, a record number received for these grants, reflecting a total of $2.7 million in requests. “It was a difficult discernment process, as there were so many well-qualified programs seeking funds,” noted the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, domestic poverty missioner for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. “The high quality of the applications was a truly joyful thing to witness.”

For additional information, contact Stevenson, mstevenson@episcopalchurch.org.

Presentation at General Convention
During General Convention 2015, Stevenson will facilitate a discussion on Wednesday, June 24 on the outreach of the domestic-poverty ministry with members of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society fellows, individuals who received either a one-year or two-year grant, approved by the Executive Council, for work focusing on Anglican Marks of Mission Mark IV and Mark V. The free event will be held 12:15 pm – 1:15 pm Mountain in the exhibit space of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary exhibit space is located in a prominent place in the hall marked by banners in three languages.

Stevenson will be available to discuss the partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development on the Episcopal Asset Map.

Mark IV: To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
Mark V: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House 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.

A guide to navigating the 78th General Convention’s agenda

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention, makes a point during a June 23 news conference while, from left, Neva Rae Fox, Episcopal Church public affairs officer, House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori listen. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service –Salt Lake City] Bishops and deputies – and a host of other Episcopalians – are gathering here in preparation for the official June 25 start of the nine-day gathering at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

The two houses face a packed agenda, as is common during General Convention, this time made more crucial by electing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s successor. Among the questions facing bishops and deputies are what structural and other changes The Episcopal Church needs at all levels to support mission and ministry in this century, how the church ought to respond to the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, what statements it ought to make and what actions it ought to urge on a host of national and international policy issues, as well as other questions about the church’s common life such as liturgy and clergy discipline. Summaries of many of those proposals are below.

“We’re increasingly focused outside of ourselves rather than on our members alone,” Jefferts Schori said during a June 23 news conference. “We think we are a people meant to participate in transforming this world towards something that looks more like something God had in mind when God created it, and it’s a long way from that vision of wholeness so we’ve got plenty of work to do.”

To that end, House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings noted that convention is about to convene in the wake of the killing of nine black people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. Those murders have “electrified people of faith and all people of good will,” Jennings told the news conference. “I believe that God is calling us to dismantle the systems of racism and privilege that are inextricably bound up in the history of the United States and of our church, which was founded, as you know, in the early days of the republic.”

Convention is a place, Jennings said, where “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 ending injustice.”

The 78th meeting of The Episcopal Church is taking place at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The downtown convention center covers 515,000 square feet of space. Photo: Salt Palace Convention Center

General Convention itself will seem different to veteran bishops, deputies and observers in some significant ways. Jefferts Schori and Jennings have reformed and redefined convention’s legislative committees to be more closely aligned with the framework of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission. (A list of how the committees break down along those lines is here).

Aligning the work of The Episcopal Church with those goals, Jefferts Schori and Jennings have said, makes sense because the list “has shaped our mission work in the current triennium, and we trust that it will continue to shape our engagement in God’s mission in the next triennium.”

A media hub, operated by the Episcopal Digital Network and the Office of Public Engagement and Mission Communication, will allow all people to follow the convention’s proceedings. It will include live streams of sessions from the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, daily worship and daily media briefings, as well as information about the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s work. Episcopal News Service’s headlines will feed into the site.

Convention is attempting to go as paperless as possible, replacing each bishops’ and deputies’ binder of paper copies of pending actions – a binder that often grew to a very weighty size – with digital systems to make the Salt Lake City gathering a “convention of screens.” Much of the legislative work for both houses will be displayed electronically on tablets or on projection screens. Each deputy and bishop, along with the first clergy alternate and first lay alternate, will be provided an iPad for use during General Convention as their “virtual binder.” More information is here.

Others following convention can watch the progress of legislative resolutions here, a page that also includes each house’s daily agendas, calendars for each day and journals (a list of messages sent between the houses informing the other of actions taken). Complete orders of service for convention’s daily Eucharists are also included on both the iPads, thus eliminating the need to print hundreds of worship booklets daily.

The Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention, said this staff has taken seriously the learning curve for bishops and deputies, adding that Apple itself does not provide instruction manual for the iPad because use of the device is thought to be so intuitive. “I think it’s going to be easy. We’re all in this together as learners,” he said during the news conference. “From my experience, when it’s a new thing and none of us are experts the Spirit finds a new opening.”

More information is here.

In addition, a free app is available here for anyone with an Android or IOS 7 or later smartphone or tablet. The app contains schedules, maps, vendor information, daily orders of worship services and other useful materials. The app can also be used on a computer.

While convention may not officially begin until June 25, a session of legislative committee meetings during the evening of June 23 informally begins the work of the triennial gathering. On June 24 there will be two more legislative meeting sessions and the 12 hours in between will feature a General Convention presentation by Jefferts Schori and Jennings, plus a scheduled three-hour session with the four bishops nominated to be the 27th presiding bishop. The complete draft convention schedule is here.

The major work facing General Convention includes:

The election of the 27th presiding bishop

The House of Bishops will gather to elect the next presiding bishop June 27 at St. Mark’s Cathedral, just down the street from the Salt Palace Convention Center. Photo: St. Mark’s Cathedral

The 78th meeting of General Convention will elect one of four men to succeed Jefferts Schori, whose nine-year term ends Nov. 1.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop will submit the names of

The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, 64, Diocese of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, 62, Diocese of North Carolina
The Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, 56, Diocese of Connecticut
The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, 61, Diocese of Southwest Florida

to the General Convention during a joint session on June 26, the day before the election.

There will be no additional nominees from the floor during convention, according to the committee.

Election details, and information about the run-up to the election, are here.

The presiding bishop-elect will preach at the convention’s closing Eucharist on July 3, and Jefferts Schori will preside.

The structure of the church
Of the almost 400 resolutions submitted to General Convention in 2012, more than 90 related to structural reform. The majority of those resolutions were synthesized into Resolution C095, which both bishops and deputies passed unanimously. The resolution called for a committee to develop a plan for “reforming the church’s structures, governance, and administration.” The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church was the result. The task force spent approximately two years and several hundred thousand dollars engaging, throughout The Episcopal Church, a broadly consultative process of dialogue about structure and its relationship to mission.

In its report the task force proposed nine resolutions that call for clarified and strengthened oversight by the presiding bishop of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and its staff; a unicameral General Convention; a smaller Executive Council; elimination of most of the church’s 14 standing commissions and a process for appointing interim task forces as needed; a study of clergy formation and compensation (including pension); a new process for discernment, formation, search, and election of bishops; discernment with neighboring dioceses for potential collaboration when it comes time to call a new bishop; a lower and participation-mandated diocesan budget asking; and the development of a network of people who can “become skilled in creating, nurturing, and developing spaces and moments for spiritual encounters that transform lives and unjust structures.”

TREC is not the only committee proposing structural-change resolutions to this meeting of convention. The Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church has proposed a number of changes. Those resolutions are here and its report to the church is here.

Most of the resolutions related to changing the structure of The Episcopal Church to date are here.

The Episcopal Church’s theology of marriage
The General Convention Task Force on Marriage, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and, to date, five dioceses and one deputy are urging convention toward greater clarity in its understanding of the availability of the sacramental rite of marriage to both different- and same-sex couples.

Nine existing resolutions and other related ones that might arise have been assigned to the General Convention’s 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.

Formulating the 2016-2018 triennial budget

The Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) has already begun work on the draft 2016-2018 triennium budget that Executive Council passed in January.

The 78th General Convention will meet a few short blocks from Temple Square, the center block of Salt Lake City and the location of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ largest temple. The temple is an international symbol of the church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City. Temple Square is also includes the Tabernacle, home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Photo/www.ldstemples.org

The total income in council’s draft budget is $120,470,577 and the total projected expenses are $120,468,248. In addition to diocesan payments, the revenue side includes income from other sources such as $28.2 million from a 5 percent draw on the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s unrestricted assets, nearly $10 million in rental income from the Episcopal Church Center, $2.1 million from Episcopal Migration Ministries’ refugee loan collection program, $2 million to be raised by the development office and $1.2 million in General Convention income, along with other smaller sources.

PB&F will hold a revenue hearing at 7:30 p.m. MDT July 26 in Grand Ballroom A,B,C of the Hilton Salt Lake City Center. The committee returns to the location at the same time July 27 for a hearing on spending.

PB&F will use the comments it receives, council’s draft budget and any legislation passed by or being considered by General Convention to create a final budget proposal. That budget must be presented to a joint session of the Houses of Bishops and Deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. According to the draft convention schedule, that presentation is set to take place at 2:15 p.m. MDT on July 1.

Province IX financial sustainability  
The Province IX dioceses in Latin American and the Caribbean adopted self-sustainability as a focus in 2012. General Convention via Resolution A015 will be asked to continue its support of financial sustainability in the province.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has been working with the seven dioceses – the Dominican Republic, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras and Puerto Rico – on a comprehensive approach to financial sustainability driven by the individual needs of each diocese.

Fossil fuels divestment
A discussion on whether The Episcopal Church should move its investments from companies engaged in the extraction of fossil fuels and industries that use large amounts of fossil fuels is expected to continue at convention.

Resolution C013 from the Diocese of California is calling on the Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Church Pension Fund, in consultation with experts in the fields of economics and investing, ethics, renewable energy development, to assess whether the benefit of a divestment strategy would be in compliance with the church’s values. Convention’s Environmental Stewardship and Creation Care Legislative Committee, one of the new committees Jefferts Schori and Jennings created, will consider the resolution and make a recommendation to the whole of convention.

Title IV revisions
The Standing Commission on Constitutions and Canons has proposed 25 resolutions it says are primarily meant to fine tune the church’s canons of clergy discipline known as Title IV. Those changes would clarify the duties of Title IV officials and “promot[e] a more efficient, pastoral, and accountable process for all parties affected by Title IV,” according to the commission’s report to the church.

The current version of Title IV was enacted by General Convention in 2009, and it created an entirely new process for handling clergy discipline. The commission in 2013 asked for feedback on how the process was working. The general complaints it received, the commission said, were that the process takes too long and costs too much money; that church officials are often uncertain of their authority and duties; and that respondents are often permitted to disrupt and delay the process, causing significant additional pastoral harm to complainants and those injured by clergy misconduct while congregations remain in limbo in regards to resolution or closure.

The commission said it found that in most cases, the problems described resulted from inadequate training in the Title IV process rather than the process itself. Thus, it is proposing that convention allocate $339,220 for online and offline education materials, and another $224,820 to have them translated into Spanish and Creole. It also proposes establishing a panel of process experts to answer questions.

“It is our hope that with better training and more resources, the system will work more efficiently and pastorally, as it was designed to do,” the commission said.

International policy, peace and justice, global mission and the Anglican Communion
Two resolutions will challenge convention to commit to the ongoing support and development of the Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) and Episcopal Volunteers in Mission (EVIM) programs. (Full story here)

Peace, justice and security in the Holy Land are the focus of several resolutions, some calling for deeper investment in Middle East partnerships, especially with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and its social institutions in healthcare and education, and others suggesting a strategy of divestment from companies involved in certain kinds of business with the Israeli government.

Several dozen international visitors – representing many of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces – and ecumenical and interreligious partners will attend General Convention as invited guests to gain a deeper understanding of The Episcopal Church’s polity and legislative processes and to celebrate and explore the opportunities for common mission.

– Matthew Davies, the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg and Lynette Wilson of the Episcopal News Service contributed to this story.

International, ecumenical, interreligious guests broaden convention’s outlook

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Global dimensions are set to resonate throughout The Episcopal Church’s General Convention as international guests representing many of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces will travel to Salt Lake City.

Guests attending the June 25-July 3 convention will also include several ecumenical and interreligious partners who will look to gain a deeper understanding of The Episcopal Church’s polity and legislative processes and celebrate their common mission.

At past conventions, the visitors program has been described as “mutually enriching.”

“The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be with us, a full communion partner,” said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the convention opened. “There will be representatives from the Moravian church, also a full communion partner. The retired archbishop of the Church of Sweden will be with us. We, together with the Church of Sweden, have acted as though we were in full communion for more than 200 years. We have shared clergy. Our bishops have participated in the consecration of bishops in the other tradition. And he will be here at least in part in the expectation that at this convention we will affirm the reality of our full communion relationship.

“And there will also Jewish and Muslim leaders with us as a sign of our partnership with people of faith from our other traditions.”

Jefferts Schori has said that including international guests is a “wonderful reminder of how we are connected across boundaries. When we learn from one another, we seek ways of working that we might not have expected.”

The Rev. Chuck Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop, who has coordinated much of the international visitors program in collaboration with staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Global Partnerships Office, said “It is important to help leaders from the other parts of the Anglican Communion, as well as our ecumenical and interreligious partners, to understand who we are as a church and how we come to decisions. But it’s also important for us to learn from them.”

International guests are invited by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Episcopal Relief & Development, Church Pension Group, and various dioceses that share companion relationships with other dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion.

Representatives from The Episcopal Church’s covenant partners – such as the Anglican Episcopal churches in Brazil, Liberia, Philippines, Central America and Mexico – will also attend General Convention and are invited to join the houses of bishops and deputies with seat and voice.

The Rev. Margaret Rose said that the presence of ecumenical and interreligious guests “helps us to see ourselves better.”

Rose, ecumenical and interreligious officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, said, “We are so aware that these guests are not outsiders but partners in the work of the common mission. Outside General Convention we work together on everything from conversations around doctrine and common worship to engagement in common advocacy and projects.  With our ecumenical and interreligious partners we seek unity in peace building as we look beyond ourselves to a world in so much need.”

Another important reason to welcome the guests “is the realization that we are not alone as we look to the future of our institutions,” said Rose. “We are all dealing with many of the same issues and it is good to share both the joys and the struggles.”

International guests include:

  • The Most Rev. Francisco de Assis da Silva, primate of Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
  • The Rev. Arthur Cavalcante, general secretary of Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil
  • The Most Rev. Francisco Moreno, primate of the Anglican Church of Mexico
  • The Rt. Rev. Jonathan Hart, bishop of the Diocese of Liberia
  • Floyd Lalwet, provincial secretary of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines
  • The Most Rev. Renato Abibico, prime bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines
  • The Most Rev. Samuel Azariah, moderator of the Church of Pakistan
  • The Most Rev. David Chillingworth, primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
  • The Most Rev. Paul Kim, primate of the Anglican Church of Korea
  • The Rev. Ibrahim Faltas, a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
  • Archdeacon Paul Feheley, national director of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Canada and principal secretary to the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
  • The Rev. Canon Phil Groves, facilitator of the Continuing Indaba program of the Anglican Communion
  • The Rev. Canon Michael Rusk, a priest in the Church of England
  • Stephen Lyon, coordinator of the Anglican Communion’s Bible in the Life of the Church project
  • The Rev. Peter Koon, provincial secretary of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Church in Hong Kong)
  • Canon David Porter, director of reconciliation for the archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo, primate of the Anglican Church of West Africa
  • The Very Rev. Graham Smith, dean of St. George’s College, Jerusalem
  • Walid Issa and Lior Frankiensztajn of the Shades Negotiation Program
  • The Rev. Andy Bowerman, co-director of the Anglican Alliance
  • The Most Rev. Albert Chama, primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa
  • The Rev. John Deane, executive director of the Anglican Board of Mission in Australia
  • Adele Finney of the Primates Fund for World Relief of the Anglican Church of Canada
  • The Most Rev. Nathaniel Uematsu, primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Church in Japan)

Ecumenical guests include:

  • Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Church of America
  • Rabbi Neal Borovitz of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  • The Rev. Melissa Garrett Davis, ecumenical officer of the Presbyterian Church USA
  • The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • The Most Rev. Ephraim Fajutagana, obispo maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church)
  • Natasha Klukach, program executive for church and ecumenical Relations at the World Council of Churches
  • Kathryn Lohre, executive for ecumenical and interreligious relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • The Rev. Christopher Meakin, chief ecumenical secretary of the Church of Sweden
  • The Rev. Betsy Miller, president of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Moravian Church Northern Province
  • The Rev. Ron Roberson of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • The Rev. Stephen J. Sidorak of the United Methodist Church
  • Emily D. Soloff, national associate director of interreligious and intergroup relations of the American Jewish Committee
  • The Rt. Rev. Raul Tobias, a bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente
  • Anders Wejryd, archbishop emeritus of the Church of Sweden

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

‘Revolutionary, radical’ ministry initiatives taught church this triennium

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Under the watchful eyes of previous bishops of Pennsylvania, a group of “pioneers in ministry” sit in a circle at Christ Church, Philadelphia, and talk about their experiences in The Episcopal Church’s Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts project. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of stories about The Episcopal Church’s pledge at the 77th General Convention to partner with dioceses to begin innovative mission strategies. Previous stories are here.

[Episcopal News Service]  The first three years of The Episcopal Church’s project of granting greater freedom to people who want to try to reach new believers in new ways have taught its participants about the need for ongoing partnerships and conversation, and for a willingness to take risks, be open to transformation, and to be in it for the long haul.

“What I want people to know and begin to understand is how revolutionary and radical this is,” Anne Watkins, the recent chair of the Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Local Mission and Ministry Committee.

The committee considered proposals for the $2 million General Convention allocated in the 2013-2015 Five Marks of Mission triennial budget for Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts initiatives.

Now, with little more than six months left in the triennium, Watkins told Episcopal News Service that it has become clear to her that the project is “calling us to be transformed fundamentally because we do have to start looking at things and talking and speaking in ways and behaving in ways that are radically different than what we are accustomed to.”

The bishops and deputies allotted money for the project as part of The Episcopal Church’s commitment to the first of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

The zones were defined in their establishing resolution (A073) as “a geographic area, as a group of congregations or as an entire diocese committed to mission and evangelism that engages under-represented groups, including youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement.” The zones were to have strategic plans with leaders trained in anti-racism, cross-cultural community development, ministry development and evangelism. Bishops and other parts of the diocesan leadership would be expected to grant the zones “greater freedom” in terms of their congregation status, leadership formation and the sorts of liturgical texts that could be used.

Grants were available for up to $20,000 for a mission enterprise zone and up to $100,000 for new church starts. Dioceses had to have an equal amount of money on hand and ready to match the grants. The full list of grants for the first round is here and the list of the second round of grants is here.

In all, 40 grants were made, ranging from Latino ministries to Warriors for the Dream, a community-enrichment project in Harlem, and from Kairos West Community Center, a community center in West Asheville, North Carolina, to the Abbey in Birmingham, Alabama, where the motto is “Sinners. Saints. Coffee.” In four instances, Episcopalians have partnered with colleagues in other denominations to do the work.

General Convention 2015 Resolution A012 proposes a continuation of that funding. And the budget the church’s Executive Council proposed to the convention’s budget committee increases the triennial seed money available to $3 million (line 27 here).

Learning from experiences in the first triennium

Watkins, whose Local Mission and Ministry committee poured over and prayed over every proposal to get to the 40 that were funded, said the entire process is radical for a number of reasons, including the fact that the church officially opened itself to listening to “marginalized voices … both the people in our parishes and the people on the street.” The church’s willingness to “give them our trust that they are as able to discern God at work as we are [as] church professionals; I think that is revolutionary because we don’t do that very well.”

It has been a case of “not just paying lip service to local ministry or local mission or God at work locally, but to really understanding that God is at work locally and not necessarily within our institutional structures,” she said.

“God is so much bigger than our institutional structures,” Watkins continued. “I know we say that and believe it, and I know we use those words and I do trust that people at their core believe that, and yet I also think we get caught in behaviors that are ingrained and learned that go against that tremendously.”

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, who with Ora Houston co-chaired the church’s Standing Commission on the Mission and Evangelism of The Episcopal Church during the 2010-2012 triennium, said experience showed that these sorts of new missional initiatives need support for their diocese beyond the financial kind.

(Spellers; the Rev. Deborah Royals, who chaired the commission in the 2013-2015 triennium; and member Megan Anderson formed the commission sub-group that developed the project idea out of all the information gathered over a triennium of listening.)

After the first two rounds of Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts, The Episcopal Church has the “stories of leaders who fell in love with what God was doing in the world around them, and that’s really the launching place,” says the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s missioner for church planting and ministry redevelopment. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

While “the willingness of diocese to pony up has been heartening” it was also clear that “we can’t be off in a corner somewhere without a bishop and others being in conversation with us,” Spellers said.

It took time for some  of the dioceses to engage with the new initiatives being created in their midst, according to Spellers, but soon the word got out around the church and other dioceses that did not make proposals for partnerships in the new venture felt left out.

“I think it is a good sign when something has enough impact that other people are looking and asking, ‘How come we didn’t have one of those mission enterprise zones?’ ” Spellers said.

But in this first triennium, a number of things began to emerge as themes, Spellers said, thanks in part to how the Rev. Tom Brackett convened initiatives’ leaders and, at times some of their bishops and other diocesan staff, for conversations about their work. Brackett is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s missioner for church planting and ministry redevelopment.

(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.)

Brackett said his goal has been to form a community of learning whose members’ could “lower the cost of failure” in the future by passing on hard-earned knowledge.

During an April gathering at Christ Church in Philadelphia, most of the initiatives’ leaders came together for one of those discussions. One of the things that became clear, Brackett said, was that several of the leaders “really did not like the idea that they were [seen as] leading an experiment” because some of them had relocated across states to do this work and did not want to have the diocesan structure pull the plug after three years.

During a recent meeting at Christ Church, Philadelphia, Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts project leaders recorded on sticky notes a lesson that cost them something, and that they hoped by sharing it does not cost others as much. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The leaders filled part of a meeting room wall with sticky notes on which they listed a lesson that cost them something and that they want to pass on to others in the hope that future leaders can avoid paying that price. One of the prayers read: “No matter how much you think you know or how long you’ve been in ministry, that you may still be open to receive new learnings with a humble heart from the least-likely suspects.”

As the leaders, whom Brackett called “pioneers in ministry,” sat in a circle and talked about their experiences, many noted they felt what one called “day-to-day isolation.”

Sitting in the outer circle and listening to those comments were participants in the Conference of Diocesan Executives of The Episcopal Church, who were also meeting in Philadelphia. “Help us tear the silos down,” one missional initiative leader asked of the CODE members.

Another said she was thankful for “being granted the flexibility to try something, have it not work and then get back up and try something else – sometimes having help to get back up and try something else.”

One missional leader said she wanted to state to the large group an issue that had often come up in small-group discussions: How hard it is to have to spend most of their time raising money for their ministry. “We worry about money all the time,” she said. “We would have a lot more freedom to do ministry if that were less true.”

After the CODE members moved into the inner circle and the missional leaders moved to the outer edge, one CODE member said diocesan leaders need to hear the stories about how these ministries are transforming lives. “Help us gain new eyes,” another said.

Finding a new way to measure the church’s mission, ministry

The projects also have raised in a new way the long-discussed question of whether the churchwide annual parochial report, which every congregation in the church must file, truly measures all of a congregation’s mission and ministry.

“Right now, I think our reporting doesn’t allow us to lift and celebrate and learn from” ministry experiences of congregations, Spellers said. “It tends to tilt to who’s got the numbers,” she said. “It’s not to say that numbers don’t matter. I’m not necessarily in that camp either.”

She and others want the church to celebrate both the small, new congregation that is having “a new conversation about who Jesus is and how we are living into his body” and the 2,000-member parish with all of its ministries.

The Rev. Andrew Green, chair of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, said his committee agrees with that desire. “There’s lots of stories there and we need a venue for sharing them,” he told ENS in a recent interview.

And, he said, the church needs a way to measure the vitality of congregations. Thus, the committee proposed in its report to convention Resolution A038 calling on the church to develop an “index of congregational vitality.” The resolution came in part as a response to Resolution 2012-A010, which asked the committee to identify what new information needed to be added to the report based on “current changes and new realities” in the church.

“While The Episcopal Church’s Parochial Report contains vital statistics that we need to know, it is neither the only way, nor perhaps the best way, of assessing congregational vitality,” Resolution A038’s explanation says, noting that some dioceses have added a “fifth page” to the report in “an attempt to capture a sense of exciting new ministries and signs of new and growing spiritual depth, even when other metrics may be static.”

The banner on Kairos West Community Center’s Facebook page summarizes the organization’s goals. The Asheville, North Carolina, ministry is a 1-year-old church-in-the-world initiative of the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville and the Diocese of Western North Carolina. The ministry, based in a former fabric store on increasingly gentrified Hayward Road in West Asheville, received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant. Photo: Kairos West Community Center via Facebook

The Very Rev. David duPlantier, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans, agrees. “We measure something that was important in 1967 and was important in 1980 and is important now to some degree,” he told ENS in a recent interview. “But Sunday attendance, baptized members, how much money to get from them, when you look at thousands of people who are in our Episcopal spaces, who are becoming aware of our ‘brand,’ who are becoming maybe comfortable with taking another step into the worship community – that we don’t measure.”

Along with all the other reasons to find ways to measure that ministry, duPlantier said, the other reason to do so is to counter Episcopalians’ impression that their church is shrinking and becoming irrelevant, an impression with which duPlantier does not agree.

(The parochial report lists the number of each congregation’s active baptized members and communicants in good standing, average Sunday attendance, total number and types of services, Sunday school enrollment, stewardship and other financial information, among other statistics.  A copy of the 2014 parochial report form is here).

Meanwhile, the Standing Commission on the Mission and Evangelism of the Episcopal Church proposed a different revision to the parochial report in its 2013-2015 report to the convention. Resolution A084 would add a section for congregations to report their activities as they relate to the Five Marks of Mission. It would also add an attendance category called Average Distinct Attendance, defined as the per-week attendance at all non-Sunday worship services.

Resolution A084 would also allow communities such as those formed as mission enterprise zones and new church starts to file parochial reports and capture some of the information about that work.

For some “the scope of work that they have proposed is going to take much longer than the triennium and it’s going to require that they go much deeper into the community than the typical worshipping community or church tends to go. So how do we measure their progress?” Brackett asked.

The legislative committee on congregational vitality will consider both resolutions, as well as A085 and A012, which would continue the Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts initiative. All of the resolutions assigned to the committee to date are here.

What could the next triennium’s project look like?

Assuming the funding continues in the 2016-2018 triennium, Watkins said she hopes the Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts initiatives will lead to “bishops and their staffs increasing in their capacity to use different language, to apply different kinds of lenses to look at things to allow greater freedom” in ministry starts.

And, she said, “I’d like to see proposals coming from places that we didn’t even talk about in this triennium.”

Brackett believes local funding for ministries such as these is hard to access with the church’s current structure, but it’s there. He wonders if a group of congregations could raise the matching money the grants required and also commit to learning how to support such new ministry on an ongoing basis, with the help of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s staff members where appropriate.

“We could accomplish a lot more that way and we could actually fund more initiatives than if we strictly went to the diocesan general budget,” he said, adding that the issue of funding new missional initiatives in dioceses that do not have money to match the grants might also have to be addressed.

Spellers told ENS that she hopes the Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts initiative is not seen as a “one-off” initiative only intended for the 2013-2015 triennium.

“This has to be an ongoing process of experience, learning, growing our capacity as people in mission, investing and essentially creating a research and development arm for The Episcopal Church,” she said. “You can’t do that in one triennium.”

Spellers and Brackett said they hope for more one-on-one coaching of people who feel called to these sorts of ministries. Spellers would like to see more work in assessing what sorts of skills and gifts are needed for this type of work, as well as learning as a church about how to train lay and ordained leaders in entrepreneurial ministry, and nurture them in their work.

“I am thinking more and more about sustainability and how we create a healthy, flexible infrastructure so that these ministries can that really begin to take off for God,” she added.

“I am amazed, I’m happy and what I know is we are all only scratching the surface of what is necessary to embrace mission in our present, much less our future.”

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

Churches reach out to Latinos: ‘God’s people are coming’

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alondra Hernandez, Hannah Sands and Camila Sands perform a ballet folklórico for the congregation at St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego on Dia de los Muertos. The Latino cathedral community built and decorated the altar. The Hispanic and Anglo members of the cathedral have grown closer by way of the Latino Leadership Project, an initiative that received a Mission Enterprise Zones grant. Photo: Catedral San Pablo

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about The Episcopal Church’s pledge at the 77th General Convention to partner with dioceses to begin innovative mission strategies. Previous stories are here.

[Episcopal News Service] Bolstered by matching grants from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and the Diocese of Olympia, the Rev. Alfredo Feregrino planted the Our Lady of Guadalupe congregation in Seattle one year ago, with a very specific demographic in mind.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a bicultural, bilingual progressive ministry in the Anglo-Catholic tradition that focuses on urban Latinos, New Generation Latinos and a bilingual and bicultural population, including Anglos and non-Latinos,” Feregrino told the Episcopal News Service recently.

His goal is to appeal to folks like Sandra, a 40-year-old woman whose employer relocated her to Seattle from Mexico four years ago and who’d never heard of The Episcopal Church. The congregation also appeals to Valerie Van Olsen, a long-time Episcopalian who “feels genuinely loved at Our Lady of Guadalupe even though I speak very little Spanish.”

The Rev. Alissa Newton, Diocese of Olympia director of congregational development, said the diocese paired its own money with the $50,000 Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society Mission Enterprise Zones grant to Feregrino because Our Lady of Guadalupe “is a unique project.”

Feregrino, she said: “is the only one in our diocese doing a bilingual service this way. His goal is to provide something for second-generation Spanish speakers as well as others.”

Episcopal churches are exploring meaningful ways to reach out to and include Latinos, the nation’s largest ethnic group and one of its fastest growing.

The 2013-2015 Five Marks of Mission triennial budget approved by General Convention 2012 is part of that effort. Bishops and deputies allocated $2 million to establish mission enterprise zones and support new church starts as part of The Episcopal Church’s commitment to the first of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

Matching grants were available for up to $20,000 for a mission enterprise zone and up to $100,000 for a new church start. Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Local Mission and Ministry Committee considered applications for the grants and recommended to the council which ones it should approve.

General Convention 2015 Resolution A012 proposes a continuation of that funding. And the budget that the church’s Executive Council proposed to the convention’s budget committee increases the triennial seed money available to $3 million (line 27 here).

During the two grant-making rounds in 2013-2015 triennium, a number of new missional initiatives focused on Latinos were funded.

For example, in the Diocese of Southwest Florida, while experiencing a growth spurt in its Latino population, launched a training and leadership program, with assistance from a $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zones grant, according to the Ven. Dennis McManis, canon for mission and outreach.

Similarly, in the Diocese of San Diego, California, where the Latino population is projected to grow exponentially within the next 40 years, a Latino Leadership Project is underway, according to the Rev. Colin Mathewson, priest associate at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“From the earliest iterations of our First Mark of Mission strategy, General Convention 2012’s Resolution A073 [the establishing resolution] has called us to learn together how we might ‘grant greater freedom’ for engaging peoples historically under-represented in The Episcopal Church,” the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s missioner for church planting and ministry redevelopment, told Episcopal News Service. “The resolution asks us all to consider how we adapt our liturgies, form new leaders and welcome these new faith communities into our diocesan families. Like all of our multi-ethnic communities, Latino-Hispanic congregations have greatly enriched our common life in these three areas.”

(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.)

Brackett said that A073 “calls for a courageous and hopeful engagement with the Spirit’s presence and activity out beyond the walls of our churches. Each of these First Mark ministries offers the church a healthy dose of courage – a sense of anticipation that, wherever we may venture, the Spirit has gone before us and is waiting to bless our best ‘Yes!’ ”

The full list of grants for the first round is here and the list of the second round of grants is here.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: honoring established traditions, creating new ones

A surprise encounter with the Holy Spirit during a visit to St. Mark’s Cathedral eventually led to his planting Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Seattle, according to Feregrino.

“My wife Jenifer and I were looking for a church, and she knew about the cathedral,” he told ENS. “I had never heard of The Episcopal Church. But I believe in revelation and, as soon as I entered the cathedral, I realized I was home: It was a moment of revelation for me.”

That was in 2006 when he was serving as a cultural attaché for the Mexican Consulate in Seattle. He inquired about the church, and began participating, which eventually led to discernment, seminary and the priesthood.

Diocese of Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel poses with the Rev. Alfredo Feregrino, founder of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Seattle, and members of the congregation. Feregrino calls it a “bicultural, bilingual progressive ministry in the Anglo-Catholic tradition that focuses on urban Latinos, New Generation Latinos and a bilingual and bicultural population, including Anglos and non-Latinos.” Photo: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Ordained in 2013, Feregrino decided to reach out to those with similar experiences, selecting as patron saint the Virgin of Guadalupe because “she is a symbol of unity. People from Mexico and Latin America identify with the symbol, and it can be a kind of branding, or marketing,” he said.

The congregation meets at 1:30 p.m. Sundays at St. Paul’s, Seattle. Average attendance at the bilingual service is about 30; during a Feb. 22 official visitation to the mission station Bishop Greg Rickel received seven people into the church; confirmed two and reaffirmed another person in the faith, he added.

Members hail from Chile, Peru, Spain and Mexico, and include those who are socially and economically marginalized, but “the goal is to bring those margins to the center,” Feregrino said.

Brackett said Feregrino is offering a ministry of radical inclusion and hospitality. “This new faith community is also breaking open some of the old myths that many still hold about Latino Hispanic ministries,” he said, and the faith community is gathering New Generation Latinos that speak English as a primary language, as well as Spanish-speaking members of the community.

“They worship in ways that honor Latino Hispanic spiritual sensibilities while following an Anglo-Catholic order of worship,” Brackett said. “They are meeting in a sophisticated urban community but they are intentional about remembering their roots – their origins and the deep sense of hopefulness that sustains them in this new land.”

Van Olsen, a former university professor and long-time social activist, grew up economically and socially privileged – yet she says Our Lady of Guadalupe “is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing (the Rev. Martin Luther) King’s ‘beloved community’ in any church.”

Like many in the community, she has felt marginalized. “We have gay, lesbian and transgender members, in addition to a majority of attendees from Spanish-speaking countries,” Van Olsen said. “The standard of living and employment opportunities have been limited for many of us. While I came from a professional family with many privileges, I am now a 65-year-old divorced and disabled woman, living in low-income housing.”

Still, “I feel accepted and loved,” she says. “I am valued for the experience I’ve had, and have been able to help with formation classes and other discussions, as well as serve at the altar. After all the crazy ups and downs of my life, I feel I am home. I don’t feel judged by artificial social standards.”

Sue Wightman agrees. She credits the church and community as “a big part of my returning to Christianity after 45 years” because of its inclusivity.

“There’s no judgment, no “who are you and what’s your orientation and your color?’ and stuff like that,” she said. “Everyone is welcome.”

Feregrino’s struggle to create a church from nothing resonated with Wightman’s own personal challenges. “When you look at me or talk to me you’d never know that I had a hard life, but I’ve kind of risen from the ashes to have a really good life,” according to Wightman, 66, who said her abusive upbringing fueled a destructive lifestyle until she entered recovery nearly two decades ago.

“I’ve got so much to be grateful for. The only way I can say it is that I see God through Father Alfredo and the community, in ways I can’t explain.”

For Sandra, hearing Spanish spoken and experiencing her traditions, like the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), honored convinced her that she, too, was home.

“It feels like family,” said Sandra, who asked that her last name be withheld. “Since the beginning, Father Alfredo asked me to read, to participate. I feel this is the direction the church should go in. A lot of Latinos here have deep roots, because of their parents who were born in Mexico.

“I like it, because it mixes culture, language, traditions – it’s like I try to empower myself because I’ve had to learn another language and a new culture.”

Leadership development in Southwest Florida

When Dominick Maldonado retired and relocated from Connecticut to Tampa about five years ago, he joined St. Francis Episcopal Church, attended Cursillo and soon was invited to replicate the experience in Spanish – with phenomenal results.

“God’s people are coming,” said Maldonado, 66, who now is helping to recruit others in a ministry that he says is growing by leaps and bounds. “I’m in love with God and with the work that I’m doing,” the retired HIV-prevention officer told ENS.

Diocesan Canon McManis said that the Cursillo was the second in a four-phased process designed to recruit and train Latino Episcopalians for leadership roles in the church.

Hispanic/Latino Cursillo was the second in a four-phased process in the Diocese of Southwest Florida designed to recruit and train Latino Episcopalians for leadership roles in the church. Funded by Mission Enterprise Zone grant and diocesan money, the project aims to identify and recruit potential Latino lay leaders; offer Spanish-language Cursillo; train candidates as lay Eucharistic ministers and in a fourth phase, raise up people for ordained leadership. Photo: Dominick Maldonado

Assisted by a $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zones grant, the project aimed to host workshops to identify and recruit potential Latino lay leaders; offer Spanish-language Cursillo; train candidates as lay eucharistic ministers; and raise up people for ordained leadership.

“Four years ago, the diocese had two Latino congregations; today we have eight,” McManis said. “I’ve identified eight more existing parishes that will have more than 25,000 Latinos within five miles of them within the next year. There’s a lot of energy and excitement about Latino ministries; it’s growing. It’s a good time to be in Southwest Florida.”

Outreach is also important to Maldonado, who said his congregation is made up of immigrants from Central and South America who “are looking for a place to worship.

“Many times, they are abused by the system. It’s a very, very poor community, living below the poverty guidelines. St. Francis is where they come to be sustained. They can worship. We try to support and comfort them and let them know that in those doors nothing is going to happen to them.”

Similarly, the Rev. Mario Castro, who leads the Latino mission at the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota and another congregation at St. Edmund the Martyr Church in Arcadia, said “most people in my congregation are undocumented” workers who harvest seasonal crops.

The church assists with immigration issues, food, clothing and utilities for parishioners in need who hail from Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil – “from everywhere, Anglos, too,” he said.

“We pray every day and every Sunday for them to be to helped, for God to help them. They like it because they see somebody remembers them and prays for them and they love it and they need it. They come to us because they’re Christian or because they want to be Christian. We try to help people and I think that’s what God wants.”

Brackett said that McManus’ proposal for First Mark of Mission partnership and funding “clarified that their diocesan leadership team intended to nurture inspired and courageous Latino-Hispanic leaders across their ministry context,” adding that it is clear that McManus’ first priority is to empower leaders. He is also building a coalition of leaders who will serve for the next few years, Brackett said of McManus.

“Like so many of our First Mark leaders, Dennis has managed his diocesan responsibilities while faithfully and creatively discerning his way forward with nurturing leaders of multicultural ministries,” Brackett said.

In San Diego: why so few in our pews?

The Rev. Colin Mathewson said that the Diocese of San Diego partnered with a local university community organizing center to try to respond to a troublesome question: In a diocese bordering Mexico, experiencing a growing Latino population, why are there so few Latinos in the pews?

“There’s such an opportunity to reach out to Latinos, especially in Southern California and in San Diego, and our diocese has plenty more room to grow in that regard,” Mathewson told ENS.

Of 44 communities of faith, two are “substantial” Latino congregations and three to five more have a bilingual component or small Spanish-language service, he said.

Irving Hernandez performs the el grito, the traditional call-and-response cry of independence at St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego during the cathedral’s Mexican Independence Day celebration. Photo: Catedral San Pablo

With the aid of a Mission Enterprise Zones grant, the diocese, along with the Consensus Organizing Center at San Diego State University, aimed to connect previously distant groups to form positive partnerships.

The groups were distant because, oftentimes the majority in the pews “which in my experience are mostly Anglos, don’t have the skills needed to be able to speak in culturally compelling ways to those of other cultures and we’re still learning some of the basics,” Mathewson said. “We assume that Latino ministry means Spanish-language ministry.”

Martha Curatola said when she joined St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2012, its Spanish- and English-speaking congregations were separate and not always equal.

Now, through the project, “we are building a foundation we didn’t have before,” said Curatola, a Latino Leadership Project participant and a member of the diocesan executive council.

“We are opening all the services, everything to the Latino congregation. It’s what we want to do all over the diocese, to grow into activities and that’s why we’re talking and seeing what works and what doesn’t and how to improve it. It has given me more spiritual freedom.”

With a series of consensus-organizing trainings, the diocese has focused on relationship building and one-on-one conversation, helping to create space for increased Latino participation, according to intern Becky Gleason, 26, who has participated in training sessions.

“Sadly the Latino-Hispanic population in a lot of our churches is very small and it’s easy to feel isolated in that,” Gleason said. “This is a great way for people to come together.”

She said the training focuses on building leaders within the community who are able to reach out to those outside it to grow the capacity of the Latino community in churches that “haven’t been given the opportunity to grow in leadership roles.”

The Latino Leadership Project’s aim is to support the development of a sustainable community of congregational leaders who are able to implement plans and activities that are culturally relevant and inviting to Latinos.

Brackett said that San Diego Bishop Jim Mathes and Nancy Holland, diocesan canon for mission enterprise, “have made it clear that they had made the shift from ‘ministry to’ to ‘ministry with’ in their partnerships with Latino-Hispanic leaders,” realizing that there were many opportunities for partnership.

They arranged for training in community organizing for 50 leaders so that they could sponsor and sustain Latino-Hispanic leadership teams across the diocese.

“Their goal was never to create new Episcopalians but to fearlessly follow Jesus out into the world God loves so fiercely,” said Brackett.

Rom Ituarte, another diocesan Executive Council member, is a Latino Leadership Project participant. A member of St. Philip the Apostle Church in Lemon Grove for 10 years, he said the Spanish-language service drew him there.

The 49-year-old nutritionist said he has been trying to bring the Latino perspective to the council and the trainings.

“Basically we want to get people to listen to the community, to what the needs are and get them involved, and solve those needs for the best interests of the congregation and community at same time,” he said.

“We’re on the second of three trainings that will help give us those tools to help develop leaders in the community. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

General Convention events focus on Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society racial reconciliation efforts

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society will offer two public events related to racial justice and reconciliation during General Convention 2015, combining the visual effect of video and the impactful offerings of panel discussions.

The events are: screenings and discussions of Traces of the Trade; and a screening of a portion of The Psalm of Howard Thurman with the film’s director facilitating a panel discussion.

“Both events seem especially important in light of events in Charleston, South Carolina,” noted Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer.  “These events will lead to worthwhile conversations and may be an effective way to further the work of racial justice and reconciliation in dioceses in the weeks and months following General Convention. “

“Episcopalians throughout the Church have lamented the violent deaths of African-Americans in South Carolina, Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore, and beyond, and want to answer our Baptismal call to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being,’” commented Heidi Kim, Racial Reconciliation Missioner for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  “These two films and the discussions around them will provide opportunities for participants to connect with others committed to the ministry of racial justice and reconciliation, and begin to discern together how to move this work forward in our congregations, dioceses, and Provinces.”

Traces of the Trade
Episcopalian filmmaker Katrina Brown is a descendant of the DeWolf family, the largest slave-trading dynasty in U.S. history. Traces of the Trade, a noted PBS documentary, follows Brown and nine DeWolf descendants as they confront this legacy by retracing the Triangle Trade, and visiting the DeWolf hometown of Bristol, Rhode Island; slave forts in Ghana; and ruins of a family plantation in Cuba. Traces of the Trade creates a deeper awareness of the connection between the history of slavery and continuing racism in America today, and opens the door to new conversations and hope for reconciliation.

Following the two screenings, there will be a facilitated conversation led by Dain Perry, a descendant of the slave-traders, and his wife Constance, a descendant of slaves. They have screened the film throughout The Episcopal Church in dioceses and parishes.

Traces of the Trade will be shown Sunday, June 28, noon – 2:30 pm Mountain andTuesday, June 30, 6:45 pm – 9:15 pm at the Salt Lake City Marriott.

The Psalm of Howard Thurman
Director Arleigh Prelow will introduce and share a segment of her new film, The Psalm of Howard Thurman, with a panel discussion immediately following.

Against devastating scenes of lynchings, cross-burnings, and war, the Rev. Howard Thurman (1899-1981) soars with faith and hope.  He was the first Dean of the Chapel of Howard University; Dean of March Chapel at Boston University; author of more than 20 books; and the first African-American to meet Mahatma Gandhi.

Prelow is an Emmy award-winning independent producer, director, writer, and researcher of documentary films and videos, and founder of InSpirit Communications and Film.

The Psalm of Howard Thurman will be shown Wednesday, June 24 at 7 pm – 9 pmMountain at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center Ballroom A.

For all discussion panels, participants will include Deputies and Bishops.

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be held June 25 – July 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).  The exhibit hall at General Convention will be open from Tuesday, June 23 through Wednesday, July 1.  The Domestic and Foreign Missionary exhibit space will be in a prominent place in the hall marked by banners in three languages.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

 

Episcopal Relief & Development partners with Equal Exchange to offer fair trade products

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Relief & Development and Equal Exchange have launched a new Fair Trade partnership, offering customers an opportunity to enjoy premium products while supporting small-scale farming communities and healing a hurting world.

The Episcopal Relief & Development Fair Trade Project offers a range of products including coffee, tea, chocolate and snack items. Equal Exchange donates 15 cents per pound of product purchased* to Episcopal Relief & Development, supporting programs that alleviate hunger, promote health and fight disease.

“I am so pleased to begin our Fair Trade Project with Equal Exchange,” said Sean McConnell, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Director of Engagement, “since they not only support farmer-run cooperatives but are actually a co-op themselves. With our own focus on asset-based community development and empowering small-scale farmers to earn a living while protecting the environment, this partnership is in perfect alignment with our mission.”

Samples of Fair Trade products will be offered at Episcopal Relief & Development’s booth #501 at the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Three coffee blends (medium roast African Roots, darker Love Buzz and Full City Roast decaf) and three premium chocolates (dark with almonds, dark with sea salt and caramel crunch and milk with a hint of hazelnut) will be offered on a rotating basis throughout the days that the exhibit hall is open, June 23 through July 1.

“Even though the formal partnership is just beginning, some Episcopalians have been purchasing Equal Exchange products for their congregations for years. I think it’s because they’ve trusted our long-term commitment to small farmers and our leadership in the world of Fair Trade,” said Susan Sklar, Equal Exchange’s Interfaith & Community Sales Manager. “Our relationships with producer co-ops ensure steady income and premium prices for the high-quality organic goods that folks enjoy. As a nearly 30-year-old organization, our mission is to respect the dignity of farmers and to enable them to remain on their land, invest in education for their children and strengthen their communities.”

New and existing Equal Exchange customers who wish for their purchases to benefit Episcopal Relief & Development should sign up online or contact Equal Exchange atinterfaith@equalexchange.coop or 774.776.7366. Both individuals and groups, such as congregations and community organizations, can purchase products online through the Equal Exchange website or request a catalog and order form via mail.

“Fair Trade enables small-scale farmers to support their families and stay on their land with fair and steady income through their cooperatives,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “And organic farming keeps toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers out of the soil and water, which preserves the environment. Additionally, shade-grown crops improve the soil and prevent erosion, while providing habitat for birds and other wildlife. Equal Exchange does a wonderful job of ensuring that their products create the greatest real benefits for farmers, consumers and the world.”

To learn more about Episcopal Relief & Development’s programs worldwide, visit www.episcopalrelief.org.

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.

*15 cents per pound donation does not include Equal Exchange’s Palestinian olive oil.

Desafían a la Convención a expandir oportunidades misioneras globales

Monday, June 22, 2015

Natalie Finstad, misionera de la Iglesia Episcopal que prestó servicios en Kenia, ayuda a plantar retoños en un evento del liderazgo de jóvenes adultos con Nyumba ya Tumaini, una de las organizaciones asociadas a Tatua Kenya,. Foto de Tatua Kenya.

 

[Episcopal News Service] Cruzar fronteras culturales, establecer asociaciones y participar local y globalmente en la misión de Dios son [quehaceres] que constituyen el tuétano mismo del programa misionero de la Iglesia Episcopal.

A la 78ª. Convención Anual, que sesionará del 25 de junio al 3 de julio en Salt Lake City, Utah, se le pedirá en dos resoluciones propuestas que se comprometa con el permanente apoyo y desarrollo de los programas del Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos (YASC) de la Iglesia Episcopal y con el de Voluntarios Episcopales en Misión (EVIM).

A través de estos programas, cientos de misioneros episcopales han elegido abrazar la transformadora experiencia de marchar junto a una comunidad, con frecuencia muy distante —tanto geográfica como culturalmente— de la suya.

La Comisión Permanente sobre Misión Mundial y el Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal —que presentaron las dos resoluciones— esperan que en el trienio 2016-2018 se crearán los programas y se incrementarán las oportunidades.

“La misión global es esencialmente encarnacional”, dijo Sandra McPhee, abogada de Evanston, Illinois, que ha prestado servicios como presidente de la Comisión Permanente sobre Misión Mundial, uno de los organismos interinos de la Iglesia que funciona a lo largo del trienio e informa a la Convención General con recomendaciones sobre las prioridades y políticas de la Iglesia.

“Los misioneros jóvenes adultos en el programa del YASC y los voluntarios más expertos en compromisos a largo plazo a través de EVIM experimentan la acción de Dios en sus vidas y las vidas de otros a través del mundo”, le dijo McPhee, miembro de la iglesia episcopal de San Mateo [St. Matthew’s] durante toda su vida, a ENS. “Aun más, por compartir sus experiencias con sus parroquias a su regreso, manifiestan el amor de Dios”.

El continuo apoyo a YASC y EVIM es esencial a la vida de la Iglesia Episcopal, añadió McPhee. “Debemos participar con nuestros asociados fuera de EE.UU. Este compromiso permanente es importante para ellos y es vital para nosotros. Vivimos nuestro pacto bautismal estando con aquellos que son diferentes de nosotros, viendo el rostro de Cristo reflejado en ellos y trabajando juntos por la misión de Dios”.

La Resolución A112, presentada por la comisión permanente, llama a la Convención General a alentar a las diócesis, seminarios y parroquias a captar y apoyar misioneros para el YASC y el EVIM. La resolución propone un aumento en el número de participantes del YASC a 30 en 2016, 40 en 2017 y 50 en 2018, y en el número de participantes del EVIM de un 10 por ciento anual.

En el momento en que la comisión elevó su informe, no sabía que una cifra récord de 45 jóvenes adultos en representación de 27 diócesis presentaría solicitudes para servir en el programa del YASC para el próximo año. Veintisiete por ciento de esos 42 han sido aceptados en el programa para 2015-2016.

El presupuesto 2013-2015 aprobado por la Convención General asignó $1 millón “para poner la experiencia misionera al alcance de todos los jóvenes episcopales mediante programas tales como el del Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos para la experiencia de un año de receso entre la escuela secundario y la universidad o el trabajo”.

Esa asignación es parte del modo en que la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera está respondiendo a la tercera Marca de la Misión, que llama a los miembros de la Comunión Anglicana a responder a las necesidades humanas en amoroso servicio.

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.

“Cuando me inscribí por primera vez en el YASC, no tenía idea de cuánto cambiaría mi vida”, dijo Will Bryant de la Diócesis de Carolina del Norte Occidental, que pasó su primer año de misionero del YASC trabajando con la Misión a los Marineros en Hong Kong, y que actualmente está en su segundo año en el Centro de Refugiados Joel Nafuma en Roma.

“En mis dos años con el programa he crecido espiritual y mentalmente de maneras que nunca habría imaginado”, le dijo él recientemente a ENS.

Bryant dijo que sus experiencias con el programa del YASC le han ayudado a darse cuenta de que “si eres un refugiado afgano, un marino filipino o un misionero estadounidense, todos buscamos lo mismo: un lugar seguro y cómodo al que llamar hogar, empleo para mantener a nuestra familia y comunidad, y una conexión más profunda con nuestro Creador… Ahora bien, después de vivir en dos países y continentes completamente diferentes, puedo decir con toda propiedad que me siento más confiado en mi fe y en mis capacidades como ser humano. No sé exactamente lo que el futuro me depare después de mi tiempo en el YASC, pero sí sé que sea cual fuere, estaré bien preparado gracias a las lecciones que he aprendido como misionero”.

“Los miembros del YASC son valiosos por el desarrollo de relaciones con asociados globales y por lo que ellos devuelven a las comunidades de las cuales provienen”, según la explicación ofrecida por la Comisión Permanente sobre Misión Mundial en su informe a la Convención General [que aparece] en el “Libro Azul”. “Asimismo, los participantes de EVIM son siervos importantes de la Iglesia, en la medida en que aportan su experiencia y pericia a los lugares donde los reciben, y traen de vuelta la Iglesia global a sus comunidades”.

El Consejo Ejecutivo ha presentado la Resolución A013, que le pide a la 78ª. Convención General que afirme el creciente éxito de la obra de la misión global de la Iglesia, “especialmente las redes, las relaciones y los desarrollos espirituales globales vistos” en los programas del YASC y el EVIM.

La resolución pide que las oportunidades para la misión global sea “incrementadas, diversificadas y priorizadas” para el tiempo en que la 79ª. Convención Anual se reúna en Austin, Texas, en 2018, e insta a cada diócesis “a explorar las oportunidades para la obra de la misión mundial y anima a tantas personas como sea posible a solicitar, asistir y completar una asignación de misión tal como estos programas hacen posible”.

Martha Gardner, presidente del Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Misión Mundial del Consejo Ejecutivo, dijo que todos los episcopales “deben saber de la maravillosa obra que están haciendo nuestros misioneros”. Ella afirmó que había oído muchas historias acerca de los beneficios mutuos experimentados por los misioneros de la Iglesia Episcopal que prestan servicios a través del mundo, pero también por sus asociados anglicanos y tanto en las diócesis que los envían como en las que los reciben.

“Me encanta el modelo de cómo hacemos nuestra labor de misión global”, agregó. “Trabajando con diócesis e interconexiones, nuestro personal de asociación global facilita las asociaciones en todos los niveles, y es imperativo que continuemos apoyando esa labor que les ofrece a los episcopales de todas las edades una oportunidad de ser agentes de la misión transformadora de Jesús en el mundo”.

La Iglesia Episcopal tiene una larga historia de participación misional, explicó McPhee, citando a los primeros misioneros que viajaron a lugares del Medio Oeste y del Oeste de Estados Unidos y a las mujeres respaldadas por la Ofrenda Unida de Gracias que trabajaron en Asia y en África.

Pero la obra de la misión ha cambiado, dijo ella. “En lugar de un compromiso de por vida, una parroquia o una diócesis pueden enviar a misioneros de cortos plazos para un compromiso de dos a tres semanas. Nuestro Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos envía personas a servir por uno o dos años en una variedad de lugares alrededor del mundo. Algunos de los miembros del YASC encuentras que son llamados a la ordenación o un compromiso más profundo y más largo de servir a la misión de Dios en el mundo. Otros prosiguen otras carreras, pero todos ellos citan el tiempo [pasado en el YASC] como enriquecedor y transformador de sus vidas.

“Acaso lo más importante, la manera en que pensamos acerca de la misión global ha cambiado”, añadió ella. “Vemos a nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Cristo alrededor del mundo como asociados y compañeros, entendiendo que tenemos mucho que aprender los unos de los otros”.

El Rdo. David Copley, funcionario de la DFMS a cargo de la misión, resaltó una nueva iniciativa que ofrece la oficina del personal de misión para apoyar a misioneros de corto plazo que pueden proporcionar destrezas específicas.

Por ejemplo, Jim y Mary Higbee y Sue Dauer visitaron Kenia durante sólo un mes en 2014 para brindar adiestramiento a auxiliares de magisterio que continuarán supervisando en los próximos años.

La oficina de Copley también sigue trabajando con las diócesis de la Iglesia Episcopal para fortalecer sus relaciones de compañerismo y respaldar los emplazamientos de misión a mediano plazo de adultos de más edad así como de colocaciones de miembros del YASC.

“Veo el servicio de la misión como proporcionando experiencia técnica para capacitar a otros y también como una avenida para fortalecer las relaciones de compañerismo a través del ministerio de presencia”, le dijo él a ENS.

La Comisión Permanente sobre Misión Mundial (SCWM) ha seguido promoviendo y apoyando el envío de misioneros del YASC y del EVIM “con el propósito de fortalecer y profundizar las relaciones a través de la Comunión Anglicana, cumpliendo nuestro pacto bautismal de ‘buscar y servir a Cristo en todas las personas’”, según este informe.

La comisión reconoció que su futuro es incierto, pendiente del resultado del informe a la Convención General del Equipo de Trabajo para Reinventar la Iglesia Episcopal.

Sin embargo, algunos miembros del SCWM esperan y ruegan que los cimientos de las múltiples relaciones globales que han estado fortaleciéndose durante muchos años de trabajo compasivo permanezcan sólidos… El nivel de confianza que la obra del SCWM ha establecido a través de los años debe fortalecerse, especialmente en este tiempo de agitación mundial, en lugar de debilitarse por graves cambios que nuestros asociados globales pueden no entender con claridad. Advirtiendo eso, el SCWM está avanzando con metas de ampliar el trabajo que ya ha comenzado, restaurar la confianza que se ha visto socavada por promesas incumplidas y capitalizar en el interés vital en la obra misionera que los jóvenes y los jóvenes adultos están desplegando”.

Para más información acerca del programa misionero, diríjase al Rdo. David Copley, director para el personal de la misión, en dcopley@episcopalchurch.org. Para más información acerca del programa del YASC, diríjase a Elizabeth Boe, encargada de inter conexiones globales, en eboe@episcopalchurch.org.

Los vídeos reportajes de ENS que resaltan el ministerio de los misioneros del YASC se pueden encontrar a continuación:

Un joven adulto…y un centro de refugiados en Roma

Una joven adulta…y una clínica en Sudáfrica

Una joven adulta…y un archivo provincial

Una joven adulta …y una misión para obreros migrantes

Un joven adulto…y una misión para marineros

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

Practicing a mission strategy of presence

Monday, June 22, 2015

When plans to use a local church as a base of operations fell through, the Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward turned her car into her roving office as she practices a ministry of presence and making connections as urban missioner in the South Main neighborhood of Worcester in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. The Worcester Urban Mission Strategy is funded in part by a New Church Start grant. Photo/Jane Griesbach

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about The Episcopal Church’s pledge at the 77th General Convention to partner with dioceses to begin innovative mission strategies. Previous stories are here.

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Tom Brackett has a word for the Diocese of Western Massachusetts’ urban missioner in the South Main section of Worcester: “numble.”

The Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward exhibits the shared qualities of being nimble and humble, said Brackett, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s missioner for church planting and ministry redevelopment. “She listens really well, so she will do something as long as it needs to be done, and then she will move to something else that needs to be done.”

(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.)

Western Massachusetts received a $100,000 “new church start” matching grant for the Worcester Urban Mission Strategy program in the summer of 2014. Mission Enterprise Zones and their companion new church starts are Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society initiatives funded through the 2013-2015 Five Marks of Mission triennial budget, approved by General Convention in July 2012. The budget included $2 million to establish the zones and support new church starts for the first of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.

(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.)

Matching grants were available for up to $20,000 for a Mission Enterprise Zone and up to $100,000 for a new church start. Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Local Mission and Ministry Committee considered applications for the grants and recommended to the council which ones it should approve.

General Convention 2015 Resolution A012 proposes a continuation of that funding. And the budget the church’s Executive Council proposed to the convention’s budget committee increases the triennial seed money available to $3 million (line 27 here).

From the first, things didn’t go quite as planned in Worcester.

“My husband, who had cancer, went into hospice at about the same time I got the grant,” Ward told Episcopal News Service. “So I requested that we put the grant on hold for awhile. He died in October, and I actually began in January.”

“It’s actually been a really healing thing to be doing something new in the midst of this,” she said. “That’s been an unexpected joy.”

The Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward, left, distributes feminine hygiene supplies as part of her urban ministry in Worcester, Massachusetts. Photo/Jane Griesbach

The intent was to create an Episcopal presence in the “challenged neighborhood” of South Main, site of gang activity and home to many recent immigrants and lots of single parents. The expectation was to base that presence in a local church that had dwindled to a few members.

Then they discovered using the church building was impractical because of the cost of fixing problems with mold and significant deferred maintenance.

“I said, ‘Okay, it’s meant to be a ministry of presence. Maybe I’m not supposed to have an office that I can hide in,’” Ward said.

Her car became her office.

“Not having a physical space took on a whole new challenge, but also a whole new possibility,” said Holly Dolan, a teacher who serves on the board that oversees the program’s grant.

Ward set out, by car and foot, to meet her neighbors and pray with them.

“I’ve seen my work as primarily making connections,” she said, “making connections with members of the neighborhood, helping people make connections with their higher power.”

In recovery herself, she spends time talking to others in recovery or in “sober houses.” She attends community meetings and concerts, drinks coffee in local shops. This summer, she’ll volunteer at a summer program at an elementary school. “On any given day, I will have a handful of set meetings – folks I’ve agreed to have coffee with or folks from the local churches who want to get together. But a lot of it is walking around the neighborhood, talking to people and seeing what grows out of that.”

Ward discovered that some of the people in the neighborhood needed things that the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits won’t cover – “that’s a huge burden for some people” – so she carries a shopping bag with diapers of various sizes and feminine-hygiene products to distribute.

“She’s hit the streets and said: ‘How can we bless you?’ … and basically formed ministry out of people’s responses after praying with them and listening to them,” Brackett said.

One of those ministries emerged from hanging out with folks at laundromats over the long, snowy winter. “Everybody in the neighborhood wanders through at one point or another,” Ward said. “I would show up with crayons and coloring books and Matchbox cars and play with the kids and talk to the parents.

“I began to realize how often people ran out of quarters before they ran out of laundry. Middle-class folks like me don’t realize how much it costs to do laundry: $6.50 for a double-load in Worcester. You get five minutes in the dryer for a quarter. This is a big hit to people’s budgets when they’re already working poor or trying to get by on aid. These folks are walking to the laundromat with loads of laundry, a kid in a stroller, another kid by the hand, in the snow. This is just really hard work.”

First Congregational Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, displays information about Laundry Love, a ministry of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts Urban Mission Strategy program set to begin in July.
Members of local churches will provide free laundry services, pizza and prayer to residents of the South Main neighborhood in Worcester. The Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward, the diocese’s urban missioner in Worcester, identified the need for laundry assistance after spending time hanging out in laundromats during the recent harsh winter. Photo/ First Congregational Church in Worcester.

In July, Ward, her board and members of local Episcopal churches will launch Laundry Love, a program that began on the West Coast and is spreading across the country. Once a month, volunteers will throw a “laundry party” by taking over a local laundromat for the evening and paying for people’s laundry, helping with folding clothes, reading stories to the children, feeding everyone pizza, and beginning and ending the event with prayer. (A video about the original Laundry Love program is here.)

The Rev. Jane Griesbach, board member and deacon at St. Luke’s and St. Matthew’s Episcopal churches in Worcester, is recruiting laundry volunteers. “I feel that’s the easiest way for lay people to enter in[to the urban mission] at the moment.”

Participants are welcome to “jump in with two feet, or simply collect quarters or detergent and pray for us,” she said. “People have gotten very excited and want to be involved.”

Other groups are joining in as well.

A local Coptic priest heard about the project and told Ward many Coptic immigrants in the area own pizza shops. “There are Coptic Christians who own pizza shops in Worcester who are donating the pizza to their brothers and sisters as an act of faith,” Ward said. “So here is another community that is participating in the ministry with us in a real and powerful way.”

Students at nearby Clark University also may get involved.

“Many of the students who come here are very committed to issues of social justice and outreach into the community,” said Dolan, associate professor in the Clark education department.

Her parish, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, North Grafton, already is on board. Church members support the Worcester Fellowship Program – an outdoor ministry Griesbach and Ward also are involved with that holds weekly Eucharists on the commons – and youth members have done overnights in connection with the fellowship.

“The kids have met with people who have not-consistent housing and kind of heard their stories and gone on walks in the city of Worcester at night with them,” Dolan said. When she talks about Laundry Love in her parish, “They get it, because they’re already attuned to some of what the needs are of people who are kind of living on the fringes.”

Ward envisions helping families with more than laundry.

“There is a coalition of pastors in the neighborhood who are starting to work together to strategize,” she said. “What we realized in talking was that in each of the parishes there were a handful of families that you kind of describe as being on the bubble – folks who, with some help, might be able to make it to the next level of stability.”

The pastors – who come from various denominations – have committed to working together to identify families and link them to services in the various churches. One church runs an English as a second language program, while another mentors young men, and a third is considering starting parenting classes.

“Because I have the freedom of not being in a particular parish,” Ward said, “I have the time and the energy available to help make some of those connections and make sure that people are connected with each other and the services.”

Among the Episcopal churches, Ward sees a spirit of cooperation. “One of the things that I love about working in Worcester is that the various Episcopal churches in Worcester have declared that they are, along with Worcester Fellowship, the Episcopal Church in Worcester, rather than, ‘I’m this Episcopal church in Worcester.’ We collectively are The Episcopal Church.”

They joined with other church communities for a “wild and wonderful Easter vigil” and with the Worcester Fellowship for a Good Friday Stations of the Cross throughout the city, Ward said.

The Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward, left, distributes feminine hygiene supplies as part of her urban ministry in Worcester, Massachusetts. Photo/Jane Griesbach

“She has a beautiful grace about her that is nonthreatening, and everybody so far, the clergy of all the parishes are on board and very excited,” Griesbach said. Ward likewise has met with chaplains and administrators at Clark University and Holy Cross College, “and the students are going to become involved when they come back in the fall. She’s talented in casting a wide net. … It’s a very exciting model.”

This fits with Bishop Douglas Fisher’s vision for the diocese. He wants congregations to think about themselves in collaboration with other congregations, Episcopal or not, to find the ways in which God is working already in their neighborhoods and/or is calling them to new ministries that serve the residents of those neighborhoods, he said.

Fisher believes that the diocese should look at mission and church planting in a different way, he said, and so began the Fanning the Flame initiative to “go to places where the Holy Spirit is already active and doing good things, and try to give those places resources so that the Holy Spirit might work even more powerfully, but in a way that not only impacts that particular parish, but also the surrounding parishes.”

The program is funded by a 1 percent per year draw on diocesan investments income. It will amount to $1 million in three years.

The diocese says congregations ought to be drawing extra from their endowments to pay “for the sake of mission initiative” rather than for building repairs or to cover staff salaries, and the diocese is following suit with this initiative.

Looking ahead in Worcester, the mission hopes to begin renting a storefront if the owners can secure a grant to renovate it.

“This could become safe space where people from the neighborhood, people from The Episcopal Church in Worcester, people from other faith communities could gather and create a supportive community around some of the young families in the neighborhood,” Ward said. “A place where you can not only pick up diapers, but have a conversation about how your life is going; where we could not only have 12-step meetings with child care but a prayerful space where an 11th-step meeting could take place. The 11th step is when you improve your conscious contact with God.”

Another option might be music instruction. That morning, Ward had walked the neighborhood with a music teacher who belongs to a local Episcopal church. “She started saying, ‘Hmmm, I wonder if we could provide music lessons for some of the kids.’”

“One of the things that I’m really delighted with,” Ward said, “is that people are starting to step up and say, ‘I want to do this with you. I don’t know what this is, but I want to do this with you.’”

— Sharon Sheridan is an ENS correspondent. ENS editor and reporter Mary Frances Schjonberg contributed to this article.

Western NC’s Kairos West: Intentionally sacred among the secular

Friday, June 19, 2015

Kairos West Community Center in Asheville, North Carolina, is a one-year-old church-in-the-world initiative of the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville and the Diocese of Western North Carolina. The ministry, based in a former fabric store on increasingly gentrified Hayward Road in West Asheville, received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant. Photo: Kairos West Community Center via Facebook

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories about The Episcopal Church’s pledge at the 77th General Convention to partner with dioceses to begin innovative mission strategies. Previous stories are here.

[Episcopal News Service] Any given day or night, the Kairos West Community Center hosts people interested in “funky fitness” classes, artists, musicians, those living with traumatic brain injury and others exploring their gender assignment, as well as those seeking conversation, free Wi-Fi, coffee and pastries, fresh produce, spiritual sustenance and worship.

Located in increasingly gentrified West Asheville, the one-year-old center is a church-in-the-world initiative of the Cathedral of All Souls and the Diocese of Western North Carolina. It was partially funded by a 2014 Mission Enterprise Zone grant from The Episcopal Church.

Mission Enterprise Zones and their companion New Church Starts are Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society initiatives funded through the 2013-2015 Five Marks of Mission triennial budget, approved by General Convention July 2012. In the budget, $2 million was allotted for the work of establishing Mission Enterprise Zones and for supporting new church starts for the first of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

(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.)

Matching grants were available for up to $20,000 for a Mission Enterprise Zone and up to $100,000 for new church starts. The Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Local Mission and Ministry Committee considered applications for the grants and recommended to council which ought to be approved.

For Joy, 53, who is homeless and shows up most mornings to help set out coffee and pastries for guests, it is a place finally to belong.

“I dropped in one day and it was a refuge; a nice community of people trying to help each other here,” she said. “It’s great, because there’s coffee and tea and I get on-line. I get to use the computer to communicate with friends because I don’t have a phone.”

Located on the active Haywood Road business strip, the center “is not commercial or materialistic,” said Joy, who asked that her last name be withheld. “It’s nice that it’s here on this street among restaurants and businesses, because it’s not about money. It’s not about what you just bought or anything like that.

“It’s about your emotional and spiritual well-being. It’s just about coming in and people being themselves and for that to be okay for them, to be themselves.”

Kairos West Community Center’s regular potluck is a place for neighbors to network and collaborate. The center is in West Asheville, North Carolina. Photo: Kairos West Community Center via Facebook

“West Asheville is changing,” said the Rev. Milly Morrow, canon missioner for the cathedral. “It used to be a poverty-stricken area that was thriving in the sense of the capacity of the community there.

“Then one great restaurant opened up and the New York Times covered it and boom, a flood of businesses came in right on this one street and the economy went nuts. Prices went up. It was like Gentrification 101, with folks living in the neighborhood getting pushed back further,” Morrow told ENS.

The Rev. James Lee, associate pastor at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, a Kairos West partner, credited Morrow “with the great idea of having a center that does church but not in a traditional sense of doing it … of sharing the love of Christ without the stained glass windows and steeple.”

‘Church, 24/7’

Morrow credits the center’s inspiration on a visit to its namesake, Kairos Cuba, a community center in Matanzas, about 50 miles south of Havana. While on pilgrimage to Cuba, she and a group of cathedral youth and adults visited the center, which is “right on the main street. They have a cistern with clean water and beds for pilgrims and a worship space and do art and liturgy.

“They keep the front doors open all the time and people come in and out for water,” she said. “Neighbors meet and discuss what’s happening in their neighborhoods and their families and the changing life in Cuba. Together, they are coming up with solutions and energizing each other and building the capacity of the community to thrive.”

She realized that, “this is church, 24/7. It seemed effortless,” Morrow recalled. ”It was about being together. It wasn’t programmatic. It wasn’t strategic. It was relationship.”

After she returned to West Asheville, the memory of Kairos Cuba “couldn’t let go of me,” she said. “It just kept hovering right over every other work I was doing and was ultimately linked with this vision I had about this community center.”

She connected with local pastors and it quickly came together.

A fabric store on Haywood Road went out of business;Morrow was able to lease the space with assistance from the $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant, which an equal amount to be previously pledged by the diocese.

Western North Carolina Bishop Porter Taylor said the diocese matched the Mission Enterprise Zone grant through an endowment earmarked for innovative ministries and their operating budgets because Kairos West aims to meet a segment of West Asheville’s population that “longs to be fed but is not coming to church to be fed.

“Instead of trying to get people to come to church, she (Morrow) is taking the church to the people,” he said.

“Kairos West is important to us because we believe that we can’t afford to lose this whole generation, not so much to The Episcopal Church, but to the good news of Jesus Christ and she is able to be with people where they are and connect them to the good news in a way that makes sense to them.”

Additionally, the center “has really energized the diocese and has also inspired other parishes to explore creative ministries,” Taylor said. “It’s had a ripple effect.”

Receiving the grants was “amazing; for the church being willing to say, this is what we do. We send people out into the world to start new things, to help communities flourish, this is what we want to be about,” Morrow said.

After Kairos West opened, for the first few weeks, she waited inside, “wondering what am I doing? And then people started trickling in, saying ‘what are you doing’ and I’d say ‘we’re working on mercy and justice and here’s our mission and do you want to participate?’”

Within several months, a diverse group of at least 15 “commerce-free” ministries began using the space, free of charge, Morrow said. In turn, they offer gatherings free of charge and they do not receive payment for the work they do at the center.

They commit to core values of decreasing competition and isolation, and increasing collaboration and connectivity in order to help “invite the Holy Spirit into our work more and more and more. That’s what we hear Jesus asking us to do, be connected.”

The Rev. Milly Morrow had the “great idea,” a colleague says, of “sharing the love of Christ without the stained glass windows and steeple.” Kairos West Community Center is located in a former fabric store in West Asheville, North Carolina. Photo: Kairos West Community Center via Facebook

Morrow is one of those people who knows how to listen well to the people who historically have been underrepresented or even unrepresented in The Episcopal Church, said the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s missioner for church planting and ministry redevelopment. (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.)

Morrow and similar practitioners ask people who have been in the community a long time to tell them what the needs are in the community that are not being met but that could be engaged immediately and who are or who might be allies in that work, Brackett said.

“The shape of ministry development that emerges from their style really, truly is organic; based on lots of conversation, and while they are very capable of coming up with strategy and getting allies to help them with great strategy, they have chosen to listen,” Brackett told ENS.

And, he added invoking the Williams Stafford poem The Way it Is, Morrow knows how to pull the thread of her ministry through all of her encounters.

“So, she has endless stories of how she said yes to one person that led her to another person that led to a new opportunity,” Brackett said.

Janet Hurley’s nonprofit agency, Asheville Writers and Schools in Community, has a huge mission but not much office space. The program, which connects writers and teaching artists with teachers, classrooms and community programs, frequently holds board meetings at Kairos West.

“It’s very welcoming,” Hurley said. “There are poetry workshops, peer counselors who meet with a mental health group. They can drop in and see the counselors, a lot of different folks use the space for a variety of different reasons,” said Hurley, who also serves as a volunteer host, setting out pastries, making coffee, and greeting guests.

“You end up having conversations and making connections,” she said. “It has a the-sum –is-greater-than-its-parts-feel to it. I bring my laptop to do some work and if people stop by, there’s always a sign out front that they can come in and have coffee and tea. There are children’s books and games. The other day while I was there hosting, two young women came in and played Pictionary.”

‘Ministering without really ministering’

Lee, from St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church, grew up in West Asheville and has witnessed gentrification shift the largely African American community and his congregation into more of “a mixed community, a multicultural church.”

An early collaborator with Morrow and Kairos West, he calls it a beacon among the area’s economic explosion. “It’s a great way of ministering without really ministering in the sense of having the bible ready and saying that this is a bible study or prayer meeting.”

“There’s a lot of hurt with the church and the traditions of the church,” he added. “It’s a way of introducing those traditions in a different manner to make it more receptive and hopefully bring someone back to the body of the church.”

Painting is a regular practice at Kairos West Community Center in West Asheville, North Carolina. Photo: Kairos West Community Center via Facebook

He recalled referring someone to the center for spiritual support who “was ecstatic to have someone listen to him without judgment, with conviction, offer a prayer for him. That’s a phenomenal experience of how to do church without looking like a church.”

A donation of books about social justice helped to form a library; comfortable couches and chairs lend a living room feel. A children’s nook with games and bean bag chairs, art tables and supplies and a computer plug-in counter space help create “the intentional sacred space in a secular world set apart for the building of capacity of community through art, liturgy and service,” Morrow said.

Also available are spiritual direction and counseling, yoga classes, free farmer’s markets and free food markets, “which help because in West Asheville there’s no free food, so we go and pick up extra food and hand it out,” she said.

Recently, a group of twentysomethings “who love church and love liturgy … wanted to give thanks to God for everything that God’s doing here” began a Wednesday evening worship collective. It incorporates Taizé chant, prayers, Scripture, music, silence, classical literature excerpts, and “we’ll see where it goes,” Morrow said.

Lee, 36, has held bible study and prayer meetings at the center and says Kairos West offers a variety of ways in which “people can experience Christ in a different manner than they probably would on Sunday morning.

“I’ve seen the way it’s pulled together church across denominations, across racial lines, across socioeconomic classes,” he added. “It’s been able to allow people to exist as God has intended us to exist, with peace and harmony and justice.”

Morrow said she regrets, however, not ensuring greater diversity, making sure “it is multi-voiced, and not just the people who have interests. I said, okay, who’s interested? Instead, I should have said who’s really needed at the table?

“My definition of interest was very white, very middle class,” she added. “I didn’t do a great job of designing a place for intersectional ministry that I really have a longing for, a growing edge, I need to learn more about that.”

While the center offers a much-needed presence and helps the community’s capacity to thrive, Morrow considers it “a moment in time; an explosion in the best way possible.

“It is gifting me,” she added. “I am a better person because it exists. Everybody that walks into the space gains some empowerment from it.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

Granting greater freedom, mission program nears end of first triennium

Friday, June 19, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about The Episcopal Church’s pledge at the 77th General Convention to partner with dioceses to begin innovative mission strategies. Subsequent stories are here.

Quetzalhuitzilin Colibri dance group, a ministry of St. Philip the Apostle Church in Lemon Grove, California, performs an Aztec dance at St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego during the cathedral’s Mexican Independence Day celebration. The Diocese of San Diego received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant to help fund its Latino Leadership Project. Photo: Catedral San Pablo.

[Episcopal News Service] Over the life of The Episcopal Church its institutional structures have responded often to the actions of many members inspired by the movement of the Holy Spirit.

The latest example of this response may well be the Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts initiatives funded during the last meeting of General Convention through the 2013-2015 Five Marks of Mission triennial budget.

The initiatives were the result of widespread, if somewhat isolated, conversations across the church for years about “trying to figure out how do you walk a church with our historical roots and traditions as resources into a new paradigm,” according to the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, who with Ora Houston co-chaired the church’s Standing Commission on the Mission and Evangelism of The Episcopal Church during the 2010-2012 triennium.

A new model was needed, these Episcopalians thought, if the church is to spread the Gospel in a post-Christendom world. A big question facing the effort was how to bring the richness of the Episcopal traditions into a lively conversation with the changing contexts of ministry today. “What we were clear on is nobody knows the answer, but we as Episcopalians have to start to create some structures where we can at least start to discern a number of answers to that question,” Spellers told Episcopal News Service recently.

The Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life reported last month that the Christian share of the U.S. population is sharply declining, dropping 8 percentage points between 2007 and 2014, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. This trend is especially pronounced among young adults, but cuts across all demographic lines, the Pew story said.

Among those who were talking about the need for innovation, Spellers said, were “church planters and other people who were dreamers” individually, at seminaries and in groups such as the Episcopal Evangelism Network and a group of lay and ordained people called The Acts 8 Moment.

“We are called to become evangelists who walk into our communities, passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ and passionate about hearing how the Spirit has already been moving in these locations,” the standing commission wrote in its report to the77th General Convention in 2012 (beginning on page 497 here). “We need to birth fresh expressions of Anglican tradition built on these deep relationships with neighbors in our rapidly changing local settings.”

The Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward entertains a young boy in a waiting room while his mother and her baby visit a doctor in Worcester, Massachusetts. As urban missioner in the South Main area of the city, Ward practices a ministry of presence, spending time in the neighborhood and meeting people’s needs as they arise. The Worcester Urban Mission Strategy that she founded received a New Church Start grant. Photo/Jane Griesbach

Diocese of Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher told ENS that God is speaking to the church in the midst of the loss of its privileged standing in American society. “I think we are past the era in which people thought, and which they did for a long time, that if we just make the Sunday School a little bit better; that the parish will come alive again,” he said. “We’re past that time. It’s the recognition that the church really does have to go out” into the world.

“The church itself is a launching point, not an end point,” he said.

Fisher believes that the church must “go to places where the Holy Spirit is already active and doing good things, and try to give those places resources so that the Holy Spirit might work even more powerfully, but in a way that not only impacts that particular parish, but also the surrounding parishes.” Thus he has at times assigned priests to a ministry in a geographic area rather than simply to a parish.

The diocese says congregations ought to be drawing extra from their endowments to pay “for the sake of mission initiative” rather than for building repairs or to cover staff salaries, and Fisher said and the diocese has put its money where its mouth is. It began the Fan the Flame initiative, pledging $1 million over three years from an extra 1 percent draw on its investments to help pay for such new initiatives. Western Massachusetts’ Worcester Urban Mission Strategy and Lawrence House Service Corps received grants from the General Convention budget allocation.

Spellers told ENS that the standing commission listened to people all over the church and realized that these sentiments were bubbling up everywhere, “which is part of how you know the spirit is up to something bigger than any one of your groups.”

“The piece that just got clearer and clearer in those conversations was that for so many years, people had been trying to make room and to build our church’s capacity to take risks and to fail and try to again, and to see the Spirit in that work of trying, learning, trying again,” she said.

The effort to make space for innovation in a tradition-bound church was not always easy. Spellers posed the question this way: “What shape could these ministries take and still be identifiable as Episcopal communities of some kind – because, for us, those kinds of structures matter and they matter to bishops, they matter to standing committees.”

It is like creating a research and development office for the church, Spellers said. Few people in the church today remember the last time The Episcopal Church undertook a major church-planting effort. Thus, sometimes these calls for the church to be in new places sound strange “even though it is exactly like what somebody had to do once upon a time to for most of the churches we are sitting in today to even be here,” she said. It was in the 1950s when Episcopalians planted churches in the suburbs because that is where the baby boom was booming.

Playing within the boundaries

Part of what the Episcopal Church does well, Spellers said, is to “create some boundaries and then we play within those boundaries and find what the Spirit is up to within boundaries.”

In 2012, the General Convention agreed to let dioceses experiment with flexible structures and agreed to help pay for some of that risking and failing and learning, and trying again. The bishops and deputies allotted $2 million to help dioceses establish Mission Enterprise Zones and support new church starts as part of The Episcopal Church’s commitment to the first of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

General Convention 2015 Resolution A012 proposes a continuation of that funding for 2016-2018. And the budget the church’s Executive Council proposed to the convention’s budget committee increases the triennial seed money available to $3 million (line 27 here).

Diocese of Alabama Bishop John McKee Sloan celebrates Eucharist at the Abbey in Birmingham. The Abbey, a partnership of the diocese and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, received a New Church Start grant to further its mission of providing an open door and comfortable space to explore and grow in the Christian faith. Photo: Diocese of Alabama

The zones were defined in their establishing resolution (A073) as “a geographic area, as a group of congregations or as an entire diocese committed to mission and evangelism that engages under-represented groups, including youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement.” The zones were to have strategic plans with leaders trained in anti-racism, cross-cultural community development, ministry development and evangelism. Bishops and other parts of the diocesan leadership would be expected to grant the zones “greater freedom” in terms of their congregation status, leadership formation and the sorts of liturgical texts that could be used.

Grants were available for up to $20,000 for a Mission Enterprise Zone and up to $100,000 for new church starts. Dioceses had to have an equal amount of money on hand and ready to match the grants. The full list of grants for the first round is here and the list of the second round of grants is here.

In all, 40 grants were made, ranging from a range of Latino ministries to Warriors for the Dream, a community-enrichment project in Harlem, from Kairos West Community Center, a community center in West Asheville, North Carolina, to the Abbey in Birmingham, Alabama, where the motto is “Sinners. Saints. Coffee.”

A new way of making grants

The Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Local Mission and Ministry Committee considered proposals and recommended to council which ought to be approved.

From the beginning of those considerations, the committee found it was not only looking at innovative ministries, it was developing a new stance about standing at the gateway to funding. What emerged, according to LMM chair Anne Watkins, was not a “top-down encouragement” of local ministry while policing the expenditure of money, but, instead, a commitment to “paying attention to what folks are seeing God doing where they live and us responding to what they are responding to, in partnership.”

Working from that perspective took hours, including hours spent looking at proposals outside of the Executive Council’s meeting times, Watkins said. All during that time, the Rev. Tom Brackett, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s missioner for church planting and ministry redevelopment, told ENS that Watkins, in her role on the committee, “kept pointing to the need for us to affirm and bless the energy that was emerging locally.”

(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 committee, and the council, had to be willing to fund experiments that might fail, or might yield results different from the expected ones, Watkins and Brackett said.

“What we think of as success – who knows what that is,” Watkins said. “Success might be failing enormously by some standards and learning a great deal. So there’s a tension within each of us, and particularly among us in leadership, you know – we’re charged with being fiscally responsible with this budget.”

It meant that the committee had to, at times, “dial ourselves back,” she said, to ask “is it about sustainability and the continuation of this or is it about responding to what God is doing, in good faith, and seeing what God does with it, then learning from that in whatever way?”

The stance that the churchwide budget would be supporting work ready to be undertaken at the local level was a different one for some, including diocesan leaders. Brackett said he had to tell people many times “it’s your initiative, your money and we’re matching your funds.” That money came “with the caveat that we expected them to demonstrate how they were responsibility using the funds that they were given,” he added.

The Prayers of the People at Kairos West Community Center in Asheville, North Carolina, is a wall where visitors can hang their prayers. The ministry in the Diocese of Western North Carolina received a Mission Enterprise Zone grant. Photo: Kairos West Community Center via Facebook

Creating a community of learners

Part of the hope for the grant programs is that they will not only result in new kinds of ministries serving underserved populations across the church, but also that the people involved would share their experiences and learning with the rest of the church. The reflection ideally begins at the diocesan level, Spellers and Brackett said, as the diocesan leadership and members discern how to follow the Spirit’s inspiring movement.

Now the church has the “stories of leaders who fell in love with what God was doing in the world around them, and that’s really the launching place,” Brackett said.

Based on the knowledge gained from the first round of grants, the hope is that the church can begin to learn to “adjust our local practices and flex our structures as needed” to grant people leading both new and old ministries greater freedom “in not just growing the church or reversing decline or engaging those historically under-represented, but tracking what the Spirit’s up to out in the world around us,” he said.

One of the primary results Resolution A073 hoped for, according to Brackett, was “that we would conduct experiments for the benefit of the whole church [and that] we would share those learnings in such a way that those following wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes or that if they made the same mistakes, we would learn quickly and they wouldn’t cost quite as much.”

Spellers added, “Frankly, let’s get enough money and investment from everyone so that we all have to pay attention to what the answers are.”

Read more about it

* Coming next: Profiles of some of the new missional initiatives plus a look at what has been learned thus far and what the future of the project might hold

* The 2015 Report to the Church details the budget-supported work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to date in the current triennium, including the Mission Enterprise Zones and New Church Starts work described on pages 16-17.

* The Acts8 Moment has profiled some of the partnerships that were formed by way of the grants.

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

Video: For refugees, language and life skills help in resettlement

Friday, June 19, 2015

 

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s refugee resettlement service, partners with local affiliates like Refugee Focus in Tucson, Arizona, to resettle annually some 5,000 refugees in the United States. In addition to providing newly arrived refugees with the items they’ll need during their first 30 days in the U.S., some affiliates offer basic skills and English language classes to refugees. In March, during a pilgrimage to Africa’s Great Lakes Region led by Episcopal Migration Ministries, a group participated in a pilot program that begins to teach English to refugees living in camps before resettlement.

Media Hub brings General Convention to all people in all places

Friday, June 19, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] As bishops and deputies prepare to gather for the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has launched an online Media Hub to make the Convention’s business accessible remotely at no fee. The Media Hub is available here.

“While most Episcopalians will not be able to be present in Salt Lake City as the General Convention meets, the Media Hub will allow all people to follow the Convention’s proceedings,” said Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communication for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. “The Media Hub is one of many ways in which the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the only churchwide organization to include all Episcopalians as members, works to bring the Convention’s business to those who otherwise could not be present.”

The 78th General Convention will be held June 25 – July 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of The Episcopal Church. It comprises the House 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.

Mike Collins, Manager of Multimedia Services for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, explained that the Media Hub will feature three media players, one for each House and a special one for videos featuring local and churchwide mission.

The Media Hub offerings are vast and provide avenues for following all the action:

Live streaming of the sessions from the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies
Live streaming of the daily worship
A comprehensive listing of daily events
Videos featuring mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church
Daily media briefings
The twitter feed #GC78
Episcopal News Service headlines
Link to legislative Tracker
The Report To The Church 2015
Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society Resources for all Episcopalians
Links to Convention-related websites

The Media Hub is mobile-friendly for Android or Apple.