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Diana Southwick Scheide ordained deacon in Central Pennsylvania

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Rev. Canon David Lovelace, the Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert and newly ordained deacon, the Rev. Diana Scheide.

The ordination of Diana Southwick Scheide to the Sacred Order of Deacons was celebrated Friday, June 20, 2014 at her home parish of St. John Episcopal Church in York, Pennsylvania. The Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert, provisional bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania was the celebrant. Scheide is a recent graduate of Sewanee School of Theology. She is a registered nurse with a background in infection control. She will be re-locating later this year to Rhode Island.

UTO to provide special anniversary grants

Monday, June 23, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church United Thank Offering is providing special “seed money” grants of $12,500 to one bishop in each of the Church’s nine provinces, and to the Presiding Bishop, for a total of $125,000.

Part of the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the United Thank Offering, these one-time special anniversary grants are intended to be used for a project in each province that will reflect the fourth Anglican Mark of Mission: To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind to pursue peace and reconciliation.

The project must be completed by May 1, 2015.  The grants that are selected will be showcased at 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, UT in June/July 2015.

Applications are available now; deadline is August 1.  Applications available here.

For more information contact the Rev. Heather Melton, United Thank Offering coordinator, hmelton@episcopalchurch.org.

Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally.

Colombia: La Iglesia se une a las personas internamente desplazadas

Monday, June 23, 2014

Soacha es hogar de más de 45.000 personas internamente desplazadas. LA Diócesis Episcopal de Colombia tiene una iglesia en Soacha que proporciona espacio y ayuda a una cooperativa de mujeres. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

[Episcopal News Service  - Bogotá, Colombia] Semanalmente de dos a tres familias que buscan refugio llegan al Barrio Los Libertadores, una comunidad de bajos ingresos en las afueras de la capital de Colombia, Bogotá.

“Algunas personas tienen que huir de sus hogares y sus tierras por temor a sus vidas”, dijo el Rdo. José Antonio Romero, refiriéndose a las personas internamente desplazadas que buscan refugio en su iglesia “Ellos tenían granjas, negocios, pero a causa de la guerra, ellos se van sin nada”.

Las familiar llegan a la estación de autobuses en Los Libertadores,  de todas partes de Colombia, un país con casi el doble del tamaño de Texas con una geografía agreste de montañas, selva y llanuras tropicales. Ellos encuentran Divino Salvador mediante personas que les avisan sobre esta.

La Misión de Divino Salvador en el Barrio Los Libertadores, una comunidad de bajos ingresos en las afueras de la capital de Colombia,  Bogotá, dirige un refugio para desplazados internos [IDPs]. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

La Misión de Divino Salvador en el Barrio Los Libertadores, una comunidad de bajos ingresos en las afueras de la capital de Colombia, Bogotá, dirige un refugio para desplazados internos [IDPs]. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

La parroquia se inició hace 20 años con una capilla, que hora es el sótano de un edificio de cuatro pisos que tiene una cocina, un refugio, un santuario y un apartamento en la planta superior, donde Romero ha vivido por 16 años desde que llegó a Divino Salvador.

Para las familias que vienen a la ciudad en busca de seguridad y empleo, la iglesia les proporciona vivienda temporal, alimentos, medicina y ropas con el apoyo financiero que Romero recauda mediante amigos, mientras las familias aplican para obtener ayuda del gobierno.

El Rdo. José Antonio Romero explica que semanalmente dos o tres familias llegan buscando refugio en Divino Salvador. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

Aún para esas familias el gobierno determina que tienen demandas legítimas de desplazamiento– y las cuales reciben compensación a veces por terreno, otras veces por vivienda – los 4.7 millones de personas desplazadas en Colombia tienen aún dificultades para encontrar empleo, seguridad y a menudo son el blanco de discriminación. Más de medio millón de personas se han convertido en  refugiados.

Desde mediados de la década de 1960, las fuerzas del gobierno, las guerrillas de la izquierda y paramilitares de la derecha han estado peleando una Guerra civil enraizada en la desigualdad que ha asesinado a más de 200,000 colombianos.  El gobierno Colombiano y el grupo guerrillero más grande, las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de  Colombia, o FARC, han participado en conversaciones sobre la paz en la Habana, Cuba, desde el 2012. Se especula que en la segunda vuelta electoral presidencial del país del 15 de junio se determinará si continúan o no las conversaciones de paz– se ha llegado a un acuerdo con respecto a tres de los cinco puntos de la agenda –.

La lucha y la violencia asociadas con el crimen organizado, el tráfico de drogas, la distribución de la tierra, y la extracción  de los recursos humanos en los últimos años han afectado de manera desproporcionada a las zonas rurales, donde el 44 por ciento de la población vive en la pobreza. La violencia obliga a las personas que viven en las zonas rurales a buscar seguridad en ciudades.

Situado en un altiplano en los Andes, Bogotá está rodado por estas comunidades informales que son pobladas por personas internamente desplazadas; lugares como San Cristobal donde se encuentra ubicado Los Libertadores, Suba, Ciudad Bolivar, y Soacha, donde la Misión Espíritu Santo proporciona espacio para la Mesa de Organizaciones de Mujeres de Soacha, una cooperativa sobre los derechos de las mujeres y apoderamiento, apoyado por la Organización Mundial de la Salud.

Soacha, una zona industrial de clase trabajadora  40 minutos al sudeste de la capital, y con una población de 490,000, es hogar de más de 45.000 personas desplazadas.

“Todos los problemas, como el tráfico de drogas, pandillas juveniles se reúnen aquí, dijo el Rdo. Carlos Eduardo Guevara, sacerdote que sirve en la Iglesia Espíritu Santo.

Las personas internamente desplazadas viven en casas construidas en las laderas y son susceptibles a deslizamientos de tierra, como estas en Soacha. Bogotá, la capital de Colombia está rodeada de dichas comunidades informales. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

Además de los peligros de la vida cotidiana en Soacha, donde las madres viven con el temor de que sus hijos sean reclutados por grupos armados y organizaciones criminales, los trabajadores de los derechos humanos y organizadores comunitarios enfrentan otros peligros.

Los abusos contra los derechos humanos y los asesinatos extrajudiciales cometidos por grupos armados, el gobierno y las organizaciones criminales han sido bien documentados en Colombia. Los trabajadores de los derechos humanos, activistas sindicales y líderes de la comunidad y religiosos son con frecuencia el blanco de la violencia.

Participar en el trabajo de los derechos humanos es percibido como estar trabajando en contra del estado, es muy similar a la manera que los grupos armados son vistos, explicó Clemencia Lopez, representante legal de la cooperativa.

Lopez y su familia – ella tiene tres hijo, dos adolescentes y el tercero de 9años de edad– fueron desplazados tres veces, dos a causa del conflicto armado y una vez debido  a la actividad criminal y violencia que ocurrió alrededor de ellos. Una vez hubo tres granadas lanzadas en frente del restaurante que ella y esposo tenían, dijo.

“Estábamos en medio de la confrontación” dijo durante una entrevista en mayo de 2013 en su oficina en el Segundo piso de Misión Espíritu Santo.

Alrededor del tiempo que se produjo el incidente en frente del restaurante, Lopez estaba participando en un taller sobre la mujer y la igualdad en el género; en el 2007 ella participó con la cooperativa de mujeres, la cual ha crecido para incluir a ocho organizaciones.

“[Al comienzo] no sabíamos cómo usar las computadoras”, dijo Lopez, quien termino la escuela secundaria en el 2009 tomando clases nocturnas aceleradas.

En la sociedad en general, las mujeres no suelen recibir apoyo necesario y la capacitación en liderazgo para participar en la política. La cooperativa de mujeres proporciona a las mujeres acceso a talleres sobre derechos humanos, capacitación en liderazgo, educación y habilidades, dijo Lopez.

Además, la sociedad patriarcal de Colombia excluye a las mujeres con mucha frecuencia.

Clemencia Lopez y Fabiola Murcia son miembros de Mesa Organización de Mujeres de Soacha, una cooperativa sobre los derechos de las mujeres y apoderamiento con oficinas en la Iglesia Espíritu Santo. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

En el 2012, el gobierno colombiano aprobó la política sobre igualdad de género y un plan integral contra la violencia. Sin embargo un informe del 2013 por el Comité de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas para Eliminar la Discriminación contra la Mujer encontró “la persistencia de actitudes patriarcas y estereotipos profundamente arraigados en relación con las funciones y responsabilidades de las mujeres y los hombres en la familia y la sociedad” Aún más, esas actitudes y estereotipos eran responsables de la situación de las mujeres y una desventaja en la vida política  y pública, mercado laboral, prevalencia de la violencia contra las mujeres y la segregación del género, en relación con las oportunidades de educación para las niñas, indicó el informe.

Además de la discriminación que las personas desplazadas enfrentan– que es además otra forma de discriminación de género, raza, económica– el desplazamiento pone una tensión en las familias, con esposos y esposas quienes con frecuencia se culpan unos a otros por su situación, dijo Lopez, agregando que la participación en el trabajo de los derechos humanos puede además causar tensión en las relaciones.

“Las mujeres que participan en los derechos humanos se exponen a un riesgo”, dijo Romero, quien con frecuencia acompaña a las mujeres en marchas y demostraciones.

La cooperativa de mujeres llego a estar ubicada en la Iglesia Espíritu Santo en el 2010, después que amigos de Lopez le presentaron al obispo de la Diócesis of Colombia Francisco Duque. Desde entonces Lopez ha estado participando como líder laico de la diócesis.

Una de las cosas que las mujeres han logrado es una plataforma de política pública para la mujer, incluyendo el derecho de vivir una vida libre de violencia, el acceso a la educación y atención médica, las oportunidades económicas, y el derecho a vacaciones, algo que una vida de desplazamiento y exclusión social no puede solventar.

“Aquí en Soacha ellos han dignificado el papel de la mujer”, dijo  Guevara, a un grupo de visitantes en Mayo del 2013.

– Lynette Wilson es una editora/reportera para Episcopal News Service.

Brotherhood of St. Andrew expands prison ministry

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bishop Duncan Gray III celebrates Eucharist with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew during its national council meeting at the Bishop Duncan Gray Camp and Conference Center near Canton, Mississippi. Photo: Jim Goodson

A half-way house to help parolees adjust to modern society is being planned by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

A site in Texas has been selected and brothers meeting in Mississippi June 10-15 heard reports from the organization’s prison ministry volunteers who say such a facility is “sorely needed.”

The proposal was delivered to the brothers during the 134-year-old ministry’s annual national council meeting held this year at the Bishop Duncan Gray Camp and Conference Center, a 700-acre facility of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi.

The Brotherhood of St. Andrew is a vital part of Episcopal Men’s Ministries, with 4,212 members in 355 chapters nationwide.

For inmates who have served many years behind bars, the demands of adjusting to the pace of 21st Century life “are enormous,” Brother Jerry Bailey of Cleburne, Texas told the 34 brothers attending the organization’s national council meeting north of Jackson, Mississippi.

Prison ministry and restorative justice has become a major ministry for brothers in Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina, among several sites.

“It’s the most rewarding type of ministry I’ve been involved with,” Bailey said. He’s helped inmates for 30 years and has noticed it’s becoming “more and more difficult for former inmates to succeed once they leave prison.

“The number of choices they have to make every day is enormous,” Bailey, a prison chaplain, said. “It overwhelms them and they find it’s easier to return to old patterns of living. Having a place they can go to live until they can get on their feet, find jobs and receive counseling is sorely needed.”

The Brotherhood needs the wisdom of its entire membership to seek and find funding from a myriad of federal, state and private funding sources, Bailey said.

“There is grant money available as well,” Bailey said.

While some brothers expressed skepticism about raising, say, $500,000 dollars to get the project off the ground and up-and-running, the council unanimously agreed to back the project and begin the legal processes necessary to acquire a 20-acre site south of Fort Worth.

“This property is available to us, it’s centrally located in the middle of the country and it could serve parolees from throughout the country,” Bailey said, noting that Texas has the largest number of prison inmates in the U.S.

Brothers agreed that such a major project should be well within the scope of the organization’s membership.

“We are men of God and we are capable of great things,” Vice-President Julian Korti said.

Ugandan ministry
Korti also delivered a report on the Brotherhood’s longtime involvement in Uganda, where some 40 young people housed in foster homes receive educational and other funding support from brothers throughout the U.S.

“We would still like to establish a non-profit agency not run by the Brotherhood nor the Episcopal Church to receive funds from corporations and other organizations that will not donate funds to religious organizations,” Korti says.

He’s hoping to put together a team to complete Hope International Services (HIS) this year.

“African ministry is difficult and full of disappointments as well as successes,” Korti reported as he told the brothers about the plight of the first Brotherhood-educated student to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.

“He was prepared to begin teaching mathematics but soon fell ill to a heart defect and returned to Mukono, where he helps teach the young students,” Korti reported. “He is a valuable member of our Ugandan Brotherhood, but this is often the way it is in Africa – one step forward and one step backward.

“We pray for his return to health.”

Rebuilding the infrastructure
Brother Jeff Butcher is vice president of field operations and he was recognized by Brotherhood President Robert Dennis for his “excellent and hard work” filling open positions at various assembly and diocesan levels.

In year one of a “three-to-five-year plan,” Butcher recruited active new president Jack Hanstein for sprawling Province VIII (the Western U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska), six new diocesan coordinators in various provinces, 13 liaison brothers and 22 additional brothers currently in a discernment process regarding national leadership positions.

For the second year in a row, chapters and assemblies took on special service projects in April during National Service Day.

Episcopal and Anglican brothers completed 26 new service projects in 13 states as part of National Service Day. Six new service projects were completed in New York – the state with the most projects.

“National Service Day has been a big success,” Dennis said. “The Methodist and Lutheran churches also conduct national service days in April and it gives us a good feeling to join our Christian brothers and sisters to reach out and help other in His name.”

Vice-Presidents Roy Benavides and Jeff Butcher offered a report titled Making Us Relevant in the 21st Century.

While Butcher is concentrating on human resources, Benavides has created social media sites. He has designed a Facebook page (Brotherhood of St. Andrew USA), Twitter account (Brothers Andrew-BStA) and a soon-to-come blog site.

The process of creating a new web site for the organization utilizing the services of Digital Faith, which specializes in interactive sites that allow members (Brothers) to freely contribute in many ways, has also begun.

Former Alpha director and current Anglican Church in North America’ s Diocese For The Sake of Others Bishop Todd Hunter was the conference’s guest speaker and preacher.

He also stayed an extra day to help brothers better understand what is happening in this post-modern culture and how to “act like missionaries.”

VTS selected ‘Top Workplace’ in Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 23, 2014

[Virginia Theological Seminary] Virginia Theological Seminary is proud to announce that it has been selected by the Washington Post as one of the top workplaces in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  

“I am delighted that Virginia Theological Seminary has been selected as a top workplace, “ said Kathryn Glover, M.P.A., vice president for Human Resources and Institutional Effectiveness. “VTS is committed to supporting its employees in their work to further the mission of this institution, especially through professional development and employee wellness programs.”

A special “Top Workplaces” supplement, featuring VTS in the “Non-profit: Religion” category, appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.  Employees of VTS were surveyed in January and February on a variety of topics, which was then compared to similar organizations according to a national benchmark. Virginia Seminary employees scored highest in areas of personal and professional development and fulfillment with regards to achieving a balance to the work and professional life.

The Very Rev Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS, explained that this award illustrates the depth and quality of the employees. He observed, “Virginia Seminary has men and women who do not see their work as a job, but as a vocation. This creates a spirit on the campus that is special. And our staff give of their best to ensure that the many programs and activities of VTS are excellent. I am proud of the Seminary and proud of the hardworking staff who make such a difference.”

Vermont: Senator, bishop, faith leaders discuss economic justice

Monday, June 23, 2014

From left, Monsignor Roland Rivard, the Rev. Lynn Bujnak, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Bishop Thomas Ely and Rabbi Joshua Chasan. Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Vermont

[Episcopal Diocese of Vermont] On June 20, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held a news conference with Vermont religious leaders to discuss the moral implications of extreme wealth and income inequality. Bishop Thomas Ely, Rabbi Joshua Chasan, the Rev. Lynn Bujnak, and Monsignor Roland Rivard were present, as well as several other Episcopal clergy and faith leaders.

Bishop Ely’s participation in this news conference is in keeping with the resolution on the subject of economic justice and income inequality passed at The Episcopal Church in Vermont’s 2013 Diocesan Convention.

Below is the transcript of Bishop Ely’s statement:

Thank you Senator Sanders.

Thank you for your advocacy on so many important issues and especially your leadership in the area of economic justice and income inequality. I am glad to add my voice to yours and these distinguished colleagues who provide important leadership and direction in our Vermont faith communities.

The President has called income disparity “the defining challenge of our time.” He speaks an important truth to us. Economic justice and income inequality are indeed moral issues of immediate and urgent concern and present us with important choices about how we will live and how we will act.

Many years ago Supreme Court Justice Brandies declared “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” Evidence suggests that inequality is not only corroding our political system but eroding social cohesion as well.

The systematic undermining of the middle class has had serious consequences for the preservation of families, health, education and employment and even greater consequences for those in the bottom 30%. Social unrest is a growing possibility.

Our financial system has become deeply distorted: financial institutions that are “too big to fail,” investment instruments few can understand, and pervasive conflicts of interests that are threatening the ongoing ecological stability of our world all contribute to this reality.

The suffering and overpowered majority will continue to lose the struggle for jobs, affordable housing, education, retirement security, and a sustainable environment if we keep silent. This situation cries out for us to open our eyes, ears, minds and hearts to this growing bitter reality. The excesses of the sin of avarice, of greed, along with the sin of pride, are at work in our midst and have the potential to destroy so much of what we cherish.

These are critical ethical issues, touching on our obligations to each other as human beings, and therefore central to our faith traditions. We as faith community leaders have a responsibility to provide leadership on these moral issues, which have such a direct impact on so many of our fellow Vermonters.

The people of the Episcopal Church in Vermont have called upon our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori to convene a nationwide interfaith coalition to provide moral leadership for the establishment of economic justice in our country. We have also adopted a statement on Economic Justice and Income Inequality prepared by our leadership Council (and available on our website). And, in a concrete effort to put our faith and conviction into action, our annual Convention urged all our congregations, as well as the bishop’s office, to pay all lay employees an hourly livable wage appropriate for the State of Vermont.

For me, the call to engage this challenge is grounded in the words Jesus used to summarize the commandments that informed his faith, as well as the great Hebrew prophets before him, and which is expressed this way in the Gospel according to Matthew: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Borrowing from the teaching of Archbishop Rowan Williams in his book Faith in the Marketplace, we are reminded that maintaining wealth at the cost of our neighbor’s disadvantage, or worse, is inhumane – what the other finds painful I should find painful too. True love of neighbor is the moral and ethical imperative that can lead us from greed to generosity, from economic disparity to economic justice.

©The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont

Presiding Bishop preaches in Oxford

Monday, June 23, 2014

University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
22 June 2014
Oxford, England

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

Not peace but a sword. I thought shalom was the name of the game. Yet here Jesus says he’s come to set one person up against another, and he tells his followers they’re going to find enemies among their closest relatives. He gives the clear sense that taking up your cross brings division. If we read history carefully, it’s clear that the toughest strife is almost always between siblings and near relatives, albeit often unacknowledged ones: Cain and Abel, Israel and Judah, Palestine and Israel – even Oxford and Cambridge. We’re familiar with sibling rivalry, for human love only rarely partakes of divine abundance, and by the time we’re grown, most of us know something about love’s scarcity and about abandonment.

Much of the world’s division is grounded in that kind of competitive behavior, born of fear and a sense of scarcity. Yet even that word rivalry insists that competitors come from one source or river. We are all born of the same stuff – abundant living water, cosmic stardust, and divine breath – how can we possibly seek to vaunt our superiority or greater deserts? Much of the human-caused suffering in this world is born of denying the equal claim of sibling neighbors, indeed turning them into others, who are supposedly undeserving of notice, regard, food, shelter, dignity, or love, whether God’s love or ours. Human beings have turned the conceit of otherness into a diabolical art form in the multiplicities of prejudice, racism, discrimination, ethnocentrism, xenophobia… and it is common to all societies.

I was at the Presbyterians’ General Assembly in the U.S. last week. We heard an address about a particular kind of defined otherness – the disregard for women that results in violence against them. Sikh and Muslim leaders, both women, spoke of their own experience of violence and the urgent need for all people of faith to confront the issue publicly. They both noted how seldom we hear about it from pulpits. All forms of negatively defined otherness are rooted in denying the image of God in another – and are therefore intrinsically unfaithful. We’ve heard the word repeatedly: “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”[1]

The wars and conflicts in Sudan, Congo, Central Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, and southeast Asia have roots in the same kind of rivalry, insisting that ‘I and my kind are the only worthy creatures in this neighborhood, and we are entitled to use any possible methods to get you out of our way.’ The urge to purge societies of others is often a tool in the hands of political and religious zealots. We see it in schools and neighborhoods here and across the world, as well as within families, governments, and even the church.

So when Jesus insists that we can’t be his disciples unless we pick up our cross, even though it will become a sword of division, he’s challenging us to enter into the conflict and confront it. He demonstrates by turning the tables in the Temple courts – a powerful and prophetic indictment of irreligion. Yet he still would have us reject violence, for violence denies life; faithfulness seeks to increase its abundance.

Consider the community Matthew is writing to, where Jew and Jew, some followers of Jesus, are trying to sort out their differences. Walk into the midst of coffee hour there, and you’ll find plenty of pain and chaos and objectification. Nobody has quite sorted out yet what the way forward is going to be – the future is murky and misty. This community of St. Mary’s has certainly had similar chapters in its own history – the burning of Cranmer and Latimer and Ridley is a lively and extreme example. Mist and fog might seem preferable to fire.

We wrestle with divisions over identity and faithfulness continually, at all levels from the intimacy of family to global politics. What constitutes otherness that is beyond the pale? Adult children wrestle with the ethics of caring for parents who can no longer speak for themselves. Will it be ‘all possible heroic measures’ – or ‘comfort care only’? There is no easy and direct conclusion about what is essential and what is not. Societies try to legislate boundaries on acceptable behavior, with sometimes absurd results. Schools in the U.S. have expelled 5 year olds for biting their cookies into the shape of guns, while their parents or teachers can easily buy AK-47s.

What about the Middle East? What is the most life-giving way to end the violence? What is the responsibility of surrounding nations and peoples in the face of mounting carnage and inhumane brutality? Both this nation and mine have faced that question before, never easily. We responded differently when it was Hitler’s genocide in Europe than when it was happening in Rwanda – and still we grieve and doubt the timeliness and intensity of our responses.

This Church continues to struggle over how to honor the equal dignity of women. My province has muddled through conversations about the equal dignity of all human beings, of whatever color, race, age, gender, or sexual orientation. The decisions made have caused division, and that division is born of the cross. God’s justice may be perfect, but ours is not. Taking up our cross to follow Jesus means being willing to enter into the imperfection of our created nature, faithfully, expecting that God will work resurrection anyway.

Yet there are varied ways of taking up that cross. We can use it as a weapon, imposing our decision and will on others, or we can take it up in vulnerability, knowing that it may be used on us. I would submit that the latter is the more Christly road.

The rivalry of siblings can be engaged as an opportunity to discover unique gifts in the other, or as an attempt to extinguish difference. We can jump to judgment or we can come to a conclusion with humble confidence, open to the ongoing creativity of God’s spirit. That’s what Jesus challenges us to do: don’t keep your position hidden away, proclaim it from the housetops; don’t be afraid of challenge, for dying is not the worst thing that can happen to you; consider the source of your life – and trust that source, for it is deeper and more lasting than your blood relatives or seductive, so-called ‘friends.’

The sword of division, the cost of the cross, is elsewhere spoken as, “I set before you life and death; choose life.”[2] Life is costly, and although it may cost all we have, the alternative is ultimately empty. Choose life, in fear and trembling if need be. Choose life abundant, for the other – who is neighbor and image of God. Choose life – love your enemies, give them food and water, and thereby heap burning coals on their heads.[3] Choose life, in love, and discover some Pentecost fire on your own head. Choose life for the sake of the other, and discover that self-obsession evaporates in the heat of that fiery love.

The martyrs of Oxford chose life. The world still needs living candles of witness, who choose the expanded ambit of God’s love expressed in human form. Will you be such a burning witness?

[1] 1John 4:20

[2] Deuteronomy 30:15-20

[3] Proverbs 25:21-22, Romans 12:20

Video: Presiding Bishop preaches at Alban Pilgrimage

Monday, June 23, 2014

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St. Alban Pilgrimage
21 June 2014
St. Alban’s Cathedral, England

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

Greetings from The Episcopal Church, and its 82 churches named for Alban – one in Haiti and the others in 40 of the United States. They are celebrating their patronal feasts this weekend as well.

Our communications director told me recently about a conversation she had at a trade conference with various Hollywood types. They wanted to know what would attract Christians to watch their movies and television shows, particularly comedies and horror flicks. She started by explaining that Episcopalians and other mainline Christians would be interested in material that helps people live lives of spiritual growth and justice, and that like all people, we need to laugh, and we need heroes when we’re scared.

Alban is the über-hero of Christian England, the first we know of who put his life where his heart was. Even before he’d been baptized, he recognized the truth of what he saw and heard from the priest seeking shelter in his home. Alban learned by word and witness what it means to lose your life in order to save it, and then he went and did it. We all need heroes, particularly if we’re going to live to the full.

We think of heroes as examples of strength and courage. “Hero” originally meant a defender or protector. It comes from a root that means to watch over or observe. Jesus asked his friends in the Garden of Gethsemane to keep watch, but they closed their eyes. They weren’t heroic at all. In the pilgrimage we’ve just experienced, Alban the faithful hero is still keeping watch as part of the communion of saints, but his executioner lost his eyes, being no defender or protector.

Who are your heroes? Who has shown you what it means to spend your life as a defender or protector of others, for the love of God and neighbor? That’s ultimately what makes life worth living. A chaplain in a cancer ward tells a heroic story, “Tonight at dinner I reminisced with an old friend in his forties now dying of bone cancer. We have different beliefs but a great deal of love for each other. He told me, “I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of not living now.”[1]

Living fully, right now, is central to our pilgrimage through life. It’s an essential part of what Jesus meant when he said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” Life isn’t a video game with a goal of scoring points for future lives – it’s about giving ourselves in love, for love, with love itself. Sometimes it’s called passion – both the passion of full and loving involvement in relationship with another or all creation, and the costly passion of Alban or Jesus. Full investment in life means a willingness to spend ourselves completely – it costs all we are and all we have. The rewards aren’t just out of this world, they’re found in the abundant life we know and experience in that investment. That’s what caught Alban up – the ability to live fully by responding to the persecution of another. All kinds of justice work are like that – and the passion driving it ultimately yields joy.

The passionate desire to love and right the world comes in many different forms. An Episcopal church in Davenport, Iowa, named St. Alban’s has adopted a big cross-country truck stop.[2] They show up there to minister to truck drivers and look for women and teens who are being trafficked across the country, or in danger of being lured by traffickers. These parishioners quite literally befriend the lonely and hungry and those in peril. They keep watch over the vulnerable.

There are quiet heroes all around us, like the unnamed millions of refugees who shepherd others in distress. Mothers are bringing and sending their young children across the southern border of the United States in unprecedented numbers right now, fleeing hunger, gang threats and violence in their Central American homelands – more than 50,000 of them in the last 8 months.[3] One mother from El Salvador left her job as a social worker and brought her 11 year old daughter to the U.S. to keep her safe from gangs threatening to rape or kidnap her.[4] Where are the heroes who will guard and protect lost Nigerian schoolgirls?

Full and passionate investment in life doesn’t always look physically dangerous. I think of Mindy, a young woman born without arms or legs, whose awesome artwork is painted with a brush held in her teeth. When I met her several years ago, she wanted to go and work with disabled children in Haiti. She never would have put it this way, but her very presence bears heroic witness to the possibility of abundant life.

In this season we’re remembering the passionate gift of life 75 years ago, given by thousands who spent themselves on beaches and battlefields to liberate Europe. Others invested themselves in the word and words of life, figuring out how to send strategic messages. The last of the original Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez, died earlier this month. Using their own native language, he and 28 of his fellow Navajo soldiers developed a code the Japanese were never able to break. They invested the intimate identity of their culture, largely unknown to outsiders, in the cause of freedom and justice. The Navajo and other native peoples in North America continue to send disproportionate numbers to serve in the Armed Forces. A young Native American woman from Arizona was among the first casualties of the Iraq War in 2003. Arizona has named Piestewa Peak in her honor. Like Alban’s shrine, it stands as a marker of heroism and sacrifice.

The Vicar of Baghdad, Andrew White, is a powerful witness to the same kind of heroic living. He writes, “I don’t know what to do, do I stay [in Baghdad] or go back [to safety]? I have a huge amount of commitments here. If I go back, I cannot change the situation but I want to be with my people. Here we are with this huge crisis and need and we do not even have the resources to help those most in need.”[5] He stays, out of solidarity, with his eyes and his heart open.

Heroes are vulnerable, for passion removes our usual self-protective defense mechanisms.

Will you be a hero? How will you live as a protector and defender of others? Will you keep watch? For the love of God, where will you spend yourself?

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reverend-dr-malcolm-clemens-young/the-fault-in-our-stars-an_b_5490725.html

[2] http://qctimes.com/news/local/community-group-addresses-problem-of-human-trafficking/article_fd0a1fe0-6872-11df-9f0b-001cc4c002e0.html

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/us/border-centers-struggle-to-handle-onslaught-of-children-crossers.html?emc=edit_th_20140619&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=16061526&_r=1

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/us/migrants-flow-in-south-texas-as-do-rumors.html?ref=us

[5] http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/06/16/urgent-prayer-help-needed-for-iraqs-christians/

Presbyterians vote to divest in companies doing business in Israel-Palestine

Monday, June 23, 2014

[Presbyterian News Service] With audible gasps from those in the plenary hall, the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday narrowly approved divestment from three United States companies doing business in Israel-Palestine.

By a vote of 310-303, the Assembly approved an overture calling for divestment from Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, companies some allege are engaged in “non-peaceful pursuits” in the region. A similar overture failed 333-331 at the 220th Assembly (2012).

Although divestment was its most debated item, the overture also affirms the PC(USA)’s commitment to interfaith and ecumenical dialogue and relationships in the region, and a preamble was added on the floor to reinforce that, saying, “The PC(USA) has a long-standing commitment to peace in Israel and Palestine. We recognize the complexity of the issues, the decades-long struggle, the pain suffered and inflicted by policies and practices of both the Israeli government and Palestinian entities. We further acknowledge and confess our own complicity in both the historic and current suffering of Israeli and Palestinian yearning for justice and reconciliation.”

Immediately after the vote, Moderator Heath Rada reaffirmed that, saying, “In no way is this a reflection for our lack of love for our Jewish sisters and brothers.

The overture included amended language acknowledging the complexities of the conflict in Israel-Palestine, the PC(USA)’s longstanding commitment to peace in the region, the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians and the church’s complicity in that suffering.

The Assembly committee on Middle East Issues, which recommended the overture for approval, feels it is a “compassionate and holistic approach to relationships in the Middle East,” said committee moderator Teaching Elder Commissioner Stephen Choi.

Many opposed to divestment cited damaged relationships with Jewish partners as a major concern.

“Divestment has the symbolic power to humiliate our Jewish friends in this country,” said Teaching Elder Commissioner Sid Batts from the Presbytery of Salem. Batts serves a church across the street from a Jewish temple and values the strong relationship between the two congregations.

But many Jews are in favor of divestment, said Ben Falter, young adult advisory delegate from the Presbytery of Geneva.

“Just as we here have differing views, so too do our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he said.

Others opposed to the overture were concerned its passage would mistakenly align the PC(USA) with the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The overture was amended to read: “This action on divestment does not mean an alignment with the overall strategy of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement.”

“We are already losing control of our message. Divestment will not end the conflict and bring peace. Divestment will bring dissension,” said Teaching Elder Commissioner Frank Allen from the Presbytery of Central Florida. “Dialogue and relationship building will lay the groundwork for real peace.”

Allen presented a minority report opposing divestment and encouraging the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee to continue its corporate engagement process with the three companies. MRTI has been engaged with the three companies since 2004 and recommends divestment.

Andries Coetzee, a teaching elder commissioner from the Presbytery of Muskingum Valley, referenced the PC(USA)’s divestment from companies supporting apartheid in South Africa. As a member of the oppressive white minority in South Africa, Coetzee thanked his fellow Presbyterians for divesting there and encouraged the Assembly to do the same for Israelis and Palestinians.

“You put me on the road to gaining back my humanity,” Coetzee said.

Other items of business from the Middle East committee:

  • approval of an overture instructing the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy to provide a history of General Assembly policies favoring a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine and to prepare a report to the 222nd Assembly (2016);
  • disapproval of an overture affirming the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians but calling Israel an apartheid state;
  • disapproval of an overture calling for the boycott of all Hewlett-Packard products;
  • an overture reaffirming the PC(USA)’s commitment to the human rights of all children, especially those in Israel/Palestine; and
  • an overture endorsing a paper written by the Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group of the Presbytery of Chicago, “Perspectives on Presbyterian Church (USA) Support for a Just and Peaceful Compromise of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The paper was cited as a third-way solution, but many commissioners expressed concern that they didn’t receive the paper in time to read it.

England’s Synod agenda built around women bishop question

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] The General Synod of the Church of England meets in York in July for a five day meeting July 11-15.

The agenda for the meeting was published June 20. The agenda is constructed around a sequence of legislative business on women in the episcopate. This will begin on the afternoon of July 11 with the Report by the Business Committee on the Article 8 Reference to the dioceses.

This will be followed by the Final Drafting Stage for the Measure and Amending Canon. The House of Bishops will meet on the morning of July 12 for its consideration of the draft legislation under Article 7 of the Synod’s Constitution. The agenda allows alternative scenarios for the afternoon of July 13 to enable the Convocations and the House of Laity to debate the draft legislation if they claim a reference under Article 7.  If these stages are completed, the Synod will take the Final Approval stage during the morning of July 14.

On the afternoon of Friday 11 July, the Synod will be debating the first consideration of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure and the associated Amending Canon No.34, which give effect to proposals in developed in response to the reports of the Chichester commissaries and approved by the Synod in February.  Changes will include making it easier to suspend clergy, or bring complaints against them, where abuse is alleged, enabling bishops to compel clergy to undergo risk assessments and imposing a duty on clergy,churchwardens and PCCs to have due regard to the House of Bishops’ safeguarding policies.

On the afternoon of July 12, the General Synod will be addressed by the US writer and theologian the Rev. Jim Wallis. Wallis is the president and founder of Sojourners magazine and the author “On God’s Side.” This will be followed by group work by Synod members on the same theme, culminating in a debate later that afternoon on a motion from the Mission and Public Affairs Council.

On July13  there will be a presentation by the president and CEO designate of the newly-established Churches’ Mutual Credit Union. The aim of the CMCU is to provide a mutual ethical vehicle for tax efficient savings and affordable loans for clergy and staff of church charities. It is hoped that the establishment of the CMCU will help to support and strengthen the credit union movement and provide a viable, ethical alternative to mainstream banking for people irrespective of their financial status. Also on July 13 the Synod will be debating the draft new Additional Texts for Holy Baptism in accessible language which have been drawn up by the Liturgical Commission and which have been passed by the House of Bishops to the Synod for First Consideration.

On the morning of July 14 there will be a presentation followed by a debate on a motion promoted by the Mission and Public Affairs Council on The Armed Forces Covenant and Community Covenant. The motion invites many community bodies, including local authorities, churches and others to join the initiative which offers pastoral care for members of the Armed Forces Community.  The opening presentation will be from the new Bishop to the Armed Forces, the Rt. Rev. Nigel Stock.

There will be a debate on the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta on a motion moved on behalf of the Guildford Diocesan Synod.  A motion on the Spare Room Subsidy from the Diocese of Bradford (now part of the diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales) is listed as contingency business.  A Private Member’s Motion from the Rev. Christopher Hobbs on Canon B 8 (vesture), postponed from the previous Group of Sessions is scheduled for the evening of July. 12

This group of sessions has a substantial legislative program in addition to the items already mentioned, including legislation on synodical elections, ecclesiastical property, the faculty jurisdiction and pensions.

The full agenda can be viewed here.

Synod papers can be found here.

Celebrating World Refugee Day

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Diocese of Olympia] For young people like Abel, a 24-year old refugee from Eritrea, the prospect of starting from scratch in a new society on his own hit him suddenly. “You know, I think all people want to make success. But we struggle, all of us do. That was what I realized right away. That maybe I needed a little help,” Abel said.

Thankfully for these energetic newcomers, the Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO) provides support through Individual Development Accounts (or IDAs). IDAs are like starter kits for low-income working refugees who are saving money to build assets – home purchases, business start-ups, or post-secondary or technical degrees. Provided they complete a financial literacy course and a savings plan agreement, participants will receive a one-to-one grant match of their savings that is committed toward their asset-building goal.

Despite working full-time at SeaTac International Airport – a two hour daily bus commute from his residence in Shoreline, Washington – Abel showed a willingness to challenge himself further and reach for new goals. Last year, he signed up for evening classes at Seattle’s Evergreen Truck Driving School, which provides would-be freight operators with hands on training to pass the Washington state Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) exam. By signing up for the Diocese of Olympia’s IDA program, Abel got the opportunity to receive a grant that covered half the cost of tuition for the six-month long course.

“The class was very helpful. And it prepared me for what I needed to do next,” Abel said, smiling. “Start my own business.

Completing his IDA account gave Abel important benefits. For one, finishing the CDL course gave him the knowledge and skills he needed to succeed in a career in freight operation. Second, the financial discipline that he earned through completing his IDA savings plan gave him convenient entry into the diocesan micro-enterprise loan program. Since 2003, the RRO has managed a diocesan loan fund that, with help from RRO, allows qualified applicants to borrow micro-loans towards start-up businesses. Abel eagerly completed the required business planning coursework, credit counseling sessions, and market research offered by diocesan staff, becoming eligible for a $5,000 loan. Within a month of finishing his CDL course, he had already managed to get his trucking business off the ground, using his loan to invest in an FC2 Freightliner truck.

“I found a for-hire company in Seattle. So I’m ready to work for the Port (of Seattle), and anyone else,” Abel says laughing, standing beside his new truck.

While Abel’s example shows what great feats can be accomplished through an individual’s initiative to succeed, he is quick to give credit to the support he received from others. “All of the classes I took (at the Diocese of Olympia) really helped me – helped me to understand financial problems and the business world, and to spend my money the right way. And of course the grant, which gave me my education. So I’m just very thankful for all of the help I can get.”

For more information on the programs offered by the Refugee Resettlement Office visit http://www.dioceserroseattle.org/ or call (206) 323-3152, or email info@rroseattle.org. In addition to the IDA and micro-enterprise programs mentioned above, the RRO also offers programs and information on resettlement, immigration, English as a Second Language classes, employment assistance, citizenship classes, business training, financial literacy training, and STARS training.

– Kevin deVoss is a business development specialist in the Diocese of Olympia Refugee Resettlement Office.

 

Episcopal parties file petition for review by U.S. Supreme Court

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth press release] On June 19, 2014, The Episcopal Church and loyal Episcopal parties and congregations of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. A copy of the petition is here.

The Fort Worth parties were joined in the filing by the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas and the officials from the continuing Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo. Both dioceses have suffered from breakaway factions that swore to uphold The Episcopal Church before breaking ties and claiming to take historic Episcopal names, churches, and property with them. Episcopal parties in both dioceses won summary judgments from the trial courts under 100 years of Texas law, before the Texas Supreme Court changed the rules of the game and undid decades-old intrachurch arrangements. Both Episcopal parties have now been locked out of their historic houses of worship for half a decade.

The Episcopal Parties have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review these August 30, 2013, decisions of the Texas Supreme Court. A statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas on the Good Shepherd opinion is here, and a statement of from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth on the Texas Supreme Court opinion is here. In those decisions, the Texas Supreme Court retroactively changed more than 100 years of Texas precedent to substitute a “neutral principles” test for the “deference” test in church property disputes; the court also held that the Church’s Dennis Canon, a trust canon enacted at the U.S. Supreme Court’s instruction in 1979, was “not good enough under Texas law.”

The petition asks the U.S. Supreme Court to address three federal constitutional questions:

1. Whether the First Amendment or Jones v. Wolf requires courts to enforce express trusts recited in general-church governing documents (as some jurisdictions hold), or whether such a trust is enforceable only when it would otherwise comply with state law (as others hold).

2. Whether retroactive application of the neutral-principles approach infringes free-exercise rights.

3. Whether the neutral-principles approach endorsed in Jones remains a constitutionally viable means of resolving church-property disputes, especially in light of Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.

The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to decide whether to review these questions when it resumes its new term on October 6, 2014. If review is granted, the parties will file briefs and give oral argument, with a decision possible by the end of the term in June 2015.

The Episcopal parties’ legal counsel are joined by U.S. Supreme Court practitioners Neal Katyal with Hogan Lovells US, LLP and John P. Elwood with Vinson & Elkins, LLP.

The Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, said, “This request for review by the U.S. Supreme Court is but one of many pieces necessary to our work to resolve this dispute that has disrupted the Episcopal community in this diocese. We remain confident that eventually we will recover the exclusive rights to use our historic names and properties for the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church. As we continue to pray for the breakaway members who left our worship communities, we also continue to delight in the many new ways that God is using us and The Episcopal Church to bring spiritual renewal to this area of Texas.”

In related news, the remand of the case to the 141st District Court in Tarrant County continues even as the parties seek Supreme Court review. The Honorable Judge John P. Chupp entered a scheduling order that includes pleading and discovery deadlines and sets the hearing on motions for summary judgment for December 17, 2014. A copy of the docket control order is here. At the Court’s urging, the breakaway groups committed on the record and in sworn discovery responses that they would not sell or encumber any disputed church property until the resolution of this case without first notifying the Episcopal parties and seeking approval from the Court.

Presbyterian Assembly allows pastors to perform same-gender marriage

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Assembly news] After clearing a number of procedural hurdles, the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) agreed to grant pastors discretion in determining whether or not to conduct same-gender marriages in civil jurisdictions where such marriages are legal.

The action effectively removes the ban on Presbyterian pastors marrying same-gender couples in those jurisdictions.

The Assembly approved sending out for presbytery approval a constitutional amendment to W-4.9001 of the PC(USA)’s Book of Order that would change the constitutional definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two people, traditionally between a man and a woman.”

The vote on the authoritative interpretation – which takes effect immediately – was 371-238 or 61 percent to 39 percent.

The vote on the proposed constitutional amendment – which goes to the denomination’s 172 presbyteries for ratification – was 429-175 or 71 percent to 29 percent. A majority of the presbyteries must vote approval of the measure for it to take effect.

Commissioners apparently agreed with speakers who argued that ministers must have pastoral discretion around marriage decisions, particularly in the 19 states and the District of Columbia where same-gender marriage is legal.

The direction of the authoritative interpretation debate was set by Teaching Elder Brian Franzen of San Jose Presbytery, who said, “The church has to be a place that welcomes all people. The only way to do that is to allow pastors to use their conscience.”

The desire to grant pastors greater discretion on marriage decisions outweighed the concern of those backing Teaching Elder Jim Miller of Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery who said “the fragile unity of the church is at stake.”

Other opponents argued against the measure on theological grounds. Teaching Elder Ben Beres of Miami Valley Presbytery said the church “needs a faithful theology of marriage, I can’t find [biblical] support for same-sex marriage.”

The full text of the authoritative interpretation (of W-4.9000) of the Book of Order:

“Worship is a central element of the pastoral care of the people of God (W-6.3001, W-6.3010) in which a teaching elder’s discernment of the leading of the Holy Spirit is indispensable. The necessity of ensuring the exercise of freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture (G-2.0105) in the planning and leadership of worship has deep roots in our Reformed tradition and theology. Because a service of marriage is one form of such worship, when a couple requests the involvement of the church in solemnizing their marriage as permitted by the laws of the civil jurisdiction in which the marriage is to take place, teaching elders have the pastoral responsibility to assess the capabilities, intentions, and readiness of the couple to be married (W-4.9002), and the freedom of conscience in the interpretation of Scripture (G-2.0105) to participate in any such marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform.

“Exercising such discretion and freedom of conscience under the prayerful guidance of Scripture, teaching elders may conduct a marriage service for any such couple in the place where the community gathers for worship, so long as it is approved by the session; or in such other place as may be suitable for a service of Christian worship. In no case shall any teaching elder’s conscience be bound to conduct any marriage service for any couple except by his or her understanding of the Word, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

The Assembly ― like its Assembly Committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues ― was careful to protect the consciences of pastors on both sides of the same-gender marriage issue.

In addition to the protective language at the conclusion of the authoritative interpretation, the Assembly included a clause in the proposed amendment stating: “Nothing herein shall compel a teaching elder to perform nor compel a session to authorize the use of church property for a marriage service that the teaching elder or the session believes is contrary to the teaching elder’s or the session’s discernment of the Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God.”

The Assembly also reached out to Presbyterians who will certainly struggle with the proposed new definition of marriage. The words “traditionally between a man and a woman” were added by an amendment offered by Teaching Elder John Wilkinson of Genesee Valley Presbytery.

“Anything we can do to support those who hold to the traditional understanding of marriage, we should do,” Wilkinson said.

Teaching Elder Paul Roberts of Pittsburgh Presbytery, founder of the conservative Confessing Church Movement, supported Wilkinson’s suggestion, calling it “really inclusive language.”

A move to appoint a task force to study the issue of same-gender marriage for two years rather than take any action at this Assembly failed 372-237 or 61 percent to 39 percent.

At a press conference following the votes, General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada said he expects to spend much of his time during the coming year seeking to reconcile Presbyterians who disagree on same-gender marriage. “When Presbyterians gather, they tend to talk more about what holds us together ― the same faith in Jesus Christ.” An experienced mediator, Rada said he hopes to use those skills to hold the church together.

General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons acknowledged the historic decisions made by the Assembly. “The conversations about sexuality began in 1978,” he said, referring to an authoritative interpretation that year that declared “homosexuality does not accord with God’s plan for humanity.”

“There have been places along the way when our talk turned to action, and this is one of those days,” Parsons said, adding that “both the church and the society have changed – more people are getting to know gays and lesbians, laws are changing and pastoral situations are changing.”

After the decision, church leaders issued a pastoral letter to the church calling for unity and saying that “the Assembly’s action today is the result of deep discernment to hear God’s voice and discern God’s will.”

Monastic community at Walt Disney World

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Digital Monastics press release] During the month of November 2014, people will gather to create a monastic community at the Walt Disney World Resort. In addition to praying the daily office, monastics will practice spiritual disciplines to enhance personal beliefs and and community response to God.

This November, a monastic community will PRAY the daily office; REFLECT on God’s Holy Story; PRACTICE spiritual disciplines connecting us with God and with God’s people; DISCERN how God speaks through popular culture; and IMAGINE and LIVE into a rule of life claiming space within God’s sacred story.

The inaugural retreat coincides with the release of A Disney Monastic: theme park travel guide for the God seeker, The Rev. Kevin M. Goodman’s book about discovering God through spiritual practices while riding some of Disney’s most popular theme park attractions.

This guide “acknowledges both the wonder and magic of the world and the sometimes harsh realities of living in it.” (The Rev. Sarah K. Fisher). In fourteen chapters, the guide begins and ends with a chapter titled “Where Am I Going?” Each chapter challenges the reader to think about and to respond in writing to questions, such as “How Do I Feed Myself and My Neighbor?” (Hunger) and “Can I Change?” (Judgment) Each chapter references a major attraction in Walt Disney World, characters and their behaviors in Disney’s movies, and a Biblical passage related to the behaviors of these characters – all presenting a journal – writing experience.

A talented group of faculty will serve the monastic community providing lectures, spiritual direction and small group reflection.

The retreat concludes during Epcot’s annual Food and Wine Festival. A festival add – on option is available for those who want to stay and taste and discover incredible food and wines from around the world.

The inaugural retreat is organized by Digital Monastics LLC, a creative and supportive outlet for all people doing Gospel work -
a network of people designing retreats, writing books, creating art and seeking Christ at all times and in all places.

For more information on Disney Monastics | Digital Monastics LLC: www.disneymonastics.com

Presiding Bishop’s greetings to Moravian Northern Province

Thursday, June 19, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The remarks from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori were delivered June 19 to the Moravian Church in North America Northern Province Synod meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Travel difficulties prevent the presiding bishop from delivering her remarks in person as intended. Neva Rae Fox, the Episcopal Church’s public affairs officer, read out Jefferts Schori’s remarks.

Moravian Northern Province Greeting 19 June 2014

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

I greet you on behalf of The Episcopal Church which is located in 17 nations: Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Micronesia (includes Saipan as well as Guam), Switzerland, Taiwan, the United States (including Puerto Rico), Venezuela, Virgin Islands (including British VI). Places where we overlap with this Moravian province and others in the Unitas Fratrum. Like you, we are part of a global fellowship of provinces, the Anglican Communion. Episcopalians and Moravians are still just beginning to explore what it means to be in full communion with one another. We celebrate the fact that there is now one partnership in North Carolina, and one beginning in central Pennsylvania. I hope and pray that we will continue to grow into a living “covenant in heart and hand.”

As a Church, we’re a product of the English Reformation, with significant influence by the Continental reformers and your own forebears. Anglicanism grew out of the early Christian witness in Britain, from as early as the 2nd century, having come with Roman soldiers. Alban is recognized as the first martyr in Britain, and I will take you with me in prayer to the celebration of his feast at St. Alban’s Cathedral in England on Saturday. Christianity took root and indigenized, and when Augustine of Canterbury was sent to Britain with some other monks by Gregory the Great in the 6th century, he was reminded to bless the good he found there and work with the rest.

That’s probably a helpful frame for a gift Anglicans and Moravians share – a comfort with diversity and a willingness to look for the presence of God at work in a wide range of theological positions, liturgical practices, and contexts. We claim catholic, reformed, and liberal strands within Anglicanism, and at our best we believe that each has important gifts to offer the larger tradition. We prize unity over uniformity, even though working that out is frequently messy. Your own willingness to affirm the confessional documents of a range of Christian bodies, finding truth in each, is a constructive parallel.

We take worship and the practice of holiness with deep seriousness as well as an eagerness to find beauty and truth in all we do. We are increasingly remembering that our part in God’s mission requires us to turn outward into God’s larger creation, human and otherwise, to seek and produce beauty and truth in incarnate social form – as justice and peace.

We also govern ourselves synodically, with lay persons, priests, deacons, and bishops working together to discern the movement of the Spirit as we make decisions on behalf of the whole Church.

We’ve been working for many years on fuller inclusion of all God’s people – beginning with Native Americans and slaves in the colonial years on this continent. We have never done this work quickly or easily, but it has been inexorable, as the Church has affirmed the full dignity and equality of people of color, women, children, and now gay and lesbian persons. We have struggled amid fear and trembling, but we have discovered God’s guiding spirit in the midst of it, and renewed life and joy when the hard decisions have been made. You are in our prayers as you wrestle here.

As we seek to grow into the one body of Christ, we are discovering new gifts and possibilities for God’s mission in all our communion partners. We give thanks for your partnership and your willingness to teach us about the truth you know, and we promise you the same. I ask your prayers for us.

May God continue to richly bless the Moravian Church, your ministry, and the work and world we share. We give thanks for you, and pray that together we can witness more fully to our friendship in Christ.

Catherine Roskam to serve St. James’, L.A., as bishop-in-charge

Thursday, June 19, 2014

[Episcopal News, Los Angeles] Bishop Catherine Roskam, retired bishop suffragan of the Diocese of New York, has been called as bishopin-charge under special circumstances at St. James’ Church on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles,  beginning July 1.

Roskam has lived in the Diocese of Los Angeles since her retirement in 2012. She has frequently assisted Bishop J. Jon Bruno and Bishops Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Glasspool with pastoral visits to congregations.

“I feel blessed to be called to St James-in-the-City with its rich diversity, its compassionate outreach, its commitment to education, and its excellence in liturgy,” Roskam told The Episcopal News. “I’m so looking forward to this new phase of our ministry together to the glory of God.”

Roskam, a native New Yorker, graduated as a theatre major from Middlebury College in 1965, and worked as an actress and producer in New York for 16 years, until she began her studies at General Seminary in 1980, graduating cum laude in 1984. She is one of three bishops honored by the establishment of the F. A. R. and Wide Scholarship to enable a General Seminary student to spend six weeks in a mission setting somewhere in the Anglican Communion.

Roskam served as bishop suffragan in New York from January 1996  until January 1, 2012. She was a member of the Anglican Consultative Council for nine of those years and on Executive Council for a six-year term.

“Through the interplay of these three positions, the world of global mission was opened to me in the most unexpected and enriching way” she wrote. “Several global partnerships grew out of relationships that held firm in “the bonds of affection” even through the troubles.”

Roskam helped to found Carpenter’s Kids, a partnership between the Diocese of New York and the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, and now including other dioceses, enables over 7,000 AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children to go to school and have a nutritious breakfast every school day.

She was also a founder of The Global Women’s Fund to support the education of Anglican women, with priority given to those entering seminary, a program that “now has terrific success stories to tell about women, both lay and ordained, in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, The Philippines, Haiti and Honduras.,” Roskam writes. “I am so proud of those endeavors and have such affection for the dear friends who labored with me in those particular vineyards, the energetic, entrepreneurial Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (who sadly died this past May), and Canon Jolly Babirukamu of Uganda, a fellow member of the ACC whose life has been devoted to the empowerment of women in Africa.”

Education  was a strong theme for her episcopate. “We began an initiative called All Our Children, in support of public education. We challenged every congregation to become involved with their local public school and every individual Episcopalian to give 40 hours a year in direct service or advocacy or teacher support.”

Roskam has been an associate of the Society of St. John the Evangelist since 1981. “Now I spend most of my time with my family, especially my husband of 47 years and our 5 year old grandson. I also study Hebrew at American Jewish University and am studying Torah at Valley Beth Shalom in Van Nuys.”

Presiding Bishop’s 2014 World Refugee Day message

Thursday, June 19, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “Remember in prayer all who flee persecution and suffering in search of security and peace, remember the baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace, and reaffirm our commitment to welcoming the stranger as Christ himself,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori states in her 2014 World Refugee Day message.

World Refugee Day is June 20, and in her message, the Presiding Bishop also heralds the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) for its extensive resettlement and advocacy efforts.

The following is Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s message.

2014 World Refugee Day

I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

On June 20, communities across the globe will celebrate World Refugee Day, honoring the strength, resilience, and contributions of refugees. In 2014, the world has seen the heights to which refugees can rise when given the chance to start a new life in dignity and peace. A former refugee became the first American citizen in a generation to win the Boston Marathon. At the same time the world has been challenged by the ongoing and urgent need to protect the vulnerable fleeing conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, the Congo, Myanmar, and Central Africa. This World Refugee Day, The Episcopal Church honors the proud legacy of our Church’s intentional work of welcoming refugees – a ministry that began in 1939 through the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are currently more than 15 million refugees worldwide, the majority of whom are women and children. These vulnerable individuals have fled their homes, often with little more than the clothes on their backs, and frequently leaving family members behind. Less than 1% of these 15 million refugees will ever be resettled in a third country. Many will live out their lives in uncertainty or the indignity of refugee “camps,” as essentially stateless persons. The United States has a proud tradition of resettling more refugees each year than any other receiving country, and since 1988 Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) has partnered with the U.S. government to welcome refugees into new communities.

In 2013 alone, EMM helped almost 5,000 refugees build new lives in security and peace in 30 communities across the United States. To carry out this work, EMM collaborates with local partner agencies in 26 Episcopal dioceses and 22 states to welcome those fleeing violence and persecution. This ministry links public funding with private donations and volunteers to accompany refugees through their first months in the United States. Each year, EMM welcomes an ever-diversifying refugee population – from more than 69 nations to date. The EMM affiliate network includes staff and volunteers who provide refugees with the essentials needed as they begin their new lives in the U.S., including housing, food, furnishings, and orientation to life in their new communities. That assistance includes connection to services like English classes and job training, access to health care, enrolling their children in school, and understanding the other services available in the community. Our communities and congregations are in turn enriched socially, culturally, and spiritually by the presence and contributions of refugees.

This World Refugee Day, remember in prayer all who flee persecution and suffering in search of security and peace, remember the baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace, and reaffirm our commitment to welcoming the stranger as Christ himself.

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

Obispa Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal presenta Mensaje de 2014 del Día Mundial de los Refugiados

Fui forastero y me acogisteis.

[19 de junio de 2014] “Recuerde en oración a todos los que huyen de la persecución y el sufrimiento y que buscan la seguridad y la paz, recuerde la promesa bautismal de luchar por la justicia y la paz, y reafirmar nuestro compromiso de dar la bienvenida al extraño como al mismo Cristo”, la Obispa Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori indica en su mensaje de 2014 del Día Mundial de los Refugiados.

El Día Mundial de los Refugiados es el 20 de junio, y en su mensaje, la Obispa Presidente también anuncia la obra del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración (EMM) y sus grandes esfuerzos de reasentamiento y defensoría.

A continuación el mensaje de la Obispa Presidente Jefferts Schori.

Día Mundial de los Refugiados 2014

Fui forastero y me acogisteis.

El 20 de junio, las comunidades de todo el mundo celebrarán el Día Mundial del Refugiado, en honor a la fuerza, resistencia, y a las contribuciones de los refugiados. En el 2014, el mundo ha podido ver lo tan alto que pueden llegar los refugiados cuando se les brinda la oportunidad de empezar una vida nueva con dignidad y paz. Un ex refugiado se convirtió en el primer ciudadano estadounidense en una generación al ganar el maratón de Boston. Al mismo tiempo, el mundo ha sido cuestionado por la necesidad continua y urgente de proteger a los vulnerables que huyen de los conflictos en Siria, Sudán del Sur, el Congo, Myanmar, y África Central. En este Día Mundial del Refugiado, la Iglesia Episcopal honra el legado de orgullo del trabajo intencional de nuestra Iglesia al acoger a los refugiados – un ministerio que comenzó en 1939 a través del Fondo de la Obispa Presidente para Ayuda Mundial.

El Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados estima que actualmente hay más de 15 millones de refugiados en todo el mundo, la mayoría de los cuales son mujeres y niños. Estos individuos vulnerables han huido de sus hogares, a menudo con poco más que la ropa que llevaban puesta, y con frecuencia dejando atrás a familiares. Menos del 1% de estos 15 millones de refugiados nunca serán re-establecidos en un tercer país. Muchos vivirán sus vidas en la incertidumbre o en la indignidad de “campos” para refugiados como personas esencialmente sin patria. Los Estados Unidos tiene una orgullosa tradición de reasentar a refugiados cada año y más que en cualquier otro país que los recibe, y desde 1988 el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración (EMM) se han asociado con el gobierno de los EE.UU. para recibir a los refugiados en nuevas comunidades.

Sólo en 2013, el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración ayudó a casi 5.000 refugiados a construir una nueva vida con seguridad y paz en 30 comunidades de los Estados Unidos. Para llevar a cabo este trabajo, la EMM colabora con agencias locales asociadas en 26 diócesis episcopales y 22 estados para dar la bienvenida a quienes huyen de la violencia y la persecución. Este ministerio vincula la financiación pública con donaciones privadas y voluntarios para acompañar a los refugiados a través de sus primeros meses que están en los Estados Unidos. Cada año, la EMM da la bienvenida a una población diversificada de refugiados – de más de 69 países hasta la fecha. La red de afiliados EMM incluye el personal y los voluntarios que proporcionan a los refugiados con los elementos necesarios a medida que comienzan su nueva vida en los EE.UU., lo cual incluye vivienda, la alimentación, el mobiliario, y la orientación sobre la vida en sus nuevas comunidades. Esa asistencia incluye la conexión a servicios como clases de inglés y capacitación para el trabajo, el acceso a la asistencia sanitaria, inscripción a sus hijos en la escuela, y tener un mejor conocimiento sobre los otros servicios disponibles en la comunidad. Nuestras comunidades y congregaciones están a su vez enriquecidas socialmente, culturalmente y espiritualmente por la presencia y las contribuciones de los refugiados.

En este Día Mundial del Refugiado, recuerde en oración a todos los que huyen de la persecución y el sufrimiento y que buscan la seguridad y la paz, recuerde la promesa bautismal de luchar por la justicia y la paz, y reafirmar nuestro compromiso de dar la bienvenida al extraño como al mismo Cristo.

La Reverendísima Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primada
La Iglesia Episcopal

SCLM provides information on Indaba-style gathering

Thursday, June 19, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has provided information following an Indaba meeting in Kansas City, MO on June 3 – 5.

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music
The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SLCM) of The Episcopal Church recently held a two-and-a-half-day Indaba-style conversation on same-sex marriage June 3-5 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, MO.

The conversation included leaders from across the Anglican Communion, ecumenical partners, and lay and clergy representatives from Episcopal dioceses where civil same-sex marriage is legal.

“The overwhelming feel of the entire gathering was one of openness, love, trust, and joy,” said Kathleen Moore, Diocese of Vermont. “Over the course of just three days, many participants who hailed from different states, countries, and denominations shared the profound closeness they now feel toward one another, and an intent to remain in touch.”

The first half of the gathering featured Indaba-style discussion that sought to develop an understanding of civil marriage and the church’s response in different contexts. Indaba is a method of having purposeful conversation, especially about issues that may invite disagreement or diverse viewpoints, that is common in some African cultures.

The second half focused specifically on discussing and hearing responses to “I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing,” the rite and related resources for blessing same-sex relationships approved at the 77th General Convention in 2012.

The SCLM held the meeting to fulfill, in part, Resolution A049’s directive to invite responses “from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals from throughout The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and from our ecumenical partners,” in order to report back to the 78th General Convention in 2015.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori encouraged openness. “We are here to encounter a diverse sample of God’s creation and consider how we might effectively support and nurture that journey in community for all without resort to rigidity or anarchy,” she said. “Neither is Anglican. So enjoy the discovery and don’t jump to conclusions. Be open to God’s still-and ever-unfolding creative spirit.”

As an introduction to the Indaba-style conversation, each participant was asked to introduce himself or herself and an object that represents what he or she brings to the conversation. The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music Chair, opened by introducing her object, a photograph of two women at whose blessing she officiated. Meyers explained, “I have heard so many stories. This photo reminds me of the couples whose hopes and dreams are expressed in this process.”

Ulysses Dietz, Diocese of Newark, brought his wedding ring. He recounted his journey through the years that began when he and his husband Gary entered into a private covenant in 1975, followed by a civil union, and finally a marriage. They were married by the mayor of Maplewood, NJ. Dietz explained: “When the mayor asked about rings, I said, ‘forget the rings.’ What we got was the word ‘husband.’ Words are important.”

Echoing that sentiment, Jeff Diehl, Diocese of El Camino Real, brought the liturgy from his upcoming marriage. Diehl told participants, “It is incredible that our names are written under the words ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of Marriage.’ We belong to a church that acknowledges us for who we are, that blesses our family, that loves our family.”

The Rev. Jacynthia Murphy of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia brought with her a dress with the Maori symbol koru to remind participants that “we are all joined.” She also taught the Maori greeting of hongi – rubbing noses and exchanging breath – to remind all present that “you belong to each other and to all of creation.”

A highlight of the gathering was enacting the “Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” liturgy. Meyers served as “Presider,” while the Rev. Jane Stewart and Linda Kroon, Diocese of Iowa, who happened to be celebrating their 15th anniversary that day, served as “the couple.” Though it was only a reading of the text and not an actual use of the liturgy, several of those present were moved to tears. The Rev. Marinez R. S. Bassotto from Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil observed that this liturgy sounded very much like the Holy Matrimony liturgy in Brazil. “What I heard was a marriage,” she said.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, preached at the meeting’s closing Eucharist. “If every person is of equal value, a beloved child of God, then every baptized member of this Church has equal claim on everything the Church offers,” she said. “Equal value. Equal claim. It’s not rocket science…It’s an amazing privilege to work so that all may claim their rightful inheritance. Talk about a love story.”

At the meeting’s end, a number of Episcopal participants said that while the church has come a long way in its effort to treat all of its members as equals, the difference between the church offering same-sex couples a blessing and other couples a marriage was of great concern.

“Speaking from the perspective of the clergy group at the gathering, I would say that we felt that as priests we are in a particularly difficult position,” said the Rev. Amy Welin, Diocese of Connecticut. “The distinction between a blessing and holy matrimony is not insignificant. As we have vowed both to obey our bishops and to care for all our people, this puts parish clergy in a pastorally tenuous role.”

Bishop Thomas C. Ely of Vermont, who serves on the Task Force on the Study of Marriage as well as the SCLM, said this gathering gave “much to be able to take back into our work based on conversation with people living this reality on the ground, and hearing the pastoral challenges local clergy are facing.”

Meyers described the experience as “amazing,” adding, “You hope and you pray – and when you stand back and give the Holy Spirit room to do her work, it’s astonishing.”

Video: One young adult…and a Roman refugee center

Thursday, June 19, 2014
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This video story is being published in time for World Refugee Day, which is observed on June 20.

[Episcopal News Service] In the shadow of the Colosseum, one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, the Colle Oppio Park is home to many of Rome’s refugees.

A mile north, in the crypt of the Episcopal Church’s St. Paul’s Within the Walls, some of those refugees find a breakfast and a host of other resources to survive and to rebuild their lives in Italy.

The Joel Nafuma Refugee Center is where Jared Grant’s vocation has led him this year. It’s his second year as a volunteer with the Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corps program, widely known as YASC. He previously served in Lesotho in South Africa. The two experiences could not have been more varied, but in Grant’s discernment for the priesthood, they also could not have been more valuable.

Jenny Korwan is also working at the refugee center for a few months. She’s not long back from Kenya where she served for a year with the YASC program. As with many YASC volunteers, mission is in her blood.

Further information about YASC is available here.

Additional videos in this ENS series highlighting the ministry of YASC missionaries follow.

One young adult…and a South African clinic

One young adult…and a provincial archives

One young adult…and a mission for migrant workers

One young adult…and a mission to seafarers

The forgotten story of the Nuba Mountain people

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

[World Council of Churches press release] The security situation for the people of the Nuba Mountain region of Sudan has continued to deteriorate recently with increased attacks on civilians and the denial of basic human rights.

This region was included in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 that led to the independence of South Sudan. The future of the state of South Kordofan, where the Nuba Mountains are located, along with two other areas, were left to popular consultations after 2005. After six years, this process broke down and war reignited in June of 2011.

The urgency of the current situation was brought to the attention of church leaders at the recentconsultation for Regional Ecumenical Organizations and National Councils of Churches, sponsored by the WCC and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), in Nairobi, Kenya from 2 to 7 June. During the meetings, the general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, Rev. Kori Elramla Kori Kuku, urged the international ecumenical community to intervene and bring peace to Sudan.

“We want this war to stop,” he said. “People are suffering, many already died. Most of our churches were destroyed and the bombings also affect the rural areas so that our people are not being able to farm,” added Kuku.

In 2009, the local office of the AACC in Nyala, South Darfur state, was closed. The Sudan Council of Churches is asking for support from the international ecumenical community to engage in dialogue with the local government.

Former WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia is the AACC’s ecumenical special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. He has urged the international community to engage in fast and effective advocacy work.

“It is time to double our efforts in solidarity with the people in that region. Churches and ecumenical councils in Sudan and South Sudan are operating in a very hostile environment,” he said. “The ecumenical movement has a very important role to play, not only through statements, but also by visiting these communities.”

Kobia also pointed to the primacy of the voices coming from the ground. “Whatever we say on the international level must be based and inspired by what we receive directly from the people and churches experiencing this war. One of our main tasks is to amplify their voices,” he concluded.

Meanwhile the Nuba people continue to face escalating insecurity. Hunger increases as they have not been able to plant or harvest. Over 70,000 fled to camps in South Sudan.

Many trek back to their homes – a trip requiring one to two weeks in the rainy season- to share their meager rations with those left behind. Unaccompanied children are moving between the camp and Unity state where there is a strong possibility of being abducted and recruited to fight in the war or to be used as sex slaves.

Women pick leaves for food in the rainy season. Occasionally they find wild fruit; however, it is hardly enough.

They grind grass seed into flow to make porridge. In the dry season, they cook roots and seeds so bitter that they have to be boiled three times, all the while aware that smoke increases the potential for aerial attacks.

Texting and social media from the ground show that bombing of civilian areas by the Sudanese military has been intensifying over the past three months.

Civilians are being targeted, some villages have been repeatedly bombed. Markets are attacked on market days.

Children cannot go to school. The people cannot escape to the north because of the presence of government troops and they face increasing difficulty fleeing to South Sudan because of the violence raging there between government troops and rebels.

More than 350,000 people are now living in caves, nearby mountains or the bush, sharing the space with hyenas and other wild animals who are also seeking shelter from the bombing.

The WCC is proposing and urging a wide ecumenical advocacy campaign to raise awareness on the situation in Nuba Mountains and South Kordofan in general, taking into account that this crisis is been overshadowed by the conflicts in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Syria.

Ecumenical organizations have been outspoken in condemning aerial bombing and insisting that the UN pressure the Sudanese government to stop targeting civilians.

Learn more about the Nuba situation: http://nubareports.org

Read also: Church councils reflect on the spirit of Christian unity in a time of change (WCC news release, 5 June 2014)

Sudanese churches an important voice in rebuilding nation (WCC news release, 26 April 2013)

WCC member churches in Sudan