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United Thank Offering announces special anniversary grants awardees

Monday, October 27, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The awardees have been announced for The Episcopal Church United Thank Offering’s special $12,500 grants 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 will 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 projects, to be completed by May 1, 2015, will be showcased at 78thGeneral Convention in Salt Lake City, UT in June 25- July 3, 2015.

Recipients

The recipients are:

The Presiding Bishop’s Award

The Episcopal Church Responds to the Central American Migrant Border Crisis
Episcopal Migration Ministries, The Mission Department of the DFMS

To call a missionary and launch new programs which will equip the Church to respond more effectively to the ongoing crisis at the United States’ southern border, which involves child migrants from Central American countries. The children, with and without their mothers, are fleeing gang related violence and insecurity from the unwillingness or inability of Central American governments to protect their own. The programs will build a mechanism to link local needs of the border dioceses with volunteers and donations coming from other dioceses, as well as to establish a pro bono immigration network.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori,26th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

Province I: Diocese of New Hampshire

Just Witness/Remembering Jonathan Daniels
Outreach Commission, Concord, NH

To support three events to commemorate the witness of New Hampshire’s own Jonathan Daniels who suffered martyrdom as an Episcopal seminarian working for voting rights in the South in 1965. The first event will focus on gun violence; the second will be a summit of social justice issues, which will challenge the current unjust structures in place; and the third will focus on peacemaking both interpersonally and globally.

The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Diocese of New Hampshire

Province II: Diocese of Albany

Oaks of Righteousness Transportation
Oaks of Righteousness, Troy, NY

To purchase a used family size passenger van, which will be used for transportation of youth and families, involved in the Oaks of Righteousness ministry. The ministry serves one of the toughest and most dangerous areas in the New York Capitol region. The area has a high rate of poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, single parent homes and gang activity. The van will allow the youth of the streets to participate on a basketball team, which helps them to understand the OAKS ministry team cares for them as does God. The van will also be used to transport the youth to camp and mentoring sessions at various locations.

The Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Diocese of Albany

Province III: Diocese of Southwestern Virginia

Grace House Kitchen
Grace House on the Mountain, Roanoke, VA

To provide a commercially equipped kitchen for Grace House on the Mountain located in the Appalachian region of Southwestern Virginia. Grace House provides meals to the many volunteer workers who come to the area to work to help improve the lives of the coal miners and their families by renovating the substandard homes. A needed breakfast program for the families on the mountain will be launched as soon as the commercial kitchen is in place.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Bourlakas, Diocese of Southwestern Virginia

Province IV: Diocese of North Carolina

La Sembrada/A Time for Sowing
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Greensboro, NC

To hire a bi-lingual priest with cultural facilities and community building skills to be the key leader in the creating of a strong community of faith outside the walls of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Greensboro. This will involve building mutual and meaningful relationships among believers of many cultures. These relationships can lead to collective action for the well-being of the most vulnerable. La Sembrada goal is to bring the neighborhood community together to identify issues that will make their life more livable and gain allies and partners to help them achieve their goals against domestic violence and social isolation.

The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Diocese of North Carolina

Province V: Diocese of Michigan

The Lazarus Lives! Photo Exhibit: God and Youth on Detroit Streets
Detroit, MI

To provide an opportunity for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-attractional and Transgender (LGBT) youth of Detroit to tell their stories of their experiences with God on the streets of Detroit through a photographic exhibit. They will use their cell phones to photograph where they find God in their daily experiences, including the good the bad and the ugly.

The Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr., Diocese of Michigan

Province VI: Diocese of Minnesota

Youth Bicycle Programs Building Community on the White Earth Indian Reservation
RezCycle in Partnership with the White Earth of Ojibwe and the White Earth Boys & Girls Club Network
White Earth Indian Reservation, MN

To rehabilitate a bus which will be used as a roving bicycle shop and purchase the needed tools for the shop. The bicycle programs on the reservation will allow youth between 12 and 18 to have an opportunity to earn bikes after participating in 15 hours of programming and youth with broken bikes will be able to help in fixing their bikes “for free.” Bike-building skills allows the youth to gain self-esteem, job skills and will help to form a positive community as an alternative to gangs and violence. Having the bus as a roving shop will allow the whole reservation of 1,093 square miles to be served.

The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior, Diocese of Minnesota

Province VII: Diocese of Rio Grande

Project Borderland Reach
Rio Grande Borderland Ministries
Albuquerque, NM

To purchase a late model, low mileage, 4-wheel drive pickup truck to help in the delivery of goods such as food, clothing and blankets throughout the expanse of the Borderland area of New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. The region is riddled with violence, poverty, hunger and the disenfranchisement of the poor. In order to provide fresh and frozen foods a refrigerator and chest freezer will be purchase for the food facility in Columbus, New Mexico.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Louis Vono, D.D., Diocese of the Rio Grande

Province VIII: Diocese of Olympia

Lilies of the Field
Santa Maria Magdalena, Burien, Washington
Gray Harbor County, WA

To provide seed money for growing the community of Christ in fresh ways; to build relationships and find ways together to build a more just society; to identify leadership and finding new ways of formation that make sense to “new communities” and the Church today. Two vastly different areas are part of the project: the urban community of Burien at the south end of the Seattle city limits and Grays Harbor Community, a rural county on the coast. In Burien the seed money will be for clergy member to work in the community and in the County of Grays Harbor County to form base communities, which will develop into worshiping communities wherever they may be.

The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, Diocese of Olympia

Province IX: Diocese of Ecuador Litoral

Program for youth in recovery process for drug and alcohol addiction
Celebrate Recovery 12 step with the Bible Holy Trinity Episcopal
Santa Elena, Ecuador

To support a professional individual who will provide programs for those who have addictions to alcohol and drugs.

The Rt. Rev. Alfredo Morante Espana, Diocese of Ecuador Litoral

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.

UTO: www.episcopalchurch.org/uto

Las iglesias tienen un papel que desempeñar en el fomento del discurso civil en la sociedad

Monday, October 27, 2014

El Rdo. Tim Safford, rector de la iglesia de Cristo en Filadelfia, saluda el 22 de octubre a los asistentes al foro, auspiciado por la Iglesia Episcopal, El discurso civil en Estados Unidos: encontrar criterios coincidentes para el bien mayor, en tanto Clifton Daniel, obispo provisional de la Diócesis de Pensilvania, lo escucha. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Filadelfia] Los estadounidenses están cada vez más preocupados por la polarización del debate político en el país, y las comunidades religiosas pueden ayudar a fomentar un regreso al diálogo respetuoso, dijeron los panelistas que participaron en el foro sobre el discurso civil auspiciado por la Iglesia Episcopal aquí el 22 de octubre.

Las tres religiones abrahámicas —judaísmo, cristianismo e islam— creen que las personas son creadas a imagen de Dios, les recordó a los participantes el Rabí Steve Gutow, presidente y director ejecutivo del Consejo Judío sobre Asuntos Públicos, de manera que las personas de fe deben encontrarse mutuamente como si tuvieran una chispa de la gran sabiduría de Dios en ellos, de la cual otros pueden aprender, incluso cuando no están de acuerdo.

Las comunidades religiosas, dijo él, deben actuar a partir de lo que definió como un apasionado compromiso con lo que creen que Dios está llamándoles a hacer, así como un apasionado compromiso con la idea de que cada persona es creada a imagen de Dios y por consiguiente merece respeto.

Prince Singh, obispo de la Diócesis de Rochester, resaltando que el foro se había reunido en el festival hindú de las luces que se conoce como Diwali, dijo que constituye una disciplina espiritual resistir el impulso a demonizar al oponente y más bien esforzarse por aportar luz, en lugar de calor, a las conversaciones sobre temas potencialmente divisivos.

Organizado por la Iglesia Episcopal, el foro de 90 minutos de duración, titulado El discurso civil en Estados Unidos: encontrar criterios coincidentes para el bien mayor, fue transmitido en directo a través de la Red desde la iglesia de Cristo [Christ Church] en Filadelfia (Diócesis de Pensilvania), el lugar de nacimiento de la Iglesia Episcopal y el templo que figuró significativamente en la fundación de Estados Unidos.

Las sesiones pronto podrán verse a solicitud aquí.

Los organizadores crearon una guía del moderador para ayudar en los debates del grupo y para una mejor comprensión del foro. La información acerca de la guía se encuentra aquí y se puede descargar aquí.

“Nuestras conversaciones están limitadas por la fragilidad humana, pero también pueden participar de las posibilidades divinas y eternas”, dijo la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori en su discurso de apertura, añadiendo que esto último es posible cuando los conservacionistas se acercan mutuamente no como enemigos, sino más bien como “un ser humano dotado y bendecido que podría tener un don que darnos”.

“Sigo convencida de que las conversaciones cara a cara tienen más posibilidades de ser vivificadoras que esas incorpóreas en que tanto participamos por mensajes de texto, a través de Twitter o en un blog”, afirmó.

“Cuando dejamos de ver la verdadera belleza humana y resaltamos los defectos de nuestros interlocutores, es fácil inyectar veneno en lugar de esperar una transformación”.

Antes de que comenzaran los dos paneles del foro, Robert Jones, el director ejecutivo de la oficina del Instituto Público sobre la Investigación Religiosa, resumió brevemente una encuesta de opinión pública que su organización llevó a cabo con la Iglesia Episcopal en conjunto con el foro. El resumen, “¿Es aun posible la civilidad? Lo que los estadounidenses quieren en los líderes públicos y en el discurso público”, llegó a la conclusión de que “pese a estar divididos por generaciones, por religión, por razas y por alianzas políticas partidistas, los estadounidenses expresan una intensa preferencia por el acuerdo” y “el apetito del público por el acuerdo es creciente”.

Los medios de información fragmentados y polarizados del país contribuye a la falta de civilidad en el discurso público, concluía el informe, ya que los medios de prensa “recompensan la retórica en el debate político que con frecuencia tiene por objeto crear conflicto y drama a expensas de la moderación”.

No obstante, “la inmensa mayoría del público cree que la ausencia de un discurso civil es un problema importante para el funcionamiento de nuestro sistema político”, según el informe.

Las instituciones religiosas se han convertido en un obstáculo en sus empeños de fomentar el diálogo porque las congregaciones siguen estando segregadas conforme a criterios raciales e incluso ideológicos, concluía el informe. “Las organizaciones religiosas deben pasar también por los descendentes niveles de confianza en las instituciones cívicas, particularmente entre los jóvenes adultos”, decía el informe. “Cuando los líderes religiosos se concentran en los temas controvertidos, es más probable que los estadounidense nos perciban como parte del problema que como una posible solución”.

John J. DeGioia, presidente de la Universidad de Georgetown y panelista del foro sobre el discurso civil, hace un comentario mientras los demás escuchan. De izquierda a derecha, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, director ejecutivo de religión del Huffington Post; el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente y director ejecutivo del Consejo Judío sobre Asuntos Públicos; Elizabeth McCloskey, presidente y directora ejecutiva del Instituto de Fe y Política y el obispo Prince Singh de la Diócesis Episcopal de Rochester. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Durante el panel sobre discurso civil y fe, John J. DeGioia, presidente de la Universidad de Georgetown, convino con el punto de Jefferts Schori sobre las conversaciones cara a cara. Las conversaciones individuales, afirmó, con frecuencia dan lugar a desacuerdos mucho menores que las discusiones más concurridas durante las cuales los individuos rara vez llegan a relacionarse entre sí.

En esas pequeñas conversaciones, los participantes encuentran que son más las coas que los unen que las que los separan, dijo, y añadió que la iglesias deben hacer hincapié en las cosas que comparte la comunidad humana.

Elizabeth McCloskey, presidente y directora ejecutiva del Instituto de Fe y Política, invocó lo que llamó la humildad y la convicción del presidente Abraham Lincoln en que cada persona tiene una vocación de intentar alcanzar una unión más perfecta. Instó a los líderes religiosos a predicar tanto esa humildad como el supuesto de una intención honorable.

Partiendo del criterio que muchos en el Congreso de EE.UU. quisieran alcanzar un acuerdo, pero creen que sus votantes no quieren tal cosa, McCloskey dijo que a ella le gustaría ver que los líderes religiosos modelan el discurso civil “y entonces que las personas de fe… comiencen a exigirles a los líderes políticos que alcancen acuerdos, que participen en el debate deliberativo”.

Hugh Forrest, director del Festival Interactivo del Sur por el Suroeste, habla acerca de la creatividad y la diversidad creativa, mientras lo escuchan, de izquierda a derecha, el moderador Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, director ejecutivo de religión para el Huffington Post; Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, directora ejecutiva del Instituto Nacional para el Discurso Civil, y David Boardman, decano de la Escuela de Medios y Comunicación de la Universidad Temple de Filadelfia. Foto de Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS.

Durante el segundo panel, sobre el discurso civil en política y en la normativa, Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, directora ejecutiva del Instituto Nacional para el Discurso Civil, advirtió contra la creencia de que el país está tan dividido como el Congreso federal. En lugar de eso, dijo ella, lo que Alexis de Tocqueville vio en los estadounidenses en 1838 sigue siendo verdad hoy día: frente a un problema, abandonan rápidamente las ideologías y buscan soluciones.

“Esa es una ventaja extraordinaria respecto a dónde nos encontramos ahora”, afirmó.

Abordando el papel de los medios de información en el discurso civil, David Boardman, decano de la Escuela de Medios y Comunicaciones de la Universidad Temple, dijo: los estadounidenses usan los medios de comunicación de la manera en que un borracho usa un poste de la luz: para sujetarse, no para iluminación”. Si bien los “monopolios mediáticos” estadounidenses se han fragmentado de tal manera que con frecuencia conducen a una pérdida de los recursos que sostienen la información profunda e investigativa, la fractura también ha dado lugar a la creación de unos medios de información muy específicos, tanto de temas como geográficos, que les proporcionan a los consumidores bien dispuestos una información de mayor profundidad y alcance que nunca antes.

Hugh Forrest, Director del Festival Interactivo del Sur por el Suroeste, dijo que el festival descubrió que exigir diversidad entre los panelistas del festival había dado lugar a una creatividad de que la reunión había carecido anteriormente.

El rabino Gutow y el obispo Singh también participaron en el primer panel.

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, director ejecutivo de religión para el Huffington Post, moderó las discusiones del panel.

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

Atlanta diocese calls all towards The Beloved Community

Monday, October 27, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Georgia’s first African-American Episcopal bishop called on a cathedral filled with Episcopalians – and many more around Middle and North Georgia linked by video stream — to remember and repent of the church’s complicity in the sin of slavery and in the conditions that followed.

Bishop Rob Wright opened the Oct. 22 service in silence and with a somber prayer. Nearly 800 people gathered at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta for a Service of Repentance and Reconciliation hosted by the Diocese of Atlanta’s Beloved Community: the Commission on Dismantling Racism.

Courtesy of the Cathedral of St. Philip, the service can be viewed now here.

Following is Bishop Wright’s sermon text:

“I will bless the Lord at all times, God’s praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Good evening! Greetings to you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And greetings on behalf of the 110 worshiping communities that are the Episcopal Church in Middle and North Georgia. We are brought together tonight, here at the Cathedral and around the diocese through live streaming, by the members of The Beloved Community: the Commission for Dismantling Racism. These courageous and insightful men and women have gathered us so that we might be in compliance with a General Convention Resolution of 2006 which invites us to “…make a full, faithful and informed accounting of our history… including the complicity of the Episcopal Church in the sin of slavery, segregation, discrimination and their aftermath.” And, that we would again fulfill our promise made at baptism: That faced with the fact of our sins, we “would repent and return to the Lord.”

Important as this is, we are here for a more profound reason. After all, commissions and confessions, resolutions and services of repentance and reconciliation are about one thing in the end. They’re about equipping the church to be The Beloved Community. That’s what this evening is about. That’s what Baptism is about. That’s what the Eucharist is about. We are here to be refreshed by our calling as people of water and Spirit, here to remember who we are and whose we are.

Acknowledging and laying aside
You remember “The Beloved Community.” It’s that phrase that Dr. King popularized. It’s the acknowledgement that practicing the love exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth can, has, will transform opposers into friends and bring about miracles in people’s hearts. The Beloved Community seeks to describe the reality that good is created, locally and cosmically when people practice Christian love through reconciliation and redemption. And that the practice of Christian love generates a unique goodwill that transforms old-age gloom into new-age exuberant gladness. If nothing else, friends, tonight remember Beloved Community work begins with us acknowledging and “laying aside the weight and the sin that entangles us and running with patience… looking to Jesus the perfecter and finisher of our faith.”

Tonight is the Diocese of Atlanta, once more, taking up the work of being the Beloved Community. And, to accomplish this work, our first commitment must be to look back together.

God would not have us to be blind to who we have been and what we have done to each other. Just the opposite. I was reminded just this evening how poignant this service is: 51 years ago the newspaper reported that Dr. King’s son was refused admission to the Lovett School, which was then housed on this campus. And the bishop then, Bishop Randolph Claiborne, refused to issue a statement about race, except to uphold the policy of segregation and to wonder “why a Baptist would want to go to school with Episcopalians.” You might be interested to know that I have on one of Bishop Claiborne’s vestments tonight. I believe you can rewrite old narratives. And you might be interested to know that it was a white priest, Father Morris, who confronted the bishop about desegregating the schools and the diocese, and who ultimately lost his license to serve as a priest in Atlanta as retribution for his actions.

We have to look back. But to look back as the Beloved Community is to see through the lens of repentance at the times when we have not loved the Lord or our neighbors with our whole heart. And through the eyes of reconciliation: “What was lost is now found, what was dead is now alive. Your sins are forgiven.” Without the twin virtues of repentance and reconciliation there is only the brittle, scared silence we maintain as we walk around each other on eggshells.

To look back at the history of Georgia with a courageous and objective eye is to see Africans sold into slavery by Africans and brought to Georgia by Europeans. It is to see human beings enslaved and strategically stripped of language, religion, culture and family. It is to see both the law and the church betray their ideals. It is to see immeasurable wealth created for individuals, businesses, churches and communities because of stolen labor. But not only that: As time marched on, it is to see human beings unchained from physical shackles only to be chained to poverty and illiteracy and discarded like rusty farm equipment. In modern times, it is to see the prison industrial complex of today replace the housing projects and plantations of yesterday. Then there are the rampant executions of black men and teenagers by vigilantes and police alike that produce rivers of tears and mountains of bitterness. To say nothing of the voter suppression movement that is happening in Georgia as I speak. This is because the number of black and brown people is increasing and the number of white people is decreasing. In Georgia, for the first time, white children are the new minority.

The forgetful community, or the Beloved Community?
Because all of this is dangerous to see and to speak about, some choose to be the forgetful community rather than the Beloved Community. Why? Because we wonder silently if Christian fellowship is durable enough for these kinds of conversations. Because we wonder if reconciliation isn’t just a word only used on Sundays. Because we’re Southerners, and this is just too unpleasant. The forgetful community argues that if we keep a blind eye and choose mass amnesia, then in some distant future all the brutality and blood of our past will simply evaporate, leaving a more polite narrative. They would rather expunge our history than process it. They call this a post-racial society. I call it the Etch-a- Sketch approach to human relationships.

Spiritually this would be the equivalent of erasing Jesus’ betrayal, beating and bloody death in favor of a sanitized Easter story. They would make Jesus a hologram holy man without nail holes. But it is precisely His nail holes that give His command to forgive, not to forget and to love enemy rather than to shame enemy for all of its persuasive power.

God is a genius! This is what it means to be the Beloved Community. Here is a word for oppressor and oppressed alike. Each week in our churches we come together to remember Christ’s life, death and resurrection. All of it! We do this so we can hear and know and trust that pain and guilt and shame don’t have to have the last word. That though we may be found culpable, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Though we have colluded with systems of oppression, “where the Spirit is, now there is liberty.” Whether victim or oppressor, this is the opportunity of tonight. That remembering the past and then remembering God’s ability to make gold out of garbage, we press on. So, enveloped in the durable belovedness that flows first from God and then from person to person, the Beloved Community takes some risks together. We pledge to look and see together. And we pledge to allow what has been un-discussable now be discussed. This, the prophet Isaiah says, is the righteousness that God calls us to.

Choose judgment, or mercy?
After twenty-four months, I am happy to say I have visited the majority of our worshiping communities. And I have seen the Cross of Jesus on display in each place. But I wonder, if in addition to the Cross, maybe every church also needs to have some reminder of the Apostle Paul. You remember Paul. We first meet him watching Stephen be stoned in Jerusalem. He was oppressor, an abuser. He wrongfully incarcerated Christians. He did these things because his professional ambitions caused him to compromise on respecting the dignity of every human being.

But one bright day he met the risen Christ. After that he met the Beloved Community in Damascus. And at his coming, that Beloved Community had an immense choice to make.

Should they listen to their suspicions or make room for an exception? Should they be exclusively a community of friends or friends with the larger community. Should they choose judgment or should they choose mercy? We know the end of the story. They choose mercy over judgment. They choose to draw their circle wider. They choose to “repair the breach.” The very man Paul sought to destroy became the man who demonstrated for Paul what it meant to choose compassion over fear, and reconciliation over estrangement. That seemingly benign act, by one person, almost 2,000 years ago set loose on the world the most prolific spokesperson for reconciliation the world has ever known.

If we are to move forward as a church and state, we have a choice to make today. Like the Beloved Community in Damascus, will we tame our suspicions and prejudices and move towards each other, or will we fortify the distance that fear and enmity demand? The peace that Jesus brings does not make things easy or placid. His peace shakes things up until we are holding on to Him and Him alone for dear life. Without the work of the Beloved Community back in Damascus, there would be no Beloved Community here and now. Because of their repentance and reconciliation work then, Paul would later confess, “I was a persecutor of the church but by the grace of God, God’s grace was not in vain and so I labor….”

The response to grace is action. And grace on the ground becomes justice. And so this Service of Repentance and Reconciliation must not be a cheap grace. Yes, we must examine our hearts and attitudes and confess our polite hostility towards one another. But we shouldn’t stop there. Our world is made up of systems. And systems are always more immoral than individuals. Bureaucracies are belligerent. And so today, we should understand that we are being expelled from this gathering to actively dismantle systemic evil wherever we find it. In the church, among those who hold the public trust, in financial systems and in our schools. And to be clear, what is being asked of us tonight is more than financial charity. Like Dr. King told us, we must not only praise the Good Samaritan for bandaging the wounds of the stranger. But it is the church’s work, the Beloved Community’s work, to ask why the economic system is such that on the Jericho road crime is an attractive option for young people? What are the schools like in the Jericho road community? Is there a decent living wage in Jericho?

This gathering is more expulsion than it is anything else. And so on a night like this, I remember Jesus’ one-word sermon to his disciples. It was simply “Go. ” Go healing, go trusting, go planting, go to enemy territory, go naming demons and casting them out, and go tearing down strong holds.

But as we go He told us this, “Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world.”

There is spiritual wickedness in high and low places. But our wrestling is more with the principalities and powers of this world than it is with each other. It may sound like a feeble sending off to the unschooled ear, given the velocity and ferocity of the world. But that’s what it means to be the Beloved Community too. To feel “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

When the Bible finishes its story of God and of people of fear and love, of repentance and reconciliation, we are left with one image. And that is of a great gathering of people, a family reunion. Every nation, language and tribe are there. We’ve all got long white robes on and palm branches in our hands. And we’re singing, all of us. Singing together like one fantastic choir, singing, “Thanksgiving, power and might be to God forever!” And what we’re told is that in this place there is no hunger and no homelessness, no wealth and no war. And in that place neither are there any more tears! Just us finally together. No divisions. With God. In God. Raindrops returning to the ocean. Reconciled. Restored. Repaired. Rejoicing. What we have now beloved, is the grace of knowing that we can speed up this day with our words and with our deeds.

“I want to walk as a child of the light; I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world; the star of my life is Jesus. In him there is no darkness at all; the night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.”

Thanks be to God!

                                                                                            Hymn text by Kathleen Thomerson

West Texas elects David Mitchell Reed as bishop coadjutor

Monday, October 27, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas] The Rt. Rev. David Mitchell Reed was elected as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas at the Special Council of the diocese on Oct. 25, held at TMI – The Episcopal School of Texas in San Antonio.

Reed, 57, is currently the bishop suffragan of the diocese, and was one of six nominees. As bishop coadjutor, Reed will continue to serve alongside Bishop Gary Lillibridge. Upon Lillibridge’s retirement in 2017, Reed will become the 10th bishop of the Diocese of West Texas.

In order to be elected, a candidate needed to receive a majority of votes from both the clergy and the lay delegates, voting separately as “orders” on the same balloting round. Reed secured election on the first ballot, receiving 66 clergy votes and 207 lay votes, with 63 and 157 needed, respectively, for election.

Pending consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees of Episcopal Church dioceses, Reed will be recognized as bishop coadjutor during the worship service at Diocesan Council in February 2015. The service will be held on Feb. 28, in San Marcos, and the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside.

Reed is the first Bishop Suffragan of the diocese to be elected Bishop Coadjutor and then to go on to serve as Diocesan Bishop. Reed was ordained in 1983 when he graduated from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Reed served as Assistant Rector of St. Alban’s, Harlingen, from 1983-1987; as Rector of St. Francis, Victoria, from 1987-1994; and as Rector of St. Alban’s, Harlingen, from 1994-2006. Bishop Reed was elected Bishop Suffragan of the diocese in 2006.

The other nominees were the Rev. Scott Brown, the Rev. Ram Lopez, the Rev. Jim Nelson, the Rev. David Read, and the Rev. Robert Woody.

Executive Council moves toward proposed draft budget

Friday, October 24, 2014

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council opened its four-day meeting here considering its proposed draft 2016-2018 budget as well as reviewing in committees resolutions that are due for council action on the last meeting day.

The Rev. Susan Snook, a member of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission (FFM), gave her colleagues an update on the committee’s work on the budget thus far. Because that work is not complete, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori advised council members and observers not to report the details of the work Snook presented. The committee will return to council on Oct. 27 with a preliminary draft.

After council considers that version, it soon will be released to the church for comment. In addition some FFM members will stay at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, after that meeting to discuss the document with the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) during its Oct. 27-29 meeting.

Then FFM will revise the budget based on comments from PB&F and the wider church and have a final draft budget ready for the full council’s consideration during its Jan. 9-11, 2015 meeting. According to the joint rules of General Convention (joint rule II.10.c.ii), council must give its draft budget to PB&F no less than four months before the start of General Convention (essentially by February of convention year).

PB&F is due to meet next from Feb. 23-25, 2015, to begin work on that draft budget. PB&F uses the 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. The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately and the budget needs the approval of both houses.

In a related matter, Treasurer Kurt Barnes updated the council on the state of the current 2013-2015 triennial budget. He reported that the 2014 budget year-to-date through September is generally in line with the revised version council had previously approved.

General Convention approves the triennial budget, and council often revises the three annual budgets, based on changes in income and expenses.

Council will be asked to approve a 2015 budget that has a deficit but, Barnes said, the three-year budget overall, which must at least be balanced, will show $4 million in income above what is needed to cover expenses. He attributed that excess income to $1.5 million in unbudgeted income from rental of space at the Church Center in New York. An additional $2.9 million comes from an increased draw on endowment income to support the work of the church’s development office. Some increased expenses shaved money off that $4.4 million additional income, Barnes said.

He noted that while diocesan income has increased from what was budgeted, the increase is attributable to better performance of diocesan investments leading to greater diocesan income and a generally improving economy.

“We have not seen any increase of dioceses stepping up with higher [percentage] contributions,” he said.

The Episcopal Church’s three-year budget is funded primarily by pledges from the church’s dioceses and regional mission areas. Each year’s annual giving in the three-year budget is based on a diocese’s income two years earlier, minus $120,000. Diocesan commitments for 2013 and 2014, based on the budget’s request of a 19 percent contribution, are here.

Presiding bishop says church must learn to share it resources in new ways

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori focused her opening remarks to council on how the church must change the way it educates its leaders and how it might foster financial autonomy for every diocese and other jurisdiction in the church.

“We’re not called to build a church that leaves poor and struggling relatives either shamed or incapacitated by their poverty,” she said. “We are called to build societies of abundance where resources are directed where needed, and no one lives in want …We should be challenging all Episcopalians to see the abundance we enjoy as gifts to be shared. When those gifts are shared, we know that it brings joy and flourishing to all members of the body. It looks like abundant life.”

Jefferts Schori also complimented the entire council for its “growth in capacity in this triennium.”

“We are engaging the mission and ministry of this Church in larger and more strategic ways than we have in recent years,” she said. “I continue to believe that the primary mission of this body is those larger and strategic questions, and I firmly hope the Convention will help us to clarify that role.”

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

House of Deputies president outlines General Convention changes

In her opening remarks to council, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, outlined a series of changes for to the 2015 meeting of General Convention that she said are aimed at “make[ing] the legislative process one that can best help us discern our mission and ministry.”

Those changes include a new slate of legislative committees that are more closely aligned with the framework of the Five Marks of Mission, Jennings and Jefferts Schori said in a July letter to bishops and deputies. The new committees are here.

Jennings said she plans to appoint House of Deputies legislative committees by the end of this year and instruct committee chairs to begin work before General Convention. The current Rules of Order permit that early start and Jennings told council she hopes that it “will make it possible for us to consider legislation much more efficiently once we arrive at General Convention.”

Another change at convention is the scheduling of four joint sessions of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, including:

* June 24, the day before the first legislative day, an afternoon session during which the nominees for presiding bishop will be presented,

* June 26, joint session to receive officially the nominations from the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the 27th Presiding Bishop and to receive nominations that may have come through the petition process. (The House of Bishops elects the presiding bishop on June 27, after which the House of Deputies is asked to vote to confirm or not confirm the bishops’ choice.) That session will also include a conversation on church structure, according to Jennings,

* June 30, joint session for a conversation on mission,

* July 1, for the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance to present its proposed budget for the 2016-2018 triennium (both houses will debate the budget and must concur on the same budget for it to be approved), and

* July 3 (final legislative day), a special Eucharist for convention to welcome the presiding bishop-elect. Jennings said that although the new presiding bishop will also be seated at the Washington National Cathedral later in the year, “we intend for the service at General Convention to be the primary celebration so that we can all participate in an event with only modest additional costs.”

The complete text of Jennings’ remarks is here and an Oct. 22 letter she wrote to deputies explaining the General Convention changes is here.

The rest of the meeting agenda

Council will spend all of Oct. 25 in committee meetings. After Eucharist on Oct. 26, committee sessions will continue until mid-afternoon when the whole council gathers for another session on the 2016-2018 proposed draft budget. On Oct. 27, council meets as a whole to consider various reports and act on proposed resolutions from its five committees. That day will include a closed session for the council to hear a report from its subcommittee considering options for use of the Church Center at 815 Second Ave. in New York.

The Oct. 24-27 meeting is taking place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Some council members are tweeting from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

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

President of the House of Deputies’ opening remarks to council

Friday, October 24, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings delivered the following opening remarks to Executive Council on Oct. 24 at the Maritime Center, Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

Executive Council opening remarks
24 October 2014
Maritime Center, Linthicum Heights, MD

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

Good afternoon.

I thought a lot about church structure this summer. Probably not as much as I’ll think about it next summer, but it was a good warm up.

I also thought a lot this summer, particularly as I watched the news from Ferguson, about our promise to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

In July, I spoke to the annual meeting of the Union of Black Episcopalians. We met in Atlantic City, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses from Freedom Summer and the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Let me tell you, it’s a humbling experience to give a speech with the voice of Fannie Lou Hamer echoing in your ears.

We were gathered just before the fortieth anniversary of the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven. On July 29, 1974, eleven women who had been called by God were ordained Episcopal priests by three bishops who were willing to risk ecclesiastical discipline and the derision of their colleagues in the cause of justice.

A fourth bishop, the Rt. Rev. Antonio Ramos, who is today the retired bishop of Costa Rica, attended the ordination and joined in the laying on of hands. He issued a statement afterward in which he said that the ordination “stands as a prophetic witness on behalf of and for the oppressed.” It would, he said, “be characterized as an act of disobedience, ecclesiastical disobedience on our part, willfully done to abolish a system of canon law which is discriminatory, and which can no longer stand the judgment of the liberating Christ.”

So while I was thinking about church structure, I was also thinking about all of the places where I believe God is calling us today to abolish systems that can no longer stand the judgment of the liberating Christ. How do we as Episcopalians best do that holy work?

I believe in my bones that we do it best through General Convention, where we consider issues and concerns that bubble up from across the church. The legislative process at General Convention allows us to hear about, learn from, and consider what God is doing in many contexts and communities. We have to put legislation into action—passing a resolution is always the beginning, not the end. But we need the legislative process to hear all of the voices of the people of God.

Now, I’ve been fond of saying that restructuring begins at home, and in order to make the legislative process one that can best help us discern our mission and ministry, we do need some restructuring. On Wednesday, I wrote to deputies and alternates giving them a lot of details about how we’ll do things differently in the House of Deputies this convention. I want to tell you something about this work, both because many of you will be at General Convention and because we all need to look at what we can do, in practical terms, to make our participation in God’s mission more sustainable.

You might know that Bishop Katharine and I have restructured the legislative committees of General Convention.

I plan to appoint House of Deputies legislative committees by the end of 2014 and instruct all deputy committee chairs to begin committee work before General Convention. I hope that having committees begin work early–a change that is permitted by the current Rules of Order–will make it possible for us to consider legislation much more efficiently once we arrive in Salt Lake City.

If you’ve had a chance to review the General Convention draft schedule posted on the General Convention website, you may notice some highlights and changes from previous conventions:

The nominees for presiding bishop will be presented to deputies and bishops on June 24, the day before the first legislative day. I am truly delighted that both houses of convention will have an opportunity to hear from the nominees together. On June 27, the House of Bishops will hold its election. The House of Deputies, by voting to confirm or not to confirm the choice of the House of Bishops, also has a critical role to play in the process.

Bishop Katharine and I spoke about our hope to have more joint sessions. During General Convention, the House of Bishops and House of Deputies will have three joint sessions. On June 26, we will have a joint session to receive officially the nominations from the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the 27th Presiding Bishop and to receive nominations that may have come through the petition process. During this session, we will also have a conversation on church structure. On June 30, we will gather for a joint session on mission. And on July 1, we will meet together to hear the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance.

We will have a special Eucharist on July 3, the final legislative day of Convention, to welcome the presiding bishop-elect. I want to say how grateful I am about the ministry of our current Presiding Bishop. Although the new presiding bishop will also be seated at the Washington National Cathedral later in the year, we intend for the service at General Convention to be the primary celebration so that we can all participate in an event with only modest additional costs.

We’re also working on the rules of order of both houses. At the beginning of this triennium, Bishop Katharine and I appointed a joint committee to revise the Joint Rules of Order of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies and the separate rules of order of each house. A committee of bishops, deputies and advisors met together in 2013, and since then, each house has continued its work. The House of Deputies Rules of Order are being revised to be more logical, easier to understand, and accessible—especially to the more than 40% of deputies who are serving for the first time. I am grateful to the people who have worked hard on this important task, including Byron Rushing, Jim Simons, Michael Barlowe, Sally Johnson and Bryan Krislock. I am also grateful to Mark Duffy and the staff of the Archives.

We’ve also spent a good deal of time considering how to move legislation more efficiently through General Convention and reduce the bottlenecks that we have sometimes encountered in previous years. I plan to use a few tools, including a resolution review committee, legislative aides, conference committees, and drafting advisors to help move things along.

This restructuring work can be simultaneously tedious and terrifying. We all know at this point in the triennium that church structure conversations can become pretty charged with emotion. I think that’s because when we talk about structure, we’re really talking about our identity. We’re talking about our vision of the reign of God, and whether restructuring could impoverish it or imperil it if we lose sight of the gifts of all orders of ministry. 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.

When we talk about structure, we are getting clear about what is unnecessary and also what is the inevitable messiness of our democracy—democracy that makes possible not just our ministries of social justice and advocacy, but also the very mission of the church. We are figuring out what rules we need to advance the cause of justice and equality. And we are figuring out what God is calling us to do about the parts of our institutions and our world that can no longer stand the judgment of the liberating Christ.

This is the DNA of our Episcopal identity. We can restructure it, we can streamline it, we can even make it more nimble. But it is the heart of who we are as the people of God, and I pray that it guides our work together at this meeting and for the rest of the triennium.

As we work and pray together this weekend, I ask that you keep in your prayers especially our sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church in Liberia, which is struggling mightily to respond to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. God willing, their representatives will be with us at General Convention, where they have seat and voice in the House of Deputies. I pray that God will be with them and the people of their country in this desperate time.

Presiding Bishop’s opening remarks to council

Friday, October 24, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the following opening remarks to Executive Council on Oct. 24 at the Maritime Center, Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

Executive Council opening remarks
24 October 2014
Maritime Center, Linthicum Heights, MD

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

It is very good to see you all again. It’s been a long time since June. I give thanks for the labors of this Council, and for its growth in capacity in this triennium. We are engaging the mission and ministry of this Church in larger and more strategic ways than we have in recent years. I continue to believe that the primary mission of this body is those larger and strategic questions, and I firmly hope the Convention will help us to clarify that role.

The Episcopal Church has crossed a threshold into new ways of being in the 21st century and in our varied contexts. I see signs of growth and missional investment and solidarity at every turn. I’ll give you some examples. In Western Kansas, two women in ranch families – an Episcopalian and a Wesleyan – have started a camp for inner city kids, growing out of their discernment of the needs of kids who’ve never seen a cow, who don’t have terribly stable family lives, have never had chores to do, and need to know what it is to be loved unconditionally in a Christian setting. It’s called Camp Runamuck, and the motto is ‘don’t run amok, run to Him.’[1]

Small congregations are thriving in a number of contexts – a church plant in northern Taiwan to serve children being raised without adequate family support, and in the process is gathering a congregation; a house church in Western Kansas[2], that’s growing into its 23rd year; emerging faith communities in Italy rooted in the native language worshipping according to the Book of Common Prayer; as well as more ancient ones in rural Mississippi[3] and Illinois,[4] celebrating 150 or 175 years and deeply involved in mission in their local communities.

As old models become unsustainable in some contexts, dioceses are finding new ways to form leaders – like the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry in Topeka that serves students from four neighboring dioceses. Theological education is much in the news, with active conflict in several places, a result of deep anxiety over looming changes. We have excellent resources for theological education, yet they need to be redistributed to form and train leaders more effectively for new and changing contexts. In some ways, that current reality reflects the increasing economic inequality in the developed world, particularly in the United States. The wealthy have little difficulty in accessing those resources; the poor struggle, yet often the poor discover and create new possibilities out of necessity.

The average Episcopal congregation, with 60 to 70 members attending weekly worship, cannot afford the traditional model of full-stipend paid leadership, a building, and a sufficient program to support its members in their daily baptismal ministry. Nor can seminary graduates with educational debt afford to work in most of them.

Students today can be trained for ordination to the priesthood anywhere, if they can foot the bill. If not, they have much more limited resources in residential seminaries – a couple of them can provide sufficient aid to graduate students with little or no additional debt. Increasing numbers of ordination candidates and lay leaders are being educated in programs like Bishop Kemper School, which require minimal displacement from job and family and produce graduates with little or no additional debt. In order to provide effective formation, those more local institutions and programs work closer to home to gather a community for formation. As has always been the case, the struggling and the poorer communities have tended to be more creative in responding to these changing realities. Most of the residential seminaries we have were started in response to similar challenges – the need for education and the inability to provide it in existing frameworks and paradigms.

The Church of England has made a conscious and canonical shift in its expectation. Those who train for non-stipendiary ministry (NSM) do it in two years; those who expect a “career” take a more traditional three years. One of our seminaries has begun to explore a two-year academic track with an additional practical year. The Lutherans have had a model like that for some time – but it’s four years total, three of the four for academics and the third year as a practicum.

We need responses to changing realities that consider the varied needs of the whole body. We have the canonical flexibility already to permit different paths of formation. What we don’t have is a willingness to make resources available to the whole body. We still live in a system that is far more isolated and independent than interdependent. Each diocese makes individual decisions about how to train students. Each seminary does the same. Each diocese and seminary or training program raises and stewards its own financial and human resources with little churchwide conversation or cooperation.

One of the strategic and big picture conversations this Council deals with is the churchwide budget. This body has engaged the process with greater vigor and more detail than ever before. We are making conscious and intentional progress in this budget toward financial autonomy for every diocese (or jurisdiction) in this Church. We’ve engaged a self-sufficiency plan for Province IX, which depends on three legs: the support of the wider church (and not only financial support); the partnership among the dioceses of Province IX and their willingness to pool a portion of their financial resources; and the willingness of leaders in each diocese to risk new ways in the hope of developing greater capacity. We’re doing similar work in Navajoland and in Haiti. The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has begun this work.

We did not do this kind of work thoroughly enough when we encouraged Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Liberia, and the Philippines to become autonomous. We did not do enough of this work when we encouraged the old missionary districts in the U.S. part of our context to become dioceses. We must repent of our sins of omission and commission, and amend our common life. We are bound to one another, not only in affection, but as the body of Christ, committed to love God and God’s world with all we have and all we are.

We’re not called to build a church that leaves poor and struggling relatives either shamed or incapacitated by their poverty. We are called to build societies of abundance where resources are directed where needed, and no one lives in want. The missionary societies of our forebears in the faith “held all things in common.”[5] We should be challenging all Episcopalians to see the abundance we enjoy as gifts to be shared. When those gifts ARE shared, we know that it brings joy and flourishing to all members of the body. It looks like abundant life.

The challenge is the same, whether we’re talking about the asking from dioceses or what seminaries have to offer. The missional question begins in “what does the body require of us, where is it hungry, suffering, where is it joyous?” All are meant to be shared, not held in reserve for favored parts of the body or hidden away in shame or fear. Any favor enjoyed is a blessing that grows apace by sharing. Hiding either our pain or what we fear losing never leads to healing.

The great leaders of every age have challenged people to live for others. John F. Kennedy put it this way, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Martin Luther King, Jr. in the same era, dreamed: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. … Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” He went on to speak of the white people of this nation, saying, “they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”[6]

We have a dream as well, of a church walking together, doing and living justice, a church equipped and equipping all its members to do justice. We have a duty to all the members of this body, and to those beyond it who need justice. We are asked for the highest and best gift we can offer, in loving our neighbors as ourselves. We’re not going to settle for anything less, whether it’s the work we do here or what we ask of the people of this church. We cannot walk alone, and we cannot encourage others to walk alone. Together, the stony road our ancestors trod flattens out before us – or rises to meet us – and that road leads to justice, love incarnate for the world.

[1] 2013: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.630330770319334.1073741828.163213160364433&type=3

[2] Church of the Upper Room, Lakin, KS

[3] http://www.hollyspringsepiscopal.org/

[4] http://www.stjamesdundee.org/

[5] Acts 2:44

[6] http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1951-/martin-luther-kings-i-have-a-dream-speech-august-28-1963.php

GTS Board of Trustees moves to reinstate faculty members

Friday, October 24, 2014

[General Theological Seminary press release] In a spirit of reconciliation and healing for the entire Seminary community, The General Theological Seminary (GTS) Board of Trustees announced this week an offer to presently reinstate eight faculty members.  At that time the Board also affirmed its call to the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle as President and Dean of GTS.  

“During this challenging time, the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee have maintained open and honest communication with faculty members in the hopes that we may reconcile and end this disruption to our academic year,” said the Rt. Reverend Mark Sisk, Chair of the General Theological Seminary Board of Trustees.  “We are grateful that our prayers have been answered and the good faith of all has been rewarded. We look forward to the faculty members returning to what they do best: educating and forming the future leaders of our Church in an environment of faith, respect and collegiality. The Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle, our Dean and President, is deeply committed to moving the Seminary forward.” 

Professors Joshua Davis, the Reverend Mitties McDonald DeChamplain, Deirdre Good, David Hurd, Andrew Irving, the Reverend Andrew Kadel, the Reverend Amy Bentley Lamborn and the Reverend Patrick Malloy issued a joint response: “Thank you for your invitation to come together to find a way forward.  We receive this invitation in the good faith in which it is offered.  Thank you also for acknowledging that healing is not an easy thing to accomplish; we are appreciative of both the alacrity with which you seek to facilitate our return to work and the attention you are giving to a long-term process of reconciliation for the entire Seminary community.”

This week’s invitation would return faculty members to salaries and health benefits for the remainder of the academic year as they work to resolve all outstanding issues with the Board of Trustees.  The faculty members would agree to not only return to the classroom, but also to participate in all campus activities such as common meals and community worship and abide by the terms of the Seminary Constitution, Bylaws and policies, and will work together with both the Board, President and Dean Dunkle and an outside mediator appointed to facilitate permanent reconciliation.  A process of integrating the returning faculty back into classroom activity is under development so that there is as little disruption of class work as possible.

“The Board has the duty to set policy for a nearly 200-year-old religious institution which seeks to educate and form leaders – ordained and lay – for a church which is changing,” said Bishop Sisk.  “Our students have always remained our top priority, both in their continuing education at the Seminary and their spiritual well-being. Together with our faculty, we look forward to turning our full attention to a fruitful and fulfilling academic year that befits our great responsibility.”

Video now available: Civil Discourse in America

Friday, October 24, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The video is available at no fee here of the October 22 live webcast Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good.   Produced by The Episcopal Church in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, the 98-miinute forum featured a keynote address by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and two panels of experts, moderated by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor for the Huffington Post.

The Facilitator’s Guide to assist in group discussions and better understanding is available for downloading here.

In addition, a 30-minute video featuring a panel of journalists discussing Civil Discourse in a 30 minute panel is available here.  David Crabtree WRAL; Kevin Eckstrom Religion News Service; Chris Satullo WHYY; Mary Frances Schjonberg Episcopal News Service; Neva Rae Fox is the moderator.

The forum originated from historic Christ Church, Philadelphia (Diocese of Pennsylvania).

Information is located here.

For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org.

Forum Participants
• David Boardman, Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University

• Dr. John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University, Washington DC.

• Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, Washington DC.

• Hugh Forrest, Director of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival,

• Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute on Civil Discourse

• Dr. Elizabeth McCloskey, President and CEO of The Faith & Politics Institute,

• Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY.

Bishops’ World Series wager to benefit Episcopal Relief & Development

Friday, October 24, 2014

[Episcopal dioceses of Kansas, West Missouri and California] Bishops Dean E. Wolfe of Kansas, Martin “Marty” Field of West Missouri and Marc Andrus of California have challenged each other to a friendly World Series wager to raise money for local diocesan charities and to share the cultural wealth of their areas with one another.

Wolfe’s diocese is headquartered in Topeka; Field’s office is in Kansas City, Missouri; and Andrus’ is in San Francisco.

If the Kansas City Royals win the World Series, Andrus will make available Ghirardelli chocolate, sourdough bread, Anchor Steam beer and a San Francisco Giants cap to bishops Field and Wolfe. If the Giants win, Wolfe and Field will provide Boulevard Beer, Kansas City barbecue and a Kansas City Royals cap.

The bishop of the losing team will have to pose wearing the winning team’s cap in place of a miter, the bishop’s liturgical headwear. The losing bishop will also make a donation to a charity of the winning diocese’s choice.

The bishops of Kansas, West Missouri and California also are inviting congregations and individuals to be involved in this effort. While the end of the Series will determine which of the bishops “wins,” they are encouraging their members to make donations on behalf of either the Royals or the Giants to Episcopal Relief & Development, the Episcopal Church agency that aids in domestic and overseas disaster relief and works internationally to alleviate poverty, hunger and disease.

Episcopal Relief & Development has created a special page for the World Series, at www.episcopalrelief.org/worldseries2014. Fans can click on their team’s pennant to make a donation in the team’s honor.

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas includes some 11,000 members in 45 congregations, as well as a secondary school and two social service agencies. It covers the eastern 40 percent of the state of Kansas. More information about the Diocese of Kansas can be found at www.episcopal-ks.org.

The Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri serves the western half of Missouri with 48 churches and around 11,000 parishioners. Our churches are located in the urban areas of Springfield, Joplin, St. Joseph, the Kansas City metro area and many small towns and rural areas. The diocese is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary. For more information, visit www.diowestmo.org.

The Episcopal Diocese of California serves a diverse community of faith encompassing the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Approximately 27,000 people form 80 congregations in six counties. More information about the Diocese of California can be found at www.diocal.org.

The Rev. Steven Peay named dean and president of Nashotah House

Friday, October 24, 2014

[Nashotah House Theological Seminary press release] The Nashotah House Theological Seminary Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the appointment of the Rev. Steven Peay as the 20th Dean and President of Nashotah House.

The Dean and President Search Committee reported to the Board of Trustees a unanimous recommendation for Father Peay’s election as Dean and President during their regularly scheduled meeting on October 23rd. The Board of Trustees enthusiastically approved Father Peay’s election.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Right Reverend Daniel Martins, expresses his strong support for Father Peay’s appointment:

I am completely delighted with the election of Father Peay to be our next Dean and President. He has already shown himself to be an effective leader, pastor, and scholar while a member of the Nashotah House faculty. He is intimately familiar with our operations and will be able to hit the ground running in a seamless transition from the ministry of Bishop Edward Salmon.

Father Peay’s undergraduate study of Church History led him toward monastic life, which he entered at Saint Vincent Archabbey (Latrobe, PA) in 1977. Following his first profession of vows he studied for the priesthood and after final vows was ordained deacon in 1981 and priest in 1982. The studies he began in college and pursued in seminary continued following ordination. He returned to Saint Vincent to teach as Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Historical Theology. During his tenure at the seminary he also served as Academic Dean for five years. Leaving monastic life in 1994, he devoted himself to parish work for the next fifteen years in Congregational churches in Wisconsin, while continuing to research, write, and teach in various venues. Father Peay came to Nashotah House as Adjunct Professor of Church History in 2008 and was elected to the faculty in 2010. His orders were received in August 2010, and he is now a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany.

Father Peay was married to his wife Julie in 1996 and is the proud stepfather of Jeremy and Matthew.

Episcopal Church style guidelines available

Friday, October 24, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church communication and style guide is now available here. The guide has been expanded to provide social media best practices, blogging guidelines, email etiquette and tips for parish webmasters.

The easy-to-read and easy-to-reference document can be downloaded and/or printed.

“We’ve aggregated local expertise and experience from across the Church,” explained Anne Rudig, Episcopal Church Director of Communication.  “The one constant in communication is change. We hope the style guide can be helpful in navigating it.”

The style guide includes:

• Use of Episcopal Church logo and shield
• Typography
• Episcopal Church Colors
• Photos
• Writing styles
• “Must haves” for congregational websites
• Social media best practices
• Blog guidelines
• Submission information for Episcopal News Service
• Email etiquette

For more information contact Rudig at arudig@episcopalchurch.org

The Rev. Jon M. White named next editor of Episcopal Café

Thursday, October 23, 2014

[Canticle Communications] The Rev. Jon M. White, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in Beckley, West Virginia will become the new editor of Episcopal Café on November 25, the Café’s founding editor Jim Naughton announced today.

“I am excited that Jon has volunteered to lead the Café into a new phase in its life,” Naughton said. “Many talented people expressed an interest in the editorship when I announced that I planned to step down. What set Jon apart was a firm understanding of the importance of the Café’s role as an independent source of church news, and a clear vision of how to sustain the site in the years ahead.

White, 47, is a 2012 graduate of Bexley Seabury, and was ordained in the Diocese of Oregon. He is a native of Indianapolis and an alumnus of Portland State University. White served seven years in the U. S. Navy’s Submarine Service and later in the Coast Guard Reserve. Prior to ordination he worked as an engineer in the high tech industry. He has lived in Australia, England and Zimbabwe.

“As a long time reader of the Café, I am excited about this new adventure;” said White. “The Café opened up the church to me when I was just beginning my Episcopal adventure and I am hopeful and eager that we will continue to provide ways for people to learn about and engage with their church.”

In speaking of the future, White said that his intention is to continue to provide the kind of quality content that has been the Café’s hallmark. “Our first goal,” White said, “is to maintain the integrity of the Café and ensure its place as the prominent place for news and insight about the Episcopal Church.”

The Café was launched in mid-April, 2007 and according to Google Analytics has been visited from more than 367,000 computers in the last 12 months. It has more than 13,000 followers on Facebook and more than 11,000 on Twitter.

“A lot has changed since 2007, technology-wise,” White said, “and we need to move the site to a new platform to ensure we can keep it up and running. So, since we need to make that move we’ll be taking the opportunity to redesign the look and feel of the site as well.” White said that the plan is to shutdown the site Thanksgiving Week and re-launch on December 1st, the beginning of Advent.

Naughton, who maintained two blogs before launching the Café, has been writing about Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion news online for almost nine years. He plans to work on a writing project unrelated to the church after signing off on November 24.

“I want to thank John Chilton of the Diocese of Virginia, the Rev. Ann Fontaine of the Diocese of Oregon and the Rev. Andrew Gerns of the Diocese of Bethlehem, who have been contributing to the Café for as long as it has been in existence,” Naughton said. “Ann deserves special thanks for her tireless work in spotting news items and working with writers on the Daily Episcopalian and Speaking to the Soul blogs.”

Naughton also thanked Bill Joseph, the Café’s webmaster, C. Robin Janning of Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts, who maintains the Café’s art blog, and Bishop Nicholas Knisely of the Diocese of Rhode Island and the Rev. Torey Lightcap of the Diocese of Iowa for their long associate with the Café.

“I’ll miss working with new bloggers like the Rev. Kurt Weisner of the Diocese of New Hampshire, Theresa Johnson of the Diocese of Florida, the Rev. Megan Castellan of the Diocese of West Missouri and the Rev. Weston Mathews of the Diocese of Virginia,” he added. “They do an excellent job not only in keeping the church informed, but in provoking conversation, and, every now and then, making people laugh.”

The Diocese of Washington sponsored Episcopal Café from 2007-09, but the site became independent when Naughton left the diocese.

Former Connecticut church sold for benefit of local Muslim community

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trustees of the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center, Inc. with the Rev. Audrey Scanlan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut at the real estate closing for the property in Avon, Oct. 21. Center: Khamis Abu-Hasaballah, Ph.D., President of the FVAMC Board of Trustees, with his wife, Noora Brown, M.A., chair of the FVAMC Interfaith Committee. Right of Khamis Abu-Hasaballah, Canon Audrey Scanlan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.

[Episcopal Church in Connecticut] The Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) has sold its property at 35 Harris Road, Avon, former home to Christ Episcopal Church, to the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center, Inc. (FVAMC).

The sale, for $1.1 million, was completed on Oct. 21.

The building was vacated after the congregation voted in 2012 to dissolve as a parish and close by the end of that year.

The following spring, Bishop Ian T. Douglas and other ECCT staff hosted a meeting of community leaders and interested residents to discern how the property could best be used “as an asset to God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation” in greater Avon and beyond.

At the meeting they learned that the local Muslim community needed a place to gather for prayers, teaching, youth programs and interfaith work. In September 2013, the ECCT entered into an interfaith partnership with FVAMC that included leasing the Avon building.

Since then the FVAMC has reached out to its neighbors with open houses and other interfaith efforts, expanded its worship and service work, and grown its programs, particularly for youth.

The several committees of the ECCT needed to approve the sale gave it their solid endorsement and support.

Both ECCT and the FVAMC share the understanding that the sale isn’t the end of their relationship but the beginning of a new phase in this interfaith collaboration.

Douglas said of the growing relationship between the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center: “I thank God that through the stewardship of our property in Avon we have come into relationship with our Muslim neighbors in the Farmington valley. Together we are learning about what it means to be people of faith working together for peace and understanding. It is a blessing to cooperate with the FVAMC in the development of their new home.”

“We are grateful to our brothers and sisters in the Diocese for their partnership,” said Khamis Abu-Hasaballah, president of the Board of Trustees of the FVAMC. “This house of worship will serve as a foundation for our efforts to continue building bridges with our neighbors, the local community, and other faith traditions. Our relationship with the ECCT serves as a shining example in our region, and as a beacon of hope for inter-religious understanding and cooperation the world over.

The net income from the sale will be returned to the Missionary Society of ECCT, which provides funding for missional work, among other uses.

– Karin Hamilton is the director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.

Rapidísimas

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Aunque Canadá rara vez aparece en las noticias mundiales, el 22 de octubre se informó que un tiroteo tuvo lugar en el Parlamento que tiene su sede en la capital, Ottawa. Se informa de un policía muerto. El primer ministro de Canadá, John Harper, estaba en el recinto pero los encargados de su seguridad pudieron ponerlo a salvo. Un reportero de la Cadena Canadiense de Noticias, dijo que en el lugar “reina la incertidumbre y el caos”.

La muerte del diseñador dominicano Oscar de la Renta ha generado titulares en gran parte de la prensa mundial. La noticia con frecuencia informa de las damas de la alta sociedad o artistas de fama que utilizaron sus servicios. La noticia también hizo titulares en Santo Domingo pero el énfasis aquí estuvo centrado en su calidad humana y en su bondad ayudando a niños pobres. La prensa destaca que nunca olvidó su origen humilde y la tierra que lo vio nacer. Tenía 82 años de edad y padecía de cáncer hacía 10 años. En una reciente entrevista dijo que  el propósito de la vida es “amar, perdonar y dar de lo que uno tiene”. Que descanse en la paz del Señor el distinguido caballero.

Aunque usted no lo crea. En un cementerio de Santiago de Chile hay un mausoleo con el siguiente epitafio “A mamá con todo el cariño de sus hijos, menos Ricardo que no dio nada”.

La epidemia producida por el bacilo del ébora que tanta preocupación ha causado y que ha diezmado a cinco países pobres de África Occidental parece haber sido controlado con nuevos medicamentos y medidas de seguridad en aeropuertos y hospitales. Según las Naciones Unidas las muertes causadas por el bacilo pasan de los 6 mil.

El obispo Frank Griswold, anterior obispo presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal, ha aceptado servir de “moderador” en la candente disputa entre profesores y la junta de síndicos del Seminario General de Nueva York que fue fundado en 1817. Los profesores han aceptado volver a clases. Veremos los resultados. El seminario tiene más de 150 alumnos de ambos sexos.

Misioneros cristianos que ministran en las áreas dominadas por el grupo radical ISIS han pedido a través de varios medios que oren por ellos. La nota dice que los personeros de ISIS van “casa por casa” buscando a los cristianos. Muchos prefieren morir que negar su fe cristiana, añaden.

El presidente Nicolás Maduro de Venezuela encara un nuevo obstáculo en su obra de gobierno. Cientos de chavistas se han puesto en contra suya públicamente. Según la encuestadora Data Análisis, Maduro tiene un nivel de aprobación de 37 por ciento la cifra más baja desde que ascendió al poder.

Una carta abierta publicada en el New York Times y un editorial pidiendo el cese del embargo de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba, han puesto este tema nuevamente en la palestra pública. Los opositores a la medida dicen que Cuba debe cumplir con las siguientes condiciones: elecciones libres, libertad de prensa, cese de hostigamientos a los opositores, libertad para todos los presos políticos y oportunidades a los ciudadanos que deseen viajar al extranjero e igual trato para los exilados que quieren regresar. El Washington Post ha dicho que no cumplir con esas condiciones es “hacerle un regalo a Castro”.

Martín Añorga, pastor presbiteriano jubilado, analiza la actitud de los nuevos cubanos que llegan al exilio en un artículo publicado en el semanario Libre: “El objetivo ya no es regresar a Cuba sino sembrar a Cuba en el espacio extranjero en que les toque vivir. Esto hace que la militancia sea exigua, el patriotismo esporádico y el sacrificio ausente”.

Hassan Jaliouf y 20 miembros de su congregación han sido secuestrados por un grupo de hombres armados en la localidad de Knayeh, Siria. El clérigo tiene 62 años y pertenece a la Custodia de la Tierra Santa. Los secuestradores pertenecen al movimiento yihadista, según informes locales.

Aunque las noticias de los jóvenes indocumentados en la frontera sur de Estados Unidos no tienen la prominencia que tuvieron hace algún tiempo, lo cierto es que todavía hay niños con hambre, familias separadas y abundantes promesas que no se cumplen. Señor, ten piedad.

El Seguro Social del que dependen millones de jubilados, viudas y huérfanos, ha anunciado que las asignaciones para el año que viene serán aumentadas en 1.7 por ciento para compensar con el costo de vida.

VERDAD. Dando es como recibimos, San Francisco de Asís

Canada: Bishop calls for prayers following Parliament Hill shooting

Thursday, October 23, 2014

[Anglican Journal] Diocese of Ottawa Bishop John H. Chapman has called for prayers following the shooting on Parliament Hill the morning of Oct. 22. “Like all Canadians, we are following today’s news from Parliament Hill with shock and trepidation,” he said in a statement issued this afternoon.

Chapman noted that the shooting took place “just blocks from our synod office.”

The shooting began shortly before 10 a.m. when a man who has not yet been identified opened fire on a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial before hi-jacking a car, driving to the Parliament Buildings and entering the Centre Block. He opened fire again, injuring two security guards, but was shot dead shortly afterwards, reportedly by Parliamentary sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.

The soldier who was fatally wounded has been identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, age 24, a reservist from Hamilton, Ont. Chapman urged prayers for the victim, “for all those at the centre of this situation and for a return to calm in our homes, hearts and streets.”

He added: “In this moment of huge uncertainty, building lockdowns, evacuated streets, barricaded shopping malls and minute-by-minute updates, we draw strength and courage from our faith and pray that this event will soon be over.”

When contacted this morning, the Ottawa diocesan synod office (located about a mile from Parliament Hill) reported being put on lockdown. Michael Herbert, who serves as director of financial ministry at the synod office, told the Anglican Journal that while many people were “going about their business,” police were also stopping and searching vehicles coming down Wellington Street (the main thoroughfare passing Parliament Hill).

Those at the synod office were later advised to stay away from windows and doors, and citizens have been told to avoid the downtown core as police search for other suspects, according to Art Babych, editor of the diocesan newspaper, Crosstalk.

No one has been taken into custody at this time.

Churches have role to play in fostering civil discourse in society

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Rev. Tim Safford, rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia, Oct. 22 greets those attending the Episcopal Church’s forum, Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good, while Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Provisional Clifton Daniel looks on. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Philadelphia] Americans are increasingly worried about the country’s polarized political debate and religious communities can help foster a return to respectful dialogue, said panelists in the Episcopal Church’s civil discourse forum here Oct. 22.

All three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — believe people are created in God’s image, Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, reminded participants, and so people of faith must encounter each other as if they have a spark of God’s great wisdom in them that others can learn from, even when they do not agree with each other.

Faith communities, he said, must act out of what he called a passionate commitment to what they believe God is telling them to do as well as a passionate commitment to the idea that each person is created in the image of God and thus must be honored.

Diocese of Rochester Bishop Prince Singh, noting that the forum had gathered on the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali, said that it is a spiritual discipline to resist the urge to demonize opponents and instead to strive to bring light rather than heat to conversations on potentially divisive issues.

Produced by The Episcopal Church, the 90-minute forum, titled Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good, was webcast from Christ Church in Philadelphia (Diocese of Pennsylvania), the birthplace of the Episcopal Church and the church that significantly figured in the United States’ founding.

The sessions are available for on-demand viewing here.

Organizers developed a facilitator’s guide to assist in group discussions and better understanding of the forum. Information about the guide is here and it is available for downloading here.

“Our conversations are limited by human frailty, but they can also partake of divine and eternal possibilities,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her keynote address, adding that the latter is possible when conservationalists approach each other not as enemies but instead as a “gifted, blessed human being who might have a gift to give us.”

“I remain convinced that face-to-face conversations have more possibility of being life-giving than the disembodied ones we engage so much in by text, tweet and blog,” she said.

“When we fail to see the very human beauty and blemishes in our conversation partners, it is easy to injection venom rather than expect transformation.”

Before the forum’s two panels began, Robert Jones, the chief executive office of the Public Religion Research Institute, briefly summarized an overview of public opinion polls his organization conducted with the Episcopal Church in conjunction with the forum. The overview, “Is Civility Still Possible? What Americans Want in Public Leaders and Public Discourse,” concluded that “despite being divided by generation, by religion, by race, and by political party allegiances, Americans express a strong preference for compromise” and the “public appetite for compromise is growing.”

The country’s fragmented and polarized media contribute to the lack of civility in public discourse, the report concluded, as media outlets “reward extreme rhetoric with political discussion that often aims to create conflict and drama at the expense of moderation.”

Yet, “the overwhelming majority of the public believes that the lack of civil discourse is a major problem for the functioning of our political system,” according to the report.

Religious institutions are hampered in their efforts to foster dialogue because congregations continue to be segregated along racial and even ideological lines, the report concluded. “Religious bodies must also navigate the declining levels of trust in civic institutions, particularly among young adults,” the report said. “When religious leaders focus on divisive issues, Americans are more likely to perceive them as part of the problem rather than as a potential solution.”

Civil discourse forum panelist John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, makes a comment while, from left, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, executive religion editor for the Huffington Post; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs; Elizabeth McCloskey, president and CEO of The Faith & Politics Institute; and Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester listen. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

During the panel on civil discourse and faith, John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, agreed with Jefferts Schori’s focus on face-to-face conversations. One-on-one conversations, he said, often result in far fewer disagreements than do larger discussions during which individuals rarely connect with each other.

In those small conversations, the participants find there is far more that hold them together than that separates them, he said, adding that churches need to emphasize the commonalities in the human community.

Elizabeth McCloskey, president and CEO of The Faith & Politics Institute, invoked what she called President Abraham Lincoln’s humility and conviction that each person has a vocation to try to achieve a more perfect union. She urged faith leaders to preach both that humility and that assumption of honorable intent.

Saying that many in the U.S. Congress want to compromise but think their constituents do not want them to do so, McCloskey said she would like to see faith leaders model civil discourse “and then have people of faith … start to demand political leaders who will compromise, who will engage in deliberative debate.”

South by Southwest Interactive Festival Director Hugh Forrest talks about creativity and diversity while, from left, moderator Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, executive religion editor for the Huffington Post; Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse; and David Boardman, dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia, listen. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

During the second panel, on civil discourse in politics and policy, Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, warned against believing that the country is truly as divided as the U.S. Congress. Instead, she said, what Alexis de Tocqueville saw in Americans in 1838 is still true today: Presented with a problem, they quickly leave behind ideologies and look for solutions.

“That is an extraordinary asset about where we are right now,” she said.

Addressing the media’s role in civil discourse, David Boardman, dean of the School of Media and Communications at Temple University, said, “Americans use the media the way a drunk uses a lamp post – for support, not illumination.” While American “media monopolies” have been fractured in ways that have often led to a loss of resources that support deep, investigative reporting, the fracturing has also led to the creation of very issue- and geographically-specific media that are providing willing consumers with reporting at a greater depth and breadth than ever before.

South by Southwest Interactive Festival Director Hugh Forrest said the festival discovered that requiring diversity among the festival’s panelists resulted in a creativity that the gathering had lacked earlier.

Rabbi Gutow and Bishop Singh also participated in the first panel.

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, executive religion editor for the Huffington Post, moderated the panel discussions.

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

Presiding Bishop’s keynote at Civil Discourse in America forum

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good

Christ Church, Philadelphia

22 October 2014

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

The arts of politics and civic discourse are central to the ways in which human beings work to build societies of justice and peace. That goal is shared by many people of faith as well as ethical humanists – in the form of greater compassion, care for the weak, and ensuring that all human beings are treated with justice. In spite of what some people believe, our political systems, imperfect as they may be, are necessary to this work. The full involvement of community members is essential to building societies that care for all their members. The call to “love your neighbor as yourself” is foundational to this work, for justice is the form love takes at the level of communities and nations. When Jesus said, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”[1] he was talking about employing the world’s tools for this work.

The public conversations around us too often seem to be rolling in the dust along with the snakes, and seldom show great wisdom or enlightenment. We can elevate the discourse by continually asking, “does this political act or discourse give evidence of loving all our neighbors, or increasing the availability of justice for all?

The Abrahamic traditions share creation stories that tell of two ways of relationship. In the first one[2] God creates on each of six days, and at the end of the day announces, “it is good.” As the sixth day ends, God has created humanity and pronounces them “very good.” The second creation story[3] tells of the first human beings, Adam and Eve, and how their relationships with God and one another begin to go awry. There’s a snake in that story, slithering through the dust and offering promises of wisdom. The human beings keep trying to hide – from truth, God, and honest relationship with each other. We claim that both stories tell of eternal truths about human beings and their relationships: that we are created good, beloved, and blessed – and we continue to turn away from the source of life, preferring to look for wisdom in snakes.

All conversations partake of the truths of those two creation stories, whether they are intimate words between lovers, teaching children, searching for understanding with colleagues, or attempts to build systems of governance. They can be creative and life-giving encounters of blessing, and/or they can be life-denying, dissembling, and violent.[4]

Our conversations are always limited by human frailty, but they can also partake of divine and eternal possibility. The outcome has something to do with where we begin. What do we expect of our conversation partners? Do we see the image of God in those others? Do we expect to meet a gifted, blessed, and beloved human being who might have a gift to offer? Or do we look on an enemy, someone who is out to mislead or destroy us, like a snake in the grass? The intention at the beginning has a great deal to do with the outcome. Will this encounter produce more life and possibility – or will it devolve into verbal battle and destruction?

I remain convinced that face to face conversations have more possibility of being life-giving than the disembodied ones we engage so much by text, tweet, and blog. When we fail to see the very human beauty and blemishes of our conversation partners, it’s easy to inject venom rather than expect transformation. The hard conversations, and the tender ones, are better done in person. That’s why we expect our legislators to show up in the same place to do the work of governing our common life. The relationships built over months and years of seeking a shared way through thorns and thickets of difference can be life-giving, if we discover the creative possibility in those others.

We live in a deeply fractured age. This nation has been at war for half a generation, and we’ve spent the lives and potential of far too many in the process of reacting to large-blown fears. We are engaged in nasty verbal and positional wars in Congress and on the hustings. The people of this nation deserve better – the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness our forebears proclaimed. As human beings concerned with a more expansive vision of human flourishing that what we see around us, we have the responsibility to seek better and more life-giving ways of engagement for the common good.

Will we challenge the leaders of this nation to seek the good of all our people, and not only those with the greatest access to our political systems? Will we seek to be builders of cities to live in, as Isaiah challenged Israel[5]? Do we aspire to be a society which other nations seek to emulate and join, because we are a beacon of justice and peace for all[6]?

It is possible – if we commit to engagement with a beloved neighbor who bears the image of unfolding creativity, if we will seek out the gifts in those with different opinions and positions, if we search for creative possibility in the midst of diversity. Diversity of opinion, just as much as the diversity of creatures in a prairie ecosystem, is a prerequisite to health. Human communities without diversity are totalitarian states and concentration camps, where human beings become mere commodities, and any possibility of eternity or divinity is denied. They are violent, in the deepest sense of that word. Our search for health and wholeness, and indeed, holiness, depends on celebrating and engaging diversity. It may not be easy; it IS essential. Creative engagement with diversity is synergistic, it makes more than was present before, and it is ultimately life-giving. For people of faith, it is an affirmation that God is in the midst of the tension of diversity, continuing to create more life out of what may seem like chaos. Continuing the conversation is the only way toward conversion of heart.

Engage your neighbor in conversation, expecting to find a gift. Do that, and change the world toward that dream of peace!

[1] Matthew 10:16

[2] Genesis 1:1-2:4

[3] Genesis 2:4-3:24

[4] Violence is anything that denies or diminishes or takes away life

[5] Isaiah 58:12

[6] Isaiah 60: 1-3,11a,14c,18-19

Civil Discourse in America: Watch live webcast at 2pm Eastern

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Watch the live webcast, listen to the information and email your questions as political, interfaith and education leaders discuss a topic of great importance to our society: Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good.  Produced by The Episcopal Church, the 90-minute live webcast on October 22 begins at 2 pm Eastern (1 pm Central, noon Mountain, 11 am Pacific, 10 am Alaska, 9 am Hawaii). There is no fee to watch the live webcast here.

Email questions to publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org. Follow on Twitter at #EpiscopalForum

Forum Participants
The forum will be moderated by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor for the Huffington Post.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will present the keynote address.

Two panel discussions will focus on main themes: Civil discourse and faith; and Civil discourse in politics and policy. Panelists include:

David Boardman, Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University

Dr. John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, Washington DC.

Hugh Forrest, Director of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival,

Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute on Civil Discourse

Dr. Elizabeth McCloskey, President and CEO of The Faith & Politics Institute,

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY.

The forum will be available on-demand following the live webcast.

A panel of journalists will discuss Civil Discourse in a 30 minute panel that will be videotaped and posted after the event. David Crabtree WRAL; Kevin Eckstrom Religion News Service; Chris Satullo WHYY; Mary Frances Schjonberg Episcopal News Service; Neva Rae Fox is the moderator.

The discussion originates from historic Christ Church, Philadelphia (Diocese of Pennsylvania).

The forum is ideal for live group watching and discussion, or on-demand viewing later.  It will be appropriate for Sunday School, discussions groups, and community gatherings.

Forum information is available here

The Facilitator’s Guide to assist in group discussions and better understanding is available for downloading here

For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org.