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Episcopalian gives $1 million for journalism education on LGBT issues

Monday, April 27, 2015

Timothy Blair

[University of Missouri press release] The University of Missouri has received a $1 million gift to support journalism education and research into the connection between American journalism and the advancement of human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from Timothy Blair, an alumnus of the MU School of Journalism and a member of All Saints Parish in Beverly Hills, California.

Blair says he is giving the gift to MU — the first gift of its kind among American universities — to advance the education of students of the world’s first school of journalism on the role media have played in reinforcing stereotypes and shaping new understandings of LGBT people in American culture.

“We at the School of Journalism are deeply grateful for this gift,” said Dean Mills, dean of the MU School of Journalism. “It will support teaching and research on topics that have been historically under-covered or covered badly. Mr. Blair’s family has had a long legacy at Mizzou, and it is wonderful that Mr. Blair has chosen to continue that legacy with his generosity.”

MU is still in initial planning stages as to how the Blair Fund will be implemented. Possibilities include attracting faculty interested in LGBT journalism; supporting research and travel for media coverage of LGBT issues; creating fellowships, internships and workshops; and developing course curricula to better educate students on how media coverage shapes and reinforces social, political and legal issues across the nation and world.

Timothy Blair, a native of Joplin, Missouri, graduated from the MU School of Journalism in 1973.  Seven generations of his family are MU graduates; four generations are graduates of the School of Journalism. Blair’s grandfather, Clay Cowgill Blair, an alumnus of the MU School of Journalism, was chairman of the board of the Joplin Globe.

Blair began his career in journalism when he was 15 years old, as a copy boy at the Joplin Globe. After graduating from MU and earning a master’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis, he worked in marketing and public relations for several St. Louis-based companies.  In 1993, he moved to Los Angeles and launched BlairPR Inc.

A lifelong Episcopalian, he has been deeply involved in many activities in his church, including service as a licensed lay minister, hospital chaplain and a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern California Bishop’s Commission on LGBT Ministries.
Blair also has spent much of his life as a member of advocacy organizations to provide low and moderate-income housing to underserved minorities and gay and lesbian senior citizens.
The MU School of Journalism, founded by Walter Williams in 1908, is the world’s first and oldest journalism school.

Presiding Bishop preaches at St. Mary’s, Falmouth

Monday, April 27, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on April 26 preached at Episcopal Church of St. Mary in Falmouth, Maine, in celebration of its 125th anniversary.  

St. Mary’s, Falmouth, ME
125th anniversary
26 April 2015

 

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

There’s something profoundly tender and moving about celebrating your long presence and faithfulness on Good Shepherd Sunday. This congregation began with the death of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, and it’s named for another young woman whose vocation was to bear a child also destined to die young. Each has been a shepherd, for Mary gave us a Good Shepherd in the flesh, and Alida’s death began to gather this flock.[1]

I don’t know how many sheep there are around here. This part of the world is far more famous for lobsters, seagulls, and bluefin tuna, none of them easily herded, in spite of local free-range lobster![2] Yet the lives of beloved children of God have shaped this community for a life of shepherding. We’re all sheep – and when we hear the Good Shepherd calling us to come and follow, we become shepherds. If we’re going to love God fully, and love our neighbors as ourselves, then we’ve got to go searching for the lost and sick and wandering, and help them find a place in the fold.

You are shepherding young people at Long Creek Youth Development Center, and here through RAY and Godly Play. Preble Street Kitchen and Souper Supper feed hungry sheep, and your ministry in Haiti guides the young toward right pathways, still waters, and green pastures.

St. Mary’s began with a fairly small fold of sheep and shepherds that primarily welcomed familiar and closely-related sheep. The Brown family and their friends and relatives made up most of the congregation for quite a long time. This was an enclave of sheep who “belonged.” It would likely still be filled with those 99 sheep Jesus says are already safely ensconced in the corral, if some here hadn’t begun to go searching. What helped you go searching for the lost ones?

Alida’s untimely death was part of the original DNA of this place, even if those genes weren’t robustly expressed for a while. Today the care and nurture of children characterizes a lot of your ministry, both within and beyond this congregation. Healthy and growing congregations almost always make that a priority.

Jesus notes that sometimes wolves get into the sheepfold, or hired hands fail to notice their presence, and the sheep suffer. The other sheep in the fold share a responsibility to keep the wolves at bay, and to care for those who are injured. If we ignore the wolves, or don’t tell the truth about their presence, there will never be real healing, growth, and wholeness. Jesus and the disciples had to deal with Judas and his legacy. So must we.

It takes discernment and wisdom to tell the difference between intruders with evil intentions and sheep who simply represent the diversity of God’s creation. Christians, and indeed most human beings, are usually surprised by the presence of sheep who seem to be other. Loving our neighbors as ourselves implies we see the image of God before anything else. There must be a place for every other kind of sheep in the fold, and Jesus is clear about it: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” That includes the ones who go astray – that’s what forgiveness and seeing the image of God are about. There’s a wonderful understanding in Orthodox Christianity that between the crucifixion and resurrection Jesus went down into hell and searched and searched until he found Judas and dragged him out. That’s part of our shepherding work, too.

The sheep in this fold have all been called to help shepherd others. We all have one Good Shepherd, who asks us to come and follow, to seek the lost and serve the least. There will always be more sheep of other folds to discover, meet, befriend, feed, and heal. Sometimes that lost sheep is you or me. When we’re feeling lost, who brings us home again? It’s usually a friend or a loved one, who knows our name and says, come on, come in, come home, you are well loved, treasured, God’s own beloved.

The Brown family might be surprised to learn about the diversity of this congregation today, and perhaps even more by the sheep you’re discovering in Haiti and Preble Street. Who has surprised you?

What about those who have no close friend to show them a loving God with skin on?

When I go out early for a run in the city, I almost always discover sleepers on the street, or park benches, or tucked in behind a bush. Sometimes I have to look a little harder in places where the camouflage is better. Is that a person wrapped in a blanket in that dark corner? I can’t see a face, but I’m fairly sure it is. Are those bags of treasured possessions or is it garbage? And I wonder – where will this one break his fast? Where will she sleep tonight?

Sheepfolds like Preble Street[3] begin to gather and care for lost sheep. The bishop of Costa Rica tells of a small group of women who came to the city regularly for medical treatment, and had no place to wait or rest. They asked for shelter in church after church, who turned them away. Finally, one congregation opened its doors to those whom some see as pariahs.[4] Today those first eight women have become 200, who go back into their communities to help others heal and find hope after learning they have AIDS.

A congregation in North Carolina was closing its doors for lack of members. Its shepherds found the courage to look outside those doors, and today that building houses a church of “holy chaos,” a truly catholic mix of homeless and housed, rich and poor, black, brown, and white, sober and not so much, and even a few dogs who bring their owners.[5] They worship on Wednesdays; host AA groups; cultivate a vegetable garden and run a clothes closet; feed all comers a bounteous gourmet feast; and they offer eight respite beds so that those without homes may recover from hospitalization or medical treatment. Sheep of all sorts are finding a home.

There’s some powerful shepherding work going on in Maine that is seeking to heal relationships between the Abenaki, the first people of this land, and descendants of later immigrants. We have often treated one another as predators rather than fellow sheep, and we have miles to go before we all sleep in one fold.[6]

The heart of the gospel is about the immensely abundant love of God for all his children and creatures. It’s summed up in that wonderful song, “All God’s creatures got a place in the choir.”[7]

All God’s creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low and some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on a telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they’ve got now…

There is a place for every child of God, and a fold for every sheep, where each is welcomed as Christ himself, fed and watered, safely housed, and encouraged to grow toward the abundant, loving way of life for which we were created. That’s why St. Mary’s exists, and why it has endured for more than a century, and why it will continue into the future, if it keeps answering the voice of one who says, “follow me.”

What kind of shepherd are you? What sheep are you tending or searching for? Where do you look for your own shepherding?

And perhaps most important, how will the flock of shepherds here keep searching for the lost and the least? Keep on looking until the very last one has found a home in the sheepfold.

[1] http://www.smary.org/our-history/

[2] https://www.freerangefish.com/

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

[4] http://www.epicenter.org/costa-rica-partnership/

[5] Haywood Street Congregation, Asheville, NC https://www.faithandleadership.com/welcome-church-holy-chaos

[6] http://bangordailynews.com/2015/04/23/living/blogs-and-columns-living/aroostook-county-residents-work-to-ally-with-wabanaki-people/

[7] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/celticthunder/aplaceinthechoir.html

La primada predica en Costa Rica

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sesquicentenario de la Iglesia Anglicana/Episcopal en Costa Rica
22 abril 2015
El Buen Pastor, San José, CR, 7 de la noche

 

La Rvdma. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primada
Iglesia Episcopal

El Buen Pastor ha estado buscando ovejas sin pastor durante 150 años. Esta congregación comenzó porque algunas ovejas inesperadas vivían aquí – ovejas que no eran necesariamente Católica Romana. La fundación de esta comunidad reconoció que el buen pastor que conocemos en Jesús tiene “otras ovejas que no son de este redil, y él debe traer los también, porque también ellos oyen su voz.”

Cristianos, aun la gente de toda clase y condición, son frecuentemente sorprendidos por la presencia de otras ovejas. Está claro que en los últimos años Costa Rica ha sido sorprendida por el número de inmigrantes de Nicaragua y otras partes de América Latina. La diócesis que creció desde los inicios en Buen Pastor hoy está cuidando a las necesidades de muchas ovejas que han sido invisibles u olvidados por el mundo. Las Hogar Escuelas están trayendo corderos al dentro del redil, donde se les ama y alimentado, enseñados y preparados para ser pastores a los demás. Familias enteras están descubriendo un poco más de la vida abundante en el amor compartido por la gente de la iglesia en Costa Rica. Las madres en particular se les recuerda que son valoradas y que son atesoradas hijas de Dios, dignas de respeto y dignidad.[1]

Ese es un tema que sigue resonando a través de la historia del Buen Pastor y muchos de sus pastores. Varias partes de la Comunión Anglicana son responsables de la vida del rebaño aquí. La Iglesia de Inglaterra le ayudó a fundar; ministerios de capellanía de Inglaterra y las Indias Occidentales le ayudó a crecer y perdurar; la obra fue trasladado a TEC en la década de los 50s, con la intención de nutrir una iglesia indígena; y Costa Rica se convirtió en parte de IARCA cuando se inició en 1998.

David Richards fue el primer obispo residente en 1951 y sirvió hasta 1968, y luego pasó a ser pastor para otros pastores en TEC. Todavía ofrece asesoramiento a las mujeres y los hombres en busca de sanación y la integridad – y a la edad de 94 años, sigue como ejemplo asombroso de fiel pastoreo, sobre todo en busca de las ovejas pérdidas o errantes.

Tony Ramos era el sucesor de Obispo Richards, cuando vino a ayudar a esta diócesis desarrollar el liderazgo indígena. Su buen pastoreo es en parte la razón por qué las mujeres están sirviendo hoy como pastores ordenadas. Él era el único obispo activo dispuesto a participar en la primera ordenación de mujeres como sacerdotes en TEC. Yo no estaría aquí hoy si no hubiera estado allí, en 1974 – y yo no estaría aquí esta noche sin su persistencia en pidiéndome que encontrar una posible fecha. Doy gracias por su narración urgente de buenas noticias sobre todas las mujeres líderes que están conectados a esta congregación – la primera mujer piloto en Costa Rica, que es el miembro más antiguo de este rebaño; el primer congresista en Costa Rica, y las muchas y los muchos fieles ministros en el mundo y la iglesia que han nutridos en esta comunidad por un siglo y media.

La realidad es que las ovejas en estos rediles han todos sido llamados para ayudar a pastorear a los demás. Todos tenemos un Buen Pastor, que nos invita a venir y seguir, para buscar a los perdidos y servir a los más pequeños. Siempre habrá más ovejas de otros rebaños para descubrir, conocer, alimentar y ser amigos con los demás. A veces esa oveja perdida es usted o yo. Cuando nos sentimos perdidos, ¿quién nos trae a casa otra vez? Por lo general es un amigo, una persona querida, que conoce nuestro nombre y dice, “vamos, entrar, volver a casa, estás bien amado, atesorado, y la propia amada de Dios.”

Pero ¿qué pasa con aquellos que no tienen un amigo cercano para mostrarles un Dios amoroso con actual piel humano?

Cuando salgo muy temprano en la mañana para correr y orar en la ciudad, casi siempre descubro gente que duermen en la calle, o en los bancos del parque, o escondido detrás de un arbusto. Aquí en San José estaba un poco más difícil, para el camuflaje es mejor. ¿Es eso una persona envuelta en una manta en ese rincón oscuro? No puedo ver una cara, pero estoy bastante seguro de que es un durmiente. ¿Contienen esas bolsas preciadas posesiones o es basura? Las calles están tan bien barridas que debe ser ropa y lo poco que esta persona llama a su propia cuenta. Y yo me pregunto – donde ésta oveja va a romper su ayuno? ¿Dónde se ha de dormir esta noche?

En medio de mí preguntando, lo recuerdo. Obispo Monterroso me ha hablado de un pequeño grupo de mujeres que acuden a la ciudad para recibir tratamiento médico, y que no tenía lugar para esperar o descansar. Pidieron a varias iglesias, quienes les dieron la espalda. Una congregación ha abierto sus puertas a ellas que algunos ven como parias – se llama apropiadamente Ascensión.[2] Hoy en día las ocho que comenzaron son ahora unos 200, que regresan a sus comunidades para ayudar a otras a sanar y encontrar esperanza después de aprender que tienen SIDA.

Hay otros ejemplos de pastores buscando ovejas perdidas. Una congregación en Carolina del Norte, anteriormente Metodista, estaba muriendo y listo para cerrar sus puertas por falta de miembros. Sus pastores tuvieron el coraje de mirar fuera de sus puertas, y hoy ese edificio alberga una iglesia de “caos santo,” una mezcla verdaderamente católica de personas sin hogar y las con casas; ricos y pobres; negro, marrón y blanco; sobrio y no tanto; e incluso algunos perros que traen a sus amos. Se celebran el culto el miércoles; reciban a los grupos de Alcohólicos Anónimos; cultivan un huerto; ofrecen ropa limpia a los que no le tienen; se alimentan todos los interesados un banquete generoso y rico; y mantengan ocho camas de respiro para que los que no tienen hogares pueden recuperarse de hospitalización o tratamiento médico. Ovejas de todo tipo están encontrando un hogar.[3]

Oí otra historia poderosa sobre los pastores en esta diócesis. Cuando otro perdió su cargo remunerado, el clero de la diócesis pastoreaban uno de los suyos por compartir un porcentaje de sus propios salarios con él durante 6 meses, mientras que se encontró una nueva posición.

El corazón del evangelio es sobre el inmenso amor abundante de Dios para todos sus hijos y criaturas. Se resume en una canción popular, “Todas las criaturas de Dios tienen lugar en el coro.”

Todas las criaturas de Dios tienen lugar en el coro
Algunos cantan bajo y algunos cantan alto,
Algunos cantan alta sobre cable telefónico,
Algunos sólo aplaudir sus manos o patas, o cualquier cosa que tienen ahora…[4]

Hay un lugar para cada hijo de Dios, y un rebano para cada oveja – una casa donde cada uno es acogido como Cristo su mismo, donde recibe alimento y agua, alojamiento seguro, y alentó a crecer hacia la abundante, cariñosa forma de vida para que estábamos creado. Por eso El Buen Pastor comenzó, por eso ha florecido durante un siglo y medio, y por eso podemos esperar que la iglesia costarricense continúe en siglos del futuro, si seguimos en este papel, oyendo la voz de lo que dice, “sígame.”

Nuestro ministerio pastoreo también tiene que cuidar el pasto y agua que las ovejas necesitan para prosperar. Estamos empezando a recordar que este jardín es para todas las criaturas de Dios, y tiene que ser atendido, también. Recientemente me di cuenta de una hermosa planta verde en una olla que se estableció por una ventana con barrotes. La hoja mayor de la planta estaba asomada a través de la ventana en la brisa fresca. Alguien había puesto esa planta cerca de lo que se necesita – la luz y el aire – y se garantiza que llegó el agua y los nutrientes que necesita para prosperar. Como el jardinero resucitado, somos pastores de cada criatura del mundo.

¿Qué clase de pastor estás? ¿Cuáles ovejas estamos tendiendo o buscando? ¿Cómo y dónde y por quién encuentras el cuidado de un pastor?
Y quizás lo más importante, ¿cómo va el rebaño de pastores aquí seguir buscando a los perdidos y los más pequeños
Seguir buscando las ovejas perdidas hasta que el último ha llegado a casa, a la grey de Dios.

[1] http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2013/08/23/un-grupo-de-carolina-del-norte-explora-su-colaboracion-en-costa-rica/

[2] http://www.epicenter.org/costa-rica-partnership/

[3] Haywood Street Congregation, Asheville, NC https://www.faithandleadership.com/welcome-church-holy-chaos

[4] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/celticthunder/aplaceinthechoir.html traducción por KJS.

Advancing to General Convention: Eucharist presiders and preachers, worship, prayer opportunities announced

Friday, April 24, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The daily Eucharist presiders and preachers for The Episcopal Church 78th General Convention have been named. Additionally, opportunities for prayer both for those attending General Convention as well as those following from afar have been announced.

The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, June 25 – July 3, will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah (Diocese of Utah).

The Rev. Sandy Webb, Diocese of  West Tennessee and a member of the General Convention Worship Committee team, spoke about worship at the General Convention: “The worship space is designed to celebrate the beauty of God’s creation as reflected in Utah’s grand and mountainous landscape. The lectionary celebrates the saints in ages past who inspire us to live more fully the life of faith. The liturgies, and the people who will lead those liturgies, reflect The Episcopal Church’s diversity, reminding us that we are one Church, gathered in Christ’s name. The Prayers of the People will be the prayers of God’s people, rising up from around the world over the Internet.”

Daily Eucharists
Eucharist will be celebrated daily at 9:30 am Mountain, except Sunday, June 28 at 10 am Mountain and Friday, July 3 at 8:30 am Mountain. Eucharist will be live webcast on the Media Hub which will be available here.

Thursday, June 25: Opening Eucharist
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside and preach.

Friday, June 26: honoring Isabel Hapgood, women poets and musicians
Presider: Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles
Preacher: the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies

Saturday, June 27: honoring Native American Cornelius Hill;
Presider: Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota
Preacher: The Rev. Cathlena Plummer of Navajoland

Sunday, June 28: United Thank Offering Ingathering
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside and preach.

Monday, June 29: honoring St. Peter and St. Paul
Presider: Bishop Mike Klusmeyer of West Virginia
Preacher: Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America

Tuesday, June 30: honoring James Weldon Johnson
Presider: Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan
Preacher: The Rev. Kimberly Jackson, chaplain and vicar of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center, Emmaus House Chapel, Atlanta

Wednesday, July 1: honoring Hiram Hisanori Kano
Presider: Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah
Preacher: The Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Thursday, July 2: honoring  Charles Barnes
Presider: Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic
Preacher: The Rev. Colin Mathewson, St Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego (Diocese of San Diego)

Friday, July 3: Closing Eucharist
Presider: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Preacher: the Presiding Bishop-Elect

Prayer near and far
The Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) has developed a social media campaign for General Convention to connect people near and far in prayer during General Convection. The General Convention’s home base for interactive prayer is www.prayersofthepeople.org.

Each day’s prayers will follow one of nine themes, seven of which are the forms of prayer identified in the Book of Common Prayer: life, thanksgiving, praise, intercession, adoration, oblation, penitence, petition, and celebration. Prayers can take the form of words or images, and will be received through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Hashtag is #prayersof with individual hashtags to be established for each day’s theme. A selection of the prayers received through social media will be prayed at the Salt Palace, and privately by prayer networks across The Episcopal Church.

SSJE will provide another way to connect to the themes of daily worship through morning and evening meditations. Each eight- to 10-minute podcast will include a prayer, a brief reflection, and a chant.

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

Kayla Massey receives first UTO/YASC Internship

Friday, April 24, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church, has announced that Kayla Massey of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina has been named the first Julia Chester Emery United Thank Offering/Young Adult Service Corps intern.

Massey currently serves as a Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) volunteer in the Diocese of Santiago in the Philippines.

“Kayla was selected for her dedication to mission and ministry in the example of the principles of United Thank Offering,” Bishop Sauls said.

The United Thank Offering is a ministry to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church. Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering awards grants for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

This new internship is an innovative collaborative effort among the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and General Theological Seminary. Massey will be based in New York City and will reside at General Seminary.  Her focus will be two-way: with the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers in the Mission and Reconciliation Program at General  Theological Seminary; and with the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society supporting the work of the Global Partnerships team and United Thank Offering.  Massey will serve as a Young Adult Ambassador for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society supporting the ministry of the United Thank Offering at specific events, including General Convention, during her internship year.

“The fact that this collaboration has resulted in the creation of an internship for a young adult is a fine model for partnership throughout the Church,” Bishop Sauls noted.

YASC is a ministry for Episcopal young adults, ages 21 – 30, who are interested in exploring their faith in new ways by living and serving in communities around the Anglican Communion. Previously the United Thank Offering awarded grants to support the YASC program.

“In 2014, the Board decided to use this tradition as an opportunity to include young adults in the ministry of the United Thank Offering and give a returning YASC volunteer an opportunity to continue their ministry among us by naming a specific volunteer as the Julia Chester Emery United Thank Offering/Young Adult Service Corps volunteer,” explained the Rev. Heather Melton, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Missioner for the United Thank Offering.  “Kayla was chosen for this position because she embodies what Julia Chester Emery exemplified: outgoing; prayerful; hardworking; innovative and dedicated to mission.”

Julia Chester Emery, honored on January 9 in The Episcopal Church’s Holy Women Holy Men, is credited with creating the United Thank Offering in 1916.

For more information contact Melton, hmelton@episcopalchurch.org

New Jersey offers resources from first formation conference

Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey press release] More than 400 people from throughout the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey participated in the April 18 FORMATION: The Bishop’s Spring Conference, an inaugural event held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Trenton.

The conference featured three leaders in the field of Christian formation. More details on the conference are available here; a full range of resources and materials from the conference, including a video presentation, audio downloads of the complete conference, PowerPoint presentations, photography and more, is available here.

Conference leaders included the Rev. Canon Angela S. Ifill, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s missioner for black ministries; the Rev. David W. Anderson, an ecumenical and international presenter on faith formation; and John Roberto of LifelongFaith Associates and  editor of the journal Lifelong Faith. Audio recordings of all three leaders’ presentations are available at the above links, as well as a high-definition multi-camera video of Roberto’s presentation, “Reimagining Church in a Digital World.”

Roberto’s presentation was streamed live on the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey’s website. Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s New Jersey Synod and the Episcopal Diocese of Newark watched the streamed presentation together at a viewing held at Cross Roads Camp and Retreat Center in Califon, New Jersey.

“It’s really about a cultural change going on in our diocese and our church that will help us deepen faith in our congregations and beyond,” said New Jersey Bishop William H. (Chip) Stokes. “I hope that vestries and Christian formation committees will watch or listen to the talks and then engage in conversations about them.  I hope we will find ways to implement what we learned into our congregation’s practices. It’s an exciting time to be the church. “

The Bishop’s Spring Conference was the result of a year’s worth of planning by the Diocese of New Jersey’s Lifelong Christian Formation committee. Susan Stokes, Bishop Stokes’ wife, chaired the event. The momentum created at the conference will continue in diocesan initiatives throughout the year; weekly updates will be included in “Good News in the Garden State,” the diocesan newsletter, emailed every Thursday. Interested parties may sign up for the newsletter here.

The diocese’s new church growth program, The Way of St. Paul, will also explore and expand upon themes presented at the Bishop’s Spring Conference. More information about this new program can be found here.

Central Maryland faith leaders speak on the death of Freddie Gray

Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Central Maryland Ecumenical Council press release] Faith leaders of central Maryland released a statement April 23 on the death of Freddie Gray, who was injured while in Baltimore City Police custody and later died.

Members of the Baltimore Interfaith Coalition, the Ecumenical Leaders Group of Maryland and the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council gathered on the steps of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore to give their statement.

The statement follows.

As leaders of Baltimore’s faith communities, we have followed with increasing concern the unfolding events surrounding the tragic and untimely death of Freddie Gray. We appeal to the members of our faith communities and to all citizens of good will to remain calm and to express their anger and frustration in peaceful and constructive ways, allowing the various investigations now underway to proceed so that all of us will soon have the answers we seek.

This latest incident threatens to deepen the divide between the community and law enforcement, and, regardless of the eventual outcome of the current investigations, prompts renewed questions about how the Baltimore City police relates to citizens in certain areas of the city. While deeply troubling and deserving of the increased scrutiny currently taking place, these issues are but symptoms of much larger problems plaguing our City. As faith leaders present with congregations and services that help to anchor the neighborhoods of Baltimore, we fear the other widespread effects of the lack of access to quality education and employment opportunities, as well as to quality health care. The issues before us will not be satisfactorily resolved until every man, woman, and child in our city and nation are treated with the human dignity deserving of all God’s children, and until all vestiges of the sins of discrimination, prejudice and racism are wiped from the face of the earth.

Specifically, as religious leaders in metropolitan Baltimore, we …

  • offer condolences and prayers for the family and friends of Freddie Gray, giving thanks to God for his life, commending his spirit to our gracious and merciful Lord and praying for comfort and peace of mind for those who knew and loved him;
  • commend the many citizens who have turned out in protest over these past several days for their peaceful demonstrations and restraint. Protests are a natural and necessary part in a democratic society, giving voice to a frustrated community and hopefully leading to action on the part of those who provide leadership in the city;
  • pray for our mayor, police commissioner, state’s attorney and other city leaders and law enforcement officials and call on them to facilitate open, thorough and public investigations that lead to real answers in a short time frame;
  • pray for the six police officers who have been suspended in the wake of these tragic events, in accordance with Christian charity and our belief as Americans that all  are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that they are, even if guilty, still children of God;
  • call on the members of all churches, synagogues and mosques to pray for a timely  and peaceful resolution to this incident during worship services this weekend, and to engage constructively in conversation about racial injustice;
  • invite the faith community before or after worship services this weekend, as a group, to step outside their buildings and assemble in front of the entrance to their houses of worship as a visible sign of solidarity  with the surrounding community and to observe a minute of silence and reflection.

The challenges facing our city are immense. Too many feel unvalued, and the absence of adequate economic opportunities, affordable housing, drug treatment resources and other social safeguards have resulted in a growing sense of hopelessness in our community. Now, more than ever, there is the need for deliberate conversation, accountability, respect, and unity of purpose.

We, as leaders of Baltimore’s faith communities, have come together to call upon all segments of the community, inclusive of the corporate leadership and philanthropic leadership, to work with us to undertake an earnest and immediate dialogue in pursuit of long-term solutions to the pervasive cycle of poverty and violence that besets the otherwise beautiful City of Baltimore.

We profess that every life is precious to God, and are committed to building a city marked by peace, unity and opportunity for all.

May our gracious God bless us all!

Baltimore Interfaith Coalition
Bishop Denis Madden, Bishop Doug Miles, Co-Chairs

Central Maryland Ecumenical Council
The Rev. Fred Weimert, President

CMEC Ecumenical Leaders Group
Bishop Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane, President

Massachusetts Episcopal Church bishops speak against death penalty

Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts press release] As the jury convenes this week in the sentencing phase of the trial of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the bishops of the Episcopal Church’s two Massachusetts dioceses April 23 issued the following statement against the death penalty.

As bishops of the Episcopal Church in Massachusetts, we join with others in the Commonwealth and across the nation in offering our continued prayers for all those affected by the traumatic legacy of the Boston Marathon bombing, and for those administering justice in the Tsarnaev trial.

We take this opportunity to affirm our church’s opposition to the death penalty, a position which has been articulated by the Episcopal Church since 1958, and reaffirmed repeatedly by resolution of the wider church and by our two dioceses in Massachusetts.

The wanton disregard for life displayed by the Marathon bombing is repugnant and morally inexcusable. Evidence offered in the trial has served only to deepen our awareness of the calculated mercilessness of this act.

Moral reasoning, however, often requires us to transcend our emotional and visceral responses. The church’s teaching insists that institutionalized violence neither answers nor prevents other forms of violence, and that execution is an unjustified violation of the prohibition against taking a human life.

As the family of bombing victim Martin Richard has movingly asserted, justice will be fully served by a life sentence without parole.

The laws of Massachusetts have rejected state-sponsored execution.  We affirm that position and reaffirm our opposition to the death penalty in this and every case.

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

NetsforLife® doubles malaria net total, expands volunteer capacity

Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] In 2014, Episcopal Relief & Development‘s NetsforLife® program partnership doubled the number of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) distributed since the program’s inception in 2006, helping to bring malaria protection to new communities and replace worn-out nets from previous distributions.

Between 2006 and 2013, trained local volunteers known as Malaria Control Agents (MCAs) delivered and installed 11.3 million nets across sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014 alone, MCAs in 12 countries promoted and tracked the installation of more than 10.6 million nets – double last year’s goal – bringing the total to almost 22 million.

“The key to NetsforLife®’s success is working through Anglican Communion and other faith groups to train a network of skilled, committed volunteers who educate and equip their communities to prevent malaria,” said Shaun Walsh, NetsforLife®’s Senior Director. “Since 2006, the program has trained an amazing 111,000 volunteers in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, who have collectively reached more than 41 million people in some of the most remote areas on the globe. Our evidence-based approach has reduced malaria cases by up to 45% in participating communities, leading five countries to adopt the NetsforLife® hang-up approach as national net distribution policy”

The NetsforLife® methodology, implemented in collaboration with host governments and through faith-based networks, has three parts: education, installation and follow-up. Communities select MCAs to receive training on key prevention and awareness-raising methods, and MCAs deliver targeted malaria messaging before, during and after net distribution in order to maintain a “net culture” where nets are valued and their use is the norm. Periodic follow-up visits, to check the condition of the nets and gather information on potential or confirmed malaria cases, help ensure that the nets are maintained or replaced as necessary in order to sustain the gains made so far against the deadly disease.

“It used to be that a child died every 30 seconds from malaria, and now it is down to one every minute, but that still means more than 430,000 preventable child deaths – and 90% of these are in Africa,” said Gifty Tetteh, Strategic Outreach Officer for NetsforLife®. “We need sustained efforts to ensure that malaria does not regain any footing, so to improve child health more broadly MCAs in several countries are already including general health checks when they visit homes to see about the nets. Thanks to NetsforLife®, an estimated 112,235 children are alive today who would have died from malaria, and I am excited that our volunteers are seeing larger opportunities to help families keep their little ones growing strong.”

According to the World Health Organization, three of the greatest health threats to children in sub-Saharan Africa currently are malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. Addressing these concerns in a cohesive strategy is essential; therefore, in five countries, Episcopal Relief & Development is leveraging local faith-based networks and NetsforLife® volunteers to expand maternal and child health programming through an approach called iCCM (Integrated Community Case Management). Select MCAs receive additional training, along with kits containing testing and treatment supplies, to act as Community Health Workers, providing front-line care and referring complicated cases to health facilities.

“Recognizing that no problem exists in a vacuum, we are shifting toward more integrated approaches in program development, looking for natural connections and interventions that will reinforce work being done in other areas,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “The iCCM approach builds on the existing strong networks developed through NetsforLife® and empowers the volunteers to make an even greater impact on child health in their communities. By actively tracking children’s development and helping families recognize when to seek medical care for potentially debilitating illnesses, volunteers are reducing barriers and saving lives.”

More information on Episcopal Relief & Development’s integrated health programs is available online, along with details about the organization’s NetsforLife® program partnership. Originally piloted in Zambia in 2006, NetsforLife® expanded to 17 sub-Saharan African countries, partnering with foundations, corporations, faith-based organizations and national government agencies to engage communities in the fight against malaria. As a result, the number of malaria cases has dropped by up to 45% in areas where NetsforLife® is active.

United Thank Offering experiences record year of generosity

Thursday, April 23, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is pleased to announce that the United Thank Offering has experienced a record year of generosity, marking a 2.14% increase for 2014-2015 over the previous year.

The United Thank Offering is a ministry to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church. 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 in The Episcopal Church.

“The generosity we are witnessing in the ingathering is a testament to the donors and to the effectiveness of United Thank Offering,” remarked Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer. “We are thankful, and all those who benefit from the grants are thankful for this support.”

The information is based on a report prepared by the Rev. Heather Melton, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s United Thank Offering Missioner.  In it she tracked the United Thank Offering Ingathering donations, grants amounts and contribution patterns over the past two grant cycles as well as tracking each diocese’s ingathering since 2000.

According to Melton:

  • Noting that requests for grants often outnumber the amount available, the United Thank Offering was able to fund 35% of requests in 2014.
  • 38 dioceses of The Episcopal Church increased their Ingathering amounts in the past year.
  • Six of the nine provinces increased their overall Ingathering amounts.  Melton added that Anglican Communion donations also increased over last year.
  • For 2014-2015, the total amount available for grants was $1,558,006.85
  • Of the Ingathering, a remarkable 79% was derived from the Blue Boxes.

“Putting coins in the Blue Box gives me a real sense of giving back,” commented Peg Cooper from the Diocese of Missouri and the United Thank Offering board member from Province V. “I put a quarter in my Blue Box for every grant application that was submitted to the United Thank Offering. I thank God for what that diocese and its grant project wants to do to help those in need. What a blessing to be able to give God thanks in this special way.”

For more information contact Melton at hmelton@episcopalchurch.org.

Presiding Bishop committee writes following final discernment meeting

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has released a statement following its final discernment meeting.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) concluded its discernment process at a two-day meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, April 19 and 20.  The nominees will be announced on May 1 on the General Convention website and via press release and social media.

JNCPB co-chairs, Bishop Ed Konieczny, Diocese of Oklahoma, and Sally Johnson, Esq., Diocese of Minnesota, commented, “In the process of discernment, we developed a great sense of community. We came together to work prayerfully around the task in the context of worship and fellowship. We are very pleased with the work of the Committee and would look forward to serving with any one of nominees.”

The process for nominations from the floor by bishops and deputies will be forthcoming shortly. The JNCPB will release names of any additional nominees, if any, in early June.

After nearly two years of conducting its work electronically, JNCPB met in person three times in the last four months to discern the list of nominees. More than 165 people representing over 60 dioceses submitted names during the nomination period last fall.  Video conferencing and face-to-face interviews afforded the opportunity for JNCPB to get to know the candidates.

The JNCPB is composed of a lay member, a priest or deacon, and a bishop elected from each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church, plus two youth representatives who were appointed by the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings. The General Convention deputies and bishops serve a three-year term to conclude at the close of General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah (Diocese of Utah).

For more info: pbnominatingcommittee@gmail.com.

Anglican bishop expresses horror at ISIS killing of Ethiopian Christians

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

[Diocese of Sydney] The Anglican bishop for Ethiopia has hailed as martyrs 28 Ethiopian Christians shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL.

“I have just learned the horrifying news that as many as twenty-eight Ethiopian Christians have been shot or beheaded in Libya by members of the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. This alarming act of violence against those that ISIS calls ‘people of the cross’ comes just two months after twenty-one other Christians – twenty Egyptians and one Ghanian, were beheaded on a Libyan beach.” Bishop Grant LeMarquand said in a letter to be read in Ethopian churches and distributed overseas.

LeMarquand is Anglican Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia) and Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

“It is too early to learn the names of these newest martyrs. It is also too early to know what churches they came from.” the bishop said.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has more than 30 million members, but there are also many other churches Ethiopia, including at least 15 million Protestant Christians

“Personal details about the men who have died may emerge. For now we can note the most important things to be said about these victims. Their names are known to God and they are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8). Their denominational affiliation is no longer of any importance: they are among the unnumbered throng from every nation, tribe, people and language gathered before the throne and the Lamb (Rev 7:9) who have come out of the great persecution (Rev 7:14) and have had every tear wiped away from their eyes (Rev 7:17).” LeMarquand said.

In his letter to Ethiopian churches, the Anglican leader also warned against hate. “How are we Christians (those of us in Ethiopia as well as around the world) to react to this most recent atrocity?” he asked.

“First, we must look up to God in thanksgiving for the lives of these brothers who loved not their own lives, but followed Jesus in the way of the cross. Second, we must ask for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to abandon the temptation to hate. Instead we must follow Jesus, who not only suffered death on the cross, but also prayed for his executioners to be forgiven. If we are turned to hatred, the terrorists have won. Finally, we must continue to reach out to a world desperate for the love of Jesus.” the letter says.

“Make no mistake, the terrorists who executed these martyrs of Ethiopia have exhibited the worst of human depravity, but they have also revealed their desperate need of a Saviour. The apostle Paul, a great persecutor of the church of God, was turned to love by his experience of meeting Christ on his way to the Syrian city of Damascus. May God use his church to so act and speak of and from the love of Christ that many former or potential persecutors may be turned and have their named written in the book of life.”

Immediate support came from Kenya, where Islamic terrorists struck at Easter, singling out Christians and killing 147 students at the Garissa College.

“We share with you and the people under your pastoral care the pain of such a great loss.” said Kenyan Anglican Primate Eliud Wabakula, in a message to LeMarquand. “Coming so soon after a similar loss here in Kenya,we are united in your prayer in the faith that we follow the example of our savior and Lord Jesus Christ.” the archbishop said.

In Sydney, Archbishop Glenn Davies also sent a message of support.

“We mourn with you and the Ethiopian church.  Our hearts are heavy at the suffering caused by such depraved acts.  As the company of martyrs grows, we cry out ‘How Long, O Lord?”.  Be assured we hold you in our prayers at this trying time.” Davies told  LeMarquand.

Canadian Anglicans called to 22 days of reconciliation

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

[Anglican Journal] Anglicans across Canada are being called to demonstrate in the 22 days following the closing event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that this ending is only the beginning of healing and reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald issued a call to the whole church today to participate in #22days, a campaign that will stretch from the start of the closing TRC event in Ottawa on May 31 to National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

First conceived of by a group of cathedral deans from cities in which a national TRC event was held and “heartily endorsed” by the House of Bishops,

Anglicans are being called to take time during the 22 days to participate in a range of activities. They include listening to the story of a survivor of Indian residential schools, praying for all those affected by the “long shadows” of the schools, ringing church bells for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, considering how they might continue the work of restoring right relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, and sharing stories of their own commitments and efforts to support healing and reconciliation.

Hiltz said in an interview that it was “a very significant moment” at the meeting of the House of Bishops last week in Niagara Falls, Ontario, when he saw all the bishops get behind this call. “Hopefully, it is another sign to the TRC and to Indigenous people that our church is serious about its ongoing work beyond supporting the mandate of the TRC itself.”

MacDonald said that he was “really pleased that the cathedral deans and others came together and wanted to signal that we are moving into a new phase of truth and reconciliation.” He added that although there were invitations for Anglicans to attend and participate in past TRC events, he felt that this call—“when we are all ringing bells”—has a different character. “I pray and believe [that] it will be a real taking to heart what we have learned and what we still need to do.”

Henriette Thompson, General Synod’s director of public witness for social and ecological justice, said that #22days is an opportunity to really get the attention of the church. “It is hitching its energy to the closing events, [which] themselves will attract a lot of mainstream media and attention, and [it is] speaking directly to our church.”

Dean Shane Parker of Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa said the campaign had its genesis at a meeting he convened with Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. All the deans of cathedrals in cities where national TRC events have been held over the last six years were invited. “We were wondering what cathedrals could do since…many of our churches are in prominent places and our role tends to be one that intersects very much with civic society.” Picking up on one of the closing event’s themes that the ending of the TRC is only the beginning, they decided to encourage cathedrals to do some specific things during the 22-day period between the beginning of the event and National Aboriginal Day.

Parker explained that they thought it was important to let each cathedral and community find an expression that was appropriate to its context. “Not everyone is at the same place on the truth and reconciliation journey,” he said, adding that in some places, the actions taken may be basic education and awareness-raising events about the history and legacy of residential schools. “In other places, it may be much deeper. So for example, [you could] find out what treaty land your church is built on or who are your local Aboriginal leaders? Why not pray for them when you pray for your municipal leaders?”

Dean Peter Elliott of Christ Church Cathedral, diocese of New Westminster, said renovations to the cathedral put its congregation in the unusual position of not being able to use their building during the 22 Days. So on May 31, the congregation will join with other churches in downtown Vancouver for joint worship “and we hope a major community gathering,” he said. Anglicans, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Baptists and members of the United Church will work together to have two services—one in the morning, one in the afternoon—focused on reconciliation and prayer, to coincide with the beginning of the TRC.

“My hope is that we’ll multiply the number of Anglicans who are aware of and have a sense that they can participate in and contribute something to the need for reconciliation and healing in our country,” said Thompson. “I think that this is a national issue. It’s not just a church issue and it is certainly not just an Indigenous issue.”

To accommodate efforts across the country, the General Synod communications team has created a web page — 22days.ca — that will offer resources, including 22 videos featuring former residential school students describing their experiences in the schools as well as some former staff talking about their time in the schools.

The video testimonies have been gleaned from Anglican Video’s extensive archive of interviews with former residential school students. Senior producer Lisa Barry said she hopes the videos will help Anglicans understand and connect with the experiences of survivors, many of whom experienced physical and sexual abuse as children in the schools, beyond the systemic abuses that included punishment for speaking their own languages and enforced, lengthy separation from their families.  “What I heard repeatedly from people who had attended TRC hearings was that before, they might not have been clued in, but when they went and heard stories of survivors of residential schools, that’s what struck a chord,” said Barry.

Barry noted that all of the people interviewed expressly asked that their stories be shared, in the hopes that they would help others. The videos are not the typical sort of “30-second sound bytes” people are used to viewing on television; they are about 15 to 20 minutes each, in order to tell the stories in a more whole and sensitive way, said Barry. “We hope people will stay with them.” One video will be added daily to the website during the 22-day period. Each video will be also accompanied by a prayer, written by various people in the church, including Hiltz and MacDonald.

The web page will also offer 22 suggestions for ways that people can participate and share what they are doing through their social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, using the hashtag #22days. General Synod web manager Brian Bukowski explained that instead of hosting all of the submissions on the anglican.ca page, the site will use a tool that “scours the Internet for the hashtag” and brings in all the visuals from postings on a virtual wall. “The power of it, though, is [that] because they’ll be sharing it in their own social networks, all their friends will see it…people will be tagging and sharing on their own network [and] it becomes exponential.”

Church in Wales urges government to address poverty

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

[Church in Wales] The Church in Wales is calling on the Welsh government to minimize the impact of poverty, austerity and recession on people in Wales.

It says it is seeing families and communities facing increasingly uncertain futures as services and projects shut down, people lose their jobs and harsh policies erode their dignity and sense of worth.  It warns families are struggling to feed their children due to gaps in social services.

Meanwhile more and more churches are responding to the poverty on their doorsteps by setting up services to help people in need such as food banks, credit unions, night shelters and job clubs.

The extent of church action on poverty was outlined to members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales in a motion at its meeting in Llandrindod Wells.

Addressing the meeting, the Rev. Jonathan Durley, community development officer for Llandaff Diocese, said the church had a responsibility to ensure those in power were fully aware of the extent of the poverty it was seeing.

He said, “Social need changes on a daily basis initiated by the impact of closures of projects and services, redundancy and subsequent unemployment, which to illustrate from some of our experiences, may impact on families who may not be able to feed their children before and after school due to loss of income and available finance, even for essential such as food.

“We have a prophetic responsibility to ensure those who hold political and statutory power in our communities are able to hear the voice of those we walk with. We need to ensure such power holders remain informed of the changes we see and the gaps in the services we witness.”

Durley warned that poverty was not just about lack of money but also people’s dignity and that was being affected by government policies. He said, “Poverty is not necessarily solely financial, but also includes social, emotional and physical. Through the extensive network of initiatives within parishes and the wider diocese we are confronted by the serious life diminishing issues which are manifest through concrete images of individuals, families and communities experiencing increasingly uncertain futures.

“This dimension of ministry in our church works to oppose attitudes and policies which fail to respect the Christian understanding of the nature and dignity of people, whether they are general social attitude, government policies concerning the impositions of sanction on those receiving benefits, mandatory detention of asylum seekers; or policies of the Church concerning justice and God’s preference for the poor and those who experience exclusion and marginalization.”

The Governing Body heard about examples in which local churches are stepping in to help their communities. Each of its six dioceses have social responsibility officers who help develop initiatives, such as family centers, in partnership with communities. Local churches are helping to run night shelters for homeless people, job clubs, debt centers, soup kitchens, library services and food banks, while rural life advisers are providing much needed pastoral support in areas facing increased isolation due to cuts in transport services or poor communication networks.

Durley called on local churches to have regular contact with local councillors, local Assembly Ministers and Members of Parliament, inviting them to events and consultations. He asked, “With the General Election looming fast and Welsh Government elections next year, are we encouraging our neighbors to use their democratic right to vote or holding their candidates to account about their policy?”

The Governing Body members voted in favor of a motion to “call upon the Welsh Government to do all that it can to minimize the impact of poverty, austerity and recession on the people of Wales”. The motion on poverty also welcomed the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union, which was launched earlier this year, the Church’s progress towards becoming a Fair Trade Province and its revised ethical investment policy.

The Governing Body, made up of 144 clergy and lay people from across Wales, met at the Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells, on April 15-16.

Instan a los episcopales a actuar para proteger el Refugio Nacional de la Vida Salvaje del Ártico

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Una manada de caribúes Purcopine en la zona 1002 de la planicie costera del Refugio Nacional de la Vida Salvaje del Ártico, con las montañas Brooks en la distancia al sur. Foto de U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

[Episcopal News Service] Para las compañías productoras de energía, el Refugio Nacional de la Vida Salvaje del Ártico, en particular su planicie costera de 607.000 hectáreas, representa una valiosa veta potencial de petróleo y gas natural. Para los gwich’in, el pueblo indígena que durante siglos lo ha llamado su hogar, [el sitio] es sagrado.

Este conflicto lleva andando durante más de 30 años de un debate contencioso respecto a si esta planicie costera debe de abrirse a la explotación petrolera o mantenerse como un hábitat intocado. El ecosistema biológicamente diverso es el hogar del caribú Purcopine, de osos polares, de lobos grises, de ovejas Dall, del toro almizclero, de 42 especies de peces y de más de 200 especies de aves.

Es un debate permanente que sólo el Congreso de EE.UU. puede resolver, y una vez más está en el radar con la reciente introducción de un proyecto de ley en la Cámara que designaría la planicie costera como una zona virgen, que quedaría definitivamente al margen de la explotación de hidrocarburos. El 21 de abril —la víspera del Día de la Tierra— y como parte de la campaña de 30 Días de Acción de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS), se instará a los episcopales a abogar a favor de la designación de la planicie costera como zona virgen.

Situado en el extremo del refugio ártico sobre la costa del mar de Beaufort, justo al este de los campos petrolíferos de la bahía de Prudhoe, la planicie costera es el territorio donde se reproduce el caribú Purcopine, llamado así por el vecino río Purcopine.

El pueblo Gwich’in, que ha dependido del caribú durante miles de años, se refiere a la planicie costera como “el lugar sagrado donde empieza la vida”.

Los gwich’in, el 90 por ciento de los cuales son episcopales, se han enfrentado a los funcionarios conservadores de su estado para proteger la planicie costera del desarrollo y de la perforación petrolífera. La designación de zona virgen también protegería los derechos culturales y de subsistencia del pueblo gwich’in.

“Dependemos de las manadas de caribúes Purcopine para nuestra supervivencia y si la salud de esa manada se ve amenazada, ello amenaza nuestro modo de vida. Un día tendremos que volver a una vida más sencilla y no podremos hacerlo si la manada se ha ido”, dijo Princess Daazhraii Johnson, episcopal de toda la vida y ex directora ejecutiva del Comité Directivo Gwich’in.

En1988, miembros provenientes de toda la Nación Gwich’in se reunieron en Arctic Village, Alaska, en el rincón sudeste del refugio ártico, para una asamblea peculiar en más de un siglo. Acudieron en aerotaxis provenientes de 15 remotas aldeas, dispersas a través del nordeste de Alaska y el noroeste de Canadá —aldeas localizadas en la ruta migratoria del caribú— y crearon el Comité Directivo Gwich’in, explicó Johnson, en una llamada telefónica con Episcopal News Service desde la iglesia episcopal de San Mateo [St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church] en Fairbanks.

“No habíamos tenido una reunión como esta en 100 años, pero esta fue una discusión seria”, explicó ella. “Yo tenía 14 años en ese momento. Mi familia asistió a la reunión. Yo no estuve, pero las ramificaciones tuvieron un gran impacto en mi vida”.

Noventa y cinco por ciento de la Ladera Norte de Alaska ya está abierta al desarrollo, dijo Johnson. Abrir la planicie costera tendría una repercusión mundial.

“Penetrar en el refugio es simbólico… Enviaría un mensaje de que no hay lugares permanentemente protegidos, [que] ningún lugar es sagrado”, dijo “ [que] nuestra sed por extraer petróleo va a sobreponerse a eso”.

A través del debate, las voces indígenas han sido marginadas, y a las culturas nativas se les ha caracterizado como ingenuas, descartando el hecho de que los pueblos indígenas han vivido en su tierra ancestral en el Ártico durante siglos, y que han sufrido de primera mano los efectos del cambio climático.

“Me siento muy agradecida de que la Iglesia Episcopal siempre ha elevado su voz”, dijo ella.

La participación de la Iglesia

La Iglesia Episcopal ha estado en Alaska desde mediados del siglo XIX, y los gwich’in han sido casi en su totalidad miembros de la Iglesia, dijo el Rdo. Scott Fisher, rector de San Mateo, quien participó en la entrevista telefónica desde su parroquia.

El apoyo de la Iglesia Episcopal para proteger el refugio del Ártico, explicó él, comenzó en la Diócesis de Alaska, donde el clero gwich’in introdujo el asunto por primera vez y luego lo presentó ante la Convención General.

En 1991, la Convención General aprobó una resolución por la que oponía a la explotación de petróleo en el refugio del Ártico y se comprometía a trabajar en pro de una legislación “para mejorar la eficiencia y la conservación energéticas de manera que perforar en esta zona prístina no sería necesario”.

Clérigos gwich’in y el obispo de Alaska, Mark Lattime, posan para una foto en la iglesia episcopal de San Mateo en Fairbanks en junio de 2014, luego de una histórica eucaristía en lengua takudh. Foto cortesía de Scott Fisher.

“El Refugio Nacional de la Vida Salvaje del Ártico es más que la preservación de una zona virgen establecida para proteger la pérdida de delicados ecosistemas árticos, es también un lugar sagrado: el hogar espiritual y cultural del pueblo gwich’in”, escribió [el Rvdmo.] Mark Lattimel, obispo de Alaska, en un e-mail a ENS, cuando le preguntaron sobre la importancia del continuo apoyo de la Iglesia Episcopal.

“Todos los cristianos están llamados a buscar la justicia y la paz entre todos los pueblos, y a respetar la dignidad de todo ser humano. Esto es el voto sagrado del bautismo. Como obispo de la Diócesis Episcopal de Alaska, la Iglesia que la mayoría de los gwich’in identifica como suya, llamó a las personas de fe, especialmente a los episcopales, a escuchar la voz del pueblo gwich’in cuando procura proteger no sólo el medioambiente y la paz de su hogar, sino el respeto a su modo de vida y a la dignidad que éste conlleva”.

In 2005 la Iglesia Episcopal se asoció con el Comité Directivo Gwich’in en un informe sobre las implicaciones en los derechos humanos de las perforaciones [petrolíferas] en el refugio.

La perspectiva histórico-política

En 1960, un año después de que Alaska se convirtiera en estado, el presidente Dwight Eisenhower reservó 3,4 millones de hectáreas en la Ladera Norte y la designó “Pradera Nacional de la Vida Salvaje del Ártico”.

Las crisis en el Oriente Medio de los años setenta, la rebelión de la OPEC de 1973-74 y la revolución de Irán de 1979 aumentaron dramáticamente los precios del petróleo, y la explotación en la bahía de Prudhoe, que anteriormente había sido demasiado costosa, se hizo rentable. En la actualidad es el mayor yacimiento petrolífero de América del Norte.

En 1980, el presidente Jimmy Carter y el Congreso, en conformidad con la Ley de Conservación de Tierras de Interés Nacional en Alaska, aumentó en más del doble la zona de preservación, rebautizándola como “Refugio Nacional de la Vida Salvaje del Ártico”.

Aunque la Ley de Conservación de Tierras de Interés Nacional en Alaska exigía que el estado pusiera la utilización [de recursos] para la subsistencia del pueblo indígena por encima de todo lo demás y prohibía las exploraciones de petróleo y gas en el rincón nordeste a lo largo de la planicie costera, dejó la posibilidad de futuras exploraciones en manos de congreso.

En 1987, cuando Ronald Reagan era presidente, el Departamento del Interior de EE.UU. recomendó que el Congreso abriera la planicie costera a la explotación petrolífera. El presidente George H.W. Bush, que comenzó su presidencia en 1989, hizo de la perforación en el refugio una pieza central de su política energética, y a principios de marzo de 1989 un subcomité del Senado aprobó un arrendamiento en la planicie costera. El 24 de marzo de 1989, el Exxon Valdez vertió más de 11 millones de galones de petróleo crudo en el estrecho del Príncipe William.

Cuando Irak invadió a Kuwait y más tarde incendió sus yacimientos petrolíferos, la posibilidad de perforar en el refugio del Ártico  adquirió nuevamente vigencia y finalmente se abrió paso en un paquete presupuestario que el presidente Bill Clinton vetó. Luego de los ataques terroristas del 11 de septiembre y de un aumento en los precios del petróleo, el presidente George W. Bush, al igual que su padre, pensó que perforar en la planicie costera debía de ser parte de la política energética del país.

A principios de enero de este año, se presentó en la Cámara de Representantes federal con apoyo bipartidario la Ley de la Zona Virgen del Ártico Udall-Eisenhower .  Si es aprobada, protegería de manera permanente 4,9 millones de hectáreas —incluida la planicie costera. El 25 de enero el presidente Barack Obama respaldó el proyecto de ley. Si lo aprueban, la zona se convertiría en la mayor zona virgen protegida desde la aprobación de la Ley de Zonas Vírgenes en 1964.

Defensa continua

La Iglesia Episcopal se unió a otras comunidades religiosas para darle las gracias a Obama por tomar una medida que “representa un paso decisivo en la protección de una parte sagrada de la creación de Dios, y le damos las gracias por empeñarse en salvaguardar este tesoro nacional”.

“Participamos en esta labor de defensa no sólo por nuestra preocupación de administrar la creación de Dios, sino también por mostrarnos en solidaridad con nuestros hermanos y hermanas gwich’in que viven en el Ártico y dependen de las manadas del caribú Purcopine para su subsistencia diaria”, dijo Jayce Hafner, analista de política nacional para la DFMS.

La Iglesia Episcopal en su 77ª. Convención General en 2012 aprobó una legislación en la que decía que “estaba en solidaridad con esas comunidades que llevan las cargas del cambio climático global”, entre ellos los pueblos indígenas.

“La Iglesia Episcopal, la comunidad religiosa en un sentido más amplio y otras [entidades] se han mostrado realmente solidarias de los gwich’in, pero para mí hay un panorama más grande y más amplio”, dijo Johnson. “Necesitamos una economía más compasiva y debemos pensar en el cambio climático: las personas más afectadas son indígenas, pero todo el mundo está afectado”.

Los indígenas de Alaska ya han comenzado a experimentar cambios significativos en su entorno natural, explicó Johnson durante un panel sobre las repercusiones regionales del cambio climático. El panel fue parte del foro del 24 de marzo en Los Ángeles que tuvo lugar para crear conciencia a través de la Iglesia Episcopal de los efectos del cambio climático.

“El Ártico es uno de los lugares del planeta que se está entibiando más rápidamente y estamos viendo derretirse las capas de hielo, nuestros glaciares están desapareciendo, la costra congelada se está derritiendo, [y hay] erosión costera”, dijo Johnson durante el foro. “Ya tenemos a comunidades enteras que deben ser relocalizadas”.

El cambio climático es el cambio gradual en la temperatura global causado por acumulación de gases de efecto invernadero que atrapan el calor en la atmósfera y, en consecuencia, alteran la temperatura de la tierra. Algunas zonas se tornan más cálidas, así como otras se hacen más frías. Por ejemplo, la zona continental de Estados Unidos experimentó el invierno más frío que se conoce desde que comenzara este registro formal de las temperaturas a fines del siglo XIX, mientras que Alaska experimentó un invierno moderado para la estación.

Proteger la planicie costera del Ártico es particularmente importante ahora mismo, dijo Hafner, mientras el planeta confronta las emisiones de carbón producidas por la extracción de combustible fósil, lo cual, a su vez, contribuye al cambio climático.

“Estamos sosteniendo estas conversaciones en la esfera local de las comunidades parroquiales, en la esfera nacional con el Plan Presidencial para la Energía Limpia, y en el ámbito internacional con las negociaciones de la Convención sobre el Cambio Climático en el Marco de las Naciones Unidas que culminarán en París en diciembre”, afirmó ella.

El objetivo de la conferencia de París es forjar un acuerdo internacional con vistas a que el mundo haga la transición hacia sociedades y economías resistentes y de bajo consumo de carbón. Si se logra, sería el primer tratado internacional vinculante en 20 años de conversaciones sobre el clima en las Naciones Unidas, y afectaría a países desarrollados y en vías de desarrollo.

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

Transformados por 12 años en Tanzania, unos misioneros se disponen a regresar

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

La Rda. Sandra McCann bautiza a un anciano miembro de la iglesia anglicana de San Pedro, en Chikola, Tanzania, durante una de sus visitas parroquiales en la Diócesis de Tanganica Central.

[Episcopal News Service] De niña, la Rda. Sandra McCann soñaba con ir algún día a África. Pero nunca se imaginó que se convertiría en su hogar, su ministerio y su vida entera durante 12 años.

Cuando Sandy y su marido Martin alcanzaron la mitad de la cincuentena, tomaron la decisión audaz de abandonar sus exitosas carreras médicas en radiología y patología, vender su casa y mudarse a África como misioneros de la Iglesia Episcopal. Su mudanza se retrasó durante tres años y en ese tiempo Sandy se graduó en el Seminario Teológico de Virginia con una Maestría en Teología y la ordenaron presbítera de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Luego de un año de “práctica” en Maseno, Kenia, donde trabajo junto con los misioneros episcopales Gerry y Nancy Hardison, los McCann se mudaron a Dodoma, la capital de Tanzania, y han pasado la última década enseñando, y curando y viviendo en una comunidad bastante alejada de la vida que antes llevaban en Columbus, Georgia. La experiencia ha cambiado y expandido para siempre su visión del mundo, dicen ellos.

Con la ayuda y el aliento de la Oficina de Personal de la Misión de la Iglesia Episcopal, y atendiendo a la invitación del difunto obispo Mdimi Mhogolo, de la Diócesis de Tanganica Central, Sandy enseñó en el Colegio Teológico Msalato y finalmente asumió el cargo de directora de comunicaciones al tiempo que sirve de capellana de esta universidad.

El misionero episcopal Martin McCann analiza un espécimen en su laboratorio de patología en Dodoma, Tanzania. Foto de David Copley.

Martin estableció un laboratorio de patología en el que pueden detectarse enfermedades mediante el uso de toda una variedad de técnicas investigativas, un servicio que no ha cesado de crecer en los últimos 10 años y que anteriormente no existía en la región central de Tanzania. En la actualidad, la clínica recibe especímenes de hospitales públicos locales de Dodoma, así como de varios hospitales de misiones.

En el transcurso de los años y a través de generosas donaciones, Martin ha podido reemplazar y mejorar el equipo, y su personal ha aumentado de un asistente a tres, uno de ellos diplomado de histopatología.

Martin ha concentrado sus esfuerzos en la aspiración con aguja fina, un procedimiento sencillo para el establecimiento de un diagnóstico rápido que él cree que tiene un papel vital que desempeñar en países de escasos recursos. En 2014, realizó más de 1.200 biopsias de aspiración con aguja fina y atendió 2.200 casos de histopatología.

Ahora, a principios de su setentena, los McCann han decidido que 2015 será su último año en Tanzania, una decisión difícil para ellos, pero que se ha facilitado gracias a la conclusión exitosa de una subvención para el Colegio Teológico de Msalato que costea becas de alumnos y salarios de profesores.

Pero antes de irse, están deseosos de garantizar que el consultorio de patología de Martin continuará y están buscando urgentemente a un patólogo (o dos) para reemplazarlo.

[Cualquiera que esté interesado en trabajar como patólogo en Dodoma debe dirigirse al Rdo. David Copley, encargado del personal de misión de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS, por su sigla en inglés) en dcopley@episcopalchurch.org.]

A los McCann los hacen miembros honoríficos del coro de mujeres de San Pablo en Mvumi Makula, durante una visita parroquial en la Diócesis de Tanganica Central.

Atravesar fronteras culturales y crear asociaciones y participar de la misión de Dios tanto local como mundialmente es la esencia misma del programa misionero de la Iglesia Episcopal, que esta administrada por la DFMS y que auspicia en la actualidad a 47 misioneros adultos. Médicos, enfermeros, maestros, contadores, agricultores, técnicos en computación, administradores, teólogos y comunicadores se cuentan entre sus muchos desempeños.

Los misioneros son laicos y ordenados, jóvenes y viejos, y sirven como “representantes de nuestra comunidad que atraviesan fronteras culturales para participar en la misión de Dios a la que nuestros hermanos y hermanas en otras partes de la Comunión Anglicana se sienten llamados a responder”, dice Copley, funcionario de la DFMS encargado del personal de misión.

Resulta difícil “cuantificar el éxito de nuestros misioneros, porque la premisa básica siempre es fortalecer las relaciones con nuestros asociados”. Algunas de las historias más exitosas pueden encontrarse “en el programa que continúa cuando los misioneros dejan de estar presentes”, añadió Copley, de aquí la importancia de encontrar un reemplazo para Martin que garantice que su laboratorio de patología puede seguir sirviendo a los necesitados en Tanzania Central.

El recién publicado Informe a la Iglesia detalla la labor de la DFMS en coordinación y apoyo de los misioneros de la Iglesia Episcopal que prestan servicios a través del mundo.

“La Iglesia Episcopal apoya muchas formas de servicio misional que incluyen a nuestros jóvenes adultos que dedican un año a participar con el Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos (YASC), a adultos mayores en asignaciones de un año y en proyectos especiales a corto plazo de menos de un año, así como a misioneros a largo plazo. Todos tienen su lugar in el panorama más general de la misión mundial y todos tienen sus méritos”, dijo Copley.

“Los misioneros a largo plazo tales como los McCann adquieren una perspectiva única de la vida, la cultura y la fe de los asociados con quienes marchan juntos, la cual no puede adquirirse en asignaciones de menos tiempo”. Añadió Copley. “Los McCann han sido la encarnación física de la relación que la Iglesia Episcopal promueve en Tanzania y en todo el ámbito denominacional. Las relaciones que ellos desarrollan con nuestros asociados anglicanos ayudan a fortalecer la Comunión Anglicana y ayudan a acercar más a los miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo.

“Martin y Sandy han dado una parte significativa de sus vidas al servicio de otros y estamos muy agradecidos por su ministerio”.

Martin se interesó en convertirse en misionero luego de prestar servicio en cortos viajes en misiones médicas —con varias denominaciones— a Haití y América del Sur. Luego, con la Misión Médica Mundial, Martin sirvió como patólogo en Kijabe, Kenia, recibiendo especímenes y devolviendo diagnósticos de unos 42 hospitales y clínicas. El laboratorio que él ha establecido en el Centro Médico Diocesano Anglicano de Dodoma sigue el mismo modelo.

Para Sandy, instalada como canóniga de la Diócesis de Tanganica Central en mayo de 2012, en honor a su ministerio allí, las simientes misioneras fueron plantadas en los primeros años de su vida. “Mi madre era una cristiana que siempre estaba haciendo por otros… desde compartir su huerto, su mesa, su auto o sus habilidades de peluquera”, dijo ella. “Desperdiciar cualquier cosa era un pecado. Hacerlo útil constituía un arte. Nuestras ropas las remendaban, las lavaban, las planchaban y se las dábamos a otros cuando nos quedaban pequeñas. Todo lo que nos pusieran en los platos había que comérselo, porque ‘¡hay niños muriéndose de hambre en África!’ Yo crecí en este ambiente”.

Los McCann dicen que se sienten privilegiados de haber sido llamados a esta labor, que la describen como interesante, apasionante y también retadora, el aprender a vivir en una cultura del todo diferente.

A los McCann los hicieron miembros honorarios del coro de mujeres de San Pablo en Myumi Makula, durante una visita parroquial en la Diócesis de Tanganica Central.

La mejor parte, sin embargo, “ha sido encontrar y llegar a conocer a cristianos que siguen siendo fieles en circunstancias muy difíciles y frustrantes. Esto ciertamente nos abrió los ojos a la diferencia entre un problema del primer mundo y un problema de los países en desarrollo”, dicen ellos. “Escuchar el evangelio en un contexto enteramente nuevo es transformador. Mientras en Occidente pasamos por encima de maldiciones y fantasmas y demonios, eso no es el caso aquí. El espacio liminal es muy tenue entre el mundo físico y el espiritual. Adorar y estudiar con cristianos de África Oriental ha abierto nuestras mentes a otras formas de culto y a otras maneras de entender a Dios”.

Ser misionera brinda una gran libertad, dijo Sandy, liberada de las presiones sociales de los Estados Unidos. “No hay que competir con los vecinos, aunque eso nunca fue una prioridad para nosotros”, apuntó ella. “Cuando recibíamos a los estudiantes en nuestra casa en Kenia, todo el mundo tenía que traer su propio plato —y encontrábamos que era muchísimo más divertido apretujarnos en nuestra casita y hacerlo de este modo. En Msalato pedíamos prestado el único molde de pastel o la única moledora de carne o la única ‘auténtica’ cafetera. Me gusta vivir así en comunidad …Soy chapada a la antigua y me encanta usar las cosas mientras duran y hacer que funcionen y ser creativa con lo que tengo, de manera que esto me cuadra”.

Los mayores retos, afirmó, han sido la abyecta pobreza y la falta de la mayoría de los recursos básicos, especialmente agua potable; la burocracia y la corrupción y deshonestidad extendidas; el miedo a la autoridad y a denunciar abusos o conducta impropia; una creencia generalizada en la brujería, incluso entre cristianos y personas instruidas, y la deficiente infraestructura.

El reciente resurgimiento del asesinato de niños albinos debido a que los médicos brujos prometen que las partes de sus cuerpos, el pelo y la sangre traerán buena suerte en el amor y la fortuna es algo particularmente perturbador, agregó. “Es escandaloso lo extendido y arraigado que siguen estando los sistemas de creencias primitivas en partes de Tanzania”, señaló ella.

A pesar de “la extrema dificultad y la frustración de vivir honestamente en una sociedad corrupta”, los McCann dicen que como resultado de las experiencias de los últimos 12 años, “somos menos críticos, más pacientes y más conscientes de la tarea monumental que costará llevar a Tanzania a la etapa de la independencia económica”.

Ellos también han hecho incontables amigos y han llegado “a admirar muchísimo al pueblo tanzano. Nos han demostrado que la posibilidad de [experimentar] un júbilo profundo en medio de los sufrimientos de la vida diaria es algo real. Como el difunto obispo Mhogo dijo una vez respecto a estar en las parroquias de aldea: las personas son pobres, con frecuencia están hambrientas, pero aún así siguen danzando y alabando al Señor.  Es cierto y es algo bello de observar”.

Sandy dice que ella ha visto la mano de Dios en todo lo que han hecho, “pero a menudo sólo a través del ‘retrospectoscopio’. Ahora estamos tomando de nuevo la mano de Dios y adentrándonos en la oscuridad, confiándole a El nuestra próxima tarea”.

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

Los cristianos de Pakistán, fieles y fuertes a pesar de la persecución

Monday, April 20, 2015

El Muy Rdo. Patrick Augustine, rector de la iglesia episcopal de Cristo en La Crosse, Wisconsin, coloca la primera piedra de una nueva iglesia cristiana cerca de Muzzaffarabad durante una reciente visita de solidaridad a Pakistán.

[Episcopal News Service] Pakistán es uno de los más conflictivos epicentros del terrorismo en todo el mundo, donde las minorías resultan víctimas de extremistas religiosos por tener diferentes creencias y filiaciones. Sin embargo, la comunidad cristiana perseguida —1,5 por ciento de una población de 180 millones— se mantiene firme en la fe a pesar de la diaria persecución a la que se enfrenta.

El mes pasado, estallaron dos bombas en un barrio cristiano de la ciudad paquistaní de Lahore con un saldo de 17 muertos y más de 70 heridos mientras los feligreses asistían a la misa dominical en la iglesia católica de San Juan y en la iglesia de Cristo, una congregación de la Iglesia de Pakistán que es miembro de la Comunión Anglicana.

“Los mensajes de amor y de apoyo han sido abrumadores, y las iglesias y agencias de la Comunión Anglicana están colaborando para garantizar una respuesta efectiva y coordinada, así como oración continua”, según un comunicado de prensa de la Alianza Anglicana, que vincula y refuerza las actividades de desarrollo, ayuda y promoción de iglesias, organismos y redes de la Comunión Anglicana.

En una teleconferencia reciente con representantes de iglesias y organismos de la Comunión Anglicana, el obispo Irfan Jamil, de la Diócesis de Lahore, habló sobre las prioridades de su iglesia y su comunidad después de los atentados.

Jamil y su equipo han estado visitando a los dolientes y a los que resultaron lesionados por el estallido de las bombas, decía el comunicado. La Agencia Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo ha enviado una subvención de solidaridad para posibilitar la respuesta de la Iglesia a los necesitados después de los ataques.

La Iglesia de Pakistán (Unida) y la Iglesia Católica Romana celebraron un oficio funeral conjunto para las víctimas. El arzobispo de Cantórbery Justin Welby participó del oficio por teléfono y sus oraciones fueron traducidas y compartidas con los dolientes.

“El obispo Jamil inspiró a los participantes [en la teleconferencia] con su énfasis en el papel de los líderes de la Iglesia en edificar la paz, la armonía y el entendimiento mutuo y con su mensaje a la Comunión Anglicana de seguir al lado de la Iglesia en Pakistán en estos tiempos de trauma”, decía el comunicado.

El ataque más devastador en Pakistán ocurrió en septiembre de 2013 cuando dos terroristas suicidas eligieron de blanco la iglesia anglicana de Todos los Santos, en Peshawar, al final de un oficio, atentado que dejó 127 muertos y 170 heridos. Muchas de las víctimas fueron mujeres y niños.

El obispo Samuel Azariah, de la Diócesis de Raiwind, moderador de la Iglesia de Pakistán, habló con Episcopal News Service poco después de ese trágico día, diciendo que incluso después de años de intensa persecución de parte de los extremistas religiosos, la población cristiana en Pakistán crece. “Nada logrará enfriar nuestros espíritus. Bombas, asesinatos, incendios, balacera no enfriarán nuestros espíritus ni nuestro compromiso con Jesucristo”, afirmó.

El obispo de Peshawar, Humphrey Peters, dijo en un mensaje de Pascua la semana pasada que los ataques terroristas “han dejado una cicatriz permanente en la memoria y el alma de la comunidad cristiana de Pakistán… Por una parte, todas estas amenazas, incidentes de violencia y blancos de persecución desaniman a la comunidad cristiana de Pakistán. Pero, por la otra, han fortalecido la fe y… su compromiso de fidelidad con el Señor Jesucristo”.

Fue esta firmeza y esta profunda fe la que el Muy Rdo. Patrick Augustine experimentó cuando visitó Pakistán a principios de este año como expresión de solidaridad con la comunidad cristiana alln de explosivos para matar a los que vos para imponer el islam por medio de la violencia, las decapitaciones y la detonacide la í.

Miembros de la congregación de la iglesia anglicana de Todos los Santos en Peshawar.

El rector de la iglesia episcopal de Cristo [Christ Episcopal Church] en La Crosse, Wisconsin, que es natural de Pakistán, predicó durante el oficio del 25 de enero en la ahora muy custodiada iglesia de Todos los Santos, construida en el antiguo bazar de la ciudad vieja de Peshawar en 1865. Él encontró una iglesia que crece y que está llena de fieles cristianos. “Me sentí conmovido por la fuerza y el compromiso de su fe”, le dijo a ENS.

“Los terroristas creen que tienen motivos para imponer el islam por medio de la violencia, las decapitaciones y la detonación de explosivos, para matar a aquellos cuyos sistemas de creencias difieren”, añadió. “El sufrimiento está en todas partes y ha abrumado nuestra humanidad”.

Los cristianos en Pakistán son “víctimas por los islamitas en brutales atentados suicidas, [pero también] del acoso diario y de encarcelamientos”, dijo Augustine.

Existe el caso prominente de Asia Bibi, una mujer cristiana y madre de cinco hijos que fue arrestada en junio de 2009 luego de ser acusada de insultar al profeta Mahoma —lo cual ella niega— y sentenciada a morir en la horca. Ella sigue en una cárcel pakistaní a pesar de que casi 1 millón de personas en todo el mundo solicitaron su liberación. Algunas acusaciones de blasfemia han sido divulgadas en la prensa, pero hay otras miles que pasan inadvertidas.

Luego del oficio matutino del domingo en la iglesia anglicana de Todos los Santos en Peshawar, el Rdo. Patrick Augustine ora con una familia que perdió varios seres queridos en el atentado dinamitero de septiembre de 2013.

La ley pakistaní de la blasfemia identifica como un delito profanar el Sagrado Corán, lo cual conlleva una posible sentencia de cadena perpetua. Pero las ofensas contra el profeta Mahoma pueden castigarse con la pena de muerte.

“Esta ley draconiana es una espada que cuelga sobre la cabeza de cada cristiano. Una vez acusado, el individuo corre el riesgo de [caer en manos de] fervientes islamitas que creen que ganarán méritos con Alá por matar a un blasfemo”, dijo Augustine. “Millares de personas inocentes han sido encarceladas y muertas en base a falsas acusaciones de blasfemia.

Augustine lamentó la inacción del gobierno de Pakistán, el cual, según él, “ha permitido que los grupos extremistas islámicos propaguen el odio… la violencia, la intolerancia y que difundan ideas extremistas en mezquitas ordinarias y en centros comunitarios”.

Pero Augustine —que en 2012 fue galardonado con la Cruz de San Agustín por el anterior arzobispo de Cantórbery Rowan Williams, en reconocimiento a sus contribuciones, a escala internacional, a la evangelización, el ecumenismo y la paz y la reconciliación entre las religiones— dijo que “la gente quiere la paz. Vivimos en un mundo diseñado por Dios, de modo que todos nos necesitamos mutuamente como miembros de la familia humana. Hay personas de buena voluntad tanto entre cristianos como entre musulmanes. Les pido a todas las personas de buena voluntad que se pronuncien y que no se conviertan en espectadores silenciosos”.

El Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal en su reunión de marzo aprobó una resolución que condenaba el uso de la religión para los fines de promover agendas políticas “dirigidas a aterrorizar, victimizar y oprimir a individuos y comunidades y a afectar su capacidad de disfrutar de derechos humanos básicos debido a sus creencias religiosas y sus filiaciones sociales, étnicas, de clase, de casta, de género y nacionalidad”.

La resolución llama también a los gobiernos del mundo “a confrontar la realidad de la persecución religiosa, a proteger a las minorías y los civiles dentro del marco del derecho internacional y humanitario, a abordar la exclusión política y la desesperación económica que están siendo manipuladas por las fuerzas de los extremistas y a aumentar la ayuda humanitaria y para el desarrollo en los países de acogida y en las ONG confiables, y a aceptar el reasentamiento de una parte proporcional de las personas más vulnerables allí donde el regreso a sus países de origen es imposible”.

El Rdo. Canónigo Robert Edmunds, encargado de asociaciones orientales de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS), dijo: “A veces oímos el termino ‘presencia cristiana’ en el Oriente Medio y suena pasivo y carente de vitalidad, cuando la verdad del asunto para los que viven allí es muy diferente. La presencia cristiana a través de la región tiene que ver con cristianos cuyas familias y raíces religiosas se remontan al tiempo de Cristo. Estos no son transeúntes en una tierra extraña, sino personas cuyas vidas son parte integrante del paisaje, la historia, la cultura las tradiciones que han formado y continúan formando a cada generación”.

La presencia de las iglesias cristianas a través de la región “brinda el lenguaje del amor de Dios y de todos los prójimos en peligro de ser silenciados”, añadió Edmunds. “Nosotros en Occidente debemos seguir dándoles visibilidad a esas atrocidades, tanto desde el punto de vista de la solidaridad con nuestros hermanos y hermanas cristianos, como para alentar a los líderes políticos a buscar soluciones de paz permanente y duraderas para beneficio de todos. Perder la voz cristiana en la región sería catastrófico para el futuro”.

Los amigos, familiares y feligreses de Augustine expresaron su preocupación de que él visitara Pakistán en un momento tan inestable. Pero Augustine dijo, refiriéndose a su viaje, que él había encontrado incontables señales de esperanza y sorpresas inesperadas.

El Muy Rdo. Patrick Augustine con jóvenes líderes de la Diócesis de Peshawar, algunos de los cuales resultaron lesionados y perdieron a miembros de su familia en los atentados terroristas de la iglesia anglicana de Todos los Santos.

A primera hora de una mañana de domingo en febrero, Augustine y 20 cristianos de Islamabad viajaron por carretera durante cuatro horas para estar con una familia cristiana cerca de Muzzaffarabad. La familia ha estado viviendo allí desde 1933, pero ellos son los únicos cristianos en una zona exclusivamente islámica. Augustine describió [la visita] como un profundo privilegio y un día histórico mientas contaba cómo le habían pedido que celebrara la Santa Comunión y predicara, y luego plantara la primera piedra de una iglesia que tendrá lugar para 50 personas.

El primer día de su arribo a Islamabad, visitó el taller de un sastre con un amigo. Uno de los hermanos musulmanes que dirige el taller le pidió a Augustine que orara por él. Cuando Augustine le dijo que él ora en el nombre de Jesús, el hermano le dijo que no tenía ninguna objeción.

Cuando estaba a punto de irse, el otro de los hermanos se le acercó a Augustine y le pido que orara con ellos también. “Los miré y vi en sus ojos hambre de Dios para recuperación y bendición”, dijo él. “Impuse mis manos sobre ellos y les pedí a Dios que los bendijera, y que bendijera su taller y que bendijera a Pakistán para que fuera una tierra de paz. Esta fue una experiencia sorprendente en un país donde a los cristianos los persiguen y los discriminan a diario”.

Dos días después, Peters, el obispo de Peshawar, recibió una llamada telefónica sobre el ataque de una turba musulmana a una escuela dirigida por cristianos en la ciudad de Banú. La escuela tiene 1.800 estudiantes, el 99 por ciento de los cuales son musulmanes. Peters y cuatro clérigos decidieron partir inmediatamente [hacia el lugar] e invitaron a Augustine que los acompañara. “Es una zona de altísima seguridad y no muchos estadounidenses podrán hacer este viaje peligroso. Fue un privilegio ir… y mostrarse en solidaridad con una iglesia sufriente”, dijo Augustine.

El Muy Rdo. Patrick Augustine ora con la desplazada comunidad cristiana en Banú.

Dentro del complejo de instalaciones, había 200 familias cristianas desplazadas internamente de la zona de Waziristán, un baluarte de las fuerzas de Al-Qaeda y el Talibán y la región donde los aviones norteamericanos no tripulados han estado cazando terroristas.

“Hay un millón de desplazados internos”, dijo Augustine. “Las familias cristianas estaban viviendo en campamentos de refugiados… y no les daban alimento ni abrigo. Ha sido una zona anglicana desde los años sesenta del siglo XIX. El obispo invitó a los cristianos a levantar tiendas dentro de las instalaciones de la iglesia donde también están situados una escuela y un hospital. Ellos pueden proporcionarle educación y ayuda médica a musulmanes y cristianos en esta ciudad.

“Dediqué todo un día a visitar a estas personas desplazadas, a escuchar sus historias, a sostener sus manos y a orar con ellos… No percibí que esas personas estuvieran dispuestas a renunciar a su fe, sino que eran muy fuertes, profundamente arraigados y comprometidos a seguir a Jesús en el camino de la cruz”.

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

Presiding Bishop preaches at St. Mark’s, Suffolk

Monday, April 20, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached the following sermon at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Suffolk, Virginia. 

 

St. Mark’s, Suffolk, VA
Centennial celebration
April 19, 2015

 

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

 

Beloved, you are the apple of God’s eye. That’s what John is trying to communicate in his letter, over and over and over again. “Beloved, we are God’s children now” – already! And even though we aren’t yet complete, we know that we will be like the child of God we have known in Jesus. We will be like him, and we will be risen with him.[1] Living clean and right and true is part of the journey of transformation toward that risen life. We have glimpses of it in this life, even if we haven’t yet fully arrived!

Toni Morrison has had glimpses of it as well, and her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved[2] is a haunting and piercing search for transformation toward a risen life. How do we discover resurrection in our midst; how do we participate in what God is doing all around us, all the time? For starters, risen life isn’t believable without witness to the scars the risen Jesus bears and shows his beloved friends. None of us will rise without walking through the work of re-membering what has been broken and dismembered. People and peoples must acknowledge the scars that evil leaves and do it in the full light of day in order to become whole, healed, and ultimately holy.

The church has usually talked about that work of re-membering as forgiveness of sin, but for many people the words and concepts often seem dry or opaque. Re-membering, putting things back together in a new and healed body, isn’t so much about letting go of the effects of evil; it’s almost the reverse. It’s about finding the courage to walk through the pain, abandonment, and despair to find the sparks of love in the ashes of what has died or been lost.

What would you have to tell about ashes and sparks of love at St. Mark’s?            The centennial you are celebrating coincides with the Armenian genocide that also began in April of 1915. The two stories have a lot in common – denial about what caused the events of 1915, and the continuing pain of seeing one group of people as other. When the American ambassador to Turkey wrote home about what was happening in the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, he talked about “race murders.”[3]

I haven’t been able to find very much written about the history of this parish, but I can see that it was founded by St. Paul’s, Suffolk, only 20 years after they built the large gothic building they still use today. I doubt that St. Mark’s began because there wasn’t enough room in the inn or because it was too far to walk. I can also see that this congregation has endured and flourished with a long series of leaders, even if most of the clergy didn’t stay very long. When they did, this congregation bloomed. Fr. Walker, may you live long and prosper with the people of St. Mark’s and St. James[4]! The world’s standards of success are not God’s. Faithfulness, endurance, truth-telling, and thanksgiving for risen life are the essentials for the gospel journey of transformation.

What the world intends for evil, God can turn to good. St. Mark’s has flourished by focusing on the gospel truth that we are all beloved, in spite of other sinful human opinions. You have been a community that reminds all its members they are beloved children of God, and you keep going into the world to share that good news with all who will listen.

The beloved child of God we call messiah suffered and died, and rose again. Jesus told his disciples what was going to happen but they shrank from the news, and they slunk away during his last hours. Jesus kept telling truth in all his resurrection appearances. ‘See the wounds and scars – put your fingers here – they’re real.’ If he is God’s beloved, then so are we, and we, too, will rise again, beloved.

And so is every sorry, suffering son and daughter of God beloved. Where have you met the beloved?… Who is hungry? There he is, beloved. Who’s been beaten? There she is, beloved. Who has no place to call home? There, in all the immigrants some of us love to hate. The word is that Jesus and his family were refugees in Egypt after Herod got scared. Your rector and his family came here as refugees – beloved. A million and a half murdered Armenians – beloved, too. Twelve million Africans displaced and dead at the hands of the slave trade – beloved. Six million Jews, and 5 million Gypsies, Poles, disabled, gay and lesbian people, murdered by the Nazi regime – beloved. We have to tell the truth, and confront the pain and rejection, the brutality and inhumanity, the death and enduring scars, and when we do, like Mary returning to the tomb, hope finds a foothold.

There is hope all around us – right here, through a century of faithfully loving others as you love yourselves. I saw hope yesterday at the Province V synod that had spent an afternoon in good, hard, anti-racism work. I see it in the urgency about policing and mass incarceration. The risen one is here and all around us, when we look.

In that gospel account, Jesus is insistent – ‘I’m not a ghost, and these flesh and bones are hungry! What have you got to eat?’[5] We are the witnesses, the ones who are supposed to see. Who is hungry? That is the risen one, in the flesh. There is God with skin on.

The image of God with skin on, the resurrected one, is at work all around us if we will only look. Sometimes it takes a long time, and our awareness often begins to grow in the midst of thanksgiving. As part of its 175th anniversary celebration, St. John’s in City Point Hopewell is re-membering the body by telling the story of Mrs. Paulina Eppes, born a slave in 1848. Her father, too, was a slave, who served as the church’s sexton most of his adult life. When he died in 1876, he was the first black man to be buried in the church’s cemetery. Paulina’s husband became the next sexton, but when died in 1889, the congregation wouldn’t permit his burial there. Paulina Eppes lived almost a century, long enough to become a beloved matriarch in that congregation, and when she died in 1946, she was buried next to her father, in an unmarked plot. Today the parish is telling the truth, giving thanks for her witness, and marking her grave. They’re all rising a little more into life as beloved children of God.[6]

Where and how are you going to keep on rising from the dead? Beloved, you are the apple of God’s eye, and it’s not a zero-sum game. I met a fellow once with a sweatshirt that said, “Jesus loves you.” On the back it said, “but I’m his favorite.” We are all his favored ones, all beloved, and as we keep on learning that, taking it into the depths of our hearts and being, we move along that journey toward fully risen life.

I wonder if St. Mark’s and St. Paul’s have ever had a story-telling session. What kind of rising might happen if you challenged each other to tell the truth you know about your common history, and ask about where each of you sees the risen one today? Beloved, we must keep telling the truth of that love, and tell about what gets in the way, and keep on rising from the dead, giving thanks for every hint of more abundant life.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! Keep on rising from the dead!

[1] 1 John 3:2

[2] 1987, Alfred Knopf

[3] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-armenia-genocide-turks-20150416-story.html

[4] The two congregations have in recent months agreed to work together and share a priest

[5] Luke 24:39-41

[6] http://www.progress-index.com/article/20150414/NEWS/150419849

Episcopalians urged to act to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Monday, April 20, 2015

Porcupine caribou herd in the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, with the Brooks Range mountains in the distance to the south. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

[Episcopal News Service] To energy companies the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, particularly its 1.5-million acre coastal plain, is a potential oil and natural gas bonanza. To the Gwich’in, the indigenous people who for centuries have called it home, it’s sacred.

This conflict has fueled for more than 30 years a contentious debate over whether this coastal plain should be opened to oil drilling or kept as an unspoiled habitat. The biologically diverse ecosystem is home to Porcupine caribou, polar bears, gray wolves, Dall sheep, musk oxen, 42 fish species and more than 200 bird species.

It is an ongoing debate only U.S. Congress can resolve, and once again it’s on the radar with the recent introduction of a bipartisan bill in the House that would designate the coastal plain a wilderness, permanently making drilling off limits. On April 21 – the day before Earth Day – as part of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s 30 Days of Action campaign, Episcopalians will be encouraged to advocate for coastal plain’s wilderness designation.

Sitting at the top of the Arctic refuge on the coast of the Beaufort Sea, just east of the Prudhoe Bay oil field, the coastal plain is the calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd, so named for the nearby Porcupine River.

The Gwich’in people, who have depended on the caribou for thousands of years, refer to the coastal plain as “the sacred place where life begins.”

The Gwich’in, 90 percent of them Episcopalians, have opposed their conservative state officials to protect the coastal plain from development and oil drilling. The wilderness designation also would protect the cultural and subsistence rights of the Gwich’in people.

“We are dependent on the Porcupine caribou herd for our survival and if the health of that herd is threatened, it threatens our way of life. One day we’ll have to go back to simpler living and we won’t have that if the herd is gone,” said Princess Daazhraii Johnson, a lifelong Episcopalian and former executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee.

In 1988, Gwich’in from across the Gwich’in Nation gathered in Arctic Village, Alaska, on the southeast corner of the Arctic refuge, for a meeting unlike any in more than a century. They came by chartered bush planes from 15 remote villages scattered across northeast Alaska and northwest Canada – villages located on the caribou’s migratory route – and formed the Gwich’in Steering Committee, explained Johnson, in a telephone call with Episcopal News Service from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks.

“We hadn’t had a gathering like this in 100 years, but this was such a serious discussion,” she said. “I was 14 at the time. My family was there for the gathering. I was not there but the ramifications have had a great impact on my life.”

Ninety-five percent of Alaska’s North Slope already is open for development, said Johnson. To open the coastal plain would resonate throughout the world.

“Getting into the refuge is symbolic. … It will send a message that there are no permanently protected places, [that] no place is sacred,” she said. “Our thirst for extracting oil is going to trump that.”

Throughout the debate, indigenous voices have been sidelined, with native cultures being characterized as simple-minded – dismissing the fact that indigenous people have lived and been caretakers of their ancestral land in the Arctic for centuries, and have suffered firsthand the effects of climate change.

“I feel very grateful because The Episcopal Church has always elevated that voice,” she said.

The church’s involvement
The Episcopal Church has been in Alaska since the mid-1800s, with the Gwich’in almost exclusively members of the church, said the Rev. Scott Fisher, rector of St. Matthew’s, who participated in the phone interview from his parish.

The Episcopal Church’s support for protecting the Arctic refuge, he explained, began in the Diocese of Alaska, where Gwich’in clergy first introduced it, and then brought the matter before General Convention.

In 1991, General Convention passed a resolution opposing oil development in the Arctic refuge, and committed itself to work for legislation “to improve energy efficiency and conservation so that drilling in this pristine area would not be necessary.”

Gwitch’in clergy and Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime gather for a photo at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks in June 2014 following an historic Takudh Eucharist. Photo courtesy of Scott Fisher.

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is more than a wilderness preserve established to protect against the loss of delicate Arctic ecosystems, it is also a sacred place: the spiritual and cultural home of the Gwich’in people,” wrote Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime in an e-mail to ENS, when asked about the importance of The Episcopal Church’s continued support.

“Every Christian is called to seek justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. This is the sacred oath of Baptism. As bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, the church that most Gwich’in identify as home, I call upon people of faith, especially Episcopalians, to listen to the voice of the Gwich’in people as they seek to protect not only the environment and peace of their home, but the respect and dignity of their way of life.”

In 2005 The Episcopal Church partnered with the Gwich’in Steering Committee on a report on the human rights implications of drilling in the refuge.

Historical political perspective
In 1960, a year after Alaska became a state, President Dwight Eisenhower set aside 8.6 million acres in the North Slope and designated it the “Arctic National Wildlife Range.”

Crises in the Middle East in the 1970s, the 1973-74 OPEC rebellion and the 1979 Iran revolution dramatically increased oil prices, and drilling in Prudhoe Bay, which previously had been too expensive, became profitable. It is now the largest oil field in North America.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter and the Congress, under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, more than doubled the area for preservation, renaming it the “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

Although the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act required the state to put the subsistence use of indigenous people above all else and prohibited oil and gas exploration in the northeast corner along the coastal plain, it left the possibility for future exploration in the hands of Congress.

In 1987, when Ronald Reagan was president, the U.S. Department of the Interior recommended that Congress open the coastal plain to drilling. President George H.W. Bush, who began is presidency in 1989, made drilling in the refuge a centerpiece of his energy policy, and in early March 1989 a Senate committee approved leasing in the coastal plain. On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait and later set fire to its oil fields, the possibility of drilling in the Arctic refuge again gained steam and eventually found its way into a budget package vetoed by President Bill Clinton. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a rise in oil prices, President George W. Bush, like his father, thought drilling on the coastal plain should be part the country’s energy policy.

In early January of this year, the bipartisan Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act was introduced in the U.S. House. If passed, it would permanently protect 12.28 million acres – including the coastal plain. On Jan. 25, President Barack Obama endorsed the bill. If passed, the area would become the largest wilderness-protected area since the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.

Continued advocacy
The Episcopal Church joined other faith communities in thanking Obama for taking action that “represents a critical step in protecting a sacred part of God’s creation, and we thank you for working to safeguard this national treasure.”

“We are involved in this important advocacy not only because of our concern for stewardship of God’s creation, but also because we stand in solidarity with our Gwich’in brothers and sisters who live in the Arctic and depend upon the Porcupine caribou herd for their daily subsistence,” said Jayce Hafner, domestic policy analyst for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

The Episcopal Church at its 77th General Convention in 2012 passed legislation saying it “stands in solidarity with those communities who bear the burdens of global climate change,” including indigenous people.

“The Episcopal Church, the larger faith-based community, and others have been really supportive of the Gwich’in, but to me there is a bigger, broader picture,” said Johnson. “We need a more compassionate economy and we need to think about climate change – the most affected people being indigenous, but all people are affected.”

Alaska’s indigenous people have already begun to experience significant changes in their natural environment, explained Johnson during a panel on the regional impacts of climate change. The panel was part of a March 24 forum in Los Angeles to raise awareness about the effects of climate change across The Episcopal Church.

“The Arctic is one of the fastest warming places on the planet and we’re seeing the melting of the ice sheets, our glaciers are disappearing, the permafrost is melting, [and there is] coastal erosion,” said Johnson, during the forum. “We have entire communities that are having to be relocated.”

Climate change is the gradual change in global temperature caused by accumulation of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, altering the earth’s temperature. Some areas are getting warmer, as others are getting colder. For example, the mainland United States experienced the coldest winter on record since formal record keeping began in the late 1800s, whereas Alaska experienced an unseasonably warm winter.

Protecting the coastal plain of the Arctic is particularly important right now, said Hafner, as the planet confronts the carbon emissions produced by fossil fuel extraction, which, in turn, contribute to climate change.

“We’re having these conversations at local levels in parish communities, at the national level with the President’s Clean Power Plan, and at the international level with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations that will culminate in Paris this December,” she said.

The goal of the Paris conference is to forge an international agreement aimed at transitioning the world toward resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. If accomplished, it would be the first-ever binding, international treaty in 20 years of United Nations climate talks, and would affect developed and developing countries.

— Lynette Wilson is a writer and editor for Episcopal News Service.

20 years after Oklahoma bombing, bishop calls for prayer, remembrance

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Field of Empty Chairs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum includes a chair for each life lost, including 19 smaller chairs for the children who died in the Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh, an act of domestic terrorism that also injured 600 others. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma] Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny wrote to the diocese April 15 to call Episcopalians to “hope, love, and community” as they approach the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City building on April 19, 1995 (it was Wednesday of Holy Week) in an act of domestic terrorism that killed 168 people and injured 600 others.

Konieczny’s letter follows.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. This attack resulted in the deaths of 168 people and forever changed our capital city, our nation, and ourselves.

As we approach this anniversary, let us not focus our attention on stories of anger, fear, or violence; but, rather, let us turn our attention to the stories of hope, love, and community that surround that day. Let us remember the immeasurably courageous rescuers who plunged into danger to save our neighbors. Let us remember the unified fortitude and kindness our capital city portrayed, reminding us all that we are truly stronger together than we are apart. Let us remember the love, support, and generosity that poured into our capital city from around the world. Most importantly, let us remember the victims who died, their families and loved ones, and those whose lives were changed forever that day. Let us pray for peace, healing, hope, and reconciliation for all on this anniversary and always. I invite congregations to remember this anniversary in their Prayers of the People this Sunday.

Please join me in prayer:
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Faithfully,
+Bishop Ed