[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) has issued the following request for responses concerning Holy Women, Holy Men.
At the last General Convention, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music was directed to continue revising Holy Women, Holy Men with particular attention to the 2006 guidelines, renewed attention to the form, poetry, and seasons of liturgical life inherent in the Book of Common Prayer and to continue to seek responses from the wider Church. As we have reviewed responses to Holy Women, Holy Men and reflected together, the SCLM is proposing a new approach to commemorations. Posted on the SCLM blog (liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com) is a document that explains what we are proposing and why. Because this is a matter of interest to the whole Church, we would like to receive feedback from the Church concerning this direction we are taking. Please read, consider, and discuss our proposal, and then let us know what you think about it in the comments section of the blog post where the document appears. Your comments will help determine whether we continue working in this new direction or whether we continue along the established model currently embodied in Holy Women, Holy Men. In the interest of moving forward in one direction or the other, we invite comments on the blog before February 22 so they may be taken into account at our meeting the following week.
The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers
Chair, Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music
Las diócesis de Nueva Jersey y Newark han estado ofreciendo talleres y seminarios educativos en distintas iglesias a través del estado, dirigidos por episcopales como Louis Cavaliere, un capitán jubilado de la Armada de EE.UU. que se interesó en la trata de personas cuando tuvo conciencia de ella por el “lado de la demanda” [en términos de oferta y demanda] durante su tiempo en el servicio activo.
“Yo enviaba hombres al extranjero, y participaban de esto”, dijo Cavaliere, miembro de la iglesia de La Gracia [Grace Church], en Merchantville, Nueva Jersey, en una entrevista telefónica.
En 2000, Estados Unidos promulgó la Ley de Protección a las Víctimas de la Trata de Personas, que define la trata sexual como una “forma grave de tráfico”, en el cual “se induce por la fuerza, fraude o coerción, un acto sexual de carácter comercial”.
En la Diócesis de Nueva Jersey, Cavaliere dio charlas en iglesias que se centraron en el problema de la trata de personas que tiene lugar al tiempo de gigantescos eventos deportivos tales como el Súper Tazón.
“Un Súper Tazón tras otro ha demostrado ser uno de los mayores eventos del mundo donde la crueldad de la trata de personas dura varias semanas”, dijo Christopher H. Smith, representante por Nueva Jersey, en un artículo de la Associated Press sobre los esfuerzos del estado por reducir la trata de personas antes del Súper Tazón.
Los Halcones Marinos [Seahawks] de Seattle y los Broncos de Denver jugarán el 2 de febrero en el Meadowlands, un estadio del norte de Nueva Jersey, en la Diócesis de Newark.
“El Súper Tazón traerá acaso más pompa y glamur que ningún otro evento de que Nueva Jersey haya sido anfitrión. Y, tal como la historia del Súper Tazón ha demostrado, traerá más sufrimiento y oscuridad —en la forma de esclavitud humana— de lo que podamos llegar a medir”, dijo Mark Beckwith, obispo de Newark, en una columna de opinión publicada el 24 de enero en el Star-Ledger. “La mayoría de nosotros no veremos esta maldad. La mayoría de nosotros no sabremos si está ocurriendo en Newark o en Nutley, en Ho-Ho-Kus o en Hackensack, o en otros lugares intermedios. Cualquier testimonio que podamos dar, cualquier conciencia que podamos crear y cualquier luz que podamos arrojar tiene la posibilidad de frenar a algunos traficantes —y puede proporcionarles una oportunidad a algunos que se encuentran en la esclavitud de escapar a la libertad”.
La trata de personas asume muchas formas: adoptados, refugiados y personas que buscan asilo y que terminan atrapadas, adolescentes que han huido de sus hogares y víctimas de secuestros. Se calcula que 27 millones de personas en todo el mundo son víctimas de esta trata, la mayoría de las cuales son utilizadas como esclavos laborales o sexuales, según el Informe sobre la trata de personas del Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos en 2013. Sólo en 2012, se identificaron otras 46.000 víctimas, dice el informe más reciente.
Durante la convención anual de la Diócesis de Newark, Laura Russell, abogada y miembro de la diócesis, ofreció el 25 de enero una presentación y un taller dedicado a la trata de personas.
“Fue un taller muy bueno el de ayer, sobrado de información y conocimiento”, dijo Martha Gardner, que sirve en la Junta de Justicia de la diócesis, en una entrevista con ENS al día siguiente.
Después del taller, clérigos y laicos querían saber que otra preparación podría haber y qué podían hacer localmente las congregaciones para identificar y ayudar a las víctimas, dijo Gardner, que también preside la Comisión de Mujeres de la diócesis.
La Diócesis de Newark ofrece medios litúrgicos aquí.
En otros empeños, los episcopales de las dos diócesis del estado se han asociado con la Coalición de Nueva Jersey Contra la Trata de Personas para crear conciencia [de este azote] en comunidades que se extienden desde el norte de Nueva Jersey hasta sitios del extremo sur [del estado] como Atlantic City; en adiestrar a gerentes de hoteles, que luego entrenarían a sus empleados a identificar señales de trata de personas; así como adiestrar a los camioneros a buscar señales de que alguien está siendo retenido contra su voluntad.
“Los traficantes de sexo con frecuencia eligen a personas vulnerables con antecedentes de haber sido víctimas de abusos, y luego se valen de la violencia, amenazas, mentiras, falsas promesas, retención por deudas y otras formas de control y manipulación para mantener a sus víctimas inmersas en la industria del sexo”, según el Proyecto Polaris, una organización no gubernamental que se dedica a combatir la trata de personas y que dirige línea nacional de acceso directo útil para hacer una denuncia, tener acceso a recursos, solicitar entrenamiento o recibir referencias.
La coalición de Nueva Jersey también se está asociada con la SOAP, [sigla en inglés de la organización] Salve a Nuestros Adolescentes de la Prostitución, para dejar en las habitaciones de los hoteles barras de jabón envueltas con una cinta roja que da el número de la Línea Nacional de Acceso Directo sobre la Trata de Personas.
“El Súper Tazón era una oportunidad de resaltar el problema”, dijo Gardner. Durante los últimos seis meses, según explicó ella, la diócesis ha estado debatiendo sobre la trata de personas y ha reunido algunos recursos al respecto. “El lunes 3 de febrero estará teniendo lugar [el Súper Tazón] aquí”.
Otras organizaciones también esperan que el Súper Tazón les ayude a crear una mayor conciencia [sobre el problema de la trata].
Un grupo de trabajo de las Naciones Unidas, la ONG Comité para Combatir la Trata de Personas, incluye a unas 50 organizaciones sin fines de lucro y cuenta con una gran presencia interreligiosa, entre ellos a Cavaliere; a Lynnaia Main, la funcionaria encargada de relaciones globales de la Iglesia Episcopal, y a otros episcopales. [Esta organización] ha auspiciado la GIFT Box de la ONU en Nueva York.
A partir del 23 de enero, los transeúntes que pasan por la esquina de Broadway y la Calle 17 en Union Square pueden ver una gigantesca caja de regalo azul con una cinta roja. La palabra GIFT [regalo] que se destaca afuera responde a la sigla en inglés de “Iniciativa Global para Combatir la Trata de Personas”.
En su interior, la caja cuenta los relatos de algunas víctimas de la trata de personas, como es el caso de Holly Smith, una estadounidense de 35 años que, cuando tenía 14 años y ya había sido víctima de explotación sexual, cayó en las manos de un traficante. Y está el relato de Sofía, una mexicana de 20 años que fue secuestrada en su país, traída a Nueva York y obligada a ejercer la prostitución por una banda internacional de traficantes.Frenar la Trata, dijo Rita Fishman, que representa al Consejo Internacional de Mujeres Judías en el comité de la ONG.
“Uno se queda tan intrigado por la envoltura y la cinta, todo el aspecto que tiene”, dijo ella durante una entrevista con ENS el 24 de enero. “Pero, tristemente, en las manos de alguien que quiere engañarte…”.
“El problema consiste es que se trata de una población oculta, y no sabemos quiénes son”. Las reacciones de los que visitan la Caja, añadió ella, van desde [los que dicen] “he aprendido muchísimo” a [los que afirman] “no sabía que eso estaba pasando aquí”.
“Y cuando uno les cuenta que eso está sucediendo en Nueva York, en California, en Connecticut, se muestran incrédulos… Es sorprendente saber que está ocurriendo en tu traspatio”.
El Departamento de Justicia de EE.UU. informa que, en toda la nación, de 100.000 a 300.000 niños, con edades promedio entre los 12 y los 14 años, están en peligro de [ser víctimas] de explotación sexual comercial, una forma de trata de personas, todos los años.
Desde 2000, la Convención General ha aprobado varias resoluciones en que condena la trata de personas, ha apoyado a las víctimas de esta trata y ha pedido que se lleven campañas para educar al público al respecto en el ámbito denominacional. En 2012, la Convención aprobó una resolución que pedía un diálogo interprovincial [sobre el tema]. (Los Episcopales contra la trata de Personas han iniciado una página de Facebook).
En marzo de 2013, la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori fue la anfitriona de un diálogo denominacional centrado en la definición de la trata de personas y en mostrar cómo se vincula con la violencia contras las mujeres y las niñas. El evento se celebró en conjunción con la reunión anual de la Comisión de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Condición de la Mujer.
“He visto una evolución desde el diálogo denominacional en marzo”, dijo Main, funcionario de enlace del Comité sobre la Condición de la Mujer del Consejo Ejecutivo. “Una de las cosas que descubrimos es que hay montones de episcopales realizando labores locales: [dirigiendo] albergues, creando una conciencia educacional, yendo a los centros y administrando la Comunión, [realizando] servicios sociales y todo lo demás”.
El 17 de enero, Main ayudó a coordinar una llamada de 90 minutos que incluía a unas 35 personas desde la costa oriental [de EE.UU.] hasta Hawái. Los participantes compartieron información, programas y medios sobre la trata de personas, el rescate de víctimas y materiales de concienciación para escuelas, iglesias y comunidades, así como discutieron acerca del próximo Súper Tazón.
Lelanda Lee, miembro del Consejo Ejecutivo que preside el Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Promoción e Interconexión para la Misión, coordina la labor del Comité sobre la Condición de la Mujer del Consejo Ejecutivo.
“La trata de personas es un tema que preocupa a muchas partes de la Iglesia”, dijo Lee luego de la llamada del 17 de enero. Basándose en lo que los participantes compartieron, resulta obvio que se está llevando a cabo una ingente labor sobre el terreno, afirmó ella. “Para lo que concierne a mi comité, quiero estar consciente de esa actividad, conocer e interconectar mejor ese trabajo a través de la Iglesia.
“Y también queremos apoyar la labor de la OGR [la Oficina de Relaciones Internacionales de la Iglesia Episcopal con sede en Washington, D.C.] que se relaciona con los gestores de la política respecto a la legislación que afecta a las personas que son víctimas de la trata, tanto ciudadanas como extranjeras”.
– Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Videos, discussion points and other resources are available for use in observing Black History Monday and Absalom Jones Day on February 13.
Resources are available at no fee here.
The resources include videos from the Episcopal Church two-day event forum, State of Racism In America. DVDs of the State of Racism can be ordered by contacting Ana Arias, firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Anglican Church of Canada] A call for prayer from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11
For more than a month, Anglicans, along with many other Canadians and people around the world, have watched as violence has ravaged South Sudan, and visited additional suffering upon peoples who have endured as much or more violence and upheaval as any in the world over the past five decades.
Through the appeal of the Primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, and his diocesan bishops, through the Anglican Peace and Justice Network and Anglican Alliance, and from Canadian Sudanese Anglican leaders, we have heard firsthand stories of how the senseless violence began in December, and how it has spread within and beyond South Sudan’s borders. From a PWRDF partner in Kenya we are learning of increasing numbers of women and children fleeing Juba and other southern areas seeking shelter and food in overstretched refugee camps in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
The Anglican Church of Canada, with local and international ecumenical partners, and Episcopal and Anglican churches around the world, has responded to the pleas of South Sudan with calls for prayer for peace and donations toward immediate humanitarian relief. Delivery of the world’s support of those most impacted by the violence, now well underway with local partners is an answer to prayer.
Indeed, the ceasefire announced on Thursday January 23, 2014 is an answer to prayer. Yet the coming days and weeks are critically important if the ceasefire is to hold.
I urge us all to continue to pray for this ceasefire and the opportunity it offers for lasting peace to the peoples of South Sudan and East Africa.
I urge us to learn about the Episcopal Church of Sudan and its courageous works of healing and reconciliation. We believe strongly the Episcopal Church of Sudan and other faith groups in South Sudan are among the most successful potential actors in leading and facilitating peace, humanitarian assistance and healing.
I urge us to contribute through The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund toward the immediate, most basic needs of peoples affected by violence in Juba and surrounding area, and those in nearby refugee camps.
I urge us to commend to the Government of Canada an active, strategic response to the needs and aspirations of the people of South Sudan. We believe urgent and intensified leadership from the Government of Canada and the international community is essential for supporting the ceasefire and building a future of peace.
We have recently called upon the Government of Canada (January 24, 2014) to:
- Lend diplomatic and financial support to the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) mediation efforts continuing in Addis Ababa;
- Develop a cohesive strategy for ensuring aid reaches those most in need and fulfills other strategic purposes without colluding in any way with the efforts of those who would bring greater instability;
- Continue to examine Canadian aid strategy to South Sudan;
- Hold South Sudanese political leaders accountable for not exacerbating ethnic tension;
- Provide support to those documenting human rights abuses that have occurred in the context of the conflict;
- Pay special attention to supporting the efforts of local civil-society leaders -particularly the faith communities of South Sudan — who have longstanding credibility as peacemakers; and
- Call for the release of South Sudanese prisoners now detained by the Government of South Sudan as an important gesture toward a lasting ceasefire and a negotiated peace.
Let us listen as one Anglican family in Canada to the concerns of Canadian Sudanese Anglican men and women seeking peace for their homeland and loved ones, and act together.
[Episcopal Diocese of Wau press release] Written by staff of Wau diocese in the Episcopal Church of Sudan, this is a simple Lent course designed for use by anyone anywhere. Completely contained the course can be obtained for free here at the Wau diocese website and is set over six sessions. No extras or props are needed, worksheets and leaders notes are all included, simply print what you need or even read directly from a laptop.
The course works by discussion and prayer, gives an African outlook on Christianity and focuses on issues relating to peace. This is the second Lent course created by Wau diocese and it tries to stimulate participation, discovery and tackle hard issues in faith. Topics include, tribalism, causes of friction, domestic violence and what we mean by peace.
As you progress, share your thoughts and discoveries online through the Wau Diocese Lent Course Forum, illuminate other users of the course and at the same time expand opportunities to learn and grow this Lent. Spend some time with one of the world’s most energetic and fastest growing churches on the planet and experience a Christian journey in African company.
[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas press release] The Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, in a Jan. 28 letter to the diocese, announced his intention to step down from his responsibilities as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas sometime during 2017. His plans call for an orderly leadership transition over the next three years. As he begins his 11th year as a bishop this year, Lillibridge intends to remain very active, busy, and dedicated to the people and ministries of the diocese throughout this transition.
In 2017, Lillibridge will turn 61 years old and will have been ordained for 35 years. His leaving the position of diocesan bishop is by no means for retirement; rather, Lillibridge plans to stay active in his ordained ministry. He has no set plans at this time, and he trusts God will lead him when the time is right in his next season of ministry.
Asked about his announcement, Lillibridge noted, “I love and care deeply for the Diocese of West Texas and continue to be grateful for the opportunity to serve as its bishop. I grew up here, this diocese sent me to seminary, and I have served here since my ordination in 1982. We continue to have many things to do together, and we will continue to do them. I certainly have mixed feelings about this announcement, but also have every confidence that three more years is the right amount of time for both the diocese and for me.” He will speak more about these things during his annual address to Diocesan Council on Feb. 21.
During his council address, Lillibridge will also outline a plan for the election of a bishop coadjutor to be held on Oct. 25 of this year. A bishop coadjutor has the automatic succession upon the resignation of the diocesan bishop. West Texas has a long tradition (dating back to 1914) of electing a bishop coadjutor who then works closely with the diocesan bishop for a smooth and orderly transition. The Standing Committee of the diocese has the responsibility of oversight of the election process. It is expected that the bishop coadjutor will begin responsibilities in 2015.
This decision comes after deep and prayerful consideration by Lillibridge and his wife, Catherine, and they both remain deeply thankful for the diocesan family’s partnership in the Gospel.
Durante la reciente cumbre presidencial en La Habana ningún presidente se reunió con líderes de grupos opositores, excepto Sebastián Piñera, presidente de Chile, que se reunió con Berta Soler, líder de las Damas de Blanco. Todos los demás prefirieron el silencio. Un ex preso político resumió en pocas palabras el sentimiento general: “La historia los juzgará”.
Dilma Rousseff, presidenta de Brasil, ha sido criticada por su reciente viaje a Cuba al frente de una nutrida delegación de sus seguidores. Los críticos dicen que con las necesidades sociales en los barrios marginales y las favelas no hay lugar para ese tipo de “festín diplomático”. Las principales protestas se han centrado en Sao Paulo donde más de 30 autobuses fueron incendiados. Los críticos también han mencionado los monumentales edificios deportivos que se están fabricando en Brasilia y otros lugares.
En momentos en que los presidentes de América Latina y el Caribe comparten la buena mesa y la brisa tropical en La Habana, grupos opositores han sido arrestados en Cuba con el fin de que no estuvieran a la vista de los visitantes extranjeros. En la ciudad oriental de Holguín se ha visto cómo la policía maltrataba a grupos disidentes como un pastor bautista en Santa Clara y las Damas de Blanco. En Miami se informó que un grupo formado por miembros de la Seguridad del Estado arrestó a limosneros en el centro de la ciudad para no ser vistos por los gobernantes latinoamericanos.
Según observadores de la escena política, social y económica de Venezuela, la situación general del país es muy seria sobre todo en términos de la economía y la violencia callejera que el año pasado produjo unos 35,000 muertos. Las otras cosas que afectan la vida nacional son el desabastecimiento de alimentos básicos y el desempleo. La reciente devaluación del bolívar, la moneda nacional, ha traído problemas inesperados aún para los más expertos. Nadie quiere pronosticar el futuro porque el proceso de inflación es constante y cambiante.
La Agrupación Política Nacional Encuentro Social, vinculada a las iglesias evangélicas de México, ha logrado un gran paso de avance al ser aceptada como partido político por el Instituto Federal Electoral. En una nota a la prensa se informa que hasta el momento la agrupación ha reunido los requisitos establecidos para obtener ese estatus.
En El Salvador se ha conmemorado el 22 aniversario de la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz que pusieron fin a la guerra civil (1980-1992) que trajo millares de muertos y el desplazamiento de miles de ciudadanos a otros países. El armisticio fue firmado en México entre representantes del gobierno y la guerrilla llamada Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, hoy convertido en partido político. Aunque el gobierno dijo en las celebraciones de los acuerdos que estos han ayudado a la “consolidación democrática” del país, otros piensan que el país está en peligro de una estampida social debido a la violencia pandillera producto de la guerra civil.
La organización inter-religiosa Pastores por la Paz conocida por llevar medicinas y alimentos a Cuba y luchar contra “el bloqueo” de Estados Unidos a Cuba, está librando una batalla contra el IRS (Servicio de Rentas Internas de Estados Unidos) por negarse a concederles llevar materiales y medicinas a Cuba, libre de impuestos. “Hace dos años que estamos luchando por esto sin resultados positivos”, dijeron miembros de Pastores.
En Roma se informó que entre 2008 y 2012 “por lo menos 11,805 personas han recibido dispensas” para abandonar la vida religiosa. Con respecto al clero las cifras llegan a 2,361 para sacerdotes y 130 para diáconos. “No cabe dudas de que estamos viviendo una crisis vocacional”, dijeron miembros del grupo.
En una cárcel de Nashville, Tenesí, una monja de 83 años espera sentencia por entrar a una planta nuclear en Oak Ridge, cerca de Nashville, sin permiso y “con intenciones de cometer un sabotaje”, según la policía. La monja, Megan Rice, puede recibir una condena de 6 a 9 años de prisión. Las monjas dijeron que las bombas nucleares son “inmorales e ilegales”.
En Buenos Aires y otras ciudades argentinas se han experimentado actos de vandalismo contra iglesias. Aunque la Iglesia Metodista ha sido la más afectada, otras en el interior del país también han sido afectadas aunque en menor cuantía.
VERDAD. Las palabras de los versos sencillos de José Martí, héroe de la independencia de Cuba, han vuelto a la actualidad debido a la situación política que vive la isla. En un gran cartel durante una manifestación pacífica se podía leer: “Yo quiero cuando me muera, sin patria pero sin amo, tener en mi tumba un ramo, de flores y una bandera”.
[Episcopal Diocese of Alabama] Last night, along with Bishop Kee, Peggy Turner, and Jan Cook, I spent the night in the office at Carpenter House marooned by the snow blizzard of 2014. We’re among hundreds of others who spent the night in their respective offices.
Each of us at the office had attempted to make our way home sometime earlier in the day, but had to return to the office where it was safer. The gravity of this treacherous weather was too overwhelming for lesser mortals like us to navigate.
As I bedded down in my office, I thought of all those who were on the road caught in the traffic and prayed that they found a safe place to spend the night. I thought of the parents who will spend the night away from their children still in schools across the state. This night they would not be able to tuck them in bed, read the customary bedtime story, feed and kiss them goodnight, and I said a prayer. I thought about those like us camping out in their offices, hotel lobbies, super market and pharmacy floors, and in auditoriums, churches, schools, hospitals and I said a prayer. I thought about the dedicated emergency response personnel, police, and other officials working around the clock to protect and serve, and I offered a prayer. I even spared a prayer for the meteorologists who got it terribly wrong, but how often don’t they usually get it right.
I thought about the animals living in the outdoors and hoped they found safe haven and said a prayer for them. I thought of those on medication who won’t necessarily have it on hand and hope that my prayer would uphold them for this time of emergency. And in the event of overlooking one category I offered a prayer for everything in between.
However, strangely enough, I didn’t, as I generally do, say a prayer for the homeless. For this weather has rendered all of us ‘homeless’. What a way for Mother Nature to bring smack center into our lives the reality of our fellow sisters and brothers of lesser means and resources who spend their lifetime shuffling from one warming center to the next. Actually, I thought of how better off they might be tonight, how more organized they might be to tackle this weather phenomenon from years of experience dealing with this phenomenon. They have the ‘rhythm to deal with it which most of us don’t possess. We who generally spend the night in the comfort of our homes don’t necessarily have this device in our life’s survival kit. Unlike them we are probably at this time more stricken by anxiety, fear and gross apprehension, and are paralyzed for a response.
I thank God for Leslie and her staff at Wall Street Deli, Harbert Plaza, for opening up to serve soup and sandwiches last night and hot breakfast today. We are grateful for their hospitality and kindness. I watch strangers become friends at the Food Court; and wondered how often we haven’t witnessed solidarity in the midst of chaos! The resilience of the human Spirit never ceases to amaze and it’s doing so again.
As I reflect on all of this, I’m swept over by a tidal wave of emotional gratitude to our Heavenly Father. Jesus reminds us, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. . . and I go and prepare a place for you. . . .”(John 14:2) I smile in the face of all that surrounds us that in our Father’s presence no one is ‘homeless’ and no storm despite it ferocity and unpredictability has the power to paralyze or diminish, and I say a prayer of immense gratitude for his love that knows no limit and that’s eternal.
I began the day, as is my customary discipline, with the Daily Office. This time I used the office from the Celtic Daily Prayer. Listen to how the office ends:
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
I pray for the safety of all, reconnecting of parents and children, spouses with each other and of love ones. I pray for safer roadways and for patience and forbearance among all during this critical time and unprecedented ordeal, and tolerance among our beloved people, and of course, for early return to life as normal, but yet life that will never be the same again. The pain of the moment becomes memories of tomorrow.
Yes! We’re all “homeless” and for that I thank God whose eternal home awaits our coming.
A PRAYER FOR PEACEFULNESS
“O God, who has taught us that in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are indeed God; though Jesus Christ we pray.” Amen
FOR CALM WEATHER
“O God in the heavens that surround us, who has promised us all things necessary to sustain our lives: Be with us in this time of extreme winter weather so that our needs might be met and that more moderate weather restored. Give us patience to endure a discomforting time and may the dangers pass by us soon with a balance in all nature restored. This we pray in your holy name.” Amen
Assistant Bishop of Alabama
[Lambeth Palace press release] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby arrived in Rwanda the evening of Feb. 1 saying the country had come far since the genocide of 20 years ago. He added: “We must do all we can to encourage the vital work of reconciliation.”
The archbishop, accompanied by his wife, Caroline, is visiting Rwanda at the invitation of the Anglican Archbishop, Onesphore Rwaje (right). Welby and his wife are on a five-day visit to South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet with fellow Primates of the Anglican Communion.
The trip is part of Welby’s plan to visit all of his fellow archbishops around the Anglican Communion during his first 18 months in office. His desire is to express solidarity, build personal and professional bonds, understand the primates’ work in their local contexts, and lay foundations for good collaboration over the coming years.
Arriving in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, Welby said: “It gives me great joy to visit Rwanda with my wife Caroline at the invitation of the Anglican Archbishop, Onesphore Rwaje. Rwanda is a country so important to the East African revival and the church continues courageously to hold the Gospel before its nation and the wider world.
“In a year marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide, it’s a time both to remember and to recognize how far Rwanda has come since those terrible events. We must do all we can to encourage the vital work of reconciliation and healing and the overcoming of fear.”
[Lambeth Palace press release] The Anglican Church of Burundi offers ‘an inspiring vision’ of rebuilding the country and its communities, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said Jan. 31 on arriving in the Burundian capital Bujumbura.
The archbishop, accompanied by his wife, Caroline, is on a five-day visit to South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet with fellow Primates of the Anglican Communion.
The trip is part of Welby’s plan to visit all of his fellow archbishops around the Anglican Communion during his first 18 months in office. His desire is to express solidarity, build personal and professional bonds, understand the primates’ work in their local contexts, and lay foundations for good collaboration over the coming years.
Arriving in Bujumbura, Welby said: “I am delighted to be visiting Burundi with my wife, Caroline, at the invitation of Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi. The Anglican Church of Burundi sets before its people an inspiring vision of what can be achieved with the rebuilding of the country and the rebuilding of communities. We are committed to working with you for the long-term stability of the nation to enable real development to take place.”
Speaking in the South Sudanese capital Juba earlier on Jan. 31, Welby joined the call from South Sudanese church leaders for an end to violence in the country, and for healing and reconciliation.
The archbishop added: “The one thing I’ve learned over many, many years of working in conflicts is that reconciliation is done by the people locally – outsiders do not understand enough; but what we can do, and we promise to do, is to accompany and support those like [Archbishop Bishop Daniel Deng Bul] who are leading the reconciliation locally.”
[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Fanny Sohet Belanger loves to help people grow in their relationships with God. At the same time, she says, it is important not to be “trapped” in the church but to engage in mission and to reach out to people where they are. These are the principles that have guided Belanger’s spiritual journey, a path that led to her Feb. 1 ordination as the first French female priest in the Episcopal Church.
“My ministry is not to bring religion to people, but to enable them to craft their own theology and spirituality by helping them know their tradition and engage with the Scriptures,” she told ENS in a recent interview. “Prayer is very important to me and I consider it the heart of the church.”
Belanger, 38, was ordained by Bishop Pierre Whalon at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, where she moved with her husband, Xavier, in August 2011 to complete a Master of Divinity degree. She was ordained a deacon at VTS in March 2013.
Whalon, bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, described Belanger as a “candidate of extraordinary qualities [with a] very inviting, warm pastoral presence … She is a woman for all people.”
Belanger was born in Grenoble, France, and raised Roman Catholic. She discovered the Anglican Church in her early 30s and began attending St. Marc’s Church, a member of the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe. In 2011, she helped to launch an Anglican Eucharist for French speakers at St. Marc’s.
Belanger has studied philosophy and theology, and “always had a great desire to become a priest,” she said. “I admired so much our parish priest when I was a child. I was devastated the day my father told me I could never become a priest because I was a girl. I felt it was so unfair – and there was nothing I could do about it. But many years later, God found another way … I discovered the Anglican Communion and soon made my home there. For the first time I could talk about my sense of a call without being dismissed.”
During the ordination sermon, Whalon said Belanger is “a woman of great gifts, among which is an ability to bring the Gospel to all kinds
of people. You are a fisher of people too. But before anything else, you must always make sure you are following where Christ is leading. It is easy to get caught in the ministry trap, where the priesthood is a career, and your gifts are what you use to advance.”
According to Whalon, Diocese in Europe Suffragan Bishop David Hamid felt that Belanger would be better suited to ordination in the Episcopal Church rather than in the Church of England. Belanger told ENS she had always felt drawn to the U.S.
Anglican congregations were established on the Continent before the Reformation, leading to the formation of the Diocese of Gibraltar in 1842 and the Diocese in Europe in 1980. Meanwhile, after the American Revolution, American Episcopalians began worshiping from time to time at the American Embassy in Paris. As American interests developed in the 19th century, Episcopalians in various cities started congregations. Today, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe serves a culturally diverse demographic of Christians in some 20 parishes and missions throughout Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Switzerland. Two other Anglican jurisdictions operate in Europe: the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain and the Lusitanian Church of Portugal.
Belanger is currently serving as an intern at the Church of the Epiphany, in Washington D.C., where she works among the homeless, preaches, leads Bible studies, “yet most of the time, I just listen to people and try to be present,” she told ENS.
Before that she served for 18 months as a seminarian at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square, also in the district.
Asked what has defined her journey, Belanger said “joy and wonder … I would never have thought I would find a church that really felt like home, would never have believed I would be heard about my sense of a call … I think I’ve learned God can do extraordinary things with ordinary people or at least to ordinary people like me. I’ve learned to trust, I’ve learned to believe God loves me and guides me.”
Belanger said it fills her with pride and happiness to be the first French woman to become an Episcopal priest. While Belanger and her husband – VTS’s system and network administrator – plan to stay a little longer in the U.S., she understands that her ordained ministry will likely call her back home to France. In the meantime, she is hoping to find a new opportunity for ministry in the Washington D.C. metro area.
“It took a lot of work, boldness and faith to get me here – and also a lot of love and support from my husband and friends along the way,” she said. “But at the same time, I feel sad. Sad there are so many ministers here in U.S. and so few in France. Sad Christians in my country can’t find a priest to baptize their children and bury their dead. In France, lay people have so much to do with so little time and sometimes not enough education.
“I am sad such valuable people ‘cannot’ be ordained because the Roman Catholic Church won’t allow it,” she added. “I think people in U.S. don’t always realize the chance they have to have a real freedom to worship. Yet I am hopeful the Episcopal Church will be able to spread its mission in Europe.”
Whalon acknowledged that in France, Belanger would likely face some challenges as a female priest serving in a predominantly secular society and where the main Christian denomination is Roman Catholic. But, Whalon added, she has a special gift and an “ability to speak to French people who have a hardened shell without battering it down.”
Said Belanger: “We don’t need so many skills to become a priest, we need a heart. People out there are dying to be loved and to be understood.”
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] As called for in General Convention Resolution 2006-D008, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called upon Episcopalians to recognize the importance of theological education on February 2.
GC 2006-D008 names the first Sunday in February of each year to be Theological Education Sunday.
Bishop Jefferts Schori stated:
“The Episcopal Church believes that all its members need to be well-formed and well-educated for the baptismal ministry we share in the Body of Christ. Theological education for all is an essential foundation for baptismal ministry. All congregations in The Episcopal Church are urged to support the accredited theological education institutions of this Church. A resolution some years ago asked each congregation to commit 1% of their annual discretionary income to those institutions. All congregations are further encouraged to develop and promote opportunities for the education of all members from small children to our most senior elders. As we haven’t yet reached the fullness of the Reign of God, we all have something to learn!”
General Convention Resolution 2006-D008: Resolved, That the 75th General Convention respectfully request the Presiding Bishop continue to designate the first Sunday in February each year as Theological Education Sunday to share the work of theological education at the seminaries as well as the initiatives within congregations, dioceses, and other networks through the Church; and be it further Resolved, That the Seminaries strive diligently to strengthen partnerships with dioceses and congregations through dialogue and by the sharing of their unique relationships with this Church to provide theological education for both ordained and lay persons in support of the Church’s mission to restore all people to unity with God and with each other in Christ.
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] Galveston, Texas, Episcopal leaders gathered at the former site of the William Temple Episcopal Center (WTEC) on January 25, for the Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance. In February, the Diocese of Texas will officially close on the sale of the property located at 417 Market St. and the community labyrinth will eventually be moved to Moody Methodist Church.
Founded in 1963, WTEC’s purpose was to serve the medical school students at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Over the years, the building served as a chaplain training, community center, and as the spiritual home for many. After Hurricane Ike hit in September of 2008, WTEC became the host of Texas Episcopal Disaster Relief and Development, a volunteer rebuilding organization that performed repairs on more than 150 homes and completely renovated 60 homes over the course of two years.
In 2013, activities associated with the William Temple Episcopal Center were relocated to Trinity Episcopal Church as the diocese prepared to sell the property. The sale will serve to replenish the William Temple Foundation, further benefiting the ministry to medical school students.
The remembrance service featured sermons from the Rev. Canon John Newton, the Diocese’s canon for Christian formation, and from the Rev. Susan Kennard, rector of Trinity. After finishing the liturgy in the the building’s chapel, the group of around 20 people gathered outside to symbolically place memorial items at the foot of the cross.
“Today we say goodbye to a building,” Newton said in his sermon. “But today what we say goodbye to is a building. But what we are not saying goodbye to is the ministry of the William Temple Center, which was here long before this building, and will continue long after this building ceases to be.”
The Rev. Jeremiah Griffin now leads the WTEC at Trinity, which serves a free meal to students every Wednesday night, sometimes followed by “Theology on Tap,” a discussion of God and religion over coffee or beer at the local coffee house, two blocks from the church. The center is always open for students to study or pray.
“We really want to provide a place for students to connect their vocation as healers with their own personal faith and identity,” Griffin said in a November 2013 interview. “We want to give them the opportunity to theologically reflect and engage in conversation with their classmates.”
Naturally, the center and its activities focus around a Christian, Episcopal perspective, but Griffin says the students come from all faiths and traditions.
“Primarily, we are mission of hospitality,” he said. “All of the students are busy, regardless of faith. We try to keep it accessible and open to all people. At the Theology on Tap group, we will talk about a theme like hope or incarnation or transformation, and these are things that everyone can relate to with whatever their religious background provides.”
Fox 26 News, Houston, visited last summer to profile the work of the WTEC.
“It is all about relationship here,” Griffin said. “There is a need to be creative with theological reflection. My favorite kind is the subversive kind, when people don’t even realize it is happening. They just encounter a question, and then they leave the evening with a thought in their mind that maybe rattles around a little bit and hopefully prods them to connect it with something that they are doing.”
To learn more about the WTEC, you can find them on Facebook. Or you can email the Rev. Jeremiah Griffin (email@example.com). The center is located at 2216 Ball St. in Galveston.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) rights:
The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family. Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained. The current attempts to criminalize LGBT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations. Our advocacy work continues to build support for the full human rights and dignity of all persons, irrespective of gender, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability or inability. To do less is effectively to repudiate our membership in the human community. No one of God’s children is worth less or more than another; none is to be discriminated against because of the way in which she or he has been created. Our common task is to build a society of justice for all, without which there will never be peace on earth. Episcopalians claim that our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means all our neighbors.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
[Lambeth Palace press release] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby arrived in Juba, South Sudan the morning of Jan. 30 saying he brought with him “the greetings, love and encouragement” of his fellow Anglicans to those suffering amid the ongoing conflict in the country.
Praising the South Sudanese Church as “an example to us all” in its consistent and unified calls for peace and an end to violence, Welby said he joined its leaders in urging political differences to be set aside for the “urgent task” of bringing healing and reconciliation.
Welby, accompanied by his wife, Caroline, starts a five-day visit to South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet with fellow primates of the Anglican Communion.
The visit is part of Welby’s plan to visit all of his fellow archbishops around the Anglican Communion during his first 18 months in office. His desire is to express solidarity, build personal and professional bonds, understand the Primates’ work in their local contexts, and lay foundations for good collaboration over the coming years.
Arriving in the capital Juba, Welby said: “All our prayers are with the people of South Sudan at this testing time for the young nation. I have come with my wife, Caroline, and my colleague Joanna Udal who has long experience here, bringing the greetings, love and encouragement of your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
“The South Sudanese Church is an example to us all in its consistent speaking with one voice for peace, for unity and to an ending to the violence so horrifically perpetrated against so many people. With the South Sudanese Church leaders, I urge political differences to be set aside for the sake of the urgent task of bringing healing and reconciliation.”
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] For the Episcopal Church Office of Communication, 2013 was a remarkable year.
“The year 2013 showed continued dramatic growth in audiences for all of our digital publications, our website and our social media outlets,” noted Anne Rudig, Director of Communication. Our internal and external media relations efforts yielded some significant placements and much expanded activity.”
By the numbers:
Episcopal Church website: www.episcopalchurch.org
- Total Visits: 1,940,698
- Pages viewed: 5,538,706
- 62.34% represent new visitors
Top 10 pages for 2013:
- Homepage 607,002
- Find A Church 104,369
- Calendar 87,342
- Book of Common Prayer 74,427
- About Us 67,751
- Bible 58,098
- History of the Church 57,560
- Lectionary 56,636
- Baptismal Covenant 50,435
- Core Beliefs 46,177
- Total visitors: 641,488
- Pages viewed: 2,807,475
- Marketing Your Parish White Paper downloads: 1,837
Episcopal News Service website visitors: 440,295 (an increase of nearly 100,000 over the last year); page views: 1.5 million
- Total plays: 240,246 (up more than 140,000 from the previous year)
Most watched videos:
- Portia Adney 15,513
- Mike Notter 11,948
- Gospel Americana: The Music at Thad’s 9,512
- Brother Geoffrey 9,050
- Adrienne Stillman 7, 442
June 10 – December 10
- People who liked our page: 54,712, increasing at an average of 58 per day.
- Various posts average 2,812 likes, 203 comments and 751 shares per day.
- Daily engaged users: 3,506
- Weekly engaged users: 17,895
- Posts have a daily average reach of 61,650 people
- Posts have a weekly average reach of 248,652 people
- People that click on our posts leading someplace else: Daily: 2211
- People that click on our posts leading someplace else: Weekly: 11,878
January 1, 2013 – December 10
- Tweeted 5195 times
- Current followers: 18,148
- Currently following: 5,020
- Evening prayer averages about 25-40 re-tweets every night.
January 1 – December 11
Over 185 media releases with an additional 33 in Spanish resulted in placements throughout the Episcopal Church, the dioceses, and secular news organizations both in the U.S. and internationally. In addition, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Religion News Service, Wisconsin Public Radio, Newsday and other major publications included churchwide information ranging in topics from statements by Presiding Bishop to announcements and progress updates. Media placements in regional/national print/electronic outlets were sparked by many Episcopal Church events and happenings, including the State of Racism in November (pre and post coverage); as well as placements in major outlets like the Huffington Post on Veterans day, Zimmerman Verdict, Memorial Day, and Gun Violence.
[Episcopal News Service] In the wake of the U.S government’s decision to appeal a federal district judge’s decision that the Internal Revenue Service’s clergy parsonage exemption is unconstitutional, members of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, in collaboration with the Presiding Bishop’s Office, are considering whether the church should lend its voice to the appeal and, if so, how that might best be done.
It is expected that a number of religious groups will file amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Episcopal Church staff members will be discerning which of those briefs, if any, most strongly presents the voice of the religious community on the issue, Office of Government Affairs Director Alex Baumgarten told ENS. They will also consider how other denominations and inter-denominational organizations plan to respond, and they will consult the bishop and chancellor of the Diocese of Milwaukee in which the case arose, he said.
Meanwhile, the Church Pension Group has posted a statement on its website saying that it is monitoring the case and noting that U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb specified in her Nov. 21 ruling that the decision would not be effective until all appeals were resolved in favor of the plaintiffs.
“And, we expect [the ruling] to be appealed to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court,” CPG said in its statement.
The federal government filed notice Jan. 24 that it would appeal Crabb’s ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
The Church Alliance – a coalition of 38 church benefit programs that serve mainline Protestant denominations, two branches of Judaism and Catholic dioceses, schools and institutions – plans to file an amicus curiae brief, M. Colette Nies, managing director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, told ENS in a Jan. 28 e-mail.
The Church Pension Fund is also a member of the group and will participate in the brief, Nancy Fisher, Church Pension Group senior vice president of communications, told ENS.
“We will also continue to coordinate our efforts with representatives of DFMS,” she said, referring to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the corporate name of the Episcopal Church.
The case, originally titled Freedom from Religion Foundation v. Geithner and Shulman, was filed in September 2011 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The original suit named then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and IRS head Douglas Shulman. The notice of appeal replaced those defendants with their successors, John Lew and John Koskinen.
Freedom from Religion Foundation leaders Annie Laurie Gaylor, Anne Nicol Gaylor and Dan Barker claimed that the so-called IRS “parsonage exemption” violated the U.S. Constitution by providing preferential tax benefits to those the agency defines as “ministers of the gospel.”
The three plaintiffs said in their complaint that they received housing allowances from the foundation. They objected to not being able to claim the related expenses under the parsonage exemption because they were not deemed “ministers of the gospel.” Both Gaylors are lay people, but Barker, the foundation’s public relations director, is an ordained minister who the foundation says “gradually outgrew his religious beliefs.”
“The clergy and churches have become accustomed to privileges and prerogatives from our secular government which are not only unconstitutional, but which don’t play fair,” Annie Laurie Gaylor said after the government filed its notice of appeal. “The rest of us should not have to pay more taxes, because clergy don’t pay their fair share.”
The three plaintiffs claimed that the parsonage exemption is unconstitutional because it violates the provisions of the First Amendment’s establishment clause and the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.
The court’s decision does not apply to clergy who live in church-owned housing, such as rectories. Those clerics can continue to exclude the fair rental value of that home from their income for tax purposes under Section 107(1) of the Internal Revenue Service Tax Code.
Crabb, senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, said that Section 107(1)’s tax exemption is similar to ones allowed to all U.S. employees whose employers provide them with a home to enable the employees to do their job properly. That exemption has been on the books since the Revenue Act of 1921.
However, Crabb said, clerics who live in other housing should not be able to deduct from their taxable income the housing allowance they receive from their employer to cover the costs of maintaining their home, as allowed in Section 107(2). Those expenses include things such as furnishings, maintenance and repair, and certain supplies.
The employers of most but not all clerics who do not live in church-owned housing designate a portion of a cleric’s salary as a housing allowance. However, if such clerics plan to seek the IRS-allowed parsonage exemption, they must have their employers officially declare (by way of a resolution passed by the organization’s governing body) a specific amount of money that the cleric intends to claim on his or her taxes in the following year. As long as the cleric can later document the amount of eligible expenses, he or she may deduct them from their taxable income.
For instance, if the enabling resolution sets the amount at $10,000 but the cleric can only document $9,000 in allowed expenses, then only the smaller amount can be deducted. If the cleric had $11,000 in allowed expenses, only $10,000 can be deducted. There is no tax penalty for overestimating the parsonage allowance.
More information about how parsonage allowances work is available in the annual CPG tax guide on pages 11-14.
When the U.S. Congress passed the 2002 Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act (to make clear that the exemption allowed in Section 107(1) was limited to the fair rental value of the church-owned housing), the bill’s sponsor, Rep. James Ramstad, R-Minnesota, estimated that Section 107 would relieve ministers of $2.3 billion in taxes over the coming five years, Crabb noted.
Christianity Today’s publication “Managing Your Church” reports that the average base salary of a full-time senior pastor in 2012-2013 ranges from $33,000 to $70,000. Eighty-four percent of senior pastors surveyed said they also received a housing allowance, which accounted for $20,000 to $38,000 in added compensation. And the higher a cleric’s overall compensation, the higher his or her marginal tax rate is, thus making the parsonage exemption of greater value.
Various reports suggest that clergy employers often pay their clerics less because the ministers will receive a large tax break on some of that salary. It is predicted that elimination of Section 107(2) will mean either that employers will pay their ministers more or that those ministers who qualified for the parsonage exemption will effectively face a substantial cut in their spendable income. Employers could still give clerics money to cover their household expenses if Crabb’s ruling prevails, but clergy would not be able to deduct that money from their taxes.
Crabb rejected the government’s argument that the parsonage exemption, enacted in 1954, was meant to end discrimination against ministers whose employers could not afford to provide them with housing. Those clerics thus could not claim the existing exemption for ministers who lived in church-owned housing.
Rather, because only ministers are eligible for the Section 107(2) exemption, the rule “violates the well-established principle under the First Amendment that, ‘[a]bsent the most unusual circumstances, one’s religion ought not affect one’s legal rights or duties or benefits,’” Crabb wrote in her opinion, quoting a previous U.S. Supreme Court case.
“A reasonable observer” would see the exemption as “an endorsement of religion” by the government, she said.
“Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility,” the judge wrote.
Crabb also rejected the government’s suggestion that it was conceivable that, given previous IRS rulings, atheists such as the plaintiffs could qualify as “minister of gospel” under the terms of Section 107(2). She said that argument was difficult to take seriously.
Because Crabb found that Section 107(2) violated the First Amendment, she said she did not have to address the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment challenge.
This was not the first time the foundation challenged the parsonage exemption. A 2009 effort filed in federal court in California was later withdrawn by the foundation after what it saw as an unfavorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another religious tax code issue. At the time, the foundation promised to “refile and reconfigure the lawsuit”.
The 35-year-old Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, as its name implies, continually challenges what it sees as governmental attempts to impose religious practices on nonbelievers and to subsidize those practices with the public’s money. The foundation’s pursuits have found their way into Crabb’s courtroom at least once before. In April 2010, she agreed with the foundation that it was wrong for Congress to allow the president of the United States to call for a National Day of Prayer because it amounted to a call for religious action. Crabb’s decision later was overturned by a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that said the foundation had not shown how it was harmed by the presidential proclamations.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has notified the Diocese of Fond du Lac that Bishop-Elect Matthew Alan Gunter has received the required majority of consents in the canonical consent process.
As outlined under Canon III.11.4 (a), the Presiding Bishop confirmed the receipt of consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and has also reviewed the evidence of consents from a majority of standing committees of the Church sent to her by the diocesan standing committee.
In Canon III.11.4 (b), Standing Committees, in consenting to the ordination and consecration, attest they are “fully sensible of how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Office. We do, moreover, jointly and severally declare that we believe the Reverend A.B. to have been duly and lawfully elected and to be of such sufficiency in learning, of such soundness in the Faith, and of such godly character as to be able to exercise the Office of a Bishop to the honor of God and the edifying of the Church, and to be a wholesome example to the flock of Christ.”
The Rev. Matthew Alan Gunter was elected on October 19, 2013. His ordination and consecration service is slated for April 26; Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will officiate.
While Bishop-Elect Gunter has received the necessary majority of consents, consents will continue to be accepted up to and including the April 1 deadline date.
A recap of the process
Upon election, the successful candidate is a bishop-elect. Following some procedural matters including physical and psychological examinations, formal notices are then sent by the Presiding Bishop’s office to bishops with jurisdiction (diocesan bishops only) with separate notices from the electing diocese to the standing committees of each of the dioceses in The Episcopal Church.
These notices require their own actions and signatures.
In order for a bishop-elect to become a bishop, Canon III.11.4 (a) of The Episcopal Church mandates that a majority of diocesan bishops AND a majority of diocesan standing committees must consent to the bishop-elect’s ordination and consecration as bishop. These actions – done separately – must be completed within 120 days from the day notice of the election was sent to the proper parties.
If the bishop-elect receives a majority of consents from the diocesan bishops as well as a majority from the standing committees, the bishop-elect is one step closer. Following a successful consent process, ordination and celebration are in order.
[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have Jan. 29 written to all primates of the Anglican Communion, and to the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, recalling the commitment made by the Primates of the Anglican Communion to the pastoral support and care of everyone worldwide, regardless of sexual orientation.
In their letter, the Archbishops recalled the words of the Communiqué issued in 2005 after a meeting of Primates from across the Communion in Dromantine.
The text of the joint letter is as follows:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
In recent days, questions have been asked about the Church of England’s attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction. In answer to these questions, we have recalled the common mind of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, as expressed in the Dromantine Communiqué of 2005.
The Communiqué said:
‘….we wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people.
The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.’
We hope that the pastoral care and friendship that the Communiqué described is accepted and acted upon in the name of the Lord Jesus.
We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ and the affirmation of which the Dromantine Communiqué speaks.”
Yours in Christ,
+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis
[Episcopal News Service] Call them Lutheran-Episcopal digital collaborators.
Episcopalian Dr. Elizabeth Drescher and Lutheran Pastor Keith Anderson co-authored “Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible” and closed out the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a Jan. 25 “CommFest 2014” workshop about church communication and social media at Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Theirs is among a growing number of creative ministries and mission-minded expressions of the 12-year-old Called to Common Mission unifying agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church.
Other evidences of deepening collaborative relationships include: the November joint statement from the presiding bishops of both churches, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and her Lutheran counterpart, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, regarding the Dec. 1 observance of World AIDS Day. There is also the recently announced agreement with their Canadian counterparts to coordinate responses to natural disasters and other events that may transcend their borders.
Additionally, the Episcopal Church and the ELCA share an Office of Government Relations staff position of legislative representative for international issues, and there is a joint ministry and training among the federal chaplaincies.
The Rev. Jon Perez, a member of the Lutheran Episcopal Coordinating Committee (LECC), estimated that about 50 “formal and informal” joint Lutheran and Episcopal ministries approved by governing bodies of both churches exist around the country, including his own congregation, Epiphany Lutheran and Episcopal Church, in Marina, California.
“We’ve passed the ten year mark with Call to Common Mission (CCM) and in this next ten years we want to focus on how to make this more intentionally missional work … and to see how we both can better use this relationship to reach the unchurched and those who have left the church and do it in a bold way,” he said.
Despite concerns about CCM, “we didn’t lose our identity,” Perez added. “Twelve years into it, the ELCA is still the ELCA and the Episcopal Church is still the Episcopal Church and now it’s time to see how we can function more effectively as a missional tool together.”
Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe, a LECC co-chair, agreed. “The work has changed over time. Initially, it was about monitoring where we were and where we might have differences, like was everybody rightly represented at all the ordinations.
“But, we’ve moved on, to a place where we regularly set goals, have a five-year plan,” Scarfe said. “The idea of focusing on mission is to focus on how much there is to do in God’s name and the fact that we can all come together to do this across our denominations, that’s what ecumenism really is.”
Digital Collaborators, ‘match.com colleagues’
Drescher’s and Anderson’s collaboration happened “in an organic way in the digital world … a match.com colleague relationship” and embodies the ecumenical relationships enjoyed by the ELCA and the Episcopal Church, she said.
“We connected on Facebook. I enjoyed his blog. We stayed in touch” and when Drescher, an author and academic who teaches in the religious studies and pastoral ministries department at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, was considering a follow-up to her book “Tweet If You ♥ Jesus”, she invited Anderson’s input.
They collaborated on “Click 2 Save: the Digital Ministry Bible” but didn’t actually meet until the book was in the final stages, according to Anderson, a pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia, during a recent telephone interview with ENS. “We did everything by email, Twitter, Google hangouts, Skyping; our weekly writing meetings were on Google plus.”
It led to joint speaking engagements, like the recent CommFest 2014 where the duo offered a basic message that while the CCM is really important, “a lot of things happen organically on the ground and especially even more so with social media,” said Anderson, 40.
“It allows people to connect beyond denominational networks, and share interests, concerns and passions, person to person and that’s certainly what we experienced,” he said. “Through social media, we were able to serendipitously become connected, grow deeper, and make contributions for the life of the church.
“Through our story we are helping people to think about how social media can enable people to connect, to contribute to the larger church,” he said. “In some ways we’re just living into what the Call to Common Mission means.”
Drescher agreed. “Our collaboration has brought the conversation to both of our denominational communities and that’s allowed us again to model a way of being in relationship,” she said during a recent telephone interview. “It tends to happen that I get invited to Episcopal things and Keith gets invited to Lutheran things and we bring each other along to the extent we can. It’s great to color outside the lines with him.”
At CommFest 2014 the pair discussed the spirituality of the “nones” — those who check the ‘none’ box on forms asking for religious affiliation — “but who remain interested in questions of meaning and value and the spirit.”
About 70 percent of “nones” come from Christian backgrounds and about 50 percent of those raised in the Episcopal Church will not be Episcopalians as adults (40 percent for Lutherans), Drescher said. Yet, they remain interested in “the very kind of questions that are our stock and trade in churches; we need to be thinking about more creative ways to be in conversation with them,” she said.
Ecumenical advocacy, shared strategies
In issuing a joint statement about World AIDS Day last November, the presiding bishops of both churches called upon Episcopalians and Lutherans to explore ways the common mission agreement might facilitate collaborative advocacy and shared strategies.
“Our churches’ full-communion relationship is more than ten years old, and local communities are now collaborating in varied and exciting ways,” according to the statement. “Can shared strategy toward AIDS-free communities be a part of this? Could congregations challenge themselves to see the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS – observed annually beginning the first Sunday in March – as an opportunity to begin?”
Sarah Dreier, who until December 2013 served as the ELCA and Episcopal Church legislative representative for international issues, said that collaborative role “helps to magnify our voice” on such global issues as combating HIV/AIDS and reforming federal food aid policies “that would help reach many more people … and substantially address the needs of poor and hungry people around the world.”
“It was a policy that both the Episcopal Church and the ELCA are deeply committed to,” said Dreier, 31, the daughter of Lutheran pastors, who left her position to pursue a doctorate in global peacemaking and economic justice at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We were able to do a very substantial amount of advocacy work, reaching out to key members of Congress who would have the potential of helping to move this issue from across the aisle.”
Alex Baumgarten, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church, said the two churches initiated the joint position in 2011 in part because of “financial stewardship in the area of declining budgets, but even more by a sense that the two churches shared very similar witnesses – with the chief distinctions often being the cultural and geographic perspectives that informed those witnesses – and that each of those two similar witnesses would be strengthened by more intentional collaboration with the other.”
Shared resources were another factor, as “the ELCA has global Lutheran partners in some places where the Anglican Communion is not widely represented, and vice versa,” he added. “We have found over the past nearly three years of sharing this work that our witness as churches has been magnified and enriched substantially as a consequence of partnership with the other.”
Now, bishops from both denominations are considering shared advocacy on domestic, state and local public policy initiatives. “The gift of sharing one particular missional staff position with the ELCA has allowed The Episcopal Church, I believe, to challenge our thinking in much wider ways about what unity and common mission mean,” Baumgarten said.
“While financial scarcity initially led us to consider sharing this work, it has now become apparent that this scarcity was, in fact, an invitation into a place of far greater abundance than was possible when we maintained separate staff positions in this area.”
Becoming missional tools: ‘do it in a bold way’
Often collaborative partnerships have developed from necessity but have blossomed into new initiatives. One such is the Komo Kulshan Cluster in Washington’s Skagit Valley about 60 miles south of the Canadian border where four Episcopal churches and a Lutheran church exercise a joint ministry.
With average Sunday attendances ranging anywhere from a few people in some congregations to as many as 40 in others, the cluster of five churches — Celebration Lutheran and Christ Episcopal in Anacortes, Resurreccion Episcopal and St. Paul’s Episcopal in Mt. Vernon, and St. James Episcopal in Sedro-Woolley — have shared clergy, staff and resources like Godly Play classes and jointly hosted a summer day camp for immigrant children.
“We are doing vastly more than any one congregation alone could do,” according to the Rev. Helen McPeak, an Episcopal priest.
As a result last year, 110 children received summer tutoring and fall school supplies. On Jan. 30 the churches will jointly take on the state legislature at an Interfaith Advocacy Day, according to the Rev. Heidi Fish, a cluster ELCA pastor.
“Each congregation would probably only be able to produce one or two folks to go, but with the energy of the leadership and … highlighting the needs, we’re expecting to bring 15 folks,” she said. “One of the issues being discussed is immigration reform and the Dream Act,” which affects some members of the community.
In San Francisco, a nearly two-year collaboration began when First United Lutheran (FUL) recognized “we were property-rich and cash poor” and sold their building, according to the Rev. Susan Strouse. They were looking for a place to rent and St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church had an appealing space and community center.
St. Cyprian’s, a historically black congregation, was facing drastically changing demographics “but there was a real openness to be part of the community,” recalled Jarie Bolander, a member. Now, he says, the two congregations are “friends with benefits” and recently–with the support of their local and church-wide governing bodies, hired a full-time mission developer to reach out to the “nones,” the spiritual but not religious in the community.
“We envision two congregations who are going to maintain their own identities … but we also expect there will be something else that will grow and emerge and we don’t know what that will be,” Strouse said. “We’re trying to make a space for something new and wonderful to happen and we don’t want to put a definite vision on what that’s going to look like. We want it to come from the ground up.”
But, she added: “there’s no template, no guidelines …and even though we’ve got this Call to Common Mission, the two denominations are different—our worship styles, our polity. We knew it was going to be messy but you don’t know what are the minefields until you step into them. But, we’re learning.”
The Rev. Canon Stefani Schatz, canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of California, said this first Lutheran-Episcopal collaboration of its kind “is part of a much larger vision that Bishop Marc Andrus has had for the diocese. We understand the whole of our diocese to be an emerging church; we understand all of our diocese to be a mission enterprise zone.”
Schatz agreed that “there’s no playbook for it. It’s part of us really looking forward into what I’m calling 21st century church … and we’re trying our hardest to be open within the structures of both churches’ judicatories. It’s been amazing how supportive the Lutherans have been in working with us.”
As the mission developer for the two congregations as well as the Sierra Pacific ELCA Synod and the Diocese of California, the Rev. Anders Peterson, 30, a newly ordained ELCA pastor, said he hopes to help add a spiritual component to the center’s existing ARC, or arts, resilience and community, identity.
“There’s a hope we can engage spirituality in a communal sense; where we can gather together and ask ourselves what it means to be supporting and helping each other in hopes and hurts, vulnerability, passion, our quest to find ways to connect with what is more than ourselves, with what is luring us to be whole and loving and compassionate people. My role is to direct that initiative” and to serve as a kind of community chaplain, he said.
While Cyprian’s Center provides daily activities, serving as many as a thousand people weekly, average Sunday attendance at the church ranges about 20, Peterson said. In addition to alternately sharing the facility for worship — First United at 5 p.m. and St. Cyprian’s at 10 a.m. on Sunday — they sometimes host joint services and community events.
But he added that “the mission is not to just mush the two together; the mission is to let these congregations flourish in abundance by responding to the needs of their local community. Their local communities are often made up of folks who are unfamiliar with or who have departed from faith life so what does it mean to open up your doors radically and say welcome here, we welcome you just as you are. We welcome you to be in partnership with us and let’s begin with common ground?”
He said the congregations are striving to answer the questions of what it means to be “a 21st century spiritual community.
“People here [in San Francisco] don’t go to church on Sunday,” he said. “If that’s the case, then how do we be church? How do we be spiritual community? That’s a great challenge.”
–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.