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Follow the #ShareTheJourney pilgrims through social media

Monday, March 2, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Follow each step of the way of the pilgrims on the #ShareTheJourney as they participate in an 11-day pilgrimage to the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Eight Episcopal pilgrims depart on March 2 on the #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage, designed to raise awareness of ways in which the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries service, works to facilitate refugee resettlement work throughout The Episcopal Church.

“Through real-time social media, participants will serve as the eyes of the church as they witness conditions where refugees are currently living, and come to understand that the responses we offer through resettlement are life-saving,” noted Deborah Stein, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Follow the pilgrims
From March 2-13, follow #ShareTheJourney using: #ShareTheJourney on Twitter (@EMMRefugees); Facebook here (facebook.com/EMMRefugees); the blog here; or through the media hub here.

The pilgrims will travel to Nairobi, Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda. Among the planned visits are the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and the Gihembe Refugee Camp in Rwanda as well as operations supported by Church World Service’s Resettlement Support Center (RSC)-Africa, and the UN refugee agency UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

The pilgrimage is funded through a Constable Fund grant awarded last year by The Episcopal Church Executive Council. The Constable Fund provides grants to fund mission initiatives that were not provided for within the budget of The Episcopal Church passed by the General Convention.

The pilgrims
Participating in the pilgrimage are:
• Jessica Benson, Diocese of Idaho
• Spencer Cantrell, gender violence fellow, National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP), Diocese of Washington
• Cookie Cantwell, Province IV Youth Ministries Coordinator, Diocese of East Carolina
• The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Executive Director, Forward Movement, Diocese of Southern Ohio
• The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Georgia
• Vicki Logue, Diocese of Georgia
• The Rev. Burl Salmon, Middle School Chaplain and Dean of Community Life, Trinity Episcopal School, Diocese of North Carolina
• Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Director, Trinity Episcopal Church of The Woodlands, Diocese of Texas
The Missionary Society
• Deborah Stein, Director, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• Kurt Bonz, Program Manager, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• Wendy Johnson, Communications Manager, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• The Rev. Ranjit Mathews, Network Officer for Mission Personnel and Africa
• Lynette Wilson, Editor/Reporter, Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Migration Ministries
Episcopal Migration Ministries is the refugee resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Each year this ministry works in partnership with its affiliate network, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe.

#ShareTheJourney as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society celebrates 75 years of resettling refugees in the United States. #ShareTheJourney is a multi-media effort to educate, form, and equip Episcopalians to engage in loving service with resettled refugees and to become prophetic witnesses and advocates on behalf of refugees, asylees, migrants, and displaced persons throughout the world.

Check out the website here and here.

Episcopal News Service will provide extensive coverage on the pilgrimage upon return.

Learn more EMM’s history and how to participate in local refugee settlement here.

Refugee women, children rebuild lives in Arizona

Monday, March 2, 2015

Congolese refugees Jeanine Balezi, an intensive-case manager for Refugee Focus, left, and Namughisha Nashimwe, pose for a photo in Nashimwe’s apartment in Tucson. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Tucson, Arizona] Peace and security that let them close their eyes and sleep at night; the ability to work and provide for their families: These are the things that female refugees – most of them single mothers – say changed most dramatically in their lives after they were resettled in Tucson.

“I’m really doing much better here. There’s food on the table. The kids are in school. I have clean water, milk and, most of all, peace,” said Murorunkwere Zaburiya, 58. “I can sleep in quiet.”

A Congolese refugee, Zaburiya arrived in Tucson seven months ago with five children, aged 10 to 26, after spending 18 years in a refugee camp in Rwanda.

Illiterate and not speaking a word of English, she became a member of a women’s empowerment group operated by Refugee Focus, which receives support from The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Episcopal Migration Ministries service through funding from the United States government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.

(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.)

Today, Zaburiya has learned the skills necessary to hold a job. Through English as a Second Language courses, she is beginning to recognize English words. And her children are receiving an education.

Women learn basic math skills during a morning training workshop at Refugee Focus’s office in downtown Tucson. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Through Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society partners with 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses nationwide. It is one of nine agencies working in partnership with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees to the United States.

“Episcopal Migration Ministries is part of this really wonderful, humanitarian program that allows some of the most vulnerable people in the world to start rebuilding their lives,” said Nicolle Trudeau, Refugee Focus’s director, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in her downtown Tucson office. About half of the 300 refugees served annually by Refugee Focus come through Episcopal Migration Ministries.

In 2014, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and its partners worked to resettle 5,155 of the tens of thousands of refugees who came to the United States through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) screening process. They’ll work to serve as many people this year as the United States plans to resettle 70,000 refugees — half of the 1 percent of the 15.5 million refugees worldwide who’ll be resettled this year.

Many of those refugees will come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since 1998, more than 5.5 million people have died in the Congo from fighting, disease and malnutrition; 2.5 million people have been internally displaced; and some 500,000 have fled the country’s protracted conflict, with the vast majority living in refugee camps in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions.

Over the next several years, UNHCR plans to resettle 50,000 refugees from the Congo, with 70 to 90 percent to be resettled to the United States, said Kurt Bonz, Episcopal Migration Ministries’ program manager, during a recent webinar hosted by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society aimed at educating the faith community about the situation in the Congo and how to support and advocate for Congolese refugees.

“Most of the refugees have been in camps an average of 20 years, education is low, and many are single women with children who continue to experience trauma related to living in the Congo, the journey out and living in a refugee camp,” he said.

Ongoing armed conflict has been particularly brutal in the Congo; the number of Congolese women-at-risk is double that found in other refugee populations. This has led to studies aimed at identifying particular risks, challenges and strengths and developing strategies for policymakers and service providers to better serve the women and their families.

A refugee is someone who has fled their country of nationality and its protection because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, ethnicity, political or social affiliation. Among female refugees considered “women-at-risk,” most have endured rape and other forms of gender-related sexual violence, with many giving birth to children conceived as a result of rape.

Upon arriving in the United States, refugees receive three months of case management and financial support to help them adjust, plus additional support to help them find employment and reach financial self-sufficiency. The formula works for some but not all refugees. Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides additional money for resettlement agencies to assist refugees with special challenges – in this case, single women with children.

Of the 50,000 Congolese refugees selected for resettlement, the U.S. is expected to resettle 80 percent. Of those, at least 20 percent are expected to be women-at-risk and eligible for intensive case management.

Recognizing the need, in 2013, with an $8,000 grant from a nondenominational church, Refugee Focus created its own program aimed at empowering at-risk women. Last year, the program continued with the support from Episcopal Migration Ministries, said Trudeau.

Given the elevated rates of violence and trauma endured by Congolese women and their children, it was crucial that this population have the opportunity to be resettled in the United States and have access to a supportive community environment where women could connect with each other to rebuild their support systems, said Trudeau.

Refugee Focus’ women’s empowerment program began with a question to the women: What can we do to better serve you? The women responded with, “We do everything as a group; we want to receive services as a group.”

The empowerment program’s goals were to create a social network for refugee women, strengthen employable skills through improved English proficiency, encourage economic independence, and promote personal development and financial skills.

Through private grants, the women were paid between $300 and $400 in small increments for their participation in the program: attending trainings, attending ESL classes, participating in community events. It counted toward payment if they arrived on time, and their payments were docked if they didn’t.

“It turned out to be a wonderful training tool for people who’d never had a job,” said Trudeau. “It gave them a sense of control to earn the money to pay the bills.”

The program started with 22 women. In six months, 20 had found employment. “We were so successful, we ran out of people,” she said.

More than its measurable factors, the empowerment program provides a lifeline to women who otherwise would be navigating a new way of being, a new country and an unfamiliar city on their own.

Namughisha Nashimwe, 41, arrived in Tucson in December 2013, after four years in a refugee camp, with her five children, now aged 5 to 20. Initially, a counselor told her first to take time to recover from her trauma and that, rather than attend school, her eldest son should get a job and support the family.

Nashimwe’s peers in the empowerment group and Refugee Focus staff, however, had other advice: They told her that she was capable of working and of providing for her family.

“The women helped me a lot. I was motivated by the group,” she said, speaking in Kinyarwanda – the official language of Rwanda – interpreted by Jeanine Balezi, an intensive-case manager for Refugee Focus. “Some people will tell you, you don’t have to go to work. But in talking to others in the group and with Jeanine, I decided I’m going to get a job to help my family to have a better life,” she said during an interview with ENS in her apartment, a 10-15 minute drive from downtown Tucson.

Nashimwe works part time as a janitor in a school. Her son is a high school student and recently started a job working weekends at a carwash.

“Had she not had a group, she would have been in crisis,” said Trudeau. You cannot make progress when stuck in a crisis mode, and Refugee Focus doesn’t have the money to assist clients in crisis, only to help them toward self-sufficiency, she added.

“It is not an easy process, people do come with very real barriers,” Trudeau said, adding that there’s a limit to where funds can take them. “The strength that they used to survive for so many years has to be drawn on here. There’s no safety net for the long term.”

Investing in refugees, she continued, is more than just initial resettlement; it’s about developing plans and support that individuals and families can depend on over the many years they struggle to overcome the barriers associated with poverty in the United States.

In some ways, the women say, resettlement is like winning the lottery. Still, when a refugee arrives in the United States, the thrill of beginning a new life also brings increased anxiety, isolation and a loss of family and community.

“You feel like you are lost and empty, you can’t communicate,” said Balezi, 41, who spent two years in a Congolese refugee camp in Cameroon before coming to Tucson in 2000 with her infant son. He now is 15 and attends high school.

Balezi attended a university in the Congo and, besides being fluent in French, speaks at least seven other regional languages. But when she arrived in Tucson, she said, she spoke no English, not even a “hi.”

In more than one way, she’s a role model.

Through Balezi’s interactions with the women, the love and respect they have for her is obvious. They laugh and joke easily in her presence. But it’s also clear she pushes them to leave their comfort zones – to learn a new bus route or apply for a job – and that they appreciate it.

Once a refugee arrives in the United States, things move quickly. From the airport, refugees are driven to their furnished apartment, where staff and volunteers teach them how to operate appliances like the stove and television, the kitchen sink and the shower.

The food pantry is stocked, and a culturally appropriate meal – typically rice and beans and chicken, in the case of Congolese refugees – has been prepared for the family.

The next day, they’re registered for food stamps. Within a week they’ve applied for a Social Security card. By day 10, the children are enrolled in school.

Refugee Focus is working with local partners to landscape this outdoor space for hosting events and so teenagers have a place to hang out. Photo: Refugee Focus

Refugee Focus operates on a $1.6 million annual budget with 16 full-time and 10 on-call employees and two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers. In addition to federal funds, Refugee Focus relies on support from donors, local partners and community volunteers to fund and carry out its programs.

Given the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s role in refugee resettlement, The Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012 passed legislation calling for the modernization of the nation’s refugee resettlement program to meet the needs of a diverse population.

“One of the greatest strengths of the refugee resettlement program is public-private partnership, with private funds and donations complementing federally funded services and support,” said Katherine Conway, immigration and refugee policy analyst for The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations based in Washington, D.C. “Each day the Missionary Society and volunteers engage in the ministry of welcome, but private contributions must be matched by robustly funded services. A volunteer can help to furnish a refugee family’s apartment or provide a winter coat, but he/she cannot counsel a survivor of torture or provide recertification services.”

Episcopalians can advocate for refugees by joining the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Episcopal Public Policy Network.

Tucson, a city with a population of just over half a million people, is served by three refugee-resettlement agencies and becomes home to 1,000 new refugees annually. Work-eligible refugees often fill vacancies in low-wage, unskilled jobs in the servicing industry, washing dishes in restaurants and cleaning hotel rooms; working largely unseen.

Refugee Focus’s resettlement work has largely gone unseen, as well. And then, about a year ago, Trudeau moved its offices from a strip mall outside the city’s core to a few blocks from the city’s main bus terminal downtown.

Imago Dei Middle School’s student body includes 12 refugees, 11 of them referred through Refugee Focus. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The new location has provided visibility both for Refugee Focus and its clients, who often take the bus and then walk to the office on North Stone Avenue across from the main branch of the Pima County Library. It’s also around the corner from Imago Dei Middle School, which provides holistic education aimed at breaking the cycles of poverty to 70 students grades five through eight.

Trudeau has developed a strong partnership with the Rev. Anne Sawyer, an Episcopal priest and co-founder and head of the school. The two met through Rotary Club when Trudeau was looking for office space downtown. Later, Trudeau visited the school and began to identify refugee children who would benefit from the school’s intensive, six-day week, 11-month school year, which allows students who may not be at grade level the time and personal attention to catch up.

“It’s not unusual for our fifth-grade scholars to come to us at a second- or third-grade level, and, if they are bilingual, they may be at a kindergarten or first-grade level,” said Sawyer.

The student body now includes 12 refugees, 11 of them referred through Refugee Focus, said Sawyer.

“We see behaviors that indicate life was difficult,” said Sawyer. Refugee students have lost their countries, grown up in refugee camps, sometimes have lost parents and have experienced or witnessed traumas, she said. “At young ages, they have experienced a lot, but that is not [un]like some of our other students who have experienced poverty, as well.”

The African students, originally from the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi or South Africa, say they plan to study medicine, engineering and other professions, and that small class sizes, individual attention and shared language contribute to a comfortable, supportive educational environment.

“When I first came here it felt different,” said Emeline, a student originally from the Congo. “I felt like it was my home. We all started speaking Swahili.”

Drumming helps trauma survivors to heal and reconnect. Photo: Refugee Focus

Another way in which Refugee Focus has fostered community is through hosting events in partnership with Richard Noell, who uses drumming as a way to help trauma survivors regain confidence and express themselves.

Music and drumming help the women reconnect with joy, and it opens them to healing, said Noell.

The staff and volunteers who have worked with at-risk women have been “blown away by the amount of strength and perseverance that these women have come with,” said Trudeau.

“It’s that difference: When you see a description of someone on paper, a single mother who is maybe a rape victim who has five children and may be pregnant again, coming to the U.S. – How is she going to survive? How is she going to support herself? Her family? And yet we see it happen every day,” said Trudeau.

“They come here, and within months they are learning a new language and making sure that their children get to school every day, making sure that they are bathed, and taken care of and fed, and riding a bus for two hours to take an English class and then working a part-time job, perhaps, and learning how to balance those finances, and it doesn’t happen without a system of tight support and services,” she said.

“But in large part it’s happening by the strength of the clients we serve, and I think it just goes to show that what somebody is on paper doesn’t really define who they are.”

– Lynette Wilson is an Episcopal News Service editor and reporter.

RIP: Former Long Island Bishop Orris G. Walker, Jr.

Monday, March 2, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Long Island] The Rt. Rev. Orris G. Walker, Jr., died on Feb. 28 at the age of 72. He was the seventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, serving from 1991 to 2009.

“His episcopate championed the cause of full inclusion of women in the ordained ministry of the diocese,” Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said of Walker. “He was the first to ordain women in the diocese and was responsible for facilitating the full inclusion and participation of women in all aspects of diocesan life.”

Provenzano, who succeeded Walker in November 2009, noted that Walker was also responsible for “widening the participation and full representation of laity in the ministry of the diocese — especially their serving on diocesan boards and commissions.”

“Bishop Walker’s episcopacy covered a difficult and sometimes controversial period in the history of the diocese. Nevertheless, his dedication to the people of the Diocese of Long Island will forever stand as a testament to his love for Jesus Christ and his dedication to the ministry of the Church,” Provenzano wrote in a letter to the diocese.

A Requiem Mass for Bishop Walker will be held March 7 at 1:30 p.m. at Christ Church in Detroit, Michigan.

Walker was born Nov. 5, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his early education in Baltimore public schools, graduating from Baltimore City College in 1960.

In 1964, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy. In 1968, he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York.

In 1980, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and in 1984 a Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. In 1993, he received an MBA in Church Administration from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

Honorary doctorates in canon law and divinity were conferred by Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University and the General Theological Seminary, respectively, in the fall of 1988. An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was conferred by St. Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, Virginia, in 2000.

Walker was ordained to the diaconate in 1968 by the Rt. Rev. Harry Lee Doll. Later that year, Walker was called to serve in St. Mark’s Ecumenical Church in Kansas City, Missouri, as director of program and education.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 by the Rt. Rev. Edward R. Welles on the Vigil of Pentecost. In 1971, he was invited to serve as associate rector of the newly merged churches of St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s, Detroit. After the election of its rector, Quintin E. Primo, as bishop suffragan of Chicago, Walker was elected rector, at age 29.

While in the Diocese of Michigan, Walker served as a member of Executive Council, the Trustees, the Urban Affairs Committee, dean of convocation, as a board member, and associate professor of contemporary society at the Whitaker School of Theology. He represented the diocese at the provincial synod for 10 years, serving as chair of the Urban Task Force and a member of the Court of Review. He was elected five times to serve as a deputy to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention.

Walker has chaired the Episcopal Church Committee on Canons and was a member of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. He also served as chair of the Episcopal Commission on Black Ministries and as a member of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons.

In other churchwide service, he chaired the Committee on Canons in the House of Bishops, was a member of the Joint Committee on Nominations, and served as vice president of Province II. In addition, he chaired the Task Force for the Recruitment, Training and Deployment of Black Clergy for the Episcopal Church’s Commission on Black Ministries.

In Detroit, Walker was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, president of the Cathedral Terrace, a senior citizen housing complex, the Highland Park Community Relations Board and the Black Family Development Board.

As bishop of Long Island, Walker served as chairman of the board of managers of Episcopal Health Services and board chairman of the Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was president of the Trustees of the Estate belonging to the Diocese of Long Island. In addition, he served as president of Episcopal Charities of Long Island and the George Mercer Memorial School of Theology.

He taught Canon Law and Theology & Contemporary Society at The Mercer School and at the General Theological Seminary. And, he also served as president of the Cathedral Chapter of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York.

Theological studies ignited transformation of Georgia woman set to die

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dr. Jürgen Moltmann, Kelly Gissendaner and the Rev. Cathy Zappa at Gissendaner’s graduation from Theological Certificate Program. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

Editor’s note: Georgia Department of Correction officials postponed Kelly Renee Gissendaner’s execution at the last moment March 2 when they became concerned about the purity of the execution drug. No new date has been given, according to the Associated Press.

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] An untold story about convicted murderer Kelly Renee Gissendaner is that she is loved and admired by many inmates and others who serve at Lee Arrendale State Prison north of Atlanta.

Gissendaner, 47, a graduate of a prison-based theology certificate program, is set to become on March 2 the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945.

“Kelly has changed; she’s been transformed,” says the Rev. Cathy Zappa, a Diocese of Atlanta priest who has served as Gissendaner’s teacher, spiritual director and chaplain for nearly four years. “Though far from perfect, she is making a positive difference in the prison and beyond.”

Zappa directs the Certificate in Theological Studies program at the prison on behalf of four seminaries that are members of the Atlanta Theological Association. She also serves as canon for spirituality and mission at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta.

“Yes, she is remorseful,” says Zappa of Gissendaner, who was found guilty of planning her husband Douglas Gissendaner’s 1997 murder. “But she can’t take back what she’s done.

“Kelly’s death will only cause more harm,” Zappa said, “to her friends in prison, to her three children who don’t want to lose their mother. She is changed and transformed and only wants to offer something back to her community.”

Speaking out in Gissendaner’s defense, Zappa said, “She has tried to make amends in the way she has lived her life, to work for healing and reconciliation. And she has started living her life in a way that shows penitence for her husband’s death and honors her children, who are also victims of her crime.”

Kelly Gissendaner hugs her daughter Kayla at the graduation ceremony. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

Zappa was one of several people who on Feb. 25 addressed the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles at a hearing to request clemency for Gissendaner. The board denied the request. Her execution, previously scheduled for later that day, was postponed until March 2 because of bad weather.

Zappa told the board that Gissendaner “has had an uplifting impact on my life, on people in the theology program and on other inmates. She has chosen to thrive, as both a person and a Christian, during her incarceration and her death sentence.

“Rather than succumbing to bitterness, despair or a sense of victimization, Kelly has become a compassionate, reflective, spiritual and authentic human being. She’s committed to living life to the fullest and to being a blessing in whatever way she can to others in her world.”

One of the people in her world is internationally renowned author and professor of systematic theology Jürgen Moltmann of the University of Tübingen, Germany.

Gissandaner wrote to him after reading one of his books for her theology foundations course work. They became pen pals, and Moltmann came to visit her and spoke at the certificate program’s 2011 commencement.

“Kelly said about their correspondence that she wanted Dr. Moltmann to know how much she’d learned from him,” said Zappa. “He wrote back and said how much he’s learned from her. He sent her a handkerchief, which he said was to hold all her tears.”

Many of the women in the theology program look up to Gissendaner and see her as a source of inspiration, hope, and strength. “Over and over,” said Zappa, “I hear phrases like, ‘If Kelly can handle that, then I can handle this,’ or ‘If Kelly can keep faith or stay strong, then so can I.’”

When Gissendaner graduated from the theology certificate program in October 2011, she was chosen as the student speaker.

From the start of her course work, she said, “Never have I had a hunger like this. I became so hungry for theology, and what all the classes had to offer, you could call me a glutton. I’ve now added in thirst for the accomplishment of my dream to continue the study of theology.

“I challenge you to step up the next level of your character, growth, and development,” she told them. “In all of us, there are untapped abilities. I encourage you to write that book, start that ministry, teach, study, pursue your dream.”

Gissendaner went on to remind them that “suffering can be redeemed. There is only One who can bring a clean thing out of something unclean, or turn a tragedy into a triumph, and a loser into a winner. When this miracle occurs, and only through Divine grace, our life is not wasted. When blind eyes are opened, then we all will see the greater purpose. Let us put off hatred and envy and put on love and compassion. Every day.”

In the three years since graduating, Gissendaner continued to take every theology course that was offered at the prison until her final appeal was denied.

On Feb. 27, a letter asking government officials to reconsider sparing Kelly’s life was signed by Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright and is being distributed throughout the state. To read the letter, click here.

Four participating member schools of the Atlanta Theological Association, which sponsors the Certificate in Theological Studies program, are Candler School of Theology at Emory University, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, the Interdenominational Theological Center and Columbia Theological Seminary.

– Nan Ross is director of communications for the Diocese of Atlanta.

Presiding Bishop preaches at St. John’s, New Braunfels, Texas

Monday, March 2, 2015

St. John’s, New Braunfels, TX
1 March 2015
Diocese of West Texas

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

As we gathered yesterday to affirm the election of your new bishop coadjutor, I looked out over the congregation and saw great joy and celebration. There were a surprising number of young people gathered, some of whom sang and led the music during the offertory. Others were doing a great job leading processions as acolytes – competent and dignified while they were serving, and delightfully uninhibited teenagers when out of uniform – taking selfies, ribbing each other, and being helpful when needed. Once we were all in place for the liturgy, I noticed a little boy sitting on the floor in the middle aisle near the front. He was probably 6 or 7 years old, and rapt with attention most of the time. During the offertory, and during communion, when there were other people using the aisle, he went back to his father’s lap. I found myself wondering what sort of world and church he will inherit.

Abram and Sarai are looking even farther down the strand of time, still hoping, but not yet knowing if there will be offspring to wonder about. They hear that they’re going to be not just parents, but the progenitors of multitudes. No wonder that in another version of the story Sarah laughs. ‘Right, God! We’re old enough to be great-grandparents and now we’re going to have a baby?’ ‘Abraham and Sarah, you will produce whole nations, and kings to lead them.’

It’s a minor miracle that Abram and Sarai don’t split up long before they have that baby. Soon after God calls Abram to leave Ur and go to Haran, he and his family find themselves in the middle of a famine. They keep moving and cross the border into Egypt, to graze their herds in the Nile delta, and try to find enough to eat. Pharaoh hears about the beautiful Sarai, and decides to take her for his harem. Abram knows that her husband is likely to be killed off to get him out of the way, so he tries to pawn her off as his sister in order to save his own skin.[1] Those two sojourners in Egypt are aliens in foreign territory; they’ve crossed the border seeking more of life’s possibility, but they have no protection, either from kinfolk or legal systems. They are at the mercy of the local power brokers. Like migrants the world over, they’re exploited. Sarai is abducted – today we’d say she was trafficked – while her husband is forced to stand by and do the best he can to survive.

The story goes on. Pharaoh and his household get sick, and somehow he discovers that he has taken Abram’s wife, rather than his sister, for his own. Pharaoh responds, “you’ve deceived me, now take your wife and get out of here!” Abram and his wife are deported but they do survive.

Abram is not a righteous fellow according to the law, yet he is given this remarkable promise of an heir and rafts of descendants – and the Bible says, “it is reckoned to him as righteousness.” If there is hope for this ambiguously faithful survivor, there is certainly hope for the rest of us. God’s justice is not quite like our own. The point seems to be that God is working his purposes out in ways that are beyond our immediate awareness, that God will bring life out of the worst that life can visit on us, even when we participate in its grievousness and error.

There’s something similar going on in the gospel conversation between Peter and Jesus. Jesus pretty clearly knows that what he’s been teaching and doing is upsetting the powers that be. Like Abram, he knows that the response is likely to be death as the authorities discover who he is and what he’s up to. Then the two stories diverge. Abram is convinced that his survival – and Sarai’s – is what is most important, however he manages to pull it off. Jesus knows that the life of nations has to do with his continued journey, even if it brings his own death. The result in both instances is abundant life and offspring, whether it’s the heirs God has promised to Abraham or the heirs of the kingdom of God, delivered through the labor of Jesus.

Abram has let go of his honor in that culture, by relinquishing his wife and his claims on her. He has been shamed by letting another take his property, even if it was Pharaoh who did it. In his context honor is on a par with life itself – and we can still see that in societies that murder women whose fidelity is in question. Sarai has little or no ability to avoid her abduction, but her beauty will keep her alive as long as she cooperates. Ultimately, the plague on Pharaoh’s house delivers them both, and the fulfilment of the promise of offspring re-emerges as a possibility.

Jesus tells Peter not to lure him away from his path by focusing on his mortal survival. Jesus believes that his journey involves the cross – for the promise of abundant life will emerge from his faithfulness to that road, even through the valley of the shadow of death.

Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who let go of their possessiveness about their lives will find those lives returned to them in abundance.

What promise motivates your journey in life? What cross will you shoulder in the cause of that ultimate goal?

This congregation suffered a considerable loss just a few years ago. It wasn’t just loss of face or identity, but of people who had been known and loved for years. Those who remained picked up their grief and pain and got back on the path, and today you are tasting something of abundant life as a result. You are indeed blessed to be a blessing, and you are living that out through growing the lives of the faithful here and sharing the love you know with the wider world.

Losing life in order to find it comes in many different forms. Viola Liuzzo, a white housewife from Detroit, went to Selma in 1965 to support the march for civil rights. She was not saved by her beauty, and in fact it probably made her a more attractive target as she drove activists from Montgomery back to Selma. She was shot to death for her work, [2] much like Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian who stepped in front of a shotgun blast meant for a young African-American woman, Ruby Sales.[3] In the midst of those events 50 years ago, Andrew Young had this to say about taking up crosses: “We come only with the power of our souls and the strength of our bodies to love the hell out of Alabama.”[4]

Sometimes what is lost is more like Abram’s sacrifice of pride and honor. Whenever a conflict becomes intractable, it’s usually about both sides thinking they’re right in refusing to budge. Marital conflict like that usually leads to divorce – and we’re seeing similar realities in Congress and in the Middle East. You had a taste of it here some years ago. Picking up a cross often looks like vulnerability and empathizing with the other – for once the opponent can be seen as human, the possibility of greater life also emerges. It’s the same thing as loving your neighbor as yourself – seeing the image of God in someone who is actually very much like us, understanding the pain in another life, finding a common hunger for meaning, letting go of our own pride or sense of ultimate righteousness. It might be undocumented immigrants, or people with a different religious or political position, and there are opportunities all around us to pick up a cross of vulnerability.

What cross needs picking up in your life? What needs to be laid down to find your life? Where can we love the hell out of the world around us?

[1] Gen 12:10-20

[2] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/black-history-month-2015-civil-rights-allies-article-1.2129213

[3] http://www.vmi.edu/archives.aspx?id=14481

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_of_the_Brave_(2004_film)

Presiding Bishop addresses Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes

Monday, March 2, 2015

Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes
“Connection Matters”
John “I am the vine, you are the branches”
26 February 2015

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

I am the vine, says Jesus, and Abba is the vine-grower. We are the branches if we stay connected. Christians usually leap quickly to the latter parts of this passage,[1] but the essence comes at the beginning. God the vine-grower is the source of all life and creativity. Jesus is the way we tap into, or root ourselves in, that creative source. We become fruitful through connection to that source and the generativity that results. Jesus defines that as being disciples, followers and students, as well as teachers of others.

A grape vine is fruitful in a variety of ways, not only in producing grapes. The tendrils that bind the vine to a tree or the vine-grower’s posts and wires are essential to holding the vine up in the air and sunlight, without which it will rarely produce great harvests of good grapes. The leaves themselves produce food for the entire plant – and its surrounding ecosystem. So do the unseen and often forgotten roots, and healthy rootstock is key to the vine’s survival. The bark on a vine gradually thickens as it ages, protecting the inner transport mechanisms that move nutrients from one part of the plant to another. And, even though it may cut across your favorite way of understanding the pruning verses, the over-exuberant growth that is pruned away is key to the fruitfulness of the whole, both by prodding the plant to focus its energy on grape-production and by yielding its own life for the sake of greater fruitfulness. Even the life that is yielded in pruning goes to produce more – in the ashes of a burn pile or in slower recycling into soil nutrients. No part of this vine-system is unimportant to the life of the whole. And, indeed, it is more intimately and exquisitely connected than we can see or know.

All of creation works that way, whether we’re reading Genesis or the scientific cosmological and evolutionary story. In the first creation account[2] God is the source of what is, at least once we move beyond “a formless void and darkness over the face of the deep.” Light is separated from darkness, the waters above are separated from the waters below, the waters are separated from dry land – and by the third day fruitful plants are appearing. The emergence of light is blessed as good, but it doesn’t say that means the darkness is cursed – there is something deeply important about their ongoing relationship. Those plants can’t be fruitful without a diurnal rhythm – a time for photosynthesis and a time for rest. Nor can the system be fruitful until there is separation of earth from sea. The ocean doesn’t harbor fruiting plants, other than a handful of species – like sea grasses and mangroves – descended from land plants that have adapted to shallow near-shore environments. Seed and fruit-producing plants began to evolve on land around 400 million years ago, long after bacteria in the sea had begun to fill the atmosphere with oxygen. Once that literal terrestrial flourishing began, and fields and forests began to emerge, it was accompanied by an explosion of animal forms, both insects and vertebrates.[3]

Light and darkness, terra firma and the depths of the sea, bacteria and higher plants, plankton and vertebrates – all are irreplaceable and essential parts of the whole. All forms of fruitfulness depend on interconnection.

Episcopalians are learning to think about our relationship with God and neighbor through a framework of connection called the Five Anglican Marks of Mission.[4] It’s digital shorthand for considering the varied ways in which the divine character of love is made concrete in the world around us. The marks themselves are interconnected through the One who gives us evidence of the love of God in human flesh, through the One who calls us friend. God sends us out to heal the brokenness of the world, the body of God’s creation. Those digits are connected to the hand of friendship Jesus extends, which we are meant to use in meeting and embracing the world. That needs all sorts of different gifts, working together to build up that body in love, as Paul notes: “we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”[5]

I Proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God

The connections between vine, branches, and vineyard-maker undergird our theological understanding of what it means to be human, and to be in fruitful relationship with all that is. That is fundamentally what the good news we proclaim is about: there is a divine source of all that is, all of it is shot through with the glory of God, and we are held within that web of relationship for our own ultimate well-being and the well-being of all the rest. Christians use more particular language for that, and Paul’s words are among the most familiar: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[6]

The more ancient psalmist sets this fundamental reality in the context of the wider creation. God interpenetrates all that is, and we cannot avoid or escape the life-giving urge and life-expanding embrace:

“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”[7]

Although he wrote about that interconnectedness nearly a century and a half ago, Gerard Manley Hopkins sounds prescient when he speaks of oil, toil, and what we’d call consumption:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck[8] his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.[9]

            Creation has anciently been called the “sacrament” of God,[10] an outward and visible sign of God’s creative reality, in which are held all parts of the created order. The interrelated, social, connected reality of creation is an outward image of what we speak of as the inward, Trinitarian nature of God. The three persons of the Godhead are variously understood as companions (Rublev’s icon), a dance party (perichoresis[11]), and as originator, sanctifier, and sustainer of creation. The goodness and blessedness of God’s creation is sign, meaning, and evidence of divine participation in all that is.

II Teach, baptize, nurture new believers

Jesus uses the vine and branch and source image to speak of disciples who “abide” in connection with that divine social reality. We often dismiss that word “social” as something vaguely unholy, perhaps not substantial enough for serious consideration. Yet social has its roots in linguistic contexts of companionship, alliance, living together, even the union of marriage. Its deeper origins are in the same root from which we get sequence and sequential, with a sense of following. To follow Jesus is to give evidence of the inner life of God as a society of connectedness.[12]

Growing fruitful followers of Jesus is both about educating people[13] in the relational nature of reality, and countering the heretical view that “me and Jesus” is all that matters. To love God and love our neighbors as ourselves is not an individualistic endeavor; it is a profoundly social one, rooted in eating and spending time together, discovering the creativity of God in relationships with neighbors and the wider world. To put it another way, the abiding friends of Jesus know their interdependence – on one another and the source of life. Abiders understand their task as moving outward (love of neighbor and God), rather than solely inward. Mission means sent. There is an ever-present strand in Christianity that tends to see the primary spiritual task as love of God in ways that build up the self and deny the presence of God in others and the world. That strand often results in sectarian and extremist responses, rather than ones that recognize and affirm the interconnectedness of all that God has made. At the extreme, it amounts to lopping off the branch you’re sitting on.

Missional formation shapes members of the vine who know they have received unique gifts, and know their dependence on the unique gifts of others. Loving God and neighbor looks like the response of fellow passengers when a person shouted at a Muslim woman in a headscarf, “this is America!” The woman’s reflection is telling, “The unity I felt on the airplane was just overwhelming. So many people were consoling me. People were very gentle and nice to me and my husband. This is America. That’s the American response.”[14] I beg to differ, for it’s not an American response. It is a moral response, the result of good spiritual and ethical formation. It demonstrates love of neighbor, and it is a result of people who understand their interconnections with one another and with the source of life. Those anonymous passengers who were compassionate in the face of another’s vitriol were being fruitful. The result is more abundant life – which in a very real way makes the source of that life more evident.

III. Respond to human need with loving service

The outward move to love neighbors in the world is one that continues to challenge this Church. For a long time, and in many places, we have acted as though all our neighbors were already in the pews with us. Episcopalians have often learned to love those neighbors more completely, sometimes so well that they and we have thought the work was done. Yet Jesus continues to call his disciples – his vine-friends – outward and onward into Galilee, and to discover him there.[15]

Galilee is not the safety of congregation or family home. It is literally “the district” or “the neighborhood.” It implies getting out of your comfort zone to meet the neighbors God has created for the world’s well-being as well as our own. We’re sent to be neighbors, loving ones, and to stay connected to the vine and source. What does it look like but listening deeply to the cries of people wandering in the wilderness? We have to hear and experience the need before we can respond in loving ways. When people throng to Jesus, that’s why he asks what they want, and what they’re seeking. We have to ask to hear the story of another, and wait until it emerges. It’s not a passive stance, but an act of creative expectation, what Nelle Morton famously called “hearing people into speech.”[16] Listening to the lament is an act of solidarity that inaugurates a loving response.

Loving responses are acts that reconnect or strengthen weakened connections. Jesus’ itinerant ministry was mostly focused around feeding, healing, and teaching the people who came looking for him. They were hungry, hurting, and hopeless – and he responded in ways that met their need. Many communities of faith feed the hungry, teach children and adults. A growing number are engaged in active ministries of healing – 12-step groups, sacramental liturgies of healing, parish nursing and opening health clinics. Yet there are varieties of brokenness and pain in need of healing.

An emerging response in Western Massachusetts is focused on the needs of parents with addiction issues.[17] The priest who’s leading this new development spends much of her time “having conversations.” Effective and appropriate loving response will emerge from that listening. Episcopal Relief and Development is grounded in this kind of community-centered approach, and begins its work in new places by helping the community to tell its own story – to notice and express both its need and the resources already present. Sometimes this is called Asset-Based Community Development. It’s ancient – and one reason why Jesus has been called a community organizer. How were 5000 people fed? How did the feast at Cana continue when the wine ran out? The gifts and resources already present were identified and blessed – and great abundance resulted.

Congregations are increasingly working together with partners from other faith traditions (and none) to respond to the needs in their neighborhoods in loving ways. Even recognizing that those other partners have gifts is an important step in discovering abundance. When the ties that bind us are affirmed, life abounds. Whether those other parts of the body are Muslim, Mormon, or Methodist, the need to feed the hungry and heal the sick and hear the lament can be more effectively answered together. Ferguson and Staten Island are reminding us of that reality, as is Pasco, Washington.[18]

IV Transform unjust structures, challenge violence, pursue peace and reconciliation

Our connections to the vine may become most evident when the branches are ailing. The rising economic inequalities, both in the U.S. and globally, bring with them increased conflict, poorer health, reduced life possibilities and shortened lifespans. Childhood poverty now stands at 30% in this country (#6 globally) and the effects will reverberate for generations. We are attached to a vine who insisted that abundant life was the reason for the vine and the garden’s existence. Some seem to ask, ‘What do these budding branchlets have to do with us?’ The health of entire societies is tied up in how we care for the weakest and poorest among us.

The health of the vine is also at risk when surrounded by active conflict. The work of peace-making is essential to restored vigor and fruitfulness. That work of peacemaking requires ongoing engagement with all parties, yet the sad reality is that human response is often to cut off contact with anyone deemed an enemy. There is little possibility of healing when connection is lost. But when people on both sides are willing to be vulnerable to the painful stories and realities of those on the other side, miracles begin to happen, even when civil and military officials can’t manage to make peace. We’re seeing hopeful signs of that right now in Israel-Palestine, as settler rabbis and former Palestinian freedom fighters sit down together and begin to understand the fear and woundedness on both sides.[19]

Violence is anything that works to limit or take away life – the very word means something like “against life.” Violence can be verbal, physical, or systemic. It is often directed at people who are seen to differ from some group norm – and the prevalence of gender-based violence says a great deal about the need to broaden social norms to include all human beings, not only males. The Anglican Communion is engaging this work with great clarity and focus, particularly in regions where GBV is used an implement of war or terror.[20]

Systemic violence can be gender-based, as the overwhelmingly female percentages of human trafficking victims demonstrates. It can also be based in race or economic status. The rates of mass incarceration in this country speak to that reality – black and brown young men have appallingly high probabilities of being arrested and incarcerated, and as this nation is beginning to understand, a much higher likelihood of being assaulted or killed in interactions with police. The link with poverty is less well known, but the cycle of penal enslavement based on inability to pay fines is a growing reality for the poor. Can’t pay a traffic fine? Well, if you’re stopped again, in many jurisdictions you will likely go to jail and stay there until you can, all the while being charged for your keep. Municipal fines for your child’s truancy can land you there as well. This, in a nation that believes that debtors’ prisons went out with the Revolution.[21]

The health of the entire vineyard depends on just and fruitful connections for all the branches of the vine. There will be no long-term generativity or sustainability for any part of the vine absent intentional solidarity with the poor and oppressed and a search for more abundant life for all.

V Safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Finally, unless we care for the garden in which the vine is planted with something approaching the tender hope of the One who planted it, we are only digging our own grave. We are long past the time when human depredation of the garden could be limited to a narrow field. Our ability to transform the environment is perhaps the most significant aspect of what it means to be made in the image of the Creator. Yet we too often continue to choose paths that lead into empty wastelands, denying our connections with those who dwell in teeming cities as well as all the creatures who share this garden with us.

The exhaust from power production is casting a pall over the earth – and it is a funeral pall. As it fouls the air we breathe and contains the heat of sunlight, we are not so slowly melting icecaps, acidifying and expanding the oceans, threatening coastal populations with flooding, limiting the areas where food can be grown, changing the climate and making weather events more extreme – and it is accelerating the loss of species across the globe.

The diversity of species in an ecosystem is central to an ecologist’s definition of its health – those with few species are generally in crisis or its aftermath. Diversity contributes to the resilience of a system, and when it’s reduced, relatively small disruptions can bring radical changes. Think of what happens after a forest fire. A severe one kills most of the trees and brush which provided the skeletal structure of the forest. With little to hold back the runoff, rains wash soil and ash into drainage ways, smothering fish and insects. Increased sunlight on barren ground yields bumper crops of one or two weed species. It takes decades and centuries for a similarly resilient system to return, and it will likely not be the same system that existed before the fire. The loss of interconnectedness brings chaos. Eventually God creates anew, but what was before is often lost.

I’ve categorized this reality as power production. It’s not only the output from power plants and car engines that is causing climate change and species extinction. In a theological sense, this as a Garden of Eden problem. It is the human desire to control or use every part of the garden for our own. Our hunger for power is partly about electricity, but it’s also wrapped up in the hunger for more and more meat and animal products. Livestock production is the second major producer of greenhouse gases. There is growing awareness of the inhumane ways in which many livestock are managed, but the very problem is a sign of human hunger for power over all parts of creation. The growing populations and prosperity of developing nations mean that this challenge is likely to be before us for generations.

The greatest challenge is to recognize our interconnectedness – with other parts of creation and with our human neighbors – and recognize and restrain our power hungers. It’s past time to repent, turn around, and go in a holier direction, back into well-bound relationship with the vine and the source of all that is. That is the direction of sustained fruitfulness and the generativity that abundant life implies. Go and follow Jesus, into the neighborhood, unto ages of ages (ut seculae seculorum).

[1] John 15:1-10

[2] Gen 1:1-2:4a

[3] Devonian period, ca 420-360 million years ago

[4] http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/five-marks-mission For more commentary: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/fivemarks.cfm

[5] Ephesians 4:15-16

[6] Romans 8:38-39

[7] Psalm 139:7-12

[8] Heed, pay attention to

[9] Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Poems. London: Humphrey Milford, 1918; Bartleby.com, 1999. www.bartleby.com/122/. [Accessed 10 Feb 2015]

[10] Anthony of Egypt, Philokalia: “Creation declares in a loud voice its maker and master.”

[11] First noted by Gregory of Nazianzus

[12] secular comes from a different root, meaning a generation, age, or span of time

[13] e(x)-duco, as “bringing out” or “leading forth”

[14] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/05/muslim-woman-hijab-delta_n_6616806.html

[15] Matthew 28:10, “Don’t be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

[16] The Journey is Home, Boston: Beacon, 1985. p 127

[17] http://www.telegram.com/article/20150207/NEWS/302079699/1116

[18] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/pasco-shooting-doj-talks-latino-group-will-meet-police-n311181

[19] Roots/Judur/Shorashim http://www.friendsofroots.net/

[20] http://www.anglicanalliance.org/pages/11041

[21] Even though the Constitution forbids imprisonment for debt, de jure debtors’ prisons existed in the US well into the 19th century, and de facto incarceration for debt exists in multiple jurisdictions today

Presiding Bishop addresses West Texas Diocesan Council

Monday, March 2, 2015

Called to Serve
West Texas Diocesan Council
27 February 2015

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

Why are you here? Did the bishops offer a free lunch? Was this an opportunity to play hooky from work or school and spend your Friday at a church meeting?

My sense is that most of us are here because we heard an invitation, a challenge, a request to follow Jesus wherever he might lead. Like the guys who were fishing in the Galilean lake, we’ve been invited to set aside old ways and set off on an adventure – the one called holy living, that keeps us moving toward abundant life and the reign of God.

When we walked through that open door and first said yes to that invitation, we agreed to try to live in ways that reflect love of God and love of our neighbors as ourselves. That shift, or metanoia, sometimes called repentance, is about turning in a new direction, from a pretty exclusive focus on ourselves to a far more equal focus on our neighbors. That re-orientation also invites us into more intentionally grateful living. More than anything else, following Jesus is about getting out of our own way to give thanks for what God is doing and to notice where we are being invited to join in what God is already up to.

Human beings evolved with deep-seated instincts for self-preservation. Sometimes those instincts blind us to the larger communities of which we’re a part, and to the wondrous miracle of God’s creation – the diverse and generative garden where God planted us. That focus on self is what got Adam and Eve in trouble – they thought they ought to be able to use anything in the garden for their own desires, even though a tree or two had been set aside NOT to be used. Their offspring had the same kinds of challenges. Cain and Abel get in a snit because each thinks his offering is better than his brother’s. Like most kinds of sin, the original one is about taking what was originally a gift and trying to hoard it or using it to excess. Self-preservation is a very useful trait when the predators are after you, but it becomes sinful or even evil when it is the entirety of your focus. The great commandment is to remember who gave us that gift and that it was given to every other creature as well. It’s not all about us! The gift of self-preservation is meant to be balanced with the desire of others to preserve themselves. Loving our neighbors means doing what we can, not just to preserve our own life, but to foster abundant life for all. When Irenaeus said that the glory of God was a human being fully alive, he meant every human being – and all creation.

The continuing, daily conversion of Christian living is about turning away from our own navels, turning outward to give thanks for all that is, to discover the gift of the neighbors we’ve been given, and to do something creative about the brokenness in the world around us. That’s what service, ministry, and discipleship are all about. That is the road to abundant life.

We’re called to serve God’s intention for all creation – that it be healed, made whole, so that it might more perfectly reflect the social nature of three persons in community called Trinity. This may be even harder for Americans, for we tend to lionize self-reliance as the goal of existence. Being called to serve, and understanding it as being called, begins with recognizing that we aren’t the ones doing the calling. We didn’t call ourselves or decide to live this way on our own hook – someone or several someones helped to form the desire in us to say “yes” to this invitation. We have admitted and affirmed that we’re not on this journey by ourselves. We’re part of a community of human beings who bear the image of the divine and are also clearly imperfect. We find our humanity increased and our lives glorified by answering the invitation to serve that dream of abundant life for all.

That community, like the Trinity it images, is bigger, more effective and expansive, and more abundant than the parts that make it up – for simply by living together as interconnected parts of a whole, we become more than we could have imagined. The work of living together in community – the struggle for harmony and coherence (and it will always be a struggle this side of the grave!) both prepares us for reconciling work in the world and begins to effect that healing.

The catechism in our nearly 40 year old prayer book says the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.[1] If we look deeply at what that means, we might phrase it differently today – healing what is broken, making whole what is divided, breaking down the dividing walls between us, peacemaking – and we would be explicit about the work of reconciling human beings with the rest of God’s creation. It’s the sort of work that Jesus claims for himself at the beginning of his public ministry, when he reads from Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[2] He spends the next three years of his life doing that in very concrete ways. He teaches people about the nearness of God, encourages people to see God present and at work in their lives, in the midst of both suffering and feasting. He feeds people who are hungry, and releases people from the bondage of disease, infirmity, mental illness, and social stigma. He heals the blind, revives the dead and near-dead, and builds new kinds of families – like giving his mother and John to one another while he hangs on the cross. And he challenges the powers around him who want to limit access to God or to deny the healing possibility of right relationship with God in community – what we more commonly call justice. Those are the same kinds of things the long tradition of prophets rail about. That’s what all his conflict is with both the religious and the political leaders around him – and that challenge to the status quo is what gets him executed.

Throughout all of that servant ministry, he keeps reminding those who will listen that the reign of God is nearer than they knew or thought. When you see healing, there it is! When the widow gets justice, yes! When children are welcomed and foreigners made to feel at home, the kingdom of God has indeed come near. That’s what service is.

Now I’m going to move from preaching to meddling. What does that look like around here? How and where are the people of this diocese called to serve?

We might start with the original challenge – none of us is whole unto ourselves. We need each other, and we cannot be truly human or truly whole or truly holy without community and the struggles it entails. There are no extraneous people in God’s holy and healed community. If there’s room for that robber who was hung up next to Jesus, there is room for anyone in our prisons, anyone who comes across the border, and those who sit on the other side of the aisle in the Capitol. No one is expendable in God’s economy, and our salvation depends on making peace with the people we’d rather not have around. It is often those nearest to us who seem the most challenging, whether it’s noisy neighbors or excessively perfumed pewmates, or our Abrahamic brothers and sisters. Building connections and healed relationships with immigrants or our Jewish and Muslim neighbors here will ultimately have an effect on the brokenness and violence in other parts of the world. Breaking down dividing walls in this neighborhood will help to build bridges elsewhere.

That reality is central to the gospel. The loving service of one human being in Palestine some 2000 years ago changed the world and its interrelationships. Jesus’ sacramental self-offering exposed the underlying reality of God’s creation – that God has created us for more abundant life, and that God gets the last word, not death or division or evil. There is always hope for more abundant life, for that is ultimately what God is about. That reality continues to become outwardly evident in tiny acts of compassion as well as the repair of nations. Each instance of healing, bridge-building, and wall-breaching makes life more abundant.

For Jesus is our peace, in his flesh he has made two into one and broken down the dividing wall and hostility between us. He proclaims peace to those who are far away and to you who are near – all are beloved of God. You can’t be strangers and aliens any more, you’re members of the same household, with Christ Jesus in your midst. He joins all the parts together into a world where God is at home.[3]

We are called to serve that vision of a healed world. We’re called out into Galilee, into the neighborhood that is both familiar and strange, to meet the residents and hear their lament – and their joy. Who is crying out for healing? What injustice makes lives less than abundant? That’s where we will find Jesus already at work. Will you go? Will you answer that call? Will you serve that vision of holy wholeness, life abundant meant for each? And when there is joy, will you go and join its abundance?

The journey begins in gratitude – thank you, Lord, for giving me life and breath and people to love. Thank you for getting me through the travels of this week without getting stuck anywhere. Thank you for showing me the grace and humor of the strangers I met traveling – for they became companions. What are your thanksgivings this day?

The journey begins in gratitude and continues in confidence that God walks with us, even when it feels like the valley of the shadow of death. There is no abundance to be found in any kind of self-preservation that excludes neighbors. We find abundance when we’re willing to risk, when we are open enough to be vulnerable. That’s probably the center of what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Take the risk to live abundantly – even recklessly, to love neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Let’s go out there and meet the neighbors. Are we willing to take the risk to listen deeply enough to discover what they’re hungry for? I keep hearing that one of the amazing gifts of this diocesan community is the network of relationships you have. How might that bless the Galilee around you, by loving as you love your own?

We discover abundant life by giving thanks for the One who gives it, and by offering and sharing the abundance we know so that others might also find it. Yes, there is a free lunch! It comes to those who give thanks and share what they have received. It’s called grace, and hope, and the love of God. We have seen it in human flesh, and we are called to serve it up in our own offering.

Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu – blessed be the Lord, God of the universe, who has given us life and all that is. Blessed be the God who sent Jesus among to break down all division. Blessed be the Lord who has made us all to share the abundance he has created. Thanks be to God who has created and called us to serve his people and his creation. Amen.

[1] Book of Common Prayer, p 855

[2] Luke 4:18-19

[3] cf Ephesians 2:14-22. Loose paraphrase

WCC condemns attacks against a mosque and Christian center

Monday, March 2, 2015

[World Council of Churches press release] The World Council of Churches (WCC) has condemned recent attacks against a mosque in the West Bank and a Christian center in Jerusalem that appear to be part of the series of so-called “price-tag” attacks by extremist elements.

According to media reports, a group of Jewish settlers stormed Al-Jaba’a village, near Bethlehem, and set fire to the Al-Huda Mosque, leaving anti-Arab slogans on its walls. The following day, in another apparent arson attack, a building belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem was set on fire and vandalized with anti-Christian graffiti.

In a statement issued on Feb. 27, the WCC acting general secretary Georges Lemopoulos said that the WCC “calls for swift and concrete measures to ensure those responsible for these and other similar attacks are in fact brought to justice, and further such attacks prevented.”

He also expressed gratitude for the “clear and unequivocal response” by the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin in a phone call to Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, in which the president denounced the Jerusalem attack, calling it “a heinous crime” and affirming that “those responsible must be brought to justice.”

The statement from the WCC also acknowledges a response from the Israel’s Foreign Ministry and U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process condemning these attacks.

Read full text of the WCC acting general secretary’s statement

WCC member churches in the Middle East

Anglican Communion Office bids farewell to communications director

Monday, March 2, 2015

Jan Butter relaunching Anglican World at ACC-15. Photo: ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion Office’s (ACO) director for communications has announced he is leaving after five years in post.

Jan Butter came to the ACO in March 2010 from humanitarian agency World Vision International where he was head of global advocacy communications. At St. Andrew’s House he was tasked with helping the Anglican Communion and its Instruments of Communion better communicate the best of their life and mission.

To that end his work has included strengthening the impact and reach of the Anglican Communion News Service; establishing the ACO’s presence on Twitter and Facebook*; helping member churches build their communications capacity; and undertaking a corporate rebrand for the ACO, including a refresh of the Compass Rose logo design.

“It has been a genuine privilege to lead the ACO’s communications department and serve the Anglican Communion,” said Butter. “I believe that communicating the Gospel is at the heart of our calling as Christians and I have been delighted to see more and more Anglicans and Episcopalians able to share their stories with each other and the world.

“I’m particularly pleased to have relaunched Anglican World magazine and to have moved the Anglican Communion News Service from an email service to a fully-fledged website. Also, I’m glad to be able to launch the brand new Anglican Communion website next month before I leave.

“All of these tools have and will help people everywhere to have a more accurate perception of Anglican/Episcopal life and worship around the world.”

Butter has worked with colleagues from other provinces to ensure members of the Anglican Communion heard from the Primates’ Meeting in Ireland, the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand and from the yearly Standing Committee meetings.

“Perhaps my greatest joy in this role has been the opportunity to connect with and worship alongside people from every member church,” he said. “I can honestly say that the Anglican bonds of affection – the relationships between different nationalities who share faith, tradition and history – makes this Anglican Communion what it is.”

Interim Secretary General, the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, said, “Jan will be sorely missed, not only at the Anglican Communion Office but around the Communion. His professional skill as a communicator, combined with his layman’s passion for the Gospel, has inspired many.

“He has been particularly committed to increasing the communications capacity of member churches of the Communion, and to equip young communicators with the tools they need to share inspiring and sometimes challenging stories from their many complex contexts.”

Butter has accepted the position of director for global health communications with World Vision International. His last day with the Anglican Communion Office is March 18.

The post of director for communication is expected to remain vacant until the new secretary general has been appointed. In the meantime, ACNS and Anglican World will continue to cover Anglican Communion news and information. If you have anything for publication please email news@anglicancommunion.org

La Reverendísima Jefferts Schori: El Sínodo de la Novena Provincia

Monday, March 2, 2015

El Sínodo de la Novena Provincia
25 febrero 2015
Quito, Ecuador

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

Somos creados para la vida abundante, como dijo Jesús, “yo he venido para que tengan vida, y para que la tengan en abundancia.”[1] La abundancia es una señal de la presencia real del reino de Dios alrededor de nosotros. Cuando estamos haciendo lo que mandó Jesús, amando a Dios y a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos, la abundancia fluye y crece. La abundancia no es solamente espiritual, pero necesita ser corporal y física también. Hay abundancia cuando los hambrientos tienen comida, y los encarcelados están liberados, y todos/as viven en paz porque hay justicia. Esto es la misión de Dios, de lo cual somos siervos y ministros, y la iglesia es un instrumento para trasformar sus miembros y el mundo entero hacia el reino de Dios.

Los teólogos misioneros desde muchos años han dicho que una iglesia madura tiene tres características. Ella da evidencia de ser auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente. No significa que no necesita otras partes del cuerpo de Cristo, pero vive en relación amplia e interdependiente. Tiene capaz de dar vida a nuevas comunidades de fe. Es una célula que recibe y da a otras. Es un compañero en Cristo a otras comunidades. Existe en solidaridad, y está creciendo hasta la estatura completa de Cristo. Los dones que hemos recibido fueron dados para “capacitar a los santos para la obra del ministerio… hasta que todos lleguemos… a la medida de la estatura de la plenitud de Cristo.”[2] Una iglesia madurando tiene fe que Dios ha dado lo que es necesario por la misión de Dios en ese lugar. Cuando una iglesia está viajando y trabajando hacia este ideal, está buscando la vida abundante, un parte del cuerpo mutuamente responsable e interdependiente con los otros partes.[3]

Ese concepto es una imagen que refleja la Trinidad de Dios, tres miembros en una comunidad, cada uno con su propio ser y todos integrados en una sociedad, dando vida abundante uno al otro y al mundo entero.

La característica de ser auto-extendiendo significa que la iglesia, la comunidad de Cristo, puede trasmitir la fe a nuevas generaciones y en contextos nuevos y los que están cambiando. Los miembros tienen bastante confianza para enseñar a los demás. Los miembros forman una comunidad de trasformación – a sus mismos y a la sociedad externa. Está trabajando a construir el reino de Dios aquí en la tierra como está en el cielo.

Podemos relacionar las Marcas de Misión Anglicana[4] con estas tres características. La primera marca es “proclamar las buenas nuevas del Reno de Dios.” La segunda es “ensenar, bautizar, y capacitar a las nuevas creyentes.” Ambas marcas son relacionadas con la extensión y el crecimiento del cuerpo de Cristo. Y al mismo tiempo, a la trasformación al mundo en el Reino de Dios.

La característica de ser auto-gobernante es relacionada con la capacidad del cuerpo de Cristo de funcionar integrado, colaborando por la misión de Dios. Ningún parte del cuerpo cree que es más importante que otra parte, y todas las partes trabajan juntas, en solidaridad una al otra y también con el mundo entero. Todos son contables y responsables al cuerpo. Todos consideran y responden a las necesidades de los más pequeños, y todos participan en el crecimiento hasta la estatura de la plenitud de Cristo.

La tercera marca y la cuarta son relacionadas con auto-gobernación. III: responder a las necesidades humanas con ministerio tierno y amoroso. IV: trasformar sistemas de injusticia, oponerse a toda forma de la violencia, y buscar la paz y la reconciliación.

Gobernación del cuerpo puede significar como tomamos decisiones.   Hay algunas cosas que TREC ha comendado a la Iglesia Episcopal sobre este tema, como una convención general que funciona en una sola cámara. Gobernación es relacionada con el uso de los recursos financieros del cuerpo, especialmente como rendimos cuentas al cuerpo. O también como construimos o mantengamos sistemas de justicia al dentro de la iglesia (como Titulo IV, o el acceso igual por ambos géneros y los discapacitados, y antirracismo). Una iglesia auto-gobernante también busca de cambiar sistemas de injusticia afuera de la iglesia – en las leyes nacionales, en sistemas penales, en las políticas de migración, o la esclavitud actual.

La característica de ser auto-suficiente no significa solamente que una iglesia tiene bastantes recursos financieros para promulgar su ministerio. Es una actitud que puede ver que los dones que Dios ha dado están suficientes para hacer el ministerio en un lugar. Es una orientación de fe. Es también la práctica de ver abundancia al contrario de ausencia. Y es un proceso continuo de crecimiento en fe y capacidad para trasformar el mundo hacia el reino de Dios. Iglesias auto-suficiente colaboran por la sanidad del cuerpo más grande; son creativas y de emprendedor; no tienen miedo de riesgo necesario; pueden cambiar para servir la misión de Dios; son capaz de acomodarse y cambiar – no son fijadas en el cemento. Se pueden seguir a Jesús a Galilea, al dentro de la vecindad local y mundial. Se entienden que toda es inter-relacionada en la creación de Dios, y cada parte tiene sus propios dones y funciones para el bienestar del entero.

Esta característica es relacionada con la quinta marca, que defina nuestro papel de asegurar la integridad del ambiento, de la tierra, de la planeta que es nuestro hogar.

Este entendimiento de una iglesia madura que es auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente puede ser reflejado en varias partes de la iglesia – en una diócesis, en una congregación, y en la provincia anglicana que es TEC. Podemos pensar también en la iglesia universal y la familia humana de los hijos e hijas de Dios. Tenemos todos/as la responsabilidad de aumentar la capacidad de cada nivel y parte de experimentar la vida abundante que es el sueño de Dios por todos/as.

Creo que la función de este sínodo y la de la convención general son de considerar cómo podemos aumentar la capacidad por la vida abundante en cada comunidad y contexto. El presupuesto que vamos a considerar en Utah necesita ser fundado en un sueño de creciendo capacidad por la vida abundante en cada parte de la Iglesia Episcopal, y también en el mundo. ¿Cómo podemos aumentar las posibilidades para cada miembro de la iglesia? ¿Cómo podemos fomentar el viaje de cada parte hacia el ideal espiritual de ser auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente? Algunos funciones pertenecen a las dióceses, y algunos a la iglesia general – y es nuestro papel de discernir cuales funciones necesitan los dones de la iglesia más grande, y proveer o compartir los recursos por el bienestar de todos los miembros del cuerpo.

En esta época de nuestra vida como episcopales, podemos considerar ejemplos por cada marca de misión.

Primera Marca — proclamar las buenas nuevas del Reno de Dios

Aquí debemos considerar la formación cristiana, como capacitar a los creyentes como líderes trasformativas en la iglesia y en el mundo. Un papel de los clérigos es capacitar a los miembros en comunidades locales, y por eso, dióceses y la iglesia general deben considerar cómo formar clérigos y líderes laicos por ese trabajo. Estamos tratando nuevas formas y métodos, y hay urgente necesidad de considerar como podemos compartir los recursos de educación teológica que tenemos o que hay en otras partes de la iglesia universal. No estamos buscando la vida abundante cuando seminarios y programas de formación no comparten recursos y oportunidades. Hay muchas oportunidades para mejorar las interrelaciones y la capacidad del cuerpo entero.

Podemos vivir más interconectados cuando estamos planificando y considerando nuestros sueños por el futuro. La semana pasada el arzobispo de la Provincia de África Occidental, el Arzobispo Sarfo de Ghana me dijo que su plan estratégico provincial ha distribuido responsabilidad de liderazgo por varios temas a los obispos y sus dióceses. Uno es responsable por planificación, uno por educación, otro por ministerio de desarrollo social, otro por relaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas, otro por propiedades y generación de ingresos, etcétera. Es una forma de liderazgo compartido que utilice los dones de cada uno y una. Si el liderazgo compartido será mejor integrado en toda la iglesia, podría aumentar la visión y la posibilidad de vida abundante por el mundo.

Segunda Marca – enseñar, bautizar, y capacitar a los nuevos/as creyentes

Necesitamos también una visión más amplia de las formas de las comunidades cristianas. Todas no necesitan edificios eclesiásticos – hay algunas que funcionan en escuelas o en edificios públicos, o que reúnen en medio de un ministerio social. Los sitios creciendo en nombre de miembros en la Iglesia Episcopal incluyen un gran porcentaje de ellos afuera de los Estados Unidos, los que ministran a migrantes, y los que están enfocados a sus vecindades y no solamente a su interior. Es interesante que en los años recientes hemos experimentados un cambio en el estilo teológico de congregaciones crecientes – ahora las más progresivas están más propensas a crecer, y las más conservadores son menos propensas a crecer. Nuevas comunidades de fe y en los nuevos contextos también son bien propensas a crecer.

Creo que la Iglesia Episcopal necesita una reforma de nuestro Libro de Oración Común. Claro por una mejor forma de la lengua española, pero también una forma más adecuada a los contextos cambiando. Por ejemplo, nuestro pacto bautismal no tiene en alta voz un referente a la necesidad de cuidar a la tierra y el medio ambiente. Ni podemos oír en el culto la variedad bíblica de nombres de Dios. Es el momento de considerar una revisión o reforma.

Tercera Marca – responder a las necesidades humanas con ministerio amoroso

Como Iglesia estamos enseñando a oír y buscar los pequeños quien sirvamos como misioneros del Reino de Dios. Creo que nuestro trabajo como iglesia entera será formada en los próximos años por los metas de desarrollo después de 2015 (las metas de desarrollo de milenio terminan este año). Van a seguir enfocan se en la pobreza y la inequidad económica que es creciendo en nuestras países y alrededor del mundo. Creo que continuaremos enfocar también en la trata de personas y la esclavitud moderna. Somos todos relacionados, y nuestro bienestar depende en el bienestar de nuestros vecinos.

Cuarta Marca – trasformar sistemas de injusticia, enfrentar la violencia de toda forma, y buscar la paz y reconciliación

Hay varios tipos de injusticia en contextos diferentes, pero muchos de ellos se refieren a la desigualdad económica y la distribución desigual del poder. Son las mismas cosas que los profetas siempre clamaban contra, y cuando estamos unidos en voz y acción, estará mucho más posible de trasformar estos sistemas. Uniendo en voz y acción puede ser una oportunidad espiritual para nosotros, así como una forma de enfrentar a la violencia e injusticia del mundo como el cuerpo de Cristo.

Quinta Marca – salvaguardar la integridad de la creación y cuidar la vida de la tierra

La tierra, este planeta, es nuestro hogar. Dios nos plantó aquí en un jardín, para cuidarlo. Como seres humanos estamos relacionados con cada criatura, cada especie. Nuestro bienestar es conectado con el bienestar de todas las otras partes de la creación. Cuando contaminamos el aire, los océanos, el suelo y los ríos, invitamos enfermedad y el sufrimiento para nosotros y los demás. Es nuestra responsabilidad a la comunidad y al cuerpo de creación, de cuidar de la tierra. No podemos evitarlo sin consecuencias. Pero cuando nos encargamos de la tierra, y el cuidado de sus recursos, encontramos con la vida más abundante – porque estamos amando a nuestros prójimos como a nosotros mismos, y estamos amando a Dios y lo que Dios ha creado.

Tenemos oportunidades como la iglesia general que no tienen las dióceses individuales, y esos son los que necesitan nuestra colaboración y cooperación. El trabajo hacia el auto-sostenimiento es un ejemplo importante. En este trienio la iglesia general ha dado subvenciones para desarrollar “las zonas de misión empresariales,” y ha aumentado los fondos asignados para el cuerpo de misioneros jóvenes adultos. Los dos han proporcionado oportunidades para sembrar, animar, o expandirse nuevas iniciativas de misión.

Las otras cosas que podemos hacer lo mejor o solamente como un cuerpo unido constituyen apoyo por crecimiento hacia la meta de responsabilidad mutua en el cuerpo de Cristo, que incluye las características de ser auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente. Pero no es solamente por dióceses o provincias – es la meta para TEC en la comunión anglicana. Dios ha dado regalos únicos y diferentes a cada cuerpo en creación, y cuando están trabajando junto para el bien y bienestar de todo, estamos viajando hacia el Reino de Dios. Y por esta existimos, gracias a Dios. ¡Adelante!

[1] Juan 10:10b

[2] Efesios 4:11-13

[3] Cf. http://anglicanhistory.org/canada/toronto_mutual1963.html

[4] http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/fivemarks.cfm#sthash.U6LBF1XK.dpuf

 

RIP: Malcolm Boyd, activist-writer priest, dies at 91

Saturday, February 28, 2015

[The Episcopal News — Los Angeles] The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd – whose human rights advocacy shaped most of his 30 books including the 1965 best-seller Are You Running with Me, Jesus? – died February 27 in Los Angeles while receiving private hospice care. Severe complications of pneumonia caused Boyd’s death at age 91, said his life partner, Mark Thompson.

The Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd life spanned 60 years of ordained ministry. Photo: Janet Kawamoto/Diocese of Los Angeles

Boyd was ordained 60 years ago in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles which he served since 1996 as writer-in-residence. Bishop F. Eric Bloy made Boyd, then age 31, a deacon in 1954 and a priest the next year. Ordination followed Boyd’s work in television’s early years as a production partner of Hollywood icon Mary Pickford.

“Malcolm lives on in our hearts and minds through the wise words and courageous example he has shared with us through the years,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county Diocese of Los Angeles. “We pray in thanksgiving for Malcolm’s life and ministry, for his tireless advocacy for civil rights, and for his faithful devotion to Jesus who now welcomes him to eternal life and comforts us in our sense of loss.”

Activism for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered equality was at the core of Boyd and Thompson’s 31-year union, which included their civil marriage in a July 2013 private ceremony in their longtime home in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.

A Eucharistic celebration of Boyd’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, 840 Echo Park Ave., where he also conducted spiritual direction and mentoring with several clergy and lay persons. There he completed the most recent of the 30 books that he authored and six that he edited in addition to writing numerous columns, essays, sermons and prayers after being named diocesan writer-in-residence by Bishop Frederick H. Borsch.

‘Running with Jesus’
Active in ministry through the recent Christmas season, Boyd was preparing to mark the 50th anniversary this spring of the publication of his landmark book of prayers, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? In December he wrote that the book “had for a long time been slowly growing in my soul, mind and being. This came to a head when a group of Roman Catholic priests and laity invited me to be their guest on a visit to Jerusalem and Rome. We were  very open to one another in our spiritual quest. One afternoon as a group we were resting. I did something that changed my life; I wrote a short prayer on an airline ticket. It became the first prayer in my book, which appeared a year later.”

“It’s morning, Jesus,” the book’s signature prayer begins. “…I’ve got to run all over again. / Where am I running? You know these things I can’t understand… / So I’ll follow along, OK? But lead, please. Now I’ve got to run. Are you running with me, Jesus?”

The story of Boyd’s life – including marching in Selma for civil rights and publicly coming out as gay, in a 1977 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times religion editor – is being chronicled in a new documentary titled Malcolm Boyd: Disturber of the Peace and set for completion later this year. Full information is available online at www.malcolmboydfilm.com. Memorial contributions are being received, through the Diocese of Los Angeles, to complete the film.

Boyd’s decision to pursue ordained ministry, following his paternal grandfather who was also an Episcopal priest, came after several years of working in Hollywood and New York in radio and television. In 1944 Boyd enrolled in a radio workshop conducted by NBC in Hollywood, where he was hired thereafter by the advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding and became a junior producer of radio and television programs. In 1947 he left advertising to begin work as a writer and producer for Republic Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Productions.

In the course of this work, Boyd met Pickford and her third husband, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, and joined the couple to form, in 1949, the production company PRB Inc. Two years later, in 1951, with Pickford’s support, Boyd began seminary studies in Berkeley, California, at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1995.

Pickford and Boyd’s association is cited in Eileen Whitfield’s 1997 book Pickford: the Woman Who Made Hollywood. Another family friend, actress Lillian Gish, was close to Boyd and his mother, Beatrice, who was for several years parish secretary at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Hollywood.

Early life and ministry
Boyd was the only child of investment banker Melville Boyd and Beatrice Lowrie, a fashion model, who were married in the early 1920s. Malcolm was born on June 8, 1923, in Buffalo, New York, where his parents were visiting from their Manhattan home. The family’s fortunes perished in the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, and the couple’s marriage ended in divorce. Beatrice Boyd then moved to Colorado Springs, accompanied by young Malcolm, who developed an interest in journalism by writing for school newspapers, later crediting middle- and high-school teachers as early and influential mentors.

It was at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Denver that Boyd and his mother encountered Dean Paul Roberts who encouraged Boyd to consider the priesthood. After ordination, Boyd credited Roberts as one of his greatest spiritual guides. While in college, Boyd contracted bronchiectasis and doctors recommended a change of climate, which led to his enrollment and graduation in 1944 from the University of Arizona at Tucson.

Following his 1955 ordination to the priesthood , Boyd pursued further studies at Oxford University and in Geneva at the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute. He then in 1956 earned a master’s degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He wrote his first book, Crisis in Communication, and in 1957 traveled to France to serve in the Taizé community.

After returning to the United States, Boyd was called as rector of St. George’s Church in inner-city Indianapolis. It was here in 1957 that Boyd met Paul and Jenny Moore and became close friends. At the time, Paul Moore was dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, prior to his 1964 consecration as bishop suffragan in Washington D.C. and his 1969 election as bishop coadjutor of the Manhattan-based Diocese of New York.

Boyd’s second book, Christ and Celebrity Gods, was published in 1958 tracing the development of the Hollywood “religious film” including several produced by Cecil B. DeMille, a fellow Episcopalian whom Boyd interviewed at various times, differing on some points of view.

‘Espresso Priest,’ Freedom Rider
In 1959 Boyd became Episcopal chaplain at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where he began a coffeehouse ministry known as “The Golden Grape” and later became identified in the media as “the espresso priest.” His outreach to the “beatniks” drew criticism from Colorado’s then diocesan bishop, Joseph Minnis, and Boyd eventually resigned as chaplain. Later in 1959, during an address for the Religious Emphasis Week at Louisiana State University, Boyd gave a clear call for an end to racial segregation and began a decade of work in the civil rights movement.

In 1961, Boyd joined 27 other Episcopal priests – black and white – in a Freedom Ride organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in an effort to desegregate interstate transportation. In 1962 Life magazine named Boyd among the “100 Most Important Young Men and Women in the United States.”

From 1961 to 1964, Boyd served concurrently as priest on the interracial ministry team of Grace Church, Detroit, and as Episcopal chaplain at Wayne State University. In the summer of 1965 he assisted with voter registration in Mississippi and Alabama. Later in 1965 Boyd was present in Los Angeles when the Watts riots erupted, assisting in local ministry at the direction of Bishop Bloy. Boyd’s friend, Jonathan Daniels, was murdered in Alabama that August 20.

When Boyd’s Are You Running with Me, Jesus? was published in 1965, “no one knew it would become a runaway national bestseller with one million copies in print and translation into a number of different languages,” he later said, recalling that he “gave many public readings from the book accompanied by musicians including Oscar Brown Jr., Vince Guaraldi and guitarist Charlie Byrd.” Columbia Records released two albums of Boyd and Byrd collaborating. Boyd also read the prayers in San Francisco’s “hungry i” nightclub, with Dick Gregory headlining the bill through a one-month run.

Boyd went on to assist until 1970 at the Church of the Atonement, Washington D.C., where he also served as field director for the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity. On February 6, 1968, Boyd was present a final time in a rally with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a gathering near the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington Cemetery.

“In the 1960s, Boyd began to edge out of the closet,” notes the online lbtq encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, & queer culture. “He had experienced his first sexual relationship with another man in New York City in the mid-1950s but hesitated to accept his homosexuality,” the online encyclopedia continues. “He came out unofficially in 1965 with his eloquent prayer ‘This is a Homosexual Bar, Jesus’ in his best-selling book of prayers, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? The book led to an offer in 1968 to become writer-in-residence at Calhoun College of Yale University.”

The encyclopedia adds that when Boyd came out publicly in the 1977 Chicago Sun-Times interview he became, by some accounts, “the first prominent openly gay clergyman of a mainstream Christian denomination in the United States. He also discusses the difficulties of being a gay Episcopal priest in his autobiography, Take Off the Masks (1978). In Gay Priest (1986), Boyd explores the painful spiritual journey forced upon any gay man who would be a priest.”

Nexus of sacred, secular
Popular television hosts Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin were among those who interviewed Boyd on the air through the 1960s and into the ’70s. A July 27,1971 Look magazine cover story pictured him among 16 Americans – including Margaret Mead, Walter Cronkite, Duke Ellington and Norman Vincent Peale – each offering his or her “personal key” to peace of mind. During these years Boyd also developed a friendship with Hugh Hefner, and the two collaborated in interviews and events, some at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

Amid such secular contexts, Boyd also claimed “no intention of severing his connection with the institutional church,” the Diocesan Press Service, now Episcopal News Service, reported in 1969. “The best-selling author said he had a ‘Virginia Woolf kind of marriage to the Church. It’s violent, it’s lusty, it’s organic. A divorce would be out of the question. We would always be in one another’s fantasies.”

Some 30 years later, at a 1999 San Diego meeting of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, Boyd and Thompson were present to comment on the depth of their relationship and to advocate for marriage equality. On May 16, 2004, Bishop Bruno blessed Boyd and Thompson’s union in a ceremony at the Cathedral Center on the 20th anniversary of their life partnership.

In 1996, Boyd concluded 15 years as a parish associate priest at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, California. During these years Boyd served three terms as president of PEN Center USA West, the regional center of the international writers’ organization, and he was a frequent book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times.

From 1990 to 2000, Boyd also wrote a regular column for Modern Maturity, magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) with 34 million readers. From 1996 until his death he was a columnist for The Episcopal News, newspaper of the Diocese of Los Angeles. In 2011, Boyd became a regular columnist in the Huffington Post’s religion section, continuing through 2014 and often commenting on how much he enjoyed contributing online and in the context of social media. A link to the columns is here.

Insights on death, dying
The death of Boyd’s mother in 1997, just 10 days before her 99th birthday, prompted his book Go Gentle Into that Good Night (Genesis Press, 1998), a reflective commentary on death and dying.

In Go Gentle, Boyd wrote: “I hope I’ll have few regrets when death comes. I would like to walk away hand in hand with death, feeling that I have struggled faithfully with the key issues that presented themselves to me. I hope that I will not cry or whine for more time. If I have used my time for love, and am eager to find what lies ahead, I won’t have to.”

Later, Boyd’s essay titled “Mother Broke Her Hip” was included in the book In Times Like These…How We Pray, a volume that Boyd edited with Bishop Bruno. With Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton, Boyd also co-edited the 2003 book Race and Prayer: Collected Voices, Many Dreams. In 2011, to coincide with Boyd’s 88th birthday, Seabury Books published Black Battle, White Knight: The Authorized Biography of Malcolm Boyd by the Rev. Michael Battle – with a foreword by Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who wrote: “One is an octogenarian, and the other a late baby boomer. One is heterosexual, married with three children, and the other is gay in a long-term partnership. One is black and the other is white. But the similarities far outweigh the differences, the chief similarity being their mutual search for God here and everywhere.”

In advance of Boyd’s 90th birthday, the Lambda Literary Foundation hosted OUTWRITE!, a special celebration honoring Los Angeles LGBT literary pioneers – Malcolm Boyd, Lillian Faderman, Katherine V. Forrest, John Rechy and Patricia Nell Warren – at the West Hollywood Public Library. The April 27, 2013 evening marked the organization’s 25th anniversary.

That spring, a Christian Science Monitor profile written by journalist Gary Yerkey noted Boyd’s expertise in conveying “the message of Christianity outside of the walls of the church to champion minority rights and show that God is everywhere.”

In May 2014, Boyd received an honorary doctorate from the Episcopal Divinity School, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near the campus of Harvard University.

One of Boyd’s last public appearances was at the October 26, 2014 evensong and dinner marking the 150th year of the Cathedral Center congregation in which he had been ordained 60 years prior.

Late 2014 found Boyd preparing for the 50th anniversary, in spring 2015, of the 1965 release of Are You Running with Me, Jesus? Anticipating this occasion, Boyd wrote: “My book of prayers clearly now belongs to the world. I know that. I love prayer and am grateful it is a powerful part of my life. I wish we could – or would – pray with more passion, greater sensitivity, even more passion. I identify with what a writer for The New York Times wrote about the prayers: ‘The eloquence of the prayers comes from the personal struggle they contain – a struggle to believe, to keep going, a spiritual contest that is agonized, courageous and not always won.’ I am grateful for his insight. I agree with him.’’

– Robert Williams is canon for community relations of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and a former director of the New York-based Episcopal News Service. Janet Kawamoto, editor of The Episcopal News of Los Angeles, contributed to this report.

Domestic-poverty fellows work to alleviate suffering, teach church

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Justin, shown here with his dog Trinity, plays an important part in the ministry with homeless people that the Rev. Sarah Monroe, left, coordinates out of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen, Washington. Photo: Glenn Stone

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Sarah Monroe and the Rev. Susan Heath may live on opposite ends of the United States, and their ministries may take different forms, but their goals are the same: building communities that can work toward alleviating poverty and the suffering it causes.

There is “a real hunger for community and a real hunger for hope” among the homeless people that Monroe ministers with and to in Aberdeen, Washington, she said.

“People who are poor in the U.S. are told in every possible way that they aren’t worth anything; that it’s their fault that they are poor, that they are a failure in life, that they are no good,” said Monroe of the Diocese of Olympia. She and Heath are the two recipients of one-year fellowships from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. (The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and caries out mission.)

Monroe’s aim is to change that message and image, beginning with poor people themselves.

Meanwhile in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Heath is helping an ecumenical group of bishops lead an initiative to improve public education in the state.

Working for better educational opportunities “touches everything, and it’s about poverty because children in poverty have so many hurdles to get over,” said Heath, the other recipient of a one-year, $24,000 fellowship.

“It’s a moral issue because so much of what inhibits education everywhere, but certainly in South Carolina, is poverty. One of the opportunities I have is to pull back the curtain, prompting conversation about the haves and have-nots,” Heath said.

“Susan Heath and Sarah Monroe’s Mark 4 Fellowships focus on a central component of our faith: mutually transformative, person-to-person relationships with vulnerable communities,” said Jayce Hafner, domestic policy analyst in the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Office of Government Relations. Both Moore and Heath “seek to nurture a sense of empowerment and fellowship among those in need,” she added.

“These projects send forth a call to the rest of the church to engage in similarly transformational ministries and present a useful model that can be transferred to new geographical and cultural contexts,” she said.

Both Monroe and Heath have something to show the wider Episcopal Church, the Rev. Mark Stevenson, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s domestic poverty missioner, told ENS. The idea for the fellowships grew out of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s experience of seeing interns across the church working with specific local ministries, he said. Their work has also helped model best practices for the rest of the church.

“They’re teaching us how to reach out into the community” and use local partnerships to “turn the resources that you have at your disposal loose on attacking issues of economic injustice,” he said.

And the economic injustices run deep, Monroe and Heath each said.

When she was assigned as a deacon to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen, Monroe knew something about the region, having grown up in a rural area nearby. And she “absolutely fell in love with street ministry” during an internship with Ecclesia Ministries’ Common Cathedral in Boston while attending Episcopal Divinity School, in nearby Cambridge.

Aberdeen, a city of about 17,000 people some 100 miles southwest of Seattle, is a “stereotypical falling-down post-industrial town” with empty storefronts downtown and dependent on fluctuating timber and fishing industries. There’s a push “to make the town prettier by getting rid of the people on the street,” and those people ask, “Where are we supposed to go now?” Monroe said.

The Rev. Sarah Monroe, far right, began her ministry with homeless people in Aberdeen, Washington, by getting to know the folks who hang out under a bridge that connects two parts of the coastal town southwest of Seattle. Photo: Glenn Stone

That question, as well as “a real sense of anger and despair,” is what Monroe heard when she started seeking out homeless people in Aberdeen. Soon she was setting up a table under the bridge that connects two parts of town and handing out sandwiches to the people who hang out there. Over and over again, she heard they had nowhere to gather.

After being ordained a priest in April 2014, Monroe began using the St. Andrew’s parish hall for a Bible study and meal program for homeless people. It has become a gathering place where folks have begun to anchor their stories in the stories of the Bible. One day, the gathered group read the Magnificat. The participants had developed enough trust among themselves to begin telling of their experience of being poor and discovering that God does indeed care about the poor.

“It was the first time where I really saw this real sense of hope developing,” said Monroe, adding that she sensed participants began to feel “that somehow we’re a part of God’s plan and purpose.”

From that nascent sense of empowerment, Monroe said, she hopes that poor and homeless people can develop into leaders able to go to bodies such as the city council and advocate for their community.

“The purpose is not only to treat the symptoms of hunger and lack of resources but to really develop leadership in poor communities with the people on the street, people experiencing poverty, to develop a movement really to end poverty in this county and to develop a model to do it elsewhere,” Monroe said. “That’s a big dream, but it’s one worth having.”

That dream and the work it will take is something Monroe hopes to give to the rest of The Episcopal Church. “I hope that we’re developing something that can be used as a model for the wider church, and I hope that this conversation can become a wider conversation in the church about poverty and the realities of rural and small-town poverty, and what is the church called to do in that reality,” she said.

A video of Monroe explaining the work she plans to do during her fellowship year is here.

Developing models and prompting wider conversations are goals of the work Heath is doing in South Carolina. The roots of that work are in a 25-year-old collaboration among the bishops of the South Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston and the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Susan Heath hopes the work of her fellowship year will involve people in South Carolina in developing “authentic and credible support of public education.” Photo: Diocese of Upper South Carolina

The current leaders of what is known as LARCUM decided to make improving public education and setting advocacy priorities for themselves and their members. Heath, who had worked in public-education advocacy previously and had “a little bit of name recognition beyond the church,” said she was a “likely suspect and a willing one” when the bishops asked her to coordinate their initiative.

The effort’s goals include involving many people from all four denominations in “authentic and credible support of public education,” Heath said. That involvement can range from organizing school-supplies drives to supporting the teaching profession, from tutoring to advocacy.

A second step is to have people “lend their voice to the conversation in political work,” Heath said. “We need to be able to contribute to making systemic changes. This is one place where we will put our energy.”

When Heath explains the program and its goals, she discovers that “folks who are skeptical of the church or who are non-churched are excited about it.” They tell her it is encouraging to see the churches doing something “that makes it clear the church is about more than self-perpetuation or bricks and mortar.”

Besides using the results of a LARCUM survey on current denominational work in support of public education, Heath is developing new efforts. A school district near where she lives has joined with other religious leaders to begin a pilot tutoring project in five elementary schools this month that will last until May. Along with tutoring students, the project will connect people of faith across denominations to form community among the tutors and school personnel.

“One of the things I hope to give to the rest of the church is the deep understanding – and this is something I think we all know but we underplay – of how much it matters when the community of faith steps up and is obvious in the conversation and in the equation,” Heath said.

A video of Heath explaining the work she plans during her fellowship is here.

The 2013-2015 budget passed by General Convention allotted $1 million for programs aimed at engaging Episcopalians in working for the eradication of domestic poverty (Line 108 here). That allocation, including $48,000 for the two domestic-poverty fellowships, is part of how the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is responding to the fourth Mark of Mission, which calls on members of the Anglican Communion to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.

The recently released Report to the Church details the budget-supported work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to date in the current triennium, including the Mark Four work described on pages 56-69.

General Convention structured the current triennial budget around the Communion’s Five Marks of Mission and provided significant unallocated sums for new work targeted around each Mark of Mission. The intention was that the resulting work would be done in new, collaborative partnerships with dioceses, congregations and other Episcopal organizations. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has provided seed money and/or matching grants as well as staff support and expertise for the new work.

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

Episcopal Divinity School announces new scholarship initiative

Thursday, February 26, 2015

[Episcopal Divinity School press release] Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) has announced that it will offer 20 additional student scholarships in the 2015–16 academic year. Of the 20 scholarships, 10 will be full tuition scholarships for master’s degree candidates, five of which will be awarded to students of color. The remaining scholarships will be first year scholarships with a school commitment to meet all financial need through financial aid in subsequent years.

The new scholarships extend the school’s commitment to making seminary affordable to all and to reducing the burden of debt on seminary graduates who enter lay or ordained ministry. EDS’s residential and hybrid low-residence Distributive Learning programs offer highly flexible and customized learning options for students of all faith traditions and denominations considering lay or ordained ministry.

“We want people who would make good use of the extraordinary formational opportunities at EDS to take advantage of them without undue financial hardship,” said the Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, chair of the board of trustees. “If EDS is the school that can best equip your ministry, financial barriers are not going to get in your way.”

The scholarships are open to all applicants to master’s degree programs and will be awarded to accepted students who demonstrate both a promising future in ministry or the academy and financial need. Students awarded a first year scholarship will work with the Office of Financial Aid to assemble an assistance package that spans students’ full academic tenure at the school.

“Too many students shy away from even considering seminary today because they believe they cannot afford it,” said EDS CFO William Judge. “As a result of our generous financial aid and scholarships, including the 20 new scholarships we are announcing, most EDS students can afford a world-class seminary education.”

All of the new scholarships will be available to applicants to both the Master of Divinity and the Master of Arts in Theological Studies programs. They will be available to students applying for the residential Traditional Learning option, and to the low-residency Distributive Learning option.

“With the advent of our hybrid online and on-campus Distributive Learning program, EDS is a leader in offering a highly flexible and customized student experience,” said Admissions Manager Hillary Kody. “Now, our financial aid and scholarship offerings offer as much flexibility as our academic programs. If you are considering seminary, then you should consider EDS.”

The new scholarships are just one of many options for students looking to finance their seminary education. Last year, EDS launched the Bishop’s Scholarship, which is open to Episcopalian master’s degree candidates in the ordination track and includes a financial award equal to 80% of full tuition while the student is in school, and up to a total of $25,000 of student loan forgiveness over five years after graduation.

All applicants for EDS master’s degree programs will be considered for the twenty new scholarships. Prospective students can apply online — or request more information — at eds.edu/admissions.

Episcopal Church submits written statement for 2015 UN Commission on the Status of Women

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] With the 2015 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) meeting on the horizon, The Episcopal Church submitted its first ever official written statement to the 59th Session last October detailing persistent challenges to women’s empowerment and gender equality and offering action steps.

2015 UNCSW
This year, UNCSW will undertake a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The document outlined 12 Critical Areas of Concern in which progress needs to be made to empower women and girls.

The Episcopal Church’s statement identified four Critical Areas of Concern as “persistent gaps [that] continue to impede gender equality and empowerment of women and girls”, twenty years after Beijing: Violence against women; Education and training of women; Women and health; Women in power and decision-making positions.

“As people of faith, Episcopalians especially are called to lift up women and girls who frequently are marginalized or forgotten: women with disabilities, women of color, women from ethnic minorities, women refugees and immigrants, girls displaced by war or sent abroad by themselves, lesbians and transgender individuals, indigenous women, older women, enslaved and trafficked women, women who are heads of single-family households, and women in developing countries,” the document states.

The Statement in full is located here.

Ecumenical Women
In addition, The Episcopal Church joined other members of Ecumenical Women in submitting a joint written statement, located here.

Ecumenical Women is a coalition of Christian denominations and organizations,  including the Anglican Consultative Council, Association of Presbyterian Women of Aoteaora (New Zealand), Church Women United, Lutheran World Federation, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Salvation Army, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church – Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women and the World Young Women’s Christian Association, and associates including Anglican Women’s Empowerment, the National Council of Churches of Christ (USA) and Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The advocacy priorities highlighted in the Ecumenical Women statement are: Violence and discrimination against women; Poverty, inequalities and climate change; Education and training of women and girls; and Women and health – full access to reproductive health and informed decision-making.

Together, The Episcopal Church’s written statement, along with Ecumenical Women’s joint written statement – of which The Episcopal Church is a signatory – will be the foundations by which The Episcopal Church’s first official delegation will represent the Church at this year’s UNCSW.  Delegates will be encouraged to highlight the statements’ priorities, adding their own research, stories and information from their local perspectives, in order to illustrate the themes and communicate about them at the United Nations, and in their local communities once they return home.

For more information contact Lynnaia Main, Officer for Global Relations for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, lmain@episcopalchurch.org.

Program, Budget and Finance prepares to listen to the church

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) left its three day meeting here ready to listen to the church’s opinions about which work ought to be done on a church-wide level in the next three years and how to pay for that work.

Diocese of Maine Bishop Stephen Lane, vice chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance, takes notes Feb. 24 as committee members report on their initial explorations of Executive Council’s draft budget. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

That listening will inform the General Convention budget committee’s preparation of a budget to propose to the June 25-July 3 meeting of General Convention in Salt Lake City.

PB&F prepared itself for the listening phase of its work by doing some listening – and inquiring – of its own after it received the draft 2016-2018 triennium budget that Executive Council passed last month. (General Convention Joint Rule II.10.c.iii calls for Executive Council to give PB&F a draft budget no less than four months before the start of General Convention, essentially by February of convention year).

Diocese of Maine Bishop Stephen Lane, PB&F vice chair, told the committee at the outset of the meeting that “we are in a receptive mode.”

Diocese of Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, chair of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission, and the Rev. Susan Snook of Arizona, who chaired FFM’s budget subcommittee, led PB&F members in a detailed explanation of the draft budget. The committee then spent time studying the budget’s line-by-line assumptions and allocations, and its larger issues.

Those larger issues included the role of the budget in guiding the church through a time of change and the desire on many people’s part for the church-wide structure to operate in a different way to better respond to the challenges the church faces. The committee also faces the uncertainty of crafting a budget while the church considers the recommendations on structural changes to the church made to General Convention by the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church. Those recommendations will come to Salt Lake City. Some of the church’s other committees, commissions, agencies and boards could also propose structural changes for this summer’s convention to consider, as could deputies, bishops and dioceses by way of resolutions.

Diocese of Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, chair of Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission, makes a point during Program, Budget and Finance’s plenary session Feb. 24 as the Rev. Canon Mally Lloyd of Massachusetts, PB&F chair, listens. The Rev. Susan Snook of Arizona, left, chaired FFM’s budget subcommittee. She and Hollingsworth handed off council’s draft budget to PB&B during the Feb. 23-25 meeting. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

And, convention and PB&F will also be aware that the 27th presiding bishop, due to be elected at this meeting of convention, might cast a new vision for the church during his or her nine-year term and beyond.

Also during the meeting here in Maryland, PB&F members heard Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Gay Jennings, Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls and Executive Officer of General Convention the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe describe their visions for the 2016-2018 budget and the process being used to build it.

Jefferts Schori urged the committee to continue to think about building the budget around those things that can be done best or most appropriately by church-wide structures. Some of the types of work she suggested were supporting growth toward mutual responsibility and interdependence of the church’s individual and institutional members; stewarding the resources of the church including its corporate decision-making tradition, finances, property, reputation, the historical record, liturgical norms and tradition, and what she called boundary norms such as anti-racism, inclusivity and clergy discipline. Jefferts Schori also cited fostering relationships with other churches and religious communities, as well as relationships with governments and supranational institutions such as the United Nations.

The Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton, PB&F member from Navajoland, elevates the host at the fraction during Eucharist on Feb. 25. Eaton, who is canon to the ordinary in Navajoland, was ordained a priest on Feb. 7. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The presiding bishop praised the work done in the last few triennia to develop a “coherent vision of what mission is about; that it’s about building the reign of God in our own day.” She noted that this vision has increasingly been anchored in the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission. The 2016-2018 draft budget is built around the structure the marks provide, as is the 2013-2015 budget.

Jennings reminded the committee that “our stewardship of money is a spiritual matter, and the budget is a deeply theological document.”

She also warned the members that during the budget debate there were “bound to be disagreements, misunderstandings, and even confusion” and she urged them to “examine budget decisions using the lens of how we can empower, equip, and support congregations in every manner possible.”

“Ask the hard questions, use fresh eyes, anticipate the questions of deputies and bishops, remember the poor and underserved, and let Jesus be your companion,” she told them.

Sauls said he believed that “the church exists to do two things: to serve the poor and create servants of the poor.”

He told the committee the story of St. Laurence of Rome, a third century deacon, who was ordered by a Roman prefect to bring him the treasure of the church. The prefect was expecting to receive the church’s money and property, including vestments and communion vessels made of precious metals and jewels. Instead, on the appointed day, Laurence assembled before the prefect the poor people of Rome. Laurence was martyred because of his answer.

PB&F member Samuel Gould administers communion to Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls during Eucharist Feb. 25. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“That is a terribly important thing for us to remember,” Sauls said. “The church as I see it, as it administers its property which, though it rarely feels like it to us, is vast, exists to be the trustee of those who are poor.”

Barlowe said “we need a healthy, growing, loving, serving, transforming church at every level of its being.”

PB&F members “have the critical responsibility of helping General Convention consider how a church-wide budget can best strengthen and inspire the whole church in restoring people to unity with God and with each other in Christ.”

Thus, he said, framing the budget through the Five Marks of Mission moves the church towards that goal.

“But as with any system of classification, the Five Marks of Mission can become a very confusing filter if we try too hard to make something fit into the marks and then leave other things outside of the marks,” he said.

He urged the committee to confront that possible confusion and explain to the church how those budget items classified as Five Marks of Mission spending and those outside of that structure “work together to serve the mission of the church.”

Episcopal Church Treasurer N. Kurt Barnes responds to a question. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

As is expected at this stage of the budget process, PB&F made no changes in council’s draft budget. The Rev. Canon Mally Lloyd of Massachusetts, PB&F chair, recollected the gospel for the First Sunday in Lent, the previous day on Feb. 22, during which Jesus is tempted in the wilderness for 40 days.

“Our temptation here in the next few days is that we will try to start to tinker with things that are in the budget as given to us, to try to respond to our own inner leanings about how we should fund different parts of the church and to respond to people that have already begun to talk to us,” she said.

Lloyd said the purpose of the meeting was instead to study the draft budget and learn from Hollingsworth, Snook and church-wide staff members who were present so that the committee members could understand council’s proposal and be prepared to get feedback from the church.

“Jesus was tempted for 40 days,” she reminded the committee. “We have 117 days. Gird your loins.”

PB&F’s listening initially will come in two primary forms. First, committee members will get comments and questions as they make budget presentations to the pre-General Convention synods about to begin in each of the church’s nine provinces. Second, a web-based comment process open to the whole church is due to be available within the week.

The Rev. Canon Victoria Heard, Dallas, asks a question Feb. 24 during a PB&F plenary session. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The committee’s listening proceeds from surveys about the budget conducted by Executive Council and its FFM committee, along with feedback FFM received after it released for comment a preliminary version of its draft budget last fall.

Once in Salt Lake City, PB&F’s listening phase will end with two hearings. The first on the evening of June 25 will focus on the income the draft budget assumes will be available during the 2016-2018 triennium. The second hearing the next evening will center on how that money would be spent during those three years.

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

The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately. Both houses must approve the same version of the budget, which takes effect at the beginning of 2016. Executive Council often has to revise each of the three annual budgets of the triennium based on changing income and expenses.

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

EPPN Lenten Series: Engaging poverty at home and around the world

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

[Episcopal Public Policy Network] In this week’s reflection, we focus on housing. The Rev’d Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Domestic Poverty Missioner for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, provides background on the realities of access to housing in the United States. Then, Chris Sikkema, Mission Associate for Justice and Advocacy Ministries of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, shares how St. Francis Center in Denver, CO is working to provide safe and stable housing for people in its community. Here’s an excerpt of the reflection. Please click the link below to read the full reflection on our website.

Engaging Poverty Through Housing

My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:18 (NRSV)“On a single night in January 2013, there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness in the United States, including 215,344 people who were living in unsheltered locations.” On that particular night, nearly one quarter (23%) were children. More than a third (36%) were a part of a homeless family.

So reports the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in its recent annual report to Congress. Many non-governmental agencies contend that HUD underestimates the actual number of those who experience homelessness over the course of a year, especially when it comes to children. The National Center on Family Homelessness, basing its calculations in part on Department of Education statistics, asserts that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013.

This tragic situation is tied in large part to such systemic issues as a lack of affordable housing across the nation, racial disparities, and domestic violence. While not comprehensive, these three issues are becoming an ever increasing reality faced by the unemployed and working poor alike.

Please GO HERE to access the full reflection.

Why my faith calls me to work with refugees

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] Micah 6:8: And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Justice and faith are like peanut butter and jelly; they naturally go together.

Justice has multiple definitions, legally and morally, but I think of justice as that 1990s adage and bracelet I proudly wore: What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? I believe Jesus would want us to love and act radically to help those in need. Today, those in need include the world’s 15.5 million refugees.

I am so excited to continue my faith journey by joining eight Episcopalians on a pilgrimage in March led by Episcopal Migration Ministries to Kenya and Rwanda. During this trip, my group will visit a refugee camp and meet with various nongovernmental organizations, government stakeholders and organizations that help refugees. We will be blogging and posting about our trip on social media using the hashtag #ShareTheJourney. We invite you to follow the virtual pilgrimage on our media hub: www.episcopalchurch.org/sharethejourney.

Most of the refugees we will meet come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country ravaged by decades of unrest and war. Individuals and families forced to flee in order to escape violence are certainly the vulnerable whom Jesus called on us to serve. That is why the work of resettlement is so important. During the #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage, we will work to raise awareness about the plight of refugees and lift up the work that the church does to help them.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through Episcopal Migration Ministries, works in partnership with its affiliate network, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe. In 2014, the church and its affiliates provided safety, security and a new beginning for 5,155 refugees across the United States.

The pilgrimage is the next step in my journey combining faith and justice. Through the Gospels we know about Jesus breaking well-established laws and social norms to revolutionize the idea of justice, calling each of us to work to help our sisters and brothers in Christ: “Anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me” (Matt. 25:40).

Who are “the least of my people?” The “least” are those must vulnerable in society. As I get ready for my work with refugees, I reflect on my past work with other groups of people in vulnerable situations. I have worked with survivors of domestic violence in Washington, D.C., women brutalized by the very partners who had taken vows to love and cherish them. I also worked with female migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong through The Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corps. These were women who went abroad to work to support their families but instead encountered abusive employers and slavery-like conditions.

Helping these women, through either a church group or secular organization, I see the work as my small contribution to promoting a biblical view of justice. I am not just helping these women to meet their basic needs. Rather, I also am empowering women to fight for their rights and advocate for justice in their own lives.

Justice is more than meeting basic needs, though. Justice also is working to address the root causes of why people’s needs are not being met. The Episcopal Church lives out its goals of social justice by advocating for refugees.

Through the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Washington, D.C-based Office of Government Relations and the nationwide Episcopal Public Policy Network, The Episcopal Church works to raise awareness among elected officials to ensure continued support of the refugee program. I believe that the church’s advocacy efforts are an integral part of this work. It is not enough to feed and clothe those in need. We also must work to transform unjust structures in society that oppress or even dismiss these concerns. Striving for justice is not always easy, but it’s what Jesus called us to do.

I invite others to #ShareTheJourney in whatever way they can: by sharing this hashtag; by watching a video of the church’s Feb. 19 webinar on Congolese refugees; by reaching out to local Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliates; by connecting with other refugee organizations; by inviting a refugee or advocate to speak at a Sunday church forum; by following our group’s trip blog; or by praying for refugees and those who work for justice for refugees.

As the body of Christ, we can work together to promote the justice of helping refugees and continue striving for justice as Jesus called us to do.

– Spencer Cantrell is a lawyer and is the gender violence fellow at the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project. A former Young Adult Service Corps missionary and lifelong Episcopalian, she is from Savannah, Georgia, and now lives in Washington, D.C.

School of Theology named to class of seminaries that change the world

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

[School of Theology — Sewanee, Tennessee] The School of Theology was once again honored to be named to the 2015 list of Seminaries that Change the World. Twenty-six institutions were named in this year’s class, two of which are Episcopal seminaries. The School of Theology was also included in the class of 2014.

The Center for Faith and Service, based out of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Ill., describes this group of institutions as theologically, politically, and geographically diverse, yet sharing a common commitment to work together to strengthen and advance theological education.

“The very title, Seminaries that Change the World, is a provocative reminder of what theological education has meant in the past and what its purpose and promise is for the future,” said Rev. Wayne Meisel, an ordained Presbyterian minister and director of the Center for Faith and Service. “The 2015 class of schools has demonstrated a commitment to invite, welcome, support, train, and launch individuals into the world as community leaders.”

Meisel has a long and distinguished career in the world of community service, service learning, and civic engagement. He was appointed to serve on the President’s Commission on National and Community Service, where he is credited for being one of the architects of the AmeriCorps Program. He also served as a founding board member for Teach for America and is the Founding President of the Bonner Foundation. The Center for Faith and Service develops innovative programming for churches and denominations and seeks renewal of theological education through the reintegration of faith and service.

Seminaries that Change the World is part of a movement to reclaim the important historic role that theological education has played in promoting community and justice while training and launching local and world leaders in all areas of society.

The School of Theology was selected for having demonstrated “great innovation in theological education, in integration with classical approaches for learning, even as they navigate negative stereotypes about organized religion and work to expand narrow definitions of traditional ministry.”

“The School of Theology is honored to be named among the Seminaries that Change the World,” stated the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, dean of The School of Theology. “It is a short list of distinguished seminaries and we are pleased to be numbered among them. The Center for Faith and Service does effective work inspiring seminaries to be true to their historic identities while at the same time being innovative in their programs to serve a changing church in a changing world.”

Central Gulf Coast diocese elects James Russell Kendrick as bishop

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast] The Rev. James Russell Kendrick, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was elected as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast on Feb. 21, pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of The Episcopal Church.

Kendrick, 54, was elected during the diocese’s 44th annual convention held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Mobile, Alabama. He was elected on the third ballot out of a field of three nominees. He received 97 votes of 163 cast in the lay order and 32 of 53 cast in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 82 in the lay order and 27 in the clergy order.

Kendrick has served as rector of St. Stephen’s since 2007. In 1984, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture and marketing from Auburn University in Alabama; and in 1995, he received a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. Russell is married to Robin. They have two children, Aaron and Hannah.

“I am keenly aware of and deeply humbled by the trust and hope that this election carries. Robin and I look forward to returning to the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast and serving our Lord with the people that once formed us and sent us forth into the larger church. I take this election to be a call for collaboration, cooperation and creativity as we seek to be apostles for Jesus in God’s world,” said Kendrick following the election.

Under the canons (III.11.4) of The Episcopal Church, a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to Kendrick’s ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

The other nominees were:

  • The Very Rev. Edward Francis O’Connor, dean, Cathedral Parish of St. Andrew, Jackson, Mississippi; and
  • The Rev. Doctor William Charles Treadwell III, rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas.

Pending the required consents, the bishop-elect will be ordained and consecrated on July 25 at Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama. The bishop-elect will succeed the Rt. Rev. Philip Menzie Duncan II, who is the third bishop of the diocese.

The Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast includes southern Alabama and the panhandle of Florida, 62 churches, and approximately 20,000 members.

Washington National Cathedral Phase I earthquake repairs completed

Friday, February 20, 2015

Photo: Washington National Cathedral

[Washington National Cathedral] Washington National Cathedral has announced the completion of Phase I repairs in its ongoing earthquake restoration work.

The August 2011 magnitude-5.8 earthquake shook the cathedral and caused approximately $32 million in damage. The seismic event rotated pinnacles, cracked mortar, chipped and cracked limestone, and briefly took flying buttresses out of compression. Following an initial stabilization, the cathedral reopened after 12 weeks.

In the months following, some damaged areas were disassembled and an extensive network of stabilization scaffolding was erected to secure structures and provide access for examination and formulation of plans for repair and reinforcement.

Photo: Washington National Cathedral

Phase I repairs began in March 2014 and addressed the interior high ceiling of the nave and restoration of the six flying buttresses around the apse, or east end of the cathedral. The nave vaulting and windows were inspected, cleaned, and repaired. Akoustolith tile were secured and sealed. Decades of dirt were carefully removed, and failed caulking was replaced.

When the six apse buttresses lost compression during the quake, a few stones slipped out of position, leaving visible gaps in the buttresses, while other stones fractured, sending chunks of stone to the ground below. Restoration work filled the voids, replaced the broken stones with Dutchmen repairs, and reinforced the flyers with stainless steel rods and grout to ensure better performance in any future seismic event.

This week, the final interior scaffolding is being removed.

“The view of the fully restored nave is breathtaking, and all that the cathedral does in this space has a feeling of openness and vitality—as well as improved acoustics and inspiration with the return of views of the clerestory windows and the boss stones, now cleaned for the first time ever,” according to a cathedral press release. “The cathedral is extremely grateful for the support that has made this work possible and the diligent work of Davis Construction and Lorton Stone to return the building to its former glory.”

The remaining work — approximately 85 percent of the exterior work — awaits funding from individuals and institutions. The work will likely take years, even a decade, to complete and will cost $22 million or more. This work includes the central tower grand pinnacles, the engaged buttresses on the length of the nave, the exterior stonework on the transepts, and the pinnacles on the west towers.

The full cathedral press release and a restoration image gallery are available here.