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New Opportunities Grants awarded for Native American programs

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 28, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release]  Samuel McDonald, Episcopal Church Director of Mission and Deputy Chief Operating Officer, announced the recipients of the New Opportunities Grants, totaling $75,000.

The Episcopal Church Office of Indigenous Ministries and the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries invited Episcopal communities with Native American initiatives to submit proposals for the New Opportunities Grants, which provided funding for programs in 2014.

“The New Opportunities Grant was a project established to assist native people throughout the Episcopal Church to develop new and innovative approaches to their ministry,” explained Sarah Eagle Heart, Episcopal Church Program Officer for Indigenous Ministries.

Recipients
• Diocese of Alaska – Old Minto, Alaska Bible Camp: Summer 2014 :  $8,500.00
• Diocese of Alaska – Iona Mentor Training – BNC:  $8,000.00
• Diocese of Alaska – Memories and Recollections of Gwich’in Elders of the Episcopal Church:  $8,000.00
• Diocese of Arizona – Building Bridges: Inspiring and Empowering Native American community development/partnerships:  $8,000.00
• Diocese of Minnesota – Camping and Creation:  $8,000.00
• Diocese of Minnesota – Minnesota Healing Movement for Community Action:  $8,000.00
• Diocese of North Dakota – Pathways to Ministry:  $8,000.00
• Diocese of Olympia – Building Capacity in Indigenous Latin American Immigrant Episcopal Communities:  $3,500.00
• Diocese of South Dakota – Rosebud Episcopal Mission GLORY Program:  $8,000.00
• Diocese of South Dakota – Mending Broken Hearts: Healing from Unresolved Grief and Intergenerational Trauma:  $7,000.00

For further information contact McDonald smcdonald@episcopalchurch.org or Eagle Heart seagleheart@episcopalchurch.org

Chicago diocese ponders next move after Appellate Court loss

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 28, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Chicago press release] On Thursday, July 24, the Fourth District Appellate Court for the State of Illinois upheld a lower court’s ruling that certain property of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy belongs to a breakaway group, now organized as the Anglican Diocese of Quincy.

The position of the Episcopal Church is that individual parishes and dioceses hold their property in trust for the wider church, and that those who cease to be members of the Episcopal Church may not take the property with them. This position has been upheld in most similar cases decided throughout the country.

“We are disappointed by the decision of the court and believe that the decision is erroneous,” said Richard Hoskins, chancellor emeritus of the Diocese of Chicago. “We believe that the opinion misunderstands the polity of the Episcopal Church and misapplies the First Amendment. The attorneys representing us in the lawsuit are studying the opinion and will advise the diocese whether to petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.”

“We will respond to this decision in the appropriate legal manner,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of Chicago. “While that process unfolds, our primary mission will continue to be fulfilling God’s vision for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and its newest deanery in Peoria.”

[In June 2013, the dioceses of Chicago and Quincy decided to reunite].

Historical Society announces grant awards

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 28, 2014

[Historical Society press release] The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church is pleased to announce grants it will award in 2014. Determination of grant recipients were made during the June Board meeting of the Society held at the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, California. The Rev. Dr. Robyn M. Neville, Chair of the Grants and Research Committee, announced the recipients as determined by the committee. Applications were received from individual scholars and academic and ecclesiastical groups for grants to support significant research, conferences, and publications relating to the history of the Church of England, the Anglican Communion and Anglican and Episcopal Churches in North America.

The following grants were announced:

  • The Rev. Benjamin Anthony of Vanderbilt University, for his dissertation research on Phillips Brooks’ preaching;
  • The Grafton Commemoration project of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, a matching grant, to support a research paper competition that honors the Rt. Rev. Charles Chapman Grafton;
  • Dr. Judith Hull of Emerson College, for research that will complete her book project, Trinity Church Wall Street and Social Reform;
  • The Rev. Dane Neufeld of Wycliffe College in Toronto, for his dissertation research on the 19th century Anglican philosopher and theologian, Henry Mansel;
  • Dr. Scott Rohrer, independent historian and editor with the National Journal Group, for his book project, Religion and Revolution in the British Atlantic World;
  • Mr. Peter Walker of Columbia University, for archival research that will complete his dissertation, titled, Reform, Toleration, and Nation-Building: the CoE 1774-1829.

Grants are provided annually and are modest, ranging generally from $1,000-$2,000. Recipients are encouraged to publish their work, when appropriate, in Anglican and Episcopal History, the quarterly academic journal of the Society.

For over a century HSEC has been an association dedicated to preserving and disseminating information about the history of the Episcopal Church. Founded in Philadelphia in 1910 as the Church Historical Society, its members include scholars, writers, teachers, ministers (lay and ordained) and many others who have an interest in the objectives and activities of the Historical Society.

Presiding Bishop preaches at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 28, 2014

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

            If you were going to describe the kingdom of God, what sort of story would you tell? Can you see that goal we’re aiming for? What’s your image of that kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven?

The hints Jesus offers in this morning’s gospel draw in all sorts of creatures and parts of creation, in surprising juxtaposition. They are animate and inanimate, human and animal, plant and mineral. He’s left almost nothing out. It’s like a seed that grows into a bush or tree, with birds nesting in it. It’s like a woman mixing yeast and flour. It’s like valuable treasure in a field – can you see the folks out there with their metal detectors? It’s like an entrepreneur hunting for exquisite pearls. It’s like fishing with nets and sorting the catch – this is for sushi, that’s for bait, and this is for fertilizer. What story would you tell?

Let’s see. The kingdom of heaven is like a stream of refugees, fleeing war in their homeland, and they are taken in, sheltered, and welcomed by people from another nation.

The kingdom of heaven is like a prairie, filled with wildflowers and children playing.

The kingdom of heaven is like a vestry meeting filled with passionate debate.

The kingdom of heaven is like collecting the garbage – particularly when people begin to see the treasure it contains.

Jesus is prodding and confounding his hearers to see God at work in surprising people and parts of creation. What makes it a vision of the holy?

That’s what the dialogue with Solomon is about. Solomon asks for discernment to see God at work, and to better understand his own part as a co-creator of the kingdom of heaven and earth. He may be new at the job but he’s already got the presence of mind to admit that he doesn’t know it all, and that he’s willing to listen and learn.

Paul writes to a community in Rome who know they’re not living in a heavenly kingdom. Their experience is a lot more about an oppressive earthly one. Paul is encouraging the faithful in Rome to buck up – even if they don’t have the strength or words to pray. He says don’t fret, God’s own spirit is already within us, groaning in prayer when we can’t – trust in that. When we’re conscious enough, we can remember that we are greatly beloved and we have been made good, and that is what’s most important. We know that God is at work even when we can’t see beyond the mess of death in the world around us.

The kingdom of heaven is like a little kid who keeps asking for a pony for his birthday. The day comes, he looks out the window and all he can see is a big manure pile. “Whoopee! I know there’s a pony in there somewhere!”

We know that all things work together for good when we’re loving God and loving neighbor. I trust that little boy is going to let other kids ride the pony, and share the pony’s love with all comers. One of the women who was ordained here 40 years ago is actually doing just that. Carter Heyward retired from teaching at the Episcopal Divinity School to start a center for therapeutic horseback riding.[1] The kingdom of God is like horses helping human beings heal.

Paul goes on to remind his hearers that the love of God surrounds us in ways that are beyond our mortal imagining, and that nothing whatever, including suffering and death, can separate us from that love.

The kingdom of heaven is like a funeral, with grateful thanks for love shared, and hope that life is changed, not ended.

The kingdom of heaven is even like the funeral for a child dead of cancer, or a family killed by violence, when the love of God and neighbor is evident in shared suffering and yearning for healing.

The kingdom of heaven is like that haul of fish, and sorting out the life-giving from the deadly and life-denying. Treasure what builds up and contributes to abundant life, and put it in a basket to share. Turn your back on the other sort, let it go, use it to catch fish that are good to eat, or put it on the compost pile to turn into fertilizer.

Jesus says that workers for the kingdom of heaven are like those who treasure what is new and what is old – keep the best of what you’ve known as life-giving, and be willing to be surprised by new possibilities.

That sort of hopeful attitude underlies all sorts of changes and growth toward more abundant life. The ordinations we’re celebrating this weekend are an example. I came along 20 years after those brave women and bishops, but when I was first ordained there were a couple of elderly women in the parish who said, “we don’t believe in women’s ordination, but you’re all right.” That attitude was pretty common, for a long time. People said similar things about this 35 year old prayer book, and they’ve said it about gay and lesbian people. They took out of their treasure something old, were willing to re-examine it, and found the life-giving parts of both the old and new treasures.

Maybe more than anything else, the kingdom of heaven is about a willingness to leave the final judgment to the angels, and to keep our eyes and ears and hearts open to what God is up to all around us – and within us.

Where is that pony?

[1] http://freereincenter.com/

Video available: 40th anniversary of women’s ordination celebration

ENS Headlines - Sunday, July 27, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The video of the special celebration of the 40th anniversary of women’s ordination on July 26 is now available at no fee here.

The Diocese of Pennsylvania hosted a celebration of the 40th anniversary of women’s ordination to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, the site of the ordinations in 1974.  Working in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, the Office of Communication videotaped the event.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached at the service; her sermon text is listed below.

For more information contact Mike Collins, Episcopal Church Manager of Multimedia Services, at mcollins@episcopalchurch.org, or Henry Carnes at the Diocese of Pennsylvania, henryc@diopa.org.

Presiding Bishop’s sermon
40th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women Priests
Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia
26 July 2014
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

The whole of The Episcopal Church gives thanks today that women serve in all orders of ministry.

The recent decision of the Church of England to finally open the doors for women bishops has brought great rejoicing.  It’s also brought reflections about – what else – what bishops should wear.  A New York Times editorial titled “Give us a Bishop in High Heels” [1]  actually offers the liberating perspective that while these women may still appear in dog collars they don’t have to look like male bishops.  I hope you wore your dangly earrings today.

The gospel singer Yolanda Adams offered a prescient take on this on her morning radio show two months ago[2]. She invited her friend Bishop Secular to talk about his plan for the women of the church. Bishop Secular noted that the women in his church were tottering around on their high heels last Sunday and could use some lessons. He wants to bring in some ladies of the night to work with the ladies of the light, and he notes that it should be mutually beneficial [3]. Particularly in a church context that kind of meeting can result in real solidarity, if not solid walking – and solidarity is what Jesus is all about.

A week ago, a long investigative report on campus rape told the painful story of a woman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges whose story of violation and violence were quickly dismissed by campus investigators, and later by the civil authorities [4].   The most hopeful part of the report showed the colleges’ beginning to change the culture and educate men about rape and sexual assault.  It showed men and a few women walking around campus in high heels, as part of an awareness-raising campaign called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.”[5]   That just might build some solidarity along with the blisters.

One of the forebears we’re celebrating today, Pauli Murray, used to talk about her “proud shoes.” [6]  The first high-heeled shoes were worn by Persians for horseback riding in the 9th century, to keep their feet from sliding out of the stirrups.  Men and women have worn them as fashion statements in the centuries since then.  If you heard about what went on at Johns Hopkins for some years, you might begin to believe that wearing high heels in stirrups today might be a good defense against inappropriate picture taking.[7]

I am told that today REALLY high heels are understood as jewelry, rather than footwear.  For some women, high heels are a sign of leisure and freedom, and not having to run anywhere – not for fear of pursuers, or to escape violence, or to the kitchen sink, or to feed a crying child.  Moses took his shoes off when he stood on holy ground; I think Miriam probably put on her high heeled sandals when she danced and sang her song of liberation.

Women in all orders of ministry – baptized, deacons, priests, and bishops – can walk proudly today, in whatever kind of shoes they want to wear,  because of what happened here 40 years ago.  We can walk proudly, even if not yet in full equality, knowing that the ranks of those who walk in solidarity are expanding.  Wisdom is afoot everywhere, freeing her people from oppressors, and she enters all sorts and conditions of human beings bound for the glory of justice and peace.  Together, we are marching upward to Zion.

Wisdom continues to give voice to the liberated and newborn.  She has helped them say yes, she has helped them say “she” and “her” in the same sentence as leader, priest, bishop, deputy – and president of each of those houses.  She is a prophet, she is a healer and a chaplain, she is a leader of her people, and we don’t just mean Deborah the judge, but Sandra, Ruth, Sonia, Elena – and Emily.  She is the image of God, which is probably the most liberating part of the work started here 40 years ago – the balancing of centuries of narrow assertions and faulty theology about the divine and its holy and creative work.

In our second lesson, as always, Peter sounds naively optimistic when he says, “the end of everything has come.”  Well, at least it is well begun.  The end of categorical exclusion has begun, and once the gates open, the flood begins to burst through.  That flood of birthwaters washes away fences of division, judgments that grieve and cleave – and becomes a flume delivering new life into this world.  It has its origin in Wisdom, God’s creative co-worker, in Shekinah overshadowing Mary, in the delivery of a holy child for the healing of this world.  That child is born in a flood of blood and water, blessed and emboldened in his cousin’s baptismal waters, and brought to die in thirst and abandonment.  Yet at the last, a flood gushes forth once more – living water and life blood poured out for all.  Jesus gives birth to a new people of solidarity with outcast, oppressed, enslaved, imprisoned, and deprived.  The gates of hell have not just been destroyed – they have been rusted open – as living water floods up from the depths and showers the world with grace.

The green blade riseth, all around.

Peter gets the response to this ending and beginning right – radical hospitality to self and other.  Be confident and clear in your prayers, in your vision of the Zion toward which we are all bound.  Discover and claim the love God has for you, and love yourself in the same way – as treasured possession and infinitely precious.  Likewise love one another, as equal friends of God, and discover heaven in your midst.  Welcome and serve one another, using the gifts the spirit has planted within you.  Speak with the strength of Wisdom herself.  Do you suppose Peter learned this from his mother-in-law?  When Jesus healed her fever she got up and began to serve.  As our fevered oppression is healed, pray that we are doing the same – serving Jesus in the least around us, in the forgotten children on our borders and the panicked ones in Gaza, and the imprisoned ones wasting away in our jails.  Speak out in truth at the injustice of this world, use the memory of that fever to call down rolling rivers of justice and upspringing streams of righteousness!

That is losing your life and gaining the whole and healed and holy world created at the beginning.

Remember to take your shoes – boots made for walking[8], shoes for marching or slippers for dancing.  Try to walk in the shoes of abused and trafficked women.  Walk on to Zion carrying the children who are born and suffer in the midst of war.  Gather up the girls married before they are grown, gather up the schoolgirls still missing in Nigeria, and gather up all those lives wasted in war and prison.  March boldly, proclaiming good news to all who have been pushed aside, and call them to the table of God, to Wisdom’s feast.  Dance upward in glory, listening for Miriam’s song and Sarah’s laughter, calling to us from the hillside.  A banquet awaits.  Go.

Put on your shoes and take up those crosses.  We’re marching upward to Zion.

Come, we that love the Lord, And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord, Join in a song with sweet accord
And thus surround the throne, And thus surround the throne.
We’re marching to Zion, Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion, The beautiful city of God.[9]

1 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/21/opinion/church-of-england-female-bishops.html?_r=0
2 Gospel singer and radio host, WBLS, New York.
3 http://theyolandaadamsmorningshow.com/862517/high-heel-training-for-women-of-the-church/
4 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/us/how-one-college-handled-a-sexual-assault-complaint.html
5 http://www.walkamileinhershoes.org/
6 The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, Proud Shoes.
7 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/us/johns-hopkins-settlement-190-million.html?_r=0
8  “These Boots Were Made for Walking” written by Lee Hazlewood, first recorded by Nancy Sinatra, 1966.  An image of standing up to, and walking out on, all sorts of oppression.
9 “We’re Marching to Zion,” Lift Every Voice and Sing, Church Pension Fund, 1993.

Video: 40 Years Ordained – 2,000 Years in Ministry sermon

ENS Headlines - Sunday, July 27, 2014

[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]

[Episcopal News Service -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]  Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preaches the sermon during the July 26 celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Philadelphia 11 ordinations. the celebration took place at the Church of the Advocate, the North Philadelphia church where the ordinations were held on July 29, 19774. Video: Episcopal Church Multimedia Services

Video of the entire service is available here.

Text of the presiding bishop’s sermon follows.

40th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women Priests

Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia

26 July 2014

 

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

The whole of The Episcopal Church gives thanks today that women serve in all orders of ministry.

The recent decision of the Church of England to finally open the doors for women bishops has brought great rejoicing. It’s also brought reflections about – what else – what should bishops should wear. A New York Times editorial titled “Give us a Bishop in High Heels”[1] actually offers the liberating perspective that while these women may still appear in dog collars they don’t have to look like male bishops. I hope you wore your dangly earrings today.

The gospel singer Yolanda Adams offered a prescient take on this on her morning radio show two months ago. [2] She invited her friend Bishop Secular to talk about his plan for the women of the church. Bishop Secular noted that the women in his church were tottering around on their high heels last Sunday and could use some lessons. He wants to bring in some ladies of the night to work with the ladies of the light, and he notes that it should be mutually beneficial.[3] Particularly in a church context that kind of meeting can result in real solidarity, if not solid walking – and solidarity is what Jesus is all about.

A week ago, a long investigative report on campus rape told the painful story of a woman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges whose story of violation and violence were quickly dismissed by campus investigators, and later by the civil authorities.[4] The most hopeful part of the report showed the colleges’ beginning to change the culture and educate men about rape and sexual assault. It showed men and a few women walking around campus in high heels, as part of an awareness-raising campaign called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.”[5] That just might build some solidarity along with the blisters.

One of the forebears we’re celebrating today, Pauli Murray, used to talk about her “proud shoes.”[6] The first high-heeled shoes were worn by Persians for horseback riding in the 9th century, to keep their feet from sliding out of the stirrups. Men and women have worn them as fashion statements in the centuries since then. If you heard about what went on at Johns Hopkins for some years, you might begin to believe that wearing high heels in stirrups today might be a good defense against inappropriate picture taking.[7]

I am told that today REALLY high heels are understood as jewelry, rather than footwear. For some women, high heels are a sign of leisure and freedom, and not having to run anywhere – not for fear of pursuers, or to escape violence, or to the kitchen sink, or to feed a crying child. Moses took his shoes off when he stood on holy ground; I think Miriam probably put on her high heeled sandals when she danced and sang her song of liberation.

Women in all orders of ministry – baptized, deacons, priests, and bishops – can walk proudly today, in whatever kind of shoes they want to wear,    because of what happened here 40 years ago. We can walk proudly, even if not yet in full equality, knowing that the ranks of those who walk in solidarity are expanding. Wisdom is afoot everywhere, freeing her people from oppressors, and she enters all sorts and conditions of human beings bound for the glory of justice and peace. Together, we are marching upward to Zion.

Wisdom continues to give voice to the liberated and newborn. She has helped them say yes, she has helped them say “she” and “her” in the same sentence as leader, priest, bishop, deputy – and president of each of those houses. She is a prophet, she is a healer and a chaplain, she is a leader of her people, and we don’t just mean Deborah the judge, but Sandra, Ruth, Sonia, Elena – and Emily. She is the image of God, which is probably the most liberating part of the work started here 40 years ago – the balancing of centuries of narrow assertions and faulty theology about the divine and its holy and creative work.

In our second lesson, as always, Peter sounds naively optimistic when he says, “the end of everything has come.” Well, at least it is well begun. The end of categorical exclusion has begun, and once the gates open, the flood begins to burst through. That flood of birthwaters washes away fences of division, judgments that grieve and cleave – and becomes a flume delivering new life into this world. It has its origin in Wisdom, God’s creative co-worker, in Shekinah overshadowing Mary, in the delivery of a holy child for the healing of this world. That child is born in a flood of blood and water, blessed and emboldened in his cousin’s baptismal waters, and brought to die in thirst and abandonment. Yet at the last, a flood gushes forth once more – living water and life blood poured out for all. Jesus gives birth to a new people of solidarity with outcast, oppressed, enslaved, imprisoned, and deprived. The gates of hell have not just been destroyed – they have been rusted open – as living water floods up from the depths and showers the world with grace. The green blade riseth, all around.

Peter gets the response to this ending and beginning right – radical hospitality to self and other. Be confident and clear in your prayers, in your vision of the Zion toward which we are all bound. Discover and claim the love God has for you, and love yourself in the same way – as treasured possession and infinitely precious. Likewise love one another, as equal friends of God, and discover heaven in your midst. Welcome and serve one another, using the gifts the spirit has planted within you. Speak with the strength of Wisdom herself. Do you suppose Peter learned this from his mother-in-law? When Jesus healed her fever she got up and began to serve. As our fevered oppression is healed, pray that we are doing the same – serving Jesus in the least around us, in the forgotten children on our borders and the panicked ones in Gaza, and the imprisoned ones wasting away in our jails. Speak out in truth at the injustice of this world, use the memory of that fever to call down rolling rivers of justice and upspringing streams of righteousness!

That is losing your life and gaining the whole and healed and holy world created at the beginning.

Remember to take your shoes – boots made for walking,[8] shoes for marching or slippers for dancing. Try to walk in the shoes of abused and trafficked women. Walk on to Zion carrying the children who are born and suffer in the midst of war. Gather up the girls married before they are grown, gather up the schoolgirls still missing in Nigeria, and gather up all those lives wasted in war and prison. March boldly, proclaiming good news to all who have been pushed aside, and call them to the table of God, to Wisdom’s feast. Dance upward in glory, listening for Miriam’s song and Sarah’s laughter, calling to us from the hillside. A banquet awaits. Go.

Put on your shoes and take up those crosses. We’re marching upward to Zion.

Come, we that love the Lord, And let our joys be known;

Join in a song with sweet accord, Join in a song with sweet accord

And thus surround the throne, And thus surround the throne.

We’re marching to Zion, Beautiful, beautiful Zion;

We’re marching upward to Zion, The beautiful city of God.[9]

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/21/opinion/church-of-england-female-bishops.html?_r=0

[2] Gospel singer and radio host, WBLS, New York.

[3] http://theyolandaadamsmorningshow.com/862517/high-heel-training-for-women-of-the-church/

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/us/how-one-college-handled-a-sexual-assault-complaint.html

[5] http://www.walkamileinhershoes.org/

[6] The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, Proud Shoes.

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/us/johns-hopkins-settlement-190-million.html?_r=0

[8] “These Boots Were Made for Walking” written by Lee Hazlewood, first recorded by Nancy Sinatra, 1966. An image of standing up to, and walking out on, all sorts of oppression.

[9] “We’re Marching to Zion,” Lift Every Voice and Sing, Church Pension Fund, 1993.

NCC calls on Congress to protect fleeing children at the U.S. border

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 24, 2014

[National Council of Churches press release] A wide coalition of Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, and human rights and development groups called on Congress yesterday to address the humanitarian crisis of tens of thousands of children from Central America who have been apprehended and detained at the U.S. border.

The letter appeared in a full page ad in the Wednesday edition of THE HILL.

Faith groups have shown near unanimity in calling on President Obama and the Congress to protect children crossing into the U.S.

“The humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children and families from Central America who have been apprehended and detained at the U.S. border has shined a glaring light on the violence, poverty and extreme desperation that the people living in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras confront daily,” said more than 40 human rights and faith groups, including the National Council of Churches.

“In addressing the humanitarian crisis, we urge Congress to pursue an approach that attends to the immediate emergency needs of the children and families at the border while providing adequate resources to address the underlying conditions which are driving them to flee from Central America,” the message said.

“Many of these children and families are fleeing desperate situations,” the message said. “While some from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala migrate north in the pursuit of work and economic opportunity, many others understand their options to be either ‘flee or die’ and have come to our country with the hope of escaping violence, intimidation, corrupt police, forced recruitment into street gangs and other criminal groups.”

The message urged Congress “to support programs that address the underlying drivers of their flight–violence and poverty in Central America. Any sustainable strategy to address the humanitarian crisis on our border must account for the chronic challenges in Central America that imperil the ability of people to live safe and prosperous lives in their home country.”

United States Customs and Border Protection agents have apprehended more that 46,000 unaccompanied children since last October. The stream of children from violent and poverty-stricken areas of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador may exceed 90,000 this year.

An internet link has been established to enable persons to sign on to the statement that has been prepared by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition: http://interfaithimmigration.org/uac-sign-on.

Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches president and general secretary, said the NCC “has consistently called for comprehensive reforms in U.S. immigrations policies. But we believe this is a humanitarian issue involving refugees who are being forced out of their homelands by the imminent threat of violence and killing poverty.”

Pope Francis has used unusually strong words to call for protection of the children.

“Many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes,” the pontiff said in a message to a global conference meeting in Mexico.

The Baptist World Alliance, meeting in Ismir, Turkey last week, challenged the churches in the region “to practice hospitality and charity as they regard each minor as neighbor and child of God.”

“This is a regional humanitarian crisis, not a U.S. immigration enforcement problem,” religious leaders have proclaimed.

The leaders called on the U.S. to “embrace its moral and legal obligations to asylum seekers … who have arrived at our birders seeking protection. A policy of ‘sealing’ borders and housing vulnerable people in jail-like conditions will not dissuade people who are fleeing for their lives and seeking safety.”

Instead, the leaders said, such policies “risk driving desperate people into more dangerous circumstances and inflicting more pain upon those already suffering.”

Winkler said the NCC is calling on congregations to press the point with the U.S. government.

“God willing, we can show our elected officials that hundreds of faith groups across the country demand a moral approach to this humanitarian crisis,” Winkler said.

The full text of the Central American migration crisis faith letter can be downloaded here.

The full text of the Baptist World Alliance resolution on the humanitarian crisis can be found here.

Other links include:

http://action.interfaithimmigration.org/protect-kids/

http://www.ucc.org/justice/immigration/unaccompanied-children.html

http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/church-seeks-to-meet-needs-in-border-crisis

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC’s 37 member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

A reflection on the child immigration crisis

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Diocese of Virginia] My husband, Tom, and I arrived in Guatemala for a week of vacation, language immersion and visits with our “adopted grandchildren” the day after newspapers told of the discovery of the body of Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez in the Texas desert. Gilberto was a 15-year-old boy from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, who was determined to join his brother in Chicago. There, he planned to go to school and work at night so that he could send money home to help his mother, who suffers from epilepsy. He never made it, but was separated from or abandoned by his “coyote,” the guide paid a large sum to take him across the border, and died under the relentless sun. The news of his death left the people of Guatemala, a country that Tom and I have come to love, reeling in grief and deep in debate about the child immigration crisis.

 As we talked with friends, old and new, in the beautiful city of Antigua, we heard that Guatemala was listed by The Wall Street Journal in April of this year as the country with the fifth highest murder rate in the world. We heard of a poverty rate that is soaring, gang violence that is on the increase, and killings of girls and women that are rising dramatically. No wonder families are anxious for their children to escape danger. We heard a shared grief and a resounding call to action and prayer so that there will be no more deaths. Beyond these commonalities, opinions varied widely. We heard from parents who could not imagine sending their child alone, even in the care of a trusted “coyote,” across the perilous desert. We heard from other parents who could not imagine not taking the risk of sending a beloved child to a safer life with a relative in the United States. These issues are clearly complicated. There are not just two sides. There are as many sides as there are stories of parents who love their children and want for them to have half a chance - a chance not so much for a better life but for a life, period.

This crisis of unaccompanied child immigrants points to the need for our nation to reform our immigration policy. The policy that requires each child entering the United States without a parent to have a hearing was put in place to protect children from sex trafficking. That same policy, meant to guard children from harm, is now a barrier as the wait for hearings becomes years-long. Change is needed to respond more quickly, fairly and compassionately to the children among us. They are children, after all. We are a nation that holds children and families in high esteem, and our immigration policies will be at their best when they honor families, promote justice, and care for the youngest and most vulnerable.  

This crisis also points to the need for the people of Guatemala and other Central American nations to address together with the community of nations the poverty and violence that so many children seek to escape. Guatemala has already begun an education campaign to counter rumors and assumptions and to give parents clear information, but political action to correct social ills must accompany education. The issue of children at our border is a complex matter that will not go away easily. It provides an invitation to us as Americans to live out the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” on which our culture is based. And it provides an opportunity for us as Christians to live out the best of our faith as we live for the sake of others.

I invite you to join me in prayer for immigrant children and their families and for all of us as we struggle with these issues. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, beloved child of God, whose parents fled with you across the border to a foreign land so that you might live, we pray to you for the immigrant children who have come to our land. Give comfort to those who are held in detention centers as they await their futures. Give hope to family members in the United States and back home as they wait for news of their children’s fate. Inspire our political leaders to develop wise and clear policies in the midst of complex realities. And teach us all how to follow you by caring in concrete ways, as you did, for the most vulnerable among us. All this we ask for the sake of your great love. Amen.    

 – The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff is Bishop Suffragan of Virginia

TREC plans churchwide meeting for October 2

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] As directed in its enabling resolution C095 approved by the 77th General Convention in 2012, the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) will convene a churchwide meeting on October 2 at 7:30 pm Eastern time (6:30 pm Central/5:30 pm Mountain/4:30 pm Pacific/3:30 pm Alaska/1:30 pm Hawaii).

The purpose of the meeting is “to receive responses to the proposed recommendations to be brought forward to the 78th General Convention.”

The meeting will be webcast live from Washington National Cathedral. Although the meeting will be open to the entire church, TREC encourages attendance from each diocese: a bishop, a lay deputy, a clerical deputy, and one person under the age of 35.

There is no fee to attend in-person or to watch the live webcast. However, registration for in-person attendance is requested; register here. Registration is not required but is encouraged for viewing the webcast.

The planned format will be short concise presentations followed by substantive question and comment periods. Questions, concerns and comments will be taken from the live audience in addition to email and twitter.  Questions can be emailed to reimaginetec@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReimagineTEC.

TREC plans to draw from the comments, concerns and questions raised during this event to influence and fine-tune proposals currently under consideration during its final meeting immediately following the churchwide gathering on October 3 and 4.

TREC’s final report to General Convention is due by November 30 for the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah in July 2015.

“TREC is especially grateful for the significant financial underwriting from Trinity Church Wall Street to supplement the budget provided by General Convention as well as the generous provision of space and technical support by Washington National Cathedral and the Diocese of Washington,” noted the Very Rev. Craig Loya and Katy George, TREC co-conveners. “Such generosity was critical to making this event possible.”

For more info, questions or comments, contact TREC members at reimaginetec@gmail.com.

Don Compier is new dean of Bishop Kemper School for Ministry

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Kansas] There has been a change in leadership at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry, a collaborative education venture of the Episcopal Dioceses of Kansas, West Missouri, Nebraska and Western Kansas

The school’s dean since it was founded last summer, the Very Rev. Andrew Grosso of the Diocese of Kansas, left at the end of June to become the Director of Distance Learning at Nashotah House, an Episcopal seminary located about 30 miles west of Milwaukee, Wis.

The Rev. Don Compier, also of Kansas, accepted a call to become the new dean, beginning July 1.

The school offers classes to educate people from all four dioceses for leadership in lay and ordained vocations. It conducts classes and provides housing for students in Topeka.

The 2014-2015 classes are set to begin in August.

The new positions were announced earlier this summer by the school’s board of directors, which includes bishops and representatives of the four partnering dioceses.

BKSM board chair, Larry Bingham of the Diocese of Kansas, said that Compier “has extensive experience in theological education, including more than a decade in administration and nearly 25 years as a faculty member, most recently as Dean and Professor of Theology at Graceland University Seminary, an institution of the Community of Christ, in Independence, Mo.”

He previously served as a faculty member at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., where one of his students was Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. He also has made presentations to the House of Bishops.

Compier, who was ordained as a transitional deacon on June 7, earned his Ph.D. in Theological Studies from Emory University in Atlanta. He has served as a member of the Bishop Kemper School’s Board of Directors and has been a faculty member of the school this past year. He also taught at the Kansas School for Ministry, one of the predecessors of the Bishop Kemper School, since 2011. He is fluent in both Spanish and Dutch.

The position of dean previously had been part-time but now will be full-time, a move the board approved earlier this year in recognition of the growing needs of the school. Compier will work from his home in Independence, Mo.

Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas said of the change in leadership, “We have been richly blessed — first to have someone as capable as the Very Rev. Andrew Gross serving at the Bishop Kemper School, and then to have someone as wonderfully qualified as Dr. Don Compier serve as our next dean. I believe the Lord has been looking out for us.”

Bingham said that he and the other members of the board felt that such a smooth transition in a school that is only a year old, without a loss of competency, was inspired.

“The Holy Spirit obviously is at work here,” he said.

More information about the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry is on its website, www.bishopkemperschool.org.

–Melodie Woerman is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas.

EPPN Policy Alert: Curb the Carbon, Cure our Climate

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Episcopal Public Policy Network] The drastic impacts of climate change are evident across the globe. Coastal erosion, tremendous hurricanes, severe heat waves, and prolonged droughts often most harshly impact our vulnerable communities: the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and the young. Addressing climate change is a moral challenge of our generation.

Fortunately some policymakers are responding to the challenge. Carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases are a leading cause of climate change, and reducing carbon emissions represents a significant step in addressing this global phenomenon. President Obama recently unveiled his Climate Action Plan, which includes a carbon rule for existing power plants. This rule would reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 through assigning customized carbon reduction targets to individual states.

The United Nations is also constructing a global framework for carbon reduction and will meet in New York City in September of 2014 to continue this discussion. For nations to effectively curb climate change, ambitious carbon reduction targets coupled with support for affected communities will be a critical outcome of this process.

In our General Convention, The Episcopal Church urges the President to collaborate with other nations to lower carbon output. Every day, faith communities around the world are calling on political leaders to respond to the moral challenge of climate change. Will you join them?

This month, consider taking three steps to address climate change:

    1. Submit a comment or testify in support of the President’s proposed carbon rule for existing power plants.
    1. Call on our political leaders in the United States to take a leading role in helping to craft a moral global framework for the UN climate negotiations. Click here to sign the Faith Climate Petition!
  1. Demonstrate your own leadership by making an action pledge! Pledges for action can be as simple as changing a light bulb to installing solar panels on your congregation to hosting a climate vigil or sermon. These pledges will be highlighted during several faith events in New York in September. Click here to pledge to take action!

Together, let us respond to the challenge of climate change with compassion; lifting up the voices of our neighbors living in or near poverty, and striving to preserve God’s “good” Creation.

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 24, 2014

El departamento de inmigración de Inglaterra tiene la sospecha de que muchos de los matrimonios recientes son fraudulentos y han sido hechos con el fin de obtener visas para residir en el país. Citó por ejemplo que en el 2010 se registraron 934 matrimonios y que el año pasado la cifra ascendió a 2135. Los que realizan matrimonios fraudulentos tanto civiles como religiosos están sujetos a penas de cárcel y multas.

La organización de derechos humanos Human Rights Watch ha pedido al Congreso de Ecuador que modifique un “alarmante” proyecto de enmiendas constitucionales, que permitiría la reelección indefinida y penalizaría las acciones de ciudadanos contra el Estado.

Líderes de derechos humanos en El Salvador explican la situación que vive Centroamérica y que ha originado la crisis humanitaria de la frontera sur de Estados Unidos con estas palabras: “Dos de las pandillas más violentas de Centro América, la Mara Salvatrucha y Barrio 18 controlan y batallan por territorio en El Salvador, sobre todo en comunidades pobres y marginadas donde la violencia, el asesinato, la violación, la extorsión y las amenazas permean la vida diaria de los vecinos, incluidos los niños”.

Durante los días del 25 al 28 de agosto se celebrará en el Centro de Conferencias de Kanuga en Hendersonville, Carolina del Norte, una conferencia titulada “Nuevo Amanecer” especialmente diseñada para los laicos y clérigos que trabajan en el ministerio hispano. El evento será patrocinado por la oficina de Ministerio Latino de la Iglesia Episcopal y contará con el aporte de la oficina similar de la Iglesia Luterana (ELCA). Informes Nancy Frausto, coordinadora, frausto.nancy@gmail.com.

Tom Ehrich, sacerdote episcopal director de Religion News Service, dice en su más reciente columna: “No son los inmigrantes mexicanos los que han causado grandes cambios en el lugar de trabajo en Estados Unidos. Tampoco son los hondureños ni los guatemaltecos los que han robado la vida de las comunidades americanas. Son los “patriotas” con pistola al cinto gritando odio a los niños refugiados y regando veneno en el lado equivocado”.

Si usted conoce alguna persona que le gustaría leer este noticiero dígale que con mucho gusto lo incluiremos en la lista. Escriba a obisposoto@aol.com

Ante una nutrida audiencia la opositora venezolana Lilian Tintori, dio una conferencia en el Club de Prensa de Washington en la que pidió a todos los países del mundo a que presionen al gobierno venezolano para que ponga en libertad a todos los presos políticos. Entre ellos se encuentra su esposo Leopoldo López preso desde febrero que según informes de prensa será juzgado el 23 de julio.

El problema de los inmigrantes en la frontera sur de Estados Unidos sigue complicándose. Ahora el gobernador de Texas, Rick Perry, está enviando 1,000 efectivos de la Guardia Nacional para impedir el ingreso de indocumentados al país. Perry se considera un “cristiano evangélico fundamentalista”.

La ofensiva israelí sigue en ascenso en la Franja de Gaza. Hasta el momento más de 600 palestinos y 20 soldados israelitas han muerto. El único hospital cristiano de la franja ha dicho que no puede atender a tantos heridos, aún trabajando día y moche.

Antonio Castañeda, presidente de la Asociación Yoruba de Cuba, ha fallecido a los 67 años. El culto africano en Cuba se ha extendido rápidamente durante los últimos 50 años. Según la prensa oficial la asociación tiene 20,000 miembros en el país y muchos otros en el extranjero. Castañeda era “babalao” (sacerdote) de la Asociación Yoruba y además pertenecía a la asamblea del Poder Popular.

Rubem Alves distinguido teólogo, escritor y filósofo brasileño falleció el 19 de julio en Campinas, Brasil, a la edad de 80 años. Realizó estudios teológicos en el Seminario Presbiteriano de Campinas, el Union Seminary de Nueva York y la Universidad de Princeton en Nueva Jersey. Durante su vida escribió 40 libros que han sido traducidos a varios idiomas. Muchos lo consideran uno de “los padres” de la Teología de la Liberación. Su velorio tuvo lugar en la Cámara Municipal de Campinas.

VERDAD. “Acaso no soy yo el que te ordeno que seas fuerte y valiente? No temas ni te acobardes, porque el Señor, tu Dios, estará contigo dondequiera que vayas”. Josué 1:9.

Churches call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[World Council of Churches press release] Expressing grave concern over the escalation of military operations in Gaza, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, “Hostilities must cease. Israel, Palestine and the surrounding region must be offered the hope of peace: a peace based in justice, a lasting peace that may lead toward reconciliation”.

In an official statement from the WCC issued on 22 July, Tveit expressed deep sadness over the “human devastation on every side, and the disproportionately high number of Palestinian civilian casualties, including women and children”.

On behalf of the 345 member churches of the WCC, Tveit appealed to “all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law” which condemn and prohibit all kinds of indiscriminate and disproportionate killing of civilians.

Tveit shared the WCC’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza. He urged lifting of restrictions on the movement of persons and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip so that urgent humanitarian needs can be dealt with.

In the statement, WCC also called for the resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution along internationally recognized borders.

Tveit said that the “latest resort to armed conflict – and the consequent intolerable suffering inflicted on families and communities – can do nothing to promote a just and sustainable peace for Israelis and Palestinians”.

He added that “peace in Israel and Palestine will come only through the restoration of compassion between human beings, through seeking together common paths towards justice and peace, and through a genuine commitment to creating the basis for future generations of Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace.”

Read full text of the WCC general secretary’s statement

WCC member churches in the Middle East

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2013 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 140 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.

Detroit delays water shutoff 15 days

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 21, 2014

More than a thousand protesters gathered in Detroit, Michigan, July 18 in defense of water rights including actor Mark Ruffalo, a water rights activist, who attended the march and rally. Photo: T.R. Smith/Diocese of Michigan

[Episcopal News Service] The building crowd – which swelled to more than 1,000 protesters on July 18 in downtown Detroit – had a chant growing ever louder.

“What do we want?  Water. When do we want it? Now.”

Their voices were apparently heard. Monday, after months of residential water shutoffs designed to help the bankrupt city of Detroit raise money and after several protests, the city’s water department announced it has suspended residential cutoffs for 15 days.

“This is a pause. This is not a moratorium,” water department spokesman Bill Johnson told The Detroit News. “We are pausing to give an opportunity to customers who have trouble paying their bills to come in and make arrangements with us. We want to make sure we haven’t missed any truly needy people.”

Increase efforts will also be made for the department to communicate methods of making payment arrangements with religious and community leaders.

Prior to the 15-day suspension, cutoffs were met with protests from civic and religious leaders, who believe if businesses were held to the same standard as the residents, there would be no need for “heavy-handed tactics.”

Last week, the protesters marched from Cobo Center to Hart Plaza, near the city’s riverfront. Earlier in the day, a group of protesters was arrested as it blocked trucks from leaving a facility contracted to administer the shutoffs. One of those arrested was the Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman, rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Corktown.

It was the second time in a little more than a week Wylie-Kellerman was arrested in an act of civil disobedience, blocking the entrance to Homrich Industries.

The police tried to “move us forcibly, and we sat down,” he said after his first arrest. “We’re here to appeal to the workers to stop shutting off the water.”

It is estimated up to 3,000 residences weekly are having their water service cut for being at least two months behind in payments and that nearly 30,000 homes could have their service cut. So far, around 17,000 homes had their service stopped.

Although the city’s water department has encouraged those with accounts in arrears to set up a repayment plan to prevent service from being stopped, it hasn’t been a smooth process.

“I’m on assistance, which I’m not proud to say,” said Detroiter Carl Gardner, part of a march protesting the water shutoffs. “Yeah, money from welfare helps pay utilities. At least, it’s supposed to. But, man, it doesn’t pay it all.

“Understand, when you are deciding what to do with what’s left, do you choose food or paying on a bill that the city hasn’t tried to collect on in as long as I can remember?”

More than a thousand people marched in Detroit, Michigan, in defense of water rights on July 18. Photo: T.R. Smith/Diocese of Michigan

Many who have been shut off claim to have not received water bills lately, or in any sort of regular fashion.

“The water shutoffs in Detroit are a catastrophe,” said the Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs Jr., bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. “The people most at risk have no voice.”

A big part of Detroit’s ailments has been a shrinking tax base caused by a dwindling population. Over the course of several decades, Detroit’s population has tumbled from 2 million in the 1950s to 700,000. What was once one of the nation’s wealthiest cities is now one of the poorest.  So distressed is the city that steps were taken by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to appoint an emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, to oversee the economic recovery of the city by handling all of its financial matters.

However, the idea of stepping up collection efforts with shutoffs in a city with more than 40 percent of its residents living below the poverty level is troubling to many.

“Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying. In other words, when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, who specializes on water and sanitations issues for the United Nations, in a statement.

At Friday’s rally in Detroit, organizers from the National Nurses United presented their opposition to the shutoffs, citing a potential public health crisis.

“This is not a Third World country,” explained Ivie Jefferson, a Detroit resident for 52 years. “Prisoners are afforded the opportunity to use water, even behind bars. You can’t just hold prisoners without giving them basic human essentials, such as water. I see it as a God-given right for prisoners, and it’s a God-given right for common folk.

“It’s another case of the poor being oppressed by thugs masquerading as being dictators in charge. It ain’t right. And it ain’t staying this way. We will continue to protest – peacefully, I have to say – until our voices are heard. See all these brothers and sisters walking with me? We’re not happy.

“Community groups support us. Many churches and religious leaders believe in challenging the wrongness of this.”

“People could get sick,” said L.C. Witt, a nurse from Kalamazoo, Michigan, who traveled two hours to attend the rally and march. “In the most basic human conditions, you have to understand fresh water is needed to clean, nourish and to deal with human waste. How unreasonable is it to afford the poorest of our citizens not only water for reasons of health and safety, but also for the issue of basic human dignity?

“We are a not asking for a handout. We’re asking that the marginalized citizens of Detroit be treated with the same respect given to large corporations.”

First-term Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan admitted while there is a need to collect water and other overdue bills due to the city, he also expressed disapproval over the collection methods and the lack of fully communicating the shutoffs before they began. But, because of the emergency financial manager arrangement, he has no real authority over Detroit’s water department.

Judge Steven Rhodes, however, did take the opportunity to address the collection methods during bankruptcy court proceedings last week.

“Your residential shutoff program has caused not only a lot of anger in the city and also a lot of hardship,” Rhodes said to the deputy director of the water department, Darryl Latimer. “It’s caused a lot of bad publicity for the city it doesn’t need right now.”

Here’s another spin-off from the water shutoffs: According to Leilani Farha, a U.N. adequate housing authority, children could be separated from their families by social services representatives due to inadequate living conditions.

“If these water disconnections disproportionately affect African-Americans they may be discriminatory, in violation of treaties the U.S. has ratified,” Farha said.

The irony, as many people see it? The region has no issues with a water shortage. Nearly 20 percent of the world’s freshwater supply can be found in the five Great Lakes surrounding Michigan.

“The lack of affordable access to clean water in the United States in 2014 is shameful,” Gibbs said. “And yet, the government persists in spending more money to shut off the water than it would in assistance to needy citizens to pay their water bill.

“It seems that Detroit has taken a further negative step in bankruptcy – from financial to moral bankruptcy.”

– Rick Schulte is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.

Fellowships announced for poverty alleviation, environment

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 21, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Samuel McDonald, Episcopal Church Director of Mission and Deputy Chief Operating Officer, has announced the recipients of the one-year and two-year Justice and Advocacy Fellowships for social justice and advocacy work for The Episcopal Church.

The Justice and Advocacy Fellowships for Domestic Poverty and Environmental Stewardship, new initiatives of The Episcopal Church, will provide financial support for service, professional development and education to those who are engaged in poverty alleviation and environmental stewardship.

Focusing on the Anglican Marks of Mission Mark 4 and Mark 5, the 2014 Justice and Advocacy Fellowships are sponsored by the Episcopal Church Office of Justice and Advocacy Ministries.

The Domestic Poverty Fellowships
The Domestic Poverty Fellowships are one-year each at $24,000 and call for addressing domestic poverty in communities.

The Rev. Susan Heath of South Carolina and the Rev. Sarah Monroe of Washington were awarded the Domestic Poverty Fellowships.

Heath is sponsored by the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  She wrote in her application: “South Carolina is plagued by generational domestic poverty.  Our public education system suffers in many parts of the state. My fellowship application theme is to address these ills by bringing the combined voices and action of Episcopal congregations along with other churches in the conversation.”

Monroe is sponsored by the Episcopal Network Collaboration (Episcopal Network for Economic Justice, Episcopal Ecological Network and Union of Black Episcopalians). She wrote in her application: “My focus will be on poverty in rural and working class communities, using Aberdeen, WA as a case study. I will focus specifically on rural homelessness, as it intersects with a post-industrial economy, indigenous struggle, high poverty rates and immigration.”

The Environmental Stewardship Fellowship
The Environmental Stewardship Fellowships are two-years each at $48,000 (over two years) and will provide leadership on key environmental issues in affected domestic communities.

Cynthia Coe of Tennessee and Sarah Nolan of California were awarded the Environmental Stewardship Fellowships

Coe is sponsored by the DuBose Conference Center, an Episcopal facility owned by the three Episcopal dioceses located in Tennessee.  She wrote in her application: “This fellowship will introduce environmental education to young people through summer camp activities. Leader training workshops will also be offered to share this program with other camps, schools and parishes.”

Nolan is sponsored by The Beecken Center at the School of Theology at Sewanee. She wrote in her application: “Through the intentional growth of an organizational eco-system, the Farm, Faith and Food initiative will provide nourishment through building relationships, disseminating resources and sharing stories rooted in agricultural and food based ministries of all shapes and sizes.”

The Justice and Advocacy Fellowships
A total of 33 applications were received.  The applications were reviewed by a seven-person committee of laity and clergy from throughout the Church who then made the granting recommendations.“We are pleased that the recipients of the Justice and Advocacy Fellowships for Domestic Poverty and Environmental Stewardship are well-versed in their areas and will focus on their mission and ministry,” explained the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Domestic Poverty Missioner.

For more information contact Stevenson at Mstevenson@episcopalchurch.org or Jayce Hafner, Episcopal Church Domestic Policy Analyst, at jhafner@episcopalchurch.org.

 

Grace Cathedral dean to become Stanford’s dean for religious life

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 21, 2014

[Stanford University Press release] The Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, has been named dean for religious life at Stanford University, Provost John Etchemendy announced today. Shaw will also be joining the faculty in Stanford’s Department of Religious Studies.

Shaw, a historian and theologian who is at present also a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, has served as dean of the Episcopal Grace Cathedral since 2010. She previously taught at the University of Oxford.

Shaw, 51, will succeed the Rev. William “Scotty” McLennan Jr., who is stepping down after 14 years. She will assume her position as Stanford’s spiritual leader this fall.

At Stanford, Shaw will provide spiritual, religious and ethical leadership to the university community, serve as minister of Memorial Church and also teach undergraduates and graduate students as a professor of religious studies.

“We are lucky to have found in Jane Shaw both a charismatic leader and an accomplished academic to lead our Office for Religious Life,” said Etchemendy. “Dean Shaw is equally committed to the educational mission of the university and the ecumenical mission of Memorial Church.”

“I am delighted to be joining Stanford as dean for religious life,” Shaw said. “The opportunity to serve at this extraordinary university is a great privilege. It will be my pleasure to work with so many wonderful colleagues and students to relate religious and ethical questions to the cutting-edge work being done at Stanford University, and to provide spiritual leadership for this exceptional academic community. I am also thrilled to be joining the excellent Religious Studies Department as a professor.”

At Grace Cathedral, Shaw has been responsible for overseeing its mission, vision and spiritual life, and has provided leadership to the extended community of an iconic house of prayer known locally, nationally and internationally. The inclusive Grace Cathedral congregation is known for welcoming pilgrims, seekers and believers; embracing innovation; fostering open-minded conversation; and putting beliefs into action.

During her time as dean of Grace Cathedral, Shaw has overseen growth in all areas of the cathedral community’s life, not least in its artistic, cultural and educational events, which have tripled over the past four years. She founded a resident artist program, and also developed educational programming that related questions of values and ethics to the issues of the day, such as the environment and technology.

“Jane Shaw will bring her vision, broad experience and deep commitment to service to the Office for Religious Life,” said William Damon, a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford and co-chair of the search committee for the position. “The Stanford community will be enhanced by her spiritual leadership.”

Shaw joined Grace Cathedral from the University of Oxford, where she taught history and theology for 16 years and was Dean of Divinity and Fellow of New College. A historian of modern religion, she is the author ofMiracles in Enlightenment England (Yale, 2006); Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and Her Followers (Yale, 2011), which won the San Francisco Book Festival History Prize; and A Practical Christianity: Meditations for the Season of Lent (Morehouse, 2012).

Shaw has given several lectures at Stanford on topics including the role of the modern cathedral and reasons behind the 20th-century flight from institutional religion. In 2009, Shaw delivered the Palm Sunday sermon in Memorial Church. While at Stanford this spring, on a short sabbatical leave from Grace Cathedral, she has been researching the moral imagination, a project she is working on with actress, playwright and Grace Cathedral trustee Anna Deavere Smith. Shaw is also working on a book on spirituality and mysticism in the early 20th century.

Shaw was educated as an undergraduate at Oxford; she holds an MDiv from Harvard and a PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been awarded honorary doctorates by Colgate University and Episcopal Divinity School.

National Council of Churches opposes Israeli invasion of Gaza

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 21, 2014

[National Council of Churches USA press release] The President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA expressed deep disappointment and sadness Friday over the invasion of Gaza by Israeli Defense Forces.

The Israeli government said it is “hitting Hamas hard” following the Palestinian faction’s refusal to accept a peace plan brokered by Egypt.

NCC President and General Secretary Jim Winkler said, “The overwhelming military superiority possessed by Israel, exhibited by days of air strikes against Gaza and the consequent deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and the wounding of thousands more, guarantees the besieged and impoverished people who live there will suffer much more.”

Nearly 300 persons have been killed in Gaza during recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas, and 1800 persons have been injured.

“The deaths of 18 members of one Palestinian family, and of four little boys playing on the beach, as a result of Israeli attacks are just a few of the heartbreaking results of the conflict,” Winkler said.

“Just as we express opposition to Israel’s invasion, so too do we oppose the firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel,” Winkler said. “We grieve at the news of the death of an Israeli as a result of a rocket attack.”

“One thing is certain,” Winkler said. “Israel’s invasion of Gaza will not bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine nor will rocket fire from Gaza bring peace. The long cycle of violence must be broken. It appears neither side possesses the courage, faith, or imagination necessary to alter the dynamics of the situation in a positive direction. Too many Palestinians and Israelis are held captive by the self-defeating notion that violence must be met by violence to bring about a secure future. I will continue to pray that God’s word is heeded in the land we consider holy, and that God’s peace will ultimately prevail.”

The current round of fighting between Hamas and Israel was triggered by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, allegedly by Palestinians, and the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian youth, allegedly by Israelis.

The National Council of Churches supports a viable two-state solution, which takes into account the right to self-determination of, and security for, both Israelis and Palestinians; an end to Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian land, and resolution of issues such as refugees, the Separation Barrier, checkpoints settlements, water resources, and the status of a shared Jerusalem.

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El Salvador: violencia, inseguridad e impunidad conducen al desplazamiento

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 21, 2014

[Episcopal News Service – San Salvador, El Salvador] La hija de 13 años de Irene desapareció al salir de la escuela el 15 de febrero de 2012, en una municipalidad del noroeste de San Salvador controlada por las pandillas. El cadáver de la niña lo encontraron dos días después; Irene se enteró por un noticiero de la televisión local.

“Estoy muy atemorizada por mis otros hijos, que algo les pueda ocurrir debido a la violencia”, dijo Irene, durante una entrevista con ENS en el Instituto de Derechos Humanos que tiene su sede en la Universidad Centroamericana en San Salvador.

Ella tiene dos hijos de 10 y 13 años; uno desapareció brevemente y no habla del tema.

Aunque Irene —éste no es su verdadero nombre— le gustaría ver procesados a los asesinos de su hija, la investigación que lleva a cabo el Estado, la cual incluye el secuestro y el asesinato semejante de otras cuatro niñas, significa que ella y su familia viven en constante temor de represalias. Independientemente de si prosigue la investigación, explica Karla Salas, abogada de derechos humanos, los miembros de la pandilla asociados con los asesinos la amenazan y la hostigan a ella y a su familia. No cuentan con ninguna protección.

“Cuando el Estado se muestra negligente en el manejo de estos casos, la gente acude aquí”, agregó Salas.

Dos de las pandillas más violentas de Centroamérica, la Mara Salvatrucha y Barrio 18, controlan y batallan por territorio en El Salvador, sobre todo en comunidades pobres y marginales donde la violencia, el asesinato, la violación, la extorsión y las amenazas permean la vida diaria de los vecinos, incluidos los niños. Es esta realidad la que en parte ha conducido a la crisis humanitaria que actualmente tiene lugar a lo largo de la frontera de EE.UU. y México, donde más de 44.000 menores no acompañados de El Salvador, Honduras y Guatemala —los otros dos países del Triángulo Norte [de América Central] con problemas de pandillerismo— han sido detenidos en el cruce de la frontera.

“El problema de los menores no acompañados es sólo un elemento de un problema de inmigración más amplio. No es nuevo, es algo que se ha estado desarrollando a lo largo de dos o tres años, pero ahora es que ha cobrado notoriedad en la prensa”, dijo Noah Bullock, director ejecutivo de la Fundación Cristosal, una organización para el desarrollo comunitario basada en los derechos humanos que se arraiga en las iglesias anglicana y episcopal que funcionan en El Salvador.

“Cuando miramos a la inmigración en Estados Unidos tendemos a verlo como un gran bloque, y lo entendemos como [el fenómeno] de personas que buscan trabajo y una vida mejor. Pero no nos fijamos en las personas que escapan de conflictos muy serios y de amenazas de violencia, y esos casos sacan a relucir problemas de protección”, afirmó.

En Colombia, décadas de guerra civil y de violencia asociada con el crimen organizado han desplazado internamente a cinco millones de personas y cerca de 400.000 responden a los criterios para el reconocimiento de la condición de refugiado. La violencia de las pandillas y el crimen organizado han conducido al desplazamiento interno y externo de centroamericanos, aunque debido a la falta de una guerra declarada y de la naturaleza criminal del conflicto, el fenómeno no ha sido formalmente abordado desde la perspectiva de las violaciones de los derechos humanos y de la protección internacional, y los tradicionales procedimientos de asilo resultan difíciles de aplicar.

A diferencia de Colombia, donde el desplazamiento interno y externo ha sido bien documentado por el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados y otros organismos no gubernamentales, el desplazamiento se estudia menos en Centroamérica.

“Es un fenómeno menos visible, menos documentado en El Salvador, no existe realmente una estrategia nacional para abordarlo”, dijo Bullock.

En efecto, los perfiles nacionales del ACNUR para El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras juntos no incluyen ni un solo desplazado interno.

La Fundación Cristosal cobró consciencia por primera vez de las personas desplazadas por la violencia cuando, junto con la Iglesia Anglicana-Episcopal de El Salvador, supervisó el programa de reasentamiento de refugiados del ACNUR.

“El año pasado conseguimos más de 150 personas que eran salvadoreños y que buscaban asilo fuera del país, de manera que lo que vemos en los niños debería de verse como parte de un patrón histórico de desplazamiento que ha estado sucediendo durante mucho tiempo”, dijo Bullock en una entrevista con ENS en su oficina de San Salvador.

Tanto el desplazamiento interno como externo, añadió Bullock, tienen causas comunes: falta de bienestar en las comunidades salvadoreñas, violencia generalizada e incapacidad del Estado de salvaguardar las vidas de las personas e imponer el imperio de la ley mediante el procesamiento de las organizaciones delictivas.

“Todas esas cosas, la incapacidad de proteger a los testigos, la incapacidad de mantener escuelas y zonas seguras donde los niños tienen su esparcimiento… esas son áreas que han sido terreno de reclutamiento de las pandillas y donde fundamentalmente se hacen las amenazas”, explicó Bullock. “Son una causa común del desplazamiento interno y externo”.

El ACNUR, en su informe sobre las necesidades de reasentamiento previstas para 2014 a nivel global, calculaba que habría 691.000 refugiados, sin tomar en cuenta el flujo de refugiados de Siria. En 2012, hubo 86.000 espacios disponibles.

En el Día Mundial de los Refugiados en junio se informó que el número de refugiados en todo el mundo había sobrepasado los 50 millones por primera vez desde la primera guerra mundial.

En 2014 se cumple el 30º. aniversario de la Declaración de Cartagena, la cual enmendaba la definición de 1951 y la de 1967 de lo que significa ser un refugiado para incluir a “personas que han huido de su país porque sus vidas, su seguridad o su libertad han sido amenazadas por la violencia generalizada, la agresión extranjera, los conflictos internos, la violación masiva de los derechos humanos u otras circunstancias que hayan perturbado seriamente el orden público”.

Los países de América Central y México adoptaron el protocolo, que no fue reconocido por Estados Unidos, en un momento en que tanto Guatemala como El Salvador estaban librando guerras civiles y cuando los rebeldes contras luchaban contra el gobierno sandinista en Nicaragua.

“En Centroamérica hubo desde fines de los años 60, y a través de los 70, los 80 y los 90 sus buenas tres décadas ininterrumpidas de guerra. Y luego las guerras terminaron y no hubo una resolución muy efectiva de algunas de esas causas estructurales; después hay otras dos décadas de conflicto social que no tienen un nombre como un conflicto armado tradicional, pero que producen muertes en la misma escala”, añadió Bullock. “De manera que, esencialmente, en Centroamérica ha habido 50 años de guerra de baja intensidad y en verdad no deberíamos de sorprendernos que tengamos una crisis de refugiados en Estados Unidos”.

“Nunca nos atrevimos a usar la palabra ‘refugiado’; antes eran inmigrantes, eran ilegales… y ahora porque son niños estamos más dispuestos a ver a los centroamericanos que llegan a nuestras fronteras como algo más”, dijo Bullock. “Tres semanas de crisis humanitaria y de refugiados, cinco décadas de conflicto”.

En una declaración del 10 de julio en que abordaba la crisis de la frontera, la obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori instó a los episcopales a dirigirse a sus legisladores y pedirles que apoyaran una “respuesta humanitaria adecuada a la crisis”.

Entre tanto, la Fundación Cristosal trabaja con organizaciones de derechos humanos y la sociedad civil, entre ellos el Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana, para formular un análisis más abarcador del desplazamiento interno y externo, así como una propuesta que aborde ambos fenómenos, según Bullock.

“Lo que estamos tratando de hacer ahora con nuestro programa es responder a esas necesidades, pero no hay respuestas perfectas porque las causas son muy estructurales y profundas”, apuntó. “Tienes que ser capaz de intentarlo y ayudar a alguien en una crisis humanitaria inmediata, pero también tratar de empeñarte en resolver algunos de los problemas estructurales que están creando las crisis humanitarias”, afirmó.

En la edición del 13 de julio de La prensa, uno de los dos principales diarios de El Salvador, los titulares de primera página iban desde la Copa Mundial a los 375.000 casos de inmigración bloqueados en los tribunales de EE.UU., así como el homicidio de dos adolescentes. En el cuerpo del periódico había una noticia sobre una muchacha violada por su tío en su viaje al norte, un artículo que se proponía la disuasión de emprender viajes semejantes. A principios de semana, había artículos centrados en tratar de disuadir a las familias de que enviaran a sus hijos al norte.

“Esto es algo que la Casa Blanca señala”, dijo Bullock. “Los tratantes de personas y la información que les dan a las familias parecen motivarlas a enviar a sus hijos; creen que les va mejor corriendo el riesgo en base a la información que el coyote les da…  queremos que las personas cuenten con otros medios de obtener información que sea un poco más objetiva que las que le daría un tratante de personas”.

Los abogados de la Fundación Cristosal, explicó él, no intervienen, sin embargo, en la toma de decisiones de vida o muerte con las personas; eso es algo que en último término le compete a un miembro de la familia. Lo que hacen los abogados es tratar de darles a las familias una buena información, de manera que puedan tomar decisiones con conocimiento de causa.

“La Casa Blanca gasta un millón de dólares en publicidad para disuadir a las familias de enviar a sus hijos”, añadió Bullock. “Pero eso no es más que otra forma de propaganda; a lo que las personas responden es al auténtico consejo objetivo de organizaciones como Cristosal”.

La Universidad Centroamericana fundó el Instituto de Derechos Humanos en 1986 en respuesta al número abrumador de violaciones de derechos humanos cometidos durante la guerra civil de 12 años en El Salvador, en la cual asesinaron a 75,000 personas. En ese tiempo el instituto hizo hincapié en la inmigración debido al gran número de personas que huían del país para escapar del conflicto armado, dijo Salas, el abogado de derechos humanos que representa a Irene, en una entrevista en su oficina de la universidad.

Irene se despierta a las 3:00 A.M. todas las mañanas y se dirige a su puesto de venta de comida. Para las 2:00 P.M. ya está de vuelta a su casa de donde no vuelve a salir. Sus hijos van a la escuela y vuelven, y nada más. La familia, incluida la madre de Irene, vive con $6 diarios, dijo ella.

El ACNUR no cuenta con una oficina dentro del país para los que buscan asilo. Irene y su familia deben hacer su petición de asilo fuera de El Salvador. Salas dijo que ella y otros trabajan con una agencia catolicorromana en Europa —la Universidad Centroamericana es católica— que ha convenido en ayudar a la familia con su petición, pero ellos deben cubrir por sí mismos los gastos de viaje.

En el ínterin, la familia vive con miedo y sigue recibiendo amenazas de los miembros de la pandilla que indagan con sorna cómo marcha la investigación. Incluso si el Estado le ofreciera protección a testigos o confidentes, no podría garantizar su seguridad, dijo Salas.

“La pondrían con la misma gente que mató a su hija”, recalcó ella.

- Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service

Traducción de Vicente Echerri

 

Deadline extended for United Thank Offering special anniversary grants

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 21, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The deadline has been extended to August 15 for The Episcopal Church United Thank Offering special “seed money” grants of $12,500 to one bishop in each of the Church’s nine provinces, and to the Presiding Bishop, for a total of $125,000.

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

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

Application deadline is August 15.   Applications available here.

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

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

 

Sin precedente el número de niños detenidos al cruzar la frontera

ENS Headlines - Monday, July 21, 2014

Inmigrantes de Centroamérica llegan al centro local de refugiados en McAllen. Uno de ellos lleva información de donde viven varios de sus parientes en Estados Unidos. Foto de Trish Motheral.

[Episcopal News Service] Dieciséis muchachos con edades de entre 14 y 17 años se reunieron el 6 de julio en torno a un mapa de América en el que fijaron notas adhesivas con sus nombres de pila junto a sus países de origen. La mayoría de las notas fueron a dar a Guatemala, seguida por Honduras.

Entonces, la Rda. Susan Copley les pidió a los adolescentes que pusieran las notas junto al lugar al que se dirigían. Algunos dijeron que se quedarían con parientes en Nueva York; otros se dirigían a Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland y California.

Un mes antes, el 5 de enero, Copley y algunos voluntarios de su iglesia comenzaron a visitar a los menores no acompañados en Abbott House, una agencia de servicios regional de carácter comunitario que tiene su sede central en Irvington, Nueva York, un pequeño pueblo del valle del río Hudson, justo al sur de Tarrytown, donde Copley es el rector de la iglesia de Cristo y la misión de San Marcos [Christ Church and San Marcos Mission].

Además de llevar a cabo visitas semanales, donde juegan deportes con los chicos y celebran una eucaristía abreviada en español, los miembros de la iglesia oran por los niños y se movilizan para apoyarlos. En una tarde, sus congregaciones de habla inglesa y española recaudaron $1.000 para comprar zapatos para los niños, algunos de los cuales llegaron descalzos a Abbott House.

No se trata sólo de proporcionarles a los niños “un contacto positivo con las personas que se ocupan de ellos”, invitando a diferentes miembros de la iglesia de Cristo y de la comunidad de San Marcos, lo cual contribuye a contrapesar algo de la negatividad que acompaña sus relatos, dijo Copley.

Desde principios de junio, las cifras récord de menores de edad no acompañados que han cruzado la frontera suroccidental [de Estados Unidos] fundamentalmente de Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador— y la crisis humanitaria que se les asocia ha estado en las noticias, en las cuales los políticos han estado sorteándose la culpa, y los que protestan haciendo titulares.

Con excepción de los menores no acompañados provenientes de México y Canadá, que pueden ser devueltos inmediatamente a sus países de origen conforme a la ley de inmigración de EE.UU. de 2008, los menores que llegan solos deben ser detenidos por las autoridades estadounidenses y sujetos a una vista de deportación, que puede tomar años. Un menor no acompañado es por definición una persona menor de 18 años de edad que está separada de ambos padres y no se encuentra al cuidado de un tutor ni de ningún otro adulto.

Para ajustarse al influjo de menores inmigrantes, el gobierno ha improvisado albergues en bases militares y ha contratado hogares de tránsito, como Abbott House, donde los menores pueden ser atendidos antes de entregárselos a un pariente, con quién estarían hasta el momento de la vista de inmigración.

Abbott House les brinda a los menores que llegan solos cama y comida, asesoría de caso, consejería individual, servicios médicos y educativos, recreación y actividades de esparcimiento, aculturación, servicios legales, transporte y acceso a servicios religiosos antes de ubicarlos con familiares o en acogida temporal, según un comunicado de prensa del 4 de junio.

Las iglesias acuden a la frontera

En un llamado del pasado 3 de julio a la Diócesis de Texas Occidental, el obispo Gary Lillibridge describió las necesidades humanitarias de su diócesis, particularmente en las poblaciones fronterizas de McAllen y Laredo.

La iglesia episcopal de San Juan [St. John’s Episcopal Church] en McAllen, con la colaboración de Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales, se ha incorporado a una campaña mayor, la Comunidad de Fe de McAllen para la Recuperación de Desastres, un grupo de agencias eclesiásticas y gubernamentales que se han asociado para responder a crisis, mediante la ayuda  con comidas y lavado de ropa para individuos y familias albergados en la iglesia católica del Sagrado Corazón [Sacred Heart Catholic Church] o en tiendas levantadas en su entorno.

San Juan comenzó preparando mochilas con artículos de higiene personal, tales como jabones, champús y acondicionadores tamaño de viaje, un peine, un cepillo de dientes y otros artículos, así como paquetes de suplementos nutritivos, tales como galletitas de mantequilla de maní y barras de cereal.

“Organizamos ‘grupos de embalaje’ en la iglesia todos los domingos y miércoles y juntamos tantos paquetes como podemos, y embalamos esos paquetes según se necesitan”, dijo la Rda. Nancy Springer, auxiliar del rector en San Juan.

Empeños semejantes están teniendo lugar en Laredo, donde los feligreses de la iglesia de Cristo [Christ Church] preparan mochilas que también contienen artículos de higiene personal y nutricionales, para entregárselos a los niños y sus familiares que acuden a su ciudad.

Y en Arizona, donde se dijo que mujeres y niños se bajaban en las estaciones de autobuses de Tucson y Phoenix, la Iglesia también se ha sumado a los empeños interreligiosos.

Sin embargo, la crisis en el triángulo norte de América Central no sólo concierne a los niños, sino a los adultos y a las familias también. En las últimas semanas, decenas de miles de mujeres con niños y otros núcleos  familiares que huyen de la violencia en Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras han llegado a Texas y Arizona, según explica una reciente actualización de la defensa de la inmigración  de la Red Episcopal de Política Pública: “Cuando las mujeres y los niños huyen de sus hogares en estas cifras ello indica una crisis humanitaria, no una amenaza a la seguridad”, dijo Katie Conway, analista de inmigración y refugiados de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Los episcopales a través del país han respondido a la crisis con compasión y amoroso servicio y llamamos al Presidente y al Congreso a hacer lo mismo. Creemos que Estados Unidos es capaz de hacerle frente a este desafío sin comprometer nuestros valores o nuestra seguridad, y sin darles la espalda a madres e hijos vulnerables que buscan paz y protección”.

(El 25 de junio, Conway y Alexander Baumgarten, director de la Oficina de Relaciones Gubernamentales de la Iglesia Episcopal con sede en Washington, D.C. presentó un testimonio ante el Congreso respecto a la crisis en nombre de la Iglesia.

En marzo, el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR), expresó su preocupación por el creciente número de niños que cruzaban la frontera “empujados por la violencia, la inseguridad y el abuso en sus comunidades y en sus hogares” y pidió a los organismos gubernamentales “que tomaran medidas para mantener a los menores de edad a salvo de abusos de derechos humanos, violencia y delitos, y para garantizarles su acceso al asilo y a otras formas de protección internacional”.

El ACNUR fundamenta su preocupación y su llamado a la acción en un informe de 120 páginas titulado Niños en fuga, que se basa en entrevistas con más de 400 menores no acompañados provenientes de Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras y México que se encuentran bajo detención federal. El informe indica que muchos de los niños creían que corrían peligro en sus países de origen y que serían seleccionados por las autoridades que evaluarían sus necesidades de protección internacional sobre la marcha.

El informe dice también que muchos de los jóvenes entrevistados eran parte de movimientos de una  “migración mixta”, que incluye tanto a individuos necesitados de protección internacional como a migrantes en busca de trabajo.

“Es de suma importancia advertir que la vasta mayoría de estos niños pueden ser en verdad solicitantes de asilo”, dijo Deb Stein, director del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración. “Hablar de deportarlos a las mismas circunstancias terribles de las que huyeron por seguridad sin la oportunidad de buscar protección es ignorar sus derechos conforme a la Convención de los Refugiados de la ONU de 1951, de la cual EE.UU. es signatario. Esto se pierde en la acalorada retórica de deportarlos simplemente porque entraron ilegalmente al país, cuando en efecto no es ilegal solicitar asilo”.

A partir de octubre de 2011, el gobierno de EE.UU. comenzó a advertir un aumento dramático del número de menores no acompañados provenientes de El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, el cual para el año fiscal 2013 había aumentado de 4.059 a 21.573. Para el 15 de junio de 2014, el número había llegado a 51.279 para este año fiscal. Desde 2009, el ACNUR ha registrado un aumento en las solicitudes de asilo [de personas] provenientes de esos mismos tres países. El

Ministerio Episcopal de Migración,  el Ministerio de Justicia y Defensa Social de la Iglesia Episcopal Episcopal y Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales están trabajando juntos para conectar a los episcopales interesados en crear o compartir información, recursos y ayuda mutua para la promoción y el ministerio de la inmigración.

– Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Laura Shaver, encargada de comunicaciones de la Diócesis de Texas Occidental, colaboró con esta información.

Traducción de Vicente Echerri