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House of Bishops to gather in retreat for prayer, reflection, discussion

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 16, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Bishops of The Episcopal Church will gather for the House of Bishops spring retreat meeting March 13 – 17 at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC.

The theme of the gathering will be Fostering a culture of curiosity, compassion and courage in Christ. Meditations will be offered by various bishops on aspects of the theme. Every day there will be meditations, reflection, and worship. At the concluding Eucharist, the bishops will renew their vows.

As in previous years, the spring meeting of the House of Bishops is a retreat and therefore not open to the media. Daily Accounts will be issued. There will be an over-the-phone media conference at the conclusion of the meeting onTuesday, March 17.  Pre-registration required; to register contact Neva Rae Fox, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org.

Coal Country, un centro recreativo que relaciona a los jóvenes con la comunidad

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 16, 2015

Preescolares de Coal Country toman parte en una excursión —dirigida por Beth Garner, especialista en educación del Departamento de Recursos Naturales de Pensilvania— al parque estatal Príncipe Gallitzin. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Northern Cambria, Pensilvania] Contra el cielo cargado de nubes de una mañana de finales de octubre, el edificio de piedra y techo rojo de metal que alberga el Centro Recreativo Juvenil Zona del Carbón [Coal Country Hangout Youth Center] recorta su escueto perfil en la esquina de la avenida Marple y la calle Cottonwood de esta comunidad rural a una hora y 40 minutos en auto al nordeste de Pittsburg en las montañas Allegheny.

Adentro, sin embargo, murales de brillantes colores cuelgan de los paneles de la pared y los sonidos de bebés y niños pequeños dedicados a jugar y a aprender llenan el espacio de lo que es la única guardería infantil y uno de los dos preescolares que existen en Northern Cambria, una comunidad rural aletargada, y en las de Altoona, Johnstown e Indiana, cada una a cuarenta o cincuenta minutos de distancia.

“Cincuenta por ciento de los niños en la guardería tienen padres que trabajan en estas tres comunidades; Northern Cambria es el núcleo”, dijo la Rda. Ann Staples, diácona ejecutiva que fue cofundadora de Coal Country y su directora ejecutiva desde 1996.

Además de dirigir la guardería infantil en un condado donde el 14,9 por ciento de la población vive en la pobreza y de ofrecer educación en la temprana infancia en uno de los distritos escolares más pobres de Pensilvania, Coal Country dirige un programa para adolescentes y jóvenes adultos los viernes y sábados por la noche en un santuario transformado, con un tabloncillo de baloncesto, billares y tenis de mesa en el mismo nivel, y un pequeño laboratorio de computadora en la galería.

“No hay instalaciones para niños en ninguna otra parte en esta zona”, dijo Staples. “Es rural, es aislada, está a sus buenos 35-40 minutos en auto de cualquier cosa que se parezca a un centro recreacional, y es por eso que fundamos Coal Country —de manera que tengan un sitio para no tener que andar por la calle, y poder pasar un buen rato con supervisión”.

Retratos de mineros pintados por estudiantes cuelgan de las paredes del Centro Recreativo Juvenil Coal Country. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Un ambiente seguro, libre de drogas, donde los jóvenes puedan reunirse con sus iguales es importante, dijo Rebecca Pupo, la directora de la escuela secundaria de Northern Cambria durante una entrevista con Episcopal News Service en su oficina, añadiendo que perros detectores de drogas recorrieron recientemente la escuela en busca de marihuana y heroína, drogas que pueden encontrarse en la localidad.

“[Coal Country] sirve sin duda a estos chicos y ellos necesitan de las conexiones sociales positivas”, apuntó ella. “Algunos vuelven a sus hogares para encontrarse una casa vacía… el centro comercial más cercano está a 40 minutos en auto. A menos que un estudiante participe en deportes o en otras actividades extracurriculares, no hay ningún lugar adonde ir.

“No todo el mundo es una persona del fútbol de los viernes”.

El nombre del centro —una organización independiente sin fines de lucro y un ministerio apoyado por la Diócesis de Pittsburg— es un homenaje a la importancia histórica de la industria del carbón para la economía e identidad de la región. Su misión es apoyar a las familias brindándoles acceso a una atención infantil accesible, promover los comportamientos familiares sanos y ayudar a prevenir la delincuencia juvenil.

Para funcionar en una región económicamente deprimida y geográficamente aislada, donde los nexos étnicos se remontan al siglo XIX, sus programas adoptan un enfoque educativo y cultural holístico para abordar los traumas espirituales y emocionales causados por el colapso de la industria del carbón.

“Es [la región de] los Apalaches, donde la gente es muy unida y muy desconfiada de los extraños —se dan cuenta al instante, probablemente antes de que usted abra la boca, de que no es de por todo estos alrededores”, dijo Dorsey McConnell, el obispo de Pittsburg, en una entrevista con ENS en su oficina suburbana de Pittsburg. “De manera que, en ese sentido, Ann ha sido una misionera, porque ha sido capaz de insertarse en esa comunidad y, con el transcurso del tiempo, se ha ganado el afecto y la confianza, creo, que de todo el mundo en esa región”.

Nacida y criada en Corpus Christi, Texas, Staples estudió música con un énfasis en las interpretaciones de piano, a principio de los años 50 en la Universidad Metodista del Sur, en Dallas, pasó luego un año viajando por Europa, e hizo un doctorado en musicología en la Universidad de Indiana en Bloomington, Indiana. Madre de seis hijos y abuela de 13 nietos, enseñó en una universidad en Nueva York y luego, durante 17 años, en la Universidad de Indiana en Pensilvania, a unos 40 minutos al oeste de Northern Cambria.

En Indiana, Staples era miembro de la iglesia episcopal de Cristo [Christ Episcopal Church], cuando, en 1984, la Diócesis de Pittsburg la ordenó diácona. Ella ha servido en parroquias a través de Pensilvania, entre ellas Verona, Murrysville, Indiana, Patton y Northern Cambria, donde sigue prestando servicios en la iglesia episcopal de Santo Tomás [St. Thomas Episcopal Church].

(Ann Staples habla de lo que significa ser diácono)

Junker se movía cómodamente entre la sociedad de Dallas y la gente de la calle, y alentaba a los estudiantes a acompañarlo mientras llevaba a cabo su ministerio. “Esa fue una experiencia definitiva para mí”, dijo Staples. “Para mí fue un modelo de ministerio, la manera en que debe hacerse. Quedarse sentado en la iglesia, no funciona”.El ministerio de Staples se inspira en el del Rdo. Curtis Junker, su capellán universitario en SMU, donde ella abandonó el metodismo y se unió al Canterbury Club.

Staples ha vivido el ejemplo de Junker siendo una presencia visible en la comunidad, relacionándose con funcionarios electos, empresarios, promotores comunitarios, maestros y administradores de escuelas, y gente de la calle. En todo el pueblo todo el mundo la llama “Diácona Ann”.

“Siempre que Ann entre en un salón o una oficina… las personas se levantan para saludarla”, dijo McConnell. “Le tienen un inmenso respeto; la razón es que la gente de Northern Cambria no son un proyecto para ella: son seres humanos, hechos por Dios y redimidos por Jesucristo.

“Ella ha dedicado el tiempo que ha estado allí a cultivar relaciones de todas clases. Eso ha sido estratégico, hasta cierto punto, pero el hecho es que ella está sencillamente comprometida a fortalecer los nexos humanos en esas comunidades de cualquier manera en que pueda hacerlo, y por supuesto esas comunidades son profundamente relacionales”.

La Rda. Ann Staples, diácona episcopal, describe en un mapa la zona rural de Pensilvania al que atiende el Centro Recreativo Juvenil Coal Country. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

El distrito de Northern Cambria, con una población de 5.000 habitantes, fue incorporado en 2000 cuando los pueblos de Spangler y Barnesboro se fusionaron. Fue una movida que tenía por objeto hacer que el pueblo pudiera tener derecho a recibir ayuda federal, pero no la recibió. De hecho, el distrito es tan pequeño que la Oficina del Censo lo incluye en las estadísticas de Johnstown, con una población de 20.000 habitantes.

Staples llegó a Northern Cambria para atender la iglesia episcopal de Santo Tomás [St. Thomas] en septiembre de 1993, al mismo tiempo que la pastora Marty Cartmell, cofundadora de Coal Country, llegaba a hacerse cargo de la iglesia presbiteriana de San Pablo [St. Paul’s]. Durante el verano de 1994, mientras ambas mujeres trataban aún de llegar a conocer la comunidad, cada una fue testigo de las travesuras que suscitaba el tedio de los adolescentes.

“Estuvimos yendo de aquí para allá y viendo cómo era el sitio y descubrimos en las noches de verano a esos chicos que estaban por todo el pueblo, sencillamente por todas partes, por dondequiera”, dijo Staples frente a un sándwich stromboli en Hubcaps Grill, una pizzería que queda frente a la secundaria de Cambria Heights, justo a las afueras de Patton, una de las cuatro secundarias que en que ella ayuda a poner en práctica el programa de aprendizaje experimental de Coal Country.

Los adolescentes habían “inventado un juego divertido en la principal intersección del pueblo, en el semáforo”, contó Staples. “La autopista 219 asciende una cuesta y hace un giro total a la izquierda y se aleja del pueblo. Todos los chicos se reunían y se sentaban en la autopista y hacían un muro hasta el lugar en que los camiones que subían por la 219 tenían que acelerar los motores… para tomar por esa curva. Y allí estaba un muro de muchachos —[los camioneros] les tocaban los cláxones y los chicos saltaban en medio de una gritería”, algo divertido, prosiguió ella.

“Marty y yo vimos esto y dijimos, ‘Dios mío, estos chicos han logrado tener algo que hacer’ y así empezó todo”. Ella afirma que los muchachos nunca estuvieron en peligro. Pero la pared humana era más un indicio de los “insensatos y generalizados actos de vandalismo” que se veían en el pueblo.

(El centro recreativo Coal Country se prepara para un baile)

“Comenzamos con un programa para adolescentes antes de disponer del edificio en que estamos ahora, durante los primeros cuatro años,… luego creamos la guardería infantil, el preescolar y después agregamos el componente de educación experiencial”, explicó Staples.Coal Country comenzó con el programa de adolescentes en 1996. En 2000, la organización compró el edificio, una iglesia catolicorromana desmantelada —una de las 13 que la Diócesis Católica Romana de Altoona-Johnstown cerró ese año— por sólo $1.

La educación experiencial

‘Los índices de graduación en la secundaria regional son elevados, pero el porcentaje de personas que va a la universidad desciende drásticamente. Los salarios en trabajos de minería están en el rango de los $60.000; el ingreso promedio de una familia es de $41.730. En la zona vive un gran porcentaje de personas ancianas que anda en busca de un costo de vida más económico, y personas de bajos ingresos que dependen de los servicios sociales.

El programa de educación experiencial proporciona proyectos creativos y trabajo sobre el terreno, y los estudiantes que participan en el programa de educación experiencial tienden a alcanzar promedios más altos en los exámenes estandarizados, y el 100 por ciento de ellos va a la universidad.

“Miramos en los índices de graduación de cuatro años en los cuatro distritos escolares, del 94 al 97 por ciento. En el nivel postsecundario [ese promedio] desciende del 30 al 35 por ciento en todos los distritos escolares, dijo Staples. “Eso sirve para probar una teoría: uno no puede lograrlo simplemente sentándose en un aula con un libro de texto, sin este tipo de experiencia sobre el terreno.

“Nos sentimos orgullosos [de esos resultados]; creemos que son datos estadísticos interesantes”.

La educación experiencial incluye artes, historia local, educación medioambiental y temas contemporáneos, que juntos sirven para crear conciencia, no sólo a los estudiantes que participan, sino a la comunidad, de un sentido de lugar, no sólo de la producción de carbón de la región y su papel en la construcción de las ciudades de Estados Unidos, sino de su importancia en la historia del país.

“Las cosas que más aprecio de haber crecido en Texas no habrían ocurrido en ninguna otra parte”, dijo Staples, que conserva un acento tejano junto con el uso de ciertas palabrotas con las que ella se crió. “Cualquier lugar donde estés es importante, precisa todas estas cosas que vas a ser de grande”.

Un monumento en piedra y cerámica hecho por estudiantes que participan en el programa de educación experiencial de Coal Country y que marca la Senda de Kittanning, un antiguo camino que cruza por el norte del Condado de Cambria. Foto de: Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Mucho antes de la revolución industrial, nativoamericanos y colonos europeos ocupaban la región. Mediante subvenciones de arte, los estudiantes han erigido monumentos de piedra y de cerámica en los que destacan batallas, así como rutas comerciales y de los colonos. Por ejemplo, el monumento Senda de Kittanning  señala un camino nativoamericano que divide el este del oeste a través de Pensilvania occidental utilizado por los europeos para establecerse en la región y más allá.

“Esta fue la calzada más importante para los colonos en el siglo anterior a que EE.UU. se convirtiera en una país, y creemos que la historia es importante”, dijo Staples, mientras conduce por los ventosos caminos rurales de los montes Allegheny en su Saturno rojo 2003 —cuyo odómetro marca más de 320.000 kilómetros— y sintoniza música clásica en la radio.

En la historia de Estados Unidos, los estudiantes aprenden lo que sucedió en la Costa Oriental “donde tuvo lugar toda la acción. Los chicos crecen sin saber lo que sucedió aquí ni que ello tuvo algún valor”, añadió.

La diácona Ann Staples, el artista Michael Allison y la maestra Kady Manifest discuten un proyecto de arte de un estudiante durante una reunión en la escuela secundaria de Cambria Heights. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Karen Bowman, la profesora de estudios sociales de la secundaria de Northern Cambria, ha dirigido a los estudiantes en cuatro proyectos de historia local, incluido el proyecto de un documental titulado: “Nunca nos dieron la bienvenida en casa: para recordar de los veteranos de Vietnam de PA Occidental” [We Never Got the Welcome Home: Vietnam Vets of Western PA Remembered] este último se terminó con la ayuda de una subvención de $10.000 de History Channel.

La película, producida por 14 estudiantes, recoge a más de dos docenas de veteranos de la zona, quienes reflexionan sobre su regreso de la guerra cerca de 30 años antes, y cómo sus vidas y la región habían cambiado. El Condado de Cambria, con una población de 140.000 tiene una altísima tasa de servicio militar y es el lugar de origen de más de 13.000 veteranos.

En la clase de biología del profesor Ron Yuhas, una subvención medioambiental de Coal Country le permitió a los estudiantes salir al campo para medir la calidad del agua en la rama occidental del Susquehanna y evaluar el daño proveniente del drenaje del ácido de las minas.

“Los muchachos son amantes de la naturaleza y deportistas y están preocupados por la calidad del agua”, dijo Yuhas, añadiendo que una nueva subvención les permitirá proseguir con la observación.

El distrito escolar está concentrado en lograr que los estudiantes se preparen para la educación vocacional y la universidad, y no siempre hay dinero o tiempo para [asignaturas] electivas, dijo Pupo, la directora de la escuela.

“En verdad, necesitamos garantizar que ellos van a ser miembros productivos de la sociedad. Algunos tienen grandes sueños de mudarse a otros sitios”, apuntó Pupo. “El reto es que, al irse de aquí, entran a competir por empleos en el mundo real”.

El condado de la energía de Pensilvania

Las noticias sobre la energía dominan los titulares en Pittsburg y en los periódicos locales: el auge del esquisto bituminoso, por ejemplo, donde el ministro de petróleo y gas de Omán encomió la fracturación hidráulica. La página web del gobierno del condado de Cambria se presenta como ‘Condado de la Energía de Pensilvania”. La llamada “guerra al carbón” del gobierno de Obama no lo ha hecho muy popular en la región.

Las turbinas eólicas están multiplicando la energía a través de Pensilvania central. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Señales de que el carbón está perdiendo su importancia son las turbinas eólicas que multiplican la electricidad a través de toda la región.

Gamesa Energy creó todo la serie de turbinas a través de la parte central del estado para producir energía eólica”, dijo Staples. “Eso fue causa de una gran preocupación para las personas que se empeñan en mantener las minas de carbón…una nueva forma de energía que no tiene que ver nada con el carbón”.

A principios del siglo XX, en 1901, había 130 minas de importancia en el Condado de Cambria; las minas estuvieron en su máximo nivel de productividad en los años 10 y 20, suministrando energía en un momento en que la industria del acero en EE.UU. aumentaba su producción en más de un 150 por ciento, y este país se convertía en el mayor productor de acero del mundo.

En los años 70, según Estados Unidos pasaba de ser el mayor exportador para convertirse en el mayor importador de acero del mundo, los efectos secundarios se dejaron sentir a través de todos los Apalaches. En los años 90, las restantes minas sindicalizadas cerraron y los salarios de los mineros se desplomaron.

Vínculos étnicos

A fines del siglo XIX, los europeos emigraron en gran número para trabajar en las minas.

“Cuando empezaron a venir y a emigrar en grandes tandas, de Italia, de Polonia, de Gales… este pueblo fue totalmente fundado por inmigrantes”, dice Staples. “Y no eran personas que estaban en situación de regresar, vinieron aquí porque no pudieron conseguir un trabajo en las minas y formaban pequeñas hermandades basadas en la etnia. Tanto así que en cada pueblo del norte de Cambria había una iglesita católica: una era italiana, otra era polaca, otra era inglesa, otra, galesa”.

“Catorce (en total), porque cada grupo inmigrante que venía tenía una iglesia”, dijo ella, añadiendo que, en un momento, el 94 por ciento de la comunidad era catolicorromano.

En 2000, el mismo año en que Barnesboro y Spangler se fusionaron, la diócesis catolicorromana cerró todas menos una de sus 14 parroquias étnicas, otro golpe para la identidad cultural de la región. Staples dijo que los cierres resultaron dolorosos, pero “al final fue muy pragmático, (el obispo) escogió la parroquia que se encontraba en las mejores condiciones físicas, e hizo claro que ese ese el porqué”.

La legión de los Jóvenes Polacos, el Club Eslovaco, los Hijos de Italia y otros clubes de hombres permanecen abiertos.

Calles silenciosas

Aparte del ocasional sonido de pesados camiones que rugen subiendo por la Avenida Crawford hasta donde ésta intersecta la Autopista 219, o Avenida Philadelphia, como se llama en el pueblo, las calles están permanecen silenciosas.

Una hilera de tienditas – una diminuta tienda de víveres que se especializa en billetes de la Lotería, restaurantes y pizzerías italianos, un establecimiento de licores, una zapatería, una biblioteca pública, una tienda de electrodomésticos— ocupa el espacio comercial en las avenidas Crawford y Philadelphia, el núcleo del centro urbano.

El 30 de octubre, los miembros de la junta de Coal Country se reunieron en el centro para hablar acerca de su importancia para la comunidad en una conversación que finalmente se tornó nostálgica y llevó a hablar de crear empleos y de oportunidades para los jóvenes.

Ese mismo día, el Condado de Cambria había recibido otro golpe —la pérdida de más de 400 empleos— cuando se anunció que una compañía minera de carbón con sede en Virginia vendería una “gran porción” de sus acciones de Pensilvania a una compañía basada en Kittanning.

Más tarde, los jóvenes llegaron a Coal Country para adornar el salón para el baile de Halloween la noche siguiente. Phillip Schlereth (más conocido por “Flip”), que ha estado asistiendo durante los últimos seis años, estaba allí, como también su amigo Anthony Reid, que vino de Texas a Northern Cambria hace aproximadamente un año y comenzó a asistir a Coal Country invitación de Flip.

Vienen a divertirse con amigos y a conocer a nuevas personas, dijo Reid.

Julia DeLoatch, de 20 años, estaba allí junto con su hermana de 16 y su hermano de 17. DeLoatch, que trabaja en Dairy Queen con el objetivo de irse del pueblo, vino a ayudar a preparar el baile, pero también a animar a su hermana y hermano a que no se metan en problemas, dijo.

Cuando Staples y Cartmell, que más tarde se separó de la organización, abrieron las puertas por primera vez, nadie vino; tomó tiempo crear confianza entre los miembros de la comunidad y entre los jóvenes. El hecho de que 40 o 50 jóvenes vengan ahora los fines de semana por la noche es una señal de que el pueblo se siente cómodo y restaurado, dijo McConnell, el obispo de Pittsburg. “Las comunidades misionales son siempre comunidades de relación…que el evangelio público, es decir el que está teniendo lugar en ese centro recreativo, está definitivamente creciendo en el corazón de las personas que han venido para confiar.

“El hecho es que no tienes que probarte a ti mismo que estás en determinado camino para entrar en ese centro de jóvenes…sencillamente entras… Hay ciertas expectativas porque yo creo que Ann está realmente interesada en ver a los jóvenes madurar en las personas en que Dios quiere convertirles”.

En una comunidad donde la mayoría de las señales indican que es un lugar que ha sido abatido, existe un tipo de “acomodo cultural a la desesperación” y el futuro parece un gran desafío, dijo McConnell.

“Pero entonces uno entra en ese lugar y ve lo que está pasando allí y eso le da a todo el mundo una razón para la esperanza. Creo que esa es una de las razones por las cuales ella es querida en esa comunidad: uno no tiene que tener un hijo en ese programa para enorgullecerse de él”, dijo McConnell. “Ellos pueden señalarla y decir ‘Aún no estamos muertos. Vea que queda alguna vida aquí’”.

– Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Archbishop responds to murders in Denmark, Libya and Nigeria

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 16, 2015

[Lambeth Palace press release] Responding to events in Denmark, Libya and Nigeria over recent days, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued the following statement:

“The terrible cruelty of the murders in Denmark, Libya and Nigeria call for deep compassion for the bereaved and killed. The killers seem to rejoice in ever more extreme acts carried out to inflict ever greater terror. We must all weep with those affected, and know that in the love of Christ all evil will be overcome.

“In Egypt and Libya, the home of Christian faith, of saints and martyrs since the earliest centuries, more suffering has been perpetrated. The Coptic church has responded with courage and as always with faith. The darkness which ISIS seek to spread will be overwhelmed by the faithful lives of Christians shedding the light and peace of Christ. I have been in touch with the Anglican Church in Egypt to express solidarity.

“Let us pray for the triumphant peace of Christ to be evident, and for governments affected to be wise and courageous.”

  • Listen to a statement from Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, in response to mass beheading of Egyptian Christians in Libya.

Anglicans speak out on sexual and gender-based violence

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 16, 2015

From right: U.K. Conservative Member of Parliament William Hague; Actress Angelina Jolie-Pitt; Minister of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the Rt. Hon. Baroness Anelay; and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, on a panel at the FCO event. Photo: Anglican Alliance

[Anglican Alliance] Anglicans gathered with other faith leaders in London to set recommendations for how faith communities can work collaboratively, together with governments and national and international stakeholders, to end sexual violence in conflict. The two day interfaith consultation was convened by the We Will Speak Out coalition and UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (further coverage of the meeting here).

The Anglicans taking part in the meeting were: Mathilde Nkwirikiye (Anglican Church of Burundi), Archbishop Henri Isingoma (Anglican Church of Congo), the Rev. Joseph Bilal (Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan), Vijula Arulanantham (Church of Ceylon), Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva (Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil), Bishop Margaret Vertue (Anglican Church of Southern Africa), Bishop Ellinah Ntfombi Wamukoya (Anglican Church of Southern Africa), Bishop Christopher Cocksworth (Church of England) and the Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Church of England).

On the final day of meetings faith leaders made a joint statement (the full text is available below). You can add your voice to theirs at http://www.wewillspeakout.org/interfaithevent2015.

On Feb. 11, the Anglican Alliance hosted a webinar on how churches can mobilize to end sexual and gender-based violence in their communities and raise their voices with other churches and faith communities globally to tackle these issues at a global level.

Speakers addressed subjects such as care and support of survivors of gender-based violence; ensuring survivors are at the heart of church responses; gender justice and theology; engaging men and boys in ending gender-based violence; faith leaders speaking out; and church as a “safe space” for survivors.

The webinar was chaired by the Rev. Rachel Carnegie, co-executive director of the Anglican Alliance, and presenters included: Archbishop Henri Isingoma, Anglican Church of Congo (DRC); Mathilde Nkwirikiye, Mothers’ Union in Burundi; Mara Luz, Episcopal Church in Brazil; Therese Mama Mapenzi, a partner of CAFOD in DRC; the Rev. Terrie Robinson, director for women in church and society at the Anglican Communion Office; and Paulo Ueti, theologian and Anglican Alliance facilitator for Latin America and the Caribbean.

You can listen to the recording of the webinar and access the slides, with presentations in both English and French.

Resources relating to many of the themes discussed on the webinar are available at: http://www.wewillspeakout.org/resources.

Inter Faith Declaration on Mobilising Faith Communities to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, 9-10 February 2015

We have come together at the inter faith consultation on ‘Mobilising Faith Communities to End Sexual Violence in Conflict’, 9-10 February 2015, because we recognise our particular role and responsibility as leaders in helping bring to an end the use of rape and other forms of sexual and gender based violence in conflict. This consultation advances the discussion at the ‘Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict’ held in London in June 2014.

As faith leaders, we acknowledge that all faiths affirm the dignity of human beings and so condemn sexual violence. We share a common understanding of our potential to mobilise people at all levels to work together to end sexual violence in conflict.  We will challenge the culture of impunity that exists for these crimes, and use our influence to mobilise and encourage leadership and commitment across governments, communities and religious institutions to protect human rights and provide safe spaces and support to survivors and their families.

We will promote the dignity and rights of survivors of sexual violence, both female and male.  The shame for these crimes lies with the perpetrators and not those who suffer them. We have a critical role to play in tackling the root causes of sexual violence, including the subordinate and unequal status of women around the world, and harmful cultural, religious and social norms, including distorted notions of masculine identities. Ideas of culture or tradition, or misapplication of sacred texts, must never be used to allow impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. We will also seek to work with perpetrators to end the cycle of violence.

Based on our discussions, we have determined the distinctive role of faith leaders in:

  • Defending values of faith and human rights
  • Tackling impunity and promoting justice and accountability
  • Supporting survivors of sexual violence
  • Engaging men and boys in promoting positive masculinities and transformed gender relations
  • Peace building and peace processes

We have agreed to implement recommendations for collaborative action in these areas, as set out in the Report of the Inter Faith Consultation on Mobilising Faith Communities to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.  As faith leaders, we commit ourselves to take these actions:

  • We will speak out against sexual and gender-based violence in conflict at every opportunity
  • We will take action together to promote human rights and see girls, women, boys and men freed from the threat and impact of sexual violence in conflict across the world.
  • We will stand together in solidarity with all those affected by sexual violence.
  • We will promote the development and implementation of laws that protect and promote justice to bring an end to sexual, and other forms of gender based violence during and after conflict, holding governments to account.
  • We will strive to build peace and promote reconciliation, challenging the internal and external causes of conflict.
  • We will dedicate ourselves to finding lasting solutions; mobilising leadership at all levels and implementing these values within our own faith community.

We call on all faith leaders to join us in speaking out and to work together with governments, national and international stakeholders, and communities to help end the use of sexual violence in conflict.

New resource for personal reflection: Daily Prayer for All Seasons

ENS Headlines - Friday, February 13, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Daily Prayer for All Seasons is now available for free downloading on the website of The Episcopal Church here.

Developed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and authorized by the 77th General Convention in 2012 (Resolution A055 here), the prayers in Daily Prayer for All Seasons are presented according to liturgical season beginning with Advent and progressing through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.  In addition, two sections are offered for Ordinary Time: Creation and Rest.

In each, all prayers are grouped according to eight particular themes: praise, discernment, wisdom, perseverance and renewal, love, forgiveness, trust, and watch.

Daily Prayer for All Seasons “was compiled and written by a diverse team of people from all over the United States,” according to the Introduction of the book.

The Introduction continues: “We came together periodically over four years to create a set of prayers that acknowledge in their brevity both the need to pray and the short time we have to pray.”

Included in Daily Prayer for All Seasons are explanatory pages of how to best utilize the prayers.

Printed copies of Daily Prayer for All Seasons are available in English and Spanish fromChurch Publishing Inc.  Daily Prayer for All Seasons on the web is made available by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

 

VTS Celebrates first Eucharist in the new Immanuel Chapel

ENS Headlines - Friday, February 13, 2015

The opening Eucharist begins Feb. 13 at Virginia Theological Seminary’s newly completed Immanuel Chapel. Photo: Virginia Theological Seminary

[Virginia Theological Seminary press release] Virginia Theological Seminary  Feb. 12 held an Opening Celebration of Holy Eucharist Rite II and Signing of the Covenant with Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in its newly completed Immanuel Chapel. The long awaited and anticipated service took place one year, five months, one week, and four days from the Sept. 14, 2013 groundbreaking of the new chapel that replaces the 1881 Chapel that was destroyed by a fire in October 2010.

“This is such an extraordinary and holy moment in the history of this wonderful institution,” said the Very Rev Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “This celebratory service represents the culmination of the vision, hard work and dedication of the many donors, workers, staff and other friends of the Seminary that this has come to fruition.”

The celebrant was the Rt. Rev. James J. Shand, chair of the Board of Trustees and retired bishop of the Diocese of Easton in Maryland. Dean Markham will officiant. Representing a long-standing relationship with the Seminary, the Rev. J. Randolph Alexander, rector of Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill delivered the sermon.

An important part of the opening service will be the covenant between the seminary and Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill. From the mid-19th century, a neighborhood congregation gathered in the Immanuel Chapel of VTS. In 1942, the Council of the Diocese of Virginia received the congregation and adopted its name as Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill. The first rector was the Very Rev. Alexander C. Zabriskie, then dean of VTS. He shared actively in the ministry of the parish all his life. Immanuel Church connects the seminary with the neighborhood and the City of Alexandria. For the parish, the seminary provides a deep connection to the wider Church; and the seminary supports within the congregation a thoughtful and generous faith in action. Deeply mindful that Immanuel Church was founded by and out of Virginia Seminary, the seminary and the parish seek to honor this heritage and history while building toward the future together. The covenant is a renewal of some of the key aspects of the two institutions’ life together.

The new chapel space will also be used for liturgy and worship for the first time during the Annual Spring Visit weekend. This year 44 prospective seminarians and their families arrive on campus Feb. 13 to experience the breadth of the seminary’s community and new worship space.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori: On Healing and Wholeness

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 12, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement:

On Healing and Wholeness

Healing is the primary work of people of faith and the communities of which they are a part.  Christians, as disciples of One who came to save (rescue, heal, make whole) the world and its inhabitants, seek to heal their relationships with one another and with all that is.

Episcopalians believe this is God’s mission and we are its ministers or servants.  We are meant to seek to repair what is breached and broken, to stitch up what is torn, to heal what is sick, to release what is imprisoned and oppressed, to comfort the dying, to encourage the ignored, forlorn, and grieving. Our life finds meaning in responding to the cries around us and within us, as individuals in community. We follow One who was himself vilified, tortured, and finally executed for proclaiming the possibility of reconciled relationships in communities divided by poverty, violence, and religion.

The tragic death of Thomas Palermo challenges us all to attend to the work of healing.  We cannot restore what is past, but we can seek reconciliation and wholeness for all who have been affected – the Palermo family, Heather Cook, the biking community and others in Baltimore, the Diocese of Maryland, bystanders and onlookers who have witnessed any of these traumatic events.

We begin in prayer – lament and wailing at loss and at human frailty.  We continue in prayer – for succor and comfort, for compassion, for transformation and healing.  Episcopalians worship a God who came among us in fragile human flesh and suffered pain and death at the hands of other human beings. We understand his resurrection to mean that death does not have the final word – and that healing and wholeness transcend the grave. That healing is never quick or easy, it does not “fix” what has already happened, but it does begin to let hope grow again.

Our task is that hard work of healing. It requires vulnerability to the pain of all involved – victims, transgressors, onlookers, friends and families and coworkers and emergency responders and community members. A violent death often divides communities, yet ultimately healing requires us all to lower our defenses enough to let others minister to us, to hear another’s pain and grief, to share our own devastation, and indeed to look for the possibility of a new and different future. Healing also comes through a sense of restored order, which is the role of processes of accountability.

Healing requires hope for a redeemed future for the Palermo family as well as Heather Cook. Many have been changed by this death, yet their lives are not ended. They can be healed and transformed, even though the path be long and hard. Our work is to walk that path in solidarity with all who grieve and mourn. May we pray with the psalmist, “Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.” May we also be that companioning presence, the image of God in the flesh, for those who walk through that valley.

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

2014 matching gift challenge exceeds $750,000 anniversary goal

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 12, 2015

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] A generous pledge from a group of committed donors in honor of Episcopal Relief & Development’s 75th Anniversary generated tremendous response during the agency’s annual Matching Gift Challenge. The $750,000 matching amount attracted an astounding $1,013,513 in donations, as Episcopal Relief & Development supporters sought to make their gift go twice as far toward healing a hurting world.

“What an incredible outpouring of support in celebration of our 75th Anniversary, and a wonderful way to invest in our thriving future,” said Joy Shigaki, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Director of Advancement. “This was the largest match amount in the history of the Matching Gift Challenge, and I am continually amazed and inspired by the generosity of our friends and supporters.”

Donations to all funds – including Gifts for Life purchases – were eligible for matching, with the $750,000 match applying to the 75th Anniversary Fund. The overall fundraising goal of the 75-week celebration is to secure $7.5 million to support programs that touch the lives of more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries. To date, over $5.5 million has been raised, amounting to 74% of the total goal.

Partnering with local Church bodies and affiliated agencies in nearly 40 countries, Episcopal Relief & Development energizes and expands community-based programs that address poverty, hunger and disease. Donations to the 75th Anniversary Fund enable the organization to respond to urgent needs and continue these vital programs across the globe.

For 75 years, Episcopal Relief & Development’s diverse, faithful community has responded compassionately to human suffering worldwide. In partnership with Episcopalians and friends, it has grown from its founding in 1940 as a granting agency into a respected international development organization.

Celebrating this legacy and looking toward a thriving future, supporters are invited to join the 75th Anniversary Celebration by:
•    subscribing to 75 stories over 75 weeks and sharing personal reflections
•    making a special 75th Anniversary contribution or starting a grassroots campaign in dioceses, congregations or schools
•    visiting the traveling photo exhibit online
•    exploring the organization’s rich history and life-saving work worldwide
•    engaging on critical issues through online communities

Helpful information, compelling stories and free campaign resources are available at www.episcopalrelief.org/75.

For more information on Episcopal Relief & Development’s programs, please visit www.episcopalrelief.org/what-we-do.

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.   

Episcopal missionaries nurture global partnerships, deepen Communion

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 12, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] As The Episcopal Church prepares to observe World Mission Sunday on February 15, the following article looks at some of the treasures of its missionary program. The purpose of World Mission Sunday is to focus on the global impact of the Baptismal Covenant’s call to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305), and to raise awareness of the many ways in which The Episcopal Church participates in God’s mission around the world. The recently released Report to the Church details the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society in coordinating and supporting Episcopal Church missionaries serving throughout the world.

Natalie Finstad, an Episcopal Church missionary who served in Kenya, helps to plant seedlings at a young adult leadership event with one of Tatua Kenya’s partner organizations, the Nyumba ya Tumaini Children’s Home in Nairobi. Photo: Tatua Kenya

Several years of serving as an Episcopal Church missionary taught Natalie Finstad that healing and change only really happen in the context of community and that “we cannot begin to recognize who we are in God without the presence of community.”

Relationships with one another “invite us into a deeper understanding of who we are,” she told ENS shortly after she’d returned to the U.S. after four years living in Kenya, where she established the Tatua Kenya program to develop leaders and community organizers in East Africa to become agents of change.

And for Finstad, 30, being a missionary is all about deepening partnerships, “being in right relationships … building up the Kingdom of God.”

Finstad is one of thousands of Episcopal missionaries who over several decades have chosen to embrace a life-changing experience of walking alongside a community often far removed – both geographically and culturally – from their own.

Although she has left Kenya, her missionary work lives on through Tatua Kenya, which is now managed locally by community leaders who are committed to a sustainable future.

Crossing cultural boundaries, building partnerships, and engaging God’s mission locally and globally are at the very heart of The Episcopal Church’s missionary program, which “offers individuals an opportunity to be agents of Jesus in the world. Then through our telling of the stories, it offers other people an opportunity to see how they can be engaged,” Finstad said.

“We need opportunities to get involved. The program opened avenues for me to tell the story … and to build beautiful relationships,” she added. “I can’t even say who I am without this experience in Kenya. I could not even begin to separate myself from what I’ve learned there. The rest of my life will be a display of gratitude for that experience – I am confident of that.”

The Rev. David Copley, mission personnel officer for The Episcopal Church, says it is difficult “to quantify the success of our missionaries because the basic premise is always to strengthen relationships with our partners.” But, he added, some of the greatest success stories can be found “in the programs that continue when the missionary presence ends.”

Episcopal Church missionary Natalie Finstad attends the launch of a campaign to get kids back to school in Kenya. Photo: Tatua Kenya

Through Tatua Kenya, for example, Finstad seized the opportunity to build effective and sustainable solutions to poverty in Kenya by developing local leadership and encouraging community participation, rather than simply turning to overseas sources of funding. The project now offers a two-year fellowship for local leaders to learn community organizing skills and use those skills to launch locally run initiatives that improve livelihoods and reduce dependency within their communities.

“We rarely see missionaries as being in a long-term placement for their whole career,” Copley said, acknowledging the importance of programs that empower the local community. “This can be seen also with the ministry of the Rev. Zach Drennen, who began with a program to have scholarships for high school students in Kenya with funding mostly from the U.S. His program now receives 50 percent of its funds from local sources and he is looking to hire a new local director for the program and to transition out of his role there.”

The Episcopal Church’s missionary program, which is administered by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, currently sponsors and supports 47 adult missionaries who serve in various roles, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, agriculturalists, computer technicians, administrators, theologians, and communicators.

Missionaries are lay and ordained, young and old, and serve as “representatives of our community who cross cultural boundaries to participate in the mission of God that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Anglican Communion feel called to respond to,” says Copley.

Over the past two years, the church’s Young Adult Service Corps program has taken on a new lease of life, with 45 missionaries aged 21-30 serving in a broad diversity of roles and contexts.

The 2013-2015 budget passed by General Convention allotted $1 million to make “a missionary experience available to all Episcopal young people through such programs as the Young Adult Service Corps program for a gap year experience between high school and college or work.”

That allocation is part of the way in which the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is responding to the third Mark of Mission, which calls on members of the Anglican Communion to respond to human need in loving service.

The recently released Report to the Church details the budget-supported work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to date in the current triennium, including the Mark Three work on pages 44-55.

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

The 2013 group of 28 missionaries was the largest number of YASC volunteers ever, including three returnees and two representing the church’s Province IX (dioceses in the Caribbean, Central and South America) for the first time in the program.

For the upcoming year, a record-breaking 42 young adults representing 25 dioceses, one quarter of whom are people of color, have filed applications to serve in the program.

Will Bryant, Young Adult Service Corps missionary from the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, poses for a photo with a seafarer and friend during his year in service with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong.

“When I first signed up to do YASC, I had no idea how much it would change my life,” said Will Bryant from the Diocese of Western North Carolina, who spent his first year as a YASC missionary working with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong, and is currently serving a second year at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Centre in Rome.

“In my two years with the program I have grown spiritually and mentally in ways that I would have never imagined,” he told ENS.

Bryant said that his experiences with the YASC program have helped him to realize that “whether you are an Afghani refugee, a Filipino seafarer or an American missionary, we are all seeking the same thing: a safe, comfortable place to call home, employment to provide for our families and community, and a deeper connection with our creator. … Now, after living in two completely different countries and continents, I can safely say that I have become more confident in my faith and in my abilities as a human being. I don’t exactly know what the future holds after my time in YASC, but I do know that whatever that may be, I will be well-prepared because of the lessons I have learned as a missionary.”

Through the missionary program, several relationships with other Anglican provinces have continued to deepen and flourish.

The partnership between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, for example, goes back several decades. Long-term adult missionary Jenny McConnachie has devoted her life to the poorest of the poor. She and her late husband Chris moved from North Carolina to South Africa’s Eastern Cape in the early 1980s. Together, they set up African Medical Mission, strengthening the most vulnerable communities through their commitment and compassionate service.

Over the past decade that partnership has seen several YASCers heading to South Africa to serve in educational, healthcare, community development and administrative roles.

Copley received a letter from Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba saying how much the YASC program benefits the Anglican Church of Southern Africa “and how he sees the young adults growing in their ministry, highlighting the mutuality of mission.”

Makgoba, speaking with Episcopal News Service, said that the young adult missionaries are “all characterized by one key value: they are selfless in their giving of their energy and expertise. They show the critical value of Ubuntu,” a Zulu/Xhosa word that describes human identity as being formed through community and encompassing a sense of caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

“My prayer is that this partnership should grow from strength to strength,” Makgoba added. “I hope that those who come to South Africa are so touched by South Africa that they take a part of our humanity. This is an invaluable program as part and parcel of our mission and ministry in Southern Africa. As Christians we need to strive to be anchored in the love of Christ and committed to His mission and ministry and transform societies so that they reflect the love of Christ and they too can be empowered to make Christ known in their own contexts.”

Copley said that the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, which began receiving YASCers in 2012, has also acknowledged the benefits of their presence and has expressed its commitment to continuing the partnership.

Carlin van Schaik of the Diocese of Northwest Texas is currently in her second year in YASC serving with the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. Her 2013-14 YASC year was spent in Seoul with the Anglican Church’s Towards Peace in Korea program, which focuses on humanitarian aid and peace education.

Episcopal Church missionary Natalie Finstad sits and talks with some boys who live at the Nyumba ya Tumaini Children’s Home, one of Tatua Kenya’s partner organizations, in Nairobi. Photo: Tatua Kenya

Speaking with ENS just a few months after arriving in South Korea, van Schaik said that the experience had already “widened her world view. I had no idea how American I was until I arrived. I listen a lot more than I used to, and I have a much better sense of the interconnectedness of people. … That’s made a really big difference on how I view the world and consider my own actions now. I want to be able to live much more globally and much less locally than I have before.”

The YASC program is “a chance for you to learn more about yourself, do good work, meet new people, and you don’t have to pay your student loans for a year,” she added. “You keep changing your whole life so the YASC program is a good place to start practicing that. It’s been really educational.”

Copley highlighted a new initiative currently being offered by the mission personnel office to support shorter-term missionaries who can provide specific skills.

For instance, Jim and Mary Higbee and Sue Dauer visited Kenya for just one month in 2014 to provide hands-on teacher training which they will continue to follow up with in the coming years.

Copley’s office also continues to work with Episcopal Church dioceses to strengthen their companion relationships and to support medium-term mission placements of older adults as well as for YASCers.

“I see mission service as providing technical expertise to empower others and also an avenue to strengthen companion relationships through the ministry of presence,” he said.

Jenny Korwan, who served as a YASC missionary from 2012-13 working with Finstad at Tatua Kenya, says she will always consider herself an Episcopal Church missionary. “Society and culture tell you what missionary is, but the mission of the church is really based on relationship and sharing the love of Christ and the love of God through what we do and how we act. Uniting churches and uniting the faith community across cultures is a huge part of what being a missionary is all about.”

For Finstad, who is currently in the discernment process in the Diocese of Massachusetts, her personal faith has always motivated her work, which she said is primarily about building relationships and working towards reconciliation.

But her ministry in Kenya has changed the way she views mission.

“I used to think of mission as something we do or accomplish, but now I am much more concerned with mission being about healing” and relationships.

“It is not our responsibility to heal the world – that is the work of God,” she added. “However, it is our mandate to honor God’s presence in all of creation and to cultivate a mature understanding of what it means to be a child of God. We must invite all our brothers and sisters to join us … in envisioning how we could work towards the Kingdom of God together.”

For further information about the missionary program, contact the Rev. David Copley, director for mission personnel, at dcopley@episcopalchurch.org. For further information about the YASC program, contact Elizabeth Boe, officer for global networking, at eboe@episcopalchurch.org.

ENS video stories highlighting the ministry of YASC missionaries are available below.

One young adult…and a Roman refugee center

One young adult…and a South African clinic

One young adult…and a provincial archives

One young adult…and a mission for migrant workers

One young adult…and a mission to seafarers

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Georgia activists ask for end to executions of intellectually disabled

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Death penalty opponents this week asked lawmakers to bring Georgia into line with all other states for how the state determines whether death row inmates are intellectually disabled.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it is unconstitutional to execute people with intellectual disabilities Georgia was first to establish new rules. But, Georgia is now the only state to require the beyond a reasonable doubt standard, meaning that there be no doubt that an inmate is intellectually disabled. Of the states still executing prisoners, 24 require a preponderance of evidence and four use the clear and convincing standard, both less stringent levels of proof.

The Rev. Joseph Shippen of Christ Church, Macon, who is also a death row chaplain, represents Bishop Robert C. Wright at a press conference following meetings with legislators. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

The Rev. Joseph Shippen of Christ Church, Macon, who represented Bishop Robert C. Wright at a press conference following the meetings with legislators, said that The Episcopal Church has since 1954 been on record opposing the death penalty.

“We cannot stand by and support our State treating human beings, God’s beloved children, as disposable objects,” Shippen said. Of particular concern, he said, is the increasing pace of executions.

“In 2015 alone, two men have already been executed, and as I speak Kelly Gissendaner is scheduled to be put to death on Feb. 25,” he said.

Gissendaner, convicted in 1998 of having her boyfriend kill her husband, would be the first woman executed in Georgia since 1945 when Lena Baker was electrocuted for killing her employer. Baker received a full pardon in 2005, when the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles agreed with her family’s argument that Baker acted in self-defense and should have been charged with manslaughter.

The first man put to death in 2015, Andrew Brannon, was a decorated Vietnam veteran who committed his crime as a result of his PTSD that he acquired in wartime, Shippen said. “What does it say about the way we treat veterans in our state when we execute those who struggle with the disabilities acquired as a result of heroic service on our behalf?”

The second man put to death in Georgia this year, Warren Hill, had an IQ of 70. “He was clearly intellectually disabled, and that should have disqualified him from the death penalty,” Shippen said. “He was unable to prove his intellectual disability, though, because Georgia is alone in our country in requiring that a condemned person must prove his intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard that is almost impossible to meet.”

Sara Totonchi, who heads the Southern Center for Human Rights, told an audience of about 30 gathered in the Capitol Rotunda,that despite the quickening pace of executions in Georgia there is reason for hope that the death penalty is nearing an end in the United States.

“Twenty years ago, the notion that the United States might abandon capital punishment was inconceivable,” Totonchi said. “In the past 10 years, however, we have witnessed a seismic shift in the opposite direction” with six states abandoning executing prisoners in the past six year.

She said that despite Georgia’s “thirst for vengeance and our politicians’ tough-on-crime mantras, the tide is turning here as well.” Last year, Totonchi said, there were 35 executions in just seven states, the fewest number is 20 years.

Shippen and Totonchi were joined at the press conference by representatives of the anti-death penalty group Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty GFADP), the Georgia Council for Developmental Disabilities and longtime death penalty opponent Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta.

GFADP Chair Kathryn Hamoudah said, “Georgia’s legal system is once more bringing shame and embarrassment to our state by failing to protect those who are most vulnerable.

“We continue to set the bar for the most inhumane and unjust practices,” Hamoudah said. “Without intervention by the Georgia General Assembly, Georgia will undoubtedly continue to execute people with intellectual disabilities.”

Currently, no bills have been filed addressing the level of proof for establishing intellectual disability for death row inmates.

An article on the lobby day by death-penalty opponents appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of the Athens Banner-Herald

– Don Plummer is communications coordinator for community and media relations for the Diocese of Atlanta.

Pennsylvania Episcopal bishops urge passage of non-discrimination bill

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Pennsylvania Episcopal dioceses press release] Bishops of the five Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Feb. 11 called on the state legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing, and other public accommodations.

The text of the letter follows.

“As bishops of the Episcopal Church and citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we urge the state legislature to pass the Pennsylvania Non-Discrimination Act (HB/SB 300).

“The proposed law would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations such as hotel lodgings or restaurant service. It would also preserve existing protections that insure faith communities have sole discretion in determining whom to hire and whom to include in their religious rituals.

“Our support for the Non-Discrimination Act is rooted in our faith. Sacred scripture teaches us that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore must be treated with dignity and respect.  As Christians, we follow a savior who spent much of his earthly ministry among the cast off and the cast out, and we are called to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable and the marginalized. Jesus commanded us to love one another, and he listed no exceptions.

“Were we not Christians, however, we would still support the Non-Discrimination Act. One does not have to profess a particular faith to understand that there is no justifiable reason to fire, evict or deny services to a citizen of our commonwealth based on considerations such as sex, race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. It is simply unfair.

“The Episcopal Church has struggled faithfully for more than three decades to reform its own discriminatory policies and practices toward LGBT people. In that struggle we have come to understand what was already obvious to some of our fellow citizens all along: that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are gifts to our families, our friends and our communities. We are richer for their presence, and it is past time for us to acknowledge that we share a common humanity and therefore must be equal in the eyes of the law.”

Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, III, Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania
The Rt. Rev. Robert R. Gepert, Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, Bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem

Episcopal Church proposed budget available for review

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The proposed budget for The Episcopal Church in the 2016-2018 triennium is available for viewing here.

The document was approved by The Episcopal Church Executive Council at its January meeting.

The proposed budget is now submitted to the General Convention through the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance, which will meet to consider the proposed budget February 23 – 25.  That committee will conduct hearings at General Convention and present a Budget to a joint meeting of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies on July 1.

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

Prior to its January meeting, Executive Council received input on the proposed budget from a wide range of church members and leaders, including Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards; Executive Council committees; members of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance; the officers of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society; bishops and deputies; and the church at large.

“The Finances for Mission Committee is very grateful to the many people who have given us input and feedback to help us develop this proposed budget for the coming triennium,” noted Executive Council member the Rev. Susan Brown Snook, Diocese of Arizona, and chair of Executive Council’s budget committee. “We are especially grateful to the members of Program, Budget, and Finance for their presence and input with us throughout this budget development process. We believe that this proposal represents a balanced and visionary way to carry the church into the next few years, which we pray will be a time of transition and growth for the church.”

Proposed budget details
Of significance in the proposed budget:
•    The proposed budget lowers the diocesan assessment from 19% in the current triennium to 18% in 2016, 16.5% in 2017, and 15% in 2018. It also increases the exemption for each diocese from $120,000 to $175,000 per year.
•    The proposed budget includes grant money for the important Marks of Mission initiatives:
–    In Mark 1, it raises the amount of money available for grants for church planting and new initiatives from $2 million to $3 million.
–    In Mark 2, the program of Province IX Sustainability that was begun in the 2013-15 trienniums continues; the amount of Campus Ministry Grants increases to $400,000; youth and young adult ministries, including the Episcopal Youth Event, receive full funding; and $100,000 is provided for the ministry of Forma.
–    In Mark 3, funding continues for the Young Adult Service Corps, and funding is provided for matching grants for diocesan and parish World Mission work, meeting the 0.7% spending target for the Millennium Development Goals.
–    In Mark 4, it provides funding for Domestic Poverty and Jubilee ministries
–    In Mark 5, it provides $500,000 in grants for environmental initiatives.
•    In the area of Supporting Mission through Local Efforts in The Episcopal Church, it provides $1.5 million of funding for long-term development grants for domestic dioceses, and $400,000 of grants for higher education, particularly in Historically Black Episcopal Colleges and Universities
•    Funding for the Anglican Communion is restored to earlier levels, at $1.2 million for the triennium. Funding of $300,000 is also provided to help Anglican Communion covenant partners with long-term sustainability.

Archbishop’s address to Synod: Share Jesus with ‘joy and delight’

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Lambeth Palace] In his presidential address to the General Synod on Feb. 10, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urged the Church of England to approach evangelism and witness with “joy and delight.”

Listen to the address here

Read the full text:

Joy and delight in the love of God is at the heart of Christian witness, but the experience of many of us – I dare say most of us – is that, instead of joy and delight, evangelism and witness bring nervousness, uncertainty and guilt.

The strategic response to this is clearly for a long-term, iterative and interactive, metric-based, evidence generated development of competencies across the widest possible range of stakeholders in order to achieve maximum acceleration of disciple input with the highest possible return on effort and capital employed. [Laughter].

That last paragraph is, of course, complete rubbish. To be honest, I just put it in in order to reassure you, as it is well known that I am in fact a businessman who put on the wrong clothes this morning. [Laughter].

Back to the subject. Witness and evangelism are expressions of the overflow of the love and joy of the grace of God into our lives, and the life of His whole church and His whole world. They are inescapably tied up with the kingdom of God, with lives lived incarnationally full of the hospitality and generosity of Christ. They are as much a part of the life of the church as worship, as the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, commented to me about a year ago, and should be about as guilt-inducing as breathing.

Evangelism and witness are not strategies, let alone strategies for church survival. A church that looks for strategies to survive has lost the plot. We need strategies so that we may be more clearly those who are able to take up our cross and follow Christ, as we heard earlier from the Archbishop [of the Chaldean Diocese of Erbil, Iraq], willing to die for Him so that all may live through Him.

As Paul says when speaking to the church in Corinth, the most dysfunctional of the churches he planted: “for the love of Christ urges us on …” (2 Corinthians 5:14) or, in the King James version, “the love of Christ constrains me”.

Yet when we look back at the Church of England, we do not see in general an overwhelming sense everywhere – I’m being quite tentative here – that the love of Christ urges us on in evangelism and witness, although it clearly does in many places and throughout the church in many other areas of  ministry. This is nothing new. If we go back to the Bishop of Rochester’s report in 1944, set up by Archbishop Temple, ‘Towards the Conversion of England’, we find there a constant theme that unless the whole church, lay and ordained, become in a new sense witnesses, then there can be no progress in spreading the good news of Jesus.

People have today, and in other places and other times over the last few months, rightly expressed concern and comment about task groups, and certain task groups. Listening today, it’s something on which we clearly need to reflect further. But task groups are not the end: they are a means to the end. The subjects they’re looking at are absolutely essential and are crucial to our future, and we owe those who work on them much thanks as well as many comments. No doubt the output of the task groups will change as time goes by. That is among the proper and right roles of a Synod: to ask questions, to push and review, to look afresh and to ensure we’re thinking carefully through the implications of what is being done. And, Synod, you don’t hesitate to do that, in my limited experience.

But they are means to an end. Training, issues of management, the allocation of resources: however good they are – and they must be very good – are not the final aim of the church. We are finally called to be those who worship and adore God in Christ, overflowing with the good news that we’ve received, making Christ known to all so that the good news is proclaimed effectively throughout the church.

And it is good news. It is the most compelling of announcements. It comes as a gift to us, not of our own creation. It is news because it tells us of what we do not already know. We have not deduced it ourselves or worked it out by our own power of reason: the good news is the power of God.

And what a power! We know through Christ that God Himself is turned towards His world: He has chosen to be for and with us. That is the message which urges us on. We are not rejected, but accepted; we are not condemned but saved; we are not lost, but found; we are not dead, but alive – all because of the work of  Jesus Christ.

In our good news we speak of Him who really does not sweep our human needs, concerns, cares, desires and problems under the carpet, but takes them up and makes them His own.

And if we allow ourselves to be gripped by this gospel, this good news of Jesus Christ, it will overwhelm us, for it seems too good to be true. As Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium: “the Gospel constantly invites us to rejoice”.

More than that, evangelism and witness are of the very nature of God who goes out and sows in order that the good news may, in some cases, bring out a harvest of righteousness and joy and hope, transforming the world in which we live, transforming the sorrow and brokenness of which we have heard this afternoon, and bringing hope and renewal.

For these reasons, because the good news is of the nature of God who is for us and with us, the good news of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world – the hope, and yet too often we forget that. About a year ago, I was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with my wife. We went to an IDP camp, and saw scenes of the utmost suffering and terrible deprivation, extreme even by the standard of such places. A Christian NGO, with UK government funding, linked to Tearfund, was doing extraordinary work. Towards the end of the visit a crowd had gathered, and the local bishop said: “Say something to encourage them”. I could think of nothing, and playing for time, with immense lack of faith, said, in French (it was a French-speaking area): “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”. I was drawing breath for some banal statements about actions I could take to support them, pompously and ignorantly, when, as it was translated into real French [laughter], they began to cheer. They knew Jesus Christ was the same yesterday, today and forever, and being reminded of it brought hope and light. I felt deeply, deeply ashamed of my lack of confidence in the gospel. The gospel is good news for all people at all times everywhere.

We share the good news with humility, even shame at times at our own failure to be those whose lives or whose church or whose history reveals the good news as it truly is. We must share the good news without manipulation, technique that is intended to be other than they really are, or any other unethical or underhand method. We must bring the good news with hospitality, and without a trace of coercion, with love and grace making a defence for the hope that is within us. But we must bear witness and bring the good news of Jesus Christ.

The sharing is by action, by word, by campaign, by culture, by attitude. To defend those attacked by anti-Semitism, to share food in a food bank, to support a credit union because of the solidarity with which the Holy Spirit calls us to be with those on the edge; all this is one side of a coin, the other side of which is to proclaim, announce and declare the good news.

And wwe share the good news together; it is the calling of the whole church. The bishop of Worcester, Bishop John Inge, wrote to me recently, and I’ll quote at length from what he wrote. He said:

“Evangelism is, of course, about making new disciples, introducing people to a living and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. However, it must be about a great deal more than this, since God’s mission is much bigger than making individual disciples. It is to reconcile the whole creation to himself in Christ and, in so doing, inaugurate his Kingdom. When that mission is accomplished every knee shall bow to God’s rule, whether in heaven or in earth or under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Church is his chosen instrument for that mission in the world, and the effective sign of the inauguration of his Kingdom here on earth, that Kingdom for whose coming we pray in the words that Jesus taught us. Through evangelism God makes disciples who then play their part in God’s great plan. That part must be played together as members of the Body of Christ, not as individuals. . . As Alison Morgan has put it in the title of a book which will shortly be published: The Plural of Disciple is Church.”

Yet in so many places, the reality is different. To quote Pope Francis again, “no-one should ever think that this invitation is not meant for him or her”. We lose confidence in the good news when it stops being good news for us. And that is such a danger when we’re enmeshed in so many of the arguments and divisions with which we struggle. They may be necessary, but their danger is we lose sight of good news for us. When it has become stale news or old news, when it has become bad news or sad news, then every day I must open myself to the love of Christ, so this love is continually making me new. That too is collective. Our guided conversations, our praying and thinking together, our discussions of task groups, must also open afresh together, all of us, to the love of Christ, so that the good news is ours, not just mine.

To return to Archbishop William Temple, we find a vision that is as yet unfulfilled. It is that, for the effective and fruitful proclamation of the good news to be made in this country, every person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ plays an essential role as a witness of Jesus Christ.

There is nothing better than bearing witness to Christ so that others themselves may become His witnesses. But my fear is that many of us have lost all confidence in the Gospel. We have thought that you need to be an expert or a professional to be a witness. But we do not. We simply need to be able to tell of the love that has grasped hold of us and the difference it has made in our own lives.

The Evangelism Task Group is one report we have not yet seen. I hope that, if the Business Committee thinks it appropriate, they may be able to allow it to report in July or later, responding to a motion that this Synod passed some time ago. The Evangelism Task Group seeks to support the church to be an effective signpost of the Gospel at every point, in Cathedrals, in local churches, in chaplaincies at universities, schools, hospitals, prisons, the armed services and so many other points, in all of which so much of the really tough work is done.  At the moment that effective signpost is not always and everywhere inescapably visible, if I may be so un-tentative.

It is essential that we give time and effort into shaping church structures which enable and reflect witness to the compelling love of Christ. That change will not just happen, we can’t just hope for something magical to occur.

But the biggest hill to climb is that at every point in the church we might be so urged on by the love of Christ, the good news of salvation, that we break the historic pattern, which in many parts of our church goes back centuries, and become those who with all our faults, all our failings, all our divisions and sins and misunderstanding – because, let us be clear, if we wait until we’re fit to witness, we will wait forever – we become those who, with all those drawbacks, are nevertheless humble, gentle, transparent, hospitable witnesses to Jesus Christ, so that the world may know.

That is a challenge which takes us straight back to the life of the local church or chaplaincy, to the cathedral, to every point at which there is a Christian, because at every point at which there is a Christian there is a witness. And it takes us back here to be those who serve and love the witnesses, so that they are liberated to a joyful ministry of witness. All that we are doing here must be held in that context of the worship of God and the sharing of the good news.

Amen.

Equipo de trabajo recomienda un lenguaje neutro en el canon que regula el matrimonio

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] El Grupo de Trabajo A050 para el Estudio del Matrimonio recomienda que la Convención General de 2015 autorice al clero de la Iglesia Episcopal a oficiar matrimonios entre personas del mismo sexo.

El equipo de trabajo propone el cambio en su informe del Libro Azul que acaba de darse a conocer mediante una resolución (la número A036) que revisaría el Canon I.18 titulado “De la solemnización del Santo Matrimonio” (la página 58 de los Cánones de la Iglesia Episcopal puede verse aquí).

La revisión altera, entre muchas correcciones, el lenguaje del I.18.2(b) que requiere que las parejas “entiendan que el Sagrado Matrimonio es la unión física y espiritual de un hombre y una mujer”. Eliminar eso y otra forma específica de lenguaje de género del canon, dice el informe, responde al mandato de la resolución que faculta al grupo a “abordar la necesidad pastoral de los sacerdotes de oficiar en un matrimonio civil de una pareja del mismo sexo en estados que lo autoricen”.

La sección 3 del Canon 18 sería reescrita para, en parte, eliminar el requisito de que la pareja firme una declaración en la que declare “solemnemente que consideramos que el matrimonio es una unión de por vida de esposo y esposa tal según se dispone en el Libro de Oración Común”.

La revisión reestructuraría el requisito en la primera sección del canon de que el clérigo se rija tanto por “las leyes del Estado” como por “las leyes de esta Iglesia” respecto al matrimonio. La porción reescrita de esa sección requeriría que el clérigo se atuviera a “las leyes del Estado que rigen la creación del estado civil del matrimonio y también a estos cánones concernientes a la solemnización del matrimonio”.

El Canon I.18 contiene la mayoría de las reglas de los Cánones de la Iglesia acerca del clero que oficia en un matrimonio. El Canon I.19 rige la “preservación y disolución del matrimonio, y las segundas nupcias”, y como tal se refiere a “esposo” y “esposa” en su tercera sección. El Libro de Oración Común, que autoriza el Artículo X de la Constitución de la Iglesia, se refiere al matrimonio cristiano en la página 344 como “un pacto solemne y público entre un hombre y una mujer en la presencia de Dios” y utiliza un lenguaje específico de género a través de los ritos para la “Celebración y Bendición de un Matrimonio”, la “Bendición de un Matrimonio Civil” y el “Orden para un Matrimonio”, así como en su sección de “Rúbricas Adicionales”.

El grupo de trabajo dice en su informe que su revisión del Canon I.18 hace que el canon “se concentre en los votos en sí que se hacen en el rito matrimonial del Libro de Oración Común, más que en los fines del matrimonio en general”, los cuales añade que se pronuncian “literalmente en forma de credo”.

Se preserva la discreción del clérigo para rehusar la solemnización de cualquier matrimonio y se extiende para incluir su elección de rehusar ofrecerle la bendición a un matrimonio, dijo el grupo de trabajo.

El informe de 122 páginas, la mayoría de las cuales incluye recursos que el grupo de trabajo creó para el estudio del matrimonio y ensayos sobre varios temas concernientes al matrimonio, se encuentra en inglés aquí y en español aquí.

El grupo de trabajo se creó en respuesta a un llamado de la 77ª. Convención General (a través de la Resolución A050) en julio de 2012, para que un grupo de “teólogos, liturgistas, pastores y educadores identificaran y exploraran las dimensiones bíblicas, teológicas, históricas, litúrgicas y canónicas del matrimonio”.

Esa misma reunión de la Convención autorizó el uso provisional de un rito para bendecir relaciones de personas del mismo sexo. El uso de ese rito, Recursos Litúrgicos I: Te bendeciré y serás una bendición, debe ser revisado por la Convención General en 2015.

Haciendo notar el cambiante panorama social y legal del matrimonio, el Grupo de Trabajo para el Estudio del Matrimonio dice en su informe que “este momento de grandes cambios merece discernimiento y atención continuos de parte de nuestra Iglesia”.

Por consiguiente, el grupo le pedirá a la Convención que tome en consideración la Resolución A037 para que el grupo de trabajo prosiga su tarea en el trienio 2016-2018 como un modo de “explorar aún más esas tendencias y normas contemporáneas” que el grupo actual ha identificado.

Esas tendencias y normas, según dice el informe del grupo, incluyen “a los que eligen permanecer solteros; a personas no casadas que viven relaciones íntimas; a parejas que cohabitan ya sea en preparación para el matrimonio o como una alternativa a éste; a parejas que desean una bendición de la Iglesia, pero no un matrimonio; la paternidad de personas solteras o de parejas no casadas; diferentes formas de familia y hogares, tales como las que incluyen la paternidad [compartida] por parejas del mismo sexo, la adopción y la diversidad racial; y las diferencias de patrones matrimoniales entre grupos étnicos y raciales y entre provincias dentro y fuera de Estados Unidos”.

Mientras realizaba su labor este trienio, “el Grupo de Trabajo llegó a cobrar una aguda conciencia de una creciente realidad contemporánea en la sociedad y en la Iglesia que está redefiniendo lo que muchos entienden por “familia’ u ‘hogar’”, dice el grupo en su informe, añadiendo que “esta cambiante realidad repercute en nuestras congregaciones”.

El matrimonio “como una forma normativa de vida” está siendo cuestionado, sin embargo el grupo dice que no dispuso “del tiempo ni de los recursos para abordar totalmente esta realidad”.

“Más ampliamente, nuestra Iglesia ha hecho muy poco para responder a ella”, dice el grupo de trabajo.

Las dos resoluciones del grupo de trabajo, así como otras resoluciones sobre el matrimonio cuya proposición se espera, quedarán al cuidado de un comité legislativo especial sobre el matrimonio cuando la Convención General se reúna del 25 de junio al 3 de julio en Salt Lake City.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori y la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, dijeron en julio que nombrarían el comité “para garantizar que a la labor del Grupo de Trabajo para el Estudio del Matrimonio y a las resoluciones relacionadas con los contextos rápidamente cambiantes del matrimonio civil en Estados Unidos y en varias otras partes del mundo pueda prestárseles la adecuada consideración”.

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

La Obispa Presidente Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori Mensaje de Cuaresma 2015

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

La Cuaresma es “un viaje que trata de la iluminación
si estamos dispuestos a pensar de esa manera”

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “Esa cruz que hacemos en la frente el Miércoles de Ceniza es un recordatorio de la cruz que se hizo en el bautismo”, dijo Obispa Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori en su mensaje de Cuaresma 2015.

El vídeo del mensaje de la Obispa Presidente está aquí.

La Cuaresma es un tiempo para la reflexión cristiana que comienza el Miércoles de Ceniza (18 de febrero) y concluye en Pascua (5 de abril).

La Obispa Presidente también señaló que la Cuaresma es “un viaje que trata de la iluminación si estamos dispuestos a pensar de esa manera”.

Lo que sigue es el mensaje de Cuaresma 2015 de la Obispa Presidente

La Cuaresma está a punto de comenzar. Esa palabra inglesa proviene de otra del inglés antiguo que significa “alargar”, y es un recordatorio de que los días son cada vez más largos a medida que avanzamos de la oscuridad del invierno hacia el verano.

Pero en otras lenguas, sobre todo en español y francés, la palabra para “Lent” refleja “cuarenta días” “cuaresma”. Cuarenta días de vagar por el desierto, cuarenta días de Jesús en el desierto.

Se trata también de un viaje. Y es un viaje que trata de la iluminación, si estamos dispuestos a pensar de esa manera.

La Cuaresma es una antigua tradición de solidaridad y preparación para los que se preparan para el bautismo en la Vigilia de Pascua. Siempre ha sido un tiempo dedicado a la oración y al estudio, al ayuno, a la abnegación y a la limosna, compartiendo lo que tenemos con los que no tienen. La oración es una oportunidad para reflexionar sobre el que camina con nosotros en el desierto, que trae luz al mundo. El estudio es una oportunidad de hacer las mismas cosas indagando en la historia de nuestra tradición, donde seres humanos han encontrado luz y dirección en su viaje por este mundo. El ayuno y la abnegación son una reflexión interior sobre qué es lo que nos mantiene en la oscuridad, o qué es lo que nos mantiene sin dirección, o qué nos mantiene demasiado centrados en nosotros mismos. Y se convierte en una invitación a orientarnos hacia afuera y compartir lo que tenemos con los que no tienen. Para construir solidaridad entre el pueblo de Dios y el resto de la tierra.

Uno de los Miércoles de Ceniza más memorables que he pasado fue en San José, Costa Rica, en una escuela de niños. Me pidieron que colocara las cenizas en la frente de los niños pequeños. Fue una experiencia provocadora en el sentido más profundo, recordar a los niños muy pequeños que son mortales.

Esa cruz que hacemos en la frente el Miércoles de Ceniza es un recordatorio de la cruz que se hizo en el bautismo. Queda sellado por el Espíritu Santo en el bautismo y marcado como propiedad de Cristo para siempre. La cruz que hacemos el Miércoles de Ceniza es un recordatorio de que eres polvo y al polvo volveremos, que compartimos ese polvo con cualquier otro ser humano que haya caminado jamás por este planeta, que compartimos ese polvo con las estrellas y los planetas, que compartimos ese polvo con todo lo que se ha creado. Estamos hechos para la relación con el creador y la creación.

Cuaresma es un viaje para caminar hacia esa luz. Que éste sea un año bendito.

La Reverendísima Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primada
Iglesia Episcopal

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Lent Message 2015

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lent is “a journey that is about enlightenment if we’re willing to think about it that way.”

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “That cross that comes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the cross that’s put there at Baptism,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her Lent Message 2015.

The video of the Presiding Bishop’s message is here.

Lent is a season of Christian reflection that begins on Ash Wednesday (February 18) and concludes on Easter (April 5).

The Presiding Bishop also noted Lent is “a journey that is about enlightenment
if we’re willing to think about it that way.”

The following is the Presiding Bishop’s Lent Message 2015

Lent is about to begin. That word in English comes from an Old English word that means “to lengthen,” and it’s a reminder of the days getting longer as we move toward summer out of the dark of winter.

But in a number of other languages, particularly Spanish and French, the word for “Lent” reflects “forty days,” “cuaresma.” Forty days of wandering in the desert, forty days of Jesus out in the desert.

It’s also about a journey.  And it’s a journey that is about enlightenment if we’re willing to think about it that way.

Lent is an ancient tradition of solidarity and preparation for those who look forward to Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  It has always been a time for prayer and study, fasting, self-denial, and alms-giving, sharing what we have with those who do not have.  Prayer is an opportunity to reflect on who walks with us in the desert, who brings light into the world. Study is an opportunity to do the same kinds of things looking at the history of our tradition, where have human beings found light and direction in their journey through this world.  Fasting and self-denial are an inward-reflection on what it is that keeps us in the dark, or what it is that keeps us directionless, or that keeps us overly self-focused.  And it becomes an invitation to turn outward and share what we have with those who have not.  To build solidarity among God’s people and the rest of the earth.

One of the most memorable Ash Wednesdays I ever spent was in San Jose, Costa Rica, in a school for children. I was asked to place ashes on the foreheads of toddlers.  It was a provocative experience in the deepest sense, reminding very small children that they are mortal.

That cross that comes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the cross that’s put there at Baptism.  You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.  The cross that comes at Ash Wednesday is a reminder that you are dust and to dust we shall return, that we share that dust with every other human being who has ever walked this planet, that we share that dust with the stars and the planets, that we share that dust with all that has been created.  We are made for relationship with creator and creation.

Lent and cuaresma is a journey to walk toward that light.  May it be a blessed one this year.

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

Coal Country Hangout connects youth, community

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Coal Country preschoolers take part in a field trip led by Beth Garner, an education specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources, to Prince Gallitzin State Park. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania] Against the low-hanging, late-October morning sky the stone building with the red metal roof housing the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center casts a stark profile at the corner of Maple Avenue and Cottonwood Street in this rural community an hour and 40 minutes’ drive northeast of Pittsburgh in the Allegheny Mountains.

On the inside, however, bright-colored murals hang on paneled walls and the sound of babies and toddlers busy playing and learning fill the space, in what is the only day care center and one of two preschools serving Northern Cambria, a rural bedroom community, and Altoona, Johnstown and Indiana, each town a 40- to-50-minutes away.

“Fifty percent of the children in day care have parents that work in these three communities; Northern Cambria is the hub,” said the Rev. Ann Staples, an Episcopal deacon who co-founded and has served as Coal Country’s executive director since 1996.

In addition to operating the day care in a county where 14.9 percent of the population lives in poverty and providing early childhood education in one of Pennsylvania’s poorest school districts, Coal Country operates a program for teens and young adults on Friday and Saturday nights in a converted sanctuary, with a basketball court, billiards and table tennis on the main level, and a small computer laboratory in the balcony.

“There are no facilities for kids anywhere in this area,” said Staples. “It is rural, it is isolated, it’s a good 35-40 minute drive to anything resembling recreational facilities, and that’s why we founded Coal Country – so they’d have a place to get off the streets, have a good time under supervision.”

Portraits of miners painted by students hang on the walls of the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

A safe, drug-free environment where youth can be with their peers is important, said Rebecca Pupo, the principal of Northern Cambria High School, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in her office, adding that drug-sniffing dogs recently swept the school for marijuana and heroin, local drugs of choice.

“(Coal Country) definitely serves these kids and they need the positive social connections,” she said. “Some go home to an empty house … the closest shopping mall is a 40-minute drive. Unless a student is involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, there’s nowhere to go.

“Not everyone is a football-Friday person.”

An independent nonprofit organization and supported ministry of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the center’s name is a homage to the coal industry’s longstanding, historical importance to the region’s economy and its identity. Its mission is to support families by providing access to affordable childcare, to promote healthy family behaviors, and to help prevent youth delinquency.

Operating in an economically depressed, geographically isolated region where ethnic bonds date back to the late 19th century, its programs take a holistic educational and cultural approach to address the spiritual and emotional trauma caused by the coal industry’s collapse.

“It’s Appalachia, they are very tight-knit and very wary of outsiders – they know instantly, probably before you open your mouth, that you are not from around there,” said Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell, in an interview with ENS in his suburban Pittsburgh office. “So in that sense Ann’s been a missionary, because she’s been able to insert herself in that community and over time, she’s gained the affection and trust, I think, of everyone in that region.”

Raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Staples studied music with an emphasis in piano performance in the early 1950s at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, spent a year traveling in Europe, and pursued a doctorate in musicology at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. A mother of six, grandmother to 13, she taught college in New York and then for 17 years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 40 minutes west of Northern Cambria.

In Indiana, Staples was a member of Christ Episcopal Church, when in 1984 the Diocese of Pittsburgh ordained her a deacon. She has served parishes throughout Pennsylvania, including Verona, Murrysville, Indiana, Patton and Northern Cambria, where she continues to serve St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

Staples models her ministry after that of the Rev. Curtis Junker, her college chaplain at SMU, where she left Methodism and joined the Canterbury Club.

Junker moved comfortably between Dallas society and people on the street, and he encouraged students to tag along while he carried out his ministry. “That experience made all the difference in the world to me,” said Staples. “For me it was a model of ministry, the way it ought to be. Sitting in the church holed up – it doesn’t work.”

Staples has lived out Junker’s example by being a visible presence in the community, by getting to know elected officials, businessmen, community developers, teachers and school administrators, and people on the street. Around town, everyone calls her “Deacon Ann.”

“Whenever Ann walks into a room or an office … people get up from their chairs to greet her,” said McConnell. “She just has enormous respect; the reason is the people of Northern Cambria are not a project to her – they are human beings, made by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ.

“She has spent the time that she has been up there cultivating relationships across the board. That has been strategic, to a certain degree, but the fact is also she’s just committed to strengthening the human bonds in those communities in any way that she can do, and of course those communities are deeply relational.”

The Rev. Ann Staples, an Episcopal deacon, describes on a map the area of rural Pennsylvania served by the Coal Country Hangout Youth Center. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The borough of Northern Cambria, population 5,000, was incorporated in 2000 when the towns of Spangler and Barnesboro merged. It was a move intended to qualify the town for federal aid but did not. In fact, the borough is so small the U.S. Census Bureau includes it in the statistics for Johnstown, population 20,000.

Staples arrived in Northern Cambria to serve St. Thomas Episcopal Church in September 1993, the same time as Coal Country co-founder Pastor Marty Cartmell arrived at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. During the summer of 1994, as both women were still getting to know the community, each witnessed teenagers’ boredom-fueled antics.

“We did a lot of running around and seeing what the place was like and we discovered on summer nights that kids were just all over the town, just all over, everywhere,” said Staples over a stromboli at Hubcaps Grill, a pizzeria across from Cambria Heights High School just outside Patton, one of four high schools she assists in implementing Coal Country’s experiential learning program.

The teens had “invented a lovely game at the main intersection in town at the light,” Staples said. “Highway 219 comes up a slope, makes a total left-hand turn and proceeds out of town. The kids all got together and sat down on the highway and made a wall across the highway just at the point where the trucks coming up 219 had to rev their motors … to get around that curve. And here’s a wall of kids – they’d blow their truck horns, the kids would jump up screaming,” she continued, somewhat amused.

“Marty and I both saw this, and said, ‘My God, these kids have got to have something to do,’ and that’s where it started right there.” She stressed that the kids were never really in danger. But the human wall was more indicative of the “mindless, generalized vandalism” evidenced in town.

Coal Country began with the teen program in 1996. In 2000 the organization bought the building, a decommissioned Roman Catholic church – one of 13 closed that year by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown – for $1.

“We started with a teen program before we got the building we’re in now, for the first four years ,… then created the day care, preschool, and then established the experiential education component,” said Staples.

Experiential education

Regional high school graduation rates are high, but the percentage people who go to college drops dramatically. Mining jobs pay in the $60,000 range; the median household income is $41,730. The area is home to a large percentage of elderly people looking for a lower cost of living, and low-income people who rely on social services.

The experiential education program provides for creative projects and fieldwork, and students who participate in Coal Country’s experiential education program tend to score higher on standardized tests, and 100 percent go on to college.

“We looked at graduation rates four all four school districts, 94-97 percent, post-secondary drops 30 to 35 percent in all four school district, said Staples. “It goes to prove a point: you cannot simply do it while sitting in a classroom with a textbook, without this kind of experience in the field.

“We’re proud of that; we think it’s an interesting statistic.”

Experiential education includes, arts, local history, environmental education and contemporary issues, which together bring awareness, not just to the students who participate, but the community, of a sense of place, not only of the region’s coal production and role in building American cities, but its significance in American history.

“The things that I cherish most about growing up in Texas wouldn’t have happened anywhere else,” said Staples, who maintains a Texas lilt complete with the cuss words she grew up with. “Any place where you are is important, it pinpoints all these things you grow up to be.”

A stone and ceramic monument made by students participating in Coal Country’s experiential education program marks Kittanning Path, an old trail that crosses northern Cambria County. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Long before the industrial revolution, Native Americans and European settlers occupied the region. Through arts grants, students have erected stone and ceramic monuments highlighting battles, trade and settlers’ routes. For instance, the monument at Kittanning Path marks a Native American trail that cut east and west through western Pennsylvania used by Europeans to settle the region and beyond.

“This was the major highway for settlers in the century prior to the U.S. becoming a country, and we think history is important,” said Staples, while driving the winding rural Allegheny Mountain roads in her red 2003 Saturn, odometer reading more than 200,000 miles, the radio tuned to classical music.

In American history students learn about what happened on the Eastern Seaboard, “where all the action was. Kids grow up without knowing what happened here or that it had any value,” she added.

Deacon Ann Staples, artist Michael Allison and teacher Kady Manifest, discuss a student art project during a meeting at Cambria Heights High School. Lynette Wilson/ENS

Northern Cambria High School social studies teacher Karen Bowman has led students in four local history projects, including a documentary film project “We Never Got the Welcome Home: Vietnam Vets of Western PA Remembered,” the latter completed with the help of a $10,000 grant from the History Channel.

Produced by 14 students, the film features more than two dozen area Vietnam vets, who reflect on their return home from the war nearly 30 years earlier, and how their lives and the region had changed. Cambria County, population 140,000, has a high rate of military service and is home to more than 13,000 veterans.

In teacher Ron Yuhas’ biology class an environmental grant from Coal Country allowed students to go out into the field to measure water quality in the West Branch Susquehanna to assess the damage from acid mine drainage.

“The kids are outdoorsmen and sportsmen and concerned with water quality,” said Yuhas, adding that a new grant will allow for continued monitoring.

The school district is focused on getting students prepared for vocational education and college, and there’s not always funding or time for electives, said Pupo, the school’s principal.

“Really we need to ensure that they are going to be productive members of society. Some have big dreams of moving to other places,” said Pupo. “The challenge is, as they walk out of here, they compete for jobs in the real world.”

Pennsylvania’s ‘energy county’

Energy news dominates the headlines in Pittsburgh and the local papers: the shale boom, for instance, and events such as an October conference sponsored by the local American Middle East Institute where Oman’s minister of oil and gas praised fracking. Cambria County’s government website bills it as Pennsylvania’s Energy County.” The Obama administration’s so-called “war on coal,” doesn’t make him popular in the region.


Wind turbines are churning out energy across central Pennsylvania. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Signs that coal’s slipping in importance: the giant wind turbines, churning out electricity throughout the region.

Gamesa Energy developed the entire ridge across the central part of the state for wind energy purposes,” said Staples. “That caused major concern for people trying to maintain the coal mines … a new form of energy with nothing to do with coal.”

At the start of the 20th century, in 1901, there were 130 significant coal mines in Cambria County; the mines were at their most productive in ‘10s and ‘20s, supplying energy at a time when the U.S. steel industry increased its output by more than 150 percent, becoming the world’s largest steel producer.

In the 1970s, as the United States moved from being the world’s largest exporter to the world’s largest importer of steel, the ripple effects were felt throughout Appalachia. In the 1990s, the remaining union mines closed and miner salaries plunged.

Ethnic bonds

In the late 19th century Europeans emigrated in large numbers to work in the mines.

“When they started coming and they would emigrate in huge batches. Italy, Poland, Wales … this town was totally founded by immigrants,” said Staples. “And they weren’t the kind of people who were people of position back home, so they came here because they could get a job in mining and they formed little cliques based on ethnicity. So much so that in every town in northern Cambria there was a little Catholic Church: one that was Italian, one that was Polish, one that was English, one that was Welsh.”

“Fourteen (in all), because every immigrant group that came had a church,” she said, adding that at one point, 94 percent of the community was Roman Catholic.

In 2000, the same year Barnesboro and Spangler merged, the Roman Catholic diocese closed all but one of its 14 ethnic parishes, another blow to the region’s cultural identity. Staples said the closings were painful, but “In the end it was very pragmatic, (the bishop) picked the parish that was in the best physical condition, and made it very clear that that was why.”

The Young Men’s Polish Legion, the Slovak Club, the Sons of Italy, and other men’s clubs remain open.

Quiet streets

Aside from the occasional sound of heavy trucks roaring up Crawford Avenue to where it intersects Highway 219, or Philadelphia Avenue as it’s called in town, the streets are quiet.

Mom-and-pop shops – a tiny grocery that specializes in lottery tickets, Italian restaurants and pizzerias, a liquor store, a shoe store, a public library, a home appliance store – occupy retail space on Crawford and Philadelphia avenues, the core of the borough’s downtown.

On Oct. 30, Coal Country board members gathered at the center to talk about its importance to the community in a conversation that eventually turned nostalgic and led to talk about creating jobs and opportunities for young people.

That same day Cambria County had been dealt another blow – the loss of more than 400 jobs – when it was announced that a Virginia-based coal mining company would sell off “a large chunk” of its Pennsylvania assets to a Kittanning-based company.

Later, young people arrived at Coal Country to decorate for the following night’s Halloween dance. Phillip “Flip” Schlereth, who’s been coming for six years, was there, as was his friend Anthony Reid, who moved to Northern Cambria from Texas a year or so ago and started coming to Coal Country at Flip’s invitation.

They come to hang out with friends and meet new people, Reid said.

Julia DeLoatch, 20, was there along with her 16-year-old sister and 17-year-old brother. DeLoatch, who works at Dairy Queen with a goal to get out of town, came to help set up for the dance, but also to encourage her sister and brother to stay out of trouble, she said.

When Staples and Cartmell, who later parted ways with the organization, first opened the doors, no one came; it took time to build trust among the community and the youth. The fact that 40 to 50 youth now come on weekend nights is a sign that the people are comforted and healed, said McConnell, the bishop of Pittsburgh. “Missional communities are always relational communities … that the public gospel, which is to say that what is taking place in that youth hangout center, is definitely growing out of a heart that people have come to trust.

“The fact is you don’t have to prove yourself that you are a certain way to get into that youth center, you just walk in. …,There are certain expectations because I think that Ann is really interested in seeing kids grow up into the people that God wants them to become.”

In a community where the majority of the signs indicate it’s a place that has been beaten down, there exists a kind of “cultural accommodation of despair” and the future seems like a big challenge, said McConnell.

“But then you walk into that place and you see what’s going on in there and it gives everybody a reason to hope. I think that’s one of the reasons she’s precious in that community – you don’t to have have a kid in that program in order to be proud of it,” said McConnell.They can point at her and say, ‘We’re not dead yet. See there is some life here.’ ”

– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop further restricts ministry of Heather Cook

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Feb. 10 issued a formal canonical Restriction on Ordained Ministry directed to the Rt. Rev. Heather Cook, Bishop Suffragan of Maryland.

This Restriction was issued as part of the Episcopal Church’s Title IV disciplinary process.  The Restriction provides:

Pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4) and IV.17(2) of this church, I hereby place the following restrictions on your ordained ministry:

You shall not exercise or engage in the ordained ministry of this Church in any respect, shall not participate in any functions of the House of Bishops, and shall not hold yourself out as an ordained person of this Church in good standing, until such time as all matters relating to you that are pending before a panel of the Disciplinary Board of Bishops shall have been finally resolved.

In her notice, the Presiding Bishop indicates, “This restriction is being placed upon your ordained ministry because information has been received by the Intake Officer that indicates that you may have committed one or more offenses under Canon IV.4 as a result of your alleged criminal conduct in connection with an automobile accident on December 27, 2014 and misrepresentations you allegedly made to persons in the Diocese of Easton and in connection to your candidacy for the episcopate in the Diocese of Maryland regarding your experience with alcohol.

The Restriction takes effect immediately.

Naughton awarded House of Deputies medal

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

[Canticle Communications] On January 31, House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings awarded the House of Deputies medal to Jim Naughton, founder and long-time editor of Episcopal Café, a blog of news, meditations, commentary and art. Jennings made the presentation at the Diocese of Washington’s annual convention in Glenn Dale, Maryland.

Naughton, who founded Episcopal Café in 2007, retired as its editor in November 2014.

“Over the years, one of the things that I and a lot of other faithful Episcopalians learned from Jim and Episcopal Café is that the Episcopal Church needs an independent news source,” Jennings told the convention. “Our denominational news service and other publications sponsored by various dioceses, foundations and other entities are important to our common life, but we also need a news source that isn’t beholden to the official structures of the church. Elected and appointed leaders, like me, shouldn’t be able to control the news and opinions about our beloved church that Episcopalians read and hear, and deputies, bishops and faithful Episcopalians of all callings should have a forum to debate, ask questions, and to hold our leaders and each other accountable. Independent news makes all of our leaders, all of our governing structures, and all of our ministries stronger, more accountable, and more faithful.”

In accepting the award, Naughton thanked Jennings, whom he said had asked him to come to Washington’s convention without telling him why. He thanked the Café’s staff, and praised the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, former bishop of Washington and Paul Cooney, the diocese’s canon to the ordinary. “John and Paul understood that if you want a free flow of information and an open discussion of the issues facing the church, you had to grant the people providing that information both editorial freedom and job security,” he said. “I am not sure that all of the leaders in our church understand that.”

Naughton is now a partner in Canticle Communications, an independent firm that is contracted by Jennings to assist with House of Deputies communications. In retiring from the Café, Naughton cited his desire to pursue a new writing project.

Cornelia Eaton ordained priest in Navajoland

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 9, 2015

The Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton and Navajoland Bishop David Bailey pose Feb. 7 after her ordination to the priesthood. Photo: Dick Snyder

[Episcopal News Service] In a liturgy that combined Anglican and Navajo traditions, the Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton was ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.

She serves as canon to the ordinary for Navajoland Bishop David Bailey, who ordained her.

The service took place Feb. 7 at All Saints Church in Farmington, New Mexico, where her late father, the Rev. Yazzie Mason, had served as deacon. Among the participants in the liturgy was her mother, Alice Mason, who served as lay pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, for 30 years. She was one of the presenters.

The liturgy included readings and hymns in English and Navajo, and smudging by Eaton and the Rev. Catherine Plummer, widow of the late Navajoland Bishop Steven Plummer.

Bailey noted that Eaton has “been on a journey that has led to her being a priest,” and that she had long served the Episcopal Church in Navajoland as a youth minister, lay leader and assistant to the bishop.

The Rev. Canon Cornelia Eaton is presented to Navajoland Bishop David Bailey for ordination to the priesthood Feb. 7 at All Saints Church in Farmington, New Mexico. Among the presenters is Eaton’s mother, Alice Mason (center), who served as lay pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, for 30 years. Photo: Dick Snyder

The bishop had ordained Eaton as deacon in the same church on Dec. 21, 2013.

She also served as a chaplain for the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church, offering daily meditations and prayers for the House of Deputies. Eaton will be a Navajoland clergy deputy to the June 25-July 3 meeting of General Convention in Salt Lake City.

With Eaton’s ordination as priest, Bailey has ordained three Navajo, or Diné, as priests and three more as transitional deacons. There are another three Diné in the ordination process. Eaton is the fourth female Diné following Plummer, the Rev. Rosella Jim and the Rev. Inez Velarde.

Eaton has completed courses at Vancouver School of Theology in Vancouver, British Columbia, and training offered through the Bishops’ Collaborative of the Episcopal Church. This fall, she will enter Virginia Theological Seminary.

She celebrated her first Eucharist as priest on Feb. 8, with Bailey assisting.

– The Rev. Dick Snyder is missioner for special projects in Navajoland and is employed as a prison chaplain in Nevada.