[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Report to the 78th General Convention, commonly referred to as The Blue Book, will be available online at the Episcopal Church General Convention website here.
Reports will be added to the General Convention website as they are received, the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, General Convention Executive Officer, said. Currently posted are reports from The Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC), the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, and the Standing Commission on Communications and Information Technology. Additional reports will be posted weekly, as they are translated and edited for publication.
The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, June 25 – July 3, will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).
For the first time, all reports for the Blue Book will be offered only online rather than in print. “The 78th General Convention will be a convention of screens,” Barlowe explained. “The Blue Book will not be printed as it has been in years past.”
He added that the documents can be downloaded as desired, and that Church Publishing may make a print copy available for purchase.
The Blue Book contains reports of the committees, commissions, agencies and boards of the General Convention. The information is available in English and in Spanish.
For questions about The Blue Book, contact Twila Rios, staff assistant for content management and digital publishing in the General Convention Office, email@example.com.
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The eldest son of the Rev. Israel Ahimbisibwe, Isaac Tiharihondi, was arrested in Mississippi and has been charged with two counts of capital murder, according to media reports. Ahimbisibwe, his wife Dorcas and five-year-old son Jay were found dead in their west Houston apartment on Feb. 2 after they failed to show up for church Sunday and did not respond to numerous attempts to contact them.
“While I am relieved authorities have found Isaac, I am heartbroken that he has been charged with capital murder,” said the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, bishop of Texas. “This only adds to the tragedy of their deaths and raises more questions than it answers.”
Ahimbisibwe, a native of Uganda, was vicar of Church of the Redeemer and chaplain at the University of Houston. He had previously served as an assistant at Holy Spirit, Houston. Emmanuel, 17, Ahimbisibwe’s middle son, is in boarding school in California.
“As a Christian community, let us pray for Emmanuel and Isaac as they journey through this time of grief and sorrow,” Doyle said. “Let us also pray for our courts and our prisons, that all involved will be given clarity of mind, peace and wisdom. Our Book of Common Prayer reminds us to ‘pray that any that are held unjustly be released and that those who are guilty find repentance and amendment of life.’ We follow a God in Jesus Christ who is present with those who suffer. Let us be faithful to the God of love and forgiveness.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
[CARAVAN press release] Following the recent tragedy in Paris and in the midst of the increasing chasm of discord and misunderstanding that exists between the Middle East and the West, and between Christians, Muslims and Jews, the 7th CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art titled “The Bridge” opens in Paris, France, this week at the historic Church of Saint Germain des Prés in the Latin Quarter.
The first week of February 2015 is the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Through the founding sponsorship of SODIC from Egypt, The Bridge is an East-West traveling art exhibition organized and curated by CARAVAN, an interreligious and intercultural peace-building NGO. It showcases the work of 47 premier contemporary visual artists of Arab, Persian and Jewish backgrounds. As a multireligious group, the artists are making the case for using that which we have in common as the foundation for the future of our world.
The Bridge opened on Feb. 2 with a month-long exhibition in Paris, France and will then travel throughout Europe, to Egypt and the United States, and will be held in a variety of venues (cathedrals, museums, galleries, interfaith centers, etc) before closing in 2016.
As the exhibition travels, it takes with it a fundamental message of intercultural and interreligious harmony and provides a link not only within communities but also between communities. The Bridge serves as a common starting point on which to build, toward seeing the development of a world that inherently respects and honors cultural and religious diversity, living and working together in harmony.
The Bridge exhibition involves a diverse range of Arab, Persian and Jewish visual artists.
Participating artists include women and men, from premier contemporary artists to emerging younger artists, from the three primary monotheistic faith backgrounds and 13 countries. Each artist has submitted one original work (done specifically for the exhibition) addressing the theme “The Bridge,” focusing on what they hold in common through their cultures and creeds, illustrating their ideas of how to build bridges between us all.
The Bridge is co-curated by CARAVAN Founder/President, the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler and noted artist, Lilianne Milgrom.
CARAVAN, which originated out of Cairo, Egypt, is an international humanitarian arts NGO that focuses on building bridges through the arts between the creeds and cultures of the Middle East and West. CARAVAN’s experience has shown that the Arts can serve as one of the most effective mediums to enhance understanding, bring about respect, enable sharing, and deepen friendship between those of different faiths and cultures. One of the flagship initiatives of CARAVAN is the globally recognized interfaith CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art, a unique arts initiative that brings together many of the Middle East’s and West’s premier and emerging
The 2014 CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art was held first in Cairo at the Museum of Modern Art, then in Washington D.C. at the renowned National Cathedral, following by in New York City at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The exhibition involved 48 premier Egyptian and Western artists, from Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions. Titled “AMEN: A Prayer for the World,” the art exhibition sought to express the deep, fundamental acknowledgment of power and hope for all people. More than 200,000 people viewed the exhibition in these three venues. The 2013 CARAVAN interfaith exhibition was held first in Cairo and then at the world renowned St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, attracting more than 120,000 people during the five-week exhibition.
THE BRIDGE: 2015 CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art / Paris: 2-28 February, 2015 Church of Saint Germain des Pres (dans La Chapelle Saint Symphorien) 3, place Saint Germain des Prés, VI, Paris, France (www.eglise-sgp.org)
Monday through Friday: 5-8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 12-8 p.m.
Facebook: visit CARAVAN Arts
For more information, interviews or photos, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Lent Madness press release] For the sixth year running, people worldwide are gearing up for Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” in which 32 saints do battle to win the coveted Golden Halo. Calling itself the world’s most popular online Lenten devotion, Lent Madness brings together cut-throat competition, the lives of the saints, humor, and the chance to see how God works in the lives of women and men across all walks of life.
The creator of Lent Madness, the Rev. Tim Schenck, says, “People might think Lent is all about eating dirt and giving up chocolate, but it’s really about getting closer to Jesus.” Schenck, who is rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, Massachusetts, adds, “The saints aren’t just remote images in stained glass windows or pious-looking statues. They were real people God just happened to use in marvelous ways.”
Lent Madness began on Schenck’s blog in 2010 as he sought a way to combine his love of sports with his passion for the lives of saints. Starting in 2012, he partnered with Forward Movement (the same folks that publish Forward Day by Day), to bring Lent Madness to the masses.
The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Schenck’s Lent Madness co-conspirator, says, “Throughout Lent, as we’re having fun with the competition, we are also inspired by how God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” Gunn, who is executive director of Forward Movement in Cincinnati, Ohio, adds, “That’s the whole point of the Christian life: to allow God to work in us to share God’s love and proclaim Good News.”
Schenck and Gunn form the self-appointed Supreme Executive Committee, a more-or-less benevolent dictatorship that runs the entire operation. The formula has worked as this online devotional has been featured in media outlets all over the country including NBC, The Washington Post, FOXNews, NPR, USAToday, and even Sports Illustrated (no, really).
Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at www.lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo.
The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.
This year Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. 2015 heavyweights include Teresa of Avila, Frederick Douglass, Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, Balthazar, and the Venerable Bede. The full bracket is online at the Lent Madness website.
From the “you can’t know the saints without a scorecard” department, the Saintly Scorecard — The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2015 is available through Forward Movement. It contains biographies of all 32 saints to assist those who like to fill out their brackets in advance, in addition to a full-color pull-out bracket.
This all kicks off on “Ash Thursday,” February 19. To participate, visit the Lent Madness website, where you can also print out a bracket for free to see how you fare or “compete” against friends and family members. Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas.
Ten “celebrity bloggers” from across the country have been tapped to write for the project including the Rev. Amber Belldene of San Francisco, CA; the Rev. Laurie Brock of Lexington, KY; Dr. David Creech of Morehead, MN; the Rev. Megan Castellan of Kansas City, MO; the Rev. Laura Darling of Oakland, CA; Neva Rae Fox of Somerville, NJ; the Rev. Nancy Frausto of Los Angeles, CA; the Rev. David Hendrickson of Denver, CO; the Rev. Maria Kane of Houston, TX; and the Rev. David Sibley of Manhasset, NY.
Information about each of the celebrity bloggers and the rest of the team is available on the Lent Madness website.
If you’re looking for a Lenten discipline that is fun, educational, occasionally goofy, and always joyful, consider this your invitation to join in the Lent Madness journey.
[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivered the following speech at the launch of the Religious Liberty Commission in Westminster on Feb. 4.
It’s a great privilege to be here. This is an area of life which has been central to my own prayer and my own thinking for a very long time. When my wife and I got married in 1979, in our first two summer holidays, we took Bibles – with a group affiliated with Open Doors – firstly to what was then Czechoslovakia, and secondly to Romania.
That brought home to us a number of things. One was that God is present in the midst of the suffering of the persecuted church. Secondly that listening to those who are being persecuted is extraordinarily important; talking at them or about them is one thing, but actually hearing them is something quite different, and it burns itself into one’s soul.
Although there’s much talk of persecution in this country I think we need to distinguish our situation – as Rowan Williams did quite rightly – from the serious oppression in places around the world where the response to the call of Jesus to “follow me” is forbidden.
I’m going to expand this to talk about other faiths as we go on, but I’m consciously starting with Christians.
We need to start with generosity and free will, because religious freedom – the choice of how and whether at all we follow God or turn away from God – is something that is given in creation, and in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
For those of us who are Christians – I’m aware that there are other faiths here – living out that choice as something that we offer freely and around us, as well as something we demand for ourselves, is what distinguishes us from some of the sad and in fact evil history that has characterised the church…
Free choice is essential because that is what Jesus gave those he encountered. Think of the rich young ruler who is offered a choice and goes away saddened (Matthew 19:16-30). Think of the thieves on the cross on either side of Jesus, one of whom turns to him, the other of whom curses him: they have choice (Luke 23:39-43).
The choice to respond in faith or not is right through the Bible. The choice of truth and error is right through the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures, we see above all in the history of Israel and in the teaching of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 30:11 ff) and all those books that link in closely to that pivotal book of the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy alone the word ‘choose’ comes more than 20 times; it is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to relate to God and to the world.
We are those who have space, who have free will, who have choice – and then bear the consequences.
For these reasons, even more fundamentally than international law, freedom of religion is a fundamental human right – now enshrined in international law – and should be treated as equal, not subordinate, to other human rights. And for those of us who are Christians, let’s just be quite clear that the church, including the Church of England, has a poor record in this as in many other areas, but perhaps in the last 300 years has begun to learn a little of where it went wrong.
Because human beings are in the image of God, our religious beliefs are a core part of what it is to be human. They form us into who we are; they provide foundations for our deepest convictions, and motivations for our sincerest actions.
That is something that goes back right through history. We see looking back that the formation of the monasteries with Saint Benedict was driven not by the thought that it would be a good idea to have somewhere that was safer as the Roman Empire collapsed around them, where a little bit of civilization could be maintained – let alone, as a friend who mine who’s a Catholic priest said to me, so that gentlemen can live together in community. It was so that faith in Christ could be expressed tangibly and visibly, in lives lived together growing towards Christ.
The trouble with ‘freedom of belief’ is that it’s almost misleading, as it fails fully to convey the total orientation and way of life that some foundational convictions provide. Unlike beliefs of preference, predilections and taste, faith is not an optional extra – or as it usually turns up in the research on marketing that sometimes comes across one’s desk, as a leisure interest. I remember years ago, when the present chief justice of the United States was appointed to his post and was about to go through his Senate confirmation hearings. There were a lot of questions about the fact that he is a Roman Catholic. The question was: would that influence his judgement? And I remember a senator who was interviewed and said, “I don’t mind him being a Roman Catholic, provided it has no effect on what he does.” [Laughter]
Well belief doesn’t work that way. It is essential that when we are talking about freedom of religion – and freedom not to follow a religion – that getting God, understanding what this means, the transformation at the deepest level of the human being that goes with faith in God, is something that isn’t just like saying, “I prefer the colour green to the colour blue”, but it’s often treated that way, a mere matter of personal preference. It is at the very depths of what it is to be human.
If human rights are normative, as we believe, for how humans ought to be treated, then the precious, God-given gift of human dignity is the foundation on which these rights stand. We have value, every human being has value, because we are valued by God. Rights spring from the ineradicable dignity that we are given in creation, and we have a responsibility before God, as those who trust in Him, to protect them.
We must be models ourselves; we must speak out in solidarity. Silence is not an option if we are to stay true to our faith. If our religious beliefs are a core part of our humanity, then treasuring the dignity of each and every human must mean we treasure their right to religious belief – even when we disagree. Religious freedom is a precious freedom, but it is also profoundly delicate and complex. It is not private, but public. It is lived out and expressed publicly.
I’ll speak about other faiths, but in Christianity to start with, to belong to Christ is to be part of the family of Christ. I look around and I see people here today – to my intense pleasure – Christians from the Levant and the Middle East. When they are attacked, we are attacked as Christians… but within Islam there is a similar concept: when Muslims in one part of the world are attacked, that is an attack on the people of Islam.
Religious faith is lived out in community. It’s lived out in love for one another. We may passionately disagree with doctrines of a different faith, but we need to recognise that faith is something that is public, that is something that we do together – and the moment that is attacked, the whole concept of what it means to belong to God is undermined. The public witness of the church that loves one another is a blessing to its community… and yet throughout history it is in its public gathering that the church is attacked.
Because of its public, communal nature, gathering of those who believe in God – Christians and other faiths – are a challenge in a diverse society. We find it fine to say that a particular church is going incredibly well and is full every Sunday. But at the same time – we see reports about it – we are deeply uncomfortable about the mosque down the road that has people outside because they can’t fit them in.
Well, if we believe in freedom to choose, if we believe in freedom of religion, what’s good for one is good for all. We must speak out for others persecuted for their beliefs, whether it be religious or atheistic: taking responsibility for someone else’s freedom is as important as protecting my own. It is as much the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not to be abused by Christians who are affronted, as it is the right of Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ as their Saviour: that is his freedom to choose, that is given to us in creation.
In the last two years my wife and I have visited every province of the Anglican Communion (37 of them). We have seen extraordinary stories of courage and persecution – not only the persecution of Christians, but the suppression of any diversity. In the Middle East we know that Christians are fleeing their homes… in Pakistan, I had an anguished email on Tuesday from our bishop there about a school that had been raided and attacked. By the grace of God people weren’t killed, but it is a routine part of life.
We know about the attacks on Jewish communities – this atrocious development of attacks on Jewish communities, particularly across Europe. We know about attacks on Muslims; mosques firebombed in this country. We know about attacks on other faiths.
But we also know in some countries about the quiet, creeping removals of freedom, which breed a climate of fear and animosity. The lesson we learn from the moving reading earlier about the plane going past is: why was that possible? It didn’t happen overnight. It began in the 1930s with the disparagement of Jewish people; with them being treated as less than entirely human. And by the time they were being carted off screaming in trains, it was more or less tolerated.
That breeding of a climate of fear and animosity is where we must first speak out. We must speak with humility and boldness. (I’m saying we now as the churches.) Boldness we do. But also we must speak with deep humility – the humility of the alcoholic who used to do this sort of thing themselves, but has learned right from wrong, and stands up and says, ‘Don’t be as I was’.
I welcome this coordination of efforts by the Religious Liberty Commission. And I echo its encouragement for religious and political leaders to continue to speak out in unison against all and any violation of freedom of religion.
Finally I am grateful for its support in resourcing us as church leaders with knowledge and encouraging us to engage with and pray for the persecuted church.
Freedom of religion embedded in the very way we are human. Freedom of religion is in international law. Freedom of religion is God-given and God-called. It is preserved by humble, confident care of what it is to be a human being, and the knowledge that when human beings live out their lives faithful to Christ – and I’m talking here as a Christian – they are the most human they will ever be.
Peter Eaton, de 56 años de edad, deán de la catedral de Denver, Colorado, ha sido electo obispo coadjutor (auxiliar con derecho a sucesión) de la diócesis del Sureste de la Florida que tiene su sede en Miami. La elección tuvo lugar en la cuarta votación. Desde el principio Eaton llevaba una ligera ventaja. Hijo de clérigo, su padre fue profesor de seminario en Barbados y Puerto Rico. Eaton hizo la mayor parte de sus estudios en Inglaterra y habla español, inglés y francés. Sucederá al obispo Leopoldo Frade que se jubila por razones de edad en enero del año que viene. Él y su esposa Kate están celebrando el décimo aniversario de su boda. Ella se especializa en componer música religiosa. ¡Enhorabuena!
La muerte por incineración de un joven piloto jordano capturado en diciembre en Siria y que ha sacudido al mundo, puede traer graves consecuencias para el Medio Oriente, dijeron observadores políticos. En Jordania se informó que ya se están haciendo los preparativos para vengar la muerte del piloto. Un vocero del grupo dijo que “el mundo sabrá de lo que son capaces” haciendo justicia por este horrendo crimen perpetrado ante los ojos del mundo.
La polémica entre el periódico ABC de Madrid y el presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, ha subido de tono recientemente. Mientras que el diario madrileño reitera su información en el sentido de que Diosdado Cabello, presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, “es la mano que mece el narcotráfico” y que el periódico promueve una campaña “bestial y vulgar” contra el país petrolero, ABC contesta diciendo que “bestial y vulgar es amordazar a la prensa, cerrar emisoras de radio y televisión y meter en la cárcel a quien piense diferente”.
Israel Ahimbisibwe, sacerdote episcopal de 52 años, su esposa y un hijo pequeño fueron asesinados en su apartamento de Houston. La familia era de origen ugandés. El clérigo servía como capellán en la Universidad de Houston y estaba a cargo de una pequeña Iglesia Episcopal. Era muy querido en la comunidad por su trabajo pastoral. La policía encontró sus cuerpos cuando no asistieron a un oficio donde Ahimbisibwe debía oficiar. Los investigadores no descartan ninguna posibilidad.
La acción del presidente Barack Obama de reanudar las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba ha causado más revuelo de lo que se pensó originalmente. Gran parte de la comunidad cubana está dividida sobre las consecuencias de estas medidas. El gobierno de Cuba ha reaccionado positivamente aunque ha puesto unas condiciones que los analistas piensan que son “irrealizables”. El gobernante Raúl Castro ha dicho que Estados Unidos tendrá que eliminar las sanciones que impone el embargo económico (en Cuba le llaman “bloqueo”), y compensar a Cuba por las consecuencias negativas de éste durante los últimos 55 años, devolver el territorio que ocupa la base naval de Guantánamo y suspender las transmisiones de Radio y Televisión Martí. Estados Unidos por su parte, pide el restablecimiento del estado de derecho, elecciones libres, libertad de prensa y libertad para los presos políticos. Veremos qué pasa.
El Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos ha decidido restringir visas a más funcionarios del gobierno de Venezuela. La nota dada a la publicidad dice en parte: “Los que violan los derechos humanos y aquellos que se benefician de la corrupción y sus familias no son bienvenidos en Estados Unidos”. Seguramente que Venezuela responderá en forma similar.
Michelle Bachelet, presidenta de Chile, ha enviado al congreso un proyecto de ley que elimina la condena a los que interrumpen el embarazo o según el lenguaje médico “despenaliza el aborto terapéutico” que fue instaurado durante el régimen de Pinochet. Bachelet es médica pediatra. Según el proyecto de ley el plazo para abortar es de 12 semanas de gestación y cuando se trate de una menor de 14 años se buscará la autorización de los padres.
Con el revuelo que han causado las posibles relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba, se cree que la ley que da preferencia a los cubanos para inmigrar a Estados Unidos según una ley llamada de “Ajuste Cubano”, se pronostica que esta ley sea enmendada y que miles de cubanos que residen en suelo estadounidense tendrán que ser extraditados a Cuba especialmente los que hayan cometido delitos graves. Según las autoridades hay 34,525 cubanos con órdenes finales de deportación. ORACIÓN. Señor, ten piedad.
[The Episcopal Church in South Carolina press release] Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein has ruled that a breakaway group that sued local Episcopalians over control of the Diocese of South Carolina has the right to hold onto the name and property of the diocese.
The judge’s decision was issued late in the afternoon on Feb. 3, more than six months after the conclusion of a three-week trial in St. George in July. The lawsuit initially was filed by the breakaway group in January 2013 against The Episcopal Church and its local diocese in eastern South Carolina, which is known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. TECSC includes 30 parishes and mission churches in the region who have remained part of The Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
“We have understood from the beginning that this lawsuit was mounted after years of planning by individuals who were intent upon taking the diocese and its property out of The Episcopal Church,” said Holly Behre, Director of Communications for TECSC. “We have also understood that defending ourselves will be a long legal process.”
“We are considering all the issues raised by the Court Order and plan to recommend to the Church to engage the appeal process as appropriate,” said diocesan Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale. “The result of the recent trial was not unexpected and road ahead in the judicial system is clear to us.”
The Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, Bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said the ruling represents one step on a long journey. “Our biblical heritage tells of journeys experienced by faithful people. Those journeys often were difficult and filled with setbacks, but people of faith were called to persevere on the way.”
“Perseverance is our call and intention, on this journey in our day,” the bishop said.
The bishop said history also contains many examples of justice being delayed. “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina believes that such is the situation we now must endure for a while, as we continue on this journey.”
Von Rosenberg later issued a pastoral letter about the court ruling. It is available here.
[Episcopal News Service] The A050 Task Force on the Study of Marriage is recommending that the 2015 meeting of General Convention authorize Episcopal Church clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages.
The task force proposes the change in its just-released Blue Book report by way of a resolution (numbered A036) that would revise Canon I.18 titled “Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony” (page 58 of The Episcopal Church’s canons here).
The revision removes, among many edits, the language of I.18.2(b) that requires couples to “understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman.” Removing that and other gender-specific language from the canon, the report says, addresses the mandate in the group’s enabling resolution that it “address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such.”
Section 3 of Canon 18 would be rewritten to, in part, remove the requirement that the couple sign a declaration stating they “solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”
The revision would recast the requirement in the canon’s first section that clergy conform to both “the laws of the state” and “the laws of this Church” about marriage. The rewritten portion of that section would require that clergy conform to “the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage.”
Canon I.18 contains the majority of the rules in the church’s canons about clergy officiating at marriage. Canon I.19 governs the “preservation of marriage, dissolution of marriage, and remarriage” and as such refers to “husband” and “wife” in its third section. The Book of Common Prayer, which Article X of the church’s constitution authorizes, refers to marriage on page 422 as Christian marriage being “a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God.” It uses gender-specific language throughout “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage” and “An Order for Marriage” rites, as well as in its “Additional Directions” section.
The task force says in its report that its revision of Canon I.18 makes the canon “focused on the actual vows made in The Book of Common Prayer marriage rite, rather than on the purposes of marriage in general,” which it adds are stated “in literally creedal form.”
The clergy’s discretion to decline to solemnize any marriage is preserved and extended to include the choice to decline offering a blessing on a marriage, the task force said.
The 122-page report, the majority of which includes resources the task force developed for the study of marriage and essays on various issues concerning marriage, is available in English here and in Spanish here.
The task force was formed in response to a call (via Resolution A050) from the 77th General Convention in July 2012 for a group of “theologians, liturgists, pastors and educators to identify and explore biblical, theological, historical, liturgical and canonical dimensions of marriage.”
That same meeting of convention authorized provisional use of a rite to bless same-sex relationships. Use of that rite, Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be A Blessing, is due to be reviewed by General Convention in 2015.
Noting the rapidly changing social and legal landscape of marriage, the Task Force on the Study of Marriage says in its report that “this time of flux bears continuing discernment and attention by our Church.”
Thus the group will ask convention to consider Resolution A037 to continue the task force’s work into the 2016-2018 triennium as a way to “explore further those contemporary trends and norms” the current group has identified.
Those trends and norms, the group’s report says, include “those who choose to remain single; unmarried persons in intimate relationships; couples who cohabitate either in preparation for, or as an alternative to, marriage; couples who desire a blessing from the Church but not marriage; parenting by single and/or unmarried persons; differing forms of family and household such as those including same-sex parenting, adoption, and racial diversity; and differences in marriage patterns between ethnic and racial groups, and between provinces inside and outside the United States.”
While doing its work this triennium, “the Task Force became highly aware of a growing contemporary reality in society and the Church that is redefining what many mean by ‘family’ or ‘household,’” the group says in its report, adding that “this changing reality is felt in our congregations.”
Marriage “as a normative way of life” is being challenged, yet the group says it “did not have the time or resources to fully address this reality.”
“More broadly, our Church has done very little to respond to it,” the task force says.
The task force’s two resolutions, as well as other expected proposed resolutions on marriage, will be handled by a special legislative Committee on Marriage when the General Convention next meets June 25-July 3 in Salt Lake City.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, said in July that they would appoint the committee “to ensure that the work of the Task Force on Marriage and resolutions related to the rapidly shifting contexts of civil marriage in the United States and in several other parts of the world can be given appropriate consideration.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service] A tapestry of words such as “vulnerability” and “fragility,” “courage” and “dignity” were woven into a common thread as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders from the United States concurred that they’d been transformed by a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The experience, they said, would augment their responsibility to partners in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and inform the fabric of their future peacemaking work, both in the region and closer to home.
The 15-member interfaith group was co-led by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
The group held meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, decision-makers, high-level politicians, religious and civic leaders, and shared in one another’s faith traditions as they traveled for nine days in Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Stops included Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Safed, Tiberius, Ramallah, the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion and its surrounding areas, and both east and west Jerusalem.
While extended meetings with Palestinian government officials necessitated cancellation of a group trip to Bethlehem, some pilgrims visited the West Bank city between other meetings. The full group toured the separation barrier in its route around Bethlehem and its environs in the West Bank. A group visit to Hebron was canceled because of last-minute schedule alterations as a winter storm approached the U.S. forcing some participants to change their departure plans.
(An ENS article about the group’s meeting with political leaders is available here.)
As the group reflected on the week, in conversation at the Palestinian-run hotel where they were staying inside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Gutow described the journey as “a pilgrimage of relationship.
“We thickened together as we traversed the holy soil of the holiest of lands. We saw the beauty of the place and we saw its pain. We grew in our understanding,” he said. “It is not the simple vision with which we entered the land but rather the complexity, the nuance, the stories (good and bad), the difficulties that now define our vision of what is there. Holiness takes a bit of work.”
Jefferts Schori said that the pilgrims’ “willingness to enter into deep conversation and both to teach and to learn in the interchanges will continue to resonate. I feel like we’ve had a taste of the eternal reality which our traditions seek.”
She also noted that, as an interfaith coalition, “we have a voice that can speak to political leaders, to other religious leaders, to other civic leaders. There is the potential to light some fires, in the best sense, around the United States, of hope and possibility if we speak together … May we be vessels and instruments of the peace of the Holy One.”
The Quran, Syeed said, “tells us that we have invested human beings with nobility and dignity, but that in order to maintain that dignity we have a certain responsibility. It’s very difficult for us to go back and lose sight of that dignifying process that God has set for us: to look into each other’s eyes, see that there is an image of God, and believe that we cannot allow ourselves to be degenerated, and we will not allow others to be degenerated. It is our collective duty to save each other.”
The visit was planned in response to Resolution B019, passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012, that called for positive investment and engagement in the region and recommended that the presiding bishop develop an interfaith model pilgrimage that experiences multiple narratives. That resolution reiterated the Episcopal Church’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution “in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable and secure state for the Palestinian people.”
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has lasted more than 60 years. U.S.-led peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders broke down in May 2014, with both sides blaming the other for failing to make adequate concessions on issues such as borders, the status of refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem, and the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for The Episcopal Church, and one of the pilgrimage’s organizers, said: “It strikes me that narrative is a really complicated thing, because narrative is born out of our own levels of trust with the communities and the people and the realities with which we identify, for us as well as for Israelis and Palestinians. That is a wonderful thing in many ways but it is also fraught with danger, because in clinging to our own narratives … we might fail to see the authentic truth in another narrative.”
Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, a member of the Episcopal delegation, agreed. “We’ve not just celebrated our differences; we’ve moved into engaging more deeply the truths that each of us has grown with and has considered holy, but to be able to recognize it in another truth,” he said. “The various mirrors that have been presented have been a lot clearer because of this kind of transparency in community.”
Throughout the pilgrimage, Singh said that he’d found himself “going to deep places, which I cannot do if I’m not vulnerable. When we look at issues of justice, opinions can differ because of the lenses we use. But if, experientially, this is what beloved community can be, that gives me a lot of hope.”
The pilgrims said that the experience of journeying together as an interfaith community would also bear fruit when tackling pressing issues in their own contexts.
“I feel like God has thrown the pebble in the water and the ripples are just starting,” said Singh. “One such ripple for me is this template that can be applicable to peace on so many levels … One of the things I am taking away from here is to invite people into partnerships, and especially with the government, to see if we can figure out some solutions together, and if the faith communities can be helpful in the process … so that we can address some big issues like poverty and violence in our communities.”
Said Jefferts Schori: “I know there will be abundant opportunities for us to collaborate, in seeking healing in the Land of the Holy One, and in the nation we share in a different hemisphere. Peace building in one place impacts troubled and violent situations elsewhere.”
Members of the pilgrimage group have agreed to continue meeting now that they’re back in the United States, for the purpose of sharing trip reflections and recommendations with elected officials and to lead their own communities through an extended journey of shared advocacy, education and dialogue related to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Baumgarten, Episcopalians can expect to hear more about this in the months between now and when the 78th General Convention begins in Salt Lake City in June.
Sharing in one another’s faith traditions and learning about Jerusalem as a shared holy city through the eyes of other faith leaders brought a new dimension to the group’s understanding of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim histories and present context in the Holy Land.
“We knew that each of our traditions saw the face of God in those hills and valleys; we now know that all of our traditions see the face of God there,” Gutow said. “As we grew together, we were able to feel God’s presence in each of our hearts, not just our own. That is the gift. We understand even more than we did, and seeing God’s face in each other only deepens our responsibility to the land, to each other and, frankly, to God.”
Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid in the U.S., and a member of the Muslim delegation, said that the fellowship among faiths “strengthening our relationships and building trust among us” has been a pivotal part of the trip, especially in deepening his understanding of the land and its meaning as the “sacred places of all the children of Abraham.”
He said the experience also would create space for more opportunities intended to further dialogue and deepen understanding among faiths in the U.S. “This visit has put responsibility on us … because we’ve been given this opportunity to understand” and to act, he said.
Syeed spoke of several U.S.-based initiatives and publications – facilitated by ISNA and its interfaith partners – to combat ignorance, misunderstandings and to change people’s preconceived notions about the Abrahamic faiths.
“We are talking about a fellowship that is determined to change the situation – a transformative fellowship – so that has to be on strong grounds,” said Syeed, with specific reference to two resource guides for interfaith dialogue, Sharing the Well and Children of Abraham.
The pilgrims also recognized that sharing this journey with such a diverse group of religious leaders presents certain challenges and shifts people outside of their comfort zones.
Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that the pilgrimage has involved, “a certain amount of contraction, in our regular prayer routines, our regular eating routines, our regular routines of speaking our mind. We have been deferential to one another.”
Gordon acknowledged that there have been moments of tension and discomfort but recognized that “it is hard to be together and to be in this world of conflict that many of us speak about all the time, and we’ve had to be in this place of listening, but I think we’ve done it wonderfully.”
Sharon Jones, executive assistant to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, was visiting the Holy Land for the first time. She said that the experience has been overwhelming but that she is returning to the United States with a new purpose and with a commitment to finding ways that she can respond.
Initial anxieties about spending a week with a new group of religious leaders and what she might be able to contribute to the pilgrimage were quashed after meeting everyone on the first evening. “I’ve felt community and I’ve felt a lot of trust, and we’ve shared so much.”
The Rev. Margaret Rose, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations for The Episcopal Church, said: “If we are pilgrims, we continue to be on that journey … We now need to determine what action should emerge, and that action really should require courage. I have experienced people here as being incredibly brave. So I pray for some bravery and courage to do some things that we haven’t done before.”
Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said that instead of looking at all of the things with which she is comfortable and familiar, she “looked up and out, and it felt really different because I am with a new community that sees from all these different perspectives. It touched me … I think a lot of what we’re trying to do is to see the world from God’s perspective, and I think that is one of the main messages we received: to remember that this belongs to God.”
Steinlauf noted that everyone the group met with “ultimately said that we are going to have hope and be optimistic … because you just have to be, and there’s a sense that, well there could be a miracle. To have such disparate views expressed and yet to hear that all are still holding out hope for a miracle, it’s nice to know that we are all working for one and with perseverance that we might actually get one.”
Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, also spoke of seeing things from new perspectives, through the eyes of religious leaders, politicians, academics, authors and activists. “This land is a truly blessed land, but at the same time we find some huge challenges … It is very easy for me in America or anyone else in a Western society to talk about these issues, but the real challenges are faced by the people who live over here.”
Several members of the group said they had been moved and inspired by meetings with leaders of grassroots initiatives – the Shades Negotiation Program, EcoPeace and Roots – that bring together Israelis and Palestinians to hear and learn from one another’s narratives, and to build a peaceful society in which everyone can prosper.
“I was totally overwhelmed by the courage it took for each one of them,” said Gutow. “When you go against the tradition, whatever that tradition might be, when you go against your own people, when you’re willing to stand up and say, ‘this is not the right way to do it,’ that takes a certain kind of courage.”
Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said: “In a time when there is so much energy devoted to smashing one side or another, it was enriching to experience true peacemakers at work on the ground smashing their own comfort zones, and to travel among peacemakers doing the same thing.”
The people who are doing the most transformative work, Felson said, “aren’t the ones who are focused on a document or on policies or on calling out something, but rather about remaining where they are in their community in that authentic place and meeting others who similarly remain in that authentic place, and really embracing a different understanding of what it means for two people with different narratives to come to live alongside one another.”
The Rev. John E. Kitagawa, rector of St. Philip’s-in-the-Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona, said: “We’ve heard from these incredible voices of people who are really putting themselves on the line, looking at themselves so intently, being able to make those conversions of heart. I am leaving in a more hopeful place than I thought I would be.”
In summing up the pilgrimage, Baumgarten said, “What I’ve been encouraged by on this trip was seeing that, especially away from the spotlight, Israelis and Palestinians really are challenging their communities to walk by a different road, and I think that now, in going home, we really are challenged to challenge our own communities to walk by another road.”
Baumgarten drew on the T.S. Eliot poem The Journey of the Magi, in which Eliot writes in the voices of the wise men, “We returned to our places, these Kingdoms. But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation.”
“That’s how I feel as an outcome of this trip,” said Baumgarten. “I feel that if everyone could come here and walk the road we’ve walked together, none of us would be at ease in our old dispensation.”
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Congregations across The Episcopal Church will join hands in mission on Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday, Feb.22, with prayers, sermons and special offerings to support the organization’s work worldwide.
This year’s observance has particular significance, as Episcopalians and friends celebrate 75 years of healing a hurting world through the agency’s programs and partnerships. Today, Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than three million people each year in nearly 40 countries to strengthen communities and combat poverty, hunger and disease.
“This 75th Anniversary year is a special time to celebrate the dedicated efforts, generous contributions and steadfast prayers of supporters and partners who have made this journey possible,” said Rob Radtke, President. “I invite all Episcopalians to join me in holding this organization and its vibrant, global community in prayer, both on Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday and throughout the year.”
Five “I Believe” statements provide the core theme for Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday this year, rallying awareness and action in support of clean water, sustainable agriculture, child survival, economic empowerment and strong partnerships for long-term impact. Congregations may focus on a specific program area with downloadable educational and faith formation resources for all age groups, or incorporate the 75th Anniversary Prayers of the People and Collect into their liturgy. Planning guides and bulletin inserts in English and Spanish are available on the organization’s website at episcopalrelief.org/Sunday.
In addition, the 75th Anniversary edition of Lenten Meditations provides daily reflections for Ash Wednesday through Easter, and a new prayer resource called “Walk in Love” – based on the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, with personal stories and detailed descriptions from Episcopal Relief & Development’s partners and programs – offers weekly devotionals for the entire year.
“Lent is a time of reflection, for renewing our commitment to seeking and serving Christ in all persons and prayerfully considering how to use our own talents and resources to create an abundant shared future,” said Sean McConnell, Director of Engagement. “Episcopal Relief & Development seeks to bring Episcopalians and friends into closer relationship with Christ and with one another, as we strive together to build a global community where all God-given gifts are valued and utilized for the good of many.”
Lent was designated at the 2009 General Convention as a time to encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals to remember and support the life-saving work of Episcopal Relief & Development. Although the first Sunday in Lent is the official day, congregations may observe Episcopal Relief & Development on any Sunday during the Lenten season.
Lenten resources can be downloaded from episcopalrelief.org/Lent. Printed Lenten Meditations and Walk in Love booklets, as well as hope chests, offering envelopes, prayer cards and other materials, may be ordered from Episcopal Marketplace online or by calling 1.866.937.2772. Orders should be placed by February 10 for delivery to most locations by Ash Wednesday, though expedited shipping is available.
“One of the most inspiring aspects of the 75th Anniversary Celebration is talking with Episcopalians who care deeply about the work we do together and are actively sharing their stories and passion with others,” McConnell said. “This year’s Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday will be especially meaningful, as we reflect on our legacy of lifting up those most vulnerable and look toward the next 75 years of building community and relationships that support the holistic well-being of all Creation.”
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 Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has presented its final report to the 78th General Convention and to the Church, and for inclusion in Reports to General Convention, commonly referred to as The Blue Book.
The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage was enabled by Resolution A050 at the 2012 General Convention.
The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, June 25 – July 3, 2015 will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It is comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses of the Church, at more than 800 members.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The 2015 Roanridge Trust Award Grants, totaling $160,369 for 10 grants for transformative work across the church, have been announced by Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.
The Roanridge Trust Award grants are awarded annually for new and creative models for leadership development in small communities.
“It is exciting how the people of The Episcopal Church are engaging the mission opportunities in rural ministry settings,” McDonald stated. “There is an incredible commitment to creative ministry. The vision for mission and ministries presented in these programs is inspiring.”
The Roanridge Trust was established by the Cochel family, who originally gave a working farm in Missouri called Roanridge to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The interest from the sale of the farm generates the grant funds.
Awarded for 2015 work were:
The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York: $4,900 for Utica/Rome District Discernment Team Training
The Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania: $10,000 for Stevenson School for Ministry
The Episcopal Diocese of Dominican Republic (link is external): $12,480 for Proyecto Taller Costura (Sewing Workshop Project)
The Episcopal Diocese of Honduras (link is external): $20,000 for Proyecto Jabes
The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa: $23,500 for Disenfranchised Young Adults: Bridging the Gap in Rural Communities
The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee: $10,489 for Social Justice Outreach Programs in Rural Churches
The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota: $10,000 for Minnesota Indigenous-Ojibwe-Dakota Total Ministry Training Program
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska: $30,000 for the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry
The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia: $20,000 for Chaplains of the Harbor Bible Study Training
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina: $19,000 for Lifelong Christian Formation Training Program
For more info on Roanridge Trust
[Episcopal Diocese of Dallas press release] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas has announced a slate of four nominees to stand for the election as 7th bishop of the diocese. The candidates are:
- The Rev. Michael W. Michie, 46, rector of St. Andrew’s, McKinney, Texas;
- The Rev. David G. Read, 49, rector of St. Luke’s, San Antonio, Texas;
- The Rev. R. Leigh Spruill, 51, rector of St. George’s, Nashville, Tennessee;
- The Rev. Dr. George R. Sumner, 59, principal of Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada.
More information about each of the nominees is available at www.dallasbishopsearch.org.
A petition process for submitting additional names is open from Feb. 3-16. Complete information about the petition process and the petition form are available at www.dallasbishopsearch.org. If petition candidates are received, they will be announced by the Standing Committee and added to the slate no later than April 6, pending the required background checks.
The slate is the result of a seven-month discernment process conducted by a Bishop Search Committee composed of lay and clergy members from across the diocese and reporting to the Standing Committee. With the announcement of the slate, a Transition Committee, also made up of lay and clergy members from across the diocese, implements the next stages of the election process, also reporting to the Standing Committee.
The nominees will participate in a series of open “walkabout” meetings from April 20-23, allowing members of the diocese to meet and learn more about the candidates. More information on the times and locations of the meetings will be forthcoming, along with additional information on each candidate, on the bishop-search website.
The election will take place Saturday, May 16. A majority in each of the two orders (clergy and lay delegates) is required for the election of the new bishop. Consent is required from a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan bishops and standing committees. The consecration of the bishop-elect is scheduled for November 2015.
The search for bishop began with the retirement of Bishop James M. Stanton, who served in the role for 21 years until May 2014. The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas is home to more than 70 congregations in the Northeast Texas area, where the combined average Sunday attendance is about 11,300.