[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.][Episcopal News Service – Villanova, Pennsylvania] Episcopal Youth Event 2104 participant Claire Horton from the Diocese of Minnesota tells why Psalm 139 is her favorite Bible verse.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preaches July 11 during Evening prayer at the 2014 Episcopal Youth Event, meeting on the campus of Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The full text of the sermon follows.
A Celebration of Diversity and a Call to Equality
11 July 2014
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Hello, EYE! This body has gathered from many parts of The Episcopal Church – Taiwan, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, and 82 dioceses in the United States. We speak many different languages and we come in many shapes, sizes, colors, attitudes, and abilities. We are black and brown, blonde and bald, bold and bashful, beef-eaters and berry pickers, occasionally bleary-eyed, bored, or boisterous, and baptized members of this Body of Christ, marked for mission. Underneath all those outward differences, we are one body that weeps when it’s wounded and rejoices when one of us discovers the spirit at work in a new way. We are one because we’re all children of the same God, and we’ve been sent to work together to help heal the world.
You’ve been out and about in this city today, discovering its diversity, both its need and its blessings. Each one of you has a story to tell about the encounters of this day. I hope you have been moved and marked and changed by someone or something you encountered today. I hope you’ve told that story to somebody here – or told the world through a tweet or social media post.
Let me tell you a story. I was in San Diego not long ago for their diocesan convention, and on the way back to the hotel we stopped at a light where a man was asking for help. He had a cardboard sign that said “homeless and hungry – please help.” As we pulled up and read his sign, the driver handed him a sack lunch and a bottle of water. The convention had sent people out with lots of lunch bags, encouraging them to be like Jesus and share those bags, packed with food, prayer cards, and social service information. They call this ministry “Blessings in a Bag.”
A friend of mine from northern California told me another story about blessings. She drives the same route quite frequently, and she sees similar sights at intersections. One day she finally felt bold enough to pull up and ask how she could help the woman in a wheelchair whose sign said, “Hard times. Anything helps.” The woman told her she’d love to have some peaches – or maybe at least some fruit – or a granola bar. My friend noted that the peaches weren’t ripe yet, but said that she’d remember. And then the woman in the wheelchair said, “Are you OK? I haven’t seen you for a while. I was wondering where you were and if you were OK.” My friend said that she was startled that this woman kept track of the regulars in her neighborhood. Now my friend keeps a box of granola bars in her front seat. The next time she found the woman she gave her the box and asked when she would be there so she could bring some ripe peaches.
Each one of those people is telling a story about what God’s world is supposed to look like, and helping to make it happen. Those who ask for help are reminding us of God’s dream for all creation. Every part of God’s creation has a part to play in making creation whole. It will take all of us, working together, to heal this world. It begins by telling the story.
Healing begins in pointing to the current brokenness AND the dream for wholeness. That’s why Jesus says he didn’t come for healthy people, but the sick. That’s why he hangs out with people in trouble, and people who get ignored by others, why he has dinner with people who usually don’t get invited to the party or chosen for the team. Until we have some awareness of the healing that’s needed, we have no need of him. That’s really where baptism starts. Baptism marks us as partners in God’s dream for healing the world.
When we’re baptized, most of us don’t fully recognize what it’s going to mean for our lives. Even those who are baptized as adults grow into a bigger understanding of what God has in mind. It takes years to get a sense of what it means to help build a world of peace and justice. It begins as we connect our own stories with the big story about God and Jesus and being loved so completely. We learn that more deeply every time we tell a story about where we’ve seen that kind of love in action, bringing healing or justice.
When we meet somebody who’s hurting or hungry, we’ve got a choice. Will we engage or will we ignore that person? If we connect, we’ve got to share something of that good news – that all of us are loved beyond imagining, and that we’re willing to show that love in concrete ways. It may start by feeding somebody who’s hungry, but it doesn’t end there. We can feed someone a meal, but if nothing changes, that person is going to be hungry again in a few hours. That’s where the longer-term and bigger-picture work of transformation starts – asking why this person is hungry, or why so many people are standing on street corners asking for help.
That kind of questions are a prod from the Holy Spirit – why is this happening? What needs to change? It’s the Holy Spirit acting more like a mosquito than a dove. But we can’t hide inside the tent – even the holy tent – to protect ourselves. That holy mosquito is going to get in anyway, and pester us and make us restless until there is justice for all.
Mosquitoes bite when you aren’t noticing. They’re looking for blood to feed the next generation. The mark they leave starts to itch and keeps on itching. It’s hard to ignore, and if we watch somebody else scratching, pretty soon we’re all going to start itching. I think we ought to pray that the Holy Spirit keeps after us like that, and keeps us itching until the whole world is completely healed.
Some of us think mosquitoes are just a nuisance. I’ve certainly wondered out loud why God created them. But when there are mosquitoes in the neighborhood, people don’t sit still – they get up, wave their arms, run around, and try to do all sorts of things to get rid of them. Mosquitoes have certainly motivated a whole lot of people to pay attention to malaria and the burden it causes in places like sub-Saharan Africa. I bet most of us have seen those mosquito nets Episcopal Relief & Development calls “nets for life.”
We all need to be bitten, marked with an itch for what the world could be like. God’s dream needs the different gifts of all sorts of creatures to respond – even mosquitoes or the human version called prophets. One of them said his job was to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” In spite of his profession as a boxer, Muhammad Ali was a pacifist.
We’re not going to live in peace until everybody can sit down and share God’s great picnic together in peace. In the meantime, we need people with an itch for justice. It comes in many different shapes, colors, orientations, languages, but that item is the same thing, under the skin. It’s called “marked for mission,” or “ruined for life,” or a prophet of justice, or baptismal ministry.
Come, Holy Spirit, descend on us like one of God’s mosquitoes, make us itch for justice, and put us to work with ALL your wondrous creatures. Drive us out there to meet our hungry and hurting neighbors, and don’t stop until the world is at peace.
 Kay Rohde, personal communication 5 July 2014
 Augustine – you made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you.
[Church of England press release] Church Commissioners for England announce their indirect exposure to payday lender Wonga has been removed and that no profit has been made from the investment.
The Church Commissioners for England are pleased to announce that their indirect investment exposure to Wonga in their venture capital portfolio has been removed. The Church Commissioners no longer have any financial or any other interest in Wonga.
The terms ensure that the Church Commissioners have not made any profit from their investment exposure to Wonga.
At no time have the Commissioners invested directly in Wonga or in other payday lenders. The indirect exposure of the Commissioners through pooled funds represented considerably less than 0.01% of the value of Wonga.
The Church Commissioners estimate that if they had had to sell their entire venture capital holdings they might have lost £3-9m to remove the exposure to Wonga, which was worth less than £100,000. The Commissioners are pleased that another way forward has been agreed given their fiduciary duties to clergy pensioners and to all the parts of the Church they support financially.
[Episcopal News Service – Villanova, Pennsylvania] The Episcopal Church and the world need young people’s “wisdom and experience.” And the nearly 800 youth attending the 2014 Episcopal Youth Event heard a call to action July 10 during the EYE14 Opening Eucharist.
“We’ve got some great youth programs in the Episcopal Church, where adults teach and form young people [but] I think it’s time for some reverse mentoring,” the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, canon for missional vitality in the Diocese of Long Island, said during her sermon. “We elders can nurture and teach, but frankly we could use your wisdom and experience on the mission frontier.”
“We need you to show us what fish and loaves you’ve got in your backpack,” she said, in a reference to the day’s Gospel reading about the feeding of the 5,000.
“Yes?” she asked, turning to address the 43 bishops, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president and the Eucharist’s presider, seated behind her on the dais. The response was enthusiastic nodding all around.
“Episcopal Youth, it’s time for you to bring it,” said Spellers, turning back to the congregation.
“We need you to tell us what it’s like to live in a topsy-turvy world where people connect and learn and love across every kind of boundary,” she said. “We need you to help us navigate a confusing world where Christianity isn’t on top.”
Video and the text of Spellers’ sermon is here.
The rousing service featured Live Hymnal, whose music had everyone from bishops to young people singing harmony, swaying, clapping, dancing (at one point there was even a conga line weaving along the floor of the sports arena where the Eucharist was celebrated) and waving their lighted smartphones aloft. The entrance rite included representatives from each attending diocese bearing handmade diocesan EYE banners.
Some 786 youth in grades 9-12 during the 2013-2014 academic year and 263 adult leaders began gathering July 9 here on the campus of Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for EYE14, which runs until July 13. The triennial gathering is the second largest in the Episcopal Church after General Convention.
They will spend time attempting to discern how the Holy Spirit has marked them for mission and how they might engage in the work of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission, which have been described as a practical and memorable checklist for mission work.
Spellers summoned them in their discernment to the roles of evangelist and missionary. She told the congregation about her spending her youth in Knoxville, Tennessee, “running from the Christians” who epitomized “intolerance … hellfire and judgment.”
“God, I wish I’d known about young people like you and a church like this,” said Spellers, who was baptized at 28. “I wish somebody had engaged me in genuine conversation about God, not to tell me all the answers or save me from hell, but so we could wonder and wrestle and love God and love God’s world.
“On behalf of all the young people wandering today” Spellers called on the young people to “share the story of the God you have met in this church. Find your voice, feel that love, and then spread it around.”
She told them not to wait for other, older church leaders. “You can bear Christ’s healing. You can speak his truth. You can share his love,” she said. “Your peers need it from you. Your church needs it from you.”
Members of EYE14 come from 86 dioceses of the Episcopal Church, including international members from the dioceses of the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Taiwan will spend their days here immersed in music, Scripture, worship and fellowship.
“May the fun and the prayer and the songs and the community you share in these days be like rocket fuel in your tank, propelling you out to be the missionaries you are,” Spellers said in what she called her commissioning of the congregation. “Share good news with the communities around you. Teach and lead this lovely old Episcopal Church into places that terrify us.”
EYE14’s shape and scope
During the rest of July 10, participants will spend time in the first two of four workshop sessions (the final two sessions are set for July 13). Topics range from a chance to “grill the presiding bishop” to Christian Tai Chi, forgiveness, ways to challenge domestic poverty, “confirmation in the 21st Century,” “rooted but relevant liturgy,” how to share one’s faith story and “Irish Dancing: Identity and Culture in Movement.”
July 11 is Philadelphia Pilgrimage day when EYE fans out in groups all over the Philadelphia area to learn about the current ministry of the Episcopal Church in city and get a glimpse of the history of the Episcopal Church in what might be called its birthplace (those who became known as Episcopalians gathered for the first time in General Convention at Christ Church in Philadelphia in 1785).
EYE returns to Villanova for “Celebration of Diversity and Call to Equality: A Service of Evening Prayer” led by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who will also preach.
The next day, July 12, the Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of the Community Magdalene’s Thistle Farms, will lead a plenary gathering, followed by two more workshop sessions. That evening Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry will preach and Jefferts Schori will preside at the event’s closing Eucharist, “Sent by the Spirit.”
Following EYE14, more than 300 are staying over in Philadelphia to engage mission in the field through 3 Days of Urban Mission. The majority of 3 Days of Urban Mission volunteers will lodge at the University of Pennsylvania in inner-city Philadelphia. About 60 additional volunteers will be housed at the Episcopal Mission Center, managed by the Diocese of Pennsylvania. A map of the mission sites is here.
The youth of the Episcopal Church have been gathering nearly every three years since the early 1980s. While preparing for the third EYE in July 1987 in San Antonio, Texas, the Diocesan Press Service, ENS’ predecessor, reported that “those involved in the two previous events have said that if the past is indication, ‘the energy, excitement and pure Christian Joy experienced at this gathering will inspire individuals and enliven parishes back home for a long time to come.’” The same could no doubt be said for every EYE gathering since up to and including the 2014 event.
Keeping an eye on EYE
People who are not on the Villanova campus can follow the progress of EYE14 live streaming of these sessions:
Plenary – July 10 at 7:30 p.m.; the EYE14 Mission Planning Team
Evening Prayer – July 11 at 8:30 p.m. (approximate); Jefferts Schori preaching and officiating
Morning Plenary –July 12 at 9:30 a.m.; the Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of the Community Magdalene’s Thistle Farms
Closing Eucharist – July 12 at 8:00 p.m.; Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry preaching and Jefferts Schori presiding.
Follow EYE 14 via these social media outlets.
Twitter Hashtag is #EYE14
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[World Council of Churches press release] Attacks by the Israeli military on the civilian population in Gaza, as well as firing of rockets by militants from Gaza to Israel, were strongly condemned by the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
In a statement issued on 10 July from the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Tveit said, “We strongly condemn the indiscriminate attacks by Israeli military on the civilian population in Gaza, as we absolutely condemn the absurd and immoral firing of rockets by militants from Gaza to populated areas in Israel”.
Tveit also noted that “what is happening in Gaza now is not an isolated tragedy.”
The failure of the peace negotiations and the loss of prospects for a two-state solution to end occupation have led to this “unbearable and infernal cycle of violence and hatred that we are witnessing today,” Tveit said.
“Without an end to the occupation, the cycle of violence will continue,” he said.
The statement comes at a time when media reports have confirmed over 500 casualties in the Gaza conflict in the last week.
In the statement, Tveit said that recent events in Israel and Palestine must be seen in the context of the occupation of Palestinian territories, which began in 1967. He added that calling for an end to the occupation and the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel has remained a long-term commitment of the WCC.
“Both Israelis and Palestinians require their well-being, security and a just and genuine peace,” he said.
Tveit urged the United Nations Security Council to demand an immediate end to all kinds of violence from all parties to the conflict.
He called on the churches and religious leaders to “work together to transform the discourse of hatred and revenge that is spreading more and more in many circles in society into one that sees the other as neighbour and as equal brother and sister in the one Lord.”
The WCC Central Committee, the chief governing body of the WCC also expressed “deep sorrow and concern” this week over the violence, following the tragic deaths of young people in Israel and Palestine.
Vaya con estas líneas nuestra sentida condolencia a todos los brasileños por la tremenda derrota sufrida a manos de los alemanes en la Copa Mundial. No olviden que en otras ocasiones ustedes fueron los ganadores. Nada que la vida tiene alegrías y penas. Lo mejor es aceptar la derrota y mirar hacia el futuro.
El conflicto entre Israel y Palestina (Hamás) se complica cada día. El intercambio de cohetes en la franja de Gaza ha producido ya varios muertos. Informes de periodistas que están en el lugar de los hechos afirman que Israel está preparando un ataque por tierra con tanques y otras armas bélicas. Las consecuencias de este conflicto pueden generar una guerra a gran escala. Dios quiera que esto no suceda.
Las noticias de Nigeria sobre el secuestro de jovencitas siguen siendo confusas. Sin embargo, 63 niñas se han fugado de manos de la organización delictiva Boko Haram. Aunque el gobierno negaba las historias del secuestro ahora ha tenido que admitirlo. Aún no se sabe de algunas de las jovencitas secuestradas en abril.
La situación de cientos de niños centroamericanos en la frontera con Estados Unidos ha creado una verdadera crisis humanitaria. El presidente Barack Obama ha pedido una fuerte cantidad de dinero al Congreso para hacerle frente a la situación. Se necesita dinero para alimentación, alojamiento, asistencia médica, oficiales de seguridad y jueces de inmigración. Se cree que esta petición traerá un gran debate en la Cámara de Representantes. La mayoría de los niños serán deportados a sus lugares de origen, dicen oficiales de inmigración.
Olav Fykse Tveit, pastor luterano noruego de 53 años, ha sido reelecto secretario general del Consejo Mundial de Iglesias en una reunión del Comité Central celebrada en Ginebra. Su elección es por un período de cinco años.
Con motivo del primer triunfo de Argentina en los juegos de la Copa Mundial, en Buenos Aires ha aparecido una gran foto del papa Francisco vestido con una casulla con los colores de la bandera argentina con la siguiente inscripción “¡Tenemos un hincha de lujo!”
En un discurso ante un grupo de asociaciones benéficas de España la reina Letizia dijo: “Debemos dar con los ojos cerrados sin mirar al color de la piel o el origen de las personas… y dar con el corazón abierto lleno de amor y generosidad”.
El papa Francisco pidió “perdón por los pecados” cometidos por miembros del clero con respecto a abusos sexuales de menores. “Siento que los líderes de la iglesia no respondieron adecuadamente”, dijo el papa en una reunión con víctimas y familiares. “Esto ha sido un gran sufrimiento para todos”, dijo y añadió que de aquí en adelante los obispos tendrán que tener mayor cuidado para que estas cosas no sucedan. Algunos opositores han dicho que “hacen falta hechos y no palabras”.
Según informes de la prensa de Caracas, el presidente Nicolás Maduro está dando un importante giro en cuanto a la filosofía de su gobierno. Agobiado por la inflación galopante y la escasez de alimento, medicinas y otros insumos, se está olvidando del chavismo y está fomentando un tipo de gobierno “quasi capitalista” y se está olvidando del “Socialismo del Siglo XXI”. Algunos piensan que el nuevo modelo pudiera ser similar al que impera en China. Sin embargo, la invitación a un experto cubano para que asesore al gobierno sobre asuntos económicos parece un riesgo de amplias proporciones. “Cuba está en peor situación que nosotros”, dice un venezolano que vivió en la isla caribeña.
Sebastián Rodríguez Gómez, prominente pastor evangélico español ha fallecido en España a la edad de 85 años. Escribió varias obras en las que se distinguen Antología de la liturgia y Reflexiones para un nuevo siglo. Una de sus hijas, Ana, está casada con Carlos López Lozano, obispo de la Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal.
Diez Damas de Blanco el grupo opositor femenino cubano fueron privadas de asistir a misa recientemente. La acción policial tuvo lugar en La Habana, Santiago y otras ciudades del país. Más de 100 mujeres fueron arrestadas. Berta Soler, líder del Grupo, dijo que denunció el hostigamiento del régimen ante el Parlamento Europeo en su gira por varios países de Europa.
VERDAD. “Libertad es el derecho que tiene todo ser humano de pensar y hablar sin hipocresía”. José Martí, patriota cubano (1853-1895).
[Episcopal News, Los Angeles] Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno is among religious and civic leaders who called for a weekend of prayer and compassion July 19-20 for more than 52,000 young children who are in United States custody after fleeing violence, murder and extortion by criminal gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Bruno, along with Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the United Methodist Church, Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, and Fred Ali of Weingart Foundation visited a temporary shelter at the naval base in Port Hueneme, California, where thousands of children are being housed since crossing the border in search of friends or relatives in the United States.
At a media conference in Los Angeles after the visit, the faith leaders called for a humanitarian response to the desperate conditions that cause the children – some as young as eight years old – to leave their homes. Bruno also praised federal officials for the quality of care being provided for the children. (A July 9 Los Angeles Times article about the group’s visit is here.)
“Jesus’ words are clear about people in need,” Bruno said in a statement. “‘Let the children come to me,’ he tells his disciples – also stating that those who provide food, shelter and clothing ‘to the least of these’ do so to Christ himself. We need to be the compassionate hands and heart of Jesus in serving all children, and especially to those held in detention on both sides of the Mexico – U.S. border. May God help us to show God’s own love and mercy to these little ones while calling our governments to work together for peace with justice.”
[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican priest from South Africa has described the Anglicans Ablaze conference as “well worth doing and exceeding our expectations” adding “God came and met us and did more than anything we could have hoped for.”
In an interview with ACNS, the Rev. Trevor Pearce, conference coordinator and director of Growing the Church (GtC), said: “We thank God for bringing us together in one conference and for the unity despite our different cultures, languages and worship styles.”
The Anglicans Ablaze conference brought together about 2,000 delegates from 18 countries and 43 dioceses from Southern Africa and other parts of the world, for five days of prayer and sharing from July 2-5.
A special Listening Team headed by Bishop of Swaziland Ellinah Wamukoya had the major task of praying, listening and sharing what God was saying throughout the whole conference.
On the final day of the conference, Wamukoya said that God had revealed to them the “need to go out to the fringes to share the Gospel” including the need for “the church and Anglican leaders ourselves to be transformed.”
Young people showed up in large numbers and played a major role throughout the whole conference. They were challenged by various speakers on the need to rise up and help bring about transformation in the church and society.
A young Anglican and board member of Growing the Church (GtC) Khozi Khoza said, “God is raising up an army with Joshua’s anointing. If God is going to bring about transformation in our society, it will be through the church because it’s God’s solution to the systematic problems plaguing our nation.”
Her brief but spirited preaching was well received by conference delegates. Some participants said her sermon was confirmation that young Anglicans are capable of contributing significantly to the growth of the church.
New Zealand Church Mission Society leader Steve Maina also shared his final thoughts and emphasized the need to evangelize. “We need to move from the mountain top and go practice in the valley what God has been saying to us,” he said. “We cannot just go back home and continue doing things the way we used to.”
He added: “It’s time to…go into circulation and share what we have. We’re too stuck in our structures but the love of God demands an urgent response from us.”
At the end of the conference, a number of delegates, particularly young people, committed their lives to Christ after an invitation to do so. They were welcomed and advised on how they can grow in their Christian life.
The conference was hosted by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), one of the largest and most diverse provinces on the continent, covering seven countries with many different languages, cultures and race groups.
[Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe] The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, has released the following statement:
“Reports from the Middle East have never been so discouraging or disheartening as they have been in the last few week. I ask the faithful in Europe and all people of good will to join in fervent regular prayer for the worsening situation in Israel/Palestine. First, we need to pray for the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and their Bishop, Suheil Dawani. Not only are they facing the possibility of war between Israel and Gaza, they also are living through the civil war in Syria and the attempts by the so-called “Islamic State in the Levant” to set up a caliphate. Second, we need to pray that a way out of the present crisis between Israel and Palestine can be found, and that the world help the two parties take the path of peace. Third, we must pray for the victims of this latest round of attacks, beginning with the three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teens and the Palestinian boy gruesomely murdered in revenge, and now, for the people dying because of the salvos being traded along the Gaza Strip. The breakdown of services is affecting not only our hospitals there, but also all the inhabitants. As always, it is the people that the news doesn’t cover who suffer the most.
“Fourth, we need to pray for a resolution of the Iraqi crisis.
“The situation in Iraq is extremely precarious, and the de facto splitting of the country is a constant invitation to a regional war. Not to mention the leading edge of this destabilization, ISIL, has succeeded in tying the Syria war to the outcome of the Iraq conflict. The great powers will not stand by if Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia go to war over Iraq’s oil, on which the Asian powers in particular depend completely. An Israeli invasion of Gaza could be the match that sets off the powder keg. We have all been reminded of the event one hundred years ago that started the First World War.
“The suffering of the Christians of the Middle East continues to increase. Besides those being murdered every day, thousands are seeking refuge anywhere in the world where they can find it. It has become quite possible that in the near future, many of the biblical lands will be completely emptied of followers of Jesus if nothing changes.
“It is therefore crucial that people of faith not only pray fervently, but also contact their governments’ leaders to demand that every possible effort be made to prevent a conflagration which could even spill over into a Third World War.”
The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, canon for missional vitality in the Diocese of Long Island, preaches July 10 during the Opening Eucharist at the 2014 Episcopal Youth Event, meeting on the campus of Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The full text of the sermon follows.
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.
Episcopal Youth. I have two things to say to you:
First of all, you are beautiful!
Your colors, energy and love. I could feel it all in your Facebook and Twitter posts.
I could feel it when I met with my crew from the Diocese of Long Island (what what!).
And I see it this morning in full force. You are beautiful.
Second thing I have to say to you is: where have you been all my life?
I mean it. I wasn’t baptized until I was 28.
When I was your age,
I didn’t know Christians like you or a church like this existed.
I was living in Knoxville, TN, and I was running from The Christians.
For me, Christianity equaled intolerance.
Christianity meant hellfire and judgment.
The Christians were my classmates at Bearden High School who walked into school with a list of sinners they needed to convert, and I was always a target.
The Christians were the ones who made my mother feel guilty about raising me and my brother by herself.
The Christians were the ones who kicked my best friend Wil out of the house when he came out of the closet.
Oh, I wanted God. I had so many juicy spiritual questions and such a deep yearning for community and hope. But Church, Christians, Jesus – they were for somebody else, not for me.
God, I wish I’d known about young people like you and a church like this.
I wish somebody had engaged me in genuine conversation about God, not to tell me all the answers or save me from hell, but so we could wonder and wrestle and love God and love God’s world.
I wish someone had told me about the Jesus who went forth praying, teaching, healing and praying and preaching and setting people free.
I can’t turn the clock back to 1987 and track down the Episcopal youth in Tennessee (are y’all here??). But I can open this Episcopal Youth Event with a call.
Please, on behalf of all the young people wandering today, young people in Tennessee, in New York, in Washington State, in Texas, in Florida, in the Honduras, all over America and beyond, please answer the call. Share the story of the God you have met in this church. Find your voice, feel that love, and then spread it around.
Maybe you’re waiting for the clergy and the wardens and the bishops or Diocesan Council or General Convention to step up and step out in mission. Well I’ve gotta tell you. I’ve been in a lot of Episcopal Church gatherings. I’m putting my money on you.
Looking at you, I don’t see people who need to wait for somebody else to tell the story or transform the church and the world. When I look at you I see more than 1,000 Episcopal leaders who have been gifted by the Spirit to make something amazing happen for God right now.
When I look at you, I see Samuel. He was a boy, younger than any of you, but God chose him to deliver a fresh word to the people.
When God first tapped Samuel on the shoulder, he was like, “Huh? Who was that?” God said, “Samuel, it’s time. Be my prophet. Speak my word.” Samuel was baffled. He didn’t have the right training. He hadn’t gone to seminary or read the latest research. But when God summoned him, he said “Yes Lord.” …
When I look at you, I see the boy in the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Now, today’s gospel doesn’t mention him, but in John’s account of this event, he is right up front. It goes like that.
Thousands had gathered, and it was late and folks were getting hungry and restless.
As usual, the disciples were scared. But a boy came up to Andrew, tugged his robe and said,
“I’ve got five barley loaves and two fish. Why don’t you see what Jesus can do with these.”
That boy’s gift unleashed a miracle. Jesus fed multitudes, because this boy felt the summons,
looked at his pack and said, “Yes. I don’t have much. But if you’re gonna do something in this world, well Jesus, let it start with me.”
Right now, God wants to do something in our communities, in our Episcopal church, in this world – and it starts with you. Why shouldn’t it? Young people are always the pioneers.
When your church puts together a mission trip, who do they send? The youth.
When churches connect across cultural lines, who meets first? The youth.
When it’s time to discover fresh forms of worship that engage our bodies, our minds and our spirits, who tries it first? The youth.
Whenever we take risks for the sake of the gospel, who’s usually first in line? The youth!
So I’d like to make a proposal, especially while we’ve got a stage full of bishops and the President of the House of Deputies back here. We’ve got some great youth programs in the Episcopal Church, where adults teaching and forming young people. I think it’s time for some reverse mentoring? We elders can nurture and teach, but frankly we could use your wisdom and experience on the mission frontier.
We need you to tell us what it’s like to live in a topsy-turvy world where people connect and learn and love across every kind of boundary. We need you to help us navigate a confusing world where Christianity isn’t on top.
We need you to show us what fish and loaves you’ve got in your backpack. Then, together, we can create pathways so you can become the prophets and messengers and leaders that God has summoned for this moment.
And don’t think for a moment you don’t have what it takes. Remember the song we sang at the start:
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.
You’ve got that river flowing out of you.
You can bear Christ’s healing. You can speak his truth. You can share his love.
Your peers need it from you. Your church needs it from you.
Episcopal Youth, it’s time for you to bring it.
May the fun and the prayer and the songs and the community you share in these days be like rocket fuel in your tank, propelling you out to be the missionaries you are.
Share good news with the communities around you. Teach and lead this lovely old Episcopal Church into places that terrify us.
You are our prophets.
Your five loaves and two fish are gonna feed multitudes.
Your gifts are gonna unleash miracles.
May you be blessed and may you be summoned, Episcopal Youth.
It’s surely time to bring it.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on the current crisis of unaccompanied children and families at the United States border.
The influx of vulnerable people from Central America, including unaccompanied minors as well as mothers with children, continues to challenge the United States to respond compassionately. Like Sudanese or Syrian refugees, these people are fleeing hunger, violence, and the fear of rape, murder, and enslavement. The violence in Central America has escalated significantly in recent months, particularly as a result of gangs and trafficking in drugs and human beings. These people are literally fleeing for their lives.
The United States has a checkered history in responding to refugee crises. We shut our eyes and ears, as well as our ports, during the crimes against Jews and other vulnerable persons in the midst of the Second World War. We have been more welcoming to Sudanese youths looking for survival in the last 20 years.
The Episcopal Church believes we have a responsibility to all our neighbors, particularly the strangers and sojourners around us. We have been resettling refugees since 1939. Today, Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) and Episcopal Relief & Development are working with churches and dioceses in areas where these Central American women and children are being served.
Episcopalians are responding with prayers and concern, and asking how to help. I urge you to remember these people and their difficult and dangerous position in your prayers – today, this coming Sunday, and continuing until we find a just resolution. The Episcopal Church has established an account to receive financial contributions to assist Episcopal Migration Ministries in this work. For details, please contact EMM@episcopalchurch.org
I would also encourage you to contact your legislators, and ask them to support an appropriate humanitarian response to this crisis. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, and as a Church, we are asking the United States government to support such a response, grounded in justice and the fundamental dignity of every human being. Our Office of Government Relations is submitting detailed testimony to a United States Senate hearing today, as that chamber prepares to consider a budget request from the President.
You may read that testimony here, and I encourage you to share it with your own Representative and Senators here
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The Diocese of Peshawar in Pakistan is looking after minority internally displaced persons (IDP) after large groups of citizens in the northern Waziristan region sought shelter during the government’s ongoing fight against the Taliban. So far, the diocese has received 72 Christian, Hindu, Sikh and a few Shia Muslim families into its Bannu camp, with more expected.
The permanent camp is set up at a local high school where the diocese looks after the families’ physical and spiritual needs. Diocesan clergy are on site to provide spiritual counseling.
Diocese of Peshawar has three churches in Bannu, a school and a hospital that are all being used to meet the IDP’s needs. On top of caring for the minority displaced families, the diocese also sends resource teams to help care for many Muslims who are also displaced.
The operation in North Waziristan, launched by the Pakistani Army, has caused nearly half a million people, many Christians among them, to seek refuge elsewhere.
Last year, All Saints Church in Peshawar was the site of a suicide bombing that killed at least 78 people in the church and left scores injured. The diocese has since partnered with the Church of Scotland to support families affected by the bombing.
One of the eight dioceses making up the Church in Pakistan, the Diocese of Peshawar was one of the first to respond to an Afghan refugee influx, providing medical teams and relief operations. The Diocese of Peshawar serves roughly 100,000 Christians in the region, with 50 percent coming from the Church of Pakistan.
On June 8, a special interdenominational worship celebration was held at the United Church, University Campus Peshawar to celebrate Pentecost Day. The Rt. Rev. Humphrey S. Peters attended the celebration where more than 500 people gathered to hear his message of unity.
The diocese also recently hosted a camp where 60 children and 35 teachers gathered from all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province for teaching and storytelling about spiritual growth in Jesus Christ.
[Diocese of West Texas’ Church News] St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Marcos, Diocese of West Texas, sits at the base of a gentle embankment dappled in a profusion of bluebonnets and dotted by shady live oak trees. The sanctuary is lined with soaring windows as though nature itself is invited to join the services while a sprawling labyrinth seemingly emerges organically from a hillside to engage seekers on their spiritual quests.
“You get a sense of creation when you’re here,” said St. Mark’s rector, the Rev. Benjamin H. Nelson III.
“Here” is on the eastern edge of the rolling Texas Hill Country, along an elongated geological escarpment known as the Balcones Fault and atop the environmentally sensitive Edward’s Aquifer recharge zone. And “here,” at St. Mark’s, its Environmental Stewardship Committee is engaged to raise congregational and community awareness, appreciation and preservation of the natural treasure that encompasses their surroundings.
“That’s part of the reason why this group is so active. We’re reminded of nature every Sunday,” Nelson said. “There are gardens all around us, wildlife, birds, flora and fauna all over the place. It’s a cool worship space for us.”
The committee, now with about a dozen members, formed a decade ago, primarily to explore the interweaving of the natural environment with the mission of the Episcopal Church. One of the original members, Larry Hanson, continues to be an active member.
Initially, its work focused on recycling but that emphasis has mushroomed into a myriad of activities, ranging from crafting homemade Christmas gifts to encourage reusing and recycling, to the regularly scheduled sale of environmentally friendly coffee. The group also developed an Advent meditation booklet consisting of meditations and prayers based on daily scripture readings that connect nature to God and creation written by members of the committee
“The meditations are pretty successful,” Nelson said. “We print up a couple of hundred and they all disappear. It gives the committee a chance to talk about the environment and brings in people who may not normally come in contact with this.”
And proceeds from the periodic sale of coffee – fair traded, locally roasted, organically and shade grown – are split between the Episcopal Relief & Development fund and local environmental causes.
Organized in 1874, St. Mark’s moved to its 25-acre campus in 2010 and into a sanctuary that, as Nelson describes, is “wide open to creation.” A portion of the credit for the design and placement of the building goes to the efforts of Sarah Carlisle, Florence Dodington and Susan Hanson, master naturalists and gardeners on the committee, and an array of other volunteers who researched and provided recommendations for sustainable construction, design, landscaping and even its physical placement and alignment to the sun.
Before moving into the new church, the committee also organized a mulching and watering campaign to preserve the sprawling liveoak trees when Texas was struck by a severe drought, said Ann Walsh, co-chair of the committee. Many members of the congregation joined in with the committee to tackle this challenge.
“In the two years I’ve been here they’ve not only incorporated projects that are really cool and innovative but they also focus on formation of people,” with the idea that “this creation we live in is a gift from God and it is up to us to partner with God to take care of it,” Nelson said.
“Not just that you should recycle but you should recycle because it is part of our care for God’s creation and this wonderful gift we are entrusted with as partners in ministry,” he said. “I think it’s a real gentle way to include that in the life of the parish.”
The committee keeps the idea of environmental stewardship in front of the congregation through various publicity activities. For example, environmental stewardship is mentioned in nearly every church newsletter, and the group even created a website dedicated to environmental stewardship at the church, http://stmarksenvironmentalstewardship.weebly.com.
“We feel like we keep having activities to keep people thinking about it,’ said co-chair Margo Case. “We try to educate people about why we’re sponsoring a particular event. We’re very careful not to politicize any of this because it’s not a political cause. It’s a taking care of creation cause.”
Nelson has encouraged their efforts by instituting periodic Rogation services. The services are designed to “make us aware of God in creation and to get them connected to an old tradition of the church. It’s so Episcopalian and Anglican.”
For Nelson, environmental stewardship “kind of gets back to our roots. We’ve always been a people who were deeply connected to creation. All of our great stories in scripture – the emergence of our self through this idea that we were created in the image and likeness of God and God created this world and it was very good. That’s who we are, so scripturally it’s rekindling and retelling that story in a way that connects to wherever we are in our life.”
Nelson was selected as rector of St. Mark’s in 2012. By coincidence, his doctoral thesis happened to concern the environment – “the spiritually of water, combined with some Hawaiian traditional values and the language of the Prayer Book and how encounters with creation can enhance, inform and shape our life in Christ.”
“I think that when the rancher, the tree hugger, the oilman, the developer, when they sit down and talk about their spiritual values, you can sometimes get through the differences to a place where they can start talking about caring for the earth,” he said. “Their goals may not be the same but the values can be, and that can be a language of commonality, especially if they are faithful people.”
To encourage other churches to undertake environmental stewardship, the committee hosted the Diocese Ecological Stewardship booth at the 2014 Diocesan Council in San Marcos. “We were trying to connect with people at other churches,” Walsh said. “To see if we could get some people who were interested and maybe we could help mentor other churches in starting up their own committees.”
When she talked to visitors at their booth, Walsh asked if they had people who worked on the grounds of their church. If they did, “I said you have environmental stewardship but you haven’t thought of calling it that. We’re trying to get people to see themselves as environmental stewards.”
“Anytime they start the mower, they are doing environmental stewardship,” she said. “Anytime they plant a plant, anytime they make a decision about what kind of light bulb to put in the sanctuary, that’s environmental stewardship.”
Case and Walsh each had their own reasons for getting involved in environmental stewardship.
“One of the biggest steps for me is trying to get people to see the connection between taking care of the environmental, God and our spiritual world,” Case said. “It satisfies my need for a practical application of my faith.”
Walsh’s involvement grew out of a desire to find a way and an interest to become more involved in the life of the church. “It was something I could connect with. I love being outside, I’m an avid birder and gardener. For me, it was a perfect fit.”
And for Nelson, environmental stewardship has rekindled the gift of God in him so that he doesn’t “take things for granted in creation.”
The next horizon for the committee is to involve younger children and families in caring for the environment. Walsh would like to see the natural playground, now in the planning stages, to “include some space where you can gather families together and get them actively participating in environmental stewardship activities.”
Case and Walsh invite other churches interested in embarking on their own environmental stewardship work to contact them for help as mentors. “We could tell them here’s what we’ve been doing and this is how we got started,” Walsh said. “Getting people to more actively organize themselves is something I would wish to see.”
– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and member of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Blanco, Texas.
[Trinity Cathedral press release] Roger Hutchison, canon for children’s ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina, will receive the Governor’s Order of the Silver Crescent Award on June 17.
The Order of the Silver Crescent is South Carolina’s highest civilian honor for community service. It is awarded to residents of South Carolina for exemplary performance, contribution and achievement within the community.
Roger was awarded this high honor for his heartfelt work he has done with the children here at Trinity Cathedral and out in the Columbia community – including work at St. Lawrence Place, W.A. Perry Middle School, and other local schools and groups. The award also recognizes his work with the children of Sandy Hook and Newtown, CT.
Roger is also the author of The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy and has served on staff at Trinity for the past 17 years. Roger is married to Kristin and they have a daughter, Riley (12).
The Very Reverend Timothy Jones, Dean of Trinity Cathedral stated that “Roger’s spiritual commitment, his creative gifts, and his deep love for children and their parents have won over those who make the award.”
The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Katherine Haltiwanger, will present this high achievement to Roger Hutchison on Thursday, July 17 at 6:30pm during the Vacation Bible School Celebration in Averyt Hall, Trinity Cathedral’s gym. The public is welcome to this celebration.
About Trinity Episcopal Cathedral:
Trinitysc.org | Facebook.com/Trinitycathedralsc
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was founded in 1812 as a mission church and has grown to be one of the 20th largest congregations in the Episcopal Church. Located across the street from the South Carolina Statehouse, its beautiful campus is anchored by its newly restored sanctuary.
[Adapted from an AllAfrica.com report] Bishop Jonathan Hart of the Episcopal Church of Liberia has been enthroned as archbishop of the Internal Province of West Africa (IpWA) in the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA).
Hart succeeds Bishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson of The Gambia who died in office on Jan. 21, 2014.
Hart was elected on May 1, 2014 by the Electoral College of the IpWA in the St. Augustine Anglican Church in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He is also the dean of the CPWA. Hart now assumes the role of having oversight of the Anglican Communion bishops from Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Cameroon and Liberia.
Hart was consecrated as bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia on March 2, 2008.
Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, in a congratulatory message, said: “We and the Episcopal denomination in Liberia have not the slightest doubt that you will measure up to the task of your new assignment considering services you have rendered to the flock here in the Diocese of Liberia and your astute ecumenical standing within the communities of the Christian faith.”
Archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa Daniel Yinka Sarfo pledged to work with Hart to build on the legacies of their predecessors.
Sarfo, also the current Anglican bishop of Kumasi in Ghana, reiterated the wish that the two internal provinces of West Africa should eventually become autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion during their tenure.
Hart’s enthronement service was held at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity on Sunday, July 6, and attended by more than 15 other bishops of the province, including Sarfo, as well as international guests from the United States and England. Vice President Joseph Boakai among other national dignitaries was also present.
[Union of Black Episcopalians press release] The Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman, L.H.D., Nell Braxton Gibson, the Rev. Harold T. Lewis, Ph.D., and Dr. Anita Parrott George have been named the Union of Black Episcopalian’s 2014 recipients of the Rev. Dr. Pauline Murray Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award and the Verna Josephine Dozier, Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Mattie Hopkins Honors Awards respectively.
“We are very pleased to honor these four extraordinary individuals in this way,” says Annette Buchanan, National President of UBE. “They each have made significant contributions not only to the Episcopal Church but to their communities and exemplify that while we are here on earth, we should make a difference.”
As part of their 46th Anniversary Annual Meeting and Conference, UBE presented the awards at their Gala Awards Dinner on July 2, at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ.
This is the third year that these awards, named for Episcopal trailblazers, were given to individuals whose life work exemplifies the spirit of their award namesake.
Rodman, who received the Rev. Dr. Pauline Murray Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, said, “It is always special to be honored by one’s friends.”
Rodman is the John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry at Episcopal Divinity School. He is a former member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, one of the organizers of the Union of Black Episcopalians, a former urban hearings coordinator for the Urban Bishops Coalition, and the coordinator of the Episcopal Urban Caucus.
The Rev. Dr. Pauline “Pauli” Murray was the first black female priest ordained by the Episcopal Church. Committed to dismantling barriers of race, Murray was also dedicated to the feminist cause. She was appointed to serve on the civil and political rights committee of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). In the mid-1960s, Murray began serving as a member of the Equality Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) working to revise the ACLU policy on sex discrimination. She was also a founding member of the civil rights group of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Murray saw the civil rights and women’s movements as intertwined and believed that black women had a vested interest in the women’s movement.
Gibson received the Verna Josephine Dozier Honor Award.
“Having known Verna Dozier during her lifetime and been moved by her strong support of clergy and her prophetic call to the laity, I am deeply moved to have been chosen as this year’s recipient of the award named in her honor. Thank you, UBE,” said Gibson.
Gibson presently serves as Chair of the New York Diocesan Committee on Reparations for Slavery. She served for six years as National Coordinator for the Episcopal Urban Caucus, a social justice organization whose mission is to stand in solidarity with poor and oppressed people.
Verna Josephine Dozier was a teacher of English literature at the high school level and a noted Episcopal religious educator who focused on Bible study and claiming the authority of the laity. She was well known in educational circles for teaching scripture. For many, her approach was radical. She was also a courageous preacher. In 1992, Dozier preached for the consecration of Jane Holmes Dixon as Bishop Suffragan of Washington, one of only a handful of laywomen asked to preach at an Episcopal consecration.
Lewis was awarded the Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper Honor Award.
“As one who has attempted to be a bridge-builder throughout my ministry, I am delighted to have been chosen to receive this award from the UBE, especially as it is honor of Anna Julia Cooper, one of the great unsung heroines of American history and the Episcopal Church,” said Lewis. “Dr. Cooper, whom I quote extensively in my book, ‘Yet With a Steady Beat’, was born into slavery and lived to see the dawn of the civil rights movement 105 years later. She believed in the Episcopal Church, not only as an instrument of uplift for the African American, but as an institution both “missionary and catholic” committed to building bridges of understanding and reconciliation among all groups in our society.”
Lewis is rector emeritus of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is an active chronicler of the African American struggle in the Episcopal Church and has participated on numerous church and seminary boards including the Office of Black Ministries as director from 1983 to 1994.
Dr. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was an educator, advocate and scholar. Throughout her career, Cooper emphasized the importance of education to the future of black people, and was critical of the lack of support they received from the church. An advocate for black women, Cooper assisted in organizing the Colored Women’s League and the first Colored Settlement House in Washington, D.C. She wrote and spoke widely on issues of race and gender, and took an active role in national and international organizations founded to advance black people. At the age of 55, she adopted the five children of her nephew. In 1925, Cooper became the fourth black woman to complete a Ph.D. degree, granted from the Sorbonne when she was 65 years old. From 1930-1942, Cooper served as president of Frelinghuysen University. Her first book, “A Voice from the South: By a Woman from the South”, published in 1892, is often considered as one of the first articulations of Black Feminism.
George was awarded the Mattie Hopkins Honor Award.
“Surprise and humility are what I felt upon learning that the Union of Black Episcopalians had named me recipient of the Mattie Hopkins’ Award, a woman who it seems lived a life in service to Christ and community,” said George. “I offer gratitude to UBE for fitting together our lives, for connecting me with this devoted humanitarian and radical Episcopalian, and for rewarding me beyond measure with this award in her honor.”
George is a retired educator having served nearly 50 years in a variety of educational settings in Mississippi, Illinois, Florida, and Louisiana. She has served broadly in the Episcopal Church with local, diocesan, and church-wide responsibilities. A major focus of her life has been on issues of racial justice.
Mattie Hopkins was an Episcopal educator and social activist. Hopkins received degrees from the Tuskegee Institute and the University of Chicago and taught in the South, and for the Chicago school system from 1951-1983. She was active in many Chicago civic, educational, and church organizations. In the 1960s she was the president of the Chicago chapter of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU) and sought employment for blacks in the construction of the Diocese of Chicago headquarters. She was instrumental in the founding of the Union of Black Episcopalians and was also a board member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus. In 1988 Hopkins received the prestigious Vida Scudder Award for outstanding contributions to the social mission of the church, presented by the Episcopal Publishing Company.
Past recipients of these awards include: the Rev. Altagracia Perez, Canon Bonnie Anderson, the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dr. Deborah Harmon Hines, the Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson, Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, the Rev. Dr. D.H. Kortright Davis, and Patricia Abrams.
The occasion also included a surprise honoring of The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the first female Bishop of the Episcopal Church, on the 25th anniversary of her ordination. There was a four-minute video presentation, on her life, that preceded the presentation of a commemorative photo album.
The 47th Annual Meeting and Conference will take place July 19-22, 2015 at the Maritime Conference Center, in Linthicum, Maryland.
[Episcopal Church in South Carolina] The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg on July 8 granted permission for priests to bless the committed relationships of same-sex couples in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
In authorizing the use of “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” vonRosenberg gave permission for priests to respond pastorally to couples who are in committed relationships, including those who have been married in states where same-sex marriage is allowed. South Carolina law does not permit marriage for same-sex couples, and the blessings performed here will not constitute a “marriage.”
In his letter to clergy today, the bishop states that no priest is required to offer the blessing. “I do want to be clear that this permission does not define an expectation for clergy,” he wrote. “In your own life of prayer and within community, you will decide how to respond to this statement of permission.”
Priests who wish to perform a blessing will not have to receive any further authorization from the bishop. However, before a priest can perform the ceremony in a church building, the vestry or mission committee of that church must have given its approval for such liturgies to be conducted there.
To assist congregations in considering that decision, the bishop’s office has provided theological resources, recommended reading, and a model outline for conversations on the topic. Those resources are available on the diocesan website, episcopalchurchsc.org.
Following the guidelines established by General Convention, one member of the couple must be a baptized Christian.
Same-sex blessings were authorized for provisional use by The Episcopal Church in 2012 in a resolution at the 77th General Convention, A049, so that bishops “may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church”. Since then, more than 60 of the 110 dioceses of The Episcopal Church have allowed some form of liturgy for blessings of same-sex relationships.
Regionally, 15 out of the 20 dioceses of Province IV – an area covering nine southeastern states – now permit the blessings. In the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Bishop Andrew Waldo announced May 8 that he would permit the blessings.
The liturgy was approved for “provisional” use by General Convention in 2012, and is expected to be revisited at the next General Convention in 2015. For that reason, vonRosenberg’s letter requests that priests performing the blessings report each ceremony to the Bishop’s Office. This documentation will be added to the experiences shared from around the church at General Convention.
The Standing Committee of diocese, acting as a council of advice for the Bishop, began considering same-sex blessings in 2013 and spent several months reviewing the materials approved by General Convention. In September 2013 the Standing Committee voted unanimously to advise the Bishop to move forward with developing and authorizing a liturgy. A Diocesan Committee on Blessings, with clergy and lay members from around the diocese, worked with the bishop to adapt the materials approved by General Convention into a liturgy for local use. The resulting document, “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” is available online at episcopalchurchsc.org.
[Episcopal News Service] Sixteen boys aged 14 to 17 gathered July 6 around a map of the Americas, each writing his first name on a sticky note and placing it first next to his home country, with the majority landing on Guatemala, followed by Honduras.
Then, the Rev. Susan Copley asked the teenagers to move the sticky notes to the next place they are going. Some said they would be staying with relatives in New York; others were headed to Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland and California.
One month earlier, on June 5, Copley and volunteers from her church began visiting the unaccompanied minors at Abbott House, a regional community-based human services agency headquartered in Irvington, New York, a small, Hudson River Valley town just south of Tarrytown, where Copley is the rector of Christ Church and San Marcos Mission.
In addition to making weekly visits, where they play games with the boys and conduct an abbreviated Eucharist in Spanish, church members pray for the children and mobilize to support them. In one afternoon, its English- and Spanish-speaking congregations raised $1,000 to buy shoes for the children, some of whom arrived at Abbott House without any footwear.
Not only is it about providing the children with “positive exposure to people who care about them,” by inviting different members of the Christ Church and San Marcos community, it helps to counterbalance some of the negativity that accompanies their stories, said Copley.
Since early June, the record numbers of unaccompanied minors crossing the southwestern border – primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – and the associated humanitarian crisis have been in the news, with politicians shifting blame, and protestors making headlines.
With the exception of unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Canada, who can be returned home immediately under a 2008 U.S. immigration law, unaccompanied minors must be taken into U.S. custody and given a deportation hearing, which can take years. An unaccompanied minor is defined as a person under the age of 18 who is separated from both parents and is not under the care of a guardian or other adult.
To accommodate the influx of migrant children, the government has set up makeshift shelters at military bases and has contracted with transitional homes, like Abbott House, where children can be cared for before being released to a relative, with whom they’ll stay until they can get an immigration hearing.
Abbott House provides unaccompanied minors with room and board, case management, individual counseling, medical and educational services, recreation and leisure activities, acculturation, legal services, transportation and access to religious services, before they are placed with relatives or in foster care, according to a June 4 press release.
Churches respond on the border
In a July 3 appeal to the Diocese of West Texas, Bishop Gary Lillibridge described the humanitarian needs in his diocese, particularly in the border towns of McAllen and Laredo.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in McAllen, with assistance from Episcopal Relief & Development, has joined a larger effort, the McAllen Faith Community for Disaster Recovery, a group of churches and government agencies that have come together to respond to the crisis, in assisting with meals and laundry for individuals and families sheltering inside and in tents around Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
St. John’s began preparing backpacks of hygienic items, with travel-size soaps, shampoos, and conditioners, a comb, a toothbrush, and other items, as well as packs of nutritional snacks, such as peanut butter crackers and cereal bars.
“We will hold ‘packing parties’ at the church every Sunday and Wednesday and put together as many packs as we can, and we will assemble these packs as long as they are needed,” said the Rev. Nancy Springer, assistant rector of St. John’s.
Similar efforts are taking place in Laredo, where parishioners at Christ Church are assembling backpacks, also containing hygienic and nutritional items, to deliver to the children and families flowing into their city.
The crisis in Central America’s Northern Triangle, however, is not just about children but about adults and families as well. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of women with children and other family units fleeing the pervasive violence of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have arrived in Texas and Arizona, as a recent Episcopal Public Policy Network immigration advocacy update explains.
“When women and children flee their homes in these numbers it signals a humanitarian crisis, not a security threat,” said Katie Conway, the Episcopal Church’s immigration and refugee policy analyst. “Episcopalians across the country have responded to this crisis with compassion and loving service and we are calling upon the president and Congress to do the same. We believe that the United States is capable of meeting this challenge without compromising our values or our safety, and without turning our backs on vulnerable mothers and children seeking peace and protection.”
(On June 25, Conway, and Alexander Baumgarten, director of the Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations, submitted testimony to Congress concerning the crisis on behalf of the church.
In March, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed its concern for the increasing number of children crossing the border “propelled by violence, insecurity and abuse in their communities and at home,” and called on government agencies “to take action to keep children safe from human rights abuses, violence and crime, and to ensure their access to asylum and other forms of international protection.”
UNHCR based its concern and its call to action on a 120-page report “Children on the Run,” based on interviews with more than 400 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico held in federal custody. The report indicates that many of the children believed they were unsafe in their own countries and would be picked up by authorities who would evaluate their need for international protection along the way.
The report also stated that many of the young people interviewed were part of “mixed migration” movements, which include both individuals in need of international protection and migrants looking for work.
“It’s critical to note that the vast majority of these children may actually be asylum seekers,” said Deb Stein, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries. “To talk about deporting them back to the very dire circumstances from which they fled for safety without the opportunity to seek protection is to ignore their rights under the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, to which the U.S. is a signatory. This gets lost in the heated rhetoric of deporting them simply because they entered the country illegally, when in fact it is not illegal to request asylum.”
Beginning in October 2011, the U.S. Government began noticing a dramatic rise in the number of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which by fiscal year 2013 had gone from 4,059 to 21,573. As of June 15, 2014, the number had reached 51,279 for this fiscal year. Since 2009, UNHCR has been recording an increase in asylum claims from the same three countries.
Episcopal Migration Ministries, The Episcopal Church’s Justice and Advocacy Ministries, and Episcopal Relief & Development are working together to connect Episcopalians interested in creating and/or sharing information, resources, and mutual support for immigration advocacy and ministry.
– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service. Laura Shaver, communications officer for the Diocese of West Texas, contributed reporting.
[National Episcopal Historians and Archivists press release] At NEHA’s annual meeting June 17-19 in Salt Lake City, the Rev. Dr. Christopher M. Agnew received the association’s Canon John W. Davis Award, for outstanding contributions by a NEHA member to the organization and/or Episcopal Church history and archives.
Named for its first recipient, longtime NEHA President Canon John W. Davis, the award pays tribute to outstanding contributions a NEHA member has made to the organization and/or the fields of Episcopal Church history and archives. Duffy is a longtime NEHA member and previously served on the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Agnew, past-president of NEHA and former board member of the Historical Society of The Episcopal Church, is Ecumenical Officer of the Diocese of Virginia and is Ecumenical Coordinator of Province III.
The Rev. Dr. Christopher M. Agnew grew up in various parts of the world as the son of military parents. He received his MA and Ph.D. in history, University of Delaware; and his Master of Sacred Theology from General Theological Seminary. Prior to ordination he was a college history professor.
After receiving his Ph.D. in history in 1979, he taught history on the secondary and college levels, including the adjunct faculty of Virginia Theological Seminary. He has served as manuscript librarian of the Historical Society of Delaware and Registrar and Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware. In 1985 he oversaw the mounting of a seven room Winterthur exhibit telling the history of the Diocese. He is a past-president of the National Episcopal Historians and Archivists and he has served on the Board of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church.
Dr. Agnew has served on the staff of the Presiding Bishop as Associate Ecumenical Officer. He currently serves as Ecumenical Officer of the Diocese of Virginia and is Ecumenical Coordinator of Province III of the Episcopal Church. He is the chair of the Faith and Order Commission of the Virginia Council of Churches and a member of the board of the North American Academy of Ecumenists. He was editor of The Ecumenical Bulletin, 1989-1994, and Chair of the National Workshop on Christian Unity for the 2009 workshop in Phoenix.
He has held leadership positions with the Virginia Council of Churches, and received the 2013 Faith in Action Award of the Council. He served as vice president of the Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers. He has served in numerous ecumenical roles including staff for the Anglican Ron1an Catholic Consultation- USA, the Episcopal Russian Orthodox Joint Coordinating C0111mittee, and the Lutheran Episcopal Joint Coordinating Committee. He served on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches. He was the founder of the National Council of Churches Interfaith Relations Commission and served as chair of the National Council of Churches ChristianJewish Relations Committee from 1991 to 1999.
Dr. Agnew is editor and compiler of the Forward Movement Publication, “Anglican Statements on Ecclesiology. He also is an Early Music supporter.
He is married to Elizabeth and they have several children.
Founded in 1961, NEHA has focused on practical matters of archivists and historians in the Episcopal Church since it held its first meeting and continues to provide a forum for exchanging ideas, giving mutual support, and defining its role as an archival and historical network for those who participate in preserving, exploring and sharing the historical dimensions of the Episcopal Church. NEHA encourages every congregation, diocese, and organization in the Episcopal Church to collect, preserve and organize its records and share its history.
The National Episcopal Historians and Archivists is a network of over 200 members from across the Episcopal Church whose purpose is to encourage every diocese, congregation, and organization in the Episcopal Church to collect, preserve, and organize its records and to share its history.