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Southern Africa’s archbishop responds to extremist murders

ENS Headlines - Monday, December 8, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa has spoken of his distress at the news of the murder of two hostages by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

South African teacher Pierre Korkie and U.K.-born U.S. journalist Luke Somers were killed on Saturday by the al-Qaeda militants during a failed rescue operation by joint U.S. and Yemeni special forces in the southern Shabwa region.

Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba Dec. 8 issued a statement:

“Sad and shocked at the death of Pierre Korkie, we in the Anglican Church sends our condolences to his wife, Yolande, and their family.

“As we mourn his death and that of Luke Somers, we call on all nations involved to expose those who maintain the extremism of groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“We need to ask who benefits from their terror tactics and what is missing in our efforts to end such hostage-taking and killing. And we need also to address the grievances which fuel such extremism.

“May the hope of Advent prevail and surround the world.”

Presiding Bishop’s Christmas message 2014

ENS Headlines - Monday, December 8, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in her Christmas Message 2014 prays: “May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide.  May his light burn in you, and may you labor to spread it in the darkness.”

The following is the Presiding Bishop’s message:

Christmas message 2014

The altar hanging at an English Advent service was made of midnight blue, with these words across its top:  “We thank you that darkness reminds us of light.”  Facing all who gathered there to give thanks were images of night creatures – a large moth, an owl, a badger, and a bat – cryptic and somewhat mysterious creatures that can only be encountered in the darkness.

As light ebbs from the days and the skies of fall, many in the Northern Hemisphere associate dark with the spooks and skeletons of secular Hallowe’en celebrations.  That English church has reclaimed the connection between creator, creation, and the potential holiness of all that is.  It is a fitting reorientation toward the coming of One who has altered those relationships toward new possibilities for healing and redemption.

Advent leads us into darkness and decreasing light.  Our bodies slow imperceptibly with shorter days and longer nights, and the merriness and frantic activity around us are often merely signs of eager hunger for light and healing and wholeness.

The Incarnation, the coming of God among us in human flesh, happened in such a quiet and out of the way place that few noticed at first.  Yet the impact on human existence has been like a bolt of lightning that continues to grow and generate new life and fire in all who share that hunger.

Jesus is among us like a flitting moth – will we notice his presence in the street-sleeper?  He pierces the dark like a silent, streaking owl seeking food for hungry and defenseless nestlings.  He will overturn this world’s unjust foundations like badgers undermining a crooked wall.  Like the bat’s sonar, his call comes to each one uniquely – have we heard his urgent “come and follow”?

God is among us, and within us, and around us, encountering, nudging, loving, transforming the world and its creatures toward the glorious dream the shepherds announced so many years ago, toward the beloved community of prophetic dreams, and the nightwatch that proclaims “all is well, fear not, the Lord is here.”

May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide.  May his light burn in you, and may you labor to spread it in the darkness.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and it is the harbinger of peace for all creation.

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

Mensaje de Navidad de 2014 de la Obispa Primada de la Iglesia Episcopal

ENS Headlines - Monday, December 8, 2014

[8 de diciembre de 2014] La obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal, Katharine Jefferts Schori, ruega en su mensaje de Navidad de 2014: “Que Cristo renazca en ustedes en esta temporada navideña. Que su luz arda en ustedes y que laboren para propagarla en la oscuridad”.

Sigue aquí el mensaje de la Obispa Primada:

Mensaje de Navidad de 2014

En un oficio inglés de Adviento, las colgaduras del altar eran de azul oscuro y encima se destacaba este letrero: “Te damos gracias de que la oscuridad nos recuerda la luz”. Frente a todos los que estábamos reunidos allí para dar gracias había imágenes de criaturas de la noche —una mariposa nocturna, un búho, un tejón y un murciélago— criaturas crípticas y de alguna manera misteriosas que sólo pueden encontrarse en la oscuridad.

Mientras mengua la luz de los días y los cielos del otoño, muchos en el Hemisferio Norte asocian la oscuridad con los fantasmas y los esqueletos de las celebraciones seculares de Halloween. Esa iglesia inglesa ha recobrado la conexión entre el creador, la creación y la potencial santidad de todo lo que existe. Es una adecuada reorientación hacia la venida de Uno que ha alterado esas relaciones hacia nuevas posibilidades de restauración y redención.

El Adviento nos conduce a la oscuridad y la luz decreciente. Nuestros cuerpos imperceptiblemente asumen un ritmo más lento según los días se hacen más cortos y las noches más largas, y la alegría y la frenética actividad que nos rodea con frecuencia no son más que señales de una anhelante apetencia de luz y de restauración y plenitud.

La Encarnación, la venida de Dios entre nosotros en carne humana, ocurrió en un lugar tan tranquilo y apartado que pocos lo advirtieron al principio. Sin embargo, el impacto en la existencia humana ha sido como un rayo resplandeciente que sigue aumentando y generando nueva vida y fuego en todo el que comparte esa apetencia.

Jesús está entre nosotros como una inquieta mariposa nocturna —¿advertiremos su presencia en el indigente?  Él atraviesa la oscuridad como un búho silencioso que busca comida para sus pichones hambrientos e indefensos. Derribará los injustos cimientos de este mundo como los tejones que socaban una pared torcida. Como el sonar de un murciélago, su llamado nos llega a cada uno de nosotros en particular —¿hemos oído su apremiante “ven y sígueme”?

Dios está entre nosotros, y en nosotros y en torno nuestro, encontrando, alentando, amando y transformando al mundo y sus criaturas hacia el glorioso sueño que los pastores anunciaron hace tantísimos años, hacia la amada comunidad de sueños proféticos y la ronda nocturna que proclama “todo bien, no teman, el Señor está aquí”.

Que Cristo renazca en ustedes en esta temporada navideña. Que su luz arda en ustedes y que laboren para propagarla en la oscuridad. El pueblo que andaba en tinieblas ha visto una gran luz y es el heraldo de la paz para toda la creación.

Rvdma. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primada
De la Iglesia Episcopal

Presiding Bishop preaches at Christ Church, Little Rock

ENS Headlines - Monday, December 8, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached the following sermon on Dec. 7 at Christ Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 Christ Church, Little Rock, AR
175th anniversary
7 Dec 2014

 

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

Happy Anniversary! 175 years for the first Episcopal congregation in this part of the world is quite a remarkable witness. Think about it – it’s almost a tenth of the history of Christianity. Dr. Witsell, who was the rector here for 20 years, wrote a history of this place that ended with his retirement in 1947. He started at the beginning, in 30-33 CE, with the founding of what he called “the Catholic Church of the Christian Ages, of which the Episcopal Church in the United States is an accredited branch.” His next milepost concerned Hernando DeSoto and his band of Spanish soldiers, who wandered through Arkansas in 1541 and “treated the natives cruelly, robbing, murdering and raping.” When DeSoto died his body was unceremoniously dumped into the Mississippi.[1]

Witsell’s timeline continues by noting the first Anglican presence in the Jamestown colony, and goes on with nods to the French missionaries and explorers who navigated the Mississippi River down into Arkansas.[2] Eventually he gets to the first Episcopal bishop in this part of the world, Leonidas Polk. Polk founded this congregation in 1839, a few months after he was ordained to serve the Missionary District of the Southwest, which included Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, the Republic of Texas, and Indian Territory. He had a slightly later counterpart who was the Bishop of the Northwest, and was affectionately known as the bishop of all outdoors.[3] Sons and daughters of the South probably know that Leonidas Polk soon became the Bishop of Louisiana, and some years later a Confederate general. He was killed by a cannonball in the Civil War.

This congregation he started has survived repeated fires and its community more than a few floods. This community has seen war and destruction, slavery, emancipation, desegregation, the division of Little Rock and attempts to heal those divisions. Today this community called Christ Church is actively working to make its surroundings into something that looks more like the reign of God. That’s what Isaiah begins to lay out when he proclaims comfort to people who have been lost. That level road through the desert is meant to be a message of hope to people who’ve been wandering in exile, who have lost their homes and community and even their confidence in God. And then Isaiah hears the challenge to “cry out!”

What he offers is a frank description of reality: ‘All people are grass, they are no more constant than wildflowers. 7The grass withers, and the flower fades, when God’s breath/wind blows on it; yes, the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God – that stands forever.’

A lot of grass and flowers have withered here in Little Rock, but the great and solid rock stands fast. This building has burned down, its members have seen lynchings[4] and ugly attempts to separate the members of this community,[5] yet God’s word continues to call humanity to a better way. That word is heard as challenge as well as comfort and hope. Isaiah is bound to cry out with both. If we’re going to walk the way of the Lord, that cry must become our own.

Cry out over the injustices that human beings commit, the division and hate that still bedevil us, cry out the reminder that God’s vision endures, in spite of the withering scorn some have for God’s handiwork. Cry out, proclaim assurance that God will draw all people home to a place of peace and dignity and justice.

Peter’s letter insists that God will do it, though individuals may wither away while they’re waiting – God is faithful, and the new heavens and new earth will come when we least expect their inbreaking. Wait, pray, work, and be ready – that day is coming.

Mark begins his gospel by saying, “the beginning of the good news.” God is not finished yet, there is more good news to tell and will be in the future. It may take longer than the lifetime of anyone here, but that new earth is coming, even like a thief in the night, sneaking up on us when we least expect it.

The coming in the night may be received as disaster or as blessing, and often they are mixed up together in the moment.

We should be astounded that there has not been national chaos in the aftermath of the decisions in Ferguson and in Staten Island. I am certainly grateful that so many people are beginning to awaken. Even the death and darkness of injustice can be a provocative sign to those with ears to hear and eyes to see and hearts to kindle with passion for love of neighbor that will bring justice for all. No human being should live in fear of life because of skin color, gender, national origin, religion, or who makes up that person’s family. We have all been equally created as children of God, heirs of that dream for peace that Isaiah proclaims. The road ahead is full of potholes and stones heaved out of place, but God is still at work.

We have heard the beginning of good news. This season of Advent is meant to enliven our hope for more of it – it’s not just idle waiting. Like the mother of the child whose birth we will celebrate in a few short weeks, it’s a time for active and expectant, care-filled readying. We’re meant to nurture the hope and possibility we meet around us, to feed the body with good food and rest for the soul, and reject what does not lead to health and liveliness.

John the Baptizer calls people around him to come and take a bath, as a sign of doing just that – letting go of what isn’t life-giving and healing. He chooses to live simply, and eat simply, and reject the hate that infests the society he lives in. Today many choose to live and eat simply, so that others may simply live – as a witness to the deep connections that bind us all as children of the same God, given only one garden to share. Living simply puts the essentials at the center – love of neighbor, life and God’s abundance for all.

The hate that surrounds us seeks to smother and snuff out signs of life that proclaim freedom or equality for all – but that hate will not prevail, not in the eternal framework of the One who creates us all. God’s presence among us in the flesh binds us together as brothers and sisters of the same family. We cannot escape that, in the long run, even though we may try. This building has come and gone, but the vision remains. God’s word is faithful, and life will prevail. Though it may change, it does not end.

As Advent advances toward that dream of life and liberation for all, what part of the road will you seek to smooth? It can only be done in company, and it needs gifts different from yours, for the road only becomes level as two create a bridge between them. Where will you reach across the brokenness in this community, nation, or the world? What repair of this world will you pray for, and work toward? Where are we willing we put our own selves and substance to fill a gaping pothole? The road toward home for us all is built by journeying in company, together with all God’s children. The one whose birth we await has taught us that human flesh can change the world. And that is just the beginning of the good news.

[1] William Postell Witsell, Christ Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1839-1947. Christ Church Vestry, Democrat Printing and Litho Company, p3

[2] Joliet, Marquette, LaSalle, who explored Arkansas between 1673 and 1682

[3] Josiah Cruickshank Talbot, consecrated in 1860

[4] The last one in the same year Dr. Witsell began as rector http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/remember-the-1927-lynching-in-little-rock/Content?oid=2367957

[5] E.g., the school desegregation crisis of 1957. Cf. “The Little Rock Nine.”

Los Angeles: Bruno calls for election of bishop coadjutor

ENS Headlines - Monday, December 8, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles] In the context of his address to Diocesan Convention, Bishop J. Jon Bruno Dec. 5 requested the Standing Committee, with his consent, to call for the election in 2016 of the seventh bishop of Los Angeles, to succeed Bruno upon his retirement at age 72 in 2018.

A letter from Bruno was distributed to delegates and clergy at convention: it is available in English here and in Spanish here.