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Wilfrido Ramos Orench installed as provisional bishop of Puerto Rico

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

The Rt. Rev. Wilfrido Ramos Orench was installed as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on March 28. Photo: Diocese of Puerto Rico

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Wilfrido Ramos Orench was installed as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico on March 28 at the Universidad Polytécnica de Puerto Rico in Hato Rey.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presided at the three-hour installation service; Bishop José Antonio Ramos Orench, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church of Costa Rica and the provisional bishop’s brother, preached.

Province IX bishops in attendance included Colombia Bishop Francisco Duque; Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen; Venezuela Bishop Orlando Guerrero; Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Holguin; Bishop Luis Fernando Ruiz, assisting bishop in the Dominican Republic; and Bishop Victor Scantlebury, the provisional bishop of Central Ecuador. Pastor Angel Luis Rivera of the Puerto Rican Council of Churches, Pastor Enrique Mercado of the Caribbean Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Rev. Fray Luis Orench of the Roman Catholic Church and the Order of Friars Minor also attended.

Ramos replaces Bishop David Alvarez, who served as the diocesan bishop in the Diocese of Puerto Rico since 1989.

During the installation, Ramos Orench received a pectoral cross from Yadira Torres, president of the diocese’s Standing Committee. The cross, used by Bishop James Van Buren in 1901, has been handed to all diocesan bishops, Torres said.

“I want to thank everyone for your support and your prayers. Let us together write a new page in the history of our diocese,” said Ramos Orench during the installation.

The diocese’s Standing Committee postponed and later canceled an election to replace Alvarez, who reached retirement age on Sept. 7, 2013.

Charges were made against Alvarez in August and September of 2013.

An accord regarding certain alleged violations of the disciplinary canons was reached between the presiding bishop and Alvarez; as a result of the agreed-upon accord, he is suspended from all episcopal duties until Oct. 31, 2014, said Bishop Clay Matthews, the Episcopal Church’s bishop for pastoral development, in a statement issued by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs.

Alvarez resigned on the mandatory retirement date of Nov. 1, 2013.

The accord with Alvarez says “alleged” because there were three complaints, one of which could not be refuted. Alvarez failed to implement Title IV, the ecclesiastical disciplinary canon adopted in 2009, to be put in affect in 2011, said Matthews, in a telephone call with ENS.

Alvarez disputed the other two charges, but rather than extend the investigation process, the presiding bishop and Alvarez settled on an accord, which was not disputed, said Matthews, adding that the allegations are not public per the confidentiality requirements of Title IV.

“In effect he’s suspended from all Episcopal ministries from Nov. 1, 2013, to Oct. 31, 2014,” said Matthews, adding that the accord is not based on something that has to do with “immorality.”

In the meantime, the diocese in convention (and in consultation with the presiding bishop’s office) elected Ramos as the bishop provisional, “until such time as they are ready to have an election. And we’re assuming that may be three years from now,” said Matthews, adding that there is some disagreement in the diocese regarding whether an election should be held now, or whether the diocese should wait.

Ramos, who is from Yauco, a city in southwestern Puerto Rico, served as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut from 2000-06. Also, he previously served as a provisional bishop in the Diocese of Central Ecuador. He most recently served as the Episcopal Church’s global partnerships officer for Province IX.

Anglican women gather in prayer to weave bonds of affection

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

Participants join a workshop at the Anglican Women in Prayer conference.

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican women praying, weaving bonds of affection, participating in God’s life and love for the world, and reflecting on how such spiritual practice emerges in diverse cultural and socio-economic contexts was the focus of a March 14-16 conference at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, according to a press release.

Conference participant Chrissie Crosby from Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria said that “something wonderful happens when women gather to share in God’s many graces, almost as though a holy blanket wraps us tightly together. Whether we speak the same language in daily life, we speak the same language in prayer. We feel safe with each other.”

The Rev. Ellie Sanderson, keynote speaker, with Phoebe Griswold, chair of the Anglican Women at Prayer committee. Photo: Curtis Prather.

Such experiences of prayer were brought together under the theme of “Anglican Women at Prayer: Weaving our Bonds of Affection,” facilitated by keynote speaker the Rev. Ellie Sanderson, a priest and scholar in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia with experience and expertise in community theological reflection.

Throughout her ministry, Sanderson emphasizes nurturing Christian community as a deep family of Christ, being disciples and making disciples, and giving to the last, the lost, and the least.

In her keynote address, Sanderson said that the imagery of weaving is so inviting. “It holds within it such a wealth of beauty and a deep resonance for so many women around our communion,” she said. “Weaving speaks of diversity and unity, and it speaks of creativity and community.” She noted that the Maori wisdom speaks of a sacred thread, a “sacred interweaving between Christ and creation and the thread that never ends.”

The conference was a partnership between VTS’s Center for Anglican Communion Studies and the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, a group of several hundred lay and ordained women dedicated to intercessory prayer.

Messages of support were received from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Welby said that he received news of the conference “with much joy,” underscoring that his first priority as archbishop is a commitment to the renewal of prayer and Religious Life.

“Thank you for helping fulfill this priority, one that I clearly cannot manage alone,” he said “I believe our task as the church, first and foremost, is to engage in lively dynamic, that is to say, to enjoy the intimacy between God as creator and ourselves each as beloved child. This is the gift of Christ, continually renewed through prayer – prayers of dependence, of honesty, of pleading, of trust. Thank you for giving yourselves to God and to one another these three days. You may not fully know the effect of your prayers: woven together, I believe they will help bring the renewal of the warp and woof that sustains our affection and witness and vision.”

Jefferts Schori described prayer as “above all an attitude of awareness toward God and what the Spirit is up to around, among, and within us … May your ministry be strengthened for transformative service in the world, in families and congregations, and all the broken places of our shared existence. And may you know yourselves beloved in the One who is the ground of our being, and closer than our fleshly clothing and the breath that sustains our lives.”

The challenge now, according to a seminary press release, is “how the voices of women and the voice of God heard in this conference become an enduring testimony and an enduring resource for the continued weaving of our lives together as sisters and brothers. For that, we need to commit ourselves to further listening, further reflection on the Scriptures, and further openness to the Spirit’s work inviting us to deeper participation in God’s mission through the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

Videos from the event are available here.

This article is based on an a piece written by the Rev. Robert Heaney, Ph.D.,D.Phil., director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, which appears in the spring issue of the VTS’ News from the Hill.

Presiding Bishop speaks at Christ Church ministry center, New Bern

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

Stop Hunger Now food pack after afternoon Eucharist
Christ Church ministry center
3 April 2014

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

Monday afternoon I met with a group of students at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh.  It’s one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, founded by Episcopalians in 1867 to help educate people who had formerly been enslaved.  One of the students asked me what my position was on child hunger.  I said, “No.”  “It’s wrong.”  Any society that willingly permits children to go hungry needs to have its head and heart examined.  Hunger saps the spirit as well as the body, but it’s especially horrible for children, for it destroys and diminishes their growing bodies and brains.

Jesus and the prophets are particularly clear about God’s intention for creation – the whole garden in which we have been planted is meant to be shared so that all can thrive.  If one part of the body is hungry, we’re all going to be sick eventually.  Deuteronomy challenges us to live in ways that bless the whole body, and encourage its flourishing:  ‘open your fist, soften your heart, share what you have.  Do this and you will indeed know what it is to be blessed!’

Jesus is just as clear:  ‘if you want to be part of the reign of God, get with the program.  Feed the hungry, respond to the pain and misery around you, or you will indeed find yourselves in hell – and it is a hell of your own creation!’  It’s unfair to goats, however, to compare them to miserly human beings.  Goats have better instincts about taking responsibility for other members of their herd.

Did you hear the psalmist’s joyful image of what God has in mind?  ‘You make the earth plentiful, you soften the ground and bless its increase, you crown the year with goodness and we can see overflowing abundance in your wake.’  There is abundance, if it’s not hoarded or squandered.

And yet there is hunger here in New Bern, there is hunger in each of the communities we call home, there is crippling hunger in our inner cities and rural areas, and on Native American reservations.  Many of those places are food deserts, where there is little healthy food available within reach of the people who live there – only junk food.  There is growing evidence that the kind of calories people have access to – their nutritional state – affects general health, lifespan, and behavior, and increases the likelihood of all sorts of physical and mental illness:  depression, diabetes, aggression, reproductive health, and cognitive ability.  It is abundantly clear that hungry children do not learn well, or learn at all.[1]

Stop Hunger Now[2] is designed to feed hungry children (and others) with nutritionally dense foods that can be easily transported and stored for use in emergencies.  I would encourage you to think of it as a physical parallel to home communion – as sustenance for the body and soul in time of crisis.

There are plenty of other ways to draw the parallel between the heavenly banquet and the communion we celebrate at this table with how we pray and work for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.  Some congregations feed the hungry of their cities from the same table they use to celebrate the Lord’s supper.  Some turn their lawns into vegetable gardens.  Many open their doors to feed the hungry from their kitchens – and hand out bags of groceries.  And increasing numbers are learning about how advocacy work with city, state, and national governments can help to feed the hungry and change the realities that keep some people in a chronic state of food insecurity.

Almost a quarter of the children in the USA live in poverty – and hunger is a frequent companion.  Over 30% of the children in Washington, DC and New Mexico live in poverty, and over half in Puerto Rico. [3]  Worldwide, 1 billion children (45%) are poor and hungry.

Packing emergency rations is one way to help, but the world needs sustainable ways to ensure an adequate food supply for all – that is what the reign of God expects.  There are signs of hope and creative response.  St. Vincent’s School for handicapped children in Port-au-Prince is considering a hydroponic system that would produce 800 lbs of organic vegetables a week – enough to feed several hundred children and enough more to sell in the local community, as well as provide job training for blind, deaf, and physically challenged children.  Backpack programs in many school districts provide food for children to prevent hunger over the weekend.

What is your community dreaming up?  How will you help feed the hungry world outside your door and across the world?

That gospel continues as Jesus says, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”[4]

[1] http://orthomolecular.org/library/articles/webach.shtml

[2] http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CC8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stophungernow.org%2F&ei=TLg9U-OAH6nLsQTMwYHoDQ&usg=AFQjCNECNyOYVN-UnYqsU024PCPh5WGODA&bvm=bv.64125504,d.cWc

[3] http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/Line/43-children-in-poverty?loc=1&loct=1#1/any/false/868,867,133,38,35,18,17,16,15,14/asc/any/322

[4] Matthew 25:34-35, 40

Presiding Bishop addresses Bishops Executive Secretaries Together

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

Bishops Executive Secretaries Together
2 April 2014
New Bern, NC, dinner keynote

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

I need to begin by thanking you all for your ministry.  No bishop can long survive without the gifts you bring to an office or diocesan team.  The work you do, and the dedication and excellence you bring to the work, provide an essential kind of “brain” for the work of a larger body.  You are indeed the brains of the office – for you communicate, organize, moderate, pass on messages, receive data, and listen pastorally to demanding and upset people.  You remind forgetful leaders and prompt slow ones.  You challenge people to observe policies and procedures, turn in their expense reports, and communicate the results of parish elections and audits.  You maintain and publish calendars, manage travel schedules, and help get the word out by email, Facebook, twitter, and webpages – and voice mail.  To many people in your dioceses and other ministry settings, you are the public face of the office, and the way you respond to questions and complaints gives evidence that the person on the other end is beloved of God – or else next in line for a short trip to perdition!

And most of the time you labor in a continual stream of interruptions.  Those interruptions can either be unwelcome disruptions or the possibility of in-breaking glimpses of the reign of God.  Your response is more about how the interruption is received than its content.  When the phone rings, do you expect a hostile caller, or somebody crying for help?  Who is this stranger walking into the office – is he a problem or is she the face of God?

I marvel at your ability to keep an entire circus of objects in the air at once, juggling priorities, emergencies, and routine duties.  Perhaps you should rename this organization Bevy of Excellent Systems Technicians!  Not only do you manage details precisely and competently, but you can help to reform systems that aren’t functioning well.  The details you deal with give you the ability to see what does and doesn’t work, and offer those observations to the wider system for reassessment and change.  That’s an essential part of your ministry, and I would encourage you to take the initiative to challenge procedures and policies that are outdated, unneeded, or broken – or ones that could simply be better and more effective.  Change is not an evil word.  It is essential to health and vitality.

You sit in a central place in your systems, and you have the ability to draw people and resources together beyond local communities.  One of the ancient understandings of a bishop’s ministry is as a bridge-builder (pontifex).  As part of a bishop’s team, you share in that work of connecting, healing divisions, and bringing separated parts together.

The work you do is ministry – it is a vocation of service that is of deep and lasting importance to the wider church and the communities it serves.  Our work becomes ministry when we understand that we are connected to a larger body, that none of us can do it all, and that together we more nearly resemble the God in whose image we are made.  Each one of us has particular gifts for that ministry, and we’re supposed to be grateful and appropriately proud of those gifts.  When we’re using those gifts well, we find joy in the work, at least most of the time!

When there is a deep well of joy in our work, it becomes possible to respond to the interruptions as the in-breaking kingdom of God – that creative work happening right now – even if we never see its final completion.  We can expect to discover another facet of the image of God in the person who calls or walks in to the office.  The crises that roll over us like waves can be opportunities to discover the spirit of God at work in the midst of chaos.  Remember that first story of creation in Genesis:  the breath or wind of God blows over the waters of chaos and creation begins.  Without some chaos there is no creativity.  Your presence is an important part of responding creatively to chaos and change, helping others to find creative potential within it – you show others the face of God.

Change is challenging – how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?  Thanks be to God, we’re changing all sorts of light bulbs, discovering new ways to light our buildings, and taking our light out from under old buckets out into the world to shed light to the nations.

Part of our changing nature as a church is our increasing diversity.  We are not a national church, we are not one kind of people or one nation’s church.  Today The Episcopal Church is present in 17 different nations – and that international character is part of our history and our identity.  Our formal name has been the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society for nearly 200 years.  Our component parts have shifted over the years, as Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Liberia, Cuba, and the church in Central America have mostly become autonomous parts of the Anglican Communion.  Yet we are still connected – we maintain covenant relationships with each one.

We continue to grow in our interconnectedness, encouraging dioceses of this Church to build missional partnerships within and beyond The Episcopal Church.  Dioceses with companion relationships know how life-giving they can be for all partners.  Those links with Christians in other parts of the world teach us about other contexts, and help us all to learn to love our neighbors more effectively – both far away and closer to home.

As a Church we seek to strengthen the internal partnerships as well.  The churchwide staff and structures are here to serve – helping dioceses strengthen their own ministries and build partnerships everywhere.  Some of the staff and resources are deployed from the New York office, and increasingly, many are distributed across the landscape of our partnerships, from Panama to Scotland to San Diego, including several staff members in North Carolina.  Tom Brackett, who assists with church planting and redevelopment, is based in Asheville.  New Bern is home to the Office of Pastoral Development, with Bishop Clay Matthews, Lindy Emory, and Betsy Jutras.  The office is focused on pastoral issues relating to bishops, their election, training, and support.

Our churchwide resources are oversee on a day-to-day basis by Bishop Stacy Sauls, and he has recently initiated a diocesan partnership program (DPP).  We want to ensure that you know who your partner is on the churchwide staff.  That person is meant to be a link with your diocese or ministry, and s/he has probably already made contact with your bishop and office.  That partner’s task is to be your first link with wider resources – to be the person you can call when you have questions or need to find out where to turn for particular human or financial or informational resources.  If your partner doesn’t know the answer, s/he will find someone who does.  We all are here to serve – as you are serving your diocese and bishop.  We’re all in this together, and as we seek to build bridges between parts of the larger body we’re doing helping it function more effectively.

Service or ministry is the work we share, and it is really only possible to be wholehearted about it when we believe in what we’re doing.  The vision or dream of the Reign of God is our guide, for Jesus claimed this as his mission at the beginning of his public ministry, when he read from the prophet Isaiah, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  It’s an image of a healed and reconciled world where all live together in peace because at long last there is justice.  The shorthand word for it is shalom, and it is ministry shared by the whole body.

We are indeed all in this work together, and I am honored to share it with you.  You are remarkable examples of connecting, reconciling, bridge-building ministry, and on behalf of The Episcopal Church, and the wider world, I give abundant thanks for you all.

Washington National Cathedral statement on the Fort Hood shooting

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

[Washington National Cathedral press release] Washington National Cathedral joins Americans across the country in mourning the tragic loss of four lives at Fort Hood on April 2. And we continue to pray for the families of those lost — including the shooter — and for healing for the 16 wounded by the gunfire.

Although the motives and mental health of yesterday’s shooter remain unclear, what does seem clear is that the combination of easy access to guns without background checks and the failures in our nation’s mental healthcare system are of utmost concern to those of us who are working to end the epidemic of gun violence in America.

We renew our call — issued at the national Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath just two weeks ago — for national legislation requiring background checks, and we again urge Congress to take steps to ensure proper medical and psychological healthcare for our veterans and active military personnel.  Because we hold all life sacred, we mourn the loss of all to violence of any kind, including gun violence.  We will continue to ask our elected leaders to act to reduce the number of gun deaths in America, and we will continue to pray for all those touched by this needless and senseless epidemic of gun violence in our land.

Daily live, on-demand webcasts of Holy Week, Easter services

ENS Headlines - Friday, April 4, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] On a daily basis, the Episcopal Church Office of Communication will offer live webcasts and on-demand airings of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter services from churches throughout New York City (Diocese of New York).

All live webcasts will be available here and here. The services also will be available on demand.

“Holy Week, from a Palm Sunday procession through the streets of Manhattan to a glorious Easter Vigil with a bonfire, allows us to share a depth of worship experiences to the wider church,” noted Mike Collins, Manager of Multimedia Services. “It’s also a way for those who might be unable to attend in person to attend virtually and still feel a part of this sacred time of year.”

For more information contact Collins, mcollins@episcopalchurch.org.

April 13 Palm Sunday
Saint Mary the Virgin: Procession from church through Times Square at 10:30 am Eastern (available on demand Monday)

Grace Church: Evensong at 4 pm Eastern

April 14 Holy Monday
Saint Thomas: audio feed of service at 5:30 pm Eastern

April 15 Holy Tuesday
Saint Thomas: audio feed of service at 5:30 pm Eastern

April 16 Holy Wednesday
Saint Thomas: Tenebrae Service Available on demand on April 17

April 17 Holy Thursday
Saint Ignatius of Antioch: Maundy Thursday Service with the washing of the feet at 7 pm Eastern

April 18 Good Friday
Grace Church: Seven Last Words of Christ at 1 pm Eastern

April 19 Holy Saturday
Saint Ignatius of Antioch: Easter Vigil at 8 pm Eastern

April 20 Easter
Grace Church: Festive Easter Services with choir at 9 am Eastern and 11 am Eastern

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