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The Climate Change Crisis: Watch, participate, engage

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Climate Change Crisis, presented by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society on March 24, will address one of the most significant topics in today’s society.

The 90-minute live webcast will originate from Campbell Hall Episcopal School, North Hollywood, CA, in partnership with Bishop J. Jon Bruno and the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The Climate Change Crisis will begin 11 am Pacific. The webcast will be viewable here.

There are many ways to participate, engage, and get involved.

Meet the participants
• The forum will be moderated by well-known climatologist Fritz Coleman of KNBC 4 television news.

• Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will present the keynote address.

• Two panels, each 30 minutes, will focus on specific areas of the climate change crisis: Regional Impacts of Climate Change; and Reclaiming Climate Change as a Moral Issue.

• Panelists: Bishop Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California He has made climate change a focus of his episcopacy; Princess Daazhraii Johnson, former Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, one of the oldest Indigenous non-profit groups in Alaska focused on protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;  Dr. Lucy Jones, seismologist with the US Geological Survey and a Visiting Research Associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech since 1983; Mary D.  Nichols, J.D., Chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

• Facilitator’s Guide located here.

• Submit questions for the forum here  or write to publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org

30 Days of Action
In addition to stimulating conversation and raising awareness about The Climate Change Crisis, the live webcast will serve as the kickoff to 30 Days of Action. A range of activities developed by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society are offered for individuals and congregations to understand the environmental crisis. The activities will culminate on Earth Day, April 22.

• 30 Days of Action located here.

Additional resources
• Information located here.

• Tweeting Climate Change Crisis: #EpiscopalForum

• Tweeting 30 Days of Action:  #Episcopal#30Days

• Bulletin Insert here.

The forum
• There is no fee to view the live webcast. The webcast will be viewable here.

• Registration is not required for the live webcast.

• Questions can be emailed starting now and during the live webcast; submit questions here or send questions to publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org.

• The forum will be available on-demand following the live webcast.

• The forum is ideal for live group watching and discussion, or on-demand viewing later.  It will be appropriate for Sunday School, discussions groups, and community gatherings.

The event supports Mark 5 of the Anglican Communion’s Marks of Mission: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. Anglican Five Marks of Mission are here. The Five Marks of Mission form the basis for the triennial budget of The Episcopal Church adopted by the 77th General Convention in July 2012.

The event is one of the aspects of commemorating The Episcopal Church’s 150th year of parish ministry in Southern California.

For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org.

Episcopal News Service will provide coverage of the event and the climate change issue.

Hacia la Convención General 2015: Abierta la matrícula para el programa infantil; Disponibles los formularios para los consejeros

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[17 de marzo de 2015] Ya está abierta la matrícula para el Programa Infantil de la Convención General 2015.

La 78ª. Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal sesionará del 25 de junio al 3 de julio en el Centro de Convenciones Salt Palace de Salt Lake City, UT (Diócesis de Utah).

El programa Infantil funcionará desde el jueves 25 de junio hasta el viernes 3 de julio, a partir de las 7:15 A.M. hasta el cierre de las sesiones. Un evento de puertas abiertas está programado para el miércoles 24 de junio.

Los hijos de diputados, suplentes, obispos y otras personas que asistan a la Convención General tienen derecho a aprovechar el programa infantil, desde recién nacidos hasta niños que hayan terminado el quinto grado. El costo es de $70 diarios e incluye, almuerzo, meriendas y actividades, tales como participación en la liturgia diaria.

La matrícula es accesible aquí.

“El Programa Infantil de la convención General es mucho más que un mero lugar para que los niños estén mientras sus padres realizan el trabajo de la Iglesia”, comentó la Rda. Shannon Kelly,  misionera interina del Ministerio Universitario y de Jóvenes Adultos de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera. “Los niños son parte de la Iglesia Episcopal y de la Comunión Anglicana y es esencial que ellos estén presentes”.

El Programa Infantil se estableció en la 75ª. Convención General en Columbus, OH, mediante la Resolución D059.

Consejeros y consejeros menores
Están abiertas ahora las solicitudes para jóvenes que deseen servir como consejeros y consejeros menores en el Programa Infantil de la Convención General.

Para tener derecho, los solicitantes deben estar cursando actualmente del sexto al 12º. grado y tener a uno de sus padres (o a ambos) ya inscritos para asistir a la Convención General como obispo, diputado, exhibidor o voluntario.

Se aceptarán las solicitudes hasta el 20 de abril. Se necesita de la recomendación de un adulto. Habrá todo un día de adiestramiento el martes 23 de junio. Aqui.

Para más información, así como para indagar sobre elegibilidad y solicitudes, diríjase a Kelly en skelly@episcopalchurch.org.

La Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal se celebra cada tres años, y es el organismo gubernativo bicameral de la Iglesia. Está compuesta por la Cámara de Obispos, con más de 200 obispos en activo y jubilados, y la Cámara de Diputados, con representantes electos, clérigos y laicos, provenientes de las 110 diócesis de la Iglesia que ascienden a más de 800 miembros.

Advancing to General Convention 2015: registration open for children’s program; applications available for counselors

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Registration is now open for the Children’s Program for General Convention 2015.

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

The Children’s Program will operate Thursday, June 25 to Friday, July 3, opening at 7:15 am through the close of business sessions. An open house is slated for Wednesday, June 24.

Children of deputies, alternates, bishops, and others attending General Convention are eligible for the children’s program; ages newborns through completed fifth grade.  Cost is $70 per day and includes lunch, snacks and activities, such as participation in the daily liturgy.

Registration is available here.

“The General Convention Children’s Program is so much more than just a place for children to be while their parents do church work,” commented the Rev. Shannon Kelly, Acting Missioner for Campus and Young Adult Ministries for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. “Children are a part of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and it is essential that they are present.”

The Children’s Program was set at the 75th General Convention in 2006 in Columbus OH through Resolution D059.

Counselors and junior counselors
Applications are now accepted for youth to serve as counselors and junior counselors in the General Convention Children’s Program.

To be eligible, applicants must be in grades six through 12, and have a parent(s) already registered for General Convention as a bishop, deputy, exhibitor or volunteer.

Applications are accepted through April 20. Adult recommendations required.  There will be a day-long training on Tuesday, June 23.

Application here.

For more information, eligibility, and application contact Kelly atskelly@episcopalchurch.org.
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

Presiding Bishop preaches at House of Bishops spring meeting

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Patrick
17 March 2015
Chapel of the Transfiguration, Kanuga
HOB closing

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

Slavery is not new, and its legacy haunts most of the world. The ancient archaeological evidence of sacrificial human remains in British bogs, Egyptian pyramids, Meso-American wells, and atop Andean peaks pretty clearly implicate most of our ancestral cultures in using other human beings as commodities and as an expendable resource. The Bible is filled with tales of slaves and their quest for freedom.

Patrick may be the only runaway slave on our calendar. He’s certainly one of the earliest. He was born in what is now western England around 390. His grandfather was a priest, his father a deacon and city official. The teenaged Patrick was captured and trafficked to Ireland, where he spent his days watching sheep and learning to pray. A vision in the midst of his prayers six years later prompted him to flee to the coast, where he eventually persuaded some sailors to take him aboard. They probably landed him in Gaul. Eventually he made his way home, where he received some training, was ordained a priest, and eventually had some interaction with monastic Christians in Gaul. About 435 he went as bishop to the Irish, settling in Armagh. He encouraged monastic vocations, built a school, and went about making disciples, baptizing, and showing people a human example of what it looks like to travel the road of Christ.

This saint seems never to have lost his self-understanding as a former slave and an exile, nor did he lose his embarrassment about his limited education, but he names his great passion to “spend myself…so that many peoples should be reborn in God and then made perfect…”[1] Being made perfect had nothing to do with conforming to one particular clan or race. This immigrant spent himself as Christ’s servant to those who had enslaved him. His preaching was personal, humble in that earthy sense, and effective. Like the householder Jesus speaks about,[2] Patrick brought out of his treasure what was old and what was new, and shared the good news of the kingdom of God already present. Patrick blessed the local idiom and baptized holy instincts: in ancient sacred wells that were now dedicated to Christian saints, holy sites that became gathering places for Christian communities, and druidic pillars transformed into high crosses.

135 years after Patrick’s death, Augustine arrived to missionize the British, sent by Gregory the Great, who had seen slaves like Patrick in the Roman market. Augustine found an indigenous Christian community, and Gregory encouraged him to do as Patrick had done, to be curious about what he found, and not to see difference as something to eliminate, but to look for the fingerprints of the holy within it.

The descendants of the English and the Irish have not always lived up to the witness of their spiritual forebears. The divisions between them have been attributed to later Roman Catholic-Protestant disputes, but they originate in the differences between the indigenous Christianity that Patrick and Augustine nurtured and a later Roman variety. The Norman invasions that began in the 12th century laid the ground for later “religious” wars and the same kind of land appropriation and attempts at de-culturation that European immigrants visited on the native peoples of this continent. By the 19th century those policies had made virtual economic slaves of much of the Irish population.[3] The famine that followed the collapse of the potato crop killed a million people and sent a million emigrants to these shores. Forty per cent of those who traveled in steerage died in the sea passage on what were called “coffin ships,” a record only exceeded by the African slave trade. The status of the Irish immigrants was no better in many northern states than the slaves they replaced, and many were dispatched with equal impunity when they demanded freedom. The church was one of the players in addressing those varieties of injustice, but it usually wasn’t this one, which more often counted mine owners and steel barons as its members.

One tribe or nation targets another race or tribe as expendable or as an exploitable commodity – for its labor, its land, or the wealth of resources it appears to control. That has produced a very long trail of tears through history – from Pharoah’s empire, to Greece and Rome, the German Third Reich, to Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, and those who cross the southern borders of this nation today. Yet the impulse to seek God’s image in the other continues – Patrick stands in the same line as the converted Paul, Sojourner Truth, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela… even in the darkest hour hope continues for that green blade newly rising.

People of every heritage claim to be Irish on this festival day, because underneath the mythic hype around Patrick, there is still a hint of peoples and nations and clans gathered as siblings created by the One God.

This place, Kanuga, is named for the Cherokee gathering place that it was long before Europeans appeared. You have heard the outlines of what ensued, with the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830 and the wholesale expulsion of the Cherokee and their neighboring tribes in 1836. The Trail of Tears still echoes here.

Some 70 years later, George Stephens bought this land to build a summer community for lowland Carolinians – for people with sufficient privilege to take an extended vacation. Stephens made his fortune in newspapers and banking, having founded the predecessor of Bank of America.[4] He discovered this beautiful spot in 1909, he dammed the creek and induced others to come and build cabins here. The dam failed in 1916 and the community foundered, going through four bankruptcies before Bishop Finlay of Upper South Carolina bought it as a summer camp for the surrounding dioceses in 1928. If you talk to people of a certain age and race in this part of the world, you soon begin to hear some of the lore around this privileged place. While campers of all races and families come here today, this was fully a part of the old Jim Crow. No one of color came here to rest. Sabbath was for owners only.

This Chapel of the Transfiguration was designed by the Scots architect Grant Alexander and built in 1940. Look at the planks of this overturned boat. These are native yellow pine boards, cut on this land. Some probably came from seedlings that sprang up while the Cherokee were here. Look more carefully. Can you see the signs of floods and wet tears? Can you see the sweaty fingerprints of its builders? There’s probably blood up there as well, from splinters and nails. Those marks are still evident in the rafters, even if they’ve disappeared from the boards down lower – either sanded or washed away. The invisible are not so invisible if we’re curious.

Those marks up there are rather like the cross on our foreheads – branded forever in our souls, but only particularly noticeable in the earthy mark that begins Lent. Human beings still subjugate one another in attempts to possess that earth, still despise the common earthy origin of brothers and sisters, still use one another like ore or oil mined from the earth. We do it because we cling to one patch or field or nation as our own, even though we are descendants of wandering Arameans and followers of the One who had no place to lay his head. For all the otherness that human hearts despise is born of the desire to own and possess and control what is ultimately and eternally a gift. The striking reality is that most of the enslaved and subjugated races throughout history are defined by their generous hospitality and unwillingness to assert exclusive ownership rights. Generosity is the fruit of servanthood.

I wonder what would happen if we really taught what Jesus preached about giving ourselves away? What if we sent young people to residential schools that enculturated them in that ethos of loving neighbor as ourselves, rather than Greek fantasies of entitlement and privilege? (you might think of recent racist fraternity outpourings).[5] Do we have the courage to dismantle or transfigure those systems of privilege? In spite of their history, and indeed because of it, places like this one can help with that transfiguration. Camping here for a while can be an opportunity for healing. But we can’t stay here.

Patrick, like Jesus, lived on the road, walking lightly on the earth to meet those called stranger or enemy. That requires curiosity about the other, requires courage to meet those people, and a willingness to share their lament. By the rivers of Babylon, and in every place of privilege and oppression, we’re meant to go and sing the Lord’s song of liberation and kinship in Christ.

[1] Confession I:15-16, cf. They Still Speak 57
[2] Matthew 13:52
[3] And of other tribal groups like the Scots and the Welsh
[4] http://www.ecgriffith.com/history
[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/14/opinion/the-university-of-oklahoma-video-and-the-problem-fraternities-cant-fix-themselves.html?emc=edit_th_20150314&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=44355849

EPPN Lenten Series: Engaging Poverty Through Food Security

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[Episcopal Public Policy Network] And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Genesis 1:29

The barren landscape of winter with its naked tree limbs and hard, frozen ground is hardly evocative of fertility, reproduction, and new life. Yet we know that these processes continue beneath the visible surface of things, and we have faith that the earth will spring back to life in a few weeks, growing a harvest that will nourish us throughout the year. God created a constant and powerful process of food growth and yield that is both steady and sufficient, and one that we all rely upon. The beauty of this process is that God has fully provided for us: there is enough food in the world for everyone to eat.

Why, then, is one in five children in the United States at risk of hunger? Perhaps our answer lies in the words of the Haitian proverb: “Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe,” which literally means: “God gives but doesn’t share.”  Our Creator has provided everything we need for each inhabitant of the world to live a full, nourished life, yet it’s up to us to ensure that every person has access to the nutrition that they need to thrive.

Fortunately, our government responded to this challenge by creating feeding programs that reach children and their families who live in food-insecure households. The National School Lunch Program offers free or reduced-price lunches to 21.5 million low-income children, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides over 8.6 million low-income women and children with food and nutrition education, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as the ‘food stamp program’) lifted 3.7 million Americans out of poverty in 2013.

These critical programs rely on government funding to impact the lives of each person that they reach, and as Episcopalians, we can be powerful advocates for robustly funding these initiatives. As we advocate on a federal level to change the systems of poverty, we can also engage our local resources to address hunger within our community. The reflection below illustrates a moving example of Episcopalians participating in a hunger ministry with their neighbors in Redmond, Washington.

Food Bank Farm: A Ministry of Food

 “… for I was hungry and you gave me food” Matthew 25:35 (NRSV)

Bounded on the west by the waters of Puget Sound and on the east by the Cascade Mountain range, the terrain of King County, Washington was shaped by glaciers that deposited fertile soil and carved lush river valleys. Warmed and watered by currents of the Pacific Ocean, the area’s native vegetation — salal, berries, nettles, fiddleheads, hazelnuts — sustained generations with natural abundance.

Today, King County enjoys a new kind of abundance. Home to tech companies like Amazon in Seattle and Microsoft in Redmond, the county is attracting a huge influx of wealth and investment, and is currently experiencing the second fastest rate of growth of all counties in the U.S.

But in the midst of the county’s natural and financial plenty, there’s scarcity.

Here, the number of people experiencing hunger remains higher than pre-recession levels: Approximately 305,000 children in the state of Washington live in food insecure households, and 19.5% of families with children experience food insecurity. This means that in about one of five families, parents go hungry so their children can be fed — and sometimes, everyone goes hungry.

And in those places where the county’s poor can afford to eat, their options for healthy food choices are limited. Recently, the USDA identified 17 “food deserts” in King County, “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” These are areas where 20% of the people earn below the poverty line and 33% live more than a mile from a supermarket. In place of markets where fresh, nutritious food is offered, the landscape of these food deserts is dotted with convenience stores and fast food outlets. The USDA concludes, “The lack of access (to fresh foods) contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.”

Jesus charges his disciples to feed his sheep. That’s our mandate. But how do we do this in King County, where the paradoxical epidemic of hunger and obesity is immense?

One answer lies in connecting the financial and natural resources God has planted here.

Holy Cross Episcopal Church sits in one of the wealthiest census tracts in the county, in the hills of Redmond, which is also home to Microsoft’s corporate headquarters. The growing congregation includes many parishioners who have relocated to the Seattle area, recruited by the local technology boom. And its rector drives a tractor.

Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  Holy Cross rector Fr. Jim Eichner can interpret this quite literally. Raised on a farm in Wisconsin, Jim brought to Holy Cross his passion for creation stewardship. Fr. Jim’s “deep gladness” lies in cultivating the earth — sowing and growing — and directly meets the world’s deep hunger in King County. Jim drove his tractor into the heart of the county’s hunger epidemic, and brought his congregation with him.

Holy Cross’s Food Bank Farm ministry began in 2011. Twelve volunteers from the congregation worked in partnership with Seattle’s inner city New Hope Missionary Baptist Church’s Clean Greens ministry, growing 3,750 pounds of food, for 5,000 servings valued at $5,625. That 2011 harvest was sold inexpensively at farm stands in Seattle’s urban food deserts, distributed via free boxes of produce to families in need, and donated to local food banks.

The Food Bank Farm ministry’s mission is “to end hunger in the Pacific Northwest by growing fresh produce for area food banks,” and its ambitious goal is to raise a million pounds of nutritious fresh produce for area food banks by 2021. They’re well on their way.

The congregation now cultivates an eight-acre tract in King County’s Snoqualmie River Valley, and the work has grown beyond just Holy Cross. Other congregations, organizations like the Scouts, even businesses that sponsor employee volunteer time off, such as retailer Nordstrom, have worked in the ministry’s fields. Many contributions come in via United Way and the Microsoft matching program.  In 2014, over 700 people harvested 111,000 pounds of produce, providing 457,760 servings valued at $167,160.

The 2015 planting begins the second week of Easter, with plans for sowing 30,000 squash seeds. By the final harvest in November, volunteers will log over 1,500 hours of work.

Can the congregation meet their lofty goal of ending hunger in the Pacific Northwest? It is Holy Cross’s corporate vocation, and there is a power at work within them that is able to accomplish far more than they can ask or imagine. Please support their ministry in prayer.

King County’s hunger rates parallel national averages — there are hungry people where you live. Even one hungry child is a community crisis, and we are all called to act. Maybe you won’t find a rector on a tractor in your community, but there are local, national and global organizations that can channel your gifts, talents and resources to help end hunger. That same power that is able to accomplish far more than you can ask or imagine is at work within you, too.

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that we may all share the fruits for the earth, rejoicing in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, Prayer for Agriculture)

Resources:

Take Action: Go here to let your members of Congress know you support legislation that provides adequate nutrition programs to all children.

Speak out on social media about the need for our federal budget to support human needs programs. Join the conversation with #StopTheCuts.

Join the Domestic Policy Action Network to get monthly emails that provide you with an in-depth look at domestic policy. Email eppn@episcopalchurch.org to join the network.

Learn more about the Food Bank Farm. Check out their website here!

This is the fifth installment of the Episcopal Public Policy Network’s 2015 Lenten Series: “Engaging Poverty at Home and Around the World.” To view previous reflections, click here. To receive these reflections to your inbox each Wednesday of Lent, sign up here.

House of Bishops concludes meeting with eye towards Convention

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church House of Bishops, meeting in its annual spring retreat, has agreed to write a new pastoral letter to the church on the sin of racism.

The letter, expected to be adopted at the spring 2016 meeting, will be “the most lasting response of this house to that issue,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said during a midday press conference on March 17, the final day of the bishops’ meeting.

The letter would follow on one adopted by the house in April 1994 and another one issued March 22, 2006. The 2006 letter noted the 1994 pastoral statement said a new letter was needed because the “pervasive sin” of racism “continues to plague our common life in the church and in our culture.”

The theme for the March 13-17 meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, in the Diocese of Western North Carolina, was Fostering a culture of curiosity, compassion and courage in Christ.

“We have focused our conversation around curiosity about ‘the other,’ courage in encountering ‘the other’ and compassion in encountering ‘the other,’” Jefferts Schori said. She added that member bishops challenged their colleagues with “provocative” mediations about race, culture, class and dealing with other faith traditions.

“The conversations have been deeper than I have ever experienced in this house and I am immensely gratified at the depth of the conversations and what I think will result from this meeting,” she said.

The presiding bishop praised the work of the house’s planning committee for the depth of the members’ participation. Diocese of Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley, co-chair of the House of Bishops Planning Committee, said that the meeting was structured with the filter of first considering the legacy of slavery, and then moving to the “contemporary experience of the results of racism and divisions in this country and elsewhere around race.”

The movement allowed the bishops “to build on our experiences of what it means to be the church in the midst of an increasingly pluralistic culture where the other is next to us at all times,” Ousley said.

The meeting, which Ousley said was “packed to the brim with information and deep encounters with ourselves and our role as bishops,” also energized the bishops “by having gone so deep together and discovering how we have to be as bishops as we move into an increasingly rapid, fast-changing world.”

The bishops also “considered issues of impairment among our members and others in the church,” Jefferts Schori said, “and we hope to appoint a commission that will address those issues in a broad sense and provide us some feedback about what and how we might attend to those issues.”

The bishops passed a resolution calling on the presiding bishop, in consultation with the president of the House of Deputies, to appoint an independent commission to “explore the canonical, environment, behavioral and procedural dimensions of matters involving the serious impairment of individuals serving as leaders in the church, with special attention to issues of addiction and substance abuse,” according to the March 17 daily account of the meeting.

The resolution says that appointments to the commission ought to include individuals “with professional or personal experience with varieties of impairment,” as well as members of The Episcopal Church and of the church’s full-communion partners.

“Recommendations for both action and further review, as appropriate, in order to clarify lines of authority, to ensure mutual accountability, and to promote justice, well-being, and safety within both the church and the world were included,” the account said of the resolution.

The presiding bishop said there “will be an ongoing conversation” about how such a commission would do its work.

Jefferts Schori said the goal of the commission would be for the church to understand how it “might better respond both pastorally and ecclesiastically” to its members, both lay and ordained.

Diocese of Kansas Bishop Dean Wolfe, vice president of the House of Bishops, said the commission is needed because “the church is an imperfect and dynamic institution and we’re always trying to learn how to be more faithful and find ways to better exercise our ministries.”

A member of the house, Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook, is on administrative leave from the diocese while awaiting trial on charges that on Dec. 27 she allegedly was driving while intoxicated and was texting when she struck and killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41.

The house also set its attention towards the 78th meeting of the church’s General Convention June 23-July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Bishop Ken Price, secretary of the House of Bishops, said the bishops spent time talking about the topics that convention will consider. On March 17 the bishops began to shift their emphasis “to more of a legislative mode that we will be in at General Convention,” he said.

Twenty-two bishops have never attended convention as members of the House of Bishops, Price said. They will have a learning curve, but so will all the bishops, Price noted, as the convention moves toward a paperless operation.

“This is a new learning [experience] for bishops so we’re trying to get on board with that,” Price said.

The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, the convention’s executive officer, met with the bishops on March 17 to introduce them to the paperless plan.

“We’ve moved from prayerful to personal and now we’re moving into practical this afternoon,” Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce said during the March 17 press conference.

Price added that the house spent very little time discussing the impending General Convention election of Jefferts Schori’s successor because the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop has not yet released its slate of nominees. That committee has two meetings slated, March 19-22 and April 19-20, and has said it will make that announcement in early May. Prior to the last presiding bishop election in 2006, the committee announced its slate in January.

During the meeting, The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs issued daily accounts that provided a brief overview of the bishops’ discussions and activities at Kanuga. Those accounts are here.

Members of the public and the news media were not allowed to observe the sessions. Some bishops blogged and tweeted during the retreat using #hoblent2015. Those tweets can be read here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

House of Bishops Daily Account for Tuesday, March 17

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church concluded its retreat meeting today, March 17, at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. The following is an account of the activities for Tuesday, March 17.

The theme for the spring meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops is Fostering a culture of curiosity, compassion and courage in Christ.

The day began with Morning Prayer, presided by HOB Chaplain, the Rev. Simon Batista of Texas.

The emcee for the day was Bishop Andrew Dietsche of New York.

Bishop Jay Magness addressed the House on the work of federal ministries, chaplains and prison ministers.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presided at the business meeting. Among the actions:

  • 148 bishops were in attendance.  Bishop Peter Lee was senior bishop at the meeting.
  • A standing ovation acknowledged Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi upon his resignation.
  • Elected to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops were Bishop Dorsey Henderson (reelected), Bishop Cate Waynick of Indianapolis (reelected), Bishop Rob O’Neill of Colorado and Bishop Nick Knisely of Rhode Island.
  • The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) presented a resolution mandating that candidates nominated by petition undergo the same background check procedures as those nominated by the JNCPB. The resolution was approved.
  • The HOB Pastoral Development presented a resolution of understanding on Commitments and Core Values for General Convention 2015, which was approved.
  • The House approved a resolution calling for the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the President of the House of Deputies, to appoint an independent commission to explore the canonical, environment, behavioral and procedural dimensions of matters involving the serious impairment of individuals serving as leaders in the church, with special attention to issues of addiction and substance abuse. The resolution requests that appointments to this commission include individuals with professional or personal experience with varieties of impairment, members of Full-Communion partner churches, and members of this Church. Recommendations for both action and further review, as appropriate, in order to clarify lines of authority, to ensure mutual accountability, and to promote justice, well-being, and safety within both the Church and the world were included.
  • The Bishops agreed to prepare a new Pastoral Letter on Racism, to be promulgated in 2016.
  • The HOB received the report of the Ecclesiology committee, entitled Re-membering and Re-imagining, a set of draft documents for further study.
  • Mindful of tragic events in Pakistan, the bishops approved a resolution in support of and in gratitude for the witness of Christians in that country.

In the afternoon session, an overview of General Convention 2015 was presented by: Bishop Ken Price, secretary of HOB; the Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of General Convention; and Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah, the host diocese. Topics included process, Virtual Binder, logistics, and hospitality and support being offered by the LDS church.

Bishop Hayashi also spoke about the march slated for Sunday morning (June 28) of General Convention sponsored by the Bishops against Gun Violence.

The day concluded with Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Ken Price with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preaching.

Media Briefers for Tuesday March 17

Bishop Skip Adams of Central New York
Bishop Jim Mathes of San Diego
Bishop Cate Waynick of Indianapolis

 

RIP: The Rev. Keith Johnson, rector of St. Philip’s, Harlem

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Rev. Keith Johnson

[St. Philips Church] The Rev. Keith Johnson, 53, passed away Tuesday, February 24, 2015 due to complications from cancer.

Born in New Orleans in 1961, Keith grew up schooled in the particular values of his parents, Minnie and Robert Johnson.These virtues, including southern warmth, kindheartedness and a gracious respect of others, would shine in his ministry as a priest. He loved the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and would often listen to the soundtrack of the film when praying or writing. Atticus Finch’s innate goodness reminded Keith of his own father, as well as inspiring Keith to become his own man.

Keith attended the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Following graduation, Keith went to help others by taking a position with the U.S. Social Security Administration in Detroit and then Key West, Florida.

In 1998, Keith married Ginny Hare, and took on an instant family which included Ginny’s two children, Edward and Sarah. The family moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where Keith studied at The Virginia Theological Seminary. One of Keith’s joys was coaching Edward and his various teams in football. He coached Pop Warner football during his time in seminary, and continued coaching freshman and junior varsity ball.

In 2001, he was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church by Bishop Leopold Frade. Later that year, he accepted a priesthood in the Diocese of Southeast Florida. Keith simultaneously served the church as rector of St. Matthew’s and assistant at St Paul’s in Delray Beach. Keith’s personal mission here was to bridge the racial gap between these two diverse parishes.

From 2003 to 2008, Keith served as rector of St. Andrew’s in Ben Lomond, California. While here Keith served on the board of Valley Churches United Missions, a non-profit that provided food and assistance to over 7000 county residents. Keith next went on to minister as an assistant priest at Holy Trinity in Clearwater, Florida, for a few years. He then spent eighteen months at St. Luke’s in New Orleans before being called to Harlem’s historic St. Philip’s Church in 2012.

During his time at St. Philip’s, Keith quickly emerged as a significant leader among the clergy and brought leadership to the revitalization of the Episcopal presence in Harlem. He embraced this calling at once, providing a reasonable, loving and gracious presence in that community.

On Thursday mornings, Keith provided a ministry of presence to parolees at the Harlem Community Justice Center. As clergy for St Philip’s important inter-faith initiative, Keith supported these men and women with training in public speaking skills so they could tell their stories. Keith also established “Warriors of a Dream,” a neighborhood anti-violence youth initiative, as well as a local chapter of Integrity LGBT at St Philip’s. Keith lent his smile and presence as he rode on the Episcopal float in the annual Greenwich Village Gay Pride Parade. During Keith’s tenure, St Philip’s became a member of Ecclesia, a ministry providing Eucharist and meals to the homeless in Marcus Garvey Park on Sundays.

Keith was one of six fellows in the Faith and Justice Fellowship program under the Federation of Protestant Welfare and Agencies and New York Theological Seminary. This program trains faith leaders to develop their abilities to become prophetic witnesses for fair social policies and equal justice.

He is survived by his wife, Ginny, his step-children, Edward and Sarah, his parents and sister.

UNCSW delegates discuss statelessness, universal birth registration

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] To have a nationality means to exist, though millions of people worldwide are stateless because of armed conflict, politics, border disputes and economic migration. Others are rendered stateless simply as result of never having had their births registered.

“We’re talking about some of the world’s most dispossessed people,” said the Rev. Canon Flora Winfield, Anglican Communion Representative to the United Nations institutions in Geneva, Switzerland, during a March 16 discussion on statelessness and universal birth registration held at The Episcopal Church Center.

More than 30 Anglicans and Episcopalians participated in the discussion, which took place in the larger context of the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), meeting in New York March 9-20. It included information on the status of the Anglican Communion’s campaign aimed at universal birth registration, and ways in which churches communion-wide can promote and assist parents, particularly mothers, in registering the birth of a child.

Unregistered children, explained Winfield, often are more vulnerable to human trafficking, more likely to be enlisted as child soldiers, and more likely to be forced into child marriage. Additionally, they are less likely to have access to education, health care and social services.

An estimated 10 million people are stateless worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which in 2014 launched a 10-year campaign to eradicate statelessness.

In addition to UNHCR, the International Anglican Family Network is working to end statelessness through a campaign for universal birth registration; it supports global efforts to ensure compliance in countries that recognize the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Globally, the births of an estimated 230 million children under the age of 5 have gone unregistered, with 59 percent of those children living in Asia, according to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The Anglican Family Network began its involvement toward universal birth registration three years ago, explained the Rev. Terrie Robinson, the Anglican Communion’s director for Women in Church and Society.

Without a birth certificate, a person’s nationality may not be recognized; the issue is important to the church, Robinson explained, because having a nationality is a basic human right, and “having an identity and belonging in community helps us [human beings] to flourish.”

Given the reach of Anglican churches around the world, the church is poised to work with organizations, such as UNICEF and Plan International that are already engaged in birth registration, to connect field workers with bishops in dioceses where births typically go unregistered.

“It’s a growing, theologically grounded movement, and the church is everywhere – so we have the opportunity to slide it into existing ministry,” said Robinson.

Winfield added that by assisting parents to bring their children into the fold of community, the church also helps them to later take their place as adults in civil society. When parents bring their children to church to be baptized, churches have an opportunity to ask if the birth has been registered, and assist in registering the birth if it has not.

Currently in 27 countries around the world a mother cannot pass on citizenship to her baby, with 12 of them being in the Middle East and North Africa, she said. In the case of Syrian refugees, women head 25 percent of households, said Winfield.

“This is not a problem that will go away soon,” she said. “Every church in every province can engage in this; it really does take all of us, as well as our partners in mission and ministry.”

The March 16 discussion was facilitated by Lynnaia Main, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s officer for global relations, and came at the request of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who in late 2014 visited the Dominican Republic to learn about the effects of a 2013 Constitutional Court ruling that annulled the citizenship of an estimated 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, many of them women and children whose births have gone unregistered.

In May 2014, following intense political pressure and international calls for justice, the president introduced and the Dominican Congress passed a law allowing children of “irregular” migrants, or nonresidents deemed “in-transit” under a 2004 law who have birth certificates, to become citizens and those without documents to apply for legal residency and later citizenship. The deadline for those affected by the decision to submit documents to prove citizenship, including birth certificates, was Feb. 1. However, for many, particularly poor, marginalized people, obtaining a birth certificate is an arduous, expensive, if not impossible process.

“The biggest problem in the Dominican Republic is the process is very complex; free but complex,” said Digna de la Cruz, of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic and who is representing Province IX at the UNCSW. “It’s a problem for people of Haitian descent, but also Dominicans who don’t have their birth certificates.

Without a birth certificate, a person typically cannot obtain an identification card, which is required to study, to apply for dignified employment, to marry, to register children, to qualify for state health insurance and pensions, to open a bank account, to apply for a passport, to participate in elections, or even to be baptized.

“Not to have birth registration, identity papers is serious,” said Lelanda Lee, who serves as chair of The Episcopal Church Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Advocacy and Networking. Lee explained that following the high court’s 2013 ruling, the Executive Council passed a resolution that the presiding bishop travel to the Dominican Republic on a fact-finding mission to address the statelessness issue.

“It’s one thing not to allow someone to become a citizen, but to retroactively take it away just seems unbelievable,” she said.

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

House of Bishops Daily Account for Monday, March 16

ENS Headlines - Monday, March 16, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church is meeting in retreat through March 17 at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. The following is an account of the activities for Monday, March 16.

The theme for the spring meeting of the Episcopal Church House of Bishops is Fostering a culture of curiosity, compassion and courage in Christ.

The day began with Eucharist, celebrated by Bishop Mariann Budde of Washington.

The emcee for the day was Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce of Los Angeles.

A meditation on Interfaith was presented by Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark.

He spoke of his first interfaith experience as a young boy in public school and the power it has had on his life and ministry. In his comments he identified the experience of inheriting our traditions but we end up choosing our faith.  We discover that Jesus takes us to the edge and there we find our center.

Bishop Laura Ahrens of Connecticut and Bishop Brian Prior of Minnesota invited the bishops into table conversation based on the meditation.

In the afternoon, the House reviewed and discussed the proposal from TREC (The Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church). The discussion was led by Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of El Camino Real and Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas.

Table discussion focused on revelations about self and process that were brought up through the listening process. The discussion also challenged the House to “show-up, be heard and live brave”.  This was followed by conversation by the entire House, facilitated by Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina, which touched on topics like CCABs, unicameral body, and the need to focus on the reality that structure must facilitate mission.

Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, presented an overview of The Report To The Church, and thanked the bishops for their faithfulness to calling.

The afternoon session concluded with a form of Evening Worship.

Following dinner the bishops will break into groups to discuss various topics included:  Bishops Against Gun Violence, TREC, Ecclesiology Report, The Report To The Church, the Marriage Task Force report and Evangelism.

Media Briefers for Monday March 16
Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan
Bishop Michael Milliken of Western Kansas
Bishop Jim Waggoner of Spokane