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Video: Dayton Hobson’s favorite part of Scripture

ENS Headlines - Saturday, July 12, 2014

[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 Dayton Hobson from the Diocese of Oklahoma tells why Deuteronomy 31:6 is his favorite Bible verse.

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

Video: Claire Horton’s favorite part of Scripture

ENS Headlines - Saturday, July 12, 2014

[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 preaches at EYE14 Evening Prayer

ENS Headlines - Saturday, July 12, 2014

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.

Evensong EYE14
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.”[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.

Keep itching.

[1] http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/03/12/go-and-do-likewise-congregations-embrace-homeless-communities/

[2] Kay Rohde, personal communication 5 July 2014

[3] Augustine – you made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you.

England: Church Commissioners confirm exit from payday lender Wonga

ENS Headlines - Friday, July 11, 2014

[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.

Read more on the Church of England website 

EYE14 participants summoned to bring their gifts to the world

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

A few of the 786 youth attending the Episcopal Youth Event 2014 Opening Eucharist July 10 at the sports arena on the campus of Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, sing and sway to the communion music. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[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.

“Episcopal Youth, it’s time for you to bring it,” the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, canon for missional vitality in the Diocese of Long Island, tells the Opening Eucharist at the 2014 Episcopal Youth Event, meeting July 9-13 on the campus of Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“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.

Representatives of each of the 86 Episcopal Church dioceses that sent people to the July 9-13 process into the EYE14 Opening Eucharist July 10 at the sports arena on the campus of Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

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.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the Episcopal Church House of Deputies, presides at the Episcopal Youth Event 2014 Opening Eucharist July 10 at the sports arena on the campus of Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

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).

Then it is back to the present at another iconic Philly venue for an iconic meal: A Philly cheesesteak picnic on the Rocky Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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.

EYE14 social media hub
Live webcasts
EYE14 Facebook
Vine
Instagram

Twitter Hashtag is #EYE14

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

WCC strongly condemns violence in Gaza

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

[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.

Read full text of the WCC general secretary’s statement

Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel

WCC member churches in the Middle East

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

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).

Los Angeles: Religious leaders call for prayer for migrant children

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

Photo: Diocese of Los Angeles

[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.”

‘God met us at Anglicans Ablaze’ conference, says South African priest

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Rev. Trevor Pearce talks to delegates at the conference. Photo: Bellah Zulu/ACNS

[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.

Bishop Whalon issues statement, calls for prayer for the Middle East

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

[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.”

Video: Stephanie Spellers preaches at EYE14 Opening Eucharist

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

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.

Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

Presiding Bishop on the crisis of unaccompanied children at US border

ENS Headlines - Thursday, July 10, 2014

[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