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EPPN: Act today to support refugees in your community

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 5, 2014

[Episcopal Public Policy Network] More than 6.5 million people have been displaced within Syria, and more than 2.7 million have crossed international borders as refugees. Of that refugee population, more than 1.4 million are children.

Monday, June 2, President Obama called the unprecedented arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children, fleeing violence and poverty at home, an “urgent humanitarian crisis.”

The conflict in Sudan and South Sudan has killed thousands and forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes to escape the violence, making many of these survivors of the country’s civil war refugees twice over.

Refugees and displaced people across the world need your prayers and your voice. Each new conflict and crisis brings its own unique challenges and opportunities to offer protection and hope. Having endured incredible hardship and unimaginable horrors in their home countries, refugees often spend years exiled in host countries once they flee, awaiting the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Once they are resettled, refugees become engaged and productive community members, contributing economically, socially, and spiritually to our communities.

The Episcopal Church, through Episcopal Migration Ministries, is a leader in this work of welcome, as one of the 9 “voluntary agencies” that partners with the federal government to welcome refugees to their new communities and walk with them as they begin their new lives in safety and peace. Working with refugees in this ministry, members of our Church have witnessed firsthand the suffering of refugees around the world, as well as the positive impact that resettled refugees play when welcomed into our communities here in the United States.

This National Refugee Advocacy Week, stand in solidarity with refugees and ask the United States to renew its commitment to the protection of refugees and vulnerable populations.

Go HERE to ask your Representative and Senators to support refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, victims of torture, Cuban-Haitian entrants, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, and unaccompanied immigrant children by supporting the refugee resettlement program, in both funding and legislation.

Training, intensive program offers skills for mission leadership

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 5, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The GEMN Global Mission Immersion Program on August 16-26 in Bogota, Colombia is designed to prepare leadership for mission through in-depth training, resources and field work.

The Immersion Program is presented in collaboration from the Diocese of Colombia, Episcopal Church Global Partnership Office, and GEMN (Global Episcopal Mission Network).

“More than a ‘mission trip’, the Global Mission Immersion Program offers the unique opportunity both to study and to engage in mission simultaneously, thus deepening and enriching the mission experience,” noted the Rev. Dr. Ted J. Gaiser, program facilitator, an Episcopal Church missionary, and GEMN president.

The 10-day program is ideal for seminarians, deacons, priests, lay missionaries, experienced  missionaries, the mission curious, diocesan mission leaders, “and anyone with an interest in global mission,” noted the Rev. David Copley, Episcopal Church Mission Personnel Officer.

The program will feature clergy and lay instructors who are missionaries with a broad range of knowledge about global mission and will provide practical skills to provide leadership in parishes, dioceses, and the wider church. Among the topics are: church history as it pertains to mission; biblical and theological foundations for mission; field experience; and local culture and history of Colombia

Information and registration here.

For more information contact Gaiser at gmip@gemn.org.

Saint Francis Community Services names new president and CEO

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 5, 2014

[Saint Francis Community Services - Salina, Kansas] The Saint Francis Community Services Board of Directors has named The Rev. Robert Nelson Smith, currently of Peru, Illinois, as the child and family services provider’s sixth president and chief executive officer. Fr. Smith will assume his new duties on July 7.

“Fr. Smith, an Episcopal priest, has an extensive background in healthcare administration and is excited to couple that experience with the work of Saint Francis Community Services,” said Board Chair The Rev. Dennis Gilhousen. “We believe he is exactly the right person to continue leading Saint Francis as we touch the lives of so many people.”

Ordained to the priesthood in 2009, Fr. Smith earned his Master of Arts in Ministry, cum laude, from Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin. For the last three years, he has served as associate rector to four churches that form the LaSalle County (Illinois) Episcopal Ministry within the Diocese of Chicago.

Since 2009, Fr. Smith has also served as Vice President, Physician Services and Quality/COO for Illinois Valley Community Hospital (IVCH), overseeing department operational budgets of more than $125 million while developing strategies to improve patient care and safety and access to services. He also supervised operations for the IVCH Medical Group, which provides a range of healthcare services including primary care, specialized care, mental health services, and a community clinic to meet the needs of uninsured and underinsured patients.

Prior to joining IVCH, Fr. Smith served as Director of Growth and Support Services for ThedaCare Physicians, and gained expertise in process improvement methods. ThedaCare is based in Appleton, Wisconsin.

He has also served as Vice President of Physician Services for Community Health Network, a partnership of two critical access hospitals in north central Wisconsin, and as Director of Corporate Communications and Director of Professional Services for St. Mary’s Good Samaritan, Inc., a Catholic not-for-profit healthcare system in Illinois.

Prior to his healthcare experience, Fr. Smith worked on Capitol Hill with a public policy focus on environmental, transportation, and infrastructure issues critical to rural communities.

In all, Fr. Smith brings nearly 20 years of healthcare and public policy experience to Saint Francis Community Services.

“I am humbled to have been asked to help guide the future of Saint Francis Community Services – the ministry that Fr. Mize began in 1945 and that Fr. Ed and the Board of Directors have carried forward is truly God’s work,” said Fr. Smith. “When I began my career in healthcare, my organization’s mission statement compelled us to continue the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, with special concern for the poor and vulnerable. This challenge has never left me and to know that Saint Francis Community Services is committed, at its most fundamental level, to providing the healing to children and families found in the forgiving, redeeming love of Christ is, for me, a ministry and calling to which I now dedicate my every effort.” 

Fr. Smith succeeds The Very Reverend Edward Fellhauer, who announced his retirement late last year after 12 years at the SFCS helm. 

About Saint Francis Community Services
Saint Francis Community Services is an Episcopal donor-supported, faith-based, child and family, community-based service provider that has been a voice of hope for children and families since 1945. Our mission is to be an instrument of healing for children, youths, and families in spirit, mind, and body, so they live responsibly and productively with purpose and hope. For more information about Saint Francis, visit www.st-francis.org or call 1-800-423-1342.

Clínicas de Honduras ofrecen tratamiento, atención médica para personas con VIH y SIDA

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 5, 2014

Una mujer que trabaja en la farmacia de Siempre Unidos en San Pedro Sula distribuye los fármacos a una mujer transexual. Foto: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – San Pedro Sula, Honduras] Hace algunos años una mujer vino al Rdo. Pascual P. Torres y le dijo, “Me voy a morir”.

Mientras que ella era una paciente en un hospital público, se le había tomado la prueba del VIH sin su conocimiento, y luego le dijeron que los resultados del examen fueron positivos. Y una persona del personal le dijo: “Vas a morir porque tienes SIDA”. La mujer salió del hospital y decidió saltar de un puente: pero luego se acordó de su hija de cinco años que estaba en casa.

“Ella decidió matar a su hija primero y luego matarse  ella. Pero entonces se encontró con una enfermera… y ella no sabía si era Dios o lo que sea,..” dijo Torres

La enfermera le hablo a la mujer sobre Siempre Unidos, un ministerio de la Iglesia Episcopal en Honduras que proporciona atención médica y servicios sociales integrales a las personas con VIH y el SIDA y a sus familiares.

“Hace diez o 15 años, cuando la gente sabía que eran VIH positivo, ellos trataron de quitarse la vida, dijo Torres. “Ahora con la información y educación, las cosas están mejor, pero aún no es la mejor noticia que uno pueda recibir”.

La mujer parecía saludable, aunque ella insistía en decir, “Me voy a morir”, él dijo “Yo le dije que este lugar [Siempre Unidos] era un lugar para aquellos que quieren vivir. ‘Yo puedo ayudarte, puedo pasar todo el día con usted, pero si aún no ha tomado una decisión…’”

Once años después, la mujer es un técnico en  Siempre Unidos; su hija tiene 16 años de edad.

Siempre Unidos comenzó en la década de 1990 en un momento en que la gente en su comunidad de apoyo estaba muriendo a un índice de nueve personas por mes y los ataúdes eran una cosa que el ministerio proporcionaba.

“Al comienzo de la pandemia, todo  estaba mal”, dijo Torres durante una conversación en la clínica de San Pedro Sula.

En el 2003, cuando las patentes caducaron y  los medicamentos se hicieron más asequibles y accesibles en el país subdesarrollado, Siempre Unidos empezó a proporcionar medicamentos para tratar la enfermedad del sistema inmunológico.

Hoy en día, entre 21,000 y 33,000 personas viven con el VHI y el SIDA en  Honduras, con una población de 7.9 millones, de acuerdo a las estadísticas de la ONUSIDA

Siempre Unidos administra dos clínicas adicionales, una en Siguatepeque, en las montañas centrales, y la otra en  Roatán,  la isla más grande de Honduras donde se brinda atención a más de 1,500 personas, en colaboración con la Diócesis de Honduras.

El ministerio recibe la medicación del ministerio de salud, de compañías farmacéuticas internacionales y de personas en los Estados Unidos que colectan medicamentos no usados, y dependen del apoyo financiero local e internacional.

Cada año, sobre todo después de la crisis económica mundial, la recaudación de fondos es difícil, dijo Torres. “Además tenemos problemas con nuestros beneficiarios: la pobreza, la falta de empleo, desnutrición, dependencia  a las drogas… Algunos no tienen dinero para el transporte entonces nosotros  lo ofrecemos”, dijo Torres.

La Pobreza, el desempleo y el subempleo son generalizados en Honduras, donde un adulto promedio tiene 6.5 años de  educación; a pesar de la confidencialidad de la salud, un diagnóstico positivo de VIH hace que sea difícil encontrar empleo”.

“Es contra la ley discriminar contra una persona que es  VIH positivo, pero algunos veces se encuentran ‘otros motivos’, dijo Torres. “Para un hombre o una mujer encontrar empleo es difícil”.

La sala de espera en San Pedro Sula tenía dos tercios de su capacidad  que está llena de pacientes, de hombres, mujeres, travestis, en una mañana del mes de marzo; en la cocina adyacente un tradicional desayuno Hondureño de baleadas se sirve.

Para algunos, el desayuno que consiste de una tortilla doblada con frijoles refritos y crema, sería la única comida esencial del día, dijo Torres.

Las mejoras en el tratamiento, incluyendo la llegada de la terapia anti-retroviral u otros medicamentos, han dado lugar a mejores resultados, expectativas y calidad de vida. Con el tiempo Siempre Unidos agrego servicios integrados para las personas infectadas con el VIH y el SIDA y a sus familiares, incluyendo becas, atención pastoral, educación comunitaria para la comunidad de homosexuales y las personas que trabajan brindando servicios sexuales

El país tiene una de las tasas de transmisiones sexuales más altas de los países subdesarrollados.

Durante los últimos ocho años, en asociación con Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopal, Siempre Unidos ha administrado un programa de educación comunitaria y prevención dirigidas a reducir la propagación del VIH y de otras enfermedades de transmisión sexual entre las personas que trabajan brindando servicios sexuales en San Pedro Sula, el centro industrial del país.

El equipo de concientización comunitaria proporciona a los trabajadores de servicios sexuales, pruebas  rápidas de VIH y educación de prevención de enfermedades transmitidas sexualmente (ETS) y apoyo social y emocional.

“El trabajo que ellos  [Siempre Unidos] hacen es muy importante”, dijo Kellie McDaniel, administrador de Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopal para Latino América.

“Parte de ese trabajo es además sobre derechos humanos, el trabajo por motivo de género y violencia”.

Honduras tiene la tasa de homicidios más alta del mundo; delincuentes, pandillas juveniles que con frecuencia operan con impunidad; contra los marginados, incluso la comunidad de lesbianas, homosexuales, bisexual, travesti (LGBT), sufren mayores incidencias de violencia.

Las organizaciones nacionales y extranjeras de  los derechos humanos han documentado minuciosamente violaciones contra las personas de la comunidad LGBT. Entre el 2009 y el 2012 más de 90 asesinatos por homofobia  fueron reportados en Honduras.

Siempre Unidos recibe pacientes en su clínica que son referidos de hospitales y  mediante personas que les avisan. El programa es diseñado para educar a las personas que brindan servicios sexuales y, las personas del programa van  a las calles, y las enfermeras y educadores han llegado a conocer a  las personas que ellos sirven.

“Ellos están más cerca al peligro, están expuestos a los traficantes de drogas, la extorsión, y son utilizados por pandillas juveniles y carteles de las drogas”, dijo Xiomara Hernandez, quien trabaja con seis personas que trabajan ofreciendo servicios sexuales. “Y las personas que viven en las calles son el objetivo del gobierno cuando ellos quieren hacer  limpieza social”.

Debido a su trabajo con la comunidad LGBT, Siempre Unidos se ha convertido en un repositorio donde se documentan las violaciones a los derechos humanos.

“Hay una gran cantidad de crímenes por violencia y de limpieza social”,  dijo Torres. “Nuestros archivos con  crímenes de violencia y odio son mejores de los que la policía y las instituciones estatales tienen”.

El congreso del país recientemente realizo unos cambios  a su código penal para “garantizar la protección jurídica contra la discriminación por motivos de orientación sexual e identidad de género”.

“Las autoridades nos piden información, pero para nosotros también es una situación muy peligrosa debido a la corrupción que existe en las instituciones”, dijo Torres.

– Lynette Wilson es una editor/reportera para Episcopal News Service. 

Solomon Island churches: ‘We will work to stem corruption’

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 5, 2014

[Anglican Church of Melanesia] Churches in the Solomon Islands have committed to playing an active part in mitigating the root causes of corruption.

Church leaders attending a three-day conference on Rethinking the Household of God in the Solomon Islands discussed some of the corrupt practices that were negatively impacting on the ability of their country to progress and develop in a ‘just’ and meaningful manner, hindering any normal government’s delivery of its welfare responsibilities.

During a working group session, church representatives identified a host of problems plaguing Solomon Islands’ political leadership, some of which include: self-centred individual interests, lack of transparency, nepotism, non-inclusive decision making processes and little regard or attention to the rule of law.

Church leaders and participants agreed that there was a ‘crisis of leadership’, and in particular a ‘crisis of honesty’ in the Solomon Islands.

“The moral and ethical values that should guide us as a nation is no more,” said the Archbishop of Melanesia, Most Revd David Vunagi.

“In our country, the Solomon Islands, it is unfortunate that corruption has taken precedence over general order, the normal administrative procedures, and, to say the least, there are elements of corruption even in our political system,” Archbishop Vunagi said.

Church participants identified the need to encourage the strengthening and promotion of laws that will lead to the active practices of good governance within public institutions.

“We need to reclaim the prophetic voice of the Church to actively carry out its contribution in helping stem the tide of apathy and hopeless in our country’s political sphere,” Archbishop Vunagi said.

“Churches are well placed to contribute substantially to Solomon Islands’ socio-economic conditions. However, we need to have greater say in the types of economic empowerment programmes created for this end and therefore stand ready to assist in helping to create durable-solutions that affects the lives of our people.”

Churches have now called on the Government to create a more effective process that will bring about meaningful co-operation and partnerships between the Church and the State in the Solomon Islands.

“Churches have committed to demanding a gainful say in formalised platforms of the State that would help them inform national policy and law making processes, instead of playing a nominal part in ceremonial matters on government’s behest,” Archbishop Vunagi said.

In calling for the eradication of corruption in national political and chiefly systems, Churches have committed to doing the same within their own faith based institutions.

‘Bad governance’ reason for conflict in South Sudan, bishop says

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 5, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] A South Sudanese bishop has attributed the continued conflict in his country to bad governance saying the country’s leaders at various levels are not willing to “to change from rebel commanders to politicians.”

Bishop of Wau Diocese in South Sudan the Rt Revd Moses Deng said this in an interview with ACNS today. “The Country is ruled by former rebel generals from the President to State Governors and the County Commissioners,” he said.

It is estimated that thousands of people have died and around 900,000 have been displaced by the fighting in South Sudan in the last five months. The country consequently faces a major food crisis, which the United Nations warns could be dire if immediate and appropriate action is not taken.

In his Diocesan newsletter shared with many church friends and partners around the world, Bishop Deng explained: “It’s had to really imagine 900,000 people because it is a number that may have no meaning to you,

“But if you stop and think of how many people live in the town or city where you live then suddenly you can understand better how big this number is.”

He explained: “All these people have been forced from where they live and now must exist by the kindness of others as refugees in the country that not so long ago they fought for, voted for and gave so much to defend. All that they had is gone and the life that they led is stopped.”

“There are of course many who were never given any chance of survival which is a shame we must bear as a country. The leaders of our country have agreed a peace deal but fighting and killing has been intense for five months and caused much devastation,” he added.

The Church has a responsibility to help bring about peace and reconciliation in times of conflict and disagreements. But what exactly is the church in South Sudan doing to help bring a stop to the on-going conflict?

Bishop Deng told ACNS: “The Church has been playing a great role in peace and reconciliation. Had it not been for the Church, South Sudan would not be where it is today, but could have been worse than Somalia.”

The bishop said the Church is not failing and that it is just a matter of time before South Sudan achieves lasting peace. “The Anglican Church and other church organizations are praying and working hard to build and bring lasting peace to our country,” he said.

Bishop Deng said that various churches in South Sudan were contributing on different ways in an effort to end the conflict. He said that South Sudan Council of Churches is currently playing a role of observer and adviser to the warring parties at the Peace Talks in Addis Ababa.

“The church is also part of the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation (NPPR) which brings together the three national peace and reconciliation mandated institutions, the National Committee for Healing, Peace and Reconciliation (led by the Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul), Peace Commission and Parliamentary Committee on Peace and Reconciliation,” he explained.

The Bishop was worried that the country has been divided along ethnic lines and that the conflict is also affecting the unity of the Anglican Church. “The Anglican Church cuts across ethnic divides and we are working hard to ensure that the Church remains united as it is the only institution which will facilitate reconciliation of our people.”

He concluded: “No one is blameless in this and as a country and a people we must wake up to the truth that this situation cannot be allowed and we must look for a peace that binds us all if we are going to be a country.”

Archbishop of Canterbury, Nigerian president pray during visit

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made a last minute visit to Nigeria June 4 to offer his heartfelt sympathy for the recent events affecting the country, including the recent bombings in Jos and the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls who have now been missing for almost two months.

The archbishop paid a pastoral call on President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja to express his personal pain and condolence about the ongoing terrorism affecting parts of North Nigeria. The archbishop, the president, and the primate of Nigeria, the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, then prayed privately together.

The archbishop, who has visited Nigeria on many occasions – including Jos and other parts of Northern Nigeria, where he worked while leading the reconciliation work at Coventry Cathedral – has previously condemned the abduction of the schoolgirls, calling it an atrocious and inexcusable act, and urging for them to be released immediately and unharmed.

Virginia Theological Seminary set sights for 2023

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[Virginia Theological Seminary press release] On May 21 the Board of Trustees of Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) unanimously approved an updated and bold vision statement which will guide VTS towards the seminary’s bicentennial year and beyond.

The purpose of the vision statement is to help provide the foundation needed for the strategic planning process. This new vision statement will provide a guide for where the Seminary seeks to be in 2023, and how VTS intends to realize that vision and the qualities which the Seminary aspires for in our graduates.

“VTS will be both traditional and yet innovative,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “We will take the best from the past and respond imaginatively to the challenges of the future.”

The vision statement reaffirms the necessity of the residential experience in the formation of priests and leaders of the Episcopal Church at a time when many institutions are being forced, through economic necessities, to abandon this model. To meet this challenge in part, the Seminary will break ground on 38 new apartments on campus capable to house single residents and families.

“Like a wise scribe, we will bring out what is old and what is new; we will cherish the ancient truths as we embrace new truths,” reads the vision statement. “We will be a porous community–welcoming the guest and reaching out to the community. We will seek to be flexible, adaptable, and ready to meet the challenges of our time.”

VTS is ready to make our programming more flexible, as well as provide the resources for an important Church-wide conversation about congregational leadership. And with the changing demographics of the U.S., the Seminary commits to equip students with the “appropriate skills to engage with a diverse world.”

With the success of the Seminary’s Second Three Years program, VTS further commits to offering “comprehensive educational and support programs” to graduates after 10, 15, and 20 years out.

While many seminaries are finding the traditional three-year residential M.Div. program impossible to sustain, the vision statement from VTS affirms its conviction of formation within community.

Vision Statement:  https://www.vts.edu/ftpimages/95/misc/misc_145108.pdf

Archbishops call on church to pray for new disciples of Jesus

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[Lambeth Palace press release] This Pentecost, the archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling on the church to pray for those who have not yet encountered the love of God in Jesus Christ.

The call to prayer for evangelism at Pentecost, which is celebrated on Sunday (June 8), was the first task given to the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group by the General Synod of the Church of England in November last year. The Task Group was set up by the Synod to facilitate the outworking of the priority of “Intentional Evangelism.”

Members of the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group have put together printed and online prayer resources, which are available at www.usewords.org. There is also a short video, which explores the question: “What is evangelism?”

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “The task before us cannot be overestimated. We could easily be disheartened. We cannot do it alone. But. . . Allelulia! For we are not thrown back on ourselves, but in, by and through the power of the Holy Spirit, God brings forth life. It is right that as the Evangelism Task Group considers how it may resource the Church to bear faithful witness to Jesus Christ, the commitment to pray is the essential first step. Prayer has to be our first priority, if we are to call more people to follow Christ, and to invite others to share in the story of God’s love for the world. The wonderful news is God is always ready to hear our prayers and to send his Spirit that we may proclaim the good news afresh. I urge every church community and individual to set aside time to pray and to share God’s heart for all his people.”

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said: “Recently all the Bishops of the North of England met with a group of young adults from across the Province of York to pray and take counsel together ‘towards the re-evangelisation of the north of England’. It was wonderful to tread in the footsteps of St Aidan and St Cuthbert, who in their time told the people of the north the good news of Jesus Christ, rooting their proclamation in the practice of fervent prayer and praise. Praying for others to come to know Christ is a privilege and a joy – and loving our neighbours and making disciples of Jesus is exactly what we are called to do. At Pentecost we recall the wind and flame of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples, so let’s commit ourselves afresh to pray, for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and for boldness, simplicity, wisdom, and compassion in the proclamation of the Gospel.”

In calling the church to pray the archbishops are reaffirming, for all Christians in all times and in all places, the priority of prayer for new disciples of Jesus, and encouraging many ways in which this prayer takes shape.

For the Task Group this is just the beginning of a process to encourage everyone in the church, young and old, to consider how best to witness to the love of God in Christ amongst families, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and to hold them before God in prayer.

The call to prayer is not a one-off, but a call to a continuing openness, dependence upon, and imploring of God to work among us for the sake of others. Rather than launching a programme or a campaign, the Church is seeking to respond obediently afresh to the last words of Jesus, in both the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-30) and his charge to wait on the empowering presence of the Spirit (Acts 1:8).