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Presiding Bishop preaches in Illinois

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 6, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached the following sermon on Oct. 5 at St. James Episcopal Church in West Dundee, Illinois. 

St. James, West Dundee, IL (Diocese of Chicago)
5 October 2014
150th anniversary


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

I’ve been at two of The Episcopal Church’s seminaries this past week, and both of them are embroiled in significant conflict, mostly related to financial challenges, changing realities in the world around us, and what their vision for the future is going to be. This congregation has never had any controversies about such things, have you?

Human communities are in pretty continual flux, when you think about it. Moses is reporting to his community about the new rules he’s received from God, rules for living in a radically new context. Remember that Moses has led a bunch of slaves out of Egypt, they’ve been wandering around in the desert, complaining a lot about the food and living conditions, and wondering if they wouldn’t have been a lot better off if they’d stayed in Egypt. ‘At least there,’ they whine, ‘life was predictable!’

Well, actually, it wasn’t quite so rosy. Pharaoh kept changing the rules about work and living conditions, and tried to kill off their children because the community was growing in spite of it all. The Hebrew slaves are now free, out there in the desert, and they can’t quite figure out how to deal with it. Moses is reporting back from his latest meeting with God, with some very simple rules for free people to live in relationship with God and one another. The list starts with remembering that God is God, and only God is God, not any one of them or any other thing they might construct or conceive of. The rest of the rules are about dealing justly with neighbors – don’t take away their lives and loves, their honor or their possessions. You wouldn’t want anyone to do that to you. Those are the basics for living in freedom. Love God, who has created you and everybody else, and treat all those others with justice.

Human communities are always trying to go back to an earlier idea of when life was better, safer, more predictable, or somehow easier. The reality is that it only looks that way from a distance. Paul gets it – he’s telling his friends in Philippi that he could boast of how well he kept the rules in an earlier time but now that he’s encountered God in the risen Jesus none of that matters. He’s admitting that he was living in relationship with an idol, something he worshiped instead of God. ‘I forget what lies in the past, and I press on toward what God is calling us toward’ – that vision of healing and wholeness, justice and peace we call the Reign of God. He doesn’t claim to have figured it all out, but he knows that he’s moving toward that transformed world made evident in resurrection.

From the stories and bits of your history I’ve heard, I think it’s fair to say that you’ve been through this several times, even in living memory. Life gets a bit comfortable and predictable and before long some people think that’s the way it’s always supposed to be. And then along comes some crisis – finances, a fight over some change, challenges in the community around you – and the reaction by some is to try to cling to what seemed unchanging and predictable. Unless we’re talking about God, that’s generally an illusion. Even if we ARE talking about God it is an illusion – think of how God’s creative spirit keeps unfolding the world around us. Like those Israelites in the desert, we are bound for the promised land – but we haven’t arrived yet.

I don’t know if there is anyone here this morning who was around in 1952. Does anybody remember Murray and Clare Dewart[1]? He came here as rector in 1948, soon after he was ordained. His son wrote a letter when he learned of this anniversary celebration, telling of a vibrant congregation with a large choir and Sunday school. In this growing, post-war community all seemed well until the fears in the larger society began to intrude. Fr. Dewart was preaching about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and “blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth.” Apparently that was too much for some on the vestry, who feared he was a communist sympathizer. Joseph McCarthy’s sanitation campaign caused this parish to purge a truth-teller. Fr. Dewart and his family left here, but they survived, and went on to flourish in other communities in Massachusetts and the American Cathedral in Paris.[2] McCarthy encouraged people to worship the idol of national purity and hermetically sealed ideologies. In spite of him the meaning of “red” has shifted in 65 years, from the vilified “red menace” to what are now termed “red states.” The Brotherhood House that became part of your new parish hall in 1905 got its start as a ministry for factory workers. McCarthy would have thought that outrageous, too. Other things have changed as well, including the kind of people we call to be priests and rectors. McCarthy would have been appalled by that, too.

Jesus ends his parable about the vineyard tenants with words about rejected stones becoming cornerstones. As hard as they try, those tenants can’t ever completely destroy the landowner’s original plans for a good harvest and a rich vintage. Some people may get it totally wrong, and may continue to do so for years, but God is still God, and the foundation of a world of justice and peace never disappears. The misguided and the evil cannot change the DNA of creation. God, and divine humor, will prevail. Today St. James is feeding people of all sorts and conditions – the poor and homeless as well as the local police department. You are working to feed starving children of all ages, races, nations, and creeds. Somehow that just might help to heal divisions everywhere – in Ferguson as well as the Middle East, in Congress and in seminaries.

Those who are being confirmed and received today, and all of us who will reaffirm our baptismal promises, are claiming that cornerstone, that DNA of healing and justice. Even when we get it wrong, even when we’re afraid the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, that divine intention remains. We’re more likely to remember and rediscover that DNA when we act like free creatures, free to worship God without fear,[3] rather than the latest idol somebody is pushing on us.

Those idols are all around us – and they have power only if we give it to them. Consider a few of them:

“We’ve always done it this way.” [No, we haven’t. We’ve just forgotten what’s changed.]

“Christians are supposed to be nice.” [No, we aren’t. It means stupid.[4] Jesus challenged others, and he stirred up conflict. We’re supposed to be holy, and willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness.]

“Don’t argue with me!” [We’re meant to listen to and obey God, and if we don’t argue or wrestle with God, we’re never going to grow.]

Sometimes the idols are about our self-focus: “I’m afraid, I’m not strong/smart/young/old enough…” [It’s OK to be afraid – and remembering who loves you helps to put the damper on fear.]

Moses was afraid, and he went anyway, after he argued with God. None of us has all the gifts and guarantees we want, but Jesus has been there ahead of us, and God is going with us down this road. If you want assurance of that, look at the face of your neighbor.

Press on toward that heavenly goal. And whether the road rises up to meet you, the wind is at your back, the sun shining warm upon your face, or the rains falling soft on your fields, OR NOT, know that God WILL hold you in the palm of his hand.

[1] http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/baltimoresun/obituary.aspx?n=clare-b-dewart&pid=123093301

[2] Letter from Murray Dewart (fils) to St. James Parish 8 Sept 2014.

[3] Luke 1:74

[4] Nice comes from the Latin nescire, not to know.

Joseph Wolyniak appointed theologian-in-residence

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 6, 2014

Joseph Wolyniak has been appointed a Theologian-in-Residence at the Church of the Ascension in Denver, Colorado. The appointment was made by the Rev. Lucas Grubbs, parish rector.

A DPhil candidate in theology at the University of Oxford and visiting scholar in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Denver, Joseph previously served as a seminarian at Christ Church (New Haven, CT), Chaplain’s Assistant at Raleigh Episcopal Campus Ministry (Raleigh, NC), Chapel Lector at St. John’s College Chapel (Oxford, UK), and Advocacy Coordinator at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi (Raleigh, NC).

An Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow (2012), he currently serves on the Leadership Team of the Scholar-Priest Initiative and is the vice chair of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Committee on Science, Technology & Faith.

Joseph is married to the Rev. Elizabeth Costello, who is a curate at Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver, CO.

Tanzania Mothers’ Union prioritizes women’s empowerment

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 6, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Mother’s Union (MU) in Tanzania is prioritizing the empowerment of women and girls in the country to “make them more independent and less subject to gender-based violence.”

In an interview with ACNS, Mothers’ Union Provincial Coordinator for Tanzania, Margareth Massawa revealed that MU there is empowering women and girls with skills in entrepreneurship, leadership and advocacy.

“For instance, at one of the local training centers, Mtumba Rural Women Training Centre, we are empowering women and girls with early childhood and primary teachers education, as well as teaching them entrepreneurship skills,” said Massawa. “This will ensure that they’re more independent and less subjected to gender-based violence.”

She added: “We are also training women and girls in advocacy and also helping them become more aware of their rights. For example, providing information about marriage laws, will-writing and inheritance laws.”

Despite women’s property rights being stipulated in the country’s constitution, a recent report revealed that about 40 percent of the cases presented by women were about inheritance and property grabbing.

“We also have plans to empower MU leaders from all the 27 dioceses in the Anglican Church of Tanzania, including bishops’ wives, Mothers’ Union diocesan presidents and vice presidents so that they’re able to adequately handle various issues of women and girls empowerment,” she said.

The Tanzania MU has also been a pioneer in providing health education on diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, cancer and HIV/AIDS. “We not only show compassion to sick people and other vulnerable groups, but also provide various materials for them and pray with them,” said Massawa.

Recent reports from the Province show that the Anglican Church of Tanzania has about 815,000 Mothers’ Union members, currently the largest of any one country in Africa. Its members spread across the country’s 27 dioceses and the according to Massawa, “current figures are even higher.”

Sometimes it’s a long way home

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 6, 2014

[Diocese of Texas] The sanctuary is quiet, empty and dark. The doors open, and veterans of more than five wars slowly walk in and surround the baptismal font. Prayers for light are spoken as the candles and torches are lit. The pilgrimage begins.

Veterans at this Pilgrimages of Remembrance and Reconciliation are gathered from seven Episcopal parishes. The gathering is itself a healing event, since isolation and estrangement are common symptoms among warriors.

When the candles are lit, each veteran finds their place between the font and the altar, between life and death. Just as we start our journey at the font, so we end our earthly journey at the altar. From this vantage point, the pilgrims reflect on their journey, their war and their future. Often very young veterans will take a position near the altar. One of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is a “fore-shortened future.” The word “veteran” comes from the Latin, vetus, which means “old.” War ages people. The young have old eyes when they have seen more than their share of horror and suffering.

The pilgrims gather at the front of the sanctuary and share a name and a happy memory of someone who died in war or homecoming. The names are recorded in a book to be read in a roll call before the altar. Relationships forged in combat are the closest ones most veterans ever have. When someone dies, the grief can be overwhelming and silent for years. The grip of grief is lessened as each name is spoken. The men and women laugh out loud at some of the memories. Not all war stories are full of sadness and death.

As the pilgrims move toward the altar, the priest blesses the Episcopal Church Service Crosses and distributes them. This cross dates to WWI and is worn by Episcopal members of the military. Some of the veterans are wearing the crosses they wore in Vietnam. Others receive a cross for the first time.

The pilgrims kneel at the altar rail and pray a Litany of Healing. They pray a prayer for healing, and a prayer from the Prayer Book titled, “For Our Enemies.” They pray this one in unison although some cannot pray it yet. The first task of wartime propaganda is to sub-humanize the enemy. This is not easily undone. Warriors come home from war plagued by memories, regrets, hyper-vigilance, anger and numbness. The survival skills of war rarely fit into a normal American life.

This is the reason these veterans gathered for this pilgrimage, to come home from war. They come to find reconciliation, a sacrament in the Church. So, before the confession, the veterans write down their confessions on small pieces of paper. They write down the memories they cannot get rid of, no matter how much they drink, or how far they run.

The deacon, the Rev. Robert Chambers, collects these crumpled paper confessions in a vessel, takes them outside, and burns them in the “amnesty box.” The box exists in war zones and military training areas. If soldiers forget to turn in a grenade or some live rounds, they can secretly slip them into a special box, no questions asked. The veterans on this night put their emotional grenades in the amnesty box, symbolizing that these memories are now in God’s hands.

Next they pass the peace. Peace, that elusive and strange concept in war. Wars are fought to restore peace, but they rarely bring peace to the women and men who fight in them. “God’s peace,” they say to one another and perhaps, they start to feel it.

Holy Communion is next. An olive drab corporeal is spread out and a chaplain’s field communion kit is assembled from its compact, camouflage case. It is a rugged communion set, more at home on the hood of a Jeep or a Humvee. Here, in the presence of the blessed bread and wine, the roll call is sounded by the senior enlisted man who is present. The names are tolled off followed by silence and the playing of Taps.

Bread and wine are shared as Air Force veteran, Larry Magnuson, plays an Irish war ballad on a concertina. All the names of the dead and all the experiences of combat are lifted up to God.

Liturgy never solves the problems of the world right away. The words take time to find root in the human soul. So, the pilgrims leave the sanctuary for the fellowship hall where they share stories of war and homecoming. Some discover common battles, just as many civilians discover common friends. Some laugh, some cry, others simply listen the stories of others, unable to share their own. All are invited to reconnect at the next pilgrimage or in one of the two groups that meet regularly.

The service ends but the mission of the newly formed Episcopal Veterans Fellowship goes on. The EVF was formed in the summer of 2014, in response to the 2009 Resolution CO-51 of General Convention to “Encourage the establishment of an Episcopal Veterans Fellowship for each diocese.” Thus far, the EVF has held weekly Tuesday night meetings at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, and at Grace Episcopal Church in nearby Georgetown, Texas. Fort Hood, one of the largest military installations in the country is just up IH 35.

The meetings focus on fellowship and spiritual growth after combat. Relationships are strengthened and the group is growing. In addition to the weekly meetings, the core group of the EVF has been travelling to conduct Pilgrimages of Remembrance and Reconciliation. If you would like such an event to travel to your parish, please contact the Rev. David Peters at asstrector@graceepis.org or 512.571.4124.

Gibbs to co-chair Michigan for Marriage campaign

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 6, 2014

[Michigan for Marriage press release] As Michigan awaits a historic marriage equality ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a bipartisan group of respected state leaders has stepped forward to Co-Chair Michigan for Marriage, the state’s marriage equality campaign. The public education campaign, which launched in May, aims to broaden the marriage conversation across the state, showcase the diversity of Michiganders who support marriage equality, and send the message that Michigan is ready for marriage.

The co-chairs are The Right Reverend Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr., the Tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan; Congressman Dan Kildee; former Republican Speaker of the House Chuck Perricone; and AFL-CIO President Karla Swift.“Same-sex couples love each other, raise children and support their families no differently than opposite-sex couples,” said Co-Chair Karla Swift. “The government’s refusal to recognize these relationships deprives thousands of Michigan families the ability to take care of and provide for their family members.”

Polls have shown growing support for same-sex marriage. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released in March found an all-time-high 59 percent of Americans are now in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry. And in a sign that their is bipartisan support, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 56 percent of Republicans under the age of 45 support marriage equality.

The announcement comes as families across Michigan await a decision from the Sixth Circuit Court in DeBoer v. Snyder, the state’s marriage equality case. The DeBoer case highlighted the number of challenges same-sex couples face when raising children in a state where marriage equality is barred.

“’I’m proud to stand with the majority of Michiganders in favor of equal rights for loving couples in our state, and I look forward to the day – hopefully real soon – where our nation’s laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians are tossed aside,” said Michigan for Marriage Co-Chair and Congressman Dan Kildee. “Everyone’s love should be recognized and equal.”

“In my opinion, picking and choosing whose rights should be protected or which civil rights the church will support is neither American “justice for all” nor supported by the God of salvation history,” said Co-Chair Episcopal Bishop Wendell N. Gibbs. “I stand in support of marriage equality and pray that our justice system will work to break down the walls of segregation, promote the humanity of all and calm our irrational fears.”

Reimagining task force hears from the church

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 3, 2014

The Rev. Victoria Heard, canon for church planting in the Diocese of Dallas, asks a question Oct. 2 during the church-wide gathering of the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church at Washington National Cathedral. TREC member Victor Feliberty-Ruberte, of Puerto Rico, managed the floor microphone. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] After spending the evening of Oct. 2 answering questions and taking comments about its work, the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church is refining its recommendations to General Convention on structural changes to the church.

TREC’s last face-to-face meeting before its report to General Convention is due began with the 2.5-hour gathering Oct. 2. The event was webcast live from Washington National Cathedral. It is also due to be available on demand for later viewing here and here. The agenda included 10-minute presentations from some TREC members each followed by 15-minute question-and-comment periods. A 40-minute question-and-comment period rounded out the meeting. Questions, concerns and comments were taken from the audience in the cathedral as well as from people sending in questions via e-mail and Twitter.

The task force recently released a letter to the church outlining what it called “our thinking and emerging recommendations” on structural changes it will make to the 2015 meeting of General Convention. It said in that letter that its final report, due to be made public at the end of November, would “illustrate how these recommended changes would help The Episcopal Church to more effectively and efficiently address critical and urgent agenda items, with the flexibility to innovate and experiment more rapidly and to adopt bold courses of action where necessary.”

It was not clear from comments made during the Oct. 2 gathering if the proposals included in that Sept. 4 letter will remain as they are, whether others will be added or just how sweeping a scope the final report’s recommendation will have.

Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry leads off the Oct. 2 church-wide gathering of the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church at Washington National Cathedral with a commentary on the biblical perspective on TREC’s work. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“I think for most of us, we understand that what TREC is doing is a beginning; it’s not the final product; that we are in the midst of a great transformation culturally and as a church in terms of doing the mission of Jesus in this particular mission moment,” North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry, a TREC member. “At a basic level our hope is that whatever we recommend will be in a preliminary way and the convention will wrestle with it … and we will do something that will move this movement forward.”

On the other hand, the Rev. Dwight Zscheile, TREC member from Minnesota, answered a question about why the task force had not called for dramatic changes such as combining the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops or eliminating all church-wide staff by saying: “The challenge for any group, given this very large task and very short amount of time is we’ve had a lot of big, dreaming conversations and quite radical ideas and we’re still hoping to be bold.”

“And we’ve also heard from a lot of you: “don’t blow things up … there’s things that are working.’ So that’s part of the discernment for us and part of the challenge … We see this as an opening up of the structures, you know, there may be ongoing reform, not just once every generation,” he added.

Katy George, who convenes TREC along with the Rev. Craig Loya, told the Oct. 2 gathering that the group sees its effort as an important way to help the church work for “renewal, revival, discipleship” but she added what she called a disclaimer.

“Structural reform is neither necessary nor sufficient for our church to fully live into the opportunities for discipleship that we have or to fully address the issues that we have … but, boy, it would be helpful,” she said.

George and others said that TREC was considering how to streamline church-wide structures in a way that aided mission work at the local level and that gave those larger structures greater clarity in terms of their responsibilities and accountability.

Jonathan Elliot, Diocese of New Jersey’s director of communication, asks members of the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church, what they will recommend about evangelizing young people like himself. Elliot got a round of applause when he announced that he was being baptized Oct. 5. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“I was actually surprised by reactions to our letter concerned about centralization of power because I think what we’re doing is actually clarifying responsibility and creating the platform for us holding our leadership and our church-wide staff accountable for specific things,” especially between meetings of General Convention when the staff and the Executive Council are responsible for carrying out convention’s mandates, she said.

TREC member Dennis Sullivan added that TREC is not making any recommendations about centralization of power but rather about “how the checks and balances would be understood and followed.”

George also cautioned that the debate about structure “doesn’t get in the way of keeping our church healthy and vital for our children and grandchildren.”

She also noted that church-wide structures “while they seem cumbersome and big are only about two percent of our total resources of the church” and thus cutting costs is not a priority of TREC but that “better use of our resources against the things that really matter is a priority.”

TREC’s work began after General Convention in July 2012, by way of Resolution C095, which called for a task force “to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the church’s structures, governance, and administration.”

Of the almost 400 resolutions submitted to General Convention in 2012 more than 90 related to structural reform. Most of those resolutions were similar in nature and it was the work of the structure committee at convention to consider the legislation and make its recommendations to the house.

The driving force behind those resolutions was a proposal in September 2011 by Bishop Stacy Sauls, the Episcopal Church’s chief operating officer, calling on dioceses to submit versions of a model General Convention resolution he offered asking for a special General Convention in 2014 to begin to make structural changes to the church.

Some members of the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church listen Oct. 2 at Washington National Cathedral as co-convener Katy George, on monitor, speaks about the organizational perspective of TREC’s work. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Applause and cheers erupted July 11, 2012, at General Convention as Resolution C095 sailed unanimously through the House of Bishops. A day earlier, deputies also had passed the resolution unanimously.
Resolution C095 called for a “special gathering to receive responses to the proposed recommendations to be brought forward to the 78th General Convention, and shall invite to this gathering from each diocese at least a bishop, a lay deputy, a clerical deputy, and one person under the age of 35.”

The Oct. 2 gathering was the only time that the task force met face-to-face with members of the church. TREC’s five meetings to date have been held almost entirely in private and the Oct. 3-4 portion of its final meeting will be closed as well.

TREC has also asked for feedback from the church via its website by encouraging church groups and individuals to use its engagement kit. Those 327 responses are available here. The group also released study papers on identity and vision, Episcopal networks, and church-wide governance and administration. Those study papers are here. Each of those papers elicited responses on various social media and on various church observers’ blogs, as did TREC’s September Letter to the Church.

TREC’s Facebook page is here and it is here on Twitter with @ReimagineTEC, where the group is using #reimaginetec. Tweets from during the meeting using that hashtag are here. During the meeting, many people tweeted using #TREClive. Those tweets are here.

TREC also created its own website here.

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

Submit your questions for TREC

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 2, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The following has been issued by the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church (TREC)

We are thankful for all who have registered in person and on line to participate in the churchwide meeting on October 2.

Questions are now being accepted and will be accepted throughout the webcast:  reimaginetec@gmail.com or Twitter at #reimaginetec. 

Please note:

The live broadcast begins at 7:30 pm Eastern time (6:30 pm Central/5:30 pm Mountain/4:30 pm Pacific/3:30 pm Alaska/1:30 pm Hawaii). It is expected to be two and one-half hours. The webcast will be aired simultaneously in Spanish.

Viewing is available on the websites of:

Washington National Cathedral website here www.nationalcathedral.org/trec

TREC website here reimaginetec.org

The Episcopal Church website here http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/task-force-reimagine-episcopal-church-churchwide-meeting

The video will be available on-line Friday.

TREC: http://reimaginetec.org/

On our way rejoicing

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 2, 2014

[Diocese of Dallas] Whether reciting the liturgy in Igbo, sharing the chalice with the homeless or discovering the Canterbury Trail, all illustrate the rich vibrancy of the Dallas diocese where 11,300 believers sit in the pews each Sunday to worship.

Church planting, urban renewal, population growth and renewed excitement toward all things Anglican have buoyed the 69 congregations in the diocese and kept parishes and missions growing or stable. This is an important feat, particularly during a time of transition as leaders search to replace recently retired Bishop James M. Stanton.

While no one thing is credited with keeping the diocese robust, strategic church planting is its lifeblood. New churches are being created in rural outposts, the inner city, and in the suburbs.

“Culture changes, neighborhoods change and so there is always a need for new church plants,” said The Rev. Brendan Kimbrough, who is launching a new church in Collin County. “If we want to reach people through Christ, the most effective way is through church planting.”

Kimbrough speaks from experience. He began sowing the seeds of St. Timothy’s nearly two years ago in effort to make an Episcopal Church accessible to residents in the towns of Murphy, Wylie and Sachse.

After two years of meeting residents and holding Bible study in his home, Kimbrough is officially launching St. Timothy’s in August in the Murphy Activity Center. “It’s a perfect space, and will allow us to have full worship, a nursery, children’s Sunday school, a hospitality area and plenty of parking.”

Establishing new churches isn’t easy and requires substantial support from the diocese in both funding and management, said Canon Victoria Heard, missioner for church planting.

Starting from scratch is hard work for the priest who has to parachute into a new community with little more than a dream and a prayer. Heard points to the Rev. Michael Gilton, as a successful planter who started St. Paul’s in Prosper, which now has 130 in average Sunday attendance.

“Father Gilton did most things right,” Heard said. “He moved to Prosper, where his first act was to become a crossing guard at a school, which helped get him connected to the community. Then he joined the Rotary Club. You really have to be visible as a church planter because you don’t have a pretty building. You just have yourself, Jesus Christ and a vision of what could be.”

While many new congregations are built chasing suburban growth, inner city growth is more complex. In Dallas, the diocese’ largest parish is undergoing a massive construction project, while just a few miles away, a parish for the homeless continues to grow in both membership and mission. And in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, urban renewal has inspired the reconfiguration of three parishes.

At the Church of the Incarnation, in Dallas’ Uptown neighborhood, members raised $26 million for a construction project that will double the church’s footprint, and better meet the needs of a rapidly growing congregation that already numbers 1,350.

“We have been forced into it,” Bishop Tony Burton said. “We don’t have room to start another Sunday school class. People keep coming and we don’t have the space. We had to build. We want to fulfill the mission of the church to worship God in the great tradition, make disciples, serve the poor and raise up leaders…. .”

The construction is expected to be completed next year, and will include a new worship space for the contemporary service, a new welcome center and two new educational buildings.

The growth is in part due to more families moving to the Uptown area, and the easy access provided by Interstate 75 that makes the location convenient for those outside the immediate neighborhood, Burton said.

A few miles away, an outdoor church servicing the homeless continues to flourish and expand its mission of helping others. The Gathering, which provides an extended Eucharist with lunch in a downtown park, was started in 2012 and averages 100 worshippers on Sunday.

“It’s a parish community without walls,” said Tom Hauser, executive director of The Gathering. “We have liturgy, we have communion, and we have a proper sermon with the appropriate liturgical colors. We are proclaiming the same gospel as the Church of the Incarnation, but at the same time we are less formal. We have to be, some of our people don’t have shoes.”

Homeless members of the parish have gone on three mission trips – twice to Oklahoma to help rebuild homes that were destroyed in tornadoes and once to Camp All Saints to help get the grounds ready for summer campers.

In Oklahoma, “it was the homeless helping the homeless,” said the Rev. Charlie Keen. “They worked their butts off. On the way home they talked about what a blessed experience it was and then when we got back into town, instead of taking them home I dropped them off at a park — they don’t have homes.”

While The Gathering offers access to urban ministry, so do the changing demographics of older neighborhoods such as Oak Cliff. Recently, three parishes with dwindling congregations united into one parish in a neighborhood that is experiencing urban renewal.

The congregations of Epiphany, St. George and St. Paul merged to form St. Augustine’s. The new parish meets in the former St. Paul church and has a new rector, the Rev. Paul Wheatley. Because all of the parishes wanted to merge, the congregation has deeper roots than a new church that may have popped up a year ago, he said.

“St. Paul’s, Epiphany and St. George’s all experienced demographic shifts in their neighborhoods over the last few decades and the congregations declined as the neighborhoods around them changed,” Wheatley said. “Our opportunity is reaching out and connecting them to the wonderful resources we have such as history, maturity and diversity.”

The merge created a 90-member congregation that represents the neighborhoods surrounding the church, which is diverse in age and race, and thereby attracts new members. “They show up and we have great-grandparents, grandparents, Latinos, Anglos and African Americans,” Wheatley said. “Our local churches are at their best when they represent the diversity of the neighborhoods around them.”

Diversity is not only a growing theme in Oak Cliff but in other areas of the diocese where services are held in a variety of languages. Congregations include Latin American, Nigerian, Kenyan, Bhutanese, and Korean.

“On any given Sunday we have services in seven languages,” Heard said. Currently I’m looking for a priest who speaks Swahili.”

One such service at Emmanuel Anglican Church is in the Igbo language, one of the three major languages of Nigeria. The mission meets at St. Luke’s in Dallas and has an average of 115 worshipers on Sunday, said the Rev. Daniel Ofoegbu.

The mission competes with evangelical churches for newly transplanted Nigerians. “One of the challenges is that in Africa, the Episcopal Church is known as the Anglican Church, so it does not translate for them when they come to America and they end up at an evangelical church,” Ofoegbu said.

Services in Spanish are also increasing in the diocese due to Dallas’ growing Hispanic population. About 90 percent come from the Roman Catholic Church and the other 10 percent come from an evangelical church, said the Rev. Tony Munoz.

The main draw for Hispanics to the Episcopal Church is the liturgy, he said. “They like that we are a welcoming church, it makes them feel like they are home. They have more accessible priests, and they get excited when they find the sacrament is still here,” Munoz said. “They came from the Catholic Church where they felt like spectators, but here they get to be part of the liturgy and participate.”

While Spanish-language services are a draw for Hispanics, engaging the second generation is much more difficult. “The people we reach are the parents who speak Spanish. We are trying to reach the children who speak English,” Munoz said. “Our challenge is to give them an English service with a Latino flavor.”

Another stream of diocesan growth is a counterculture trend of Protestants coming into the Anglican faith, said the Rev. Joseph Hermerding, an assistant rector at Incarnation.

“This movement is referred to as the Canterbury Trail. We are seeing young evangelicals looking for something more stable, more traditional, more relevant and transcendent than what they are used to,” Hermerding said. “They don’t want their pastor in jeans, sandals and a t-shirt.”

Much of the attraction for the new converts is a rich, worship culture that is intellectual and takes the life of the mind very seriously, Hermerding noted.

Part of the appeal is that the church is authentic and doesn’t pander for membership, he added.

“We thought we would get all the yuppies from Uptown coming to our traditional service,” Hermerding said. “We get some of those, but we were surprised to also get those with tattoos and dreadlocks to high mass. We are not marketing to them. We are not trying to please them. We are trying to worship God and they are attracted to an articulate, thoughtful Christian orthodox message.”

The Canterbury Trail is led by the millennial generation but is becoming a much broader movement, said the Rev. Steven Peay, associate dean at Nashotah House Theological Seminary. “It’s the new monasticism. They are looking for intentional community, they want depth, and they want something that makes a difference. People are not interested in the shallow spirituality that we’ve shoved out for years and years. They are looking to go deep.”

Wheatley agreed that the Episcopal Church’s historical identity and doctrine is a strong catalyst for diocese growth and stability.

“One of the strengths we have as a diocese is that Anglicanism has Catholic and Evangelical streams in it,” he said. “We have a faith that is old as the apostles and we serve a risen Lord whose Holy Spirit is always bringing renewal and life.”

– Kimberly Durnan is communications director for the Diocese of Dallas. 

Alice Hollis joins staff of Church of the Holy Communion, Memphis

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Alice Hollis has joined the staff at Church of the Holy Communion in Memphis, Tennessee, beginning her ministry overseeing Holy Communion’s Catechesis programs, nursery care programs, Spark Lectionary, Children’s Chapel and all other aspects of children’s ministry from birth through fifth grade. This fall also marks the creation of a new formation program for children in grades four and five, Crossings, designed to be a bridge between children’s formation and the youth program.

Alice began her Episcopal journey at Church of the Holy Communion in the 1980s (she grew up Presbyterian and Methodist; her mother’s father’s family had been Episcopalian) before she married and moved to Rossville, Tennessee, and was confirmed at St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Collierville.

For about 22 years, Alice has been involved with St. George’s Independent School in Memphis – all three campuses at different points – as a parent, volunteer, long-term substitute teacher and associate teacher for students from preschool to fifth grade.

“It’s wonderful to see them skyrocket,” she says of her students there. “They soar.”

Alice has a journalism degree and has worked in corporate communications, and is involved with her husband Phil’s video production and marketing company, Hollis & Associates. They have two sons: Edward, 26, who lives in New Orleans, and Peter, 21, who splits his time between Boston, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

Episcopal Health Foundation plans to transform community health

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 2, 2014

[Episcopal Health Foundation press release] Episcopal Health Foundation leaders today announced a detailed plan to improve community health across 57 Texas counties. The plan was introduced during a presentation at Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in Houston. The new $1.2 billion foundation believes its One Vision, Three Goals, Seven Strategies plan will help transform the health of families most in need through a different way of philanthropy.

“Our goal is not just to fill the gaps inside the health system,” said Bishop C. Andrew Doyle, the ninth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and chair of the Episcopal Health Foundation board of directors. “We’re hoping to actually close the gap between where people are and a true community of health and wellness.”

The Foundation’s strategic plan will guide its work over the next three years. The plan’s One Vision is transformation to healthy communities for all within the 57 counties of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

“We’re going beyond just treating the symptoms of unhealthy communities,” said Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation. “We’re moving from a charity model of philanthropy to a transformative model. That means we’re working to address and correct the root causes of poor health and work with our partners to change a community’s well-being for the better.”

To help achieve these long-lasting changes, Foundation leaders focused on Three Goals – Strong Health Systems, Connected Communities and an Engaged Diocese. Marks said that focusing on three key goals makes it possible to make a measurable, sustainable difference in a few areas of community health, rather than making a very small difference in many areas.

“We went through a substantial planning process that involved research, conversations with communities, and reaching out to community health experts,” said Marks. “We really worked to identify what were the best opportunities for us to make a difference.”

While the Foundation will not be operating health clinics, the goal to strengthen the health system centers on improving quality of and access to a variety of basic health services. Connected communities are needed so there’s interaction between different groups to be able to reach and impact more people. An engaged diocese means 80,000 Episcopal church members go to work to positively impact health where they live.

“The Diocese’s 57 counties cover a broad area of East, Central and Southeast Texas,” said Linnet Deily, executive chair of the Foundation’s board of directors. “Ten million people live in the diocese from big cities like Houston to small rural areas in East Texas. By working with the Foundation, parishioners can make sure all voices in their communities are heard and they can become advocates for community health.”

The plan’s Seven Strategies are specific ways the Foundation will invest in lasting change. They are strategies that will direct the Foundation’s grant-making, research, and collaboration with other groups and organizations.

Support comprehensive, integrated community-based primary care –Making sure there is basic, integrated healthcare services in communities.

Increase access to health services – It’s one thing for facilities to exist in an area, but if everyone does not have access to those services for whatever reason, then the entire community is not truly served.

Support mental health and wellness – The Foundation is interested in combating and preventing mental illness and eliminating the associated stigma.

Enhance early childhood development – Supporting families and caregivers of the youngest children to help provide environments to enrich young brains.

Support capacity building – Helping health-related organizations reach their fullest potential through resources and knowledge.

Facilitate healthy planning – Providing training to organizations so they may apply a “health lens” in planning and decision-making and better understand how non-health sector decisions are likely to impact health.

Strengthen collective impact – Helping multiple parties across multiple sectors like education, housing and transportation come together to produce more significant change in community health.

“We captured a vision and now we’re setting out on a strategy,” Doyle said. “The people who live within our 57 counties ought to be better off tomorrow because the Episcopal Health Foundation is here today. Life ought to be better for them because we’re invested in them and with them in their community.”

The Foundation announced it will invest approximately $9 million in grants to organizations in 2015. The goal is for grant-making amounts to grow each year, reaching $30 million in 2017 and increasing thereafter.

“We have the resources and the opportunity to do something that is different and transformative from the beginning,” Marks said.

While grant-making is an important part of the its mission, the Foundation does more than just provide funding. The Foundation will do important research centered on health. It will create new coalitions and partnerships. Foundation staff will help convene groups who want to work together to improve community health. In addition, the Foundation is committed to being accountable by continually measuring its true impact,

“We’re not just interested in giving away money and hoping that does something,” Doyle said. “We really expect to have an impact and if we’re not, we’ll change our strategies accordingly because we believe we have the capacity to change the world.”

Read more at www.episcopalhealth.org

The Episcopal Health Foundation was established through the 2013 transfer of the St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to Catholic Health Initiatives. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that operates as a supporting organization of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas pursuant to Section 509(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of the 10 million people in the 57 counties of the Diocese. We embrace the World Health Organization’s broad, holistic definition of health: a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.

Detalles importantes para la reunión TREC de toda la Iglesia el 2 de octubre

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Los siguientes son detalles importantes para la reunión del grupo de trabajo para re-imaginar toda la Iglesia Episcopal (TREC) el 2 de octubre.
• La transmisión en vivo comienza a las 7:30 pm hora del Este (6:30 pm Centro / 5: 30 pm Montaña / 4: 30 pm hora del Pacífico / 3: 30 pm Alaska / 1: 30 pm Hawái). Se espera que sea de dos horas y media

• La reunión se llevará a cabo en la Catedral Nacional de Washington

• La visualización está disponible en las páginas web de:
o La página web de la Catedral Nacional de Washington  está disponible aqui
o La página web de TREC está disponible aquí
o La página web  de la Iglesia Episcopal está disponible aquí

• La transmisión en vivo será transmitida simultáneamente en español en esos sitios web.

• La agenda de la reunión está disponible aquí

• Las preguntas y comentarios de la transmisión en vivo serán recibidos por correo electrónico en reimaginetec@gmail.org y Twitter en #reimaginetec

• La inscripción está todavía abierta. TREC fomenta la asistencia de cada diócesis: un obispo, un diputado laico, un diputado clerical, y una persona menor de 35 años.

• No hay que pagar para asistir en persona o para ver la transmisión en vivo. Sin embargo, se solicita el registro de la asistencia en persona; registrase aquí. La inscripción no es necesaria, pero se recomienda para ver la transmisión en vivo.

Para más información, preguntas o comentarios, póngase en contacto con miembros de TREC en reimaginetec@gmail.com

Despite IS threat, Baghdad Christians are still seeking baptism

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Canon White traveled to center of Baghdad Oct. 1, where Saddam Hussein’s statue had once stood: “I was quite horrified to see that flying from that plinth was an ISIS flag.”

[Anglican Communion News Service] Christians in Baghdad are still being baptised despite the threat of execution by the radical Islamist group Islamic State (IS) which is currently fighting to get to the Iraqi capital.

The Anglican priest who has served the beleaguered city for more than a decade, Canon Andrew White, today told ACNS he thought the threat posed by IS was actually one reason the believers wanted to be undergo baptism.

“People really wanted to demonstrate their faith and that’s good,” he said. Publicly identifying oneself as a Christian is a particularly courageous move in a country where IS has been intentionally targeting religious minorities.

In towns they have captured IS fighters daub the Arabic letter ‘N’ (for Nazarene) on the homes of Christians. The occupants are offered the choice of leaving, paying a massive tax, converting to Islam or being murdered.

A mother and four young children who were baptized Oct. 1 had been brought up Christian, but from a mixed Christian/Muslim background. Canon White did not want to say more about them for fear of reprisals from IS supporters; that afternoon he had traveled to center of Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein’s statue had once stood: “I was quite horrified to see that flying from that plinth was an ISIS flag.”

Despite this, the man nicknamed the Vicar of Baghdad rejoiced in the chance to carry on his priestly ministry in Iraq: “It was lovely baptizing them and the children were so excited. One little boy came up to me and said, ‘I feel like a new person now’ and I told him, ‘You are’.

“In the midst of such a desperate situation it was wonderful to have something which was so nice.”

Canon White explained that his church, St George’s, once had a congregation of around 1,000. “On Sunday we only had 160. That’s because so many of our people have gone up north.”

Despite the dwindling numbers and the possibility that IS could arrive in Baghdad at any time, Canon White is determined to continue his ministry for Christians in the capital and in Erbil where he and staff are delivering much needed-relief supplies.

“Thousands upon thousands of people remain Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) on the Kurdish boarders in the North,” he said. “Limited food, living in simple plastic tents and having none of the much-needed provisions. We are trying to provide as much of what is needed as possible.

“One of the things we’re looking at is establishing a separate Christian village comprising separate trailers with four bedrooms [for refugees] which would be better than these awful plastic tents.”

At $11,000 each, the trailers are not cheap. Much of his financial support comes from Anglican churches in England, US and Canada, but he said that, thanks to social media, he also has supporters in Anglican churches as far away as Australia and New Zealand. IS are, he said, not the only ones to make good use of the Internet.

IS are currently estimated to be 20 miles away from center of Baghdad. However, for Canon White things are business as usual. “I certainly plan to stay, though I do have other meetings coming up. I’m in Israel next week and I have to go to California, so I will continue to do things I have to do, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Important details for the TREC churchwide meeting on October 2

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The following are important details about the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church (TREC) churchwide meeting on October 2.

•    The live broadcast begins at 7:30 pm Eastern time (6:30 pm Central/5:30 pm Mountain/4:30 pm Pacific/3:30 pm Alaska/1:30 pm Hawaii). It is expected to be two and one-half hours.

•    The meeting will be held at Washington National Cathedral.

•    Viewing is available on the websites of:
o    Washington National Cathedral website here
o    TREC website here
o    The Episcopal Church website here

•    The webcast will be aired simultaneously in Spanish on those websites.

•    The agenda for the meeting is here

•    Webcast question and comments will be taken by email at reimaginetec@gmail.org and Twitter at #reimaginetec

•    Registration is still open. TREC encourages attendance from each diocese: a bishop, a lay deputy, a clerical deputy, and one person under the age of 35.

•    There is no fee to attend in person or to watch the live webcast.  However, registration for in-person attendance is requested; register here. Registration is not required but is encouraged for viewing the webcast.

•    The video will be available following the live showing.

For more info, questions or comments, contact TREC members at reimaginetec@gmail.com

TREC: http://reimaginetec.org/

Border crisis in Texas diminishes for now

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

[Diocese of West Texas] The number of refugees crossing the southern Texas border from countries in Central America has decreased significantly in recent weeks.

Donations of clothes are organized for all ages at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where the Central American refugees first arrived. Photo: Trish Motheral.

According to Catholic Charities, an estimated 50 people cross the border each day, compared to 150 per day this summer. Due to the graciousness of donors across the United States and Canada in response to a diocesan-wide appeal by Bishop Gary Lillibridge, the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has responded to the immediate needs of the refugees through the ministries of St. John’s in McAllen and Christ Church in Laredo.

On July 3, Lillibridge made an appeal to the Diocese of West Texas, requesting donations and volunteers to respond to the sudden influx of Central American refugees that overwhelmed the border communities of McAllen and Laredo. St. John’s and Christ Church became heavily involved in reaching the refugees’ basic human needs by providing packs of nutritional and hygienic items, among other types of assistance.

Lillibridge’s appeal was read nation-wide, and donations have poured into the diocese from Episcopal entities, churches, and individuals. The diocese has distributed $124,000 to assist the ministries of St. John’s and Christ Church. “The response has been tremendous and gracious,” said Dr. Marthe Curry, development director for the diocesan Department of World Mission.

Lillibridge said, “We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of care and concern across the Church, the United States, and Canada, for these, our fellow human beings. In addition, the generous financial support that has been received is being used to alleviate suffering and provide food, water, hot meals, and many other basic necessities. With the decrease in the number of Central Americans crossing recently, we are able to sustain our efforts at the present time; although if there appears to be an increase in need, we will keep everyone informed.”

St. John’s, McAllen, has distributed thousands of backpacks to refugees. The nutritional and hygienic items in each backpack served to sustain the refugees in their journeys from McAllen to relatives’ homes in the United States. “We were very efficient,” said the Rev. Jim Nelson, rector of St. John’s, “We have overproduced, and we have a supply of backpacks on hand to continue our ministry.”

Due to the generosity in donations, Nelson was able to personally deliver checks to the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank and the Salvation Army in McAllen on behalf of the diocese and the thousands of supporters. The morning he visited the Salvation Army, the office manager, Maggie, told him they had been praying for funds to come in, specifically for $20,000 to cover their budget shortfall.

Nelson told Maggie her prayers had been answered, as he handed over a check for $20,000. Both Maggie and the Chief Officer of the McAllen Salvation Army office began to cry and profusely thanked Nelson.

“It was such a privilege for me to serve as God’s agent in that regard,” said Nelson.

A check for $20,000 was also delivered to the Food Bank that same day.

The volunteers have come from all over the United States, as well, many of them staying in the youth house at St. John’s this past summer. St. John’s became the call center – fielding volunteers to the local entities all working to respond to the refugee crisis.

“When there were 150 immigrants arriving each day, 100 volunteers were needed to meet their needs,” said Nelson. Not only did the volunteers help process the immigrants, they were also needed to organize and work through the heaps of material donations coming into the Food Bank and the Salvation Army.

“Our efforts will continue,” said Nelson, “but the consequence of the downturn in numbers is that the various entities with which we are working are well-stocked at the moment.” The supplies on hand will continue to be distributed as immigrants cross the southern Texas border every day.

– Laura Shaver is communications officer for the Diocese of West Texas

JNCPB issues announcement

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has released the following statement:

Church Wide Nomination period for Presiding Bishop ends;
Discernment Process for Bishops Opens

In The Call for Discernment and Profile for the Election of the 27th Presiding Bishop, the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) established the period from September 1 through September 30 when any member of The Episcopal Church could submit the name of a bishop they believed should be considered as the next Presiding Bishop. The JNCPB would like to express thanks for the significant and positive response received during the last month. Over 165 people representing more than 60 dioceses submitted names.  That period is now closed.

Between October 1 and October 31, bishops who choose to continue in the discernment process as established by the JNCPB may to submit their information and materials for consideration.

The JNCPB invites the prayers of all the church during this time of submission and discernment as we seek to elect the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.


On Twitter at:  @PB27Nominations or #JNCPB

On Facebook at: www.facebook.com/pb27nominations


Churches and agencies formulate responses to Ebola outbreak

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

[World Council of Churches press release] To respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, which has taken more than 3,000 lives, the World Council of Churches (WCC) brought to the table representatives of Christian aid organizations and United Nations agencies to learn from each other and to escalate their efforts.

The WCC consultation, held 29 September in Geneva, Switzerland, affirmed a greater role for the churches and faith-based organizations in helping to stop the epidemic.

The Ebola crisis in West Africa is the largest of its kind since the 1976 outbreak. More than 6,200 people have been infected with the virus in severely affected countries such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to World Health Organization (WHO) reports. It estimates that numbers of infected persons could top 1 million by January 2015.

A recent UN meeting in New York has strongly urged stepped-up efforts to stop Ebola,  naming it a “public health crisis” and a “threat to peace and security.”

Dr Pierre Formenty, an epidemiologist and the coordinator of the WHO’s campaign against Ebola, while addressing the WCC consultation, explained how the Ebola virus appeared for the first time in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Even with a good response the number of affected people has increased on the statistical graph,” he said.

“This is a situation where everyone needs to work together: politicians, media, communities, faith organizations. We all have to do something. If one fails, everybody will fail,” said Formenty.

In this situation, he said, “Faith organizations in Africa have a huge role to play.”

Participants stressed that churches and other religious communities not only have a constant and influential reach to the grassroots populations to offer practical advice about hygiene and safe funeral practices but can also directly address the deeper cultural and religious roots of widespread stigma and discrimination that have accompanied the epidemic.

Dr Gisela Schneider from the German Institute for Medical Mission, who was in Liberia a few weeks ago, shared observations from her visit. “Christian hospitals are highly vulnerable,” she said. “This is why ‘keep safe, keep working’ is an important slogan we promote for the health workers serving Christian hospitals. She said that “people working on the ground need a great amount of encouragement, training, mentorship and support.”

Schneider added that while it is important to increase health facilities that reach the household level,  it is “crucial to empower local communities to take care of themselves.”

Dr David Nabarro, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Ebola,  joined the consultation via Skype from New York City. He shared details of the UN  strategy and actions in addressing the Ebola crisis in collaboration with local governments and international bodies.

Nabarro also mentioned an increase in efforts from the Security Council and engagement from the African Union in dealing with the impact of Ebola.

Nabarro added that the “struggle is not just to prevent the virus, but to take into consideration the long-term effects risking stability of the economy and communities.” In many areas farming and agricultural activities have come to a halt due to the fear of Ebola.

Nabarro argued that to formulate an effective response it is important to empower women, traditional healers and health workers without putting them at a risk. He said churches and faith-based organizations have a massive role to play in dealing with emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of people’s lives, engaging them on questions of life and death.

Ending Ebola, supporting communities

Christoph Benn from the Global Fund said the “WCC, churches and ecumenical organizations need to take full responsibility in not only helping to curb the disease but in communicating the right message, in raising awareness and challenging the stigma attached to Ebola.”

Benn is former advisor to the WCC for its programme on health and healing.

The consultation also highlighted the sanctity and dignity of the dead during burial rituals, an occasion which poses high risks of spreading the disease.  The speakers said that while it is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, support to families and communities is also essential.

It was stressed that women should be empowered in their response to Ebola. The impact of virus especially on children and women was discussed at length at the event. The statistics shared at the consultation showed that 4.5 million children under the age of five are living in areas affected by the Ebola virus. Children and women constitute 75 percent of survivors and victims. Based on this information, ideas on further collaboration between the WCC and women’s ecumenical organizations were shared.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in his remarks said that the WCC will facilitate its member churches and faith-based organizations in communicating vital information and “life-affirming messages” while being sensitive to the local culture and traditions.

“Churches and faith communities have a vibrant role to play in addressing stigma issues, promoting preventative messages and compassionate alternative burial ceremonies and rituals.” He said churches should provide psychosocial and pastoral counselling to the traumatized family members as well as support the over-stretched health-care providers.

Tveit added, “Christian health services need to be strengthened through accompaniment and more resources in the support and services so that they are able to function in feasible and practical ways under such circumstances.”

The WCC consultation brought together participants from a number of organizations, including the WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, the ACT Alliance, the Lutheran World Federation, Caritas Internationalis, Global Fund, International Organization for Migration, the World Student Christian Federation, the World YWCA and the International Labour Organization.

WCC expresses deep and shared concern at Ebola outbreak in West Africa (WCC news release of 05 August 2014)

WCC work on health and healing

High resolution photos can be requested via photos.oikoumene.org

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2013 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 140 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.

CDSP, Bloy House form new partnership

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Bloy House press release] Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) and Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, announced today that they have established a new partnership.

Beginning in 2015, Bloy House students will be able to earn a master of divinity degree at CDSP while completing much of their study at Bloy House. Following their first year, students will study online at CDSP and over the course of thirteen months will visit campus in Berkeley for one or two weeks in January and two weeks in June while continuing their course work at Bloy House.

“We are delighted at the prospect of welcoming Bloy House students to CDSP next year,” said the Very Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president. “This new partnership celebrates our shared history and demonstrates CDSP’s commitment to working with dioceses that want to provide high-quality, flexible local ministry training.”

The Very Rev. Dr. Sylvia Sweeney, Bloy House dean and president, also celebrated this new step. “Our two seminaries have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship since the 1950’s.  I am delighted that we have entered a new phase of that relationship at a time when many across the church are exploring what it means to offer quality theological education through new and changing platforms.  I think all of our students will be enriched by this wonderful opportunity for cross-fertilization and dialog.”

Bloy House was founded in 1958 as an extension program of CDSP in the Diocese of Los Angeles. That partnership continued until 1962, when the diocese assumed full administrative and academic responsibility for the school. In 1970, Bloy House developed a relationship with  Claremont School of Theology and moved to Claremont.

Under the terms of the new program, Bloy House MDiv students will join CDSP’s on-campus and online students for regular semester-long academic courses and will also be eligible to take online courses through the Graduate Theological Union, of which CDSP is a founding member. In addition, students will participate in intensive on-campus weeklong courses in January and June and in field education, which will be conducted in their home dioceses and supervised by CDSP faculty.

“Earning an MDiv through the flexible Bloy House-CDSP partnership allows students to prepare for ministry with the support and guidance of innovative and creative faculty from both institutions. By working together, we can ensure that students receive rigorous academic preparation, support in personal Christian formation and spiritual growth, and training to lead the 21st century church,” said the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, academic dean at CDSP.
Prospective students can apply to Bloy House by August 1 or December 15 and to CDSP by March 15 of the year in which they intend to begin the CDSP portion of the program. Learn more at www.cdsp.edu/academics/degrees and www.bloyhouse.org.

Church Divinity School of the Pacific, a seminary of the Episcopal Church and a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, educates students in an ecumenical and interreligious context to develop leaders who can proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world through traditional and emerging ministries. Learn more at www.cdsp.edu.

Bloy House the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, the seminary of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, provides graduate level weekend theological formation programs with the express purpose of forming Christian leaders for lay, diaconal, and priestly ministry in the church. Learn more at www.bloyhouse.org.

Education remains priority amid General Seminary faculty departures

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] The board of trustees’ executive committee for General Theological Seminary in New York has “voted with great regret to accept the resignations” of eight full-time professors who say “the working environment that the Dean and President has created has become unsustainable.”

The board said its decision came “after much prayer and deliberation and after consulting our legal council.” The trustees also said that the primary concern of the seminary “continues to be the education and formation of our students.”

A conflict between the dean and some members of faculty at the nearly 200-year-old seminary was made public late last week when e-mails from the departing professors to students were circulated.

Nowhere in those e-mails did the eight say they were resigning and at least one of the professors, Andrew Irving, said in a subsequent e-mail that “we wish to underline that we have not resigned. Our letters did not say that we would resign. We requested meetings with the board.”

The 37-member board, many of whom met via conference call on Sept. 29 to discuss the conflict, said in a statement released the next day that they had reached their decision “with heavy hearts,” but agreed that “following months of internal divisions around the future direction of General Seminary” it was the “best path forward in educating our students and shaping them into leaders of the church.”

The board said that the seminary is willing to meet with any former faculty member about the possibility of reconsidering his or her position.

The eight faculty members said they would not teach, attend meetings, or participate in common worship in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd until “pressing issues” at the seminary were addressed.

After the trustees made their decision, the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, who became dean and president in July 2013, said in a Sept. 29 e-mail to students: “Prayer is the most powerful response any of us can make at this point. Please pray.”

Dunkle and the remaining faculty, the board said, “are working on the best ways to continue teaching and advising and to assure all that we will continue to provide quality education and formation with the least amount of interruption possible.”

The board’s statement notes that the school’s New York location “affords us access to a wide range of resources, and we shall be drawing upon those resources to address any needs created by these resignations.”

Professors Joshua Davis, Mitties DeChamplain, Deirdre Good, David Hurd, Andrew Irving, Andrew Kadel, Amy Lamborn and Patrick Malloy said in their Sept. 26 e-mail to students that they were not going to teach, attend meetings, or participate in common worship until “pressing issues” at the seminary were addressed. They said that “despite many attempts at dialogue in the past year – including conversations facilitated by a professional external facilitator – the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that we have reached an impasse.”

The professors said that they had communicated what they called “dire circumstances” to the board of trustees and said that their “work stoppage” could be ended immediately if the board would commit to meeting with them.

But the board said in its statement that some of those demands for action were “not possible under the governing structure of the Seminary.”

Dunkle, a former lawyer and a 2004 graduate of GTS, e-mailed the seminary community on the morning of Sept. 29 saying that the principal concern is the welfare of the students and acknowledging that worship is central to GTS.

In a further email on Sept. 30, as the board’s statement was pending, Dunkle confirmed that about half of the classes would continue uninterrupted. “As we go through this together, remember that all our hope on God is founded,” he added. “It’s not just a hymn, but a guiding reminder of our fundamental truth. Prayer, either alone or together, is the most effective way to access God. Please remember to continue to pray for all those here and not here.”

The departing professors expressed their view that Dunkle “has repeatedly shown that he is unable to articulate sensitively and theologically the issues that are essential to the thriving of the Body of Christ in its great diversity. Moreover his failure to collaborate, or to respond to our concerns when articulated has resulted in a climate that many of us find to be fraught with conflict, fear, and anxiety.”

They mentioned that there had been “a number of very serious incidents and patterns of behavior which have over time caused faculty, students, and staff to feel intimidated, profoundly disrespected, excluded, devalued, and helpless … Our concerns about these behaviors and their consequences have been dismissed by the Dean. We find that the Dean’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the damage that these ways of acting and speaking have caused is deeply problematic.”

The board of trustees said in its Sept. 30 statement that it is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations of statements made by Dunkle.

The General Theological Seminary was founded in 1817 in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church.

As with many theological institutions, GTS has faced economic pressures following the global financial crisis leading to the sale of some of its property in order to eliminate debt and balance its budget. There was no indication from the various statements and correspondence that the seminary’s financial issues had in any way contributed to the present conflict.

The 10 Episcopal seminaries in the U.S. have very few official ties to the Episcopal Church, beyond General Convention’s authority to elect six of the GTS trustees.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will visit the school on the morning of Oct. 1. She will visit an 8:30 a.m. class, attend chapel and then “be present on the Close until 11:30 a.m. for your own contact with her,” Dunkle said in his first Sept. 30 e-mail to students.

“The Church is counting on us,” the board concluded in its statement. “This week Dean Dunkle and the remaining faculty are working on the best ways to continue teaching and advising and to assure all that we will continue to provide quality education and formation with the least amount of interruption possible.

“While we may sometimes disagree, the commitment to our current students is a responsibility that the Board takes seriously. It is for their well-being alone that we came to this resolution, and pray that our decision was the right one.”

A Statement from the General Seminary Board of Trustees

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[General Theological Seminary press release] Yesterday, after much prayer and deliberation and after consulting our legal council, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary voted with great regret to accept the resignations of eight members of the Seminary faculty. The Board came to this decision with heavy hearts, but following months of internal divisions around the future direction of General Seminary, some faculty member’s demands for action not possible under the governing structure of the Seminary, and the eight faculty members’ refusal to teach, attend meetings, or even worship, it has become clear that this is the best path forward in educating our students and shaping them into leaders of the church. However, even after accepting the resignations, the Seminary is willing to meet with any former faculty member about the possibility of reconsidering the resignation.

Simultaneously, the Board of Trustees is conducting an internal investigation into certain allegations of statements made by the Dean and President. Further comment on the investigation, pending its outcome, would not help that process. We encourage everyone to withhold any further judgment or comment.

The primary concern of General Seminary continues to be the education and formation of our students. The Church is counting on us. This week Dean Dunkle and the remaining faculty are working on the best ways to continue teaching and advising and to assure all that we will continue to provide quality education and formation with the least amount of interruption possible. Our location in the heart of New York City affords us access to a wide range of resources, and we shall be drawing upon those resources to address any needs created by these resignations. We will share specifics with our students as these plans unfold.

Yesterday’s decision was not easy. For nearly 200 years, General Seminary has prepared more than 7,000 men and women as leaders in the Church. Dean Dunkle has helped that mission thrive as we advance it through the 21st century. While we may sometimes disagree, the commitment to our current students is a responsibility that the Board takes seriously. It is for their well-being alone that we came to this resolution, and pray that our decision was the right one.

The Board of Trustees
The General Theological Seminary

Advancing to General Convention 2015: volunteers needed

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release]  A range of volunteer opportunities are available at The Episcopal Church 78th  General Convention, June 25 – July 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Episcopal Diocese of Utah).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It is composed of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay representatives elected from the 109 dioceses of the Church, at more than 800 members.

Patrick Haizel, General Convention volunteer coordinator, said that all are welcomed to help out. “We are seeking interested people to offer their skills and talents to assist in the smooth operation of General Convention 2015,” he said. “By volunteering, you become a part of General Convention, through observation and participation, while learning about the way the church operates from behind the scenes.”

Shifts range from 2 to 6 hours in a variety of areas throughout convention where volunteers are needed.  “With this General Convention going virtual, we have new needs for people with computer and technical skills,” Haizel added.

Volunteers should sign up here.

For more info contact Haizel at phaizel@episcopalchurch.org