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CARAVAN interfaith art exhibition opens in Paris

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 5, 2015

[CARAVAN press release] Following the recent tragedy in Paris and in the midst of the increasing chasm of discord and misunderstanding that exists between the Middle East and the West, and between Christians, Muslims and Jews, the 7th CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art titled “The Bridge” opens in Paris, France, this week at the historic Church of Saint Germain des Prés in the Latin Quarter.

The first week of February 2015 is the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Through the founding sponsorship of SODIC from Egypt, The Bridge is an East-West traveling art exhibition organized and curated by CARAVAN, an interreligious and intercultural peace-building NGO. It showcases the work of 47 premier contemporary visual artists of Arab, Persian and Jewish backgrounds. As a multireligious group, the artists are making the case for using that which we have in common as the foundation for the future of our world.

The Bridge opened on Feb. 2 with a month-long exhibition in Paris, France and will then travel throughout Europe, to Egypt and the United States, and will be held in a variety of venues (cathedrals, museums, galleries, interfaith centers, etc) before closing in 2016.

As the exhibition travels, it takes with it a fundamental message of intercultural and interreligious harmony and provides a link not only within communities but also between communities. The Bridge serves as a common starting point on which to build, toward seeing the development of a world that inherently respects and honors cultural and religious diversity, living and working together in harmony.

The Bridge exhibition involves a diverse range of Arab, Persian and Jewish visual artists.

Participating artists include women and men, from premier contemporary artists to emerging younger artists, from the three primary monotheistic faith backgrounds and 13 countries. Each artist has submitted one original work (done specifically for the exhibition) addressing the theme “The Bridge,” focusing on what they hold in common through their cultures and creeds, illustrating their ideas of how to build bridges between us all.

The Bridge is co-curated by CARAVAN Founder/President, the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler and noted artist, Lilianne Milgrom.

CARAVAN, which originated out of Cairo, Egypt, is an international humanitarian arts NGO that focuses on building bridges through the arts between the creeds and cultures of the Middle East and West. CARAVAN’s experience has shown that the Arts can serve as one of the most effective mediums to enhance understanding, bring about respect, enable sharing, and deepen friendship between those of different faiths and cultures. One of the flagship initiatives of CARAVAN is the globally recognized interfaith CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art, a unique arts initiative that brings together many of the Middle East’s and West’s premier and emerging

The 2014 CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art was held first in Cairo at the Museum of Modern Art, then in Washington D.C. at the renowned National Cathedral, following by in New York City at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The exhibition involved 48 premier Egyptian and Western artists, from Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions. Titled “AMEN: A Prayer for the World,” the art exhibition sought to express the deep, fundamental acknowledgment of power and hope for all people. More than 200,000 people viewed the exhibition in these three venues. The 2013 CARAVAN interfaith exhibition was held first in Cairo and then at the world renowned St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, attracting more than 120,000 people during the five-week exhibition.

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THE BRIDGE: 2015 CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art / Paris: 2-28 February, 2015 Church of Saint Germain des Pres (dans La Chapelle Saint Symphorien) 3, place Saint Germain des Prés, VI, Paris, France (www.eglise-sgp.org)

Monday through Friday: 5-8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 12-8 p.m.
Website: www.oncaravan.org
Facebook: visit CARAVAN Arts
Twitter: @oncaravanarts

For more information, interviews or photos, please email: oncaravan@gmail.com

Lent Madness 2015 – Which saint will win the Golden Halo?

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 5, 2015

[Lent Madness press release] For the sixth year running, people worldwide are gearing up for Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” in which 32 saints do battle to win the coveted Golden Halo. Calling itself the world’s most popular online Lenten devotion, Lent Madness brings together cut-throat competition, the lives of the saints, humor, and the chance to see how God works in the lives of women and men across all walks of life.

The creator of Lent Madness, the Rev. Tim Schenck, says, “People might think Lent is all about eating dirt and giving up chocolate, but it’s really about getting closer to Jesus.” Schenck, who is rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, Massachusetts, adds, “The saints aren’t just remote images in stained glass windows or pious-looking statues. They were real people God just happened to use in marvelous ways.”

Lent Madness began on Schenck’s blog in 2010 as he sought a way to combine his love of sports with his passion for the lives of saints. Starting in 2012, he partnered with Forward Movement (the same folks that publish Forward Day by Day), to bring Lent Madness to the masses.

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Schenck’s Lent Madness co-conspirator, says, “Throughout Lent, as we’re having fun with the competition, we are also inspired by how God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” Gunn, who is executive director of Forward Movement in Cincinnati, Ohio, adds, “That’s the whole point of the Christian life: to allow God to work in us to share God’s love and proclaim Good News.”

Schenck and Gunn form the self-appointed Supreme Executive Committee, a more-or-less benevolent dictatorship that runs the entire operation. The formula has worked as this online devotional has been featured in media outlets all over the country including NBC, The Washington Post, FOXNews, NPR, USAToday, and even Sports Illustrated (no, really).

Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at www.lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.

This year Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. 2015 heavyweights include Teresa of Avila, Frederick Douglass, Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, Balthazar, and the Venerable Bede. The full bracket is online at the Lent Madness website.

From the “you can’t know the saints without a scorecard” department, the Saintly Scorecard — The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2015 is available through Forward Movement. It contains biographies of all 32 saints to assist those who like to fill out their brackets in advance, in addition to a full-color pull-out bracket.

This all kicks off on “Ash Thursday,” February 19. To participate, visit the Lent Madness website, where you can also print out a bracket for free to see how you fare or “compete” against friends and family members. Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas.

Ten “celebrity bloggers” from across the country have been tapped to write for the project including the Rev. Amber Belldene of San Francisco, CA; the Rev. Laurie Brock of Lexington, KY; Dr. David Creech of Morehead, MN; the Rev. Megan Castellan of Kansas City, MO; the Rev. Laura Darling of Oakland, CA; Neva Rae Fox of Somerville, NJ; the Rev. Nancy Frausto of Los Angeles, CA; the Rev. David Hendrickson of Denver, CO; the Rev. Maria Kane of Houston, TX; and the Rev. David Sibley of Manhasset, NY.

Information about each of the celebrity bloggers and the rest of the team is available on the Lent Madness website.

If you’re looking for a Lenten discipline that is fun, educational, occasionally goofy, and always joyful, consider this your invitation to join in the Lent Madness journey.

Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on religious freedom

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 5, 2015

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivered the following speech at the launch of the Religious Liberty Commission in Westminster on Feb. 4.

It’s a great privilege to be here. This is an area of life which has been central to my own prayer and my own thinking for a very long time. When my wife and I got married in 1979, in our first two summer holidays, we took Bibles – with a group affiliated with Open Doors – firstly to what was then Czechoslovakia, and secondly to Romania.

That brought home to us a number of things. One was that God is present in the midst of the suffering of the persecuted church. Secondly that listening to those who are being persecuted is extraordinarily important; talking at them or about them is one thing, but actually hearing them is something quite different, and it burns itself into one’s soul.

Although there’s much talk of persecution in this country I think we need to distinguish our situation – as Rowan Williams did quite rightly – from the serious oppression in places around the world where the response to the call of Jesus to “follow me” is forbidden.

I’m going to expand this to talk about other faiths as we go on, but I’m consciously starting with Christians.

We need to start with generosity and free will, because religious freedom – the choice of how and whether at all we follow God or turn away from God – is something that is given in creation, and in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

For those of us who are Christians – I’m aware that there are other faiths here – living out that choice as something that we offer freely and around us, as well as something we demand for ourselves, is what distinguishes us from some of the sad and in fact evil history that has characterised the church…

Free choice is essential because that is what Jesus gave those he encountered. Think of the rich young ruler who is offered a choice and goes away saddened (Matthew 19:16-30). Think of the thieves on the cross on either side of Jesus, one of whom turns to him, the other of whom curses him: they have choice (Luke 23:39-43).

The choice to respond in faith or not is right through the Bible. The choice of truth and error is right through the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures, we see above all in the history of Israel and in the teaching of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 30:11 ff) and all those books that link in closely to that pivotal book of the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy alone the word ‘choose’ comes more than 20 times; it is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to relate to God and to the world.

We are those who have space, who have free will, who have choice – and then bear the consequences.

For these reasons, even more fundamentally than international law, freedom of religion is a fundamental human right – now enshrined in international law – and should be treated as equal, not subordinate, to other human rights. And for those of us who are Christians, let’s just be quite clear that the church, including the Church of England, has a poor record in this as in many other areas, but perhaps in the last 300 years has begun to learn a little of where it went wrong.

Because human beings are in the image of God, our religious beliefs are a core part of what it is to be human. They form us into who we are; they provide foundations for our deepest convictions, and motivations for our sincerest actions.

That is something that goes back right through history. We see looking back that the formation of the monasteries with Saint Benedict was driven not by the thought that it would be a good idea to have somewhere that was safer as the Roman Empire collapsed around them, where a little bit of civilization could be maintained – let alone, as a friend who mine who’s a Catholic priest said to me, so that gentlemen can live together in community. It was so that faith in Christ could be expressed tangibly and visibly, in lives lived together growing towards Christ.

The trouble with ‘freedom of belief’ is that it’s almost misleading, as it fails fully to convey the total orientation and way of life that some foundational convictions provide. Unlike beliefs of preference, predilections and taste, faith is not an optional extra – or as it usually turns up in the research on marketing that sometimes comes across one’s desk, as a leisure interest. I remember years ago, when the present chief justice of the United States was appointed to his post and was about to go through his Senate confirmation hearings. There were a lot of questions about the fact that he is a Roman Catholic. The question was: would that influence his judgement? And I remember a senator who was interviewed and said, “I don’t mind him being a Roman Catholic, provided it has no effect on what he does.” [Laughter]

Well belief doesn’t work that way. It is essential that when we are talking about freedom of religion – and freedom not to follow a religion – that getting God, understanding what this means, the transformation at the deepest level of the human being that goes with faith in God, is something that isn’t just like saying, “I prefer the colour green to the colour blue”, but it’s often treated that way, a mere matter of personal preference. It is at the very depths of what it is to be human.

If human rights are normative, as we believe, for how humans ought to be treated, then the precious, God-given gift of human dignity is the foundation on which these rights stand. We have value, every human being has value, because we are valued by God. Rights spring from the ineradicable dignity that we are given in creation, and we have a responsibility before God, as those who trust in Him, to protect them.

We must be models ourselves; we must speak out in solidarity. Silence is not an option if we are to stay true to our faith. If our religious beliefs are a core part of our humanity, then treasuring the dignity of each and every human must mean we treasure their right to religious belief – even when we disagree. Religious freedom is a precious freedom, but it is also profoundly delicate and complex. It is not private, but public. It is lived out and expressed publicly.

I’ll speak about other faiths, but in Christianity to start with, to belong to Christ is to be part of the family of Christ. I look around and I see people here today – to my intense pleasure – Christians from the Levant and the Middle East. When they are attacked, we are attacked as Christians… but within Islam there is a similar concept: when Muslims in one part of the world are attacked, that is an attack on the people of Islam.

Religious faith is lived out in community. It’s lived out in love for one another. We may passionately disagree with doctrines of a different faith, but we need to recognise that faith is something that is public, that is something that we do together – and the moment that is attacked, the whole concept of what it means to belong to God is undermined. The public witness of the church that loves one another is a blessing to its community… and yet throughout history it is in its public gathering that the church is attacked.

Because of its public, communal nature, gathering of those who believe in God – Christians and other faiths – are a challenge in a diverse society. We find it fine to say that a particular church is going incredibly well and is full every Sunday. But at the same time – we see reports about it – we are deeply uncomfortable about the mosque down the road that has people outside because they can’t fit them in.

Well, if we believe in freedom to choose, if we believe in freedom of religion, what’s good for one is good for all. We must speak out for others persecuted for their beliefs, whether it be religious or atheistic: taking responsibility for someone else’s freedom is as important as protecting my own. It is as much the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not to be abused by Christians who are affronted, as it is the right of Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ as their Saviour: that is his freedom to choose, that is given to us in creation.

In the last two years my wife and I have visited every province of the Anglican Communion (37 of them). We have seen extraordinary stories of courage and persecution – not only the persecution of Christians, but the suppression of any diversity. In the Middle East we know that Christians are fleeing their homes… in Pakistan, I had an anguished email on Tuesday from our bishop there about a school that had been raided and attacked. By the grace of God people weren’t killed, but it is a routine part of life.

We know about the attacks on Jewish communities – this atrocious development of attacks on Jewish communities, particularly across Europe. We know about attacks on Muslims; mosques firebombed in this country. We know about attacks on other faiths.

But we also know in some countries about the quiet, creeping removals of freedom, which breed a climate of fear and animosity. The lesson we learn from the moving reading earlier about the plane going past is: why was that possible? It didn’t happen overnight. It began in the 1930s with the disparagement of Jewish people; with them being treated as less than entirely human. And by the time they were being carted off screaming in trains, it was more or less tolerated.

That breeding of a climate of fear and animosity is where we must first speak out. We must speak with humility and boldness. (I’m saying we now as the churches.) Boldness we do. But also we must speak with deep humility – the humility of the alcoholic who used to do this sort of thing themselves, but has learned right from wrong, and stands up and says, ‘Don’t be as I was’.

I welcome this coordination of efforts by the Religious Liberty Commission. And I echo its encouragement for religious and political leaders to continue to speak out in unison against all and any violation of freedom of religion.

Finally I am grateful for its support in resourcing us as church leaders with knowledge and encouraging us to engage with and pray for the persecuted church.

Freedom of religion embedded in the very way we are human. Freedom of religion is in international law. Freedom of religion is God-given and God-called. It is preserved by humble, confident care of what it is to be a human being, and the knowledge that when human beings live out their lives faithful to Christ – and I’m talking here as a Christian – they are the most human they will ever be.

Thank you.

Find out more about the Religious Liberty Commission 

Rapidisimas

ENS Headlines - Thursday, February 5, 2015

Peter Eaton, de 56 años de edad, deán de la catedral de Denver, Colorado, ha sido electo obispo coadjutor (auxiliar con derecho a sucesión) de la diócesis del Sureste de la Florida que tiene su sede en Miami. La elección tuvo lugar en la cuarta votación. Desde el principio Eaton llevaba una ligera ventaja. Hijo de clérigo, su padre fue profesor de seminario en Barbados y Puerto Rico. Eaton  hizo la mayor parte de sus estudios en Inglaterra y habla español, inglés y francés. Sucederá al obispo Leopoldo Frade que se jubila por razones de edad en enero del año que viene. Él y su esposa Kate están celebrando el décimo aniversario de su boda. Ella se especializa en componer música religiosa. ¡Enhorabuena!

La muerte por incineración de un joven piloto jordano capturado en diciembre en Siria y que ha sacudido al mundo, puede traer graves consecuencias para el Medio Oriente, dijeron observadores políticos. En Jordania se informó que ya se están haciendo los preparativos para vengar la muerte del piloto. Un vocero del grupo dijo que “el mundo sabrá de lo que son capaces” haciendo justicia por este horrendo crimen perpetrado ante los ojos del mundo.

La polémica entre el periódico ABC de Madrid y el presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, ha subido de tono recientemente. Mientras que el diario madrileño reitera su información en el sentido de que Diosdado Cabello, presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, “es la mano que mece el narcotráfico” y que el periódico promueve una campaña “bestial y vulgar” contra el país petrolero, ABC contesta diciendo que “bestial y vulgar es amordazar a la prensa, cerrar emisoras de radio y televisión y meter en la cárcel a quien piense diferente”.

Israel Ahimbisibwe, sacerdote episcopal de 52 años, su esposa y un hijo pequeño fueron asesinados en su apartamento de Houston. La familia era de origen ugandés. El clérigo servía como capellán en la Universidad de Houston y estaba a cargo de una pequeña Iglesia Episcopal. Era muy querido en la comunidad por su trabajo pastoral. La policía encontró sus cuerpos cuando no asistieron a un oficio donde Ahimbisibwe debía oficiar. Los investigadores no descartan ninguna posibilidad.

La acción del presidente Barack Obama de reanudar las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba ha causado más revuelo de lo que se pensó originalmente. Gran parte de la comunidad cubana está dividida sobre las consecuencias de estas medidas. El gobierno de Cuba ha reaccionado positivamente aunque ha puesto unas condiciones que los analistas piensan que son “irrealizables”. El gobernante Raúl Castro ha dicho que Estados Unidos tendrá que eliminar las sanciones que impone el embargo económico (en Cuba le llaman “bloqueo”), y compensar a Cuba por las consecuencias  negativas  de éste durante los últimos 55 años, devolver el territorio que ocupa la base naval  de Guantánamo y suspender las transmisiones de Radio y Televisión Martí. Estados Unidos por su parte, pide el restablecimiento del estado de derecho, elecciones libres, libertad de prensa y libertad para los presos políticos. Veremos qué pasa.

El Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos ha decidido restringir visas a más funcionarios del gobierno de Venezuela. La nota dada a la publicidad dice en parte: “Los que violan los derechos humanos y aquellos que se benefician de la corrupción y sus familias no son bienvenidos en Estados Unidos”. Seguramente que Venezuela responderá en forma similar.

Michelle Bachelet, presidenta de Chile, ha enviado al congreso un proyecto de ley que elimina la condena a los que interrumpen el embarazo o según el lenguaje médico “despenaliza el aborto terapéutico” que fue instaurado durante el régimen de Pinochet. Bachelet es médica pediatra. Según el proyecto de ley el plazo para abortar es de 12 semanas de gestación y cuando se trate de una menor de 14 años se buscará la autorización de los padres.

Con el revuelo que han causado las posibles relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba, se cree que la ley que da preferencia a los cubanos para inmigrar a Estados Unidos según una ley llamada de “Ajuste Cubano”, se pronostica que esta ley sea enmendada y que miles de cubanos que residen en suelo estadounidense tendrán que ser extraditados a Cuba especialmente los que hayan cometido delitos graves. Según las autoridades hay 34,525 cubanos con órdenes finales de deportación.   ORACIÓN. Señor, ten piedad.

Ruling issued in South Carolina property case

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

[The Episcopal Church in South Carolina press release] Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein has ruled that a breakaway group that sued local Episcopalians over control of the Diocese of South Carolina has the right to hold onto the name and property of the diocese.

The judge’s decision was issued late in the afternoon on Feb. 3, more than six months after the conclusion of a three-week trial in St. George in July. The lawsuit initially was filed by the breakaway group in January 2013 against The Episcopal Church and its local diocese in eastern South Carolina, which is known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. TECSC includes 30 parishes and mission churches in the region who have remained part of The Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“We have understood from the beginning that this lawsuit was mounted after years of planning by individuals who were intent upon taking the diocese and its property out of The Episcopal Church,” said Holly Behre, Director of Communications for TECSC. “We have also understood that defending ourselves will be a long legal process.”

“We are considering all the issues raised by the Court Order and plan to recommend to the Church to engage the appeal process as appropriate,” said diocesan Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale. “The result of the recent trial was not unexpected and road ahead in the judicial system is clear to us.”

The Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, Bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said the ruling represents one step on a long journey. “Our biblical heritage tells of journeys experienced by faithful people. Those journeys often were difficult and filled with setbacks, but people of faith were called to persevere on the way.”

“Perseverance is our call and intention, on this journey in our day,” the bishop said.

The bishop said history also contains many examples of justice being delayed. “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina believes that such is the situation we now must endure for a while, as we continue on this journey.”

Von Rosenberg later issued a pastoral letter about the court ruling. It is available here.

Marriage task force calls for gender-neutral language in marriage canon

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The A050 Task Force on the Study of Marriage is recommending that the 2015 meeting of General Convention authorize Episcopal Church clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages.

The task force proposes the change in its just-released Blue Book report by way of a resolution (numbered A036) that would revise Canon I.18 titled “Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony” (page 58 of The Episcopal Church’s canons here).

The revision removes, among many edits, the language of I.18.2(b) that requires couples to “understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman.” Removing that and other gender-specific language from the canon, the report says, addresses the mandate in the group’s enabling resolution that it “address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such.”

Section 3 of Canon 18 would be rewritten to, in part, remove the requirement that the couple sign a declaration stating they “solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”

The revision would recast the requirement in the canon’s first section that clergy conform to both “the laws of the state” and “the laws of this Church” about marriage. The rewritten portion of that section would require that clergy conform to “the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage.”

Canon I.18 contains the majority of the rules in the church’s canons about clergy officiating at marriage. Canon I.19 governs the “preservation of marriage, dissolution of marriage, and remarriage” and as such refers to “husband” and “wife” in its third section. The Book of Common Prayer, which Article X of the church’s constitution authorizes, refers to marriage on page 422 as Christian marriage being “a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God.” It uses gender-specific language throughout “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage” and “An Order for Marriage” rites, as well as in its “Additional Directions” section.

The task force says in its report that its revision of Canon I.18 makes the canon “focused on the actual vows made in The Book of Common Prayer marriage rite, rather than on the purposes of marriage in general,” which it adds are stated “in literally creedal form.”

The clergy’s discretion to decline to solemnize any marriage is preserved and extended to include the choice to decline offering a blessing on a marriage, the task force said.

The 122-page report, the majority of which includes resources the task force developed for the study of marriage and essays on various issues concerning marriage, is available in English here and in Spanish here.

The task force was formed in response to a call (via Resolution A050) from the 77th General Convention in July 2012 for a group of “theologians, liturgists, pastors and educators to identify and explore biblical, theological, historical, liturgical and canonical dimensions of marriage.”

That same meeting of convention authorized provisional use of a rite to bless same-sex relationships. Use of that rite, Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be A Blessing, is due to be reviewed by General Convention in 2015.

Noting the rapidly changing social and legal landscape of marriage, the Task Force on the Study of Marriage says in its report that “this time of flux bears continuing discernment and attention by our Church.”

Thus the group will ask convention to consider Resolution A037 to continue the task force’s work into the 2016-2018 triennium as a way to “explore further those contemporary trends and norms” the current group has identified.

Those trends and norms, the group’s report says, include “those who choose to remain single; unmarried persons in intimate relationships; couples who cohabitate either in preparation for, or as an alternative to, marriage; couples who desire a blessing from the Church but not marriage; parenting by single and/or unmarried persons; differing forms of family and household such as those including same-sex parenting, adoption, and racial diversity; and differences in marriage patterns between ethnic and racial groups, and between provinces inside and outside the United States.”

While doing its work this triennium, “the Task Force became highly aware of a growing contemporary reality in society and the Church that is redefining what many mean by ‘family’ or ‘household,’” the group says in its report, adding that “this changing reality is felt in our congregations.”

Marriage “as a normative way of life” is being challenged, yet the group says it “did not have the time or resources to fully address this reality.”

“More broadly, our Church has done very little to respond to it,” the task force says.

The task force’s two resolutions, as well as other expected proposed resolutions on marriage, will be handled by a special legislative Committee on Marriage when the General Convention next meets June 25-July 3 in Salt Lake City.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, said in July that they would appoint the committee “to ensure that the work of the Task Force on Marriage and resolutions related to the rapidly shifting contexts of civil marriage in the United States and in several other parts of the world can be given appropriate consideration.”

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

US interfaith leaders leave Holy Land with deeper sense of possibilities

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The interfaith delegation gathers for a group photo outside the Peres Peace Center in Jaffa, Israel, following a meeting with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] A tapestry of words such as “vulnerability” and “fragility,” “courage” and “dignity” were woven into a common thread as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders from the United States concurred that they’d been transformed by a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The experience, they said, would augment their responsibility to partners in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and inform the fabric of their future peacemaking work, both in the region and closer to home.

The 15-member interfaith group was co-led by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, share a moment of quiet reflection during a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the holocaust. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

The group held meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, decision-makers, high-level politicians, religious and civic leaders, and shared in one another’s faith traditions as they traveled for nine days in Israel, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Stops included Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Safed, Tiberius, Ramallah, the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion and its surrounding areas, and both east and west Jerusalem.

While extended meetings with Palestinian government officials necessitated cancellation of a group trip to Bethlehem, some pilgrims visited the West Bank city between other meetings. The full group toured the separation barrier in its route around Bethlehem and its environs in the West Bank. A group visit to Hebron was canceled because of last-minute schedule alterations as a winter storm approached the U.S. forcing some participants to change their departure plans.

(An ENS article about the group’s meeting with political leaders is available here.)

As the group reflected on the week, in conversation at the Palestinian-run hotel where they were staying inside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Gutow described the journey as “a pilgrimage of relationship.

Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, takes a photo of members of the Muslim delegation (from left) Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid; Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and Azhar Azeez, president of ISNA. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“We thickened together as we traversed the holy soil of the holiest of lands. We saw the beauty of the place and we saw its pain. We grew in our understanding,” he said. “It is not the simple vision with which we entered the land but rather the complexity, the nuance, the stories (good and bad), the difficulties that now define our vision of what is there. Holiness takes a bit of work.”

Jefferts Schori said that the pilgrims’ “willingness to enter into deep conversation and both to teach and to learn in the interchanges will continue to resonate. I feel like we’ve had a taste of the eternal reality which our traditions seek.”

She also noted that, as an interfaith coalition, “we have a voice that can speak to political leaders, to other religious leaders, to other civic leaders. There is the potential to light some fires, in the best sense, around the United States, of hope and possibility if we speak together … May we be vessels and instruments of the peace of the Holy One.”

The Quran, Syeed said, “tells us that we have invested human beings with nobility and dignity, but that in order to maintain that dignity we have a certain responsibility. It’s very difficult for us to go back and lose sight of that dignifying process that God has set for us: to look into each other’s eyes, see that there is an image of God, and believe that we cannot allow ourselves to be degenerated, and we will not allow others to be degenerated. It is our collective duty to save each other.”

Members of the interfaith delegation tour the separation barrier in its route around Bethlehem. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

The visit was planned in response to Resolution B019, passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012, that called for positive investment and engagement in the region and recommended that the presiding bishop develop an interfaith model pilgrimage that experiences multiple narratives. That resolution reiterated the Episcopal Church’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution “in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable and secure state for the Palestinian people.”

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has lasted more than 60 years. U.S.-led peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders broke down in May 2014, with both sides blaming the other for failing to make adequate concessions on issues such as borders, the status of refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem, and the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for The Episcopal Church, and one of the pilgrimage’s organizers, said: “It strikes me that narrative is a really complicated thing, because narrative is born out of our own levels of trust with the communities and the people and the realities with which we identify, for us as well as for Israelis and Palestinians. That is a wonderful thing in many ways but it is also fraught with danger, because in clinging to our own narratives … we might fail to see the authentic truth in another narrative.”

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, a member of the Episcopal delegation, agreed. “We’ve not just celebrated our differences; we’ve moved into engaging more deeply the truths that each of us has grown with and has considered holy, but to be able to recognize it in another truth,” he said. “The various mirrors that have been presented have been a lot clearer because of this kind of transparency in community.”

Throughout the pilgrimage, Singh said that he’d found himself “going to deep places, which I cannot do if I’m not vulnerable. When we look at issues of justice, opinions can differ because of the lenses we use. But if, experientially, this is what beloved community can be, that gives me a lot of hope.”

The pilgrims said that the experience of journeying together as an interfaith community would also bear fruit when tackling pressing issues in their own contexts.

“I feel like God has thrown the pebble in the water and the ripples are just starting,” said Singh. “One such ripple for me is this template that can be applicable to peace on so many levels … One of the things I am taking away from here is to invite people into partnerships, and especially with the government, to see if we can figure out some solutions together, and if the faith communities can be helpful in the process … so that we can address some big issues like poverty and violence in our communities.”

Said Jefferts Schori: “I know there will be abundant opportunities for us to collaborate, in seeking healing in the Land of the Holy One, and in the nation we share in a different hemisphere. Peace building in one place impacts troubled and violent situations elsewhere.”

Members of the pilgrimage group have agreed to continue meeting now that they’re back in the United States, for the purpose of sharing trip reflections and recommendations with elected officials and to lead their own communities through an extended journey of shared advocacy, education and dialogue related to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Baumgarten, Episcopalians can expect to hear more about this in the months between now and when the 78th General Convention begins in Salt Lake City in June.

Sharing in one another’s faith traditions and learning about Jerusalem as a shared holy city through the eyes of other faith leaders brought a new dimension to the group’s understanding of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim histories and present context in the Holy Land.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, look out over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

“We knew that each of our traditions saw the face of God in those hills and valleys; we now know that all of our traditions see the face of God there,” Gutow said. “As we grew together, we were able to feel God’s presence in each of our hearts, not just our own. That is the gift. We understand even more than we did, and seeing God’s face in each other only deepens our responsibility to the land, to each other and, frankly, to God.”

The interfaith group tours the archaeological excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid in the U.S., and a member of the Muslim delegation, said that the fellowship among faiths “strengthening our relationships and building trust among us” has been a pivotal part of the trip, especially in deepening his understanding of the land and its meaning as the “sacred places of all the children of Abraham.”

He said the experience also would create space for more opportunities intended to further dialogue and deepen understanding among faiths in the U.S. “This visit has put responsibility on us … because we’ve been given this opportunity to understand” and to act, he said.

Syeed spoke of several U.S.-based initiatives and publications – facilitated by ISNA and its interfaith partners – to combat ignorance, misunderstandings and to change people’s preconceived notions about the Abrahamic faiths.

“We are talking about a fellowship that is determined to change the situation – a transformative fellowship – so that has to be on strong grounds,” said Syeed, with specific reference to two resource guides for interfaith dialogue, Sharing the Well and Children of Abraham.

The pilgrims also recognized that sharing this journey with such a diverse group of religious leaders presents certain challenges and shifts people outside of their comfort zones.

Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that the pilgrimage has involved, “a certain amount of contraction, in our regular prayer routines, our regular eating routines, our regular routines of speaking our mind. We have been deferential to one another.”

Gordon acknowledged that there have been moments of tension and discomfort but recognized that “it is hard to be together and to be in this world of conflict that many of us speak about all the time, and we’ve had to be in this place of listening, but I think we’ve done it wonderfully.”

Members of the group reflect on the weeklong pilgrimage before returning home to the U.S. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Sharon Jones, executive assistant to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, was visiting the Holy Land for the first time. She said that the experience has been overwhelming but that she is returning to the United States with a new purpose and with a commitment to finding ways that she can respond.

Initial anxieties about spending a week with a new group of religious leaders and what she might be able to contribute to the pilgrimage were quashed after meeting everyone on the first evening. “I’ve felt community and I’ve felt a lot of trust, and we’ve shared so much.”

The Rev. Margaret Rose, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations for The Episcopal Church, said: “If we are pilgrims, we continue to be on that journey … We now need to determine what action should emerge, and that action really should require courage. I have experienced people here as being incredibly brave. So I pray for some bravery and courage to do some things that we haven’t done before.”

Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, and Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, in conversation ahead of meetings with Palestinian government officials. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice and interfaith initiatives for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said that instead of looking at all of the things with which she is comfortable and familiar, she “looked up and out, and it felt really different because I am with a new community that sees from all these different perspectives. It touched me … I think a lot of what we’re trying to do is to see the world from God’s perspective, and I think that is one of the main messages we received: to remember that this belongs to God.”

Steinlauf noted that everyone the group met with “ultimately said that we are going to have hope and be optimistic … because you just have to be, and there’s a sense that, well there could be a miracle. To have such disparate views expressed and yet to hear that all are still holding out hope for a miracle, it’s nice to know that we are all working for one and with perseverance that we might actually get one.”

Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, also spoke of seeing things from new perspectives, through the eyes of religious leaders, politicians, academics, authors and activists. “This land is a truly blessed land, but at the same time we find some huge challenges … It is very easy for me in America or anyone else in a Western society to talk about these issues, but the real challenges are faced by the people who live over here.”

Several members of the group said they had been moved and inspired by meetings with leaders of grassroots initiatives – the Shades Negotiation Program, EcoPeace and Roots – that bring together Israelis and Palestinians to hear and learn from one another’s narratives, and to build a peaceful society in which everyone can prosper.

“I was totally overwhelmed by the courage it took for each one of them,” said Gutow. “When you go against the tradition, whatever that tradition might be, when you go against your own people, when you’re willing to stand up and say, ‘this is not the right way to do it,’ that takes a certain kind of courage.”

Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, talk during a visit to the Yardenit Baptismal Site on the Jordan River. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said: “In a time when there is so much energy devoted to smashing one side or another, it was enriching to experience true peacemakers at work on the ground smashing their own comfort zones, and to travel among peacemakers doing the same thing.”

The people who are doing the most transformative work, Felson said, “aren’t the ones who are focused on a document or on policies or on calling out something, but rather about remaining where they are in their community in that authentic place and meeting others who similarly remain in that authentic place, and really embracing a different understanding of what it means for two people with different narratives to come to live alongside one another.”

The Rev. John E. Kitagawa, rector of St. Philip’s-in-the-Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona, said: “We’ve heard from these incredible voices of people who are really putting themselves on the line, looking at themselves so intently, being able to make those conversions of heart. I am leaving in a more hopeful place than I thought I would be.”

In summing up the pilgrimage, Baumgarten said, “What I’ve been encouraged by on this trip was seeing that, especially away from the spotlight, Israelis and Palestinians really are challenging their communities to walk by a different road, and I think that now, in going home, we really are challenged to challenge our own communities to walk by another road.”

Baumgarten drew on the T.S. Eliot poem The Journey of the Magi, in which Eliot writes in the voices of the wise men, “We returned to our places, these Kingdoms. But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation.”

“That’s how I feel as an outcome of this trip,” said Baumgarten. “I feel that if everyone could come here and walk the road we’ve walked together, none of us would be at ease in our old dispensation.”

– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.

Joining hands in mission on Feb. 22, Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Congregations across The Episcopal Church will join hands in mission on Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday, Feb.22, with prayers, sermons and special offerings to support the organization’s work worldwide.

This year’s observance has particular significance, as Episcopalians and friends celebrate 75 years of healing a hurting world through the agency’s programs and partnerships. Today, Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than three million people each year in nearly 40 countries to strengthen communities and combat poverty, hunger and disease.

“This 75th Anniversary year is a special time to celebrate the dedicated efforts, generous contributions and steadfast prayers of supporters and partners who have made this journey possible,” said Rob Radtke, President. “I invite all Episcopalians to join me in holding this organization and its vibrant, global community in prayer, both on Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday and throughout the year.”

Five “I Believe” statements provide the core theme for Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday this year, rallying awareness and action in support of clean water, sustainable agriculture, child survival, economic empowerment and strong partnerships for long-term impact. Congregations may focus on a specific program area with downloadable educational and faith formation resources for all age groups, or incorporate the 75th Anniversary Prayers of the People and Collect into their liturgy. Planning guides and bulletin inserts in English and Spanish are available on the organization’s website at episcopalrelief.org/Sunday.

In addition, the 75th Anniversary edition of Lenten Meditations provides daily reflections for Ash Wednesday through Easter, and a new prayer resource called “Walk in Love” – based on the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, with personal stories and detailed descriptions from Episcopal Relief & Development’s partners and programs – offers weekly devotionals for the entire year.

“Lent is a time of reflection, for renewing our commitment to seeking and serving Christ in all persons and prayerfully considering how to use our own talents and resources to create an abundant shared future,” said Sean McConnell, Director of Engagement. “Episcopal Relief & Development seeks to bring Episcopalians and friends into closer relationship with Christ and with one another, as we strive together to build a global community where all God-given gifts are valued and utilized for the good of many.”

Lent was designated at the 2009 General Convention as a time to encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals to remember and support the life-saving work of Episcopal Relief & Development. Although the first Sunday in Lent is the official day, congregations may observe Episcopal Relief & Development on any Sunday during the Lenten season.

Lenten resources can be downloaded from episcopalrelief.org/Lent. Printed Lenten Meditations and Walk in Love booklets, as well as hope chests, offering envelopes, prayer cards and other materials, may be ordered from Episcopal Marketplace online or by calling 1.866.937.2772. Orders should be placed by February 10 for delivery to most locations by Ash Wednesday, though expedited shipping is available.

“One of the most inspiring aspects of the 75th Anniversary Celebration is talking with Episcopalians who care deeply about the work we do together and are actively sharing their stories and passion with others,” McConnell said. “This year’s Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday will be especially meaningful, as we reflect on our legacy of lifting up those most vulnerable and look toward the next 75 years of building community and relationships that support the holistic well-being of all Creation.”

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.     

Task Force on Study of Marriage presents final report

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has presented its final report to the 78th General Convention and to the Church, and for inclusion in Reports to General Convention, commonly referred to as The Blue Book.

The 122 page report in English is here.

The report in Spanish is here.

The Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage was enabled by Resolution A050 at the 2012 General Convention.

The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, June 25 – July 3, 2015 will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (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 comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses of the Church, at more than 800 members.

Roanridge Trust Award Grants for leadership development programs

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The 2015 Roanridge Trust Award Grants, totaling $160,369 for 10 grants for transformative work across the church, have been announced by Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

The Roanridge Trust Award grants are awarded annually for new and creative models for leadership development in small communities.

“It is exciting how the people of The Episcopal Church are engaging the mission opportunities in rural ministry settings,” McDonald stated.  “There is an incredible commitment to creative ministry. The vision for mission and ministries presented in these programs is inspiring.”

The Roanridge Trust was established by the Cochel family, who originally gave a working farm in Missouri called Roanridge to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The interest from the sale of the farm generates the grant funds.

Awarded for 2015 work were:

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York: $4,900 for Utica/Rome District Discernment Team Training

The Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania: $10,000 for Stevenson School for Ministry

The Episcopal Diocese of Dominican Republic (link is external): $12,480 for Proyecto Taller Costura (Sewing Workshop Project)

The Episcopal Diocese of Honduras (link is external): $20,000 for Proyecto Jabes

The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa: $23,500 for Disenfranchised Young Adults:  Bridging the Gap in Rural Communities

The Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee: $10,489 for Social Justice Outreach Programs in Rural Churches

The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota: $10,000 for Minnesota Indigenous-Ojibwe-Dakota Total Ministry Training Program

The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska: $30,000 for the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia: $20,000 for Chaplains of the Harbor Bible Study Training

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina: $19,000 for Lifelong Christian Formation Training Program

For more info on Roanridge Trust

Dallas diocese announces 4 nominees for bishop

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Dallas press release] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas has announced a slate of four nominees to stand for the election as 7th bishop of the diocese. The candidates are:

  • The Rev. Michael W. Michie, 46, rector of St. Andrew’s, McKinney, Texas;
  • The Rev. David G. Read, 49, rector of St. Luke’s, San Antonio, Texas;
  • The Rev. R. Leigh Spruill, 51, rector of St. George’s, Nashville, Tennessee;
  • The Rev. Dr. George R. Sumner, 59, principal of Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada.

More information about each of the nominees is available at www.dallasbishopsearch.org.

A petition process for submitting additional names is open from Feb. 3-16. Complete information about the petition process and the petition form are available at www.dallasbishopsearch.org. If petition candidates are received, they will be announced by the Standing Committee and added to the slate no later than April 6, pending the required background checks.

The slate is the result of a seven-month discernment process conducted by a Bishop Search Committee composed of lay and clergy members from across the diocese and reporting to the Standing Committee. With the announcement of the slate, a Transition Committee, also made up of lay and clergy members from across the diocese, implements the next stages of the election process, also reporting to the Standing Committee.

The nominees will participate in a series of open “walkabout” meetings from April 20-23, allowing members of the diocese to meet and learn more about the candidates. More information on the times and locations of the meetings will be forthcoming, along with additional information on each candidate, on the bishop-search website.

The election will take place Saturday, May 16. A majority in each of the two orders (clergy and lay delegates) is required for the election of the new bishop. Consent is required from a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan bishops and standing committees. The consecration of the bishop-elect is scheduled for November 2015.

The search for bishop began with the retirement of Bishop James M. Stanton, who served in the role for 21 years until May 2014. The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas is home to more than 70 congregations in the Northeast Texas area, where the combined average Sunday attendance is about 11,300.

Central Pennsylvania ordains Robert Hughes Schoeck

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 2, 2015

[Diocese of Central Pennsylvania] The Rev. Robert Hughes Schoeck was ordained a priest on Saturday Jan. 31, 2015, at St. James Episcopal Church, Lancaster. Pictured here (l to r) are the Rev. Lauren Schoeck, wife of Rob, newly ordained the Rev. Rob Schoeck, the Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert and the Rev. David Peck, rector of St. James.

La Universidad de Cuttington en Liberia necesita ayuda para reabrir el próximo mes

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 2, 2015

En lo que esperan que la universidad reabra, muchos estudiantes de la Universidad de Cuttington, así como profesores y miembros del personal, han sido empleados en la Unidad de Tratamiento del Ébola del condado de Bong, en el Distrito de Suakoko, que es parte del Cuerpo Médico Internacional. Entre ellos se cuentan Chris N. Kollie, fumigador; Alex D. Iolleh, supervisor de sanidad; Jerome D. Padmore, fumigador, la estudiante de enfermería Sophie Jarpa, supervisora de lavado; Nameyeah D. Dunn, enfermera graduada de Cuttington; la estudiante de enfermería Eileen M. Gbassagee, repartidora de medicamentos, la estudiante de enfermería Love Fassama, auxiliar de enfermera. Foto: Universidad de Cuttington.

[Episcopal News Service] El esfuerzo del gobierno liberiano para reabrir las escuelas públicas y privadas del país afectadas por el ébola ha venido a resaltar, una vez más, la importancia que tiene para el país la Universidad de Cuttington —de la Iglesia Episcopal de Liberia— tanto como su precaria situación económica.

El decreto del gobierno ordena la reapertura de 5.000 escuelas públicas y privadas que han estado cerradas desde fines de julio por mandato gubernamental. En tanto las 35 escuelas secundarias de la diócesis liberiana esperan darle la bienvenida a los estudiantes ese día, las tres sedes de Cuttington han obtenido autorización del gobierno para aplazar la reapertura hasta el 16 de febrero debido a la magnitud de la tarea a realizar, según el Rdo. James Callaway, secretario general de los Colegios y Universidades de la Comunión Anglicana.

El campus principal de la Universidad de Cuttington se encuentra en el interior de la región central de Liberia, en el Distrito de Suakoko, a unos 9 kilómetros de Gbarnga, la capital del Condado de Bong. El Condado de Bong es uno de los epicentros del brote del ébola en el África Occidental. El personal de la Universidad ayudó a las comunidades vecinas durante el peor momento de la epidemia, al tiempo que temía por el impacto de la enfermedad en el futuro de la universidad y lamentaba la pérdida de graduados y amigos. Muchos de los graduados que murieron de ébola eran trabajadores sanitarios.

Cuttington, fundada en 1889 en Liberia por la Iglesia Episcopal de los Estados Unidos, tiene otras dos sedes, una escuela para posgraduados en Monrovia, la capital del país, y una universidad comunitaria a unos 72 kilómetros al sur de Monrovia.

La reanudación de las clases en Liberia es “una señal de que el país se está reponiendo”, dijo el Rdo. Ranjit Matthews, encargado de sistemas de comunicaciones en la Red de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS) para el personal de la misión y África.
“La reapertura de Cuttington será un gran paso en la recuperación de Liberia de la crisis del ébola, tal como fue su reapertura en 2004 antes de que la guerra civil se acabara”, añadió el Rvdmo. Herbert Donovan, presidente de los Amigos Americanos de la Universidad de Cuttington.

Cuttington no se ha mantenido ociosa durante los seis meses de clausura. La Agencia de EE.UU. para el Desarrollo Internacional  contrató al Cuerpo Médico Internacional para dirigir una Unidad de Tratamiento de Ébola de 70 camas cercano a la universidad y solicitó la ayuda de Cuttington.

“Gentilmente y en la práctica sin costo alguno, la universidad puso a disposición de estos asociados —que habían venido a ayudar a nuestra amada nación en esta gran batalla por la supervivencia— sus principales instalaciones, incluidos dormitorios, vivienda del personal, almacenes, combustible, cafetería, cocina y terrenos” escribió el 27 de enero el administrador E. Lama Wonkeryor en un informe de 13 páginas sobre la situación.
La Universidad de Cuttington alberga al personal de la organización médica y también es la base de su Colaboración de Adiestramiento Interinstitucional, que prepara a los trabajadores sanitarios para tratar casos de ébola en las Unidades para el Tratamiento del Ébola, según Lisa Ellis, directora de comunicaciones globales del grupo.

Wonkamah G. Gono, de la clase graduando de la escuela de comercio de la Universidad de Cuttington, presta servicios como encargado de adquisiciones del Centro de Tratamiento de Ébola del Condado de Bong. Foto/ Universidad de Cuttington

Algunos de los profesores, empleados y estudiantes de Cuttington han estado trabajando en la vecina unidad de tratamiento, mientras esperan que la casa de estudios reabra, dijo el administrador.

Además, la Armada de EE.UU. abrió un laboratorio móvil de ébola, a principios de octubre, en el nuevo edificio, levantado a un costo multimillonario, del Colegio de Ciencias Aliadas de la Salud. La apertura del laboratorio redujo el tiempo de espera para los resultados de los exámenes de sangre para el ébola de tres a cuatro días a tres o cuatro horas, reduciendo así el tiempo de exposición al virus para los no infectados.

“La estructura no ha sido inaugurada aún”, escribió Wonkeryor refiriéndose al edificio del Colegio de Ciencias Aliadas de la Salud. “Pero puesto que en verdad la universidad está comprometida con servir a la humanidad, esta oferta casi inapreciable puede ayudar a salvar las vidas de liberianos.”

El teniente James Regeimbal descontamina e inspecciona muestras de la documentación recibida en el laboratorio móvil del Centro Naval de Investigación Médica en la Universidad de Cuttington. El Centro Naval de Investigación Médica envió dos laboratorios móviles a Liberia. Cada laboratorio, manejado por dos personas, puede examinar hasta 80 muestras por día. Foto del primer contramaestre Jerrold Diederich/Armada de EE.UU.

El teniente James Regeimbal Jr., microbiólogo que trabaja con el equipo de la Armada que ha establecido esos laboratorios por todo el país, escribió que durante los primeros 60 días “éramos el único laboratorio accesible a las muestras de prueba de la Liberia rural para siete de los grandes condados periféricos. Nuestra localización y la rapidez de las pruebas significó que todos los condados periféricos podían obtener los resultados de las pruebas el mismo día.”

El arzobispo Jonathan Bau-Bau Bonaparte Hart, de Liberia, hizo un llamado el 10 de enero, en el que pedía más de $1.300.000 para lograr la rápida reapertura de Cuttington. La mayor parte de esta solicitud cubre el costo de contratar de nuevo a los maestros, e incluye más de $740.000 en pagos atrasados y costos de reubicación.

Al profesorado no le han pagado desde que la universidad cerró sus recintos en agosto, según un documento que bosquejaba las necesidades de la escuela. Cuttington depende económicamente de las matrículas para pagar a los profesores y para cubrir otros costos operativos.

“Además de pagar los salarios atrasados del personal, existe también la necesidad de añadir una compensación simbólica para ayudar al personal a hacerle frente a algunas de sus dificultades económicas desde el momento de la clausura de la escuela hasta el presente”, escribió Wonkeryor en la solicitud. “Tal gesto puede hacer mucho para ayudarlos a reubicarse, y a prepararse mental y físicamente para trabajar.”

Los restantes $644.000 de la solicitud de Cuttington se necesitan para cosas tales como pupitres y escritorios, tanto para las aulas como para las oficinas de los maestros, renovaciones de dormitorios y cafeterías, materiales para velar contra la propagación del ébola, medicamentos para la clínica de la escuela, nuevos generadores de electricidad para el campus principal y para la escuela de postgraduados en Monrovia (y para el mantenimiento de los generadores actuales), cinco vehículos para uso de la administración, para el transporte de los estudiantes y para generar ingresos, y una podadora de césped y un tractor para el campus principal.

La Armada está utilizando el generador del campus para darle electricidad a su laboratorio, siendo ésta una de las primeras veces en la historia de Cuttington que ha estado generando corriente sin parar. Sin embargo, esa planta se ha reportado que está  desgastada y la solicitud de Hart incluye $60.000 para reemplazarla.

Cuttington también debe liquidar facturas con sus proveedores y lidiar con sus sobregiros bancarios.

El resumen del administrador incluye un presupuesto y una explicación de los problemas en torno a cada una de las áreas que necesitan atención y dinero. Hart hacía notar en un email enviado junto con la solicitud que la diócesis de Liberia estaba explorando la obtención de ayuda financiera y de otro tipo de fuentes locales.

Sin embargo, Donovan afirmó que la universidad está buscando ayuda de manera más amplia. “Como lo sabe cualquiera que haya pasado por un desastre, la ayuda de amigos y vecinos es un mundo de diferencia”, apuntó. Donovan inició una campaña en 2004 después de la segunda Guerra Civil Liberiana para reemplazar los techos de zinc que les habían arrancado a los edificios los saqueadores.

En su solicitud, Hart llamaba a Cuttington, “un orgullo de la Iglesia Episcopal de Liberia” y Matthews dijo que a Cuttington se le conocía como “la Harvard de Liberia.”

El estudiante Chris N. Kollie, que trabaja rociando desinfectante, y la estudiante de enfermería Sophie Jarpa, que es supervisora de lavado, se encuentran en servicio activo en la Unidad de Tratamiento del Ébola en el Condado de Bong, en tanto el condado disfruta del estatus de “ningún caso nuevo” por espacio de más de un mes, gracias en parte a los voluntarios y a la administración de la Universidad de Cuttington. Foto/Universidad de Cuttington.

Cuttington, la única universidad residencial del país, es la sede de la escuela de enfermería de Liberia y, porque ofrece la única licenciatura en enfermería del país, muchos de sus graduados trabajan en situaciones de atención crítica. Muchos aspirantes a médicos estudian una licenciatura en biología en Cuttington antes de solicitar ingreso en la única escuela médica del país —el Colegio de Medicina A.M. Dogliotti—  y los graduados de Cuttington constituyen la mayor parte de los estudiantes de Dogliotti.
Hart explicaba en su solicitud que el carácter residencial de Cuttington hace su administración muy costosa.

El actual brote de ébola comenzó en Guinea en diciembre de 2013 y ahora afecta a Guinea, Liberia y Sierra Leona, según la Organización Mundial de la Salud de Naciones Unidas. Desde entonces, ha habido más de 21.000 casos confirmados, probables y sospechosos de la enfermedad, y más de 8.600 muertes, según informó la OMS el 21 de enero, haciendo notar que se desconocen los resultados de muchos casos. Las incidencias de nuevos casos de ébola han disminuido desde un pico de más de 300 casos confirmados por semana en agosto y septiembre de 2014 a ocho casos confirmados en los siete días que terminan el 18 de enero, dijo la organización.

Naciones Unidas dio a conocer el 19 de enero que el gobierno liberiano había anunciado que la semana pasada no había habido ningún caso nuevo de ébola en 12 de los 15 condados del país.

Matthews participó en una teleconferencia de la Alianza Anglicana el 22 de enero durante la cual Hart hizo notar que si bien los casos de ébola en África Occidental habían descendido considerablemente, aún quedaba mucho trabajo por hacer. Hart, como líder de la Provincia Interna de África Occidental en la Iglesia de la Provincia de África Occidental, supervisa a los obispos de la Comunión Anglicana de Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cabo Verde, sierra Leona, Gambia, Camerún y Liberia. Él, por tanto, tiene una amplia perspectiva de la devastación y de los retos provocados por la epidemia del ébola.

El Ministerio de Educación del país ha publicado unos protocolos para un ambiente escolar seguro, los cuales, según informes noticiosos, exigen que todos los centros de enseñanza impongan mecanismos para mantener el ébola fuera del aula. [Estos protocolos] incluyen medición de la temperatura corporal, sitios para lavarse las manos, un sistema de referencia [de pacientes] y la capacidad para el aislamiento temporal si algún estudiante cae enfermo.

Para ayudar en el empeño de la reapertura de Cuttington, pueden hacerse donaciones a Friends of Cuttington Inc., una organización 501(c)3 cuyo propósito es “solicitar y recibir contribuciones de donantes para becas y programas de la Universidad de Cuttington en Liberia (exentos de impuestos).” Los cheques deben hacerse pagaderos a Friends of Cuttington y enviarse a la Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017

— La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es redactora y corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

Center for Religion and Environment names new assistant director

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 2, 2015

[Sewanee: The University of the South press release] The Center for Religion and Environment (CRE) has named School of Theology faculty member Dr. Andrew R. H. Thompson as its new assistant director. An environmental ethicist, Thompson was added to the faculty in 2014 as a post-doctoral fellow to expand the School’s commitment to this critical area. In 2013, the School began to offer an M.A concentration in religion and the environment.

“Religion and ecology is an exciting and critical field. Religious commitments and communities will play an important role in any forthcoming solutions to current ecological crises. I can’t imagine a more appropriate, or frankly a more enjoyable, place to be engaging with these issues than in Sewanee.”

Thompson’s book, All My Holy Mountain: A Christian Ethical Approach to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, will be published later this year by the University Press of Kentucky.

Thompson is currently co-teaching a course on the ethics of climate change with NASA climatologist Dr. Michael Coffey as part of the M.A. concentration. Coffey will present some of the fundamentals of the Earth’s climate system before addressing how that system is changing and what is driving those changes. Thompson will lead discussions about the difficult moral challenges raised by climate change and the potential ethical responses to those challenges.

“Andrew’s contributions to ethics as it pertains to the environment are important as we expand our academic offerings in this arena,” explains the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, dean of The School of Theology. “As an Episcopal seminary with access to a distinguished interdisciplinary environmental studies program, an active Center for Religion and Environment that spans the University curriculum, and a 13,000-acre domain rich with lakes, forests, and 50 miles of trails, The School of Theology offers an unparalleled opportunity to study for a graduate degree in the field of religion and ecology.”

Additionally, CRE is relocating its office to The School of Theology, on the first floor of Hamilton Hall. This location better reflects CRE’s role as a link between The School of Theology and other University programs related to environmental concerns.

The Center for Religion and Environment‘s (CRE) threefold mission is to help students of the University of the South and the broader community integrate religious belief with care for the environment, to prepare students across the curriculum for environmentally conscientious work and ministry, and to serve as a focal point for University-wide initiatives related to religion and the environment. Robin Gottfried, professor of economics, emeritus, serves as the executive director of the CRE.

Sewanee: The University of the South comprises a nationally recognized College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a School of Letters, and a distinguished School of Theology (seminary and The Beecken Center) serving The Episcopal Church. Located on 13,000 acres atop Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee enrolls 1,550 undergraduates and approximately 170 seminarians in master’s and doctoral programs annually. Sewanee is owned by 28 Episcopal dioceses, the only university so directly related to The Episcopal Church.

Southeast Florida diocese elects Peter Eaton as bishop coadjutor

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 2, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida] The Very Rev. Peter Eaton, dean of St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, was elected as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida on Jan. 31, pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of The Episcopal Church.

Eaton, 56, was elected during a special convention held at Trinity Cathedral in Miami. He was elected on the fourth ballot out of a field of six nominees. He received 87 votes of 161 cast in the lay order and 72 of 125 cast in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 82 in the lay order and 63 in the clergy order.

“I shall strive every day to be worthy of the trust and confidence that you have placed in me today,” said Eaton following the election. “I am particularly honored to be called to work with Bishop Frade, who, with his wife Diana, enjoys the respect and love not just of the Diocese of Southeast Florida, but of so many in our Church.”

A bishop coadjutor is elected to replace the diocesan bishop upon retirement. Frade, diocesan bishop since 2000, will retire in January 2016.

Under the canons (III.11.4) of The Episcopal Church, a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to Eaton’s ordination as bishop coadjutor within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

Eaton has served as dean at St. John’s Cathedral since 2002. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982 from King’s College, London, along with an Associate of King’s College in theology. In 1985, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from Queen’s College, Cambridge, and in 1989 a Master of Arts degree. In 1986, he earned a Certificate in Theology from Wescott House Seminary in Cambridge. From 1989-1991, he was a graduate research student in Early Christian history and literature at Magdalen College, Oxford.

The other nominees were:

• The Rev. Michael J. Battle, 51, interim dean for students and community life, Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts;
• The Very Rev. DeDe Duncan-Probe, 52, rector of St. Peter’s in the Woods Episcopal Church in Fairfax  Station, Virginia;
• The Rev. John C. N. Hall, 56, rector of St. Boniface Episcopal Church in Sarasota, Florida;
• The Rev. Allen F. Robinson, 44, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland;
• The Rev. Canon Martin W. Zlatic, 58, rector of St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Pending the required consents, Eaton will be ordained and consecrated as the bishop coadjutor of Southeast Florida on Saturday, May 9 at Trinity Cathedral in Miami.

The Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida includes 76 congregations, with approximately 38,000 parishioners, from Key West north to Jensen Beach and west to Clewiston.

Episcopal City Mission awards grants for Massachusetts social justice

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 2, 2015

ECM’s 2014 Burgess Urban Fund grantees at award reception with ECM board members and staff.

[Episcopal City Mission press release] Episcopal City Mission (ECM), a faith-based ministry which promotes social and economic justice working through congregations, community-based organizations and people within the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, presented their Burgess Urban Fund grants to 20 Massachusetts grassroots community organizations working to make profound changes to social injustice.

The Burgess Urban Fund (BUF) was established in 1975 to improve the lives of the urban poor and oppressed. Grants are intended to reach community-based organizations that have the power and capacity to reach into many neighborhoods. Over its 40 years, BUF has awarded nearly $7.0 million in grants; this year grants ranged from $10,000 to $20,000.

“The Burgess Urban Fund recognizes that community organizing is an important process that develops power and capacity in solidarity with those in need. Strong organizing requires grantees to engage members of the community to identify shared concerns and create goals for social change; develop new leaders, especially among those affected by social inequality; undertake projects with concrete goals for the core constituency; articulate both the immediate and root causes of the problem through social change, and collaborate with other organizations, regional and statewide,” said Dr. Ruy Costa, Executive Director, Episcopal City Mission. The fund focuses on six key areas: faith-based organizing, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, housing/tenants’ rights, poverty-related organizing and youth organizing.

This year’s 20 Burgess Urban Fund grantees are:

Agencia ALPHA, Boston
Boston Youth Organizing Project
Brazilian Immigrant Center, Brighton
Brazilian Women’s Group, Brighton
Brockton Interfaith Community
Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores, New Bedford
Community Economic Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts, Fall River
Dominican Development Center, Jamaica Plain
Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation: Youth Force
Ex-Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, Worcester
Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, Dorchester
Massachusetts Community Action Network, Dorchester
Merrimack Valley Project, Lawrence
MetroWest Worker Center, Framingham
Student Immigrant Movement, Boston
United Neighbors of Fitchburg
WATCH, Waltham
Women Encouraging Empowerment, Revere
Worcester Homeless Action Committee
Youth on Board, Boston

“ECM’s Burgess Urban Fund grant and support of our work has enabled us to have great success with the recent Raise Up Massachusetts campaign winning an increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour, and up to 5 days of sick time for all workers.  This will make a huge difference to families that struggle daily to make ends meet and make difficult decisions about whether to go to work or stay home to take care of a sick child. Our 2014 grant will build on this victory towards taking the next step for economic and racial justice,” said Lew Finfer, Executive Director of Massachusetts Communities Action Network.

ABOUT EPISCOPAL CITY MISSION

Incorporated in 1844, ECM seeks to mobilize Episcopal parishes, individuals and resources in partnership with other community organizations for social structural change in Massachusetts, with particular emphasis on the urban poor. ECM does this through support for community organizing, mission-related investments in affordable housing, parish-based community economic development, and public policy advocacy. The Burgess Urban Fund was established as a tribute to The Rt. Rev. John Melville Burgess, former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; he wanted a collection of money given to community-based organizations that empowered the poor. ECM’s mission is to work for the economic wellbeing of the underserved as an expression of God’s grace.

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Monday, February 2, 2015

El poeta, revolucionario y activista nicaragüense Ernesto Cardenal ha cumplido 90 años de vida con un aspecto físico bien deteriorado y con ideas inalterables sobre los cambios que necesita América Latina. En conversación con varios medios Cardenal dijo que los sandinistas de hoy han traicionado la memoria de Sandino que luchó contra la intervención militar en su país. Cardenal también dijo que el papa Juan Pablo II se alió con los peores exponentes de la lucha latinoamericana como el mexicano fundador de los Legionarios de Cristo, Marcial Masiel. Preguntado sobre qué deseaba hacer el resto de su vida, dijo que no “quería homenajes, ni exaltaciones de su obra. Quiero que me dejen morir tranquilo”.

En una festiva celebración, la presbítera anglicana Libby Lane ha sido consagrada como la primera mujer en el episcopado de la Iglesia de Inglaterra, una lucha que llevó varias décadas. Docenas de obispos tomaron lugar alrededor de ella en señal de solidaridad. Cuando el arzobispo de York, John Sentamu, principal consagrante, pidió el consentimiento verbal de la consagración se oyó una fuerte voz diciendo “No, no en mi nombre”. El arzobispo continuó el ceremonial sin inmutarse. Lane será obispa sufragánea de la diócesis de Stockport. Está casada con un sacerdote, toca el saxofón y le encantan los deportes. En la Comunión Anglicana hay 29 mujeres obispas.

La Iglesia Anglicana de Kenia aún mira a la Iglesia de Inglaterra como la “iglesia madre” y por eso le duele acciones de ésta como la ordenación de mujeres. La noticia de que Inglaterra tiene una mujer en el episcopado ha irritado a muchos pero se espera que esto sea “una nube de verano” dicen observadores.

Marcus Borg, prominente teólogo liberal luterano y uno que ha estudiado profundamente la vida de Jesús, ha fallecido a la edad de 72 años. Fue uno de los fundadores del “Seminario de Jesús”, un movimiento que trata de buscar en textos antiguos las palabras de Jesús y qué significado tienen ahora a la luz de nuevos descubrimientos. Borg mantuvo su filiación con la Iglesia Luterana aunque con frecuencia asistía a la Iglesia Episcopal donde su esposa, Marianne, sirve en una parroquia.

El papa Francisco dijo desde el balcón de su apartamento en la Plaza de San Pedro en ocasión de la Semana de Oración por la Unidad Cristiana: “¡Es feo que los cristianos estemos divididos! Jesús nos quiere unidos en un solo cuerpo pero nuestros pecados, la historia nos ha dividido y por eso debemos orar mucho para que el Espíritu Santo nos vuelva a unir”.

Con la muerte del rey de Arabia Saudita, Salman bin Abdul–Aziz Al Saud, se abre un nuevo capítulo en la nación petrolera y amiga de occidente.  Su muerte coincidió con la sentencia de 10 años de prisión y 1,000 azotes por criticar al islam. Muchos se preguntan si el nuevo rey introducirá nuevos cambios durante su reinado. Veremos.

La Iglesia Presbiteriana en Estados Unidos próximamente dará un cambio radical que seguramente causará controversias. El cambio consiste en permitir que hombres y mujeres del mismo sexo puedan contraer matrimonio en la iglesia y servir como pastores. La decisión, que también se aplica a diáconos y ancianos gobernantes, no requiere que la iglesia ordene a candidatos gays pero elimina las barreras que hasta ahora impedían su ordenación. Uno de los líderes del movimiento gay dijo que “en las congregaciones hay muchas personas que se sienten llamados por Dios al ministerio ordenado”. La Iglesia Presbiteriana una de las principales denominaciones protestantes en Estados Unidos tiene una feligresía de 2.8 millones de miembros.

La obispa presidenta de la Iglesia Episcopal visitó recientemente la República Dominicana y sostuvo un diálogo con miembros de la comunidad haitiana residentes de Santa Fe, San Pedro de Macorís. Muchas de estas personas han perdido su ciudadanía por decisión de la Corte Constitucional de 2013 que los despojó de su ciudadanía dominicana por su origen haitiano. Se cree que unas 200 mil personas están en esa situación.

El presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro pasa por una seria situación política. Su extenso viaje por Asia y el Oriente Medio no produjo los préstamos que buscaba, su popularidad ha ido en picada, cada día el desabastecimiento es mayor y ahora niega que los ex presidentes de Colombia, Chile y México visiten al encarcelado líder político Leopoldo López acción que le traerá “mala prensa” tanto en Venezuela como en otros países.

CONSUELO. Encomienda al Señor tu camino, confía en él que él actuará. Salmo 37:5

Standing Committee asks Maryland bishop suffragan to resign

ENS Headlines - Friday, January 30, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland wants Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook to resign her position in the diocese in the wake of her involvement in a fatal car accident.

“The Standing Committee has concluded that Bishop Heather Cook can no longer function effectively in her position as Bishop Suffragan. Therefore, we respectfully call for her resignation from her service to the Diocese,” the committee said in a Jan. 28 statement.

Diocese of Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook, who remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into her involvement in a fatal accident, has been asked by the diocesan standing committee to resign. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

The committee’s request is “under advisement right now,” Cook’s attorney, David Irwin, told Episcopal News Service Jan. 30. “We just got the letter a couple of days ago.”

The Standing Committee said the unanimous decision was made Jan. 22 “after significant and prayerful discernment, and with due and proper consideration of the best interests of the Diocese and its people.” The committee sent Cook a certified letter on Jan. 26 asking for her resignation.

In a Jan. 28 press release, Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton said, “It was clear that our lay and clergy leaders on the Standing Committee felt that the best interests of the diocese would be served were Heather to resign. Since this does not impede the Episcopal Church’s investigation into the matter, it is my hope Heather will see the wisdom in this recommendation.”

The diocese “is acting as swiftly as it can in the context of the Episcopal Church’s disciplinary action,” the release said, adding that “… nothing prevents her from resigning as an employee of the Diocese of Maryland.”

Cook spent six days in a Baltimore jail after being charged in connection with a fatal car accident in which she allegedly was intoxicated and texting as she struck and killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41. She is also accused of leaving the scene for more than 30 minutes before returning and being arrested. She is now out on bail and at an alcohol-treatment facility, her lawyer said.

The diocese said shortly after the accident that Cook was involved.

The bishop faces eight charges, including four criminal counts of negligent manslaughter by vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter by vehicle, negligently driving under the influence resulting in a homicide and negligent homicide involving an auto or boat while impaired. Those four charges carry a combined maximum penalty of 21 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The other four charges are traffic offenses of failing to remain at an accident resulting in death, failing to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury, using a text-messaging device while driving causing an accident with death or serious injury, and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Cook was formally charged Jan. 9 and turned herself in later that day after an arrest warrant was issued. She was booked into jail and a $2.5 million bail was set. A judge later refused to lower the bail amount, according to news reports.

Cook was bailed out Jan. 25 by Mark H. Hansen, a deposed Episcopal priest whom she referred to as her “steady companion” and a “passionate Anglican” in an autobiographical statement submitted as part of the search process that resulted in her being elected suffragan in May 2014. The bishop said in her autobiographical statement that she and Hansen had dated in their 20s and reconnected in 2012.

Hansen posted $35,000 in collateral and signed a $215,000 promissory note agreeing to pay $1,000 a month, according to the Baltimore Sun. The paper reported that the only condition of her release is that she not drive.

Cook returned that day to Father Martin’s Ashley, a drug and alcohol treatment facility near Havre de Grace, Maryland, where she had spent 12 days after the accident before being charged, Irwin told ENS.

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 6 but Irwin said Cook withdrew her request for that hearing. The next step in the legal process is up to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who said Jan. 9 when she charged Cook that she intended to present the case to a grand jury.

Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church’s disciplinary process is in motion. Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church governs ecclesiastical discipline of clergy members. Canon 17 of Title IV outlines the disciplinary process for bishops.

There is also an ongoing review of the process that resulted in Cook’s election, said Sutton in a Jan. 13 pastoral letter.

Cook was arrested in 2010 in Caroline County in the Eastern Shore for driving under the influence of alcohol and for marijuana possession. Cook pleaded guilty to drunken driving in that incident, and the prosecution of marijuana possession charge was dropped. A judge sentenced her to supervised probation and ordered her to pay a $300 fine. Court records available online do not note the length or conditions of Cook’s probation.

Cook disclosed the arrest to diocesan leaders during the bishop suffragan search process, according to a diocesan statement released after the Dec. 27 accident, but the entire convention that elected Cook on May 2, 2014, however, was not told about it.

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

Environmental stewardship fellows foster ministry rooted in creation

ENS Headlines - Friday, January 30, 2015

When kids get out into the natural world they develop a sense of awe and wonder, and are more likely pay attention of environmental issues as they get older, says Cindy Coe, one of two environmental stewardship fellows. Here Erynn Smith, Abundant Table’s director of farm education, shows some young students how look for bugs in the field. Photo: The Abundant Table

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church is addressing the call of the fifth Mark of Mission to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth in a number of ways, including through the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s support for the work of two women who want to bring Episcopalians of all ages in closer touch with the earth.

In Tennessee, Cindy Coe’s focus is “getting children outside” to grow a lifelong concern for creation and, in California, Sarah Nolan’s is helping the church see “good agriculture and good food as a justice issue.”

Each of them is six months into a two-year, $48,000 environmental stewardship fellowship awarded by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to provide leadership on key environmental issues in U.S. communities.

“The environmental fellowship program represents a new way in which the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is engaging and supporting mission at a local level,” said Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for The Episcopal Church.

“Conceived and awarded through a process of consultation that included members of the Executive Council, bishops and other leaders, and key stakeholders in environmental ministry, the fellowships allow the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society not only to support innovation and creativity at a local level, but to ensure that it becomes a gift to the wider Church,” said Baumgarten.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society staff consults regularly with the environmental fellows to discern ways, beyond the program’s funding, to support the fellows’ work. (The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.)

“The Justice and Advocacy Mark 5 Fellowships are crucial to the future of our Church as we seek to reconnect with our food sources, lift up the intersections of poverty and environmental issues, and understand what we can do as individuals and church communities to mitigate and adapt to our changing climate,” said Jayce Hafner, domestic policy analyst in the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Office of Government Relations.

Abundant Table Episcopal Service Corps Intern Jeannette Ban harvests salad greens. The Abundant Table’s origin is rooted in the Episcopal Service Corps, a partner of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Photo: The Abundant Table

Nolan, she said, “will grow networks of communities striving for conscientious consumption (for example, procuring elements of worship from local growers) and dedicated to learning more about how our food is produced.”

Coe’s fellowship involves what Hafner called “the next generation of leaders” who are “an essential contingent of our Church.”

“Through educating youth at summer camp, an environment where self-awareness and creative expression is encouraged, she will empower future leaders to leverage their gifts for the ecological well-being of our Church and our world,” she said.

Hafner looks “forward to seeing the fruits of these fellows’ efforts, and am already very impressed by how much they have accomplished thus far,”

Coe’s interest in environmental stewardship issues was rooted when she developed Episcopal Relief & Development’s Abundant Life Garden Project with Brian Sellers Petersen, who is now senior advisor to the president of Episcopal Relief & Development. The project is an interactive, Scripture-based program that invites elementary school-aged students to explore the organization’s work through the themes of water, seeds, soil, animals and harvest.

The curriculum for dioceses, congregations and other Episcopal institutions that Coe is devising during the life of her fellowship is an outgrowth of that project and will involve a healthy dose of getting kids outside, “spending time in nature and experiencing the environment,” she said.

“I would like to introduce creation care as part of Christian formation of children and youth in our church,” she said.

Saying she has “really done a deep dive” into secular research on environmental education, Coe believes that such education is connected to wellness, developing spirituality and becoming aware of the social-justice issues connected to the care of creation.

Getting children connected to nature means “they will become attuned to environmental issues and stick with it for life,” Coe said.

Her research has also included debriefing her 10-year-old son, Jack, about what he liked and didn’t like at various summer camps. “He has been an invaluable resource,” she said with a laugh. “He’s given me some really valuable information about what works, what’s effective, what was fun, what was boring.”

“As far as teaching about nature, we have to get kids outside,” she said, adding that research shows children like to find a special place outside to make their own. Part of the budding curriculum will encourage children to “go out, find a special place, build a fort and have fun with it.”

By doing that sort of thing, children develop a sense of place, Coe said, and “they learn to appreciate God’s creation.”

“You learn a sense of awe, a sense of wonder and that links into spirituality,” she said. St. Francis and other saints understood and honored the connection between nature and spirituality, Coe added, but “that’s something that we’ve either forgotten or neglected in our Christian history lately.”

Yet, “Kids get this. Kids can be silent in nature better than the rest of us,” she said.

Coe has been asking for feedback from colleagues around the church on the parts of the curriculum that she has completed. She plans to discuss it at late January meetings of the Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers organization and of FORMA, a group of Episcopal Church formation ministers.

The curriculum, which can be used in whole or in part, will be available to be field tested in the summer of 2015. She will then tweak the materials with feedback she gets. The sections of the curriculum that are currently available can be found here. That page also includes a method for giving Coe feedback.

The next step is to find a way or ways to publish the curriculum before the summer of 2016.

Connecting Episcopalians to the earth is also the taproot of Nolan’s fellowship work, as is connecting Episcopalians involved in food-based ministries to each other. Those ministries across the church are “innovative and life-giving” and, yet, they are fragmented, she said.

Nolan is the director of programs and community partnerships for The Abundant Table, a Ventura County, California, sustainable farm that offers “faith-rooted, land-based and farm-to-school experiential learning opportunities for school-aged children, youth, young adults and communities,” according to its website. The organization also provides greater access to sustainably grown foods for residents of the southern California county.

Its roots date to the mid-2000s when Nolan was campus chaplain at California State University, Channel Islands. The chaplaincy decided to start a program through the Episcopal Service Corps, a partner of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, in a rural setting and bring the campus ministry and the wider community to that work. As the farm grew, young adults approached the ministry expressing an interest in connecting their interest in food justice to their faith life. Their interest overran the farm’s number of internship placements, Nolan said.

Abundant Table team members celebrate their muddy carrot harvest. Carrots from the sustainable farm will go to the Ventura Unified School District in California. Photo: The Abundant Table

She began looking for other places where those young adults might work. That exploration led in 2012 to a fellowship from the Episcopal Church Foundation to begin to grow a network of folks doing land-based ministry and identifying resources for those ministries. Soon she was in touch with a number of people, among them Brian Sellers Peterson, with whom Coe had worked with on the Abundant Life Garden project. Sellers Peterson had been looking at food-based ministries around the church and connected her with the Beeken Center, part of the University of the South’s School of Theology. She, Sellers Peterson and the center began developing an informal network of ministries. That work led to her application for the environmental stewardship fellowship, she said.

Strengthening the loose network that already exists among the church’s food-growing and food-sharing ministries could impact both the church and the communities in which is present in two ways, Nolan said.

One is involves connecting church pantries with church-supported gardens and farms, while also looking at the potential of the church’s buildings and lands to see how they could be “used and coordinated in such a way that it makes an impact on the local communities and the food system” in those communities.

Secondly, Nolan notes that there is “a lot of work going on around theology, liturgy and spirituality that’s really rooted in the earth, environmental stewardship and creation care.” She sees an opportunity to help people share those resources in order to “connect folks to a growing spirituality that would have an impact on the spiritual life of the church [by] invigorating and renewing the theological and spiritual life of the church.”

“The term that’s been thrown around quite a bit is looking at soil as sacrament,” Nolan added.

At the end of her fellowship time, Nolan said, she hopes to have developed a website or some other platform, modeled on the practices of Story Corps, where Episcopalians involved in food-based ministries can share their stories as “encouragement and also as an inspiration” to the church. Her other hoped-for outcome is the formation of a functioning network that can hold gatherings and support regional and national efforts.

And, Nolan said, her work is not just for people already involved in such ministry.

“It’s important for the church to see how the growing and sharing of food is an open door to understanding environmental sustainability and stewardship,” she said.

Often environmental conversations center on climate change and conservation of natural spaces, which Nolan acknowledged as important, but she said the church’s food, farming and gardening work can be a way for people who might not be inclined to participate in those conversations to get involved. By participating in such work, they can discover the links between environmental concerns and seeing “good agriculture and good food as a justice issue.”

The 2013-2015 budget passed by General Convention is structured around the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission and provided significant unallocated sums for new work targeted around each Mark of Mission. The intention was that the resulting work would be done in new, collaborative partnerships with dioceses and congregations. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has provided seed money and/or matching grants as well as staff support and expertise for the new work.

Coe’s and Nolan’s fellowships are support out of the budget allocations for Mark Five: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The recently released Report to the Church details the budget-supported work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to date in the current triennium.

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

El conflicto israelí-palestino no es una solución de ganadores y perdedores

ENS Headlines - Friday, January 30, 2015

Wearing cassocks, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori lead the interfaith delegation through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. Walking behind, from left, are Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA); Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); Mohamed Elsanousi, director of external relations for Finn Church Aid; Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester; Rabbi Leonard Gordon, interreligious relations chair for JCPA; the Rev. Charles K. Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop; and Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for ISNA. Photo: Matthew Davies/ENS

[Episcopal News Service] En la búsqueda de una solución pacífica para el conflicto israelí-palestino, las personas de fe deben ser socios eficaces comprometidos a escuchar múltiples testimonios, dicen miembros de una amplia delegación interreligiosa de EE.UU., encabezada por la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori, durante una peregrinación de una semana a Tierra Santa.

La delegación de 15 miembros, judíos, cristianos y musulmanes, participó en una serie de reuniones políticas y religiosas de alto nivel en Israel y los Territorios Palestinos, entre ellas con el ex primer ministro israelí Shimon Peres y con el actual primer ministro palestino Rami Hamdallah, a fin de oír una amplia gama de perspectivas sobre la paz, la religión y la política y compartir sus propios puntos de vista acerca del papel que pueden desempeñar las tres religiones abrahámicas en ayudar a configurar un mundo mejor.

El grupo escuchó graves preocupaciones, frustraciones y serios sentimientos de desconfianza en medio de un paralizado proceso de paz, pero también se sintieron alentados por incontables muestras de esperanza y optimismo y galvanizados por ser parte de la solución juntos.

También se reunieron con líderes de iniciativas populares —El Programa de Negociación Shades, EcoPeace [EcoPaz] y Roots [Raíces]— que reúnen a israelíes y palestinos para oír y compartir mutuamente sus historias, y para edificar una sociedad pacífica en la cual todo el mundo pueda prosperar.

“Tendemos puentes esta semana”, dijo Jefferts Schori, “y vamos a seguir transitando por esos puentes, y explorando los abismos que se encuentran debajo, y buscando nuevas posibilidades más allá de las barandas protectoras, hasta que el shalom y el salaam y la paz de Dios prevalezcan en la Tierra del Bendito y a través de la unicidad de la creación de Dios”.

Sin embargo, dijo ella “esto no puede ser un juego de suma y cero”, en la cual la ganancia de una parte equivalga a la pérdida de la otra. “Cuando podamos abandonar [la actitud de] ‘qué nos van a quitar’, podremos comenzar a encontrar las respuestas”.

Junto con Jefferts Schori, los otros líderes del grupo fueron el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas (JCPA) y Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte (ISNA). En su conjunto, representan a unos 15 millones de norteamericanos.

“Hemos experimentado la tierra y su gente tal como ellos mismos las entienden. Nos vamos con un sentimiento de esperanza en que las personas de fe, tanto sobre el terreno como en Estados Unidos, pueden en verdad ser parte de la solución”, dijo Gutow. Les escuchamos decir a israelíes y a palestinos que nuestra presencia como líderes de tres religiones diferentes que vienen aquí en momentos tan difíciles alienta la esperanza de que nuestros sueños puedan llegar a realizarse”.

Syeed dijo que no había ninguna otra solución “salvo salir del actual punto muerto. Es una carga pesada sobre todos los que viven en Tierra Santa. Seguiremos ejerciendo presión a nuestro pueblo y a nuestro gobierno para reanudar los empeños de negociaciones entre las partes y ayudar a edificar la confianza mutua. Los líderes y las congregaciones religiosos seguiremos orando por el éxito y haciendo todo lo que podamos por apoyar estos empeños”.

La visita se planeó en respuesta a la Resolución B019, aprobada por la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal en 2012, que requería la inversión y la participación positivas en la región y que recomendaba que la Obispa Primada llevara a cabo una peregrinación interreligiosa modelo que tuviera la experiencia de múltiples testimonios. Esa resolución reiteraba el compromiso de la Iglesia Episcopal, de larga data, con una solución negociada de dos estados “en la cual un estado de Israel seguro y universalmente reconocido viva al lado de un estado viable y seguro para el pueblo palestino”.

ISNA y JCPA también respaldan esa visión de una paz duradera en Tierra Santa mediante una solución pactada de dos estados.

“Cuando hablamos de la paz, hay una tendencia a mirar los obstáculos”, dijo Peres, de 91 años, quien recibió a la delegación para una reunión de 45 minutos en Jafa, Israel, en el Centro Peres de Paz, que él fundó en 1996 para edificar la paz mediante la cooperación y el desarrollo socioeconómicos.

El ex primer ministro israelí Shimon Peres (al centro) recibe a la delegación interreligiosa el 20 de enero. De izquierda a derecha se encuentran Sayyid Syeed, director nacional de alianzas interreligiosas y comunitarias de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte; el rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas; la obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori y Alexander D. Baumgarten, director de Actividad Pública y Comunicación de la Misión de la Iglesia Episcopal. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

“Las grandes cosas en la vida no pueden lograrse a menos que uno cierre un poquito los ojos. No puedes enamorarte y no puedes hacer la paz a menos que cierres un poquito los ojos. Con los ojos abiertos verás todos los problemas y no captarás las oportunidades”, dijo Peres, que ha sido dos veces primer ministro israelí —una vez a mediado de los ochenta y otra a mediados de los 90— y que recientemente se jubiló de presidente, un cargo en gran medida representativo y de carácter ceremonial.

Peres, que gano el Premio Nobel de la Paz 1994 por su papel en las conversaciones de paz que condujeron a los acuerdos de Oslo, dijo que él cree que “no hay separación entre Dios y el espíritu… En nuestra tierra queremos que las religiones anden juntas. La característica de la nación deben ser multicultural y multiinspiracional”.

En la sede de la Autoridad Palestina en Ramala dos días después, Hamdallah expresó su deseo de paz y reconciliación y calificó de “inspiración” que un grupo tan diverso de líderes religiosos de EE.UU. visitara la región e intercambiara con las personas y los problemas que enfrentan.

El primer ministro palestino Rami Hamdallah recibe a la delegación en la sede de la Autoridad Palestina en Ramala, el 22 de enero. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Las negociaciones entre los líderes israelíes y palestinos, orquestadas por EE.UU., se interrumpieron en mayo de 2014, culpándose mutuamente ambas partes de no hacer las concesiones adecuadas en asuntos tales como las fronteras, el estatus de los refugiados, la compartición de Jerusalén y la construcción de asentamientos israelíes en los territorios palestinos.

Luego, en julio de 2014, Israel lanzó la Operación Borde Protector en la Franja de Gaza contra el movimiento islámico Hamás luego de un aumento de los ataques con misiles. El conflicto de Israel y Gaza, que estalló luego del secuestro y asesinato de tres adolescentes israelíes y del secuestro y asesinato, en represalia, de un joven palestino, dio lugar a la muerte de más de 2.100 gazanos, la mayoría de ellos civiles, y de 73 israelíes, la mayoría soldados.

El presidente palestino Mahmoud Abbas ha solicitado al Tribunal Penal Internacional que investigue presuntos crímenes de guerra cometidos por Israel en los Territorios Palestinos. Israel y EE.UU. han criticado enérgicamente esa movida, diciendo que socaba las oportunidades de [llegar a] un acuerdo de paz negociado.

A principio de enero, Israel, en represalia, le retuvo a los palestinos la transferencia de $127 millones en ingresos provenientes de impuestos.

“Hay un compromiso serio de no recurrir a la violencia”, le dijo, al grupo interreligioso, Hamdallah, que sucedió a Salam Fayyad como primer ministro en junio de 2013. “Condenamos las acciones violentas en cualquier lugar, ya sea en Francia o en Israel. Nuestro tema es alcanzar nuestros objetivos a través de medios pacíficos”.

Pero Hamdallah les dijo a los líderes religiosos que él duda de que los palestinos puedan llegar a un acuerdo con el actual gobierno israelí, liderado por el primer ministro Benjamin Netanyahu. Otros líderes a lo largo de la semana le dijeron al grupo interreligioso que es difícil imaginar cómo podría llevarse a cabo un proceso de paz entre Netanyahu y Abbas, ya que ambas partes se han atrincherado mucho en sus posiciones.

Un importante funcionario israelí, que pidió no ser identificado, dijo que el proceso de paz israelí-palestino “conlleva negociaciones entre dos pueblos traumatizados, dos pueblos marcados por su pasado y temerosos de su futuro. El objetivo esencial en la negociación no es sólo escribir el discurso de tu propia victoria, sino escribir la de la otra parte también”.

Dijo asimismo que el único modo de cambiar de una negociación de suma-cero conlleva no sólo tolerar a la otra parte “sino apostar por el resultado que ellos desean tanto como por el tuyo”.

El grave error en las negociaciones, añadió, es que la gente “cree que debe participar en el advenimiento del Mesías, o en traer la justicia y la paz en un sentido cósmico. Hay que pensar un poquito menos en traer al Mesías y un poquito más en mejorar las vidas de las personas”.

Durante la reunión con Hamdallah, Syeed dijo que la gente de fe en EE.UU. y en todo el mundo se mostró esperanzada cuando el secretario de Estado de EE.UU., John Kerry, ayudó a reiniciar las negociaciones de paz en 2013, pero que se preocuparon cuando esas conversaciones se interrumpieron un año después. Al hablar en nombre de la delegación interreligiosa, Syeed dijo: “Esta es una alianza única: musulmanes, cristianos y judíos juntos, compartiendo la misma visión, teniendo el mismo compromiso y expresando nuestra solidaridad”.

Si bien gran parte de las reuniones se centraron en el conflicto israelí-palestino, el estancamiento del proceso de paz y el papel de la religión, algunas de las conversaciones derivaron hacia temas más filosóficos y reflexivos e incluyeron un cierto número de momentos más ligeros y de risas compartidas.

“El optimista y el pesimista transitan por el mismo camino, luego, ¿por qué vas a pasarte la vida como pesimista?”, dijo Peres. “No es el cerebro el que nos suministra ideas y sueños. Es al revés. Son la ideas y los sueños los que hacen que el cerebro se adapte…

“La ciencia ha cambiado la manera en que la gente ve al mundo. La ciencia puede imponerse a la violencia, de manera que uno no necesite las guerras. La ciencia no tiene fronteras, de manera que uno no puede establecer fronteras en la ciencia. La ciencia no puede controlarse”, añadió Peres.

La obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal Katharine Jefferts Schori le expresó su cordial gratitud al ex primer ministro israelí Shimon Peres por su hospitalidad y su sabiduría. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Jefferts Schori, quien fuera oceanógrafa, le dijo a Peres que “es una gran bendición oírle a usted hablar del don de la ciencia y que el mismo nos conduzca a nuevos lugares. Las personas de fe concurren con un tipo distinto de conocimiento y yo no creo que sea diferente del tipo de saber que la ciencia puede ofrecer. Pero cuando se reúnen invitan a personas que miran con mucha mayor profundidad en el meollo de la realidad, para ver las conexiones que emanan del centro y [comprobar] que no podemos sobrevivir los unos sin los otros. Este es el impulso a la pacificación”.

En otras reuniones políticas de alto nivel, el grupo se reunió con Daniel Shapiro, el embajador de EE.UU. ante el Estado de Israel, con el cónsul general de EE.UU. Michael Ratney, con Ruth Calderón, académica y miembro del Knesset —el parlamento del gobierno israelí— y con Kholoud Al-Faqih, jueza del Tribunal de Sharía de Ramala y la primera mujer que ejerce ese cargo en los Territorios Palestinos.

El grupo interreligioso se reúne con el cónsul general de EE.UU. Michael Ratney (sentado a la derecha de la bandera de EE.UU.). Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Al-Faqih le habló al grupo en Ramala acerca de su trayectoria personal y profesional, la cual conllevó ocho años de determinación y de repetidas visitas a los que deciden los asuntos legales hasta que finalmente aceptaron su solicitud de ingresar en el proceso de adiestramiento judicial. Esto dio lugar a que la revista CEO Middle East la catalogara como la No. 10 entre las 100 mujeres árabes más influyentes del mundo.

La obispa primada Katharine Jefferts Schori le ofrece palabras de aliento a Kholoud Al-Faqih, jueza del Tribunal de Sharía de Ramala y la primera mujer en llegar a ese puesto en los Territorios Palestinos. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

Jefferts Schori recurrió a la parábola bíblica, contada por Jesús a sus discípulos, de la viuda persistente que buscaba que un juez le hiciera justicia. “Lo que ella hace es ir y tocar a su puerta todos los días y lo fastidia hasta que obtiene justicia”, dijo Jefferts Schori. “Tú has hecho lo mismo. Eres un magnífico ejemplo para nosotros. Gracias”.

Shapiro, que ha prestado servicios como embajador desde julio de 2011, le dio la bienvenida al grupo durante una reunión en Tel Aviv, Israel. “El hecho de que todos ustedes —personas ocupadas en sus comunidades— se tomen el tiempo de venir y de participar de una manera profunda, es realmente algo que yo aprecio encarecidamente. Es una serie de problemas arduos, pero no serán menos arduos sin la intervención de personas de buena voluntad”, dijo.

El embajador de EE.UU. ante el Estado de Israel, Daniel Shapiro (el segundo de izquierda a derecha sentado) se reúne con el grupo interreligioso en Tel Aviv. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS

“Desafortunadamente, hay otros enfoques. Algunas personas se distancian completamente de esto. Algunas personas deciden atacar a una parte o a la otra y lo convierten en un ejercicio de ganar puntos. Ninguno de esos enfoques va a lograr nuestros objetivos, que es un futuro pacífico para israelíes y palestinos”, añadió. “Un enfoque que dice que debemos volver, que debemos escuchar, que debemos participar, que debemos ayudar a crear vínculos entre nosotros mismos y con ambas partes y, desde luego, salvando la línea divisoria; es para mí el único enfoque con la oportunidad de tener éxito”.

Calderón, miembro del partido Yesh Atid y quien ha sido miembro del Knesset desde 2012, dijo que ella cree que la religión con frecuencia es “mucho más creativa que la diplomacia”.

Ruth Calderón, miembro del Knesset [el parlamento israelí], se dirige al grupo interreligioso en Tel Aviv. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

“Este es el lugar de Dios, luego, ¿cómo podemos pensar que es nuestro o de ellos? Toda la discusión en torno a quien esto pertenece me hace sentir incómoda, porque sabemos que pertenece a Dios”, le dijo ella al grupo en Tel Aviv. “Puedo decir que si algo Dios me ha enseñado es que no poseo cosas. Estoy aquí de alquiler, máximo, y eso es tan sencillo para nosotros de entender, pero tan difícil para nosotros de decirlo en el parlamento… Creo que hay en el lenguaje religioso un modo de resolver los problemas más dolorosos… Una de las cosas que he aprendido en los últimos tres años en el parlamento es que no puede dejárseles a los políticos”.

Gutow, de JCPA, le agradeció a Calderón por retar al grupo a pensar en qué es lo que Dios quiere. “Si tomamos eso como la medida de cómo miramos las cosas, creo que en verdad llegaremos a lograr algo hermoso”.

Al conectarse con organizaciones de base, el grupo se reunió con líderes del Programa de Negociación Shades, que le brinda a futuros líderes israelíes y palestinos destrezas constructivas para la solución de problemas y recursos para identificar y crear oportunidades para un futuro pacífico y próspero en la región.

El grupo interreligioso viajó a Gush Etzion, donde el liderazgo de Roots [Raíces] reúne a líderes palestinos de aldeas limítrofes con colonos israelíes que, pese al desacuerdo en algunos asuntos fundamentales, creen que es imperativo para las comunidades echar a un lado el atrincheramiento político y las acciones y la retórica divisionistas a fin de empezar a sembrar las semillas necesarias para hacer que pueda afincarse un acuerdo final de paz.

El rabino Steve Gutow, presidente del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas presenta el liderazgo de Raíces en Gush Etzion. Foto de Matthew Davies/ENS.

“Sin crear confianza, la sospecha entre nosotros asfixiará los acuerdos políticos de paz”, dijo el rabino Hanan Schlesinger, coordinador de un proyecto para Raíces.

Su organización de base incluye entablar relaciones con líderes locales, talleres sobre no violencia y diálogo religioso.

“Sabemos que existe un gran desacuerdo sobre muchas cosas —sobre los hechos del pasado e incluso acerca de la realidad del presente— pero creemos que el diálogo efectivo es el lugar seguro para la discusión y para profundizar la comprensión” según Shaul Judelman, coordinador de proyectos que ha vivido en Gush Etzion durante los últimos 13 años. “Es en este espacio que se pueden crear las soluciones”.

Y en Tel Aviv, el grupo interreligioso escuchó a EcoPaz del Oriente Medio, que reúne a ambientalistas jordanos, palestinos e israelíes mediante empeños cooperativos “para proteger nuestra herencia ambiental compartida. Al hacerlo, buscamos avanzar tanto en el desarrollo regional sostenible como en la creación de condiciones necesarias para una paz duradera en nuestra región”, según la página web de la organización.

La iniciativa ha lanzado una campaña para crear conciencia del fin del río Jordán, que se está secando y que se ha contaminado de aguas negras sin tratar en el transcurso de los últimos 50 años.

“Los problemas que vemos parecen incurables y una solución de dos estados se percibe como un sueño remoto”, dijo Gutow. “Pero cuando nos reunimos con personas sobre el terreno, vemos a gente que cree en ese sueño y persistimos en un empeño para encontrar una solución a los problemas de esta tierra”.

Otros miembros de la delegación fueron:

Episcopales

  •  Rvdmo. Prince Singh, de la Diócesis Episcopal de Rochester.
  •  Rdo. John E. Kitagawa, rector de la iglesia de San Felipe de las Colinas [St. Philip’s in-the-Hills] en Tucson, Arizona
  •  Rdo. Charles K. Robertson, canónigo de la Obispa Primada.
  •  Rda. Margaret Rose, subdirectora de relaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas.
  •  Alexander D. Baumgarten, director de Actividad Pública y de Comunicación de la Misión.
  •  Sharon Jones, asistente ejecutiva de la Obispa Primada.

Judíos

  •  Rabino Leonard Gordon, presidente de relaciones interreligiosas del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  •  Ethan Felson, vicepresidente y consejero general del Consejo Judío para las Relaciones Públicas.
  •  Rabino Batya Steinlauf, director justicia social e iniciativas interreligiosas del Consejo Judío de Relaciones Comunitarias del Área Metropolitana de Washington.

Musulmanes

  •  Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, director del Centro Hickey Center para estudios y diálogos interreligiosos en Nazareth College, Rochester, Nueva York
  •  Azhar Azeez, presidente de la Sociedad Islámica de América del Norte.
  •  Mohamed Elsanousi, director de relaciones exteriores de Finn Church Aid

– Matthew Davies es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.