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Presiding Bishop addresses Acolyte Festival

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 13, 2014

“I know it can be hard to get up early in the morning you’re serving, and it can be challenging to learn all the different ways that worship is done – and believe me, every church does it differently! But we need to show others that it’s good to be a friend of Jesus, not a drag,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori tells participants in the Oct. 11 Acolyte Festival at Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

Acolyte Festival
Washington National Cathedral
11 October 2014

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

Have you ever had something go wrong during worship? The day after I was ordained a deacon the bishop came for a visitation. It was my job to read the gospel. We took the gospel book down the aisle, opened it, and I started to read, “The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to John.” I quickly realized something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. Then a parishioner came up behind me and whispered, “That’s last week’s gospel.” Whoops! So I turned the page and went on, “A continuation of the Gospel according to John.” Afterward the parish deacon said to me, “Every week I make a mistake. By the end of my life, I may have made them all.”

We’re celebrating the feast of Philip today. Jesus called Philip to be one of his disciples about the same time he called Andrew and Simon Peter to leave their fishing nets. Philip appears several times in the gospels. Once when they met a big crowd – more than would fit in this cathedral – Jesus asked Philip how they were going to feed them all. Philip answered, “Well, even six month’s wages wouldn’t be enough” to feed this bunch! But a boy’s lunch was blessed and became enough for all.

Later, when Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover (during the events we remember during Holy Week), some foreigners – Greek visitors – come up to Philip to ask for a meeting with Jesus.[1] Philip and Andrew go off to find Jesus, and when he hears the request, he responds by telling them he’s going to die, and that if they want to find their lives they’re going to have to lose them. During the final supper Jesus has with his disciples, Philip asks to see the Father, and Jesus reminds him that they’ve been looking at him for quite a while and they should have begun to get some idea of what God is like.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his followers began to gather in groups in to remember, tell stories, and eat a blessed, holy meal. Those communities had plenty of poor and hungry people in them, and they started to designate some of their number to ensure the hungry were being fed. Philip was a member of the first group to be named to that ministry – they were called deacons. Deacon is a word that means servant or minister, and we understand that every baptized person shares in that kind of ministry. Acolytes are a great example.

Most of what we know about Philip is related to feeding people and introducing people to Jesus. The second story we heard today is another example. Philip and another deacon, Stephen, were in Jerusalem, where Stephen had been preaching about Jesus. After a while, Stephen moves from preaching to meddling, as they say. He accuses some of the leaders in the Jerusalem community of being less than faithful, and they respond by dragging him out and stoning him to death. Philip leaves Jerusalem and goes up north to Samaria. He’s been preaching there with greater success, and his community in Jerusalem has sent others to Samaria to follow up, and teach these newcomers more about Jesus. That’s where Philip gets a call to head south toward Gaza.

He runs across this Ethiopian court official, riding along in his chariot, reading from Isaiah. In the ancient world everybody read aloud, so it’s easy for Philip to recognize what he’s reading. It’s like seeing the video the next car’s passengers are watching, and running over to talk about it. The Ethiopian has been in Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, but because he’s a eunuch he can’t be a full member of the Jewish community. He knows about God, but he hasn’t met anybody who will invite him into a deeper relationship. Here’s Philip’s chance to teach somebody what he learned from Jesus when he asked Jesus to “show us God.”

The eunuch asks who the prophet Isaiah is writing about. Surely he’s heard the prophet’s words as a description of him and his condition: “in his humiliation justice was denied him… his life was taken away from him.” Philip begins to tell him good news of Jesus, the friendship he offers to those who follow him, and the ways he proclaims liberty to captives and freedom to the oppressed.[2]

It was a minor fault, but that’s what the deacon did for me when I got it wrong. We can all do that kind of work. Everybody here is meant to be a Philip or a Philippa – feeding their neighbors and telling or showing them good news.

That’s what being an acolyte is all about – being a friend of Jesus who can show the people around you what Jesus is like. He was a friend to anybody who needed one. You have a remarkable opportunity here today to make new friends from another part of the country or a different church – wow! When you’re on your way home, you might talk about what the person you shared lunch with showed you about Jesus. Philip became a friend to somebody who wasn’t welcome at a lot of dinner tables or in church. Have you ever done that?

The way you serve as an acolyte can be an invitation to come closer and become a friend – or it can be a real turn-off. Do you think your ministry as an acolyte is joyful enough to invite somebody else – or is it only a DISMAL BURDEN? If you find no joy, then I would suggest you go looking for another way to be a friend of Jesus’. There isn’t just one way to show people what God looks like, but all those ways have to show the love that God has for us. I know it can be hard to get up early in the morning you’re serving, and it can be challenging to learn all the different ways that worship is done – and believe me, every church does it differently! But we need to show others that it’s good to be a friend of Jesus, not a drag.

Those two people who reached out to me on my first Sunday as a deacon showed me that even when we get it wrong, we still have friends in Jesus’ community.

When Jesus says to his friends that they’re supposed to go and make disciples everywhere and baptize them and teach them what he’s taught them, that’s what he means. Go and make friends like the friend he’s been to them, someone who loves and forgives and encourages and sets free. That is a privilege and a joy, and there are a whole lot of different ways to do it, including swinging thuribles and lighting candles and herding cats.

And don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re supposed to do our best, remember that we are forgiven even before we ask, and that we won’t get it all perfect until the Second Coming of Jesus – at which point it won’t matter. So remember to find joy in what you’re doing. God loves you – now show the world! God loves you, Jesus is your friend, Jesus is your homie, now go find some more! Discover new friends here, and new skills, and let the world see your joy – shout it out! Jesus is my friend – let me be your friend, too!

[1] John 12:20ff

[2] Luke 4:18-19

Editors’ note: A video recording of this sermon is available here and the order of service is here.

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 13, 2014

Una disputa entre la facultad y los profesores del más antiguo seminario de la Iglesia Episcopal ha conmovido los cimientos del Seminario General fundado en 1817 en la ciudad de Nueva York. Ocho de los diez profesores a tiempo completo han enviado carta a la junta de síndicos protestando por el estilo rígido del deán, su hábito de “usar lenguaje vulgar” y utilizar amenazas de dejar cesante a los que no estén de acuerdo con sus decisiones. Varias reuniones entre las partes litigantes no han producido resultados positivos. Los cinco profesores han sido avisados de que sus servicios ya no son necesarios. La situación es tal que posiblemente el asunto sea llevado a la corte. Observadores de la escena dicen que la cuestión de la sexualidad humana es parte del problema. “No queremos que este seminario sea conocido como un seminario gay”, dijo un profesor. El seminario ha graduado unos 7 mil estudiantes desde su fundación.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, obispa primada de la Iglesia Episcopal, ha anunciado que no tratará de servir otro mandato de nueve años, aunque los cánones lo permiten. Ella fue electa en el verano de 2006 por la Cámara de Obispos y ratificada por la Cámara de Diputados en la misma Convención General celebrada en Columbus, Ohio. La obispa tiene 60 años de edad. Desde ya se están haciendo los preparativos para elegir a su sucesora o sucesor.

Un año después de la masacre se ha sabido que una bomba explotó en la Iglesia Anglicana de Todos los Santos en Peshawar, Pakistán, matando a 127 personas e hiriendo a 170. Las víctimas fueron principalmente mujeres y niños. El obispo Samuel Azariah dijo que se cree que los autores fueron extremistas religiosos. Añadió que pese a la situación y las amenazas la iglesia sigue creciendo. Los cristianos constituyen el 1.5 por ciento de los 189 millones de habitantes de Pakistán.

Una sentencia judicial que ordena en Sudán la flagelación y pena de muerte para Meriam Yehia Ibrahim Ishag ha suscitado una ola de protestas alrededor del mundo. La mujer de 27 años ha sido acusada de convertirse del islam al cristianismo y haber cometido adulterio al casarse con un hombre cristiano. Uno de los signatarios de la protesta es el Secretario General del Consejo Mundial de Iglesias, Olav Fykse Tveit.

Que una aerolínea atrase la salida de un vuelo no es noticia. No así lo que le pasó a un vuelo de El Al la aerolínea israelí saliendo de Tel Aviv. Un pasajero judío rehusó sentarse porque iba a tener de compañera de viaje a una mujer y eso era contrario a su religión ultra-ortodoxa. Después de una discusión la azafata logró encontrarle un asiento al caballero que no quería contacto con las mujeres. Hay de todo en este mundo.

Kieran Conry, obispo católico romano de 63 años de la diócesis de Arundel y Brighton en Irlanda ha sido destituido por el papa Francisco por su propia admisión de que tenía amores con una dama de su diócesis. “Siento mucho que he faltado a mis promesas de ordenación”, dijo el obispo. Semanas más tarde el tabloide The Mail publicó fotos del prelado vestido de civil y de brazos con una dama 20 años más joven que él. Tan malo es pasarse como no llegar.

Recientemente, Ronald Gainer, obispo católico romano de Harrisburg, Pensilvania, decretó que en su diócesis “no están permitidos” juegos de fútbol entre equipos masculinos y femeninos de colegios católicos porque esto da “la posibilidad de contacto físico inmodesto”.

El prefecto de la Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe, cardenal Gerhard Müller, ha dicho que la Conferencia de Liderazgos de Mujeres Religiosas (LCWR, por su sigla en inglés), que promueven el feminismo radical y posturas contrarias a la doctrina católica en Estados Unidos, podrían extinguirse si no cambian de actitud.

El dictador haitiano Jean-Claude Duvalier ha fallecido a la edad de 63 años en Puerto Príncipe de un ataque al corazón. Gobernó al país caribeño con mano dura desde 1971 hasta 1986, cuando fue derrocado por una revuelta popular. Antiguo estudiante de Medicina, heredó el poder de su padre, el dictador François Duvalier, a los 19 años, lo que le valió el sobrenombre de ‘Baby Doc’. Regresó por sorpresa a Haití en el 2011 después de 25 años de exilio en Francia. Estaba acusado de crímenes de lesa humanidad y desvío de fondos públicos entre 300 y 800 millones de dólares.

MANDAMIENTO DIVINO. No robarás.

Primate calls for prayers as Canada joins Iraq mission

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 13, 2014

[Anglican Journal] As more Canadian troops prepare for deployment to Iraq to join the combat mission against the militant Sunni group known as the Islamic State (ISIS), Archbishop Fred Hiltz urged Anglicans to pray for the people of Syria and Iraq and for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.

“Once again we are at a moment in history when the world God loves is on high alert,” said the primate of the Anglican Church in Canada in a statement. “The world has witnessed horrific crimes against humanity and in the considered opinion of global leaders ISIS poses a very real threat to international security.”

The statement follows a vote in the Canadian parliament on Oct. 7 to join a U.S.-led coalition in airstrikes against ISIS. The vote, which passed 157-134, was not uncontroversial. Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair expressed concern that Canada was committing to a prolonged war with an insufficient plan, and suggested instead that Canada provide support to moderate forces already engaged in fighting ISIS and increase its humanitarian response.

The question of what to do in response to the violence of ISIS is a troubling one for many Canadians. Even as he recognized that there are many views within the Anglican Church of Canada as to the appropriateness of military actions such as this, Hiltz did not himself take a position. He instead emphasized a pastoral response, saying that “While I am deeply aware of the significant debates among people of faith with respect to ‘just war,’ it is not my intent at this moment to draw us into that but rather to call us to prayer.”

More than 5,500 people have been killed and 1.8 million others have been displaced since the ISIS attacks began in Iraq in June, according to a recent U.N. report.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has already thrown his support behind the United Kingdom’s participation in the coalition, but has also challenged his government to provide a more robust response that counters the underlying ideologies and social conditions that give rise to terrorism.

Hiltz closed his statement with a sobering call for Canadians to keep Syria and Iraq in mind over the Thanksgiving weekend. “Let us be mindful of all the blessings we enjoy, including religious freedom. Let us remember those who are denied this freedom and persecuted for their faith.”

Dioceses respond to marriage equality decision by U.S. Supreme Court

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 10, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians in many dioceses across the church have been considering how to respond to Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court action clearing the way for same-sex marriage to start in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The court let stand appeals court rulings in three U.S. federal court districts which had overturned bans on same-sex marriage in those states. While it was predicted that access to same-sex marriage could soon be extended to six other states in those circuits, the situation is far from settled, with confusion at even the highest level.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy mistakenly blocked the start of same-sex marriage in Nevada in an order that spawned confusion among state officials and disappointment in couples hoping to be wed, the Associated Press reported Oct. 10. Due to the confusion, AP reported that 30 states, “give or take a few,” currently allow same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, the issue of how the Episcopal Church ought to respond to the changing legal map across the United States is due to be discussed at the 78th meeting of General Convention in July 2015.

The A050 Task Force on the Study of Marriage recently issued a report on its work to date, saying that it was finalizing its report to convention, including considering a response to its mandate to “address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple.”

The task force was formed in response to a call (via Resolution A050 (click on “current version”)) 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 the General Convention in 2015.

Here is a state-by-state look at the diocesan responses thus far in the five jurisdictions immediately affected by the Supreme Court’s decision:

Indiana

In the Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop Catherine Waynick wrote to clergy on Oct. 10 saying that her previous policy of allowing priests to bless same-sex relationships would now apply in those Indiana counties that are granting marriage licenses to such couples.

She also encouraged any diocesan parish that has not yet provided a study of the issue for its members to arrange to do so during the coming year. “Whether or not there are any same gender couples in the congregation, whether or not a priest feels able to preside, same gender marriage is now a legal reality, and the Church as a whole can benefit from reflection on the meaning of marriage, how the provisional rite meets the needs of same gender couples (or not) and what is at stake when decisions about same gender celebrations are made,” she said.

Her letter to clergy is posted on the front page of the diocesan website.

Since September 2012, Waynick has allowed the blessing of same-sex relationships on a case-by-case basis, as have her predecessors over the last 20 years. She approved diocesan use of the General Convention provisional rite in 2012. Waynick also laid out conditions for its optional use in the diocese.

Information about Indianapolis’ approach to same-sex blessings is here.

When the federal appeals court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, Diocese of Northern Indiana Bishop Edward Little asked clergy in that diocese to decline any requests they received to solemnize such marriages because the Book of Common Prayer defines marriage as the union of husband and wife and because “our liturgical and constitutional understanding of marriage remains unchanged,” he told Episcopal News Service via e-mail.

“The policy articulated in that letter remains in place,” he said.

Oklahoma

When the Diocese of Oklahoma went through a discernment process in 2012 and 2013 that resulted in Bishop Edward J. Konieczny authorizing use of the General Convention provisional rite in that diocese, it was agreed that if and when the law changed in Oklahoma with regard to marriage, the diocese “would once again be deliberate in our discernment of how to move forward,” Konieczny told ENS via e-mail. He reported that that conversation began Oct. 7 during the diocese’s annual clergy conference.

Information about Oklahoma’s approach is here.

Utah

Same-sex blessings have been allowed in the Diocese of Utah since Advent 2012. Details of that policy are here.

Bishop Scott Hayashi told diocesan clergy after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that he would soon issue a new policy allowing priests to solemnize same-sex marriages. In an e-mail advance of issuing that policy, Hayashi asked priests to amend the church’s provisional rite to declare couples united “in marriage according to the laws of the State of Utah.”

Meanwhile he told clergy that “because we live in a web of relationships it is very important that we proceed forward with care for all people regardless of their opinion in this matter.”

“Remember also that The Episcopal Church has not yet decided on the matter of same-sex marriage,” he added. “That will most likely happen at the 78th General Convention here in Utah. Until then, we have been given the option of the ‘generous pastoral response’.”

And, in a statement on the diocesan website, the bishop acknowledged that not all would be happy with the court’s decision. Hayashi attended the Mormon Church’s General Conference the weekend before the court’s decision and he reported that Dallin H. Oaks, one of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told the assembly that the church may come out on the losing side of the same-sex marriage debate. He advised church members to “accept unfavorable results graciously, and practice civility with our adversaries.”

Hayashi said he plans to exercise Oaks’ advice and will “practice not only civility but also compassion.”

Virginia

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Bishop Shannon Johnston issued guidelines saying priests in the diocese may officiate at the civil marriage of a same sex couple as a “generous pastoral response” to lesbian and gay couples seeking to be married, and may bless their civil marriage.

Johnston said priests should use the General Convention rite and, at the pronouncement, should add the words “according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia” where appropriate.

He expressly said that the Book of Common Prayer’s Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage rite may not be used because the church has not yet changed its canonical definition of marriage of that between a man and a woman.

Diocese of Southwestern Virginia Bishop Mark A. Bourlakas told Episcopal News Service Oct. 10 in a telephone interview that “it’s a priority for me that our three dioceses are on the same page [on policies towards same-sex marriage] and therefore our policy will look almost identical in every substantive way” as Virginia’s.

The policy has not yet been formally adopted but Bourlakas said he thinks Virginia has taken a “measured approach and not inconsistent with where we’ve already been” on the issue.

For Bourlakas the wider c0ncern prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is that the Episcopal Church is still talking about how to respond and that the conversation must continue within the church.

“My hope is that parishes and clergy will have conversations about their common life and seek understanding; that is what I want to promote in this diocese,” he said. “One of my really strong messages, coming out of our Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of every human being, is that we begin by listening and trying to seek understanding, and we don’t begin with our prejudices. And that can lead us in a variety of directions but oftentimes I think in these discussions we start with people already in their corners.”

Clergy in the diocese have been able to bless same-sex couples, using the convention provisional rite, since  Bourlakas’ consecration in July 2013.

His policy on same-sex blessings is here.

In the Diocese of Southern Virginia, Bishop Herman Hollerith is on sabbatical until November and was not available to comment on the impact of the court’s decision on policies in that diocese. However, Bourlakas said Oct. 10 that Hollerith told him that day that Southern Virginia’s policy will be similar to those of Virginia and Southwestern Virginia for consistency’s sake as the Episcopal Church continues its conversation about same-sex marriage as it approaches the 2015 meeting of General Convention.

Hollerith authorized the use of the General Convention blessing rite as of January 2013. The details of that policy and related resources are here.

Wisconsin

Diocese of Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller told his clergy on Oct. 8 that the Episcopal Church is “still involved in a discussion relative to the theology of marriage” and that the Supreme Court’s decision did not change either the church’s canons or rubrics on marriage. The provisional rite approved by the General Convention in 2012 is not a marriage liturgy, he noted, “therefore it is inappropriate for clergy of this Church to act as agents of the State and sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.”

Miller had announced in late August that he would allow clergy to bless same-sex couples who had been married civilly. Priests must use a modified rite that Miller has authorized. His response came after the diocesan Standing Committee sent him a report recommending that he allow clergy the option to bless same-sex relationships.

The bishop, who signed an amicus brief that supported overturning Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage, objected to the convention’s rite because he said it creates a “second class of citizens in the church” who cannot marry, creates injustice for those who “would suffer dire economic consequences” if they married, obscures the church’s teaching that the place for sexual intimacy is marriage and assumes that previous convention action has all been on one side of the issue.

Miller’s policy on same-sex blessings is here.

Diocese of Eau Claire Bishop William Lambert and Diocese of Fond du Lac Bishop Matt Gunter did not respond to ENS’ request for information about their positions.

Same-sex blessings have not been officially allowed in Fond du Lac. As a nominee for bishop, Gunter said in reply to a question from the bishop search committee earlier this year that the church “must decide for itself what is faithful” regardless of the law in the state but that if same-sex marriage did become legal in Wisconsin, “there will be new urgency for the diocese to deal with its divisions” on the issue.

To meet that urgency, he said, “I would lead the diocese through open conversation along with biblical and theological reflection on the issue itself.”

“And then, assuming division remains, what does it look like to live together in spite of those divisions and what decisions can be made by the diocese such that its faith and discipline are clear even while acknowledging a faithful ‘minority report’?

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

Integrity elects new president

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 10, 2014

[Integrity USA press release] Integrity USA is pleased to announce the special election of Matt Haines as President of the Board of Directors.

Haines will guide Integrity as it celebrates its 40th anniversary year, leading into the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah June 25-July 3, 2015. Prior to this position, he held the title of Vice President of Local Affairs for Integrity USA.

For the first time in several years, Integrity has elected a non-ordained individual to lead the board. His service to Integrity and the LGBTQ community has been extensive: he has also served as the Provincial Coordinator for Province VIII, Portland Diocesan Organizer, Lead Facilitator and Ex-Officio Board member of Rainbow Youth of Salem Oregon, and much work at the diocesan and parish level.

The election featured Haines and the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, both of whom recognized the desire to celebrate Integrity’s successes of that past 40 years with the needs and mission of the coming 40 years. Haines specifically spoke of renewal and the inclusion of all members of the LGBTQ community, in addition to the issues of marriage equality, and the involvement at all levels of the Episcopal Church.

Haines will serve out a vacancy created by the departure of Rev Dr. Caro Hall, and will retain his position through October 1, 2015. He has released a statement “Renewal in Grace and Communion” at the “Walking With Integrity” blog. You may find it at this link.

Integrity is a member-supported nonprofit organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Episcopalians and straight friends. Since its founding by Dr. Louie Crew in 1974, Integrity has been the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Episcopal Church and equal access to its rites. Integrity activities include advocacy, worship, fellowship, education, communication, outreach, and service to the church. Through Integrity’s evangelism, thousands of LGBT people, estranged from the Episcopal Church and other denominations, have returned to parish life.

Votes are in: 2014 Episcopal Church Christmas card contest winner

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 10, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Joan Covell’s depiction of the nativity scene was the top vote-getter in the 2014 Episcopal Church Christmas card contest.

A total of 11531 votes were cast in this first-time contest. Forty-eight artists submitted 70 entries expressing a local understanding of God’s incarnation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Covell, a professional artist, resides in Flat Rock, NC, where she and her husband attend St. John In The Wilderness Episcopal Church, Diocese of Western North Carolina. Her works have been exhibited extensively in studios and showings, and she recently illustrated a children’s book.

“The Baby Jesus is intentionally at the most important place in the composition,” Covell noted. “All the lines of perspective lead to the Christ Child.”

Her image, she explained, included the variety of plants that would have existed in that time – cypress, pomegranate, olives, figs and date palms.

Learn more about Covell here.

The printable PDF of the card will be available shortly.

For information contact Ana Arias, aarias@episcopalchurch.org, or Barry Merer,bmerer@episcopalchurch.org.

Ministry serves farmworkers through sacraments, outreach

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 10, 2014

Farmworkers wear long pants, sleeves and gloves to work in the fields partly to protect themselves from pesticide exposure. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Newton Grove, North Carolina] On a rainy, humid mid-September morning five hours before the Sunday noon Eucharist at Sacred Family, the Rev. Tony Rojas got behind the wheel of a white van and began making the rounds to pick up men from the farmworker camps set back on highways and county roads among the single- and double-wide trailers and more stately brick homes of rural North Carolina.

He picked up men like Abraham Cruz, 47, of Tlaxcala state in east-central Mexico, who for the last seven years has traveled to the United States on a temporary agricultural worker visa to work eight- to 12-hour days in the fields planting and harvesting cucumbers, watermelons, tobacco and sweet potatoes. Cruz’s earnings go to support his family in Mexico, whom he sees two to three months a year.

Over the past 18 years, Rojas has built up the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, a joint ministry of the dioceses of North and East Carolina, with a 16-acre campus on Easy Street in Newton Grove. The ministry serves farmworkers in 47 camps scattered across Sampson, Harnett and Johnston counties.

The men arrive by van or decommissioned school buses early for the ministry’s free ESL classes, haircuts, immigration services and tax and legal advising, and to play soccer. Farmworkers, who spend six days laboring in the fields wearing long sleeves and pants to protect themselves from pesticide exposure, on Sundays change into shorts, jerseys and cleats, practicing for an annual daylong soccer tournament organized by the ministry.

Farmworkers typically range in age from 18 or 19 to more than 50 years old. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The ministry began in 1982 when a single outreach worker identified a need and from her car began distributing clothing and personal care items to farmworkers, then mostly Haitian migrants. Today, with its sacramental ministry that includes three mission congregations and its 20-plus outreach programs, the ministry reaches 3,500 farmworkers directly and impacts the lives of thousands more.

There are some 150,000 farmworkers, the majority of them from Mexico, working in North Carolina’s fields; some documented, some undocumented. The ministry serves them all.

Providing sacraments and outreach to farmworkers, regardless of their immigration status, is rooted in the Baptismal Covenant’s call to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”

By focusing on the sacraments and social outreach, the ministry remains “bipartisan,” said North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry during an interview with ENS in his office in Raleigh, the state’s capital. “That’s the work of Jesus that can be done by Republicans and Democrats.”

Curry has publicly called for immigration reform that would reunite families, but the church’s official advocacy for farmworker justice or immigration reform on the state level is coordinated through the North Carolina Council of Churches, of which the dioceses of North, East and Western North Carolina all are members.

Farmworkers head to the fields early in the morning picking sweet potatoes by the bucket load to fill trucks like these. Photo: Christine McTaggart/Diocese of North Carolina

Agriculture has a rich legacy in North Carolina which today ranks fifth nationally with 8.4 million acres under cultivation and more than 50,000 farms producing $11.7 billion annually in agricultural commodities. Though corn, soybeans and cotton are machine-harvested crops, 85 percent of fruits and vegetables – beans, melons, sweet potatoes, tobacco, strawberries –are picked by hand.

When members of the North Carolina Growers Association can demonstrate the local labor force is insufficient to meet the production needs of the farms, they can fill the gap through the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2A temporary agricultural worker program. North Carolina has close to 7,000 H-2A agricultural workers, and ranks high among agricultural states using the program. (The visa program provides legal entry to work, but critics see it as a means to keep farm wages low.)

Growers can ask for anywhere between 20 and 200 farmworkers, Rojas said.

In 2000, Latinos made up 50 percent of the state’s farmworkers; today that percentage is 95, said Jennie Wilburn, a program associate with the Raleigh-based North Carolina Council of Churches.

The North Carolina Council of Churches, its history advocating for the rights of farmworkers going back decades, runs public awareness campaigns in English and Spanish and uses a Bible-based curriculum to involve the churches, said Wilburn.

Still, she said, “The political climate for vulnerable groups isn’t great.”

Wilburn said, “One thing that’s gotten a lot of attention recently is the Human Rights Watch report on tobacco.”

Farmworkers live in trailers like this set back off rural, county roads. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The 138-page report released in May documents the hazardous conditions and nicotine poisoning faced by children working in the top four tobacco producing states, including North Carolina.

Alice Freeman, who serves on the farmworker ministry’s board, knows what it’s like to work on a tobacco farm.

“I am the daughter of sharecroppers … my dad had five girls, his brother had five girls, they always farmed together, no boys,” she said. “When you grow up on a farm, a tobacco farm with cotton, tobacco, soybeans, corn, you do the work yourselves. We didn’t have brothers to do the work, we didn’t have so much money to hire other workers, we did the work in the fields; I know what it’s like to be in the fields.”

The farmworker ministry addresses a need, seeks to treat people as humans, to be compassionate. “When you are a long way from home, a friendly face, a helping hand goes a along way,” said Freeman.

(Click here for a video of Alice Freeman talking about the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry and its programs.)

In addition to working long hours under the hot sun, migrant and seasonal farmworkers often live in substandard housing sleeping on filthy mattresses or the floor; there might be a shared toilet, or an outhouse, a single shower for bathing and a washtub for laundry.

The Rev. Tony Rojas, or “Father Tony,” came to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry 18 years ago. Rojas himself comes from the Roman Catholic tradition.  Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

During his first three years of ministry to farmworkers and witnessing the living conditions, Rojas said he had trouble sleeping. He’d visit camps at 2 a.m. and all the lights would be on and the farmworkers would be preparing their lunches, which sometimes they’d crouch under the bus to eat to get out of the mid-day sun. He’s seen farmworkers suffering nicotine poisoning through their exposed skin rolling on the ground in agony.

Even after 18 years of working with farmworkers, Rojas still doesn’t understand how they do it, he said. Like the growers, who face the challenges of farming and often carry heavy loan burdens, farm work is a vocation. The farmworkers and the growers provide human beings with the food necessary to sustain the miracle that is life. “Without food we cannot survive, cannot keep the life,” he said.

In 1960, before Cesar Chavez founded the National Farmworkers Association bringing attention to the plight of farmworkers, broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, a native North Carolinian, co-produced an hour-long documentary “Harvest of Shame,” which examined the lives of migrant farmworkers and the poverty that marked their lives.

Murrow’s film depicts the lives of primarily white and African-American farmworkers; today’s farmworkers come mostly from Mexico and Central America. Otherwise, the lives of migrant farmworkers have changed little, according to a follow-up, 30-minute documentary, “Harvest of Dignity,” produced in 2011 in association with the Durham-based Student Action with Farmworkers.

Farmworkers with temporary worker status, or the seasonal workers, are guaranteed certain employee rights, their travel to and from the United States paid for, housing and food provided, and they live on the farm to which they are assigned. Seasonal workers rely on the growers to bring them back to work year after year, and can sit idle while waiting for crops to come in; undocumented workers tend to be migratory and follow their crew leaders to where the work is.

A report released in 2011 studying migrant farmworkers’ housing conditions in North Carolina conducted by the National Institutes of Health found housing standards inadequately enforced and farmworkers living in substandard conditions, with undocumented workers living in worse conditions than temporary workers.

Over the years Rojas said he’s seen some camps’ living conditions improve. And through grassroots efforts, like those of the North Carolina Council of Churches, Student Action with Farmworkers and the Farmworker Advocacy Network, more and more people in urban areas, like Raleigh, Durham and Research Triangle Park are becoming aware of the farmworkers living within 50 miles of them.

For instance, “Harvest of Dignity,” said Wilburn, led the North Carolina Department of Labor, which inspects migrant and seasonal farmworker housing, to require camps to have one toilet per every 10 and one washtub per every 30 residents.

(Jon Showalter and his family, members of Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, North Carolina, have for a decade driven the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle some 40 miles to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry in Newton Grove, the first Saturday of every month. “It has been a blessing for our family to be involved in this ministry,” Showalter said. Click here for video of the food shuttle.)

Changing demographics

“Strong roots, new growth,” reads a sign at the entrance to Harnett County, where on one side of Highway 55 is the campus of Stoney Run Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church and on the other is Iglesia de Dios Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer Church of God.

For the Episcopal Church, said Rojas, to have a presence in this part of the state is itself an anomaly, and building it up among the Latino population, with its Catholic roots, wasn’t easy.

“Latinos by culture and tradition come from the Roman Catholic Church, that’s the one true church,” he said. For them, a different church “means the devil is coming.

Now, however, at peak harvest, the Sacred Family mission, which meets on a concrete slab under a metal roof on the ministry’s property, is one of the largest Episcopal congregation in North Carolina, serving migrant farmworkers, families and immigrants who’ve made the state home.

Soccer has always played a strong role in Rojas’s ministry. Here on a Sunday morning farmworkers practice for an upcoming annual tournament before the Eucharist. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

At 78, Rojas, a former Roman Catholic priest-cum professional soccer player in his native Colombia, maintains a youthful appearance. And when he first began his ministry in the camps, it was the soccer ball that gave him entrance, not the Bible.

“That was how I built a natural relationship with the farmworkers,” he said. After he’d gained their trust, he said, they began asking for blessings and the sacraments.

It took seven years, working for three of those years with the same 18 people.

Today, however, Rojas said, it’s understood that all are welcome and the message is simple: “Christ is our lord and savior … and to live a Christian life: love God, love self and love the other.”

It touches Father Tony to administer the Eucharist to men, like Abraham Cruz, here,  with calloused hands, because in Latino culture, women are more likely to present themselves for the Eucharist, he said. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

After making inroads into the Latino community and building up the farmworker ministry, for a time serving as both the sacramental minister and the ministry’s executive director, Rojas’ next priority is to fortify Sacred Family, which is housed on the ministry’s administrative campus in Newton Grove, and the two other congregations he serves, St. Joseph’s in Smithfield and St. Francis in Goldsboro.

After noon Eucharist, Rojas drives some of the farmworkers back to the camps, and then drives some 25 miles to Goldsboro for a 4 p.m. Eucharist. (Click here for a video of Rojas reflecting on his ministry.)

Since the year 2000, North Carolina’s Hispanic population has increased by 111 percent, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based bipartisan, independent educational institute.

In rural schools, like Hobbton Middle School, where 12-year-old Idalia Rubio-Trejo is a sixth grader, the student body is almost half Latino, Rubio-Trejo said.

Idalia’s father is a farmworker and her mother is a homemaker. Idalia, who is fully bilingual, has three brothers and two sisters; the family has been in North Carolina for 16 years and attends services at Sacred Family on Sundays.

In addition to Rojas, the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry is staffed by Silvia Cendejas, assistant director; and Maria Acosta, an immigration specialist who annually assists some 3,000 immigrants navigate paperwork, work visa renewals and petitions for family reunification.

One need Cendejas and Acosta have identified that is not being met is to provide assistance to women in domestic violence situations. The women are confronted with three or four cases weekly, they said.

An individual farmworker on average must pick two tons, 4,000 pounds, of sweet potatoes to earn $50. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The population increase and the fact that more often farmworkers and their families are choosing to remain in North Carolina year-round has put increased demands on the ministry, said Patti Trainor, the Diocese of North Carolina’s development coordinator for the farmworker ministry.

Longtime volunteer Rolffs Pinkerton, a retired psychologist and member of Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, who 10 years ago began volunteering as a translator, framed it this way: “We’re asked to serve the neediest of the neediest,” said Pinkerton, a North Carolinian who grew up in Venezuela. “And this is probably as close as you can come in North Carolina; I don’t know of a population more in need.”

To meet the demands of a growing Latino population and to continue to serve farmworkers, in 2013 the Diocese of North Carolina initiated the Harvest for Hospitality campaign aimed at raising $400,000 – double the ministry’s annual budget – by June 2015.

Robert E. Wright, who co-chairs the campaign, said Harvest for Hospitality is an investment: “They [immigrants] are a part of our community, and us, a part of theirs.

“It’s a holistic ministry, body, soul and spirit; it’s really seeing people as people, as fellow human beings. It’s empowering, not paternalistic.”

Harvest for Hospitality also aims to bring the farmworker ministry into the 21st century, said the Rev. Lisa Fischbeck, who co-chairs the campaign with Wright and serves as vicar of Church of the Advocate in Chapel Hill.

A successful campaign will not only to provide the ministry with the financial resources necessary for transformation – the hiring of a new executive director and a person to serve as a liaison between the growers and the farmworkers – but also engage young people, both as participants in the ministry and financial supporters.

Already, young people are active in the ministry’s visitation program. In June, for example, the youth group at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines helped out at a nearby Head Start program for children of migrants, did yard work, and with Rojas, visited the camps distributing clothing and personal care items to farmworkers.

The participants, said Paul Collins, the youth minister at Emmanuel, took their experiences and their stories about farmworkers home with them and shared them; they’ll continue to engage in the work and educate themselves about issues affecting farmworkers. After all, he said, they are the future voters.

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

Texas church helps preserve rare prairie

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Rev. Peter Conaty blesses the Nash Prairie at a special service with church members and The Nature Conservancy. Photo: Diocese of Texas

[Episcopal News Service] St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Columbia, Texas, sits in the midst of a once majestic coastal prairie that stretched from Louisiana, across the rolling grasslands of the Gulf Coast, and nearly to Mexico at the Rio Grande.

Less than 1 percent of this extensive tall-grass Eden remains and only a tiny fraction of that is as pristine as when humans first set foot on the vast landscape. Today, 400 acres of it are being preserved for posterity through the joint efforts of St. Mary’s and The Nature Conservancy, the international land preservation organization.

This piece of ecologically rare land – called the Nash Prairie – is considered the largest remnant of the original prairie on the upper Texas coast. Except for the occasional cutting of hay for livestock, it has never encountered the cut of a plow. Plus, “it is one of the most diverse prairies left in Texas,” said Dan Snodgrass, associate director of land conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Texas.

Scientists have identified more than 300 species of plants – some rare and one even thought extinct in Texas – and over 120 species of birds on this biological treasure box.

St. Mary’s rector, the Rev. Peter Conaty, his wife Susan and the church’s parishioners are in large measure responsible for ensuring that this priceless prairie will never be covered up by a subdivision spilling over from Houston, 60 miles northeast.

A Texas A&M University botanist explains the plant life on the Nash Prairie on a guided tour. Photo: Diocese of Texas

The Nash Prairie was carved out of the 12,000-acre KNG Ranch, a sprawling spread named after the owners’ daughter, Kittie Nash Groce. A Houston socialite and Episcopalian, she took over management of the ranch after her father died in 1930. A major contribution from her helped fund the construction of St. Mary’s Church and Parish Hall. At her death in 1957, her will left the ranch to St. Mary’s, the local hospital district and a series of heirs. The ranch completely reverted to the church and hospital district in 2006 when the last of the heirs passed away.

Conaty and his wife suspected the Nash Prairie portion of the ranch, some 20 miles from St. Mary’s, deserved special protection for its historical and biological significance. Scientists studied the land and confirmed their hunches. Following conversations with various preservation organizations, The Nature Conservancy eventually purchased the prairie from the beneficiaries in 2011.

Since the Conservancy’s staff members live more than an hour away, the Conatys, church members and other community volunteers keep an eye on the preserve and “spend a lot of time helping with the management,” Snodgrass said. This includes harvesting seeds from the plants that are used in other prairie restoration projects.

In 2004, even before the Conservancy acquired the prairie, the Bishop Quin Foundation of the Diocese of Texas granted $300 to St. Mary’s to create a Prairie Prayer Garden on the church’s campus and planting it with seeds and grasses from Nash. The garden brings the prairie into town as a community educational tool, serves as an outdoor worship space and provides a prayerful spot for people when the church is locked or “they really don’t feel comfortable in a church,” Conaty said.

Preserving the prairie ties in with the Episcopal Church’s mission of protecting the environment, Conaty said. “God created the earth and we should honor God for this earthly creation,” he said.

St. Mary’s work on the prairie also addresses the Episcopal Church’s endorsement of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability. “St. Mary’s is fulfilling one of those goals since we are blessed with the coastal prairie in our back yard,” he said.

He also believes in what theologians call a “thin place” where heaven and earth meet. “To me, the Nash Prairie is that place,” he said.

With the funds it has received from the KNG Ranch, St. Mary’s has worked to encourage environmental awareness among school children by sending 5th graders from West Columbia Elementary School to the Discovery Program, an environmental and leadership program.

St. Mary’s is not finished with preserving the KNG Ranch property, Conaty said. “Preserving the Nash Prairie was just the first step,” he said. Eventually, the church would like to preserve a section of the ranch that encompasses a stretch along the Brazos River that is a major flyway for migrating birds.

– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and member of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Blanco, Texas.

Misioneros del YASC comparten sus experiencias de servir en el extranjero

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dieciséis misioneros del Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos pasaron del 2 al 4 de octubre en Nueva York para la reunión de reingreso anual de este programa de la Iglesia Episcopal. Foto de David Copley.

[Episcopal News Service] Servir en el extranjero como misionero del Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos (YASC) es más que un trabajo, es un viaje de descubrimiento de uno mismo, de la fe y de la Comunión Anglicana.

“El YASC ofrece una experiencia de apoyo realmente provechosa a personas que quieren ver o experimentar otra parte del mundo u otra parte de la Iglesia”, dijo Becky Gleason, de 26 años, que prestó servicios en Tela, Honduras, enseñando inglés a estudiantes y maestros en la escuela episcopal del Espíritu Santo y dirigiendo los oficios de la capilla de la escuela secundaria.

A diferencia de otros programas internacionales que les ofrecen a los jóvenes la oportunidad de servir en puestos voluntarios en el extranjero, el Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos de la Iglesia Episcopal, al que comúnmente se le menciona como YASC (sigla en inglés), brinda un apoyo familiar de que otros programas carecen: la Iglesia.

“El YASC ofrece una oportunidad de experimentar parte del mundo con respaldo, y un cierto nivel de familiaridad debido a la Iglesia”, dijo Elizabeth Boe, la encargada de interconexiones globales. “El programa se basa en relaciones y asociaciones alrededor del mundo”.

Dieciséis misioneros del Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos pasaron del 2 al 4 de octubre, en el Centro Denominacional de la Iglesia Episcopal en Nueva York, asistiendo a una reunión de “reingreso” que tiene por objeto juntar a los jóvenes adultos luego de concluido su servicio en el exterior para compartir sus experiencias, sus triunfos y los retos a los que se enfrentaron.

“El momento en que uno los ve regresar es el más gratificante”, dijo David Copley, el líder del equipo para asociaciones globales de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Uno ve cómo se han desarrollado y cómo han sobrevivido los problemas”.

El YASC está abierto a jóvenes adultos con edades entre 21 y 30 años a los que se les brinda la oportunidad de servir de misioneros, inicialmente por un año, explorar nuevas formas de vida, mientras prestan servicios a través de la Comunión Anglicana. En la actualidad hay 17 misioneros del YASC —seis de los cuales en su segundo año— provenientes de 18 diócesis que trabajan en iglesias anglicanas de 15 países, desde el Uruguay hasta las Filipinas, pasando por España y Sudáfrica.

El proceso de solicitud del YASC 2015 comenzará pronto, con la meta de reclutar 30 misioneros entre los jóvenes adultos, afirmó Copley.

Todo lo que requiere, agregó él, es una solicitud y la asistencia a un fin de semana de discernimiento.

(Haga un clic aquí para tener acceso a una reflexión para el fin de semana de discernimiento, de Ashley Cameron, que pasó un año en las Filipinas sirviendo en la Diócesis de Santiago).

Carlin Van Schaik, de 23 años, de la iglesia episcopal de San Cristóbal [St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church] en Lubbock, Texas, de la Diócesis de Texas Noroccidental, decidió, cuando tenía 15 años, que quería servir como misionera del YASC.

Su decisión, explicó, estuvo de algún modo influida por [el pasaje de] Mateo 19:21, el relato del joven rico a quien Jesús le dijo que vendiera todo lo que tenía; una lección que Van Schaik ha aplicado a su propia vida. “Yo quería seguir ese llamado”, dijo.

El YASC también atraía a Van Schaik porque, según dijo, “estaba interesada en la idea de la ‘Iglesia mundial’ y lo que significa para una Iglesia estar en asociación con otra Iglesia”.

Van Schaik prestó servicios en la Iglesia Anglicana de Corea en la Diócesis de Seúl, donde trabajó para un programa urbano de cuidado de ancianos y para un programa rural de actividades extraescolares.

El idioma, contó ella, constituía un reto, pero aprendió que el cristianismo trasciende la cultura; y ella llegó a creer en la sinceridad de la expresión. Durante ese año en Corea del Sur, Van Schaik dependió de un diccionario para comunicarse. Eso y la sinceridad pueden llevarte lejos, afirmó.

Van Schaik es una de los seis miembros del YASC que regresan al campo misionero por otro año, esta vez a la Diócesis de Luzón del Norte en la Iglesia Episcopal de las Filipinas.

Otro de los [misioneros] del YASC que regresa al servicio es Alan Yarborough, de la iglesia episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity Episcopal Church] en Ashville, Carolina del Norte, en la Diócesis de Carolina del Norte Occidental, quien estará un segundo año en la iglesia del Buen Salvador en Cange, un pueblo pequeño de la planicie central del país.

A Yarborough le asignaron un trabajo en proyectos de desarrollo económico, dijo, pero realiza gran parte de su trabajo sirviendo como intérprete del creole al inglés y viceversa.

Durante el año pasado en el servicio, Yarborough ha aprendido “a depender más de otros y de mí mismo; he crecido en confianza y en comunicación”.

La interpretación, explicó él, es más que una traducción idiomática. “Es ser capaz de interpretar la cultura, el contexto histórico y el temperamento”.

Sin embargo, una cosa que, según él, le ha resultado difícil de sobrellevar es la falta de privacidad y el ser reconocido dondequiera que va. No obstante, le gusta vivir en Haití y su deseo de volver surge de las relaciones que estableció con haitianos y con asociados estadounidenses, así como de la percepción de que su labor no ha concluido aún.

Después del año de servicio en Honduras, Gleason regresó al sur de California, donde está trabajando para la Diócesis de San Diego, atendiendo el ministerio latino/hispano de la misma. También presta servicios en la iglesia de San Miguel del Mar [St. Michael’s By-the-Sea] en Carlsbad, California, donde se ocupa del ministerio de los niños.

“Siento como si esto fuera lo que Dios me llama a conocer”, dijo. “Siempre me mantengo en oración para ver adónde Dios me conduce”.

(ENS ha producido una serie de perfiles en vídeo sobre los misioneros del YASC que sirven en distintos lugares, entre ellos Roma, Italia; Sudáfrica y en los archivos de la Iglesia Anglicana de Hong Kong; en una misión para servir a trabajadores migrantes y en otra para servir a marinos. La página web de la Iglesia Episcopal incluye vídeos sobre cómo servir como un misionero del YASC así como reflexiones de los misioneros del YASC.

– Lynette Wilson es redactora y reportera de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Province IX bishops study self-sustainability in the Philippines

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bishops from Province IX spent Sept. 24-28 in the Philippines studying the church’s journey to financial self-sustainability in the local context. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Manila, Philippines] In sewing workshops, homes and sheds on either side of the road reaching to the top of a hill where Holy Faith Episcopal Church sits in Igorot Village, men weave hats, scarves and sweaters and women sew labels on finished goods. It’s a cottage industry started by six women who sell knitwear to wholesalers; it keeps the village humming.

The village was founded in the 1950s on 1.5 hectares of land that was once part of a cattle ranch by Igorots, or “mountain people,” from Luzon, the largest, northernmost island province of the Philippines where Anglican missionaries established a presence in the late 19th century. Located on the outskirts of Manila, the village of former bamboo and grass huts, now is home to more than 100 families living in concrete homes with metal roofs.

As the community developed, a preaching station became a mission congregation, an aided parish, and in 2010 called a full-time rector.

The Rev. Echanes A. Cadiogan poses with some of the co-op’s women. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Yet in 2013, at a time when the parish already was 80 percent self-supporting, the congregation felt it couldn’t reach the goal of 100 percent by 2018. That’s where the Episcopal Church of the Philippines’ unique approach to Asset-based Community Development, an approach that includes congregational development, applied. In taking stock of the village’s assets leaders determined that wholesalers were selling on three months’ consignment meanwhile taking out private loans to maintain operations; and the church stepped in to address a need.

With an $11,000 loan from 22 communities in the Diocese of the Southern Philippines, Holy Faith began making loans to the wholesalers at 1.5 percent interest, less than half the 3 to 5 percentage rate charged by private lenders. In a win-win, the wholesalers invested a percentage of the savings into the church In February 2014, Holy Faith members requested full-fledged parish status.

Holy Faith is just one example in the Episcopal Church of the Philippines where community and congregational development have gone hand-in-hand, creating a situation where both thrive.

Holy Faith’s stone stonework is modeled after that in the north’s mountain province, where the Igorot people are from. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

When the church first began thinking about autonomy and financial self-sustainability it invested in programs and projects to raise money, but in the end, without the community development component, the investments were a “complete failure,” said Floyd Lalwet, the church’s provincial secretary, during a Sept. 24 gathering at the church’s national office in Quezon City. Over time the church began to see the communities and the congregations as one, things began to change.

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines’ journey toward financial self-sustainability serves as an example of covenant partnership, one that can be replicated in other contexts.

Earlier that day on Sept. 24 seven bishops and two spouses representing Province IX traveled to the Philippines with the purpose of affirming and strengthening the companionship between the Episcopal Church in the Philippines and the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, and to experience the work of the local church as related to its attainment of full-financial autonomy and, more specifically, the implementation of its Asset-Based Congregational/Community Development program and the application of its “from receivers to givers” policy.

Prior to traveling to the Philippines to study the church’s journey to financial self-sustainability in the local context, the bishops and spouses spent Sept. 17-23 in Taiwan attending the fall House of Bishops. meeting, where Prime Bishop Edward P. Malecdan spoke about the theological context and mission challenges in the Philippines.

Staying true to the House of Bishops’ meeting’s theme of “expanding the apostolic imagination,” bishops explored the mission and ministry of the Diocese of Taiwan; following the meeting other bishops and spouses traveled in groups to Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea to continue learning about mission and ministry of the Anglican Church.

The Province IX bishops visit to the Philippines was three years in the making.

Men weave hats, scarves and sweaters in workshops like these in Igorot Village. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Clergy and lay leadership in the Episcopal Church’s seven Latin American dioceses, covering the Caribbean, Central and South America, first became acquainted with Episcopal Church of the Philippines’ story during a 2011 conference on self-sustainability in Tela, Honduras.

The Province IX dioceses – the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Central Ecuador, Ecuador Litoral, Colombia, Venezuela and Puerto Rico – adopted self-sustainability as a focus in a 2012 synod meeting.

Each of the Province IX dioceses are on their own path to financial self-sustainability, with the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Central Ecuador, with a recent $4 million land sale, closer than the others.

The comprehensive approach to financial sustainability in Province IX is driven by the needs of each individual diocese, and the approach has come from the diocese’s themselves, said Samuel McDonald, the Episcopal Church’s deputy chief operating officer and director of mission.

“Here’s where the rubber meets the road,” he said.

Executive Council in February 2014 adopted the Second Mark of Mission Province IX Sustainability Plan, which was the result the result of a July 2013 meeting of lay and ordained leaders of the province and church center staff.

Following the Tela conference, said Lalwet, the Province IX bishops began asking for specifics regarding the Philippines’ church’s capacity building projects and processes, specifically how cooperatives have aided congregations in becoming full-fledged parishes and the Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark’s, a lending institution which transformed the Diocese of Santiago in the northern Philippines.

There are some 43 registered cooperatives and about 65 un-registered co-ops, farmers associations and development organizations operating under the church’s church and community development model. The Episcopal Care Foundation, or ECARE as the development model is called, strives through partnerships to work with communities to leverage their assets and resources to move from subsistence to self-reliance, while emphasizing sharing, caring, witness and environmental stewardship.

The cooperative concept was something new to Diocese of Colombia Bishop Francisco Duque, who also serves as the Province IX president; it’s something, he said, he’ll look at implementing in his own diocese, one of the youngest in the Episcopal Church.

In Colombia, as in the Philippines and the other Province IX dioceses, many Episcopal churches are located in poor, marginalized communities in need of economic and social development.

More than 25 percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people live below the poverty line, a percentage similar to Ecuador and Venezuela, though their populations are a fraction of that of the Philippines’, according to World Bank statistics. Each of the other Province IX dioceses has a higher percentage of people, between 33 and 65, living below the poverty line.

“The economic and political reality is that our people live in poverty and that our churches are located in marginalized communities,” Lalwet said, adding that by focusing on improving the economic livelihood of people in the community the people are better able to support the church.

This approach, however, from the outset necessitates church and community consensus, he said. “It would also be an error to separate the community development program from church development.”

It also meant a change in mindset, congregations that historically had been recipients, needed to become the givers. “We were breaking the mindset that the church should support the congregations,” said Lalwet.

Historical background

The Episcopal Church established a missionary district in the Philippines in 1898; in 1965 the church became a missionary diocese and in 1990 the Episcopal Church of the Philippines became an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. However, autonomy came before financial self-sustainability: in 1990 the Philippines’ church still relied on the U.S.-based Episcopal Church to finance 60 percent of its operating budget.

In 1992, the Joint Committee on the Philippine Covenant proposed a 15-year stepped reduction plan to gradually reduce every five years’ the Episcopal Church’s support from $800,000 to $533,333 to $267,667. In 2003, Philippine Church ran its highest-ever budget deficit of 6.5 million pesos ($120,000 at the time). And in 2004, the church decided to ask the Episcopal Church for a three-year extension before reversing course.

In 14 years of being autonomous all anyone ever talked about was the subsidy, said Lalwet, until finally someone proposed, “Why don’t we do away with it?”

So they did. And on January 1, 2005, “everyone predicted that the 6.5 million peso deficit would double,” he said, but it didn’t. Instead, for the first time ever, the church had a $55,000 budget surplus.

Lalwet often equates the 15-year period of the subsidy’s attenuation as an addict going through withdrawal. “There were times when people didn’t receive a salary for six months,” he said.

The covenant relationship between the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines remained intact in 2005, but rather than use the subsidy for operating expenses the money was added to the church’s Centennial Endowment Fund, established in 2001.

To encourage the church’s then-six dioceses to contribute to the fund, the church changed the fund’s structure. Rather than position the endowment fund as a “national fund” with monies going to support the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the church split the fund between the dioceses, used a grant and rental income to provide matching funds and loaned the money back to the dioceses for local investment, said Lalwet.

Additionally, Lalwet explained, rather than rely on the subsidy for its operating budget, the church looked to its existing assets and institutions for support; during the period from 2005-08, with the support of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, some of the province’s most beautiful churches were built.

Today there are more than 120,000 baptized Episcopalians worshipping in 400 churches across the Episcopal Church in the Philippines’ seven dioceses covering the archipelago in the Pacific Ocean

Development cooperatives

In the 1960s and ‘70s when the church first began to consider autonomy it started founding cooperatives, which during the period of martial law from 1972 to 1981 implemented by President Ferdinand Marcos, was dangerous.

“Co-ops were considered subversive,” said Lalwet, adding that the church, specifically in Diocese of Northern Luzon, where Bishop Richard Abellon, who would become the first-ever Filipino prime bishop. “The bishop became public enemy number one.”

Despite the harassment and threats directed at Abellon and others, the church continued to found cooperatives because the leadership believed it was the way forward.

Santiago

A 40-minute flight north from Manila to Tuguegarao and another two to three hours by minibus along a two-lane highway deep in the country’s rice basket, where yellow corn for livestock feed and rice dry along the road’s narrow shoulder and on any unused pavement with access to direct sunlight, the bishops arrived in Santiago, where local investment has defined the Diocese of Santiago’s success.

Bishop Julio Cesar Holguin, Bishop Orlando Guerrero and Bishop Luis Ruiz pose with members of St. Peter’s co-op. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The Diocese of Santiago, formerly a part of the Diocese of North Luzon, was founded in 2001, and at the time received 90 percent of its support from outside the diocese.

“This diocese was formed during the most difficult financial years of our church, when the Episcopal Church support was being reduced; when we were in withdrawal,” said Lalwet. “This diocese suffered because it was very dependent on the Episcopal Church of the Philippines.”

It wasn’t easy, explained Lalwet, as relationships, some of them longtime friendships, were strained as a result of the subsidy’s elimination.

Yet, in the end, the diocese started the Episcopal Development Foundation of St. Mark’s, the lending institution that has accumulated a $1.9 million loan portfolio in 10 years, and among other things has enabled farmers to acquire 30 hectares of land. But it is also the biggest source of support for the Diocese of Santiago, contributing $56,000 a year.

In addition to visiting the diocesan office, where they learned about the Foundation of St. Mark’s and shared a meal with clergy and lay leaders from both the North Luzon and Santiago dioceses, the bishops visited two cooperatives, each in very different stages of development.

The first was Del Pilar in Alicia, where the majority of the community’s 3,000 inhabitants are farmers working from a few to a dozen acres of land, mostly by hand and using water buffalos. The church in 2002 established St. Peter’s Savings and Credit Co-op with 15 members, which has since grown to 39. The co-op allows the farmers to negotiate better prices for seed, to rent a drying pavement (access to space for drying rice and corn is scarce), and has constructed a warehouse where grains can be stored and sold as commodity prices dictate. the co-op also has a nine hectare rice farm.

St. Peter’s was modeled after the second cooperative, Holy Spirit Mission and Multi-Purpose Cooperative, which was begun in 1995 and is further along, explained the Rev. Ralph Dampo, who serves as the parish’s director and manager of the cooperative.

Dampo, who was trained in both theology and business management with support from the church, began the mission with the simultaneous goal of improving the lives and economic livelihoods of the farmers in the community and the life of the mission station.

After first conducting a rural assessment: a survey of the land, number of households, linguistics, access to social and educative services, the cooperative started with 16 subsistence farmers, each of whom contributed one fifth of their annual income, about 1,000 pesos, or $22. “It was hard,” said Dampo.

Today, the co-op has more than 100 members, 10 regular employees, a warehouse, drying pavement, trucks. It contributes 10 percent of its income to the parish’s endowment and other funds, pays 70 percent of Dampo’s salary, while supporting the Holy Spirit’s children’s ministry, and has a feeding program, and a relief and rehabilitation ministry.

Holy Spirit Church was built in 2009. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The first church building was constructed in 1997 and a modern building in 2009; Holy Spirit has 200 members, half of them members of the co-op, and an average Sunday attendance of 70, said Dampo.

Cotabato

From their base in Quezon City, the bishops then traveled south an hour and a half by airplane to Cotabato City where they met Diocese of the Southern Philippines Bishop Danilo Bustamante, visiting St. Francis Church and the Hillside Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Upi, in the province of Maguindanao in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, where at 30 percent of the population Christians are the minority.

The group also met with Upi Mayor Ramon A. Piang at his municipal office, where he told them that the local government supports church leaders, and has instituted civic panels, including religious and other civil society leaders, and coordinates with them on poverty reduction programs in the province where 98 percent of the people are farmers.

Seeing the cooperatives in action in the Philippines made Bishop of Venezuela Orlando Guerrero think about the 35 hectare coffee plantation his diocese owns in the country’s northeast, a plantation that isn’t producing to its full yield. Rather than work the plantation with local labor,Guerrero said, he’s considering forming a cooperative and giving local families parcels to work.

The Venezuelan government, he added, also works with religious organizations to empower communities, but that to date the Episcopal Church, unlike the Evangelical and Roman Catholic churches, has not taken advantage of that opportunity.

Hillside Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Upi has a rubber tree planation. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

The co-ops also got Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen thinking about how his diocese’s existing cooperative might be restructured to provide each of 10 deaneries in Honduras with more local authority.

The Southern Philippines program in Upi, like in the north, includes grain drying and storage facilities, but also a rubber tree plantation and nursery, the latter a partnership with the Diocese of Olympia in Seattle, Washington, that distributes seedlings to individual households.

Build the road as you walk it

“We are here as one church … we are here from Latin America to see with our own eyes,” said the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the Episcopal Church’s global partnership officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, during a sermon she preached at St. Francis Church in Upi, on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 28.

“To change direction is to say yes to life, to leave the past, the way things were done, and take the risk into the future.”

McQueen talked about how the Anglican and Episcopal churches planted the seed that today is the church in the Philippines, and how like the rubber trees, where grafting a branch from a mature tree onto a seedling makes the young tree stronger and more resistant to diseases, the Philippines’ sharing its journey toward financial self-sustainability gives strength to the Latin American churches who are on a similar path.

“We are that new tree, and you have given us the example of that new church that took the risk,” said McQueen, and she explained to those present that there’s a saying in Latin America Se hace el camino al andar or “build the road as you walk it”; it describes the journey the Province IX bishops and their dioceses now are on.

Moving forward with self-sustainability in Province IX, each diocese will need a person or a team to give oversight to the development process, McQueen said later in an interview with ENS.

Diocese of the Southern Philippines Bishop Danilo Bustamante and the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the Episcopal Church’s global partnership officer for Latin America and the Caribbean in Cotabato. Photo: Lynette Wilson/ENS

Visiting the church in the Philippines provided the bishops with the principles that hold the process together — “you need to have that foundation,” she said.

It’s important, she added, the Latin American churches articulate their own vision for the future, and that they together look at what they have as a province.

Reflecting on the visit to the Philippines’ church, Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguin said he believed the clergy’s and laity’s entrepreneurial spirit in the face of losing the support of the Episcopal Church and that spirt allowed them to continue in their development.

“I believe that the Philippines’ model can serve as a great help and inspiration for all of the dioceses of Province IX, as in other parts of the Anglican Communion,” said Holguin.

“We are encouraged to throw ourselves into the goal of sustainability, and to carry out with more efficiency, the task of the Great Commission that our Lord Jesus Christ has charged us with.”

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

William Brosend to resign Episcopal Preaching Foundation post

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Rev. William F. Brosend II

[University of the South School of Theology press release] The Rev. William F. Brosend II has announced his decision to step down as executive director of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation (EFP), effective June 30, 2015.

Brosend, who has served as executive director since 2010, will continue as professor of homiletics at The School of Theology and director of the School’s Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program.

“I told the Board of Directors when I accepted their invitation that my goal was to grow the position into an important and interesting full time job. It happened, to be honest, more quickly than I expected.”

Founded by A. Gary Shilling, an investment manager and Episcopalian,  in 1988, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation has sponsored the annual Preaching Excellence Program, a week-long preaching intensive for rising senior Episcopal seminarians, for 27 years. Since Brosend moved from board member to executive director the work of the foundation has expanded significantly, holding annual national Episcopal Preaching Conferences since 2010 and providing programs for more than 20 diocesan clergy conferences.

This year, the foundation, with support from a grant from the Robertson Foundation, launched a new conference for the recently ordained, and has begun supporting peer groups for sermon preparation and evaluation. They have also put in place plans for a one-on-one mentoring program for preachers.

“Bill Brosend led the expansion of the EPF’s work from its original annual preaching conference for seminarians to diocesan conferences co-sponsored by bishops, national preaching conferences, and preaching conferences for Episcopal and Lutheran military chaplains,” Shilling commented. “He has achieved my long-held hope for the expansion of our efforts and the formation of career-long relationships with preachers.”

Brosend confirmed the need for a full time executive director, and it is his intention to remain involved in the work of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation. “We have taken significant strides in the last few years, but it is time for the foundation to identify new leadership to take us even further. If asked, I will do everything I can to support my successor in those steps.”

Commenting on Brosend’s decision, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, he has “brought the Episcopal Preaching Foundation to new levels of effectiveness as it has reached out to established preachers as well as emerging ones. His creative initiatives have yielded a harvest so large that it now demands more hours and hands. I can only say, ‘well done, good and faithful servant!’ and at the same time offer deep thanks for his insightful, visionary, and productive leadership. Bill has helped The Episcopal Church respond to changing contexts and realities so that the Word might grow in new fields.”

Jefferts Schori continued, “I first encountered the Preaching Excellence Program as a seminarian invited to what was then the annual conference. It was a challenging, informative, and extremely helpful experience. Gary Shilling has had a bee in his bonnet for decades about improving the preaching quality in The Episcopal Church, and his efforts have yielded significant results. He knows that, like the bees he keeps, preachers spread the Word and help it become fruitful across the vineyard.”

The foundation hopes to have a new executive director in place in time for the next Preaching Excellence Program set for May 25-30, 2015 at the Roslyn Conference Center in the Diocese of Virginia.

Palmer Trinity School installs Patrick H.F. Roberts as head of school

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Right Reverend Bishop Calvin O. Schofield, Jr.; Head of School, Patrick Roberts; and Rabbi Mark H. Kula of Bet Shira

[Palmer Trinity School press release] Palmer Trinity School (PTS) recently held an Installation Ceremony for Patrick H.F. Roberts as its new Head of School. The school is located in Palmetto Bay, Florida.

The ceremony of installation is an ancient one that reveals an institution’s respect for the profound responsibility of school leadership.  Held on campus at the PTS gymnasium, The Right Reverend Calvin O. Schofield, Jr., Retired Bishop of Southeast Florida, presided over the ceremony.

The ceremony commenced with a trumpet voluntary performed by Palmer Trinity’s music students, followed by a processional with bagpipes into the gymnasium, in honor of Mr. Roberts’ Scottish ancestry.  Music played an important part and was woven throughout the ceremony.

Special guests included visiting speaker, Harvey B. Sperling, Educational Consultant at Vanderbilt University, and Michael Baiamonte, Palmer Trinity Chairman of the Board of Trustees and the public address voice of the Miami Heat.  Rabbi Mark H. Kula, from Congregation Bet Shira, clergy from the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, the Catholic Diocese of Miami, and other faith traditions were represented. Respected educators and local dignitaries were also in attendance, most notably The Reverend Daniel R. Heischman, D.D., executive director at the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES), Village of Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Councilman Patrick Fiore.

RIP: The Rev. Gary P. Fertig

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Rev. Gary P. Fertig, rector of The Church of The Ascension in Chicago until his retirement in 2012, has died aged 62.

A former vicar of Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue in New York and teacher at the choir school, Fertig was a graduate of Nashotah House Seminary.

Fertig will be buried in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Friday, Oct. 10 at 10 a.m. A Requiem Mass will be said by the Rev. David Cobb, rector of Ascension, at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, prior to Fertig’s burial.

A notice from Church of the Ascension is available here.

Ethiopia Anglican Church thrives despite limited resources

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Displaced Christians are helping to plant more churches, and refugee Christians from different tribes are worshiping together to make a point about unity. Photo: Anglican Church of Ethiopia

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Ethiopia is determined to continue growing despite the numerous challenges including limited financial resources, the impact of conflict in neighboring countries and the generally “restrictive environment” in which it operates.

In an interview with ACNS, the Rt. Rev. Grant LeMarquand, Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa in the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, said: “We are doing what we can in this difficult situation, with limited resources and with restrictions put on what we can do.”

The bishop is based in the Gambela Region of Ethiopia, most of which is at a low elevation and prone to flooding. It is also host to three UNHCR camps, sheltering more than 18,000 refugees mainly from neighboring countries.

Refugee churches a witness
Despite the overwhelming numbers of refugees in the country, LeMarquand expressed his optimism for the church there. He said, “The churches in the refugee camps in this country are thriving.

“One camp had people from four different ethnic groups: Anuak, Nuer, Dinka and Murle,” he explained. “When I met with representatives of the church, they made it clear that they didn’t want separate churches because they wanted to send a message to people of South Sudan, that they can live together and not have to fight.”

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR recently announced that Ethiopia had overtaken Kenya to become the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, sheltering more that 600,000 refugees as of the end of July.

The crisis in South Sudan has been the major cause of this massive displacement both internally and in neighboring countries. UNHCR reports that as of mid August about 2 million South Sudanese had been forcibly displaced, and more than 575,000 of these, into neighboring countries.

Churches with no name
LeMaquarnd also talked about the efforts the church there is putting in place to reach the people in far-flung areas. He recounted his experiences visiting two small Nuer-speaking village churches in Ethiopia.

“Neither congregations had a building or name, just a tree to worship under. Names are only given to churches when the bishop visits,” he said. We dedicated the first church St Martha’s Anglican Church and the other Holy Trinity Anglican Church. Both congregations are small, but each has had a long, faithful and enthusiastic ministry in their area.

“Bethlehem Anglican Church is a Anuak-speaking congregation that we also visited. It is less than a year old and has no full time pastor,” he reported. “But due to their good lay leadership and hard work, they have managed to build a new church building for their town and also planted several new congregations in the surrounding villages within the year.”

Call for prayer, help
A recent statement from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African organization that seeks peace and prosperity for its members, recently highlighted the plight of the people in the Horn of Africa region of the continent.

“The drought, violence and conflict have caused food shortages in Somalia and South Sudan,” it noted. LeMarquand responded to this by encouraging Christian leaders world over to “please ask your people to pray that God might intervene.”

Reports indicate that about 3.9 million are severely food insecure, with 1.2 million already at the risk of famine if violence continues. Over 50,000 children are also at a risk of dying from starvation.

The Episcopal Area of the Horn of Africa includes the four countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia with the majority of Anglican churches being in the western part of Ethiopia. With the on-going conflict in South Sudan, the church there cannot avoid it but deal with some of the war-effect including the influx of refugees.

West Africa clergy issue Ebola challenge to global Anglicans

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Primate and Bishop of Kumasi Dr Daniel Sarfo’s clergy have determined that shaking hands during sharing the Peace will no longer be permitted to stop the spread of Ebola. Photo: The Church of the Province of West Africa

[Anglican Communion News Service] Clergy in West Africa have challenged Anglicans worldwide to “live as their brothers’ keepers” and act to address the Ebola crisis.

The priests of the Anglican Diocese of Kumasi, Ghana, issued their challenge after a workshop entitled Church and Community Response to Ebola in which they learned more about the disease and how to prevent its spread.

In a statement issued after the workshop Message to the International Community, they said, “We challenge the international community to live as their brothers’ keepers*. We encourage Anglican Churches or Christian Churches the world over to express their solidarity by observing one Sunday as Ebola Sunday to pray and mobilize resources for the affected areas in the sub-region or West Africa.”

“They should encourage their governments to send resources especially the found drug to the affected areas by way of advocacy.”

The clergy did not hold back as they called on the United Nations to provide material and equipment to countries affected by the virus. They also called for international community to collaborate to stop conflict in countries in Africa and the Middle East “instead of waiting for lives and property to be destroyed before the come in with aid”.

No more shaking hands
The workshop training carried out at St Cyprian’s Anglican Cathedral, Kumasi, was led by Dr Irene des Bordes. It prompted the clergy to announce they would cease embracing and shaking hands during the Peace at church services; would only perform Holy Communion by intinction; would wear gloves, socks and shoes when visiting the dead or those in hospital; and would wash their hands using running water and hand sanitizers.

Several provincial Churches of the Anglican Communion including in Nigeria have announced similar precautions in hope that they can stop the spread of this disease that has, to date, killed 3,439 people and infected 7,494. Experts say it could infect up to 1.5m people by January of next year.

Ebola at war against humanity
The Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa, the Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo, also issued a statement welcoming the UN UN Mission on Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

He expressed his gratitude to its staff and also other agencies including the Anglican agency Us for their contribution to tackling the crisis in region. He said, “Now Ebola is at war against humanity, the world must act now to stop Ebola.”

The full statement can be found below.

THE PRIMATE OF THE CHURCH OF THE PROVINCE OF WEST AFRICA WELCOMES UN MISSION ON EBOLA EMERGENCY RESPONSE

On behalf of the President, the people and the Church of the Province of West Africa (Anglican Communion), I welcome the UN Mission on Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) led by Mr. Anthony Banbury to Accra, Ghana to begin a mission to contain the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa. We consider the UN mission as timely and we are very grateful.

The Advance Party of United Nations Mission on Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has arrived in Accra in Ghana, which will be used as the base for the Mission. It will be made up of 250 personnel – 100 will be based in Accra and 150 for the affected Countries.

Their mandate is five-fold – “stopping the outbreak; treating the infected; ensuring essential services; preserving stability; and preventing further outbreak. It is our prayers that we all support them to make the mission’s work a great success.

We express our profound appreciation to the UN, WHO, Organizations and Bodies like the Bill Gate Foundation for coming to our Aid, not forgetting those working with the Anglican Church such as Us (USPG) , UK Government through DFID and those who are about to join. We also encourage Anglican Churches or Christian Churches the world over to express their solidarity by observing one Sunday as Ebola Sunday to pray and mobilize resources for the affected areas in the sub-region or West Africa.

Now Ebola is at war against humanity, the world must act now to stop Ebola.

With every blessing
++Daniel, CPWA
Archbishop Daniel Yinkah Sarfo

ENDS

Notes

*From Genesis 4:10 ‘Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”‘

Un mensaje de TREC después de la reunión de toda la Iglesia

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

[7 de octubre de 2014] El equipo de trabajo para re-imaginar la Iglesia Episcopal (TREC) ha emitido un mensaje después de la reunión de toda la Iglesia del 2 de octubre.

Queremos agradecer a todos los que participaron en nuestra reunión de toda la Iglesia el pasado jueves por la noche. Más de 140 personas asistieron en la Catedral Nacional de Washington y más de 4.000 personas sintonizaron la reunión en una transmisión en vivo. Grabaciones en inglés y español de toda la reunión se pueden encontrar en la página web de TREC: reimaginetec.org. Una grabación con una transcripción con subtítulos será publicado tan pronto como esté listo. Estamos muy agradecidos a la Catedral Nacional de Washington y a la Iglesia la Trinidad de Wall Street por apoyar esta reunión y nuestro trabajo.

Después de la reunión de toda la iglesia, miembros del grupo de trabajo se reunieron en Washington, DC durante dos días para revisar las preguntas y comentarios que hemos recibido antes, durante, y después de la reunión de toda la Iglesia. Se recibieron preguntas y comentarios a través de Twitter, Facebook, web, mensajes de correo electrónico, blogs, y de debates  en persona.

Estamos muy agradecidos por las respuestas bien analizadas y preguntas sobre nuestro trabajo, y apreciamos los desafíos a las ideas que hemos publicado hasta la fecha. Durante esta última reunión en persona en conjunto, nos encontramos debatiendo y orando profundamente sobre temas de discipulado, liderazgo compartido, y cambios a medida que continuamos para dar forma a nuestras recomendaciones finales.

El informe final de TREC se enviará a la oficina de la Convención General a finales de noviembre, y se dará a conocer a la Iglesia tan pronto como traducciones de la lengua española y francesa estén completos. El informe final de TREC contendrá recomendaciones específicas para la 78a Convención General en la Ciudad de Salt Lake en Utah en julio del 2015

Pedimos sus oraciones continuas a medida que completemos nuestro trabajo:

Espíritu Santo, que te ciernes sobre todo el mundo, llena los corazones y las mentes de tus siervos del equipo de trabajo para re-imaginar la Iglesia Episcopal con la sabiduría, claridad y coraje. Trabaja en ellos, mientras que ellos examinan y recomiendan reformas para la estructura, gobierno y administración de esta rama de la Iglesia una, santa, católica y apostólica. Ayúdelos a proponer reformas para proclamar de manera más eficaz mediante la palabra y el ejemplo, las Buenas Nuevas de Dios en Cristo, para desafiar el mundo para buscar y servir a Cristo en todas las personas —amando a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos y ser luz ardiente para el tipo de justicia y  paz que lleva a todas las personas que respeten la dignidad de cada ser humano.

Permanece con la Iglesia Episcopal para que todos podamos estar abiertos a los desafíos que este grupo de trabajo nos traerá a nosotros- — ayúdanos a toda la Iglesia a discernir su voluntad para nuestro futuro. En el nombre de Jesucristo, nuestro mediador, en cuya vida se fundó esta Iglesia. AMÉN

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

 

YASC missionaries unpack their experiences serving abroad

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sixteen Young Adult Service Corps missionaries spent Oct. 2-4 in New York for the Episcopal Church program’s annual re-entry gathering. Photo: David Copley

[Episcopal News Service] Serving abroad as a Young Adult Service Corps missionary is more than just a job, it’s a journey of discovery of self, faith and of the Anglican Communion.

“YASC provides a really good support experience for people who want to see or experience another part of the world or another part of the church,” said Becky Gleason, 26, who served in Tela, Honduras, in the Diocese of Honduras, teaching English to both students and teachers at Holy Spirit Episcopal School and leading high school chapel services.

As opposed to other international programs that offer young people an opportunity to serve in volunteer positions abroad, the Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corps program, commonly referred to as YASC, offers one familiar comfort the others do not: the church.

“YASC offers an opportunity to experience a different part of the world with support, and a level of familiarity because of the church,” said Elizabeth Boe, the Episcopal Church’s officer for global networking. “The program is based in relationships, partnerships around the world.”

Sixteen Young Adult Service Corps missionaries spent Oct. 2-4 in New York City at the Episcopal Church Center attending a “re-entry” gathering intended to bring the young adults together following their time abroad to share their experiences, triumphs and challenges.

“When you see them come back it’s the most rewarding time,” said David Copley, the Episcopal Church’s team leader for global partnerships. “You see how they’ve grown and survived the struggles.”

YASC is open to young adults aged 21 to 30 who are given the opportunity to serve as missionaries, initially for one year, exploring new ways of living, while serving throughout the Anglican Communion. There are currently 17 YASC missionaries – six of them in their second year – from 18 dioceses serving in Anglican churches in 15 countries from Uruguay to the Philippines to Spain and South Africa.

The 2015 YASC application process will begin soon, with the goal of recruiting 30 young adult missionaries, said Copley.

All it takes, he said, is an application and attendance of the discernment weekend.

(Click here for a discernment weekend reflection by Ashley Cameron, who spent a year in the Philippines serving in the Diocese of Santiago.)

Carlin Van Schaik, 23, of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Lubbock, Texas, in the Diocese of Northwest Texas decided she wanted to serve as a YASC missionary when she was 15 years old.

Her decision, she said, was somewhat influenced by Matthew 19:21, the story of the rich man whom Jesus told to sell everything; a lesson Van Schaik has applied in her own life. “I wanted to follow that call,” she said.

YASC also appealed to Van Schaik, she said, because she was “interested in the idea of the ‘world church,’ and what it means for a church to be in partnership with another church.”

Van Schaik served the Anglican Church of Korea in the Diocese of Seoul where she worked for an urban elder care program and a rural after-school program.

The language, she said, was a challenge but she learned that Christianity transcends culture; and she came to believe in the sincerity of expression. Throughout her year in South Korea, Van Schaik relied on a dictionary to communicate. That and sincerity can get you far, she said.

Van Schaik is one of the six YASC returning to the missionary field for another year, this time to the Diocese of Northern Luzon in the Episcopal Church of the Philippines.

Another YASC heading back into the field is Alan Yarborough, of Trinity Episcopal Church, Ashville, North Carolina, in the Diocese of Western North Carolina, who is serving the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti for a second year at Good Savior Church in Cange, a small village in the country’s central plateau.

Yarborough was assigned to work on economic development projects, he said, but serving as a language interpreter from Creole to English and vice versa makes up a large part of his job.

During his year in service Yarborough has learned “to rely on others and myself more; I’ve grown in confidence and communication.”

Interpretation, he said, is more than language translation, “It’s being able to interpret the culture, historical context and temperament.”

One thing that’s been a challenge for him, however, he said, is the lack of privacy and being recognized everywhere he goes. Still, he loves living in Haiti and his desire to return stems from the relationships he’s built with Haitian and American partners, and the feeling that his job isn’t done yet.

After her year of service in Honduras, Gleason returned to southern California, where she is working for the Diocese of San Diego serving its Latino and Hispanic ministries, as well as its young adult ministry. She also serves at St. Michael’s By-the-Sea, in Carlsbad, California, where she works in children’s ministry.

“I feel like this is where God is calling me know,” she said. “I keep praying always to see where God leads me.”

(ENS has produced a series of video profiles on YASC missionaries serving in the field, including in Rome, Italy, South Africa, and in Hong Kong Anglican Church’s archives, in a mission serving migrant workers and a mission serving seafarers. Also, the Episcopal Church’s website includes videos on what it’s like to serve as a YASC missionary as well as reflections from YASC missionaries.

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

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cinco ciudadanos cubanos que habían entrado en México sin documentos protagonizaron  una lucha campal con los policías que trataban de deportarlos a Cuba en el aeropuerto de Chetumal. En el video se ve cuando los cubanos decían que “preferían morir” antes que regresar a la tierra que los vio nacer. Este no es el primer caso de esta naturaleza aunque sí la riña que se formó en la sala de espera.

El grupo terrorista conocido como Boko Haram ha declarado “un estado islámico” en Gwoza, un municipio en el estado de Borno en el nordeste de Nigeria. Esto significa que esa región se regirá por las leyes islámicas que en muchos casos lleva a la pena de muerte para los que no se conviertan a la fe mahometana. Despachos de prensa informan que los habitantes de Gwoza están dispuestos a resistir hasta la muerte. Boko Haram ha invadido varios territorios aledaños, debido a la debilidad y falta de armamentos y entrenamiento del ejército nacional nigeriano.

Ana María González prominente oncóloga colombiana ha sido sentenciada a 10 años de prisión por haber intentado envenenar a su amante y compañero  médico George Blumenschein. El fiscal pidió una pena de 30 años pero los jurados pensaron que esa pena era excesiva. Amigos y familiares defendieron a González diciendo que “era una persona de bien” y  dijeron que sus trabajos de investigación sobre el cáncer de mama constituían un verdadero paso de avance sobre esta enfermedad. Su padre llorando ante las cámaras dijo que “fue un error” pero que no merecía la pena que recibió.

La violencia continúa en Venezuela. Su última víctima ha sido el sacerdote católico romano Reinaldo Herrera de la diócesis de la Guaira  que fue abatido a balazos en septiembre. Herrera era capellán militar en la Infantería de Marina de la Fuerza Armada Nacional y pertenecía al Ordinariato Militar. Su obispo, Raúl Biord Castillo, expresó su pesar por su asesinato  y dijo que “esta muerte se suma a tantas otras muertes producto de la violencia y del clima de inseguridad que vivimos”.

Nicolás Maduro, presidente de Venezuela, ha sido criticado por los gastos incurridos en su viaje a Nueva York para hablar ante el pleno de las Naciones Unidas. Su comitiva llegó a 170 personas todas relacionadas con el chavismo. Sus gastos ascendieron a dos millones y medio de dólares, según informes periodísticos. Otros piensan que el gasto fue mucho mayor.

El cardenal Pietro Parolín,  secretario de Estado del Vaticano, dijo en la reciente asamblea de las Naciones Unidas en Nueva York con respecto a la insurgencia islamista que “es lícito detener a un agresor injusto”. Añadió que “la amenaza transnacional” que suponen los yihadistas requiere de una acción conjunta de varias naciones que detenga la violencia de este grupo radical.

Las manifestaciones “pro democracia” en Hong Kong continúan en aumento pese a la acción policial. Observadores políticos dicen que las manifestaciones sólo son comparables a las que tuvieron lugar en la plaza Tiananmen en 1989. Los manifestantes piden elecciones libres y mayores libertades civiles.

La paz  es parte importante de la liturgia. Lástima que muchos la utilizan para conversaciones vanas. El propósito principal de la paz es dar y recibir el saludo del Señor resucitado quien trajo y todavía trae la bendición de su paz a sus discípulos.

El canónigo Kenneth Kearon, secretario general  de la Comunión Anglicana desde el 2004 ha sido electo obispo en la Iglesia de Irlanda. Servirá en la diócesis de Limerick y Killaloe. “Estoy muy contento en servir en esa diócesis y espero conocer mejor a sus laicos y clérigos”, dijo desde su oficina en Londres. Enhorabuena.

Bárbara Frey, esposa del obispo William Frey que sirvió en Costa Rica, Guatemala y Colorado por varios años, falleció el 1 de octubre tras larga enfermedad. En paz descanse la amable señora.

VERDAD.  La paz es fruto de la justicia.

‘Next Lambeth Conference a decision for the primates,’ says Welby

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has responded to inaccurate media reports that the Lambeth Conference had been cancelled by saying, “As it hasn’t been called, it can’t have been cancelled.”

Speaking to the BBC’s William Crawley, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion said the historic meeting of bishops from around the world would take place sometime after the primates* had met together.

“When I was installed in Canterbury as archbishop I met all the primates, they all came to that, and I said to them that I would visit all of them in their own country which, God willing, I will have done by the end of this November, and that at the end of that we would consult together about when to have a Lambeth Conference.”

We will decide together
Welby, who is also primate of the Church of England, stressed that, “The next Lambeth Conference needs to be called collegially by the primates, together with real ownership of the agenda and a real sense of what we’re trying to do with such a large effort, such cost. So when we meet as primates, which I hope we will do…with reasonable notice after the end of [the visits to all the primates], then we will decide together on the details.”

Welby said that by the time those details have been finalized it will likely be too close to 2018 to organize such a large event for that year. Therefore having the conference in that year was doubtful.

“It would be enormously difficult simply to book a place big enough…One of the places they’ve gone for the last few conferences is already booked up for 2018, so three years is far too little time to arrange such a huge operation.”

No Anglican Pope
When pressed for a conference date by the BBC interviewer, Archbishop Welby was adamant that that would be a decision for the primates.

“We just need to be very, very clear about this. There is no Anglican Pope. Decisions are made collectively and collegially and I am absolutely committed to not pre-empting what the primates choose to do.”

Anglican Communion alive, vigorous
The archbishop went on to say that it would be up to individual bishops to make up their minds at the time of the Lambeth Conference about whether they would attend.

“I’m not keen on pre-empting their decisions…But what is absolutely clear is that the Anglican Communion is alive and incredibly vigorous. It is noisy, argumentative, diverse, has churches in 165 countries, in 38 provinces. It would be bizarre if there weren’t tensions in something that is so incredibly diverse.”

Over the past two years, the Archbishop and his wife Caroline have traveled extensively making personal visits to the senior bishops of those Churches that comprise the Anglican Communion.

“All the indications are that they want the Communion to flourish,” he said, “that they want to have meetings to discuss the issues that face us: How do we live as a Communion in a way that demonstrates very important differences over issues of sexuality? Over issues of how we deal with power, money, with cultural customs in all parts of the world, or parts of the culture in which we live?”

Questioning God is OK
When asked by the BBC reporter for his response to recent media reports he was agnostic, the Archbishop laughed out loud. “I am a believing Christian,” he said. “I believe in God, I believe that Jesus Christ is God. I say the Creed without crossing my fingers at any point. Clear.”

The reports arose after Justin Welby’s tour of England’s West Country when he was interviewed ahead of Holy Eucharist at Bristol Cathedral.

“I was asked a question: ‘Did I ever have any doubts?’ I said, ‘Yes, everybody has doubts’. It’s true. I think everybody has moments of doubt. They then said, ‘What do you do with those moments of doubt?’ I said, ‘I pray, and I find that God is extraordinarily faithful even when we’re faithless, he overcomes our weaknesses.’”

The archbishop told the BBC’s Crawley that reports of his interview at the cathedral had omitted the second half of the answer.

“You find in the Psalms these extraordinary Psalms of questioning. In Job you find Job saying, ‘I wish I could believe God didn’t exist; what I’m really worried about is that he’s against me’.

“I’ve lived through extraordinary things in my life,” explained the Archbishop, “The death of a child, all kinds of really testing things, being in war zones, and there have been many moments where I’ve said, ‘God what are you doing? Why is it like this?’

“So here’s an extraordinary idea: that the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t believe in God! I believe in God. I, just like everyone else, ask lots of questions and I ask God the questions and I find that he is faithful.”

Notes

*Primates are the most senior bishops from each Member Church/Province

– Jan Butter is director for communications at the Anglican Communion Office.

A message from TREC following the churchwide meeting

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 6, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued a message following the October 2 churchwide meeting.

We want to thank everyone who participated in our churchwide meeting last Thursday evening. More than 140 people attended in person at Washington National Cathedral and over 4,000 people tuned into a live webcast of the meeting.  English and Spanish language recordings of the entire meeting can be found on TREC’s website:reimaginetec.org.  A recording with a closed captioning transcript will be posted as soon as it is ready.  We are grateful to Washington National Cathedral and to Trinity Church, Wall Street for supporting this meeting and our work.

Following the churchwide meeting, members of the taskforce met in Washington, D.C. for two days to review the questions and feedback that we received prior to, during, and after the churchwide meeting.  Questions and comments were received via Twitter, Facebook, web-posts, email, blogs, and in-person discussions. 

We are very grateful for the thoughtful responses and inquiries about our work, and we appreciate the challenges to the thinking that we have published to-date.  During this final in-person meeting together, we found ourselves in deep and prayerful discussion about issues of discipleship, shared leadership, and change as we continued to shape our final recommendations.

TREC’s final report will be sent to the General Convention office by the end of November, and it will be released to the Church as soon as Spanish and French language translations are complete.  TREC’s final report will contain specific recommendations to the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah in July 2015.

We ask for your continued prayers as we complete our work:

Holy Spirit, who broods over the world, fill the hearts and minds of your servants on the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church with wisdom, clarity and courage.  Work in them as they examine and recommend reforms for the structure, governance and administration of this branch of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  Help them propose reforms to more effectively proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to challenge the world to seek and serve Christ in all persons—loving our neighbors as ourselves and to be a blazing light for the kind of justice and peace that leads to all people respecting the dignity of every human being. Be with The Episcopal Church that we all may be open to the challenges that this Taskforce will bring to us—and help the whole church to discern your will for our future.  In the name of Jesus Christ our Mediator, on whose life this Church was founded.  AMEN