[Episcopal News Service – Nairobi, Kenya] Eight #ShareTheJourney pilgrims arrived in Nairobi March 3 for an 11-day pilgrimage to Kenya and Rwanda to learn about the plight of Congolese refugees and the process they go through to gain resettlement in the United States.
“What I hope the result of this trip will be is an increased understanding of what a unique and special program Episcopal Migration Ministries is in The Episcopal Church, and that more Episcopalians can see a place for themselves in this life-saving ministry,” said Deborah Stein, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s refugee resettlement service that is leading the pilgrimage.
(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.)
In addition to meeting with nongovernmental organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Church World Service’s Africa Resettlement Support Center, the pilgrims will travel to Rwanda to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and the Gihembe Refugee Camp.
The pilgrimage is part of Episcopal Migration Ministries yearlong, 75th anniversary #ShareTheJourney campaign to raise awareness of the ways the Missionary Society works to facilitate refugee resettlement throughout The Episcopal Church.
“I think Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of the most inspiring and least well-known ministries in The Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Scott Gunn, one of the pilgrims and executive director of Forward Movement, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based ministry of The Episcopal Church that encourages discipleship. “I’m eager to see transformation in my own life as I experience this pilgrimage, and I want to do whatever I can to share this journey with other people.”
Through Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society partners with 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses nationwide. It is one of nine agencies working in partnership with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees to the United States.
In 2014, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society worked with partners to resettle 5,155 of the tens of thousands of refugees who came to the United States through UNHCR’s screening process.
Over the next several years, UNHCR plans to resettle 50,000 refugees from the Congo, with 70 to 90 percent to be resettled to the United States.
Since 1998, more than 5.5 million people have died in the Congo from fighting, disease and malnutrition in what is regarded as the deadliest conflict since World War II. About 2.5 million people have been internally displaced, and some 500,000 have fled the country’s protracted conflict, with the vast majority living in refugee camps in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions.
“There’s no other durable solution for this group of refugees, who’ve been waiting for over a decade in refugee camps without hope of a future,” said Stein. “Some have been resettled or have found a way to stay in the country of asylum, but the rest are languishing away in camps. Resettlement is the only option for them.”
A refugee is someone who has fled his or her country of nationality because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, ethnicity, or political or social affiliation.
There are 15.5 million refugees worldwide, according to the UNHCR, whose mandate is to provide international protection for refugees. The agency’s primary focus is on repatriation, or safe return home, followed by citizenship or legal residency in the host country. The third option is resettlement to one of the 22 countries worldwide that accepts refugees. One percent receives third-country resettlement, with half of that 1 percent destined for the United States.
The resettlement process typically takes years; refugees can spend decades living in camps before their cases are heard and adjudicated. Kenya is one of two countries – the other being Ethiopia – that hosts the largest number of refugees living in camps in Africa.
“One of the effects of resettlement is that it’s a show of support for countries hosting refugees; it gives breathing space to host countries to continue to keep their borders open to future refugees and asylum seekers,” said Stein. “The Congolese refugees are just one of many groups awaiting a similar durable solution.”
The #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage is funded through a Constable Fund grant awarded in 2014 by The Episcopal Church Executive Council. The Constable Fund provides grants to fund mission initiatives that were not provided for within the budget of The Episcopal Church passed by the General Convention.
– Lynette Wilson is an Episcopal News Service editor and reporter.
[Episcopal Public Policy Network] In this week’s reflection, we focus on education. The Rev’d Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Domestic Poverty Missioner for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, discusses the connection between poverty and education. Then, Rev. Susan Heath, Coordinator of the LARCUM Bishops’ Public Education Initiative, shares how LARCUM is working to improve public education for the children of South Carolina.
“The advantage of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to the one who possesses it.” Ecclesiastes 7:12b (NRSV)
Study after study in this country shows that poverty limits the chances of attaining a quality education, while at the same time we know that attaining a quality education is one of the prime mechanisms for escaping poverty. Children in chronically impoverished families have lower cognitive and academic performance and more behavior problems than children who are not exposed to poverty. 40% of children living in poverty are not prepared to begin primary school, and are 1.3 times more likely to have developmental delays or learning disabilities. Students who start school significantly behind their peers, who are not truly ready for the work before them, tend not to close the readiness gap. Rather, the gap tends to widen as they move through school. Further, children living in poverty have higher absentee rates and higher dropout rates, often because they have to care for family members or work to support the family income.
In 2012, 46.5 million people (15% of the population) lived in poverty in the United States. 20.4 million people lived in what is commonly called “deep” poverty; that is, earning an income 50% or more below the poverty line. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 a person with less than a high school education earned only 72% of what an average high school graduate earned, and was one and a half times more likely to be unemployed. Compare that same person who failed to complete high school to someone with a two year associates degree, and the earnings difference moves from 72% to only 50%, and the likelihood of unemployment is double.
Research suggests that high quality early childhood programs are one of the best tools for overcoming the current landscape. Additionally, smaller class sizes, improved social and economic diversity, and proper nutrition all contribute to better educational results among children. And better educational results go a long way towards breaking the cycle of poverty.
LARCUM: An Education Ministry
Bishops of Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic and United Methodists Churches (LARCUM) in South Carolina signed a Covenant in the 1990s affirming that “unity is a Gospel imperative,” pledging to strengthen the Body of Christ in South Carolina. They annually hosted a prayer service for unity and sponsored dialogue on critical issues. They rocked along.
In the twenty years since, the bishops who forged this covenant have retired, but the bishops currently holding these offices have determined to up their game. Through prayer and conversation, they decided to put the weight of their office and the strength of their voices behind the support of a single issue. After thoughtful consideration, they discerned that public education would be the focus of their work.
Because most of the bishops were newcomers to the state, they invited an expert to sharpen focus. South Carolina is blessed to be home to former United States Secretary of Education Dick Riley. He outlined the challenges for public education, with particular attention to the challenges shaped by poverty. The bishops concluded that prayerful and vocal support of public education and naming the scourge of poverty could change lives. The bishops fielded a panel and put down markers for their vision. Enthusiasm for this vision was tremendous.
In April 2014, the bishops published a joint pastoral letter calling the people they shepherd and all people of good will to join them in their support of “full flourishing public education.” This letter challenges South Carolinians to loosen the grip of poverty plaguing their schools. That summer, they hired Susan Heath, an Episcopal priest with a passion for public education, to coordinate the initiative.
In her role with LARCUM, Heath works to build relationships, an effort that takes various shapes. For example, she works with varied faith groups and school districts to place reading tutors in elementary schools serving children in poverty. The children matched with volunteer tutors are making progress. Without Heath’s nudge, these volunteers may never have gone into challenged schools, and now many call their time with students, the “best hour of their week,” and “life changing.”
Additionally, Heath suggested the planning and organization of community visits to underfunded schools in a neighboring county. The goal was to show support for an upcoming tax referendum. When participants in these “pilgrimages” took in the scope of work to be done, Heath encouraged them to speak about their experiences to the press. In the end, the referendum was passed by voters.
There are several other examples of partnership within the diocese and state that are helping LARCUM achieve its goals. Children that read below grade level will attend a diocesan reading camp this summer. This opportunity will allow LARCUM to couple the love of reading and the fun of camp for these students. Developing a love of reading will change the lives of these children.
LARCUM also partners with many civic education endeavors to advance its goals of attaining quality education for all children. Recently, Heath joined a State Department of Education committee designed to heighten community and family collaboration with the work of the Department.
Observers are encouraged by the positive changes occurring around them. With the commitment of these bishops and the enthusiasm from people of faith and no faith alike, LARCUM is working to bring excellent education to children living in poverty. This brings a spirit of hope and excitement to South Carolina.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP, Collect for Education)
Share your ministry: Does your church engage in an education ministry? Share your experiences on Mission Centered here!
Learn more about LARCUM: On their website here.
The Rev. Susan Heath is a Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society Justice and Advocacy Fellow. Her work with LARCUM was recently featured in an article from Episcopal News Service.
This is the third installment of the Episcopal Public Policy Network’s 2015 Lenten Series: “Engaging Poverty at Home and Around the World.” To receive these reflections to your inbox each Wednesday of Lent, sign up here.
[Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth] On Tuesday, March 2, 2015, the Hon. John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, denied the Local Episcopal Parties’ and The Episcopal Church’s Motions for Summary Judgments. He granted the breakaway parties’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, except as to the claims of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Fort Worth.
“We are disappointed with this decision but quite hopeful for the future. This sacred property was built up over 170 years in this part of Texas by generations of Episcopalians for the use of The Episcopal Church so it will be available for use by generations of Episcopalians to come as they do the work of the Church,” said the Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. “That remains our purpose in this litigation, and we are confident going forward under the rulings of the Fort Worth Court of Appeals and Texas Supreme Court that are already in place in our case.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was formed by The Episcopal Church in 1982-84, after the new diocesan leaders promised unanimously to accept and use the Episcopal property only for The Episcopal Church’s mission and ministry. In November 2008, former Bishop Jack L. Iker and other diocesan leaders left The Episcopal Church and aligned themselves with another church, the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Since then they have been using the name and seal of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and occupying Episcopal Church property, even though they are not Episcopalians and hold no offices in The Episcopal Church or any Episcopal Diocese.
This lawsuit was brought by the local, loyal Episcopalians of the diocese to protect their historic name, seal, and property for the future generations of Episcopalians in Texas. Under basic neutral principles of Texas law, former officers like the breakaway Defendants are free to leave an institution, but they cannot take its name and property with them, in violation of all the commitments that came before.
In January, 2011, Judge Chupp granted the Local Episcopal Parties’ and The Episcopal Church’s Motions for Summary Judgment. That decision was appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court by the breakaway parties. In August, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court, in a split decision, sent the case back to Judge Chupp, ordering it be heard on different principles. That hearing was on Friday, February 20, 2015.
Bishop High said, “Be of good heart. The Episcopal Church, including its continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, welcomes everyone, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey. The mission of The Episcopal Church is to reconcile the world to God through Jesus Christ and that work continues.”
[St. Paul’s Church, Selma] The image of a city can become frozen in time, and a single event can create an impression so deep that it never fades, according to the Rev. Jack Alvey, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Selma, Alabama.
Fifty years ago, state troopers attacked marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, in one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement. Selma has been grappling with the legacy of that moment, and the events that led up to it, ever since.
On March 1, a coalition of faith leaders, including Alvey, helped the city demonstrate the progress it has made. A racially integrated crowd of some 2,000 people took part in a unity walk that began on the south side of the famous bridge and ended with a prayer service in Songs of Selma Park.
Participants walked the same Selma-to-Montgomery route as marchers did on Bloody Sunday in 1965, but in reverse, to symbolize the theme of the gathering, “One Selma: Coming Home United in Faith,” said organizer Juanda Maxwell, a lay leader at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“I believe God wants Selma to be a reminder of the new story we are given through the good news of Jesus Christ,” Alvey told his parishioners in a sermon on March 1, ahead of the unity walk. “Our walk will give us permission to celebrate the bridge, to look at the bridge in a new way. We can look at the bridge and see people of all colors and stories walking in a faith that believes God is making us one.”
The turnout for the walk was almost three times what organizers had anticipated, and rather that closing two lanes of the famous bridge, police closed all four. Participants included the Rev. F.D. Reese, who had invited Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma for the 1965 march, and local political leaders, including Democratic Representative Terri Sewell of Birmingham, who grew up in Selma.
“It was beautiful to … see 2,000 people walking behind me for one purpose: to say we are united,” said the Rev. Jerry Light, pastor of First Baptist Church, another event organizer. “It was almost like a family reunion on the bridge. We stood there and I thought, ‘This is why God called me to Selma five years ago.’”
The walkers crossed the bridge behind an 11-foot wide unity quilt, composed of 176 squares contributed by individuals and congregations from across the city and coordinated by Alvey’s wife, Jamie, a quilter. Begun in January, the quilt became the focal point of the event. “Everybody wanted to come up and get their picture made with it,” Jamie Alvey said.
“This is the Selma I know and love,” said Allen Bearden, a parishioner at St. Paul’s. “This is the Selma I want the world to know and love.”
Maxwell said about half of those who participated in the march were black and half were white. “That’s almost unheard of,” she said. “And it was just beautiful, just like that patchwork quilt.
“We wanted to celebrate those who marched in 1965, especially the martyrs,” she added. “But we also wanted to speak up for Selma as it is today because we are not downtrodden.”
Maxwell said the coalition next plans to encourage members of the city’s predominantly black and predominantly white churches to invite one another to worship together on a specific Sunday during the coming year.
“I was overwhelmed by how well it turned out,” Jack Alvey said. “The spirit was joyful. I heard someone say that this was like a wedding. It was like a wedding. But now we are ready for the marriage – a long-term commitment to come together as a community.”
[Lambeth Palace press release] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has opened the application process for young Christians around the world to spend “a year in God’s time” at Lambeth Palace in London.
Christians aged 20-35 have the opportunity to spend a year living together as a community inspired by the ancient monastic traditions of St. Benedict, St. Francis and St. Ignatius. They will live according to a shared Rule of Life and follow a pattern of silence, prayer, worship, study and service to the poor.
The Community of St. Anselm will initially consist of 16 people living at Lambeth Palace full-time, and up to 40 people, who live and work in London, joining part-time.
Young Anglicans from around the Communion are invited to apply to join the community – with both male and female applicants welcome.
Welby, who is the abbot of the new community, said: “I expect this venture to have radical impact – not just for the individuals who participate but for life at Lambeth Palace, across the Church and in the world we seek to serve. This is what we expect in following Jesus. I urge young people to step up: here is an open invitation to be transformed and to transform.”
The prior of the community, the Rev. Anders Litzell, said: “There will be sacrifices required. People will need to leave things behind.”
He added: “This is a question of how we can model a life of prayer and deep commitment shaped in the likeness of Christ for people who aren’t going to be monks and nuns, but who want to embody the monastic traditions, who want to draw from those deep wells and live a lifestyle influenced by that spirituality.”
To find out more and apply, visit: http://stanselm.org.uk/
[World Council of Churches press release] Christine Housel, general secretary of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), in an introductory speech, has expressed her hope that the 35th General Assembly of the WSCF may offer better understandings of justice and peace issues. The WSCF assembly is currently underway in Bogotá, Colombia, until March 5.
The WSCF was a forerunner and continues to be a historic partner of the World Council of Churches (WCC) within the ecumenical movement.
“The current events in Colombia and the region will open up understanding of local and global dynamics around issues of peace, justice, positives and negatives of development, and the struggle to preserve and defend diversity of identities, and much more,” said Housel, an Episcopalian.
“At the same time, the WSCF has been seeking to deepen solidarity with Colombia and has been invited by the churches and ecumenical partners to play a key role in making visible the work for justice and peace in the country and to come alongside the Student Christian Movement (SCM), churches and ecumenical organizations, working to play a positive role,” she added.
“As we celebrate and explore the gifts of our diversity and the meaning of our unity, we are better positioned to fulfill our calling and unite what is distanced, mend what is broken, demonstrate love to all of God’s creation as we are united in one vision to live and share God’s peace, justice and love, which have no boundaries in this world,” said Housel.
Established in 1895, the WSCF is a global federation of student Christian groups, with members from diverse Christian traditions and other faiths.
The WSCF assembly is being held in Bogotá at the invitation of the WSCF Latin America and Caribbean region and churches and ecumenical partners in Colombia.
The event is held every 4 to 6 years and is the moment when participants gather to set the priorities and direction of the federation for the next years.
The WSCF brings together movements to discern the mission of motivating and training students as young ecumenical leaders to further “God’s peace and justice in the church and the world today”.
This year’s event is addressing the theme “We are many; We are one – Sent out to Build God’s Peace” – as a reaffirmation of the federation’s motto Ut Omnes Unum Sint (That they shall be one).
The assembly has gathered around 180 participants from all global regions, including delegates from the WSCF members, WSCF staff, Executive Committee members, WSCF – SCM Senior Friends, representatives of partner organizations and guests.
[Anglican Church of Southern Africa] The Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s e-reader project has gone live.
The project was launched last year to promote electronic learning and academic dialogues throughout the province.
It is the project’s intention eventually to give theological students across Africa easier access to online lectures and electronic libraries.
With physical libraries being rare, remote and increasingly unaffordable in the African continent, the e-reader project plans to provide access to online theological journals and books to clergy, ordinands and laity.
The users of the e-reader program will be able to do the following once the project is rolled out fully:
- Read key texts integral to their theological education and formation;
- Research their sermons and other forms of public address;
- Deepen their awareness of the Christian tradition and contemporary challenges;
- Access new information;
- Support the vision, mission and priorities of the ACSA and the Centre for Reflection and Development (CRD); and
- Raise literacy levels and develop skills for reading critically and creatively.
The project is being implemented in collaboration with the College of Transfiguration in Grahamstown and will serve as a major electronic resource for students and clergy involved in academic reading and research.
The e-reader project is housed at the Centre for Reflection and Development in Bishopscourt; ordinands, clergy and laity will be allowed to download readings by appointment only.
Those interested in exploring the e-reader project, are asked to submit e-mail addresses to Maropeng Moholoa at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +27 21 763 1300.
The project has been supported by the Compass Rose Society, the Anglican Communion Office, Trinity Church Wall Street, the Motsepe Foundation and The Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church, will preach at an Interim Shared Eucharist with the United Methodist Church on March 3 at 5:30 pm at John Street United Methodist Church in New York City. United Methodist New York Annual Conference Resident Bishop Jane Allen Middleton will preside.
Sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of New York, the historic Eucharist between The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church will follow The Episcopal Church-United Methodist Church Common Guidelines for Interim Eucharist Sharing.
“The growing unity between United Methodists and Episcopalians is a source of great joy for me as someone who was formed in the Methodist Church as a child,” commented Bishop Sauls. “I continue to value the depth of Methodist spirituality and appreciate the Methodist gift for piety in the best possible sense, and I am filled with hope at the missional opportunities we might pursue together.”
Nicholas Birns, chairman of the Diocese of New York Episcopal – Methodist Dialogue, noted that this service marks the second Interim Shared Eucharist. The first, he said, occurred at St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City, in May 2012. “At that time, the Episcopalians hosted, United Methodist Bishop Jeremiah Park co-presided, and the preacher was Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA),” Birns said.
March 3 is significant as it is the day The Episcopal Church celebrates the lives of John and Charles Wesley.
For the past ten years, the United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church have been in discussion and discernment moving forward to “full communion” which involves a relationship between church organizations that mutually recognize sharing basic doctrines. This relationship involves: mutual recognition of members, joint celebration of Holy Communion/Eucharist, mutual recognition of ordained clergy, mutual recognition of the sacraments and a common commitment to mission. Both the United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church share full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but not with each other. The Episcopal Church also shares full communion with the Moravian Church.
The John Street parish started as a prayer circle of Methodists who also attended formal services at Trinity Church, Wall Street. After American independence, and the consequent formal break between Methodists and Episcopalians, these ties were severed.
Recently, an Interim Shared Eucharist between The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church was celebrated at the Episcopal Church’s National Cathedral in Washington DC.
[Sewanee: The University of the South press release] The School of Theology at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee has launched a new seminary program, the EQB Fellowship, to address the issues of eliminating seminarian debt and forming future leaders for The Episcopal Church.
The EQB Fellowship program will create a new model of sustainable living and learning in residential community for 12 seminarians. Each student will receive a full scholarship, including living expenses, which will not only allow them to graduate debt-free, but will provide a rich environment for leadership formation.
Four students will be admitted to the program each year, beginning in the 2015–16 academic year, with the maximum of 12 overall. These 12 students will be selected for their commitment to “change the world” ventures for the Church of the 21st century.
Students will reside in the EQB House, located on the campus of the University of the South. EQB, or Ecce Quam Bonum, is the University’s motto. The translation is “How good it is” shortened from “How good it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).
Eligible students will:
• be a single adult age 30 and under
• be appreciative of the transformational power of living in community
• be seeking a structured experiential context for further discernment
• already be participating in ministry
• have a proven track record of leadership
• have a willingness to take risks and collaborate with others
The School of Theology invites those interested in the program to apply through the School’s regular channels — theology.sewanee.edu/admissions/apply-now. Students that have been accepted by the School’s admissions office may apply for the EQB Fellowship.
Funding for this innovative program has been made possible by many generous benefactors, including a foundational grant by Lilly Endowment, Inc., and a partnership with the Society for the Increase of the Ministry (SIM). Most recently, a grant of $75,000 was received from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. The program also has received support from St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tenn., and from the Kenan Foundation of North Carolina.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Applications are now accepted for grants from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society that center on new or revitalized efforts in domestic poverty ministry.
The purpose of the grants is to engage Episcopalians in ministry among the economically impoverished in the United States; to provide opportunity to the marginalized to overcome chronic adversities; to challenge unjust structures that perpetuate the cycle of poverty; and to inspire the wider church to more deeply engage with the poor.
The focus of the grants is Mark IV of the Anglican Marks of Mission: To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
“A successful application will demonstrate a passion for, and an innovative approach to, inviting Episcopalians into a deep relationship with the poor,” explained the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Domestic Poverty Missioner. “The work should include a plan for sustainability beyond the scope of the grant – either in a continuation of the original proposal or through an evolutionary process that leads to something new.”
Areas of ministry might include, but are not limited to: community development; early childhood development; education for children, youth or adults; health; homelessness/affordable housing; hunger; microbusiness and/or entrepreneurship; and racial reconciliation.
Grant awards will range between $5,000 and $30,000.
All domestic Episcopal dioceses, congregations and institutions are eligible to apply.
Grant applications, overview and instructions are available here. All applications must have the endorsement of the diocesan bishop. Deadline for applying is April 30.
For additional information, contact Stevenson, email@example.com.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Follow each step of the way of the pilgrims on the #ShareTheJourney as they participate in an 11-day pilgrimage to the Great Lakes region of Africa.
Eight Episcopal pilgrims depart on March 2 on the #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage, designed to raise awareness of ways in which the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries service, works to facilitate refugee resettlement work throughout The Episcopal Church.
“Through real-time social media, participants will serve as the eyes of the church as they witness conditions where refugees are currently living, and come to understand that the responses we offer through resettlement are life-saving,” noted Deborah Stein, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries.
The pilgrims will travel to Nairobi, Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda. Among the planned visits are the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and the Gihembe Refugee Camp in Rwanda as well as operations supported by Church World Service’s Resettlement Support Center (RSC)-Africa, and the UN refugee agency UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).
The pilgrimage is funded through a Constable Fund grant awarded last year by The Episcopal Church Executive Council. The Constable Fund provides grants to fund mission initiatives that were not provided for within the budget of The Episcopal Church passed by the General Convention.
Participating in the pilgrimage are:
• Jessica Benson, Diocese of Idaho
• Spencer Cantrell, gender violence fellow, National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP), Diocese of Washington
• Cookie Cantwell, Province IV Youth Ministries Coordinator, Diocese of East Carolina
• The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Executive Director, Forward Movement, Diocese of Southern Ohio
• The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Georgia
• Vicki Logue, Diocese of Georgia
• The Rev. Burl Salmon, Middle School Chaplain and Dean of Community Life, Trinity Episcopal School, Diocese of North Carolina
• Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Director, Trinity Episcopal Church of The Woodlands, Diocese of Texas
The Missionary Society
• Deborah Stein, Director, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• Kurt Bonz, Program Manager, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• Wendy Johnson, Communications Manager, Episcopal Migration Ministries
• The Rev. Ranjit Mathews, Network Officer for Mission Personnel and Africa
• Lynette Wilson, Editor/Reporter, Episcopal News Service
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Episcopal Migration Ministries is the refugee resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Each year this ministry works in partnership with its affiliate network, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe.
#ShareTheJourney as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society celebrates 75 years of resettling refugees in the United States. #ShareTheJourney is a multi-media effort to educate, form, and equip Episcopalians to engage in loving service with resettled refugees and to become prophetic witnesses and advocates on behalf of refugees, asylees, migrants, and displaced persons throughout the world.
Episcopal News Service will provide extensive coverage on the pilgrimage upon return.
Learn more EMM’s history and how to participate in local refugee settlement here.
[Episcopal News Service – Tucson, Arizona] Peace and security that let them close their eyes and sleep at night; the ability to work and provide for their families: These are the things that female refugees – most of them single mothers – say changed most dramatically in their lives after they were resettled in Tucson.
“I’m really doing much better here. There’s food on the table. The kids are in school. I have clean water, milk and, most of all, peace,” said Murorunkwere Zaburiya, 58. “I can sleep in quiet.”
A Congolese refugee, Zaburiya arrived in Tucson seven months ago with five children, aged 10 to 26, after spending 18 years in a refugee camp in Rwanda.
Illiterate and not speaking a word of English, she became a member of a women’s empowerment group operated by Refugee Focus, which receives support from The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Episcopal Migration Ministries service through funding from the United States government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.
(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out mission.)
Today, Zaburiya has learned the skills necessary to hold a job. Through English as a Second Language courses, she is beginning to recognize English words. And her children are receiving an education.
Through Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society partners with 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses nationwide. It is one of nine agencies working in partnership with the U.S. Department of State to welcome and resettle refugees to the United States.
“Episcopal Migration Ministries is part of this really wonderful, humanitarian program that allows some of the most vulnerable people in the world to start rebuilding their lives,” said Nicolle Trudeau, Refugee Focus’s director, during an interview with Episcopal News Service in her downtown Tucson office. About half of the 300 refugees served annually by Refugee Focus come through Episcopal Migration Ministries.
In 2014, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and its partners worked to resettle 5,155 of the tens of thousands of refugees who came to the United States through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) screening process. They’ll work to serve as many people this year as the United States plans to resettle 70,000 refugees — half of the 1 percent of the 15.5 million refugees worldwide who’ll be resettled this year.
Many of those refugees will come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since 1998, more than 5.5 million people have died in the Congo from fighting, disease and malnutrition; 2.5 million people have been internally displaced; and some 500,000 have fled the country’s protracted conflict, with the vast majority living in refugee camps in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions.
Over the next several years, UNHCR plans to resettle 50,000 refugees from the Congo, with 70 to 90 percent to be resettled to the United States, said Kurt Bonz, Episcopal Migration Ministries’ program manager, during a recent webinar hosted by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society aimed at educating the faith community about the situation in the Congo and how to support and advocate for Congolese refugees.
“Most of the refugees have been in camps an average of 20 years, education is low, and many are single women with children who continue to experience trauma related to living in the Congo, the journey out and living in a refugee camp,” he said.
Ongoing armed conflict has been particularly brutal in the Congo; the number of Congolese women-at-risk is double that found in other refugee populations. This has led to studies aimed at identifying particular risks, challenges and strengths and developing strategies for policymakers and service providers to better serve the women and their families.
A refugee is someone who has fled their country of nationality and its protection because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on race, religion, ethnicity, political or social affiliation. Among female refugees considered “women-at-risk,” most have endured rape and other forms of gender-related sexual violence, with many giving birth to children conceived as a result of rape.
Upon arriving in the United States, refugees receive three months of case management and financial support to help them adjust, plus additional support to help them find employment and reach financial self-sufficiency. The formula works for some but not all refugees. Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides additional money for resettlement agencies to assist refugees with special challenges – in this case, single women with children.
Of the 50,000 Congolese refugees selected for resettlement, the U.S. is expected to resettle 80 percent. Of those, at least 20 percent are expected to be women-at-risk and eligible for intensive case management.
Recognizing the need, in 2013, with an $8,000 grant from a nondenominational church, Refugee Focus created its own program aimed at empowering at-risk women. Last year, the program continued with the support from Episcopal Migration Ministries, said Trudeau.
Given the elevated rates of violence and trauma endured by Congolese women and their children, it was crucial that this population have the opportunity to be resettled in the United States and have access to a supportive community environment where women could connect with each other to rebuild their support systems, said Trudeau.
Refugee Focus’ women’s empowerment program began with a question to the women: What can we do to better serve you? The women responded with, “We do everything as a group; we want to receive services as a group.”
The empowerment program’s goals were to create a social network for refugee women, strengthen employable skills through improved English proficiency, encourage economic independence, and promote personal development and financial skills.
Through private grants, the women were paid between $300 and $400 in small increments for their participation in the program: attending trainings, attending ESL classes, participating in community events. It counted toward payment if they arrived on time, and their payments were docked if they didn’t.
“It turned out to be a wonderful training tool for people who’d never had a job,” said Trudeau. “It gave them a sense of control to earn the money to pay the bills.”
The program started with 22 women. In six months, 20 had found employment. “We were so successful, we ran out of people,” she said.
More than its measurable factors, the empowerment program provides a lifeline to women who otherwise would be navigating a new way of being, a new country and an unfamiliar city on their own.
Namughisha Nashimwe, 41, arrived in Tucson in December 2013, after four years in a refugee camp, with her five children, now aged 5 to 20. Initially, a counselor told her first to take time to recover from her trauma and that, rather than attend school, her eldest son should get a job and support the family.
Nashimwe’s peers in the empowerment group and Refugee Focus staff, however, had other advice: They told her that she was capable of working and of providing for her family.
“The women helped me a lot. I was motivated by the group,” she said, speaking in Kinyarwanda – the official language of Rwanda – interpreted by Jeanine Balezi, an intensive-case manager for Refugee Focus. “Some people will tell you, you don’t have to go to work. But in talking to others in the group and with Jeanine, I decided I’m going to get a job to help my family to have a better life,” she said during an interview with ENS in her apartment, a 10-15 minute drive from downtown Tucson.
Nashimwe works part time as a janitor in a school. Her son is a high school student and recently started a job working weekends at a carwash.
“Had she not had a group, she would have been in crisis,” said Trudeau. You cannot make progress when stuck in a crisis mode, and Refugee Focus doesn’t have the money to assist clients in crisis, only to help them toward self-sufficiency, she added.
“It is not an easy process, people do come with very real barriers,” Trudeau said, adding that there’s a limit to where funds can take them. “The strength that they used to survive for so many years has to be drawn on here. There’s no safety net for the long term.”
Investing in refugees, she continued, is more than just initial resettlement; it’s about developing plans and support that individuals and families can depend on over the many years they struggle to overcome the barriers associated with poverty in the United States.
In some ways, the women say, resettlement is like winning the lottery. Still, when a refugee arrives in the United States, the thrill of beginning a new life also brings increased anxiety, isolation and a loss of family and community.
“You feel like you are lost and empty, you can’t communicate,” said Balezi, 41, who spent two years in a Congolese refugee camp in Cameroon before coming to Tucson in 2000 with her infant son. He now is 15 and attends high school.
Balezi attended a university in the Congo and, besides being fluent in French, speaks at least seven other regional languages. But when she arrived in Tucson, she said, she spoke no English, not even a “hi.”
In more than one way, she’s a role model.
Through Balezi’s interactions with the women, the love and respect they have for her is obvious. They laugh and joke easily in her presence. But it’s also clear she pushes them to leave their comfort zones – to learn a new bus route or apply for a job – and that they appreciate it.
Once a refugee arrives in the United States, things move quickly. From the airport, refugees are driven to their furnished apartment, where staff and volunteers teach them how to operate appliances like the stove and television, the kitchen sink and the shower.
The food pantry is stocked, and a culturally appropriate meal – typically rice and beans and chicken, in the case of Congolese refugees – has been prepared for the family.
The next day, they’re registered for food stamps. Within a week they’ve applied for a Social Security card. By day 10, the children are enrolled in school.
Refugee Focus operates on a $1.6 million annual budget with 16 full-time and 10 on-call employees and two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers. In addition to federal funds, Refugee Focus relies on support from donors, local partners and community volunteers to fund and carry out its programs.
Given the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s role in refugee resettlement, The Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2012 passed legislation calling for the modernization of the nation’s refugee resettlement program to meet the needs of a diverse population.
“One of the greatest strengths of the refugee resettlement program is public-private partnership, with private funds and donations complementing federally funded services and support,” said Katherine Conway, immigration and refugee policy analyst for The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations based in Washington, D.C. “Each day the Missionary Society and volunteers engage in the ministry of welcome, but private contributions must be matched by robustly funded services. A volunteer can help to furnish a refugee family’s apartment or provide a winter coat, but he/she cannot counsel a survivor of torture or provide recertification services.”
Episcopalians can advocate for refugees by joining the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Episcopal Public Policy Network.
Tucson, a city with a population of just over half a million people, is served by three refugee-resettlement agencies and becomes home to 1,000 new refugees annually. Work-eligible refugees often fill vacancies in low-wage, unskilled jobs in the servicing industry, washing dishes in restaurants and cleaning hotel rooms; working largely unseen.
Refugee Focus’s resettlement work has largely gone unseen, as well. And then, about a year ago, Trudeau moved its offices from a strip mall outside the city’s core to a few blocks from the city’s main bus terminal downtown.
The new location has provided visibility both for Refugee Focus and its clients, who often take the bus and then walk to the office on North Stone Avenue across from the main branch of the Pima County Library. It’s also around the corner from Imago Dei Middle School, which provides holistic education aimed at breaking the cycles of poverty to 70 students grades five through eight.
Trudeau has developed a strong partnership with the Rev. Anne Sawyer, an Episcopal priest and co-founder and head of the school. The two met through Rotary Club when Trudeau was looking for office space downtown. Later, Trudeau visited the school and began to identify refugee children who would benefit from the school’s intensive, six-day week, 11-month school year, which allows students who may not be at grade level the time and personal attention to catch up.
“It’s not unusual for our fifth-grade scholars to come to us at a second- or third-grade level, and, if they are bilingual, they may be at a kindergarten or first-grade level,” said Sawyer.
The student body now includes 12 refugees, 11 of them referred through Refugee Focus, said Sawyer.
“We see behaviors that indicate life was difficult,” said Sawyer. Refugee students have lost their countries, grown up in refugee camps, sometimes have lost parents and have experienced or witnessed traumas, she said. “At young ages, they have experienced a lot, but that is not [un]like some of our other students who have experienced poverty, as well.”
The African students, originally from the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi or South Africa, say they plan to study medicine, engineering and other professions, and that small class sizes, individual attention and shared language contribute to a comfortable, supportive educational environment.
“When I first came here it felt different,” said Emeline, a student originally from the Congo. “I felt like it was my home. We all started speaking Swahili.”
Another way in which Refugee Focus has fostered community is through hosting events in partnership with Richard Noell, who uses drumming as a way to help trauma survivors regain confidence and express themselves.
Music and drumming help the women reconnect with joy, and it opens them to healing, said Noell.
The staff and volunteers who have worked with at-risk women have been “blown away by the amount of strength and perseverance that these women have come with,” said Trudeau.
“It’s that difference: When you see a description of someone on paper, a single mother who is maybe a rape victim who has five children and may be pregnant again, coming to the U.S. – How is she going to survive? How is she going to support herself? Her family? And yet we see it happen every day,” said Trudeau.
“They come here, and within months they are learning a new language and making sure that their children get to school every day, making sure that they are bathed, and taken care of and fed, and riding a bus for two hours to take an English class and then working a part-time job, perhaps, and learning how to balance those finances, and it doesn’t happen without a system of tight support and services,” she said.
“But in large part it’s happening by the strength of the clients we serve, and I think it just goes to show that what somebody is on paper doesn’t really define who they are.”
– Lynette Wilson is an Episcopal News Service editor and reporter.
“His episcopate championed the cause of full inclusion of women in the ordained ministry of the diocese,” Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said of Walker. “He was the first to ordain women in the diocese and was responsible for facilitating the full inclusion and participation of women in all aspects of diocesan life.”
Provenzano, who succeeded Walker in November 2009, noted that Walker was also responsible for “widening the participation and full representation of laity in the ministry of the diocese — especially their serving on diocesan boards and commissions.”
“Bishop Walker’s episcopacy covered a difficult and sometimes controversial period in the history of the diocese. Nevertheless, his dedication to the people of the Diocese of Long Island will forever stand as a testament to his love for Jesus Christ and his dedication to the ministry of the Church,” Provenzano wrote in a letter to the diocese.
A Requiem Mass for Bishop Walker will be held March 7 at 1:30 p.m. at Christ Church in Detroit, Michigan.
Walker was born Nov. 5, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his early education in Baltimore public schools, graduating from Baltimore City College in 1960.
In 1964, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy. In 1968, he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York.
In 1980, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and in 1984 a Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. In 1993, he received an MBA in Church Administration from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.
Honorary doctorates in canon law and divinity were conferred by Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University and the General Theological Seminary, respectively, in the fall of 1988. An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was conferred by St. Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, Virginia, in 2000.
Walker was ordained to the diaconate in 1968 by the Rt. Rev. Harry Lee Doll. Later that year, Walker was called to serve in St. Mark’s Ecumenical Church in Kansas City, Missouri, as director of program and education.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 by the Rt. Rev. Edward R. Welles on the Vigil of Pentecost. In 1971, he was invited to serve as associate rector of the newly merged churches of St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s, Detroit. After the election of its rector, Quintin E. Primo, as bishop suffragan of Chicago, Walker was elected rector, at age 29.
While in the Diocese of Michigan, Walker served as a member of Executive Council, the Trustees, the Urban Affairs Committee, dean of convocation, as a board member, and associate professor of contemporary society at the Whitaker School of Theology. He represented the diocese at the provincial synod for 10 years, serving as chair of the Urban Task Force and a member of the Court of Review. He was elected five times to serve as a deputy to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention.
Walker has chaired the Episcopal Church Committee on Canons and was a member of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. He also served as chair of the Episcopal Commission on Black Ministries and as a member of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons.
In other churchwide service, he chaired the Committee on Canons in the House of Bishops, was a member of the Joint Committee on Nominations, and served as vice president of Province II. In addition, he chaired the Task Force for the Recruitment, Training and Deployment of Black Clergy for the Episcopal Church’s Commission on Black Ministries.
In Detroit, Walker was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, president of the Cathedral Terrace, a senior citizen housing complex, the Highland Park Community Relations Board and the Black Family Development Board.
As bishop of Long Island, Walker served as chairman of the board of managers of Episcopal Health Services and board chairman of the Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was president of the Trustees of the Estate belonging to the Diocese of Long Island. In addition, he served as president of Episcopal Charities of Long Island and the George Mercer Memorial School of Theology.
He taught Canon Law and Theology & Contemporary Society at The Mercer School and at the General Theological Seminary. And, he also served as president of the Cathedral Chapter of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York.
Editor’s note: Georgia Department of Correction officials postponed Kelly Renee Gissendaner’s execution at the last moment March 2 when they became concerned about the purity of the execution drug. No new date has been given, according to the Associated Press.
[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] An untold story about convicted murderer Kelly Renee Gissendaner is that she is loved and admired by many inmates and others who serve at Lee Arrendale State Prison north of Atlanta.
Gissendaner, 47, a graduate of a prison-based theology certificate program, is set to become on March 2 the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945.
“Kelly has changed; she’s been transformed,” says the Rev. Cathy Zappa, a Diocese of Atlanta priest who has served as Gissendaner’s teacher, spiritual director and chaplain for nearly four years. “Though far from perfect, she is making a positive difference in the prison and beyond.”
Zappa directs the Certificate in Theological Studies program at the prison on behalf of four seminaries that are members of the Atlanta Theological Association. She also serves as canon for spirituality and mission at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta.
“Yes, she is remorseful,” says Zappa of Gissendaner, who was found guilty of planning her husband Douglas Gissendaner’s 1997 murder. “But she can’t take back what she’s done.
“Kelly’s death will only cause more harm,” Zappa said, “to her friends in prison, to her three children who don’t want to lose their mother. She is changed and transformed and only wants to offer something back to her community.”
Speaking out in Gissendaner’s defense, Zappa said, “She has tried to make amends in the way she has lived her life, to work for healing and reconciliation. And she has started living her life in a way that shows penitence for her husband’s death and honors her children, who are also victims of her crime.”
Zappa was one of several people who on Feb. 25 addressed the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles at a hearing to request clemency for Gissendaner. The board denied the request. Her execution, previously scheduled for later that day, was postponed until March 2 because of bad weather.
Zappa told the board that Gissendaner “has had an uplifting impact on my life, on people in the theology program and on other inmates. She has chosen to thrive, as both a person and a Christian, during her incarceration and her death sentence.
“Rather than succumbing to bitterness, despair or a sense of victimization, Kelly has become a compassionate, reflective, spiritual and authentic human being. She’s committed to living life to the fullest and to being a blessing in whatever way she can to others in her world.”
One of the people in her world is internationally renowned author and professor of systematic theology Jürgen Moltmann of the University of Tübingen, Germany.
Gissandaner wrote to him after reading one of his books for her theology foundations course work. They became pen pals, and Moltmann came to visit her and spoke at the certificate program’s 2011 commencement.
“Kelly said about their correspondence that she wanted Dr. Moltmann to know how much she’d learned from him,” said Zappa. “He wrote back and said how much he’s learned from her. He sent her a handkerchief, which he said was to hold all her tears.”
Many of the women in the theology program look up to Gissendaner and see her as a source of inspiration, hope, and strength. “Over and over,” said Zappa, “I hear phrases like, ‘If Kelly can handle that, then I can handle this,’ or ‘If Kelly can keep faith or stay strong, then so can I.’”
When Gissendaner graduated from the theology certificate program in October 2011, she was chosen as the student speaker.
From the start of her course work, she said, “Never have I had a hunger like this. I became so hungry for theology, and what all the classes had to offer, you could call me a glutton. I’ve now added in thirst for the accomplishment of my dream to continue the study of theology.
“I challenge you to step up the next level of your character, growth, and development,” she told them. “In all of us, there are untapped abilities. I encourage you to write that book, start that ministry, teach, study, pursue your dream.”
Gissendaner went on to remind them that “suffering can be redeemed. There is only One who can bring a clean thing out of something unclean, or turn a tragedy into a triumph, and a loser into a winner. When this miracle occurs, and only through Divine grace, our life is not wasted. When blind eyes are opened, then we all will see the greater purpose. Let us put off hatred and envy and put on love and compassion. Every day.”
In the three years since graduating, Gissendaner continued to take every theology course that was offered at the prison until her final appeal was denied.
On Feb. 27, a letter asking government officials to reconsider sparing Kelly’s life was signed by Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright and is being distributed throughout the state. To read the letter, click here.
Four participating member schools of the Atlanta Theological Association, which sponsors the Certificate in Theological Studies program, are Candler School of Theology at Emory University, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, the Interdenominational Theological Center and Columbia Theological Seminary.
– Nan Ross is director of communications for the Diocese of Atlanta.
St. John’s, New Braunfels, TX
1 March 2015
Diocese of West Texas
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
As we gathered yesterday to affirm the election of your new bishop coadjutor, I looked out over the congregation and saw great joy and celebration. There were a surprising number of young people gathered, some of whom sang and led the music during the offertory. Others were doing a great job leading processions as acolytes – competent and dignified while they were serving, and delightfully uninhibited teenagers when out of uniform – taking selfies, ribbing each other, and being helpful when needed. Once we were all in place for the liturgy, I noticed a little boy sitting on the floor in the middle aisle near the front. He was probably 6 or 7 years old, and rapt with attention most of the time. During the offertory, and during communion, when there were other people using the aisle, he went back to his father’s lap. I found myself wondering what sort of world and church he will inherit.
Abram and Sarai are looking even farther down the strand of time, still hoping, but not yet knowing if there will be offspring to wonder about. They hear that they’re going to be not just parents, but the progenitors of multitudes. No wonder that in another version of the story Sarah laughs. ‘Right, God! We’re old enough to be great-grandparents and now we’re going to have a baby?’ ‘Abraham and Sarah, you will produce whole nations, and kings to lead them.’
It’s a minor miracle that Abram and Sarai don’t split up long before they have that baby. Soon after God calls Abram to leave Ur and go to Haran, he and his family find themselves in the middle of a famine. They keep moving and cross the border into Egypt, to graze their herds in the Nile delta, and try to find enough to eat. Pharaoh hears about the beautiful Sarai, and decides to take her for his harem. Abram knows that her husband is likely to be killed off to get him out of the way, so he tries to pawn her off as his sister in order to save his own skin. Those two sojourners in Egypt are aliens in foreign territory; they’ve crossed the border seeking more of life’s possibility, but they have no protection, either from kinfolk or legal systems. They are at the mercy of the local power brokers. Like migrants the world over, they’re exploited. Sarai is abducted – today we’d say she was trafficked – while her husband is forced to stand by and do the best he can to survive.
The story goes on. Pharaoh and his household get sick, and somehow he discovers that he has taken Abram’s wife, rather than his sister, for his own. Pharaoh responds, “you’ve deceived me, now take your wife and get out of here!” Abram and his wife are deported but they do survive.
Abram is not a righteous fellow according to the law, yet he is given this remarkable promise of an heir and rafts of descendants – and the Bible says, “it is reckoned to him as righteousness.” If there is hope for this ambiguously faithful survivor, there is certainly hope for the rest of us. God’s justice is not quite like our own. The point seems to be that God is working his purposes out in ways that are beyond our immediate awareness, that God will bring life out of the worst that life can visit on us, even when we participate in its grievousness and error.
There’s something similar going on in the gospel conversation between Peter and Jesus. Jesus pretty clearly knows that what he’s been teaching and doing is upsetting the powers that be. Like Abram, he knows that the response is likely to be death as the authorities discover who he is and what he’s up to. Then the two stories diverge. Abram is convinced that his survival – and Sarai’s – is what is most important, however he manages to pull it off. Jesus knows that the life of nations has to do with his continued journey, even if it brings his own death. The result in both instances is abundant life and offspring, whether it’s the heirs God has promised to Abraham or the heirs of the kingdom of God, delivered through the labor of Jesus.
Abram has let go of his honor in that culture, by relinquishing his wife and his claims on her. He has been shamed by letting another take his property, even if it was Pharaoh who did it. In his context honor is on a par with life itself – and we can still see that in societies that murder women whose fidelity is in question. Sarai has little or no ability to avoid her abduction, but her beauty will keep her alive as long as she cooperates. Ultimately, the plague on Pharaoh’s house delivers them both, and the fulfilment of the promise of offspring re-emerges as a possibility.
Jesus tells Peter not to lure him away from his path by focusing on his mortal survival. Jesus believes that his journey involves the cross – for the promise of abundant life will emerge from his faithfulness to that road, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who let go of their possessiveness about their lives will find those lives returned to them in abundance.
What promise motivates your journey in life? What cross will you shoulder in the cause of that ultimate goal?
This congregation suffered a considerable loss just a few years ago. It wasn’t just loss of face or identity, but of people who had been known and loved for years. Those who remained picked up their grief and pain and got back on the path, and today you are tasting something of abundant life as a result. You are indeed blessed to be a blessing, and you are living that out through growing the lives of the faithful here and sharing the love you know with the wider world.
Losing life in order to find it comes in many different forms. Viola Liuzzo, a white housewife from Detroit, went to Selma in 1965 to support the march for civil rights. She was not saved by her beauty, and in fact it probably made her a more attractive target as she drove activists from Montgomery back to Selma. She was shot to death for her work,  much like Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian who stepped in front of a shotgun blast meant for a young African-American woman, Ruby Sales. In the midst of those events 50 years ago, Andrew Young had this to say about taking up crosses: “We come only with the power of our souls and the strength of our bodies to love the hell out of Alabama.”
Sometimes what is lost is more like Abram’s sacrifice of pride and honor. Whenever a conflict becomes intractable, it’s usually about both sides thinking they’re right in refusing to budge. Marital conflict like that usually leads to divorce – and we’re seeing similar realities in Congress and in the Middle East. You had a taste of it here some years ago. Picking up a cross often looks like vulnerability and empathizing with the other – for once the opponent can be seen as human, the possibility of greater life also emerges. It’s the same thing as loving your neighbor as yourself – seeing the image of God in someone who is actually very much like us, understanding the pain in another life, finding a common hunger for meaning, letting go of our own pride or sense of ultimate righteousness. It might be undocumented immigrants, or people with a different religious or political position, and there are opportunities all around us to pick up a cross of vulnerability.
What cross needs picking up in your life? What needs to be laid down to find your life? Where can we love the hell out of the world around us?
 Gen 12:10-20
Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes
John “I am the vine, you are the branches”
26 February 2015
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
I am the vine, says Jesus, and Abba is the vine-grower. We are the branches if we stay connected. Christians usually leap quickly to the latter parts of this passage, but the essence comes at the beginning. God the vine-grower is the source of all life and creativity. Jesus is the way we tap into, or root ourselves in, that creative source. We become fruitful through connection to that source and the generativity that results. Jesus defines that as being disciples, followers and students, as well as teachers of others.
A grape vine is fruitful in a variety of ways, not only in producing grapes. The tendrils that bind the vine to a tree or the vine-grower’s posts and wires are essential to holding the vine up in the air and sunlight, without which it will rarely produce great harvests of good grapes. The leaves themselves produce food for the entire plant – and its surrounding ecosystem. So do the unseen and often forgotten roots, and healthy rootstock is key to the vine’s survival. The bark on a vine gradually thickens as it ages, protecting the inner transport mechanisms that move nutrients from one part of the plant to another. And, even though it may cut across your favorite way of understanding the pruning verses, the over-exuberant growth that is pruned away is key to the fruitfulness of the whole, both by prodding the plant to focus its energy on grape-production and by yielding its own life for the sake of greater fruitfulness. Even the life that is yielded in pruning goes to produce more – in the ashes of a burn pile or in slower recycling into soil nutrients. No part of this vine-system is unimportant to the life of the whole. And, indeed, it is more intimately and exquisitely connected than we can see or know.
All of creation works that way, whether we’re reading Genesis or the scientific cosmological and evolutionary story. In the first creation account God is the source of what is, at least once we move beyond “a formless void and darkness over the face of the deep.” Light is separated from darkness, the waters above are separated from the waters below, the waters are separated from dry land – and by the third day fruitful plants are appearing. The emergence of light is blessed as good, but it doesn’t say that means the darkness is cursed – there is something deeply important about their ongoing relationship. Those plants can’t be fruitful without a diurnal rhythm – a time for photosynthesis and a time for rest. Nor can the system be fruitful until there is separation of earth from sea. The ocean doesn’t harbor fruiting plants, other than a handful of species – like sea grasses and mangroves – descended from land plants that have adapted to shallow near-shore environments. Seed and fruit-producing plants began to evolve on land around 400 million years ago, long after bacteria in the sea had begun to fill the atmosphere with oxygen. Once that literal terrestrial flourishing began, and fields and forests began to emerge, it was accompanied by an explosion of animal forms, both insects and vertebrates.
Light and darkness, terra firma and the depths of the sea, bacteria and higher plants, plankton and vertebrates – all are irreplaceable and essential parts of the whole. All forms of fruitfulness depend on interconnection.
Episcopalians are learning to think about our relationship with God and neighbor through a framework of connection called the Five Anglican Marks of Mission. It’s digital shorthand for considering the varied ways in which the divine character of love is made concrete in the world around us. The marks themselves are interconnected through the One who gives us evidence of the love of God in human flesh, through the One who calls us friend. God sends us out to heal the brokenness of the world, the body of God’s creation. Those digits are connected to the hand of friendship Jesus extends, which we are meant to use in meeting and embracing the world. That needs all sorts of different gifts, working together to build up that body in love, as Paul notes: “we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
I Proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God
The connections between vine, branches, and vineyard-maker undergird our theological understanding of what it means to be human, and to be in fruitful relationship with all that is. That is fundamentally what the good news we proclaim is about: there is a divine source of all that is, all of it is shot through with the glory of God, and we are held within that web of relationship for our own ultimate well-being and the well-being of all the rest. Christians use more particular language for that, and Paul’s words are among the most familiar: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The more ancient psalmist sets this fundamental reality in the context of the wider creation. God interpenetrates all that is, and we cannot avoid or escape the life-giving urge and life-expanding embrace:
“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
Although he wrote about that interconnectedness nearly a century and a half ago, Gerard Manley Hopkins sounds prescient when he speaks of oil, toil, and what we’d call consumption:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Creation has anciently been called the “sacrament” of God, an outward and visible sign of God’s creative reality, in which are held all parts of the created order. The interrelated, social, connected reality of creation is an outward image of what we speak of as the inward, Trinitarian nature of God. The three persons of the Godhead are variously understood as companions (Rublev’s icon), a dance party (perichoresis), and as originator, sanctifier, and sustainer of creation. The goodness and blessedness of God’s creation is sign, meaning, and evidence of divine participation in all that is.
II Teach, baptize, nurture new believers
Jesus uses the vine and branch and source image to speak of disciples who “abide” in connection with that divine social reality. We often dismiss that word “social” as something vaguely unholy, perhaps not substantial enough for serious consideration. Yet social has its roots in linguistic contexts of companionship, alliance, living together, even the union of marriage. Its deeper origins are in the same root from which we get sequence and sequential, with a sense of following. To follow Jesus is to give evidence of the inner life of God as a society of connectedness.
Growing fruitful followers of Jesus is both about educating people in the relational nature of reality, and countering the heretical view that “me and Jesus” is all that matters. To love God and love our neighbors as ourselves is not an individualistic endeavor; it is a profoundly social one, rooted in eating and spending time together, discovering the creativity of God in relationships with neighbors and the wider world. To put it another way, the abiding friends of Jesus know their interdependence – on one another and the source of life. Abiders understand their task as moving outward (love of neighbor and God), rather than solely inward. Mission means sent. There is an ever-present strand in Christianity that tends to see the primary spiritual task as love of God in ways that build up the self and deny the presence of God in others and the world. That strand often results in sectarian and extremist responses, rather than ones that recognize and affirm the interconnectedness of all that God has made. At the extreme, it amounts to lopping off the branch you’re sitting on.
Missional formation shapes members of the vine who know they have received unique gifts, and know their dependence on the unique gifts of others. Loving God and neighbor looks like the response of fellow passengers when a person shouted at a Muslim woman in a headscarf, “this is America!” The woman’s reflection is telling, “The unity I felt on the airplane was just overwhelming. So many people were consoling me. People were very gentle and nice to me and my husband. This is America. That’s the American response.” I beg to differ, for it’s not an American response. It is a moral response, the result of good spiritual and ethical formation. It demonstrates love of neighbor, and it is a result of people who understand their interconnections with one another and with the source of life. Those anonymous passengers who were compassionate in the face of another’s vitriol were being fruitful. The result is more abundant life – which in a very real way makes the source of that life more evident.
III. Respond to human need with loving service
The outward move to love neighbors in the world is one that continues to challenge this Church. For a long time, and in many places, we have acted as though all our neighbors were already in the pews with us. Episcopalians have often learned to love those neighbors more completely, sometimes so well that they and we have thought the work was done. Yet Jesus continues to call his disciples – his vine-friends – outward and onward into Galilee, and to discover him there.
Galilee is not the safety of congregation or family home. It is literally “the district” or “the neighborhood.” It implies getting out of your comfort zone to meet the neighbors God has created for the world’s well-being as well as our own. We’re sent to be neighbors, loving ones, and to stay connected to the vine and source. What does it look like but listening deeply to the cries of people wandering in the wilderness? We have to hear and experience the need before we can respond in loving ways. When people throng to Jesus, that’s why he asks what they want, and what they’re seeking. We have to ask to hear the story of another, and wait until it emerges. It’s not a passive stance, but an act of creative expectation, what Nelle Morton famously called “hearing people into speech.” Listening to the lament is an act of solidarity that inaugurates a loving response.
Loving responses are acts that reconnect or strengthen weakened connections. Jesus’ itinerant ministry was mostly focused around feeding, healing, and teaching the people who came looking for him. They were hungry, hurting, and hopeless – and he responded in ways that met their need. Many communities of faith feed the hungry, teach children and adults. A growing number are engaged in active ministries of healing – 12-step groups, sacramental liturgies of healing, parish nursing and opening health clinics. Yet there are varieties of brokenness and pain in need of healing.
An emerging response in Western Massachusetts is focused on the needs of parents with addiction issues. The priest who’s leading this new development spends much of her time “having conversations.” Effective and appropriate loving response will emerge from that listening. Episcopal Relief and Development is grounded in this kind of community-centered approach, and begins its work in new places by helping the community to tell its own story – to notice and express both its need and the resources already present. Sometimes this is called Asset-Based Community Development. It’s ancient – and one reason why Jesus has been called a community organizer. How were 5000 people fed? How did the feast at Cana continue when the wine ran out? The gifts and resources already present were identified and blessed – and great abundance resulted.
Congregations are increasingly working together with partners from other faith traditions (and none) to respond to the needs in their neighborhoods in loving ways. Even recognizing that those other partners have gifts is an important step in discovering abundance. When the ties that bind us are affirmed, life abounds. Whether those other parts of the body are Muslim, Mormon, or Methodist, the need to feed the hungry and heal the sick and hear the lament can be more effectively answered together. Ferguson and Staten Island are reminding us of that reality, as is Pasco, Washington.
IV Transform unjust structures, challenge violence, pursue peace and reconciliation
Our connections to the vine may become most evident when the branches are ailing. The rising economic inequalities, both in the U.S. and globally, bring with them increased conflict, poorer health, reduced life possibilities and shortened lifespans. Childhood poverty now stands at 30% in this country (#6 globally) and the effects will reverberate for generations. We are attached to a vine who insisted that abundant life was the reason for the vine and the garden’s existence. Some seem to ask, ‘What do these budding branchlets have to do with us?’ The health of entire societies is tied up in how we care for the weakest and poorest among us.
The health of the vine is also at risk when surrounded by active conflict. The work of peace-making is essential to restored vigor and fruitfulness. That work of peacemaking requires ongoing engagement with all parties, yet the sad reality is that human response is often to cut off contact with anyone deemed an enemy. There is little possibility of healing when connection is lost. But when people on both sides are willing to be vulnerable to the painful stories and realities of those on the other side, miracles begin to happen, even when civil and military officials can’t manage to make peace. We’re seeing hopeful signs of that right now in Israel-Palestine, as settler rabbis and former Palestinian freedom fighters sit down together and begin to understand the fear and woundedness on both sides.
Violence is anything that works to limit or take away life – the very word means something like “against life.” Violence can be verbal, physical, or systemic. It is often directed at people who are seen to differ from some group norm – and the prevalence of gender-based violence says a great deal about the need to broaden social norms to include all human beings, not only males. The Anglican Communion is engaging this work with great clarity and focus, particularly in regions where GBV is used an implement of war or terror.
Systemic violence can be gender-based, as the overwhelmingly female percentages of human trafficking victims demonstrates. It can also be based in race or economic status. The rates of mass incarceration in this country speak to that reality – black and brown young men have appallingly high probabilities of being arrested and incarcerated, and as this nation is beginning to understand, a much higher likelihood of being assaulted or killed in interactions with police. The link with poverty is less well known, but the cycle of penal enslavement based on inability to pay fines is a growing reality for the poor. Can’t pay a traffic fine? Well, if you’re stopped again, in many jurisdictions you will likely go to jail and stay there until you can, all the while being charged for your keep. Municipal fines for your child’s truancy can land you there as well. This, in a nation that believes that debtors’ prisons went out with the Revolution.
The health of the entire vineyard depends on just and fruitful connections for all the branches of the vine. There will be no long-term generativity or sustainability for any part of the vine absent intentional solidarity with the poor and oppressed and a search for more abundant life for all.
V Safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Finally, unless we care for the garden in which the vine is planted with something approaching the tender hope of the One who planted it, we are only digging our own grave. We are long past the time when human depredation of the garden could be limited to a narrow field. Our ability to transform the environment is perhaps the most significant aspect of what it means to be made in the image of the Creator. Yet we too often continue to choose paths that lead into empty wastelands, denying our connections with those who dwell in teeming cities as well as all the creatures who share this garden with us.
The exhaust from power production is casting a pall over the earth – and it is a funeral pall. As it fouls the air we breathe and contains the heat of sunlight, we are not so slowly melting icecaps, acidifying and expanding the oceans, threatening coastal populations with flooding, limiting the areas where food can be grown, changing the climate and making weather events more extreme – and it is accelerating the loss of species across the globe.
The diversity of species in an ecosystem is central to an ecologist’s definition of its health – those with few species are generally in crisis or its aftermath. Diversity contributes to the resilience of a system, and when it’s reduced, relatively small disruptions can bring radical changes. Think of what happens after a forest fire. A severe one kills most of the trees and brush which provided the skeletal structure of the forest. With little to hold back the runoff, rains wash soil and ash into drainage ways, smothering fish and insects. Increased sunlight on barren ground yields bumper crops of one or two weed species. It takes decades and centuries for a similarly resilient system to return, and it will likely not be the same system that existed before the fire. The loss of interconnectedness brings chaos. Eventually God creates anew, but what was before is often lost.
I’ve categorized this reality as power production. It’s not only the output from power plants and car engines that is causing climate change and species extinction. In a theological sense, this as a Garden of Eden problem. It is the human desire to control or use every part of the garden for our own. Our hunger for power is partly about electricity, but it’s also wrapped up in the hunger for more and more meat and animal products. Livestock production is the second major producer of greenhouse gases. There is growing awareness of the inhumane ways in which many livestock are managed, but the very problem is a sign of human hunger for power over all parts of creation. The growing populations and prosperity of developing nations mean that this challenge is likely to be before us for generations.
The greatest challenge is to recognize our interconnectedness – with other parts of creation and with our human neighbors – and recognize and restrain our power hungers. It’s past time to repent, turn around, and go in a holier direction, back into well-bound relationship with the vine and the source of all that is. That is the direction of sustained fruitfulness and the generativity that abundant life implies. Go and follow Jesus, into the neighborhood, unto ages of ages (ut seculae seculorum).
 John 15:1-10
 Gen 1:1-2:4a
 Devonian period, ca 420-360 million years ago
 Ephesians 4:15-16
 Romans 8:38-39
 Psalm 139:7-12
 Heed, pay attention to
 Anthony of Egypt, Philokalia: “Creation declares in a loud voice its maker and master.”
 First noted by Gregory of Nazianzus
 secular comes from a different root, meaning a generation, age, or span of time
 e(x)-duco, as “bringing out” or “leading forth”
 Matthew 28:10, “Don’t be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
 The Journey is Home, Boston: Beacon, 1985. p 127
 Even though the Constitution forbids imprisonment for debt, de jure debtors’ prisons existed in the US well into the 19th century, and de facto incarceration for debt exists in multiple jurisdictions today
Called to Serve
West Texas Diocesan Council
27 February 2015
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Why are you here? Did the bishops offer a free lunch? Was this an opportunity to play hooky from work or school and spend your Friday at a church meeting?
My sense is that most of us are here because we heard an invitation, a challenge, a request to follow Jesus wherever he might lead. Like the guys who were fishing in the Galilean lake, we’ve been invited to set aside old ways and set off on an adventure – the one called holy living, that keeps us moving toward abundant life and the reign of God.
When we walked through that open door and first said yes to that invitation, we agreed to try to live in ways that reflect love of God and love of our neighbors as ourselves. That shift, or metanoia, sometimes called repentance, is about turning in a new direction, from a pretty exclusive focus on ourselves to a far more equal focus on our neighbors. That re-orientation also invites us into more intentionally grateful living. More than anything else, following Jesus is about getting out of our own way to give thanks for what God is doing and to notice where we are being invited to join in what God is already up to.
Human beings evolved with deep-seated instincts for self-preservation. Sometimes those instincts blind us to the larger communities of which we’re a part, and to the wondrous miracle of God’s creation – the diverse and generative garden where God planted us. That focus on self is what got Adam and Eve in trouble – they thought they ought to be able to use anything in the garden for their own desires, even though a tree or two had been set aside NOT to be used. Their offspring had the same kinds of challenges. Cain and Abel get in a snit because each thinks his offering is better than his brother’s. Like most kinds of sin, the original one is about taking what was originally a gift and trying to hoard it or using it to excess. Self-preservation is a very useful trait when the predators are after you, but it becomes sinful or even evil when it is the entirety of your focus. The great commandment is to remember who gave us that gift and that it was given to every other creature as well. It’s not all about us! The gift of self-preservation is meant to be balanced with the desire of others to preserve themselves. Loving our neighbors means doing what we can, not just to preserve our own life, but to foster abundant life for all. When Irenaeus said that the glory of God was a human being fully alive, he meant every human being – and all creation.
The continuing, daily conversion of Christian living is about turning away from our own navels, turning outward to give thanks for all that is, to discover the gift of the neighbors we’ve been given, and to do something creative about the brokenness in the world around us. That’s what service, ministry, and discipleship are all about. That is the road to abundant life.
We’re called to serve God’s intention for all creation – that it be healed, made whole, so that it might more perfectly reflect the social nature of three persons in community called Trinity. This may be even harder for Americans, for we tend to lionize self-reliance as the goal of existence. Being called to serve, and understanding it as being called, begins with recognizing that we aren’t the ones doing the calling. We didn’t call ourselves or decide to live this way on our own hook – someone or several someones helped to form the desire in us to say “yes” to this invitation. We have admitted and affirmed that we’re not on this journey by ourselves. We’re part of a community of human beings who bear the image of the divine and are also clearly imperfect. We find our humanity increased and our lives glorified by answering the invitation to serve that dream of abundant life for all.
That community, like the Trinity it images, is bigger, more effective and expansive, and more abundant than the parts that make it up – for simply by living together as interconnected parts of a whole, we become more than we could have imagined. The work of living together in community – the struggle for harmony and coherence (and it will always be a struggle this side of the grave!) both prepares us for reconciling work in the world and begins to effect that healing.
The catechism in our nearly 40 year old prayer book says the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. If we look deeply at what that means, we might phrase it differently today – healing what is broken, making whole what is divided, breaking down the dividing walls between us, peacemaking – and we would be explicit about the work of reconciling human beings with the rest of God’s creation. It’s the sort of work that Jesus claims for himself at the beginning of his public ministry, when he reads from Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He spends the next three years of his life doing that in very concrete ways. He teaches people about the nearness of God, encourages people to see God present and at work in their lives, in the midst of both suffering and feasting. He feeds people who are hungry, and releases people from the bondage of disease, infirmity, mental illness, and social stigma. He heals the blind, revives the dead and near-dead, and builds new kinds of families – like giving his mother and John to one another while he hangs on the cross. And he challenges the powers around him who want to limit access to God or to deny the healing possibility of right relationship with God in community – what we more commonly call justice. Those are the same kinds of things the long tradition of prophets rail about. That’s what all his conflict is with both the religious and the political leaders around him – and that challenge to the status quo is what gets him executed.
Throughout all of that servant ministry, he keeps reminding those who will listen that the reign of God is nearer than they knew or thought. When you see healing, there it is! When the widow gets justice, yes! When children are welcomed and foreigners made to feel at home, the kingdom of God has indeed come near. That’s what service is.
Now I’m going to move from preaching to meddling. What does that look like around here? How and where are the people of this diocese called to serve?
We might start with the original challenge – none of us is whole unto ourselves. We need each other, and we cannot be truly human or truly whole or truly holy without community and the struggles it entails. There are no extraneous people in God’s holy and healed community. If there’s room for that robber who was hung up next to Jesus, there is room for anyone in our prisons, anyone who comes across the border, and those who sit on the other side of the aisle in the Capitol. No one is expendable in God’s economy, and our salvation depends on making peace with the people we’d rather not have around. It is often those nearest to us who seem the most challenging, whether it’s noisy neighbors or excessively perfumed pewmates, or our Abrahamic brothers and sisters. Building connections and healed relationships with immigrants or our Jewish and Muslim neighbors here will ultimately have an effect on the brokenness and violence in other parts of the world. Breaking down dividing walls in this neighborhood will help to build bridges elsewhere.
That reality is central to the gospel. The loving service of one human being in Palestine some 2000 years ago changed the world and its interrelationships. Jesus’ sacramental self-offering exposed the underlying reality of God’s creation – that God has created us for more abundant life, and that God gets the last word, not death or division or evil. There is always hope for more abundant life, for that is ultimately what God is about. That reality continues to become outwardly evident in tiny acts of compassion as well as the repair of nations. Each instance of healing, bridge-building, and wall-breaching makes life more abundant.
For Jesus is our peace, in his flesh he has made two into one and broken down the dividing wall and hostility between us. He proclaims peace to those who are far away and to you who are near – all are beloved of God. You can’t be strangers and aliens any more, you’re members of the same household, with Christ Jesus in your midst. He joins all the parts together into a world where God is at home.
We are called to serve that vision of a healed world. We’re called out into Galilee, into the neighborhood that is both familiar and strange, to meet the residents and hear their lament – and their joy. Who is crying out for healing? What injustice makes lives less than abundant? That’s where we will find Jesus already at work. Will you go? Will you answer that call? Will you serve that vision of holy wholeness, life abundant meant for each? And when there is joy, will you go and join its abundance?
The journey begins in gratitude – thank you, Lord, for giving me life and breath and people to love. Thank you for getting me through the travels of this week without getting stuck anywhere. Thank you for showing me the grace and humor of the strangers I met traveling – for they became companions. What are your thanksgivings this day?
The journey begins in gratitude and continues in confidence that God walks with us, even when it feels like the valley of the shadow of death. There is no abundance to be found in any kind of self-preservation that excludes neighbors. We find abundance when we’re willing to risk, when we are open enough to be vulnerable. That’s probably the center of what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Take the risk to live abundantly – even recklessly, to love neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Let’s go out there and meet the neighbors. Are we willing to take the risk to listen deeply enough to discover what they’re hungry for? I keep hearing that one of the amazing gifts of this diocesan community is the network of relationships you have. How might that bless the Galilee around you, by loving as you love your own?
We discover abundant life by giving thanks for the One who gives it, and by offering and sharing the abundance we know so that others might also find it. Yes, there is a free lunch! It comes to those who give thanks and share what they have received. It’s called grace, and hope, and the love of God. We have seen it in human flesh, and we are called to serve it up in our own offering.
Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu – blessed be the Lord, God of the universe, who has given us life and all that is. Blessed be the God who sent Jesus among to break down all division. Blessed be the Lord who has made us all to share the abundance he has created. Thanks be to God who has created and called us to serve his people and his creation. Amen.
 Book of Common Prayer, p 855
 Luke 4:18-19
 cf Ephesians 2:14-22. Loose paraphrase
[World Council of Churches press release] The World Council of Churches (WCC) has condemned recent attacks against a mosque in the West Bank and a Christian center in Jerusalem that appear to be part of the series of so-called “price-tag” attacks by extremist elements.
According to media reports, a group of Jewish settlers stormed Al-Jaba’a village, near Bethlehem, and set fire to the Al-Huda Mosque, leaving anti-Arab slogans on its walls. The following day, in another apparent arson attack, a building belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem was set on fire and vandalized with anti-Christian graffiti.
In a statement issued on Feb. 27, the WCC acting general secretary Georges Lemopoulos said that the WCC “calls for swift and concrete measures to ensure those responsible for these and other similar attacks are in fact brought to justice, and further such attacks prevented.”
He also expressed gratitude for the “clear and unequivocal response” by the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin in a phone call to Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, in which the president denounced the Jerusalem attack, calling it “a heinous crime” and affirming that “those responsible must be brought to justice.”
The statement from the WCC also acknowledges a response from the Israel’s Foreign Ministry and U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process condemning these attacks.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion Office’s (ACO) director for communications has announced he is leaving after five years in post.
Jan Butter came to the ACO in March 2010 from humanitarian agency World Vision International where he was head of global advocacy communications. At St. Andrew’s House he was tasked with helping the Anglican Communion and its Instruments of Communion better communicate the best of their life and mission.
To that end his work has included strengthening the impact and reach of the Anglican Communion News Service; establishing the ACO’s presence on Twitter and Facebook*; helping member churches build their communications capacity; and undertaking a corporate rebrand for the ACO, including a refresh of the Compass Rose logo design.
“It has been a genuine privilege to lead the ACO’s communications department and serve the Anglican Communion,” said Butter. “I believe that communicating the Gospel is at the heart of our calling as Christians and I have been delighted to see more and more Anglicans and Episcopalians able to share their stories with each other and the world.
“I’m particularly pleased to have relaunched Anglican World magazine and to have moved the Anglican Communion News Service from an email service to a fully-fledged website. Also, I’m glad to be able to launch the brand new Anglican Communion website next month before I leave.
“All of these tools have and will help people everywhere to have a more accurate perception of Anglican/Episcopal life and worship around the world.”
Butter has worked with colleagues from other provinces to ensure members of the Anglican Communion heard from the Primates’ Meeting in Ireland, the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand and from the yearly Standing Committee meetings.
“Perhaps my greatest joy in this role has been the opportunity to connect with and worship alongside people from every member church,” he said. “I can honestly say that the Anglican bonds of affection – the relationships between different nationalities who share faith, tradition and history – makes this Anglican Communion what it is.”
Interim Secretary General, the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, said, “Jan will be sorely missed, not only at the Anglican Communion Office but around the Communion. His professional skill as a communicator, combined with his layman’s passion for the Gospel, has inspired many.
“He has been particularly committed to increasing the communications capacity of member churches of the Communion, and to equip young communicators with the tools they need to share inspiring and sometimes challenging stories from their many complex contexts.”
Butter has accepted the position of director for global health communications with World Vision International. His last day with the Anglican Communion Office is March 18.
The post of director for communication is expected to remain vacant until the new secretary general has been appointed. In the meantime, ACNS and Anglican World will continue to cover Anglican Communion news and information. If you have anything for publication please email firstname.lastname@example.org
El Sínodo de la Novena Provincia
25 febrero 2015
La Reverendísima Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primado
La Iglesia Episcopal
Somos creados para la vida abundante, como dijo Jesús, “yo he venido para que tengan vida, y para que la tengan en abundancia.” La abundancia es una señal de la presencia real del reino de Dios alrededor de nosotros. Cuando estamos haciendo lo que mandó Jesús, amando a Dios y a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos, la abundancia fluye y crece. La abundancia no es solamente espiritual, pero necesita ser corporal y física también. Hay abundancia cuando los hambrientos tienen comida, y los encarcelados están liberados, y todos/as viven en paz porque hay justicia. Esto es la misión de Dios, de lo cual somos siervos y ministros, y la iglesia es un instrumento para trasformar sus miembros y el mundo entero hacia el reino de Dios.
Los teólogos misioneros desde muchos años han dicho que una iglesia madura tiene tres características. Ella da evidencia de ser auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente. No significa que no necesita otras partes del cuerpo de Cristo, pero vive en relación amplia e interdependiente. Tiene capaz de dar vida a nuevas comunidades de fe. Es una célula que recibe y da a otras. Es un compañero en Cristo a otras comunidades. Existe en solidaridad, y está creciendo hasta la estatura completa de Cristo. Los dones que hemos recibido fueron dados para “capacitar a los santos para la obra del ministerio… hasta que todos lleguemos… a la medida de la estatura de la plenitud de Cristo.” Una iglesia madurando tiene fe que Dios ha dado lo que es necesario por la misión de Dios en ese lugar. Cuando una iglesia está viajando y trabajando hacia este ideal, está buscando la vida abundante, un parte del cuerpo mutuamente responsable e interdependiente con los otros partes.
Ese concepto es una imagen que refleja la Trinidad de Dios, tres miembros en una comunidad, cada uno con su propio ser y todos integrados en una sociedad, dando vida abundante uno al otro y al mundo entero.
La característica de ser auto-extendiendo significa que la iglesia, la comunidad de Cristo, puede trasmitir la fe a nuevas generaciones y en contextos nuevos y los que están cambiando. Los miembros tienen bastante confianza para enseñar a los demás. Los miembros forman una comunidad de trasformación – a sus mismos y a la sociedad externa. Está trabajando a construir el reino de Dios aquí en la tierra como está en el cielo.
Podemos relacionar las Marcas de Misión Anglicana con estas tres características. La primera marca es “proclamar las buenas nuevas del Reno de Dios.” La segunda es “ensenar, bautizar, y capacitar a las nuevas creyentes.” Ambas marcas son relacionadas con la extensión y el crecimiento del cuerpo de Cristo. Y al mismo tiempo, a la trasformación al mundo en el Reino de Dios.
La característica de ser auto-gobernante es relacionada con la capacidad del cuerpo de Cristo de funcionar integrado, colaborando por la misión de Dios. Ningún parte del cuerpo cree que es más importante que otra parte, y todas las partes trabajan juntas, en solidaridad una al otra y también con el mundo entero. Todos son contables y responsables al cuerpo. Todos consideran y responden a las necesidades de los más pequeños, y todos participan en el crecimiento hasta la estatura de la plenitud de Cristo.
La tercera marca y la cuarta son relacionadas con auto-gobernación. III: responder a las necesidades humanas con ministerio tierno y amoroso. IV: trasformar sistemas de injusticia, oponerse a toda forma de la violencia, y buscar la paz y la reconciliación.
Gobernación del cuerpo puede significar como tomamos decisiones. Hay algunas cosas que TREC ha comendado a la Iglesia Episcopal sobre este tema, como una convención general que funciona en una sola cámara. Gobernación es relacionada con el uso de los recursos financieros del cuerpo, especialmente como rendimos cuentas al cuerpo. O también como construimos o mantengamos sistemas de justicia al dentro de la iglesia (como Titulo IV, o el acceso igual por ambos géneros y los discapacitados, y antirracismo). Una iglesia auto-gobernante también busca de cambiar sistemas de injusticia afuera de la iglesia – en las leyes nacionales, en sistemas penales, en las políticas de migración, o la esclavitud actual.
La característica de ser auto-suficiente no significa solamente que una iglesia tiene bastantes recursos financieros para promulgar su ministerio. Es una actitud que puede ver que los dones que Dios ha dado están suficientes para hacer el ministerio en un lugar. Es una orientación de fe. Es también la práctica de ver abundancia al contrario de ausencia. Y es un proceso continuo de crecimiento en fe y capacidad para trasformar el mundo hacia el reino de Dios. Iglesias auto-suficiente colaboran por la sanidad del cuerpo más grande; son creativas y de emprendedor; no tienen miedo de riesgo necesario; pueden cambiar para servir la misión de Dios; son capaz de acomodarse y cambiar – no son fijadas en el cemento. Se pueden seguir a Jesús a Galilea, al dentro de la vecindad local y mundial. Se entienden que toda es inter-relacionada en la creación de Dios, y cada parte tiene sus propios dones y funciones para el bienestar del entero.
Esta característica es relacionada con la quinta marca, que defina nuestro papel de asegurar la integridad del ambiento, de la tierra, de la planeta que es nuestro hogar.
Este entendimiento de una iglesia madura que es auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente puede ser reflejado en varias partes de la iglesia – en una diócesis, en una congregación, y en la provincia anglicana que es TEC. Podemos pensar también en la iglesia universal y la familia humana de los hijos e hijas de Dios. Tenemos todos/as la responsabilidad de aumentar la capacidad de cada nivel y parte de experimentar la vida abundante que es el sueño de Dios por todos/as.
Creo que la función de este sínodo y la de la convención general son de considerar cómo podemos aumentar la capacidad por la vida abundante en cada comunidad y contexto. El presupuesto que vamos a considerar en Utah necesita ser fundado en un sueño de creciendo capacidad por la vida abundante en cada parte de la Iglesia Episcopal, y también en el mundo. ¿Cómo podemos aumentar las posibilidades para cada miembro de la iglesia? ¿Cómo podemos fomentar el viaje de cada parte hacia el ideal espiritual de ser auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente? Algunos funciones pertenecen a las dióceses, y algunos a la iglesia general – y es nuestro papel de discernir cuales funciones necesitan los dones de la iglesia más grande, y proveer o compartir los recursos por el bienestar de todos los miembros del cuerpo.
En esta época de nuestra vida como episcopales, podemos considerar ejemplos por cada marca de misión.
Primera Marca — proclamar las buenas nuevas del Reno de Dios
Aquí debemos considerar la formación cristiana, como capacitar a los creyentes como líderes trasformativas en la iglesia y en el mundo. Un papel de los clérigos es capacitar a los miembros en comunidades locales, y por eso, dióceses y la iglesia general deben considerar cómo formar clérigos y líderes laicos por ese trabajo. Estamos tratando nuevas formas y métodos, y hay urgente necesidad de considerar como podemos compartir los recursos de educación teológica que tenemos o que hay en otras partes de la iglesia universal. No estamos buscando la vida abundante cuando seminarios y programas de formación no comparten recursos y oportunidades. Hay muchas oportunidades para mejorar las interrelaciones y la capacidad del cuerpo entero.
Podemos vivir más interconectados cuando estamos planificando y considerando nuestros sueños por el futuro. La semana pasada el arzobispo de la Provincia de África Occidental, el Arzobispo Sarfo de Ghana me dijo que su plan estratégico provincial ha distribuido responsabilidad de liderazgo por varios temas a los obispos y sus dióceses. Uno es responsable por planificación, uno por educación, otro por ministerio de desarrollo social, otro por relaciones ecuménicas e interreligiosas, otro por propiedades y generación de ingresos, etcétera. Es una forma de liderazgo compartido que utilice los dones de cada uno y una. Si el liderazgo compartido será mejor integrado en toda la iglesia, podría aumentar la visión y la posibilidad de vida abundante por el mundo.
Segunda Marca – enseñar, bautizar, y capacitar a los nuevos/as creyentes
Necesitamos también una visión más amplia de las formas de las comunidades cristianas. Todas no necesitan edificios eclesiásticos – hay algunas que funcionan en escuelas o en edificios públicos, o que reúnen en medio de un ministerio social. Los sitios creciendo en nombre de miembros en la Iglesia Episcopal incluyen un gran porcentaje de ellos afuera de los Estados Unidos, los que ministran a migrantes, y los que están enfocados a sus vecindades y no solamente a su interior. Es interesante que en los años recientes hemos experimentados un cambio en el estilo teológico de congregaciones crecientes – ahora las más progresivas están más propensas a crecer, y las más conservadores son menos propensas a crecer. Nuevas comunidades de fe y en los nuevos contextos también son bien propensas a crecer.
Creo que la Iglesia Episcopal necesita una reforma de nuestro Libro de Oración Común. Claro por una mejor forma de la lengua española, pero también una forma más adecuada a los contextos cambiando. Por ejemplo, nuestro pacto bautismal no tiene en alta voz un referente a la necesidad de cuidar a la tierra y el medio ambiente. Ni podemos oír en el culto la variedad bíblica de nombres de Dios. Es el momento de considerar una revisión o reforma.
Tercera Marca – responder a las necesidades humanas con ministerio amoroso
Como Iglesia estamos enseñando a oír y buscar los pequeños quien sirvamos como misioneros del Reino de Dios. Creo que nuestro trabajo como iglesia entera será formada en los próximos años por los metas de desarrollo después de 2015 (las metas de desarrollo de milenio terminan este año). Van a seguir enfocan se en la pobreza y la inequidad económica que es creciendo en nuestras países y alrededor del mundo. Creo que continuaremos enfocar también en la trata de personas y la esclavitud moderna. Somos todos relacionados, y nuestro bienestar depende en el bienestar de nuestros vecinos.
Cuarta Marca – trasformar sistemas de injusticia, enfrentar la violencia de toda forma, y buscar la paz y reconciliación
Hay varios tipos de injusticia en contextos diferentes, pero muchos de ellos se refieren a la desigualdad económica y la distribución desigual del poder. Son las mismas cosas que los profetas siempre clamaban contra, y cuando estamos unidos en voz y acción, estará mucho más posible de trasformar estos sistemas. Uniendo en voz y acción puede ser una oportunidad espiritual para nosotros, así como una forma de enfrentar a la violencia e injusticia del mundo como el cuerpo de Cristo.
Quinta Marca – salvaguardar la integridad de la creación y cuidar la vida de la tierra
La tierra, este planeta, es nuestro hogar. Dios nos plantó aquí en un jardín, para cuidarlo. Como seres humanos estamos relacionados con cada criatura, cada especie. Nuestro bienestar es conectado con el bienestar de todas las otras partes de la creación. Cuando contaminamos el aire, los océanos, el suelo y los ríos, invitamos enfermedad y el sufrimiento para nosotros y los demás. Es nuestra responsabilidad a la comunidad y al cuerpo de creación, de cuidar de la tierra. No podemos evitarlo sin consecuencias. Pero cuando nos encargamos de la tierra, y el cuidado de sus recursos, encontramos con la vida más abundante – porque estamos amando a nuestros prójimos como a nosotros mismos, y estamos amando a Dios y lo que Dios ha creado.
Tenemos oportunidades como la iglesia general que no tienen las dióceses individuales, y esos son los que necesitan nuestra colaboración y cooperación. El trabajo hacia el auto-sostenimiento es un ejemplo importante. En este trienio la iglesia general ha dado subvenciones para desarrollar “las zonas de misión empresariales,” y ha aumentado los fondos asignados para el cuerpo de misioneros jóvenes adultos. Los dos han proporcionado oportunidades para sembrar, animar, o expandirse nuevas iniciativas de misión.
Las otras cosas que podemos hacer lo mejor o solamente como un cuerpo unido constituyen apoyo por crecimiento hacia la meta de responsabilidad mutua en el cuerpo de Cristo, que incluye las características de ser auto-extendiendo, auto-gobernante, y auto-suficiente. Pero no es solamente por dióceses o provincias – es la meta para TEC en la comunión anglicana. Dios ha dado regalos únicos y diferentes a cada cuerpo en creación, y cuando están trabajando junto para el bien y bienestar de todo, estamos viajando hacia el Reino de Dios. Y por esta existimos, gracias a Dios. ¡Adelante!
 Juan 10:10b
 Efesios 4:11-13
 Cf. http://anglicanhistory.org/canada/toronto_mutual1963.html