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Pittsburgh Bishop McConnell reflects on the lessons of faith in illness

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 26, 2014

[Diocese of Pittsburgh] Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has released a video reflection on the lessons of faith contained in the new hit movie, “The Fault in Our Stars.”

The film is based on the popular novel by John Green, who often speaks of how his own life and ministry as an Episcopalian influenced his writing this story about two young cancer patients. In his video, McConnell speaks of meeting Christ in those who suffer. Recalling his own bout with illness years ago, the bishop dons a hospital gown and says, “In the end, underneath all our fancy clothes, our masks, our daily situations, we all look like this. We are all waiting for healing.”

The Pittsburgh diocese has several ties to the movie. The producers chose St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon to film scenes where the main characters initially meet in a support group and where they return later in the film. A cast member in that support group is Alexander Murph, a teenage cancer patient and member of St. Thomas Memorial Church, Oakmont. His father and St. Thomas rector, the Rev. Jeffrey Murph, also appears as an unidentified extra. Murph told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that church-centered care for those who suffer rang true in his own family’s situation, “because the church really did support us. I don’t know how people manage without that kind of support.”

Bishop McConnell’s video is posted on the diocesan website and on YouTube.

http://youtu.be/j2ZEfXXUkrk

Clay Lein named as rector of St. John the Divine, Houston

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 26, 2014

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The Rev. Dr. Clay Lein has accepted the call as the fifth rector of St. John the Divine, Houston, according to a statement released by their search committee this week. Lein is the founding rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Frisco, Texas, where he has grown the congregation to more than 1400 members since 2002. His first Sunday at St. John the Divine will be November 23, 2014.

“It has become clear to us that God has laid a strong foundation of faith [at St. John the Divine] and that [the congregation] is poised for a real movement of God’s spirit,” Lein said. “I believe that the best really is yet to be, and I’m grateful that Jill and I get to be part of it.”

Lein previously served as executive pastor at Christ Episcopal Church in Plano, Texas and associate pastor at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Trinity School for Ministry and recently completed his Doctor of Ministry at Gordon-Conwell in Charlotte, North Carolina.  He also received a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri and an MBA from Arizona State University.  Prior to his ordination, Lein was a product-marketing engineer with Intel Corporation. He is the author of Ordinary Faith, published in 2008, about “finding real faith in ordinary life.” Clay and his wife, Jill, have three grown children: Jennifer, John and Joshua.

“We believe that we have called the priest that God has anointed to lead SJD into the next phase of our life together,” wrote the search committee in a letter to the congregation.

St. John the Divine is a congregation of 4000 active members in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood. The Rev. Larry Hall retired in April after more than 32 years as rector. See video of Lein’s greeting to St. John the Divine below:

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 26, 2014

La Ofrenda Unida de Acción de Gracias de la Iglesia Episcopal en Estados Unidos ha donado $51,759 (dólares) para las obras de construcción del Campamento Blankingship. Esta obra que ha tenido que esperar más de 50 años ha sufrido toda clase de demoras. El terreno del campamento está cerca de la antigua ciudad de Santa Clara en la parte central de la isla y es un tributo al ministerio y visión del obispo Alexander Hugo Blankingship que fue obispo de Cuba desde 1939 hasta 1961. El obispo falleció en 1975 en su natal Virginia.

Justin Welby, arzobispo de Cantórbery ha visitado al papa Francisco en Roma. Esta es su segunda visita en los últimos 18 meses. Ambos líderes están empeñados en acabar con laesclavitud moderna y el tráfico humano que afecta a millones de personas. Por otra parte, Francisco enfatizó que la libertad religiosa es fundamental para la vida del mundo. Añadió que la encíclica Dignitatis humanae del Concilio Vaticano II habla sobre el tema.

Todas las predicciones de violencia y malestar pronosticadas para la celebración de los juegos de la Copa Mundial fallaron. Los juegos se están celebrando con llenos totales y gran camaradería entre los miles de visitantes. Un ejemplo y una meta para nuestros políticos: “Se puede ser adversarios sin ser enemigos”. Un jugador auxiliando a otro del equipo contrario es un ejemplo que será recordado por muchos años.

María Corina Machado, líder opositora al gobierno de Nicolás Maduro de Venezuela, sigue en pie de lucha pese a las amenazas físicas y verbales del oficialismo y la posibilidad de que vaya a la cárcel y no pueda salir del país. El gobierno la acusa de ser la instigadora de las recientes protestas estudiantiles que comenzaron en febrero y que le han costado la vida a 43 jóvenes. El 24 de junio la policía reprimió una manifestación en Valencia, estado Carabobo, con un saldo de 24 heridos. Según informes de prensa María Corina tiene dos millones de seguidores en Twitter. “Estoy convencida de que triunfaremos”, dijo recientemente.

Tras ganar el concurso The Voice Italia, en sus primeras declaraciones a la prensa, Sor Cristina Scuccia, la popular monja cantante de 25 años de edad,afirmó que ahora “vuelvo a mis prioridades que son Jesús y la oración”.

Algunos observadores de la escena política de Washington dicen que la legislación sobre la reforma integral de la inmigración “está muerta” mientras que el legislador Luis Gutiérrez del estado de Illinois, asegura que el tema es tan importante para la vida de la nación queseguirá adelante “pese a sus detractores”.

Acaba de salir a la venta la novela Tiempo de Canallas del escritor y periodista cubano Carlos Alberto Montaner. El autor recoge pasajes ocultos de la Guerra Fría en una tumultuosa relación de amor. Según el periódico Diario Las Américas “además de amor e intrigas hay lecciones de historia” hasta ahora desconocidas.

La concentración de niños de Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador, sin documentos, en la frontera sur de Estados Unidos se ha convertido en una tragedia humanitaria. Ya el número de niños pasa de los 100,000 a pesar de que el gobierno norteamericano ha dicho que esos niños serán admitidos temporalmente pero que más tarde serán enviados a sus lugares de origen. Varias organizaciones cristianas han respondido con alimentos ropas y calor humano. El gobierno ha alojado a muchos niños en una base naval y se espera que su permanencia allí sea entre 90 y 120 días. “Nuestra fe nos llama con urgencia”, dice el pastor de una iglesia.

El Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Chaco, Argentina, resolvió rechazar recursos contra una sentencia de segunda instancia, el derecho a la propiedad comunitaria indígena. Con este nuevo fallo el tribunal volvió a garantizar la plena vigencia del derecho de los pueblos indígenas a la propiedad comunitaria de sus territorios.

Líderes religiosos en Los Ángeles se ha reunido recientemente para orar por la paz en el Medio Oriente siguiendo el ejemplo del papa Francisco. El párroco de la Iglesia de Santa Cruz en el sur de Los Ángeles les recordó a todos los presentes que “la tierra es una y todos los hijos de Abraham judíos, cristianos y musulmanes que oramos juntos somos hermanos e hijos de un mismo Dios”.

Un sínodo de la Iglesia Anglicana en Japón decidió “condenar fuertemente” cualquiermanifestación de racismo y decidió erradicar “crímenes de odio, discursos ofensivos y luchar por una sociedad verdaderamente multicultural”. El sínodo decidió criticar los poderes del Estado por no aprobar legislación adecuada para hacerle frente a esos problemas.

MANDAMIENTO- “Amaos los unos a los otros”.

Marriage task force releases study guide, discussion resources

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] The Episcopal Church Task Force on the Study of Marriage has released Dearly Beloved, resources for conversation and discussion.

The following is a report From the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.

We are pleased to offer to The Episcopal Church a resource for study and discussion about marriage. This topic is of historic and timeless significance for the church; practices of marriage are undergoing social change in our own day; and our church, acting through resolution A050 at General Convention in 2012, asked that we develop tools for discussion on this subject.

We enter this conversation – as we always do when discerning our way forward – by considering those three sources of Anglican authority on the subject: scripture, tradition (including theology, liturgy, canon law, and history), and reason (including our human experience).

We are 12 appointees: bishops, theologians, educators, and pastors. As the Task Force that was charged with providing resources for this reflection, we have deeply explored marriage through the lenses of scripture, tradition, and reason. We continue to study and we continue to consult as Resolution 2012-A050 directs.

While we will not complete this work until we make our Blue Book report to General Convention 2015, we are able, at this time, to share with the church a bit of our efforts to date. And more importantly, we are eager to invite the church into discussion at the local level.

Our hope is that many will take advantage of this moment in our history to be a part of discerning our way forward. In our day, what is God calling us to understand, to say, and perhaps to do in regards to marriage?

We can only answer this question if far more than 12 people get involved. Broad discussion will assist those deputies and bishops – representatives of us all – at General Convention 2015, when they receive our report and consider possible responses to our church’s call to deepen this conversation.

The resource may be used in a variety of settings, and it consists of three different formats, which may be used independently of each other: a 90-minute event (which can be divided into three 35-minute sessions); a variety of 45-minute forums; and a lengthy article for a study group. All three formats cover theology, history, scripture, current trends, and more, with guidelines for presentation and questions for group discussion.

The Tool-Kit “Dearly Beloved”  here

The PowerPoint for the “Carry-On Conversations” resource here

Access the complete public website for General Convention’s A050 Task Force on Marriage here. 

Task Force Facebook page here

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

Resolution A050 is available in full here.

Virginia: Lindsay Ryland to retire as director of transition ministry

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

[Diocese of Virginia] Lindsay Ryland, director of transition ministry, has announced plans to retire in September 2014, after 13 years of service on diocesan staff.

Lindsay joined the staff in 2001 to serve as assistant for deployment, and became the diocesan deployment officer in 2003. She has worked with parishes in search of clergy as well as clergy in search of new ministries.

Lindsay is a member of Immanuel, Old Church, in Hanover County. Her ministry in the wider Church includes serving as a member of the Transition Ministry Conference executive committee and the Board for Transition Ministry, and as a CREDO faculty member. She is a volunteer reader at the Virginia Voice in Richmond and has served as president of the Hanover County Historical Society, as well as in a number of positions with the Mary Baldwin College Alumnae Association. Prior to joining diocesan staff, she served as a senior vice president at Bank of America.

“In her years on staff, Lindsay has built a reputation – both in Virginia and across the Episcopal Church – for excellence in ministry,” said Bishop Johnston. “She has been a pastoral and professional presence for hundreds of clergy and scores of congregations in times of transition. I am most grateful for her unique combination of passion, dedication, knowledge and skill. She has been not only a most valued colleague, but also a good friend.”

Parishes who are currently involved in search processes can be assured that they will continue to receive support from the bishop’s office as they continue their discernment in calling new clergy. The Bishop will soon start a search for a new staff member to work in the transition ministry field.

Video: Alban Pilgrimage pays tribute to Britain’s first Christian martyr

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014
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[Episcopal News Service, St. Alban’s, England] June is festival time in St. Albans.

In this ancient city in the south of England, giant puppets dramatize the final journey of third century Alban, paying tribute to Britain’s first Christian martyr and saint.

Hundreds come to join in the pilgrimage, celebrated annually around June 22, the day of Alban’s martyrdom some 1700 years ago when the city belonged to the Romans and was known as Verulamium.

This year special guests included Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, invited to preach at the noon Eucharist in the Cathedral and Abbey of St. Alban.

Inspired by his priest and friend Amphibalus, Alban converted to Christianity in the 3rd century. When Roman soldiers sought out Amphibalus, Alban offered his own life instead.

Alban stood trial and was ordered to renounce his Christianity. But he responded by declaring his faith in “the true and living God who created all things.” Alban was condemned to death, led out of the city, across the river and up a hillside where he was beheaded. A few days later, the Romans captured Amphibalus and he too was beheaded.

Today, in honor of their martyrdoms, the shrines of Alban and Amphibalus can both be found in St. Alban’s Cathedral and attract thousands of visitors every year.

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

RIP: Michael William Reeves

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] A celebration of the life of Michael William Reeves will be held Friday, June 27, at 5 p.m., at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, California.

Reeves, 54, the husband of El Camino Real Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, died June 21, after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle in Monterey County.

 

W. Mark Richardson granted 2014 Genesis Award

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Photo courtesy of CDSP President’s Gallery

[ECCSTF press release] The Rev. Dr.W. Mark Richardson (President and Dean, Church Divinity School of the Pacific) was awarded the 2014 Genesis Award from the Episcopal Network on Science, Technology & Faith (ENSTF) following his keynote address at the recentEcumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology & the Church, hosted by The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Committee on Science, Technology & Faith (ECCSTF).

The Genesis Award recognizes Episcopalian leaders in the ongoing science and religion dialogue.  Richardson was granted the award for his decades of scholarship, teaching, and leadership on issues related to science, technology, and faith.  A priest, scholar, lecturer, theologian, and Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow (1990), Richardson has written extensively on faith, science, and evolution.  He was the founder and director of the Science and Spiritual Quest Project at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (Berkeley, CA), an effort which led to the publication of Science and the Spiritual Quest: New Essays by Leading Scientists (Routledge, 2002).  He has authored, edited, and co-edited several other essays and books including Faith in Science: Scientists Search for Truth (Routledge, 2001), Human and Divine Agency: Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran Perspectives (University Press of America, 1999), and Religion and Science: History, Method, Dialogue (Routledge, 1996).

Richardson received his Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in 1991, writing a thesis on the1956/57 Gifford Lectures of the English theologian, philosopher, and priest Austin Farrer (one of the leading figures of 20th century Anglicanism).  Serving as an Associate Professor-in-Residence of Philosophical Theology at the GTU until 1998, Richardson joined the faculty at General Theological Seminary (New York, NY) in 1999, where he served as a Professor of Theology until his appointment as President and Dean of CDSP.  Richardson also served as a Senior Theological Advisor to the Trinity Institute (a continuing education program of Trinity Wall Street, New York, NY) and Chair of the Editorial Committee for the Anglican Theological Review.

The ENSTF gave the first Genesis Award in 2005 to the Rev. Dr. J. John Keggi (a retired priest of the Diocese of Maine who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, served as a longtime co-convener of the North American Chapter of the Society of Ordained Scientists, and was instrumental in the formation of the ENSTF).  Other recipients of the award include the late Rev. Dr. Peter Arvedson in 2006 (who passed away in 2011, having served in six different parishes over thirty-five years after obtaining a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and an M.Div. from General Theological Seminary), the Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran in 2007 (a priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts with a background in chemistry and astronomy, founder of the Faith & Science Exchange in Boston, and one of the co-founders and first co-chairs and of the ECCSTF), and Dr. Robert J. Schneider in 2008 (professor emeritus of Berea College, lead author of the Catechism of Creation, and co-chair of the ECCSTF from 2003-2006).  Richardson is the first recipient of the Genesis Award since 2008.

For more on the Episcopal Network on Science, Technology & Faith, see the ENSTF website (http://episcopalscience.org/), like ENSTF on Facebook (fb.com/episcopalscience) or follow them on Twitter (twitter.com/episcosci or@episcosci).

Clergy Couples Conference held for priests, bishops

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Clergy from 12 dioceses met to celebrate the gifts for ministry that clergy couples bring to the wider church at the first Clergy Couples Conference held in the Episcopal Church in more than 20 years.

The conference and retreat, which was underwritten in part by grants from the Virginia Theological Seminary and the Gadsen Foundation at R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia, was held at Bon Secours Retreat Center in Marriottsville, Maryland. This event was the brain child of the Rev. Diane Vie of St. John’s, Lynchburg Virginia. Vie, who is married to the Rev. Todd Vie of St. Paul’s, Lynchburg, has been passionate about this topic since seminary.

“The project began before I could actually claim clergy status, when I was a seminarian married to a seminarian. I was deeply interested in the gifts and challenges of clergy couples and looked for information from the wider church on how clergy couples navigate this amazing life to which we are called not only as individuals but as a married couple. What I found was that there was little information and few resources for us. So, when I was a senior at VTS in 2006/2007 I began an independent study with my husband Todd and our friends the Revs. Chip and Lisa Graves, another clergy couple.” says Vie.   “My interest in clergy couples has deepened since ordination. Ten years later, I am back at VTS in the third year of my doctoral studies and I continue to study clergy couples in the Episcopal Church. There are still not many other voices out there, but there are many clergy couples who contact me anxious to explore.”

There were plenty of voices in mid-June this year as clergy from all over the United States, from 12 diocese including clergy couples, representatives from Church Pension Group, Transition officers from the Diocese of Atlanta, Virginia and Maryland and a new breed of clergy couples; bishop/priest couples. The conference was held to support, engage and celebrate the ministry of episcopal clergy married to other clergy.

This is an important topic as there are at least 428 couples in the Episcopal Church that are comprised of two ordained persons.

The Rev. Canon Richard H. Callaway, transition officer for the Diocese of Atlanta, says that he was surprised to learn that his diocese has 14 clergy couples. If you had asked him before the conference he would have guessed a much smaller number.

Lindsey Ryland, transition officer for the Diocese of Virginia, reports 15 clergy couples and the Rev. Stuart Wright of the Diocese of Maryland reports 17.

The clergy in attendance agreed that all priests have highs and lows in their journey – and clergy couples share some of those and can claim a few unique ones as well. “It’s not that we have it any better or worse than other clergy,” says the Rev. Lisa Graves of St. John’s Church in Huntington, West Virginia, “it’s that we have a unique set of joys and sorrows. Gathering together to identify the best practices and worst pitfalls is true gift. The camaraderie and immediate understanding among these couples is uplifting.”

Adaptability on the journey was a recurring theme at the conference, as couples spoke about the difficulties of navigating transition and search when there are two collars in the family. Many times one spouse will pursue parish ministry while another spouse pursues teaching, counseling or institutional ministry. Other times, clergy will take turns being the lead person in search with the “trailing clergy spouse” finding interim work, an assistantship or associate work or another call to ministry nearby.

The dual nature of the sacrament of marriage and the sacrament of ordination fed many discussion as couples discussed raising children (double PKs) in two churches, the give and take of discerning call, the joys of having a built-in clergy sounding board and the adaptability of ministry required to maintain marriage and mission.

“In the midst of tough times, I can’t imagine going through it without being married to another priest!” commented Todd Vie.

One of the interesting components of this conference were the two sessions that focused on a new phenomenon; bishop/priest couples. The Rt. Rev. Clay Matthews, head of the Office of Pastoral Development for the Episcopal Church, talked with the group, which had two bishop/priest couples attending, about the fact that the Episcopal Church now has six members of the House of Bishops who are married to clergy, and a seventh is the new bishop coadjutor in Mississippi.

Bishop Doug Fisher of Western Massachusetts is married to Betsy Fisher, vicar of St. Thomas in Amenia Union, New York. Fisher says that “the key to meeting the challenges and developing the opportunities of anything is an understanding of the situation. ‘Clergy couples’ have been part of the church’s reality for forty years. Diane Vie’s research and her willingness to document our stories will help the church go a long way in understanding, so challenges may be met, opportunities developed and God’s mission in the world celebrated.” The clergy in attendance agreed that all priests have highs and lows in their journey – and clergy couples share some of those and can claim a few unique ones as well.

Vie is beginning a registry of clergy couples and hopes to offer another conference for clergy couples that can handle even more clergy couples. “We’ve created a Facebook page and are working on a website,” says Vie. “Knowing other couples and being able to advise or seek counsel from our peers is invaluable and a great gift to us.”

Callaway said that it was an eye-opening gift for the transition officers to attend the event. “It was really meaningful for us to hear of the gifts and wonderful ministries of clergy couples. I came away more aware of the deep richness the couples have – even in the struggles – in their ministries.”

Anglicans to host Hindu-Christian conference

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

[Network for Inter Faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion] The Anglican Communion’s Network for Inter Faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion (NIFCON) is hosting a conference in Birmingham, UK, this October on the Christian relationship with Hindus in the Diaspora.

NIFCON was founded twenty years ago, and has had an influence on the Lambeth Conferences since then1, with a strong emphasis on Christian-Muslim Relations throughout the Communion.

Only once has it significantly looked at Christian-Hindu Relations, during a major conference in Bangalore in 2004. That meeting focused upon India. However, many Indian emigrants are now playing a major part in the interreligious context in their new homes, not least in several Anglican Provinces in the West.

NIFCON has therefore decided to hold a conference from October 29 until November 1, 2014, in Queen’s College Birmingham, to consider Christian relationships2 with Hindus in the Diaspora.

One member of the NIFCON management group who was from the Church of South India but who is now serving as a Church of England priest is The Revd Dr. John Joshva Raja. He said, “We believe that after the recent landslide victory for the BJP in Indian elections, this is a fitting time for us to be meeting and considering how best to engage constructively.”

The conference will be chaired by Archbishop of Dublin the Rt Revd Michael Jackson. NIFCON Management group members Canon Dr Andrew Wingate and Dr Raja are leading the planning group. The conference agenda will include a visit to the prestigious South Indian Temple in Birmingham, the Balaji Temple, where there will be a welcome from local Hindus.

It is expect that the conference will be the precursor to the publication of a book comprising contributions from leading Hindu and Christian scholars. Dr Wingate’s book, The Meeting of Opposites?- Hindus and Christians in the West (to be published by SPCK, and Cascade Books, USA) will be launched during the meeting.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the administrator, Dr Laura Johnson at lauramichellejohnson403@gmail.com.

The costs for staying at Queen’s have been met by grants, though the organisers cannot, except in exceptional circumstances, pay for travel. The conference is being supported by organisations including the World Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church, the St Augustine’s Foundation, and the Teape Foundation.

Date set for Anglican-Roman Catholic cricket match

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Archbishop Justin Welby meets the Vatican First XI during his recent visit to Rome, June 15.

[Lambeth Palace] Anglican and Roman Catholic First XIs will face each other in Canterbury on Sept. 19 in a historic match to raise awareness of slavery and human trafficking.

Details of a historic cricket match between Anglicans and Roman Catholics to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking have been announced today.

The Twenty20 match, which will be played at Kent County Cricket Club in the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral on Sept. 19 at 4 p.m., will raise funds for the Global Freedom Network, the joint Anglican-Roman Catholic anti-trafficking initiative launched in March.

Entrance will be free but there will be a bucket collection during the match, which will be followed by a gala dinner to raise further funds.

The match will mark the culmination of the St. Peter’s Cricket Club ‘Tour of Light’ initiative, and follows a challenge laid down by the club’s honorary president Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Welby said: “I was delighted to meet members of the St. Peter’s Cricket Club during a recent visit to Rome, and am greatly looking forward to welcoming them to Canterbury in September for what will be an historic occasion. I would like to express particular thanks to Kent County Cricket Club for so generously offering the use of their ground, and to those who are working hard to ensure the St Peter’s team enjoy a memorable tour. I also pray that the match will draw attention to the very serious problem of modern slavery and human trafficking, which our two churches are working closely together to combat through the work of the Global Freedom Network.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said: “’If you want to arrive first, run alone. If you want to go far, walk together.’ For this sporting initiative I recall this Kenyan proverb, as it states so simply our need for teamwork, and with clear reference to the charitable aspect chosen, namely the issue of human trafficking, a plague which hurts most those who are left alone and abandoned. In our culture of massive movement of peoples, sport challenges us to examine not just how hospitable we are, as individual athletes, but also how similar we are, for as Jean Giraudoux affirms, “sport is the real esperanto of the peoples”. Look at the great success of the World Cup in Brazil! We do well to recall this in our pastoral work!”

Read more about the match – including details of the squads – on the Pontifical Council for Culture website.

Rapidísimas

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ocho bailarines del Ballet Nacional de Cuba dejaron el grupo después de una exitosa presentación en Puerto Rico. Un miembro del grupo dijo que “queremos libertad” y que en Cuba su profesión es “precaria y frustrante” y sin incentivos de ninguna clase. Rayseel Cruz, del cuerpo de baile del BNC, dijo que a sus 25 años “de lo único que me arrepiento es de no haber desertado antes”. Desde 2007 por lo menos 35 bailarines han tomado la misma decisión. Alicia Alonso tiene ya 90 años.

Durante una visita a Roma el presidente de México, Enrique Peña Nieto, tuvo  oportunidad de invitar al papa Francisco a que visite el país azteca lo antes posible. El papa aceptó pero no se ha fijado fecha ni duración de la visita.

Dilma Rousseff, presidenta de Brasil, no asistirá a la inauguración de la Copa Mundial. Se dice que la razón es que teme ser objeto de chiflidos y burlas. La popularidad de la mandataria ha disminuido verticalmente en las últimas semanas. Los moradores de las favelas y otros sectores pobres de la sociedad le critican que se use tanto dinero en los juegos cuando el país sufre serios problemas sociales. Algunos comentaristas han dicho que si Brasil no gana los juegos esto pudiera influir en su re-elección, ella misma ha admitido que “la gente estará más furiosa conmigo”.

La diócesis de Sureste de la Florida que tiene su sede en Miami, elegirá un obispo coadjutor (auxiliar con derecho a sucesión) el 31 de enero del 2014. Este obispo sucederá al obispo Leopoldo Frade que comenzó su ministerio en el año 2000 y se jubilará más tarde este año. La diócesis tiene 78 parroquias y 36,667 miembros bautizados y celebra oficios en inglés, español, francés y portugués. Además tiene 10 escuelas elementales y dos secundarias. La diócesis está involucrada en gran número de ministerios sociales y evangelísticos.

La Iglesia Episcopal en Colombia ha celebrado recientemente 50 años de su establecimiento. El trabajo comenzó con visitas esporádicas desde Panamá para atender a las necesidades espirituales de extranjeros de habla inglesa residentes del país. David B. Reed, hoy en su retiro, comenzó el trabajo con colombianos y poco a poco y el trabajo se fue extendiendo a las principales ciudades colombianas. En la actualidad cuenta con 35 parroquias y misiones. Debido a la escasez de fondos la casi totalidad de los 36 sacerdotes y diáconos de la diócesis tienen además trabajos seculares en educación, administración y otras profesiones. Su actual obispo Francisco Duque, es abogado y pertenece a la Iglesia Episcopal desde su juventud. La catedral episcopal de San Pablo, se yergue en una zona residencial de Bogotá.

Un servicio al que asistieron políticos, escritores y otras personalidades ha rendido homenaje póstumo a la vida de Maya Angelou, distinguida escritora afro-americana fallecida a los 86 años el mes pasado en Winston-Salem, Carolina del Norte.  Angelou fue alabada por haber llegado a la cima procedente de una vida de pobreza y sufrimientos. La primera dama, Michelle Obama, dijo que ella “levantó el amor propio” a las jóvenes negras diciéndoles que se sintieran orgullosas de sí mismas y hasta de “sus cuerpos con hermosas curvas”. Angelou es considerada la mejor escritora del siglo XX.

Un informe de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos revela que por lo menos 60,000 niños indocumentados han entrado sin la compañía de un adulto. Los obispos afirman que esto es un “reto humanitario” para niños indefensos y vulnerables. El Wall Street Journal añadió que esto es también un reto fiscal para la nación en momentos que el congreso considera el futuro de 11 millones de indocumentados que ya viven en el país. Activistas de derechos humanos dicen que el número de niños se debe en su mayoría a la situación de violencia y pobreza que se vive  en México. Según la Patrulla Fronteriza la mayoría de los niños procede de Honduras, Guatemala y El Salvador, países con altos niveles de violencia. Los obispos urgen una reforma integral al problema migratorio.

Una reciente reunión de los Guías Espirituales del Exilio, grupo ecuménico formado por clérigos de distintas iglesias, parece que está tomando nueva vida después de un año de reposo. El grupo decidió solicitar al presidente Barack Obama y a los siete congresistas de origen cubano que “hagan todo lo posible para aprobar una ley de reforma migratoria este año”. El grupo contó con la presencia de Thomas Wenski, arzobispo de Miami y eligió como moderador del grupo a José Luis Menéndez, pastor de la Iglesia de Corpus Christi de Miami.

ORACIÓN. Señor acuérdate de mí cuando llegues a tu reino.

Diana Southwick Scheide ordained deacon in Central Pennsylvania

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Rev. Canon David Lovelace, the Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert and newly ordained deacon, the Rev. Diana Scheide.

The ordination of Diana Southwick Scheide to the Sacred Order of Deacons was celebrated Friday, June 20, 2014 at her home parish of St. John Episcopal Church in York, Pennsylvania. The Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert, provisional bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania was the celebrant. Scheide is a recent graduate of Sewanee School of Theology. She is a registered nurse with a background in infection control. She will be re-locating later this year to Rhode Island.

UTO to provide special anniversary grants

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 23, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church United Thank Offering is providing special “seed money” grants of $12,500 to one bishop in each of the Church’s nine provinces, and to the Presiding Bishop, for a total of $125,000.

Part of the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the United Thank Offering, these one-time special anniversary grants are intended to be used for a project in each province that will reflect the fourth Anglican Mark of Mission: To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind to pursue peace and reconciliation.

The project must be completed by May 1, 2015.  The grants that are selected will be showcased at 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, UT in June/July 2015.

Applications are available now; deadline is August 1.  Applications available here.

For more information contact the Rev. Heather Melton, United Thank Offering coordinator, hmelton@episcopalchurch.org.

Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally.

Colombia: La Iglesia se une a las personas internamente desplazadas

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 23, 2014

Soacha es hogar de más de 45.000 personas internamente desplazadas. LA Diócesis Episcopal de Colombia tiene una iglesia en Soacha que proporciona espacio y ayuda a una cooperativa de mujeres. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

[Episcopal News Service  - Bogotá, Colombia] Semanalmente de dos a tres familias que buscan refugio llegan al Barrio Los Libertadores, una comunidad de bajos ingresos en las afueras de la capital de Colombia, Bogotá.

“Algunas personas tienen que huir de sus hogares y sus tierras por temor a sus vidas”, dijo el Rdo. José Antonio Romero, refiriéndose a las personas internamente desplazadas que buscan refugio en su iglesia “Ellos tenían granjas, negocios, pero a causa de la guerra, ellos se van sin nada”.

Las familiar llegan a la estación de autobuses en Los Libertadores,  de todas partes de Colombia, un país con casi el doble del tamaño de Texas con una geografía agreste de montañas, selva y llanuras tropicales. Ellos encuentran Divino Salvador mediante personas que les avisan sobre esta.

La Misión de Divino Salvador en el Barrio Los Libertadores, una comunidad de bajos ingresos en las afueras de la capital de Colombia,  Bogotá, dirige un refugio para desplazados internos [IDPs]. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

La Misión de Divino Salvador en el Barrio Los Libertadores, una comunidad de bajos ingresos en las afueras de la capital de Colombia, Bogotá, dirige un refugio para desplazados internos [IDPs]. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

La parroquia se inició hace 20 años con una capilla, que hora es el sótano de un edificio de cuatro pisos que tiene una cocina, un refugio, un santuario y un apartamento en la planta superior, donde Romero ha vivido por 16 años desde que llegó a Divino Salvador.

Para las familias que vienen a la ciudad en busca de seguridad y empleo, la iglesia les proporciona vivienda temporal, alimentos, medicina y ropas con el apoyo financiero que Romero recauda mediante amigos, mientras las familias aplican para obtener ayuda del gobierno.

El Rdo. José Antonio Romero explica que semanalmente dos o tres familias llegan buscando refugio en Divino Salvador. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

Aún para esas familias el gobierno determina que tienen demandas legítimas de desplazamiento– y las cuales reciben compensación a veces por terreno, otras veces por vivienda – los 4.7 millones de personas desplazadas en Colombia tienen aún dificultades para encontrar empleo, seguridad y a menudo son el blanco de discriminación. Más de medio millón de personas se han convertido en  refugiados.

Desde mediados de la década de 1960, las fuerzas del gobierno, las guerrillas de la izquierda y paramilitares de la derecha han estado peleando una Guerra civil enraizada en la desigualdad que ha asesinado a más de 200,000 colombianos.  El gobierno Colombiano y el grupo guerrillero más grande, las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de  Colombia, o FARC, han participado en conversaciones sobre la paz en la Habana, Cuba, desde el 2012. Se especula que en la segunda vuelta electoral presidencial del país del 15 de junio se determinará si continúan o no las conversaciones de paz– se ha llegado a un acuerdo con respecto a tres de los cinco puntos de la agenda –.

La lucha y la violencia asociadas con el crimen organizado, el tráfico de drogas, la distribución de la tierra, y la extracción  de los recursos humanos en los últimos años han afectado de manera desproporcionada a las zonas rurales, donde el 44 por ciento de la población vive en la pobreza. La violencia obliga a las personas que viven en las zonas rurales a buscar seguridad en ciudades.

Situado en un altiplano en los Andes, Bogotá está rodado por estas comunidades informales que son pobladas por personas internamente desplazadas; lugares como San Cristobal donde se encuentra ubicado Los Libertadores, Suba, Ciudad Bolivar, y Soacha, donde la Misión Espíritu Santo proporciona espacio para la Mesa de Organizaciones de Mujeres de Soacha, una cooperativa sobre los derechos de las mujeres y apoderamiento, apoyado por la Organización Mundial de la Salud.

Soacha, una zona industrial de clase trabajadora  40 minutos al sudeste de la capital, y con una población de 490,000, es hogar de más de 45.000 personas desplazadas.

“Todos los problemas, como el tráfico de drogas, pandillas juveniles se reúnen aquí, dijo el Rdo. Carlos Eduardo Guevara, sacerdote que sirve en la Iglesia Espíritu Santo.

Las personas internamente desplazadas viven en casas construidas en las laderas y son susceptibles a deslizamientos de tierra, como estas en Soacha. Bogotá, la capital de Colombia está rodeada de dichas comunidades informales. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

Además de los peligros de la vida cotidiana en Soacha, donde las madres viven con el temor de que sus hijos sean reclutados por grupos armados y organizaciones criminales, los trabajadores de los derechos humanos y organizadores comunitarios enfrentan otros peligros.

Los abusos contra los derechos humanos y los asesinatos extrajudiciales cometidos por grupos armados, el gobierno y las organizaciones criminales han sido bien documentados en Colombia. Los trabajadores de los derechos humanos, activistas sindicales y líderes de la comunidad y religiosos son con frecuencia el blanco de la violencia.

Participar en el trabajo de los derechos humanos es percibido como estar trabajando en contra del estado, es muy similar a la manera que los grupos armados son vistos, explicó Clemencia Lopez, representante legal de la cooperativa.

Lopez y su familia – ella tiene tres hijo, dos adolescentes y el tercero de 9años de edad– fueron desplazados tres veces, dos a causa del conflicto armado y una vez debido  a la actividad criminal y violencia que ocurrió alrededor de ellos. Una vez hubo tres granadas lanzadas en frente del restaurante que ella y esposo tenían, dijo.

“Estábamos en medio de la confrontación” dijo durante una entrevista en mayo de 2013 en su oficina en el Segundo piso de Misión Espíritu Santo.

Alrededor del tiempo que se produjo el incidente en frente del restaurante, Lopez estaba participando en un taller sobre la mujer y la igualdad en el género; en el 2007 ella participó con la cooperativa de mujeres, la cual ha crecido para incluir a ocho organizaciones.

“[Al comienzo] no sabíamos cómo usar las computadoras”, dijo Lopez, quien termino la escuela secundaria en el 2009 tomando clases nocturnas aceleradas.

En la sociedad en general, las mujeres no suelen recibir apoyo necesario y la capacitación en liderazgo para participar en la política. La cooperativa de mujeres proporciona a las mujeres acceso a talleres sobre derechos humanos, capacitación en liderazgo, educación y habilidades, dijo Lopez.

Además, la sociedad patriarcal de Colombia excluye a las mujeres con mucha frecuencia.

Clemencia Lopez y Fabiola Murcia son miembros de Mesa Organización de Mujeres de Soacha, una cooperativa sobre los derechos de las mujeres y apoderamiento con oficinas en la Iglesia Espíritu Santo. Foto: Lynette Wilson /ENS

En el 2012, el gobierno colombiano aprobó la política sobre igualdad de género y un plan integral contra la violencia. Sin embargo un informe del 2013 por el Comité de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas para Eliminar la Discriminación contra la Mujer encontró “la persistencia de actitudes patriarcas y estereotipos profundamente arraigados en relación con las funciones y responsabilidades de las mujeres y los hombres en la familia y la sociedad” Aún más, esas actitudes y estereotipos eran responsables de la situación de las mujeres y una desventaja en la vida política  y pública, mercado laboral, prevalencia de la violencia contra las mujeres y la segregación del género, en relación con las oportunidades de educación para las niñas, indicó el informe.

Además de la discriminación que las personas desplazadas enfrentan– que es además otra forma de discriminación de género, raza, económica– el desplazamiento pone una tensión en las familias, con esposos y esposas quienes con frecuencia se culpan unos a otros por su situación, dijo Lopez, agregando que la participación en el trabajo de los derechos humanos puede además causar tensión en las relaciones.

“Las mujeres que participan en los derechos humanos se exponen a un riesgo”, dijo Romero, quien con frecuencia acompaña a las mujeres en marchas y demostraciones.

La cooperativa de mujeres llego a estar ubicada en la Iglesia Espíritu Santo en el 2010, después que amigos de Lopez le presentaron al obispo de la Diócesis of Colombia Francisco Duque. Desde entonces Lopez ha estado participando como líder laico de la diócesis.

Una de las cosas que las mujeres han logrado es una plataforma de política pública para la mujer, incluyendo el derecho de vivir una vida libre de violencia, el acceso a la educación y atención médica, las oportunidades económicas, y el derecho a vacaciones, algo que una vida de desplazamiento y exclusión social no puede solventar.

“Aquí en Soacha ellos han dignificado el papel de la mujer”, dijo  Guevara, a un grupo de visitantes en Mayo del 2013.

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

Brotherhood of St. Andrew expands prison ministry

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 23, 2014

Bishop Duncan Gray III celebrates Eucharist with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew during its national council meeting at the Bishop Duncan Gray Camp and Conference Center near Canton, Mississippi. Photo: Jim Goodson

A half-way house to help parolees adjust to modern society is being planned by the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

A site in Texas has been selected and brothers meeting in Mississippi June 10-15 heard reports from the organization’s prison ministry volunteers who say such a facility is “sorely needed.”

The proposal was delivered to the brothers during the 134-year-old ministry’s annual national council meeting held this year at the Bishop Duncan Gray Camp and Conference Center, a 700-acre facility of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi.

The Brotherhood of St. Andrew is a vital part of Episcopal Men’s Ministries, with 4,212 members in 355 chapters nationwide.

For inmates who have served many years behind bars, the demands of adjusting to the pace of 21st Century life “are enormous,” Brother Jerry Bailey of Cleburne, Texas told the 34 brothers attending the organization’s national council meeting north of Jackson, Mississippi.

Prison ministry and restorative justice has become a major ministry for brothers in Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina, among several sites.

“It’s the most rewarding type of ministry I’ve been involved with,” Bailey said. He’s helped inmates for 30 years and has noticed it’s becoming “more and more difficult for former inmates to succeed once they leave prison.

“The number of choices they have to make every day is enormous,” Bailey, a prison chaplain, said. “It overwhelms them and they find it’s easier to return to old patterns of living. Having a place they can go to live until they can get on their feet, find jobs and receive counseling is sorely needed.”

The Brotherhood needs the wisdom of its entire membership to seek and find funding from a myriad of federal, state and private funding sources, Bailey said.

“There is grant money available as well,” Bailey said.

While some brothers expressed skepticism about raising, say, $500,000 dollars to get the project off the ground and up-and-running, the council unanimously agreed to back the project and begin the legal processes necessary to acquire a 20-acre site south of Fort Worth.

“This property is available to us, it’s centrally located in the middle of the country and it could serve parolees from throughout the country,” Bailey said, noting that Texas has the largest number of prison inmates in the U.S.

Brothers agreed that such a major project should be well within the scope of the organization’s membership.

“We are men of God and we are capable of great things,” Vice-President Julian Korti said.

Ugandan ministry
Korti also delivered a report on the Brotherhood’s longtime involvement in Uganda, where some 40 young people housed in foster homes receive educational and other funding support from brothers throughout the U.S.

“We would still like to establish a non-profit agency not run by the Brotherhood nor the Episcopal Church to receive funds from corporations and other organizations that will not donate funds to religious organizations,” Korti says.

He’s hoping to put together a team to complete Hope International Services (HIS) this year.

“African ministry is difficult and full of disappointments as well as successes,” Korti reported as he told the brothers about the plight of the first Brotherhood-educated student to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.

“He was prepared to begin teaching mathematics but soon fell ill to a heart defect and returned to Mukono, where he helps teach the young students,” Korti reported. “He is a valuable member of our Ugandan Brotherhood, but this is often the way it is in Africa – one step forward and one step backward.

“We pray for his return to health.”

Rebuilding the infrastructure
Brother Jeff Butcher is vice president of field operations and he was recognized by Brotherhood President Robert Dennis for his “excellent and hard work” filling open positions at various assembly and diocesan levels.

In year one of a “three-to-five-year plan,” Butcher recruited active new president Jack Hanstein for sprawling Province VIII (the Western U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska), six new diocesan coordinators in various provinces, 13 liaison brothers and 22 additional brothers currently in a discernment process regarding national leadership positions.

For the second year in a row, chapters and assemblies took on special service projects in April during National Service Day.

Episcopal and Anglican brothers completed 26 new service projects in 13 states as part of National Service Day. Six new service projects were completed in New York – the state with the most projects.

“National Service Day has been a big success,” Dennis said. “The Methodist and Lutheran churches also conduct national service days in April and it gives us a good feeling to join our Christian brothers and sisters to reach out and help other in His name.”

Vice-Presidents Roy Benavides and Jeff Butcher offered a report titled Making Us Relevant in the 21st Century.

While Butcher is concentrating on human resources, Benavides has created social media sites. He has designed a Facebook page (Brotherhood of St. Andrew USA), Twitter account (Brothers Andrew-BStA) and a soon-to-come blog site.

The process of creating a new web site for the organization utilizing the services of Digital Faith, which specializes in interactive sites that allow members (Brothers) to freely contribute in many ways, has also begun.

Former Alpha director and current Anglican Church in North America’ s Diocese For The Sake of Others Bishop Todd Hunter was the conference’s guest speaker and preacher.

He also stayed an extra day to help brothers better understand what is happening in this post-modern culture and how to “act like missionaries.”

VTS selected ‘Top Workplace’ in Washington, D.C.

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 23, 2014

[Virginia Theological Seminary] Virginia Theological Seminary is proud to announce that it has been selected by the Washington Post as one of the top workplaces in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  

“I am delighted that Virginia Theological Seminary has been selected as a top workplace, “ said Kathryn Glover, M.P.A., vice president for Human Resources and Institutional Effectiveness. “VTS is committed to supporting its employees in their work to further the mission of this institution, especially through professional development and employee wellness programs.”

A special “Top Workplaces” supplement, featuring VTS in the “Non-profit: Religion” category, appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.  Employees of VTS were surveyed in January and February on a variety of topics, which was then compared to similar organizations according to a national benchmark. Virginia Seminary employees scored highest in areas of personal and professional development and fulfillment with regards to achieving a balance to the work and professional life.

The Very Rev Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS, explained that this award illustrates the depth and quality of the employees. He observed, “Virginia Seminary has men and women who do not see their work as a job, but as a vocation. This creates a spirit on the campus that is special. And our staff give of their best to ensure that the many programs and activities of VTS are excellent. I am proud of the Seminary and proud of the hardworking staff who make such a difference.”

Vermont: Senator, bishop, faith leaders discuss economic justice

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 23, 2014

From left, Monsignor Roland Rivard, the Rev. Lynn Bujnak, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Bishop Thomas Ely and Rabbi Joshua Chasan. Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Vermont

[Episcopal Diocese of Vermont] On June 20, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held a news conference with Vermont religious leaders to discuss the moral implications of extreme wealth and income inequality. Bishop Thomas Ely, Rabbi Joshua Chasan, the Rev. Lynn Bujnak, and Monsignor Roland Rivard were present, as well as several other Episcopal clergy and faith leaders.

Bishop Ely’s participation in this news conference is in keeping with the resolution on the subject of economic justice and income inequality passed at The Episcopal Church in Vermont’s 2013 Diocesan Convention.

Below is the transcript of Bishop Ely’s statement:

Thank you Senator Sanders.

Thank you for your advocacy on so many important issues and especially your leadership in the area of economic justice and income inequality. I am glad to add my voice to yours and these distinguished colleagues who provide important leadership and direction in our Vermont faith communities.

The President has called income disparity “the defining challenge of our time.” He speaks an important truth to us. Economic justice and income inequality are indeed moral issues of immediate and urgent concern and present us with important choices about how we will live and how we will act.

Many years ago Supreme Court Justice Brandies declared “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” Evidence suggests that inequality is not only corroding our political system but eroding social cohesion as well.

The systematic undermining of the middle class has had serious consequences for the preservation of families, health, education and employment and even greater consequences for those in the bottom 30%. Social unrest is a growing possibility.

Our financial system has become deeply distorted: financial institutions that are “too big to fail,” investment instruments few can understand, and pervasive conflicts of interests that are threatening the ongoing ecological stability of our world all contribute to this reality.

The suffering and overpowered majority will continue to lose the struggle for jobs, affordable housing, education, retirement security, and a sustainable environment if we keep silent. This situation cries out for us to open our eyes, ears, minds and hearts to this growing bitter reality. The excesses of the sin of avarice, of greed, along with the sin of pride, are at work in our midst and have the potential to destroy so much of what we cherish.

These are critical ethical issues, touching on our obligations to each other as human beings, and therefore central to our faith traditions. We as faith community leaders have a responsibility to provide leadership on these moral issues, which have such a direct impact on so many of our fellow Vermonters.

The people of the Episcopal Church in Vermont have called upon our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori to convene a nationwide interfaith coalition to provide moral leadership for the establishment of economic justice in our country. We have also adopted a statement on Economic Justice and Income Inequality prepared by our leadership Council (and available on our website). And, in a concrete effort to put our faith and conviction into action, our annual Convention urged all our congregations, as well as the bishop’s office, to pay all lay employees an hourly livable wage appropriate for the State of Vermont.

For me, the call to engage this challenge is grounded in the words Jesus used to summarize the commandments that informed his faith, as well as the great Hebrew prophets before him, and which is expressed this way in the Gospel according to Matthew: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Borrowing from the teaching of Archbishop Rowan Williams in his book Faith in the Marketplace, we are reminded that maintaining wealth at the cost of our neighbor’s disadvantage, or worse, is inhumane – what the other finds painful I should find painful too. True love of neighbor is the moral and ethical imperative that can lead us from greed to generosity, from economic disparity to economic justice.

©The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont

Presiding Bishop preaches in Oxford

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 23, 2014

University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
22 June 2014
Oxford, England

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

Not peace but a sword. I thought shalom was the name of the game. Yet here Jesus says he’s come to set one person up against another, and he tells his followers they’re going to find enemies among their closest relatives. He gives the clear sense that taking up your cross brings division. If we read history carefully, it’s clear that the toughest strife is almost always between siblings and near relatives, albeit often unacknowledged ones: Cain and Abel, Israel and Judah, Palestine and Israel – even Oxford and Cambridge. We’re familiar with sibling rivalry, for human love only rarely partakes of divine abundance, and by the time we’re grown, most of us know something about love’s scarcity and about abandonment.

Much of the world’s division is grounded in that kind of competitive behavior, born of fear and a sense of scarcity. Yet even that word rivalry insists that competitors come from one source or river. We are all born of the same stuff – abundant living water, cosmic stardust, and divine breath – how can we possibly seek to vaunt our superiority or greater deserts? Much of the human-caused suffering in this world is born of denying the equal claim of sibling neighbors, indeed turning them into others, who are supposedly undeserving of notice, regard, food, shelter, dignity, or love, whether God’s love or ours. Human beings have turned the conceit of otherness into a diabolical art form in the multiplicities of prejudice, racism, discrimination, ethnocentrism, xenophobia… and it is common to all societies.

I was at the Presbyterians’ General Assembly in the U.S. last week. We heard an address about a particular kind of defined otherness – the disregard for women that results in violence against them. Sikh and Muslim leaders, both women, spoke of their own experience of violence and the urgent need for all people of faith to confront the issue publicly. They both noted how seldom we hear about it from pulpits. All forms of negatively defined otherness are rooted in denying the image of God in another – and are therefore intrinsically unfaithful. We’ve heard the word repeatedly: “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”[1]

The wars and conflicts in Sudan, Congo, Central Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, and southeast Asia have roots in the same kind of rivalry, insisting that ‘I and my kind are the only worthy creatures in this neighborhood, and we are entitled to use any possible methods to get you out of our way.’ The urge to purge societies of others is often a tool in the hands of political and religious zealots. We see it in schools and neighborhoods here and across the world, as well as within families, governments, and even the church.

So when Jesus insists that we can’t be his disciples unless we pick up our cross, even though it will become a sword of division, he’s challenging us to enter into the conflict and confront it. He demonstrates by turning the tables in the Temple courts – a powerful and prophetic indictment of irreligion. Yet he still would have us reject violence, for violence denies life; faithfulness seeks to increase its abundance.

Consider the community Matthew is writing to, where Jew and Jew, some followers of Jesus, are trying to sort out their differences. Walk into the midst of coffee hour there, and you’ll find plenty of pain and chaos and objectification. Nobody has quite sorted out yet what the way forward is going to be – the future is murky and misty. This community of St. Mary’s has certainly had similar chapters in its own history – the burning of Cranmer and Latimer and Ridley is a lively and extreme example. Mist and fog might seem preferable to fire.

We wrestle with divisions over identity and faithfulness continually, at all levels from the intimacy of family to global politics. What constitutes otherness that is beyond the pale? Adult children wrestle with the ethics of caring for parents who can no longer speak for themselves. Will it be ‘all possible heroic measures’ – or ‘comfort care only’? There is no easy and direct conclusion about what is essential and what is not. Societies try to legislate boundaries on acceptable behavior, with sometimes absurd results. Schools in the U.S. have expelled 5 year olds for biting their cookies into the shape of guns, while their parents or teachers can easily buy AK-47s.

What about the Middle East? What is the most life-giving way to end the violence? What is the responsibility of surrounding nations and peoples in the face of mounting carnage and inhumane brutality? Both this nation and mine have faced that question before, never easily. We responded differently when it was Hitler’s genocide in Europe than when it was happening in Rwanda – and still we grieve and doubt the timeliness and intensity of our responses.

This Church continues to struggle over how to honor the equal dignity of women. My province has muddled through conversations about the equal dignity of all human beings, of whatever color, race, age, gender, or sexual orientation. The decisions made have caused division, and that division is born of the cross. God’s justice may be perfect, but ours is not. Taking up our cross to follow Jesus means being willing to enter into the imperfection of our created nature, faithfully, expecting that God will work resurrection anyway.

Yet there are varied ways of taking up that cross. We can use it as a weapon, imposing our decision and will on others, or we can take it up in vulnerability, knowing that it may be used on us. I would submit that the latter is the more Christly road.

The rivalry of siblings can be engaged as an opportunity to discover unique gifts in the other, or as an attempt to extinguish difference. We can jump to judgment or we can come to a conclusion with humble confidence, open to the ongoing creativity of God’s spirit. That’s what Jesus challenges us to do: don’t keep your position hidden away, proclaim it from the housetops; don’t be afraid of challenge, for dying is not the worst thing that can happen to you; consider the source of your life – and trust that source, for it is deeper and more lasting than your blood relatives or seductive, so-called ‘friends.’

The sword of division, the cost of the cross, is elsewhere spoken as, “I set before you life and death; choose life.”[2] Life is costly, and although it may cost all we have, the alternative is ultimately empty. Choose life, in fear and trembling if need be. Choose life abundant, for the other – who is neighbor and image of God. Choose life – love your enemies, give them food and water, and thereby heap burning coals on their heads.[3] Choose life, in love, and discover some Pentecost fire on your own head. Choose life for the sake of the other, and discover that self-obsession evaporates in the heat of that fiery love.

The martyrs of Oxford chose life. The world still needs living candles of witness, who choose the expanded ambit of God’s love expressed in human form. Will you be such a burning witness?

[1] 1John 4:20

[2] Deuteronomy 30:15-20

[3] Proverbs 25:21-22, Romans 12:20

Video: Presiding Bishop preaches at Alban Pilgrimage

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 23, 2014

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St. Alban Pilgrimage
21 June 2014
St. Alban’s Cathedral, England

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

Greetings from The Episcopal Church, and its 82 churches named for Alban – one in Haiti and the others in 40 of the United States. They are celebrating their patronal feasts this weekend as well.

Our communications director told me recently about a conversation she had at a trade conference with various Hollywood types. They wanted to know what would attract Christians to watch their movies and television shows, particularly comedies and horror flicks. She started by explaining that Episcopalians and other mainline Christians would be interested in material that helps people live lives of spiritual growth and justice, and that like all people, we need to laugh, and we need heroes when we’re scared.

Alban is the über-hero of Christian England, the first we know of who put his life where his heart was. Even before he’d been baptized, he recognized the truth of what he saw and heard from the priest seeking shelter in his home. Alban learned by word and witness what it means to lose your life in order to save it, and then he went and did it. We all need heroes, particularly if we’re going to live to the full.

We think of heroes as examples of strength and courage. “Hero” originally meant a defender or protector. It comes from a root that means to watch over or observe. Jesus asked his friends in the Garden of Gethsemane to keep watch, but they closed their eyes. They weren’t heroic at all. In the pilgrimage we’ve just experienced, Alban the faithful hero is still keeping watch as part of the communion of saints, but his executioner lost his eyes, being no defender or protector.

Who are your heroes? Who has shown you what it means to spend your life as a defender or protector of others, for the love of God and neighbor? That’s ultimately what makes life worth living. A chaplain in a cancer ward tells a heroic story, “Tonight at dinner I reminisced with an old friend in his forties now dying of bone cancer. We have different beliefs but a great deal of love for each other. He told me, “I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of not living now.”[1]

Living fully, right now, is central to our pilgrimage through life. It’s an essential part of what Jesus meant when he said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” Life isn’t a video game with a goal of scoring points for future lives – it’s about giving ourselves in love, for love, with love itself. Sometimes it’s called passion – both the passion of full and loving involvement in relationship with another or all creation, and the costly passion of Alban or Jesus. Full investment in life means a willingness to spend ourselves completely – it costs all we are and all we have. The rewards aren’t just out of this world, they’re found in the abundant life we know and experience in that investment. That’s what caught Alban up – the ability to live fully by responding to the persecution of another. All kinds of justice work are like that – and the passion driving it ultimately yields joy.

The passionate desire to love and right the world comes in many different forms. An Episcopal church in Davenport, Iowa, named St. Alban’s has adopted a big cross-country truck stop.[2] They show up there to minister to truck drivers and look for women and teens who are being trafficked across the country, or in danger of being lured by traffickers. These parishioners quite literally befriend the lonely and hungry and those in peril. They keep watch over the vulnerable.

There are quiet heroes all around us, like the unnamed millions of refugees who shepherd others in distress. Mothers are bringing and sending their young children across the southern border of the United States in unprecedented numbers right now, fleeing hunger, gang threats and violence in their Central American homelands – more than 50,000 of them in the last 8 months.[3] One mother from El Salvador left her job as a social worker and brought her 11 year old daughter to the U.S. to keep her safe from gangs threatening to rape or kidnap her.[4] Where are the heroes who will guard and protect lost Nigerian schoolgirls?

Full and passionate investment in life doesn’t always look physically dangerous. I think of Mindy, a young woman born without arms or legs, whose awesome artwork is painted with a brush held in her teeth. When I met her several years ago, she wanted to go and work with disabled children in Haiti. She never would have put it this way, but her very presence bears heroic witness to the possibility of abundant life.

In this season we’re remembering the passionate gift of life 75 years ago, given by thousands who spent themselves on beaches and battlefields to liberate Europe. Others invested themselves in the word and words of life, figuring out how to send strategic messages. The last of the original Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez, died earlier this month. Using their own native language, he and 28 of his fellow Navajo soldiers developed a code the Japanese were never able to break. They invested the intimate identity of their culture, largely unknown to outsiders, in the cause of freedom and justice. The Navajo and other native peoples in North America continue to send disproportionate numbers to serve in the Armed Forces. A young Native American woman from Arizona was among the first casualties of the Iraq War in 2003. Arizona has named Piestewa Peak in her honor. Like Alban’s shrine, it stands as a marker of heroism and sacrifice.

The Vicar of Baghdad, Andrew White, is a powerful witness to the same kind of heroic living. He writes, “I don’t know what to do, do I stay [in Baghdad] or go back [to safety]? I have a huge amount of commitments here. If I go back, I cannot change the situation but I want to be with my people. Here we are with this huge crisis and need and we do not even have the resources to help those most in need.”[5] He stays, out of solidarity, with his eyes and his heart open.

Heroes are vulnerable, for passion removes our usual self-protective defense mechanisms.

Will you be a hero? How will you live as a protector and defender of others? Will you keep watch? For the love of God, where will you spend yourself?

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reverend-dr-malcolm-clemens-young/the-fault-in-our-stars-an_b_5490725.html

[2] http://qctimes.com/news/local/community-group-addresses-problem-of-human-trafficking/article_fd0a1fe0-6872-11df-9f0b-001cc4c002e0.html

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/us/border-centers-struggle-to-handle-onslaught-of-children-crossers.html?emc=edit_th_20140619&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=16061526&_r=1

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/us/migrants-flow-in-south-texas-as-do-rumors.html?ref=us

[5] http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/06/16/urgent-prayer-help-needed-for-iraqs-christians/

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