[Episcopal News Service – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic] As the Diocese of the Dominican Republic continues toward self-sustainability, companion relationships and a growing sense of stewardship will remain a key component in the diocese’s plan for further growth and development.
“It possible to reach self-sufficiency with the help of companion dioceses and the efforts that we put into local stewardship,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín.
For the church to continue in its mission, he continued, it needs the support of the local churches, schools and other institutions, as well as the support Episcopal Church women, companion diocese and local individuals who support the church in its mission.
The 2014 budget passed during the diocese’s Feb. 14-16 annual convention included provisions by which each of the diocese’s 55 missions would take on a larger share of their own operating costs and percentage of clergy salaries paid. The convention’s theme was taken from John 15:16, “We are called to bear lasting fruit.”
During his address to the convention, during which Holguín officially called for the election of a coadjutor, he said that the diocese had been working hard to ensure its financial self-sustainability. It has had support, he said, on several fronts:
- Local congregations, most of which have limited resources, have begun to take responsibility for some of their own costs, stewardship, utilities, maintenance, clergy salaries, Christian education and social programs.
- Congregations have started entrepreneurial programs.
- The diocese’s schools, conference centers and institutions continue to grow in their own administrative capacities and the services they offer, increasing their income and contribution to the diocese and its mission in the country.
- The Dominican Development Group and the Episcopal Church’s annual subsidy provide continued support.
The subsidy, however, will not continue forever and Episcopal Church’s Province IX dioceses spread across the Caribbean and Central and northern South America have begun to implement strategies for financial independence from the Episcopal Church’s historic block grant program, which in the current triennium allocates $2.9 million for Province IX.
Recently, on the recommendation of the Second Mark of Mission working group, a group convened by the staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council during its Feb. 5-7 meeting in Maryland agreed to an 18-year plan for “self-sufficiency,” in support of sustainable mission and ministry in Province IX, which includes the Dominican Republic.
“This is coming out of a need for Province IX that the leaders of those dioceses came to themselves,” said Sam McDonald, deputy chief operating officer and director of mission for the Episcopal Church.
“We are trying to move into a spiritually healthier relationship built on mutuality and not dependency.”
Beginning with the three dioceses closest to achieving self-sufficiency – the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Colombia – the plan calls for each diocese to receive an infusion of funds based on a strategic plan for self-sustainability. As they become sustainable, they are to commit to working with the province’s other dioceses to help them achieve the same goal.
The other four Province IX dioceses are: Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The Diocese of Puerto Rico is self-sustainable. The triennial budget also included an additional $1 million for Province IX with the goal of “strengthening the province for sustainable mission.” This money will be made available to the dioceses to further their progress toward self-sustainability.
The next step is for the Dominican Republic and Honduras to submit proposals outlining how the money will be used to promote self-sustainability, said Martha Gardner, chair of Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on World Mission, in a Feb. 13 telephone interview with ENS.
Companion relationships, said Gardner, will play a major part in helping the dioceses reach self-sufficiency.
Strength in numbers
The Dominican Republic is a case in point. Over the past 20 years the number of companion relationships has grown from four to 15; over the past 15 years, the diocese has grown to include more than 11,000 Episcopalians, 55 churches and more than 30 schools and institutions. The diocese has a $1.1 million annual budget.
In 1998, the Dominican Development Group was formed with the primary goal of seeking the “human, material and financial resources that are required to maintain the diocese’s rate of growth and to provide the diocese with the ability to maintain ‘quality’ programs.”
In 15 years, the DDG has raised more than $10 million to finance the building of infrastructure, including churches, schools, day-care centers and medical clinics, in the Dominican Republic. It is held up as a model of entrepreneurship across Province IX.
While “self-sustainability” means that the church in the Dominican Republic eventually will no longer be dependent on the block grant program, the DDG will plan an important role in helping it to sustain the growth underway already, said Bill Kunkle, the group’s executive director.
“The goal would be to continue the growth, we wouldn’t want to stagnate,” he said. “That’s where the teams come in in support of the growth, expanding the ministries and partnerships.”
As executive director, Kunkle serves as the diocese’s U.S.-based companion-relationship liaison. Along with Karen Carroll, an Episcopal Church missionary who has served in the Dominican Republic for nine years, he helps to coordinate from 50 to 70 mission teams that travel to the Dominican Republic to help build and maintain church properties, run vacation Bible schools and conduct medical and other missions.
Mission teams often visit the Dominican Republic annually; what can begin as a “colonial” type relationship in which North Americans want to direct projects and initiatives, over time gives way to solid partnerships in which each party benefits.
It was the notion of partnership, rather than just sending money to support projects, attracted and has sustained the companion relationship between the Dominican Republic and the Diocese of Eastern Michigan.
“We’ve been in ‘colonial relationships’ and this is something different,” said Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley, who attended the diocesan convention.
It’s also clear, said Northwest Texas Bishop Scott Mayer, whose diocese also has a companion relationship with the Dominican Republic, that the Episcopal Church’s domestic dioceses could learn a lot from how the diocese plants its missions.
“They plant missions where they see a need, we plant churches where we see a growth track,” he said.
Self sustainability plans take shape
During a July 2013 meeting of lay and ordained leaders of Province IX and church center staff, the consensus was that “the current relationship between the dioceses of Province IX and the rest of the Episcopal Church is influenced by the nature of the historical block grants that establish a relationship of dependency. This is not spiritually healthy, either for the ‘dependent’ or the ‘depended upon,’” according to a document that was released following the meeting.
In March 2012, during a Provincial Synod meeting in the Dominican Republic, the dioceses officially adopted sustainability as a focus. In May 2013, the Global Episcopal Mission Network conference held in Bogotá, Colombia, also focused on self-sustainability.
Each diocese is at a different stage in the process. Even though dioceses of Province IX share a common language, some are well established, some new. The province’s newest diocese, Venezuela, for example, has only officially been a diocese of the Episcopal Church since 2006. The Dominican Republic celebrated 100 years as part of the Episcopal Church, and 116 years of existence, in 2013. Colombia celebrates 50 years this year.
Bishop Victor Scantlebury has served for two-and-a-half years as the provisional bishop in the Diocese of Central Ecuador, which looks very different from the Dominican Republic.
“My job is to rebuild the diocese, and at the same time help them begin building a plan for self-sustainability,” said Scantlebury, adding that his three main areas of focus include helping the church find its identity, retain members and teach stewardship.
The 18-year-plan, he said, takes the diocese to 2030.
“It would seem like we have a long time, but not for me,” Scantlebury. “I’m working vigorously to make clergy and laity aware of the fact that we are in this process, and that soon the Episcopal Church [block grants] will not be there anymore.”
Part of that challenge is, he said, that in Latin America, where the Roman Catholic culture continues to dominate, parishioners typically give an offering to the church during services, but people don’t think of themselves as “stewards,” he said.
In the Dominican Republic, the diocese has already begun to take on the role of stewardship, which also leads to a healthier dynamic within the diocese and encourages priests to develop their own strategies for self-sustainability.
“We have to be creative and think of what we can do,” said the Rev. Vicente Peña, who, for instance, worked with the government to allow the diocese to use the cultural center free of charge for its Sunday worship service to close convention because the cathedral wasn’t large enough to accommodate the more than 1,500 people in attendance.
In its conversations about self-sustainability and the healthier dynamic it would create between the Province IX dioceses and the Episcopal Church, the Mark 2 team acknowledged “the pragmatic reality that there is a potential future of diminishing revenue at a churchwide level to sustain the historical block grants.”
And it said, “It may be that this is a providential convergence of the desire and recognition of the spiritual importance of being free of dependency and the very likely reality that current models are not indefinitely sustainable.”
– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service] Sometimes a person in need encounters the Episcopal Church’s ministry at the gas station.
The Rev. Canon John Floberg, canon missioner for the Episcopal Church community on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, was paying his bill on Feb. 12 at a gas station on the reservation when a young woman told him about having to replace her frozen, broken hot water heater. She said she had heard that the Episcopal churches might be able to help folks like her.
Floberg took her $370 receipt and found the money to reimburse her. The woman, he suspected, was working at a minimum-wage job so such an expense would have taken about a week of wages.
Winters are always hard in the Dakotas but this year’s brutal temperatures have been made worse by regional propane shortages and skyrocketing prices.
The two counties that Standing Rock encompasses, Sioux County in North Dakota and Corson County in South Dakota, have the seventh and ninth highest poverty rates, respectively, in the country, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics reported here. Most reservation residents are Sioux Indians. Between 80 and 90 percent of the people on the reservation depend on propane. That’s about 5,000 homes whose residents are at some level of risk, according to Floberg.
Many reservation residents live in houses with ill-fitting doors, single-pane windows or boards where glass used to be and roof that leak heat. Keeping such homes warm is especially expensive. Inside of some homes “you can find frost in the corners of the room up on the ceiling,” he said.
On Standing Rock, two people have died in what Floberg said “I can pretty well say that are connected” to the propane crisis. Both deaths occurred in Fort Yates, North Dakota, the seat of the tribal government.
On Jan. 5, Gordon Tree Top Sr., 66, a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church where his sister is a vestry member, died when fire destroyed his house. Floberg said Tree Top was using a space heater to keep warm and it appears to have ignited the couch on which the man was found.
Then on Feb. 4 Debbie Dogskin, 61, was found dead in a mobile home with an empty propane tank. Preliminary autopsy results released Feb. 9 did not identify a cause of death, but Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis said he believes Dogskin froze to death because it was as cold inside the home as out that morning — 1 degree below zero, ABC News reported.
In such conditions, a 500-gallon tank of propane lasts perhaps a month. It takes 400 gallons to fill such a tank, leaving room for the gas to expand. When propane costs $5 a gallon, as it recently did, a 400-gallon fill cost $2,000. This past summer, when propane was selling for $1.58 a gallon on the reservation, the same fill would have cost $632, according to Floberg.
Propane, a byproduct of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, is used mostly by people who live in rural areas that do not have natural gas service. It is used for cooking, heating homes and water, and powering clothes driers and fireplaces.
Looking for ways to help
The Episcopal Church’s involvement with the Sioux in what is now North Dakota and South Dakota began in the mid- to late-1800s after the 1862 Dakota uprising in neighboring Minnesota that resulted in the U.S. government deporting them to reservations in South Dakota. Just after the Civil War, the federal government offered land to various Christian denominations in exchange for their complicity in its effort to force Indians to assimilate into the white settlers’ culture through the federal government’s reservations system.
The Episcopal Church helped to carry out that plan mainly east of the Missouri River. The 1871 General Convention created the Niobrara Missionary District, which included parts or all of what are now North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska.
Today the church is present through a network of very small mission churches that are spread over vast expanses of land. It is uncommon for those missions to have electricity, water and indoor toilets, a situation that is also not uncommon for members’ homes.
Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Dakota dioceses and their network of churches on Standing Rock to help them minister this winter in a number of ways, according to Floberg and Katie Mears, director of the organization’s U.S. Disaster Preparedness and Response program.
Floberg and the Rev. Robert Schwarz of St. James Episcopal Church in Mobridge, South Dakota in that diocese’s section of Standing Rock collaborated on the plan presented to the tribe, the dioceses and Episcopal Relief & Development.
First, the church will work with the tribal government to assist tribal members who can’t afford propane. Second, it will be able to help some of the “most vulnerable” reservation residents who are ineligible for tribal assistance, Mears said, and those who, like the woman at the gas station, have the added burden of cold weather-related property damage.
Because the impact of this crisis ripples out to other parts of people’s lives, the church will also work with food banks in both states to get shipments of food to distribute in local communities through the local congregations “because people have been making choices: food or propane,” Floberg said.
The church also plans teach reservation residents about alternative-fuel heating as well as teach winterization and energy conservation skills at four, free church suppers across the reservation. The tribe will give the meat for those meals, said Floberg, and the entire community will be invited.
Along these same lines, Floberg hopes to give $5,000 to a new effort called “Heating the Rez.” Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney who grew up on Standing Rock, is trying to organize 20 home pilot projects to receive multi-fuel stoves to reduce dependency on propane. According to Iron Eyes’ website, the effort has raised just more than $40,000 of the $50,000 needed. He is partnering with a number of organizations and plans to work with a Mandan, North Dakota, company that sells the stoves.
“The point of the fundraising wasn’t to buy more ridiculously priced propane,” Iron Eyes told the Bismarck Tribune.
Floberg said the church is eager to see the project begin as a way to demonstrate the need for more multi-fuel stoves, which he said will not totally replace propane-fueled furnaces but certainly reduce a home’s overall heating costs.
Other help is coming to the reservation. The federal Department of Health and Human Services released $439 million nationwide for low-income heating assistance. North Dakota will get $3.4 million in the latest allocation and South Dakota $2.8 million. Of that amount, $1.3 million is earmarked for tribes in the two states.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said Feb. 10 that he had directed the state’s Department of Human Services to assist Standing Rock in assessing their potential need for additional Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program money.
Tribal chair Dave Archambault told the Associated Press at the time that the money will be welcome but likely won’t be enough to bring Standing Rock’s program up to normal funding. The tribe’s LIHEAP program has only $1.5 million available this winter, down from $2.5 million last winter because of federal budget cuts.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribe is giving Standing Rock and two other Northern Plains tribes a total of $870,000 to help them purchase propane for tribal members. Standing Rock will receive $500,000 from the Minnesota tribe that operates several businesses, including two casinos and a golf course.
Floberg said the amount of money the church can commit to this work sometimes feels small compared to those efforts and “doesn’t feel like you are carrying the day,” but he knows making a difference in a few more families’ lives is better than not doing that. And, he said, the church wants to administer what it can give in the most efficient way possible “where we are working in partnership with the tribe who already has the infrastructure in place to be helping them out.”
And then there are the churches themselves where decisions based on heat bills also have to be made. For instance, at Church of the Cross in Selfridge, North Dakota, “we said we didn’t have enough money to keep that place heated for worship so we went to a house church format for the winter,” he said.
The St. Luke’s fellowship hall at Fort Yates is heated by a high-efficiency propane furnace but it has proved too expensive to keep going, so the congregation closed off the hall, keeping the temperature at 40 degrees. But, if the church needs to host a funeral and reception, it would take 18 “hard running hours” to heat it up, Floberg said.
The rest of the church building is heated with dual-heat furnaces that can run on either propane or electricity. That choice was made when propane cost 58 cents a gallon, he said, and electricity was more expensive. They chose the dual option “just in case” and now “that just in case has really come into play.”
Other than Wednesdays and Sunday, those furnaces are keeping the space heated to 50 degrees, according to Floberg. Raising the temperature to between 65 and 70 for three hours on Wednesdays for the soup kitchen has made that program “a lot more expensive to run,” he said.
By contrast, the newly built St. James in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, has geothermal heat and its combined monthly electricity and heating bill is $200 a month, perhaps $125 more a month outside of the heating season. The building is kept at 70 degrees day and night.
“I have never had the experience at any of our churches in all of the 20-plus years I have been out here of walking into a building and feeling immediately comfortable and warm,” Floberg said with a happy laugh.
The church has offered St. James as an emergency shelter if needed “but we haven’t had to employ in that way,” he said.
How did this crisis happen?
Current high prices, distribution bottlenecks and, in some cases, outright shortages are being blamed on a vortex of circumstances that began circling the country last fall.
The National Propane Gas Association has said the shortages began in part when abundant grain crops were harvested throughout the Upper Midwest almost simultaneously last fall. Ordinarily, the harvest progresses in stages through the region but in late 2013, the harvest happened at the same time over a wide area. What the association called “massive amounts” of propane were used to dry the large, wet crop prior to storage. That demand reduced propane inventories throughout the area.
At the same time, the Cochin pipeline, which provided 40% of the product used by Minnesota suppliers, was shut down for repairs. The shutdown forced those suppliers to go to other states for propane, pinching the market.
Just as the harvest demand settled out, massive snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures began to hit most of the county and demand for heating fuel soared. The average number of heating degree days (a calculation of the deviation in temperature from an average day from 65 degrees) this winter have been more than 10 percent higher than last season, according to the propane association. The group said the U.S. Department of Energy reported that cold weather led to record-high natural gas and propane storage withdrawals. These were the largest drawdowns in the 20-year history of the survey and the second time so far in 2014 the record has been broken.
Add to that the fact that in 2013 more than 20 percent of U.S. propane was exported, up from 5 percent in 2008, according to the association. Thus, while Jeff Petrash, the general counsel for the propane industry group, said propane production increased to an estimated 17.8 billion gallons in 2013, from 15.2 billion gallons in 2008, he acknowledged that an estimated 4.3 billion gallons of propane were exported last year, compared to 800 million gallons in 2008.
The Energy Information Administration said Feb. 5 that U.S. propane stocks totaled 30.8 million barrels, nearly 45 percent lower than a year ago, USA Today reported). And the EIA, the U.D. Department of Energy’s statistical arm, said Feb. 12 that Midwest propane inventories had rebounded somewhat but were still below the five-year average.
The propane industry group also blamed adequate propane storage locations in the Northeast, saying that had propane been stored there, it could have been moved to the areas of the country facing a crisis. However, it said, the industry had faced opposition in some areas to adding storage capacity, which is generally underground.
Yet, storing enough propane to weather all of these factors combined is not efficient. “You don’t design church for Easter Sunday,” Clifton Linton, a natural gas liquids specialist at the Oil Price Information Service told the New York Times. “Well, guess what happened this year? In the Midwest, it was a double Easter Sunday.”
Finally, the propane distribution system relies heavily on trains and trucks to get emergency supplies from pipeline terminals to states across the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. However, the propane association said, rail cars and trucks that used to be in the distribution chain have been diverted to take away the huge amount of crude oil being on the Bakken shale formation. The Bakken boom has also caused what the association called “a dramatic change in energy flows across North American” to which the natural gas and petroleum products pipeline network has not yet adapted.
Ironically, the rush to pull oil out of the Bakken, 300 miles northwest of Fort Yates, means North Dakota has a glut of natural gas. The gas is released at the wellhead but lax gas-capture regulations now lead to 30 percent of the gas being burned off as waste.
In an effort to move propane to areas where it is needed, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued emergency orders suspending the limits on the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the road for 10 Midwestern states and 12 Northeastern states. In many cases those orders mirrored actions taken by state governors.
On Feb. 12 Midwest retail residential prices for propane ranged from $2.99 a gallon (excluding tax) in Nebraska to $4.04 in Indiana. The price was $3.28 in North Dakota and $3.41 in South Dakota. That is down from this year’s high thus far of $4.57 in North Dakota and $4.12 in South Dakota on Jan. 27. In early February 2013, the per-gallon price for propane in the Midwest was $2.306, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Although North Dakota’s total energy consumption is among the lowest in the nation due to its small population, according to the Energy Information Administration, the state’s high heating demand in winter means it ranks fourth in the country in per-capita consumption (measured in BTUs). South Dakota ranks eighth.
The Energy Information Administration data shows that North Dakotans use almost twice as much propane (867 gallons each year) as the U.S. national average (464 gallons per year). And, while propane in North Dakota cost less than the national average during the 2012-2013 winter, North Dakotan households $1,280 that years on propane for heating compared with $957 per U.S. households overall.
And Floberg has a warning.
“No matter what the groundhog says, there’s more than six weeks of winter left in the Dakotas,” he said. “We’re not out of this brutal heating season until at least the middle of March; so another month of sub-zero weather … and we’re not out of the snow until the middle of April in terms of the likelihood of snowstorms. We’ve still got a long run ahead of us.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
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[Episcopal News Service] During the Diocese of the Dominican Republic’s 56th annual diocesan convention held Feb. 14-16 in Santo Domingo, the Rev. Tar Drazdowski and the Rev. Adolfo Moronta, recited the Five Marks of Mission in English and Spanish.
The Rev. Lucy Brady Talbott, retired rector of St. Paul’s in the Pines, Fayetteville, North Carolina, died on Oct. 26 at the Passages Hospice, New Orleans, Louisiana.
She served as an associate rector of the Church of St. Clement, Alexandria, Virginia, after her graduation from Virginia Theological School. Lucy was a fearless advocate for inclusive theology and St. Paul’s is known for its diversity. She was also an early activist for those with HIV/AIDS when fear and misinformation dominated public perception of the disease. Having lost a beloved brother from the AIDS epidemic in the early 80s, she opened the doors for others to see those living with the disease with compassion and acceptance.
The Women’s Center of Fayetteville presented Lucy with the Woman of the Year award in 1992. It is called the Giraffe medal given to those who stick their necks out for others.
Lucy is survived by her daughter, Amanda Talbott Bray of New Orleans and grandchildren Stella Frentress and Conor Bray and two sisters Ellen Finn and Sue Wankowivz and a brother Jeremish Brady.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presentations, workshops and panel discussions examining violence in all its forms in American society, with a hard look at what can be done, are the elements of a special Episcopal Church gathering: Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence.
Bishops, clergy and laity from throughout the Episcopal Church are invited to gatherApril 9 – 11 at the Reed Center and Sheraton in Oklahoma City, OK (Diocese ofOklahoma).
“As Christians, as Americans, as leaders we need to recognize violence in our society, and renew our commitment to the Gospel,” noted Bishop Ed Konieczny, Diocese of Oklahoma. “It’s our responsibility and our calling to make peace in a world of violence.”
On Wednesday, the program begins with dinner and opening plenary presentations by Bishop Konieczny on Why Are We Here, and Bishop Eugene Sutton (Diocese of Maryland) on The Theology of Violence and Peace.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is expected to briefly greet the assembly on Thursday.
Thursday will be a full day of program with plenary sessions including a panel highlighting unique Episcopal responses to violence, intentional community conversations, workshops and an opportunity for participants to organize their own working-group/workshop sessions.
Among the 19 workshops:
Becoming Radical: How to Teach Non-Violence to the Church: the Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis, faith-based organizational consultant
Laws Save Lives: How the faith community can make them happen: Vincent DeMarco, National Coordinator, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence
The Contemplative Life and Non-violence: Brother James Michael Dowd
Welcoming Communities: Preventative Medicine and Antidote to the Epidemic of Violence: Allison Duvall, Program Manager for Church Relations and Co- Sponsorship, Episcopal Migration Ministries
Liturgy after Christendom: the Rev. Paul Fromberg, St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco, CA; Charles Rotramel, Chief Executive Officer of Houston revision; the Rev. Matthew Russell, Duke Divinity School
Orphans of Justice: The Generational Cycle of Crime and Incarceration: Lindsay Fry-Geier, MHR, Executive Director of New Hope and Judy Gann, Executive Director Emeritus of New Hope
Respecting the Dignity of Those Impacted by Intimate Partner Violence: Robin Hammeal-Urban, Canon for Mission Integrity and Training, Diocese of Connecticut, and the Rev. Sarah Shofstall, St. Barnabas Church, Bay Village, OH, Diocese of Ohio.
Peace, Pentecost and the Pew: the Rev. Karen Hunter, Grace Church, Nampa ID, Diocese of Idaho
Heeding God’s Call – Mobilizing the Faithful to End Gun Violence: Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call
How to Lobby Effectively for Legislative Change: the Rev. Allison Liles, Executive Director of Episcopal Peace Fellowship and Shannon Berndt, Membership Services Coordinator, Episcopal Peace Fellowship
Talking Peace: Learning and Telling Biblical Stories of Peace: the Rev. Dina McMullin Ferguson, Los Angeles, CA
Building a Community for All: How can churches welcome the stranger?: Charles Rotramel, Chief Executive Officer of Houston revision; the Rev. Matthew Russell, Duke Divinity School
Inspiring Mission: Bronwyn Clark Skov, Missioner for Youth Ministries, and Wendy Johnson, partner in Inspiring Mission
The panel discussion, Episcopal Responses to Violence, will highlight the unique and varied ways that the Episcopal Church is responding to violence and working to change the culture of violence. Panelists include: Alex Baumgarten, Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations; Brother James Dowd; Matthew Ellis, National Episcopal Health Ministries; Kay Collier McLaughlin, author, Diocese of Lexington; Julia McMahaon, B-PEACE for Jorge from the Diocese of Massachusetts.
On Friday, the conference will feature worship, intentional community conversations, and workshop opportunities in the morning. In the afternoon, the Conference will visit the Oklahoma City Memorial. Dinner will be held at the cathedral of the Diocese of Oklahoma followed by Eucharist with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preaching.
Registration is available here.
Event information here.
Participants need to make their own lodging reservations as they are not part of the conference registration. A special conference rate of $109 has been secured with the Sheraton here. Group name for the convention rate is “Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace.”
For more information email email@example.com
[Episcopal News Service] El 13 de febrero puede ser el día en que el calendario de la Iglesia reconoce oficialmente la vida y ministerio del Rdo. Absalom Jones, pero para Mary Sewell Smith y otras personas en la iglesia episcopal africana de Santo Tomás [African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas], en Filadelfia, cada día es el día del fundador.
Jones —el primer sacerdote negro de la Iglesia Episcopal y de la nación— fundó Santo Tomás en 1792 como la primera iglesia negra de cualquier denominación en el país, y “ese espíritu que caló en aquella primera iglesia se ha transmitido a través de los años y se mantiene vivo y pujante”, dijo Smith.
“Una fuerza orientadora en nuestra iglesia es la vida y legado del Rdo. Jones. Es simplemente parte de mi vida”, dijo Smith, feligrés de toda la vida y miembro actual de la sociedad histórica de la iglesia. “Intentamos vivir a la altura de los principios que él abrazó: libertad, educación, adoración, servicio comunitario”.
Además de Santo Tomás, quedan hoy unas 90 iglesias episcopales históricamente afroamericanas, congregaciones creadas por negros que no eran bienvenidos en las iglesias episcopales establecidas en la época posterior a la esclavitud y durante la segregación racial en Estados Unidos, según el Rdo. Harold T. Lewis, ex funcionario para el ministerio de los negros del centro denominacional de la Iglesia Episcopal en Nueva York y autor de Yet With a Steady Beat: the African American Struggle for Recognition in the Episcopal Church [La lucha de los afroamericanos por el reconocimiento en la Iglesia Episcopal] (Trinity Press International, 1996).
Santo Tomás, la más antigua de todas estas congregaciones, surgió de la Sociedad de Africanos Libres, una organización independiente de ayuda mutua creada por Absalom Jones y Richard Allen para responder a las necesidades económicas, educacionales, sociales y espirituales de la comunidad afroamericana. Esos empeños se mantuvieron en la iglesia.
“La mayoría de las congregaciones negras siempre han estado a favor de la superación y la acción social, así como la labor con la comunidad y la preparación de la misma”, afirmó Lewis.
“Lo que resulta triste es que muchas personas en la Iglesia, negras y blancas, desconocen esa historia y no saben cuántas personas han luchado para hacernos llegar adonde nos encontramos hoy”, añadió, citando el desigual pasado de la Iglesia Episcopal con respecto a los afroamericanos y el racismo.
Imbuidos del espíritu de Absalom Jones
Uno de los primeros recuerdos de Smith es el de ver el icónico retrato de Jones pintado por Raphaelle Peale en 1810 que colgaba en el nártex de la iglesia mientras su padre le contaba la historia del fundador de Santo Tomás, que nació en la esclavitud, aprendió por sí solo a leer y compró su libertad en 1784. Seis años antes, él había comprado la libertad de Mary, su esposa.
Jones sirvió como ministro laico hasta que a él y a otros negros les pidieron que se fueran de la iglesia metodista episcopal de San Jorge [St. George’s] en Filadelfia. Ese éxodo llevó a Richard Allen y a Jones a crear la Sociedad de Africanos Libres y dio lugar a que Allen fundara la Iglesia Metodista Episcopal Africana y a la ordenación de Jones como diácono de la Iglesia Episcopal y, nueve años más tarde, como presbítero, cuando tenía 58 años.
Pero William White, a la sazón obispo de Pensilvania, convendría en ordenar a Jones y recibir a la iglesia de Santo Tomás en la diócesis con la condición de que la iglesia no enviaría ni clérigos ni diputados a la convención diocesana, privando así a los negros de voz y voto en el gobierno de la Iglesia, lo cual “caracterizaba la dualidad de las relaciones raciales dentro de la Iglesia durante gran parte de su historia”, según los documentos históricos de la iglesia.
Smith recuerda las visitas a la tumba de Jones, situada “en el mismo cementerio donde están las tumbas de nuestra familia. Y cuando íbamos a visitar a nuestra familia, siempre decíamos una oración junto a la lápida de Jones”. Los restos de Jones fueron luego exhumados e incinerados y colocados en una urna en una capilla conmemorativa dentro de la iglesia de estilo gótico, explicó ella.
Smith creció jugando en las gradas de la iglesia, junto con las amigas de su niñez Mercedes Sadler y las hermanas Lucille e Isabel Hamill. Las mujeres que ya están entre los setentitantos y ochentitantos años siguen compartiendo el amor a la iglesia y a la historia como miembros de la sociedad histórica. Dicen que la iglesia les inculcó un sentido de pertenencia. La historia de la iglesia era su propia historia, y también la historia de la nación.
La historia vive: ‘en gran medida como parte de la iglesia’
Una de las mayores alegrías para las hermanas y maestras jubiladas, Isabel y Lucille Hamill, de 87 y 83 años respectivamente, fue encontrar una mención de su tía, Bertha Jones, entre los nombres de las mujeres de la iglesia que apoyaron varios empeños bélicos.
“Había notas sobre las mujeres que ayudaron envolver vendajes para la guerra Hispano-Americana”, dijo Lucille Hamill. “Y las mujeres atendían cantinas durante las dos guerras mundiales, donde los jóvenes podían venir y comer y ser tratados maternalmente por las mujeres mayores de la iglesia, y se acostumbraron a venir”.
Para las Hamills resulta difícil encontrar palabras para todo lo que la iglesia ha significado para ellas. “Te hacía sentir incluido, en una ciudad donde aún existía una segregación feroz cuando éramos jóvenes”, dijo Lucille Hamill. “Te hacía sentir parte de algo más grande que tú misma, y eso era importante”.
Para preservar la historia de la congregación, la iglesia ha creado un archivo en un edificio anexo, pero se encontró con problemas de clima y humedad que están en vías de resolverse, dijo Smith. Los archivos de la iglesia ofrecen una ventana a un pasado lleno de activismo social y de trabajo comunitario y un atisbo incluso de posibilidades futuras.
“Creo que, por saber un poquito de lo que ha sido la iglesia a través de los años, ella nos guía y nos llena el presente”, agregó Smith.
En los archivos se encuentran los registros bautismales de Jones de fines del siglo XVIII, así como partidas de nacimientos y defunciones, sermones y discursos, listas de miembros y actas de las reuniones de la junta parroquial.
Algunos documentos, en proceso de ser restaurados, anteceden a la iglesia. “En efecto, tenemos un libro de la contabilidad de la Sociedad Africana Libre”, apuntó Smith. “En todo lo que yo había leído decía que ningún registro de esta organización había sobrevivido, pero revisando nuestros viejos registros, encontramos este volumen, de 1790 a 1792, cuando la sociedad se disolvió y se convirtió en la iglesia.
“Cada miembro tenía una página, y muestra que pagaban un par de chelines, y este dinero se usaba para servir a los pobres y a los discapacitados. Uno puede ver cómo las personas pagaban sus cuotas y cómo se saltaban un par de meses y luego se ponían al día”.
Mirando retrospectivamente, el punto focal “siempre estaba en el servicio a la comunidad”, subrayó ella. “La Asociación de Santa María [St. Mary’s Guild] en el siglo XIX hizo ropa para los niños que no podían costearla para asistir a la escuela. Los Hijos de Santo Tomas [Sons of St. Thomas] tenemos las actas de estas organizaciones —hechas al estilo de la Sociedad Africana Libre y que funcionaron de manera muy semejante”.
La Sociedad Dorcas [Dorcas Society] estaba compuesta por mujeres “y su función fundamental parece haber sido ocuparse de pagar por los entierros de mujeres de la iglesia o la comunidad”, señaló.
Las listas de miembros de la iglesia se pueden leer como un registro biográfico de personajes de la sociedad afroamericana, dijo Mercedes Sadler, de 77 años, episcopal de sexta generación y miembro del coro del presbiterio, uno de los cinco coros de la iglesia.
[Estas listas] incluyen a James Forten, nacido en1766 de padres negros libres, que combatió en la guerra de Independencia y aprovechó un aprendizaje en una compañía fabricante de velas de barcos para convertirla en una empresa próspera. Él empleó la mitad de su riqueza en comprar la libertad de esclavos, ayudar a financiar el periódico abolicionista The Liberator, de William Lloyd Garrison, a dirigir en su casa una estación de fuga [de esclavos que escapaban del sur] y a fundar una escuela para niños negros.
Octavius Valentine Catto fue “un hombre del Renacimiento y miembro de la junta parroquial en esos tiempos”, apuntó Sadler. “Lo mataron a tiros mientras intentaba conseguir que la gente saliera a votar”.
Catto tenía unos 5 años cuando su familia se mudó de Filadelfia a Carolina del Sur en 1850. Además de activista social, fue también un consumado torpedero [shortstop], entrenador de béisbol y líder del Pythian Baseball Club. Republicano y partidario de Abraham Lincoln, luchó por la aprobación de la 15ª. Enmienda, que le daba a los negros el derecho al voto, pero lo mataron el 10 de octubre de 1871, día de las elecciones. Uno de sus bates de béisbol se cuenta entre los objetos memorables del archivo.
El clero y los feligreses de Santo Tomás desempeñaron importantes papeles en los movimientos abolicionistas y antiesclavistas que propiciaron la fuga de esclavos en el siglo XIX, según la página web [de la iglesia]. “En los últimos 50 años, Santo Tomás ha figurado de manera prominente en el movimiento de los derechos civiles, la Asociación Nacional para el Progreso de las Personas de Color (NAACP, por su sigla en inglés), la Unión de Episcopales Negros, el Centro de Oportunidades en la Industrialización, la Acción Interreligiosa de Filadelfia y las Mujeres Episcopales”.
Para Smith, los recuerdos son personales y valiosos. Ella recordaba haber visto a su hermano practicar en casa sus deberes de acólito y el arte de encender las velas. Aunque a las niñas no se les permitía servir de acólitos entonces, ella descubrió otras maneras de servir, tal como hizo su madre.
“Mi madre era lo que una llamaría una madre acólita”, dijo Smith. “En esos tiempos, nunca se sabía qué acólitos se iban a presentar. De manera que si se presentaba uno que fuera bajito, ella tenía que ajustarle la sotana con alfileres. Yo solía acompañarla en la sacristía antes del oficio, ayudándoles a prepararse [a los acólitos]. En esos tiempos no había niñas acólitas, pero siempre encontraba cosas que hacer”.
Mirar atrás y andar hacia adelante
Además de la participación comunitaria, Santo Tomás ha seguido comprometida “a mantener la información y el valor de la presencia negra en la Iglesia Episcopal”, según dice su página web. La iglesia presenta una exposición del Mes de la Historia Negra, ofrece visitas dirigidas y continúa preservando su tesoro de registros y desarrollando sus archivos.
“Es una extraordinaria bendición que tengamos esos magníficos archivos”, dijo Smith. “De algún modo, han reconocido, a través de los años, que esos registros eran valiosos. Uno llega realmente a tener una idea de cómo era la vida, de la gente, de quiénes eran los activistas y los líderes. Me han conectado y ha expandido mi conocimiento de la historia negra, así como mi conexión con la comunidad negra de un modo que yo no tenía”.
Aunque la iglesia se ha mudado cuatro veces desde que Absalom Jones la fundó, sigue creciendo y recibiendo a otros “con algo para todo el mundo”, dice Sadler. Sus miembros representan todo el espectro de la diáspora africana así como “un buen número” de blancos.
En 2000, se instalaron vidrieras emplomadas en la iglesia para rendir homenaje no sólo a Jones, sino también a varios gigantes negros de la fe: el arzobispo Desmond Tuto; Barbara Harris, obispa sufragánea jubilada de Massachusetts, la primera obispa electa en la Iglesia Episcopal; y el obispo sufragáneo Franklin Turner, que legó su báculo a los archivos.
Turner, que se jubiló en 2000, falleció el 31 de diciembre de 2013, y en su memoria se celebró un réquiem el 11 de enero.
En un oficio en 1992 en Santo Tomás para volver a sepultar los restos de Absalom Jones, Franklin había dicho refiriéndose a los episcopales negros: “en verdad, hemos llegado hasta aquí por fe”.
“Podemos justamente enorgullecernos de nuestra permanencia en la Iglesia Episcopal, aunque ha sido una lucha cuesta arriba”, afirmó.
Animar, facultar, acoger
En el espíritu del empeño de Absalom Jones en pro de la educación, la iglesia está en el proceso de lanzar un programa extraescolar, dijo el Rdo. Angelo Wildgoose, rector adjunto.
“El programa extraescolar está orientado hacia las escuelas de nuestra zona y se propone básicamente ayudar con las tareas escolares, la tecnología, las ciencias de la computación y con consejos para el examen de admisión [SAT]; y la iglesia participa en toda una variedad de campañas comunitarias”, le dijo él a ENS.
Entre otros programas de la iglesia, los cinco coros ofrecen una amplia gama de obras musicales: clásicas, espirituales, góspel y jazz.
El 16 de febrero comienza una nueva clase de escuela intermedia y superior, Souldiers for Christ [“Almas Marciales por Cristo”], dijo Wildgoose, que presta servicios en la iglesia desde diciembre. Otro programa, destinado a conectar a los estudiantes con iglesias episcopales de la localidad durante sus años universitarios, recomenzó en diciembre con unos 15 estudiantes, dijo él.
“La idea es brindarles ese hogar lejos del hogar donde podrán seguir asistiendo al culto en una iglesia episcopal y, al mismo tiempo, contar con algunos entornos familiares”, afirmó. “Tratamos de cerciorarnos de que mantenemos a nuestros jóvenes comprometidos, desde los niños hasta los que asisten a la universidad. Hacemos mucho énfasis en la participación de los padres”.
La asistencia promedio del domingo es de unas 400 personas en un oficio, con unos 50 niños en la escuela dominical. “Hay algo para todos aquí”, dijo Sadler.
Para Smith, sus amigos de toda la vida y muchos otros, Santo Tomás ha sido un hogar espiritual y real, “un asidero, en torno al cual organizar de algún modo la vida, y con personas de intereses semejantes”, afirmó Smith. “Somos dichosos de que nuestra congregación es multigeneracional, con una magnífica clase religiosa, un estupendo grupo de adolescentes y todos los Souldiers for Christ y que cada grupo de distinta edad puede sentir que la iglesia les pertenece y llegar a ser una parte activa en la vida de la iglesia.
“En verdad se ha incorporado a mi vida, y creo que es lo que encuentran las personas cuando vienen aquí, y es por eso que cada domingo tenemos personas que se suman a la iglesia”.
– La Rda. Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.
[accento.com.co] Dispone, que se invite a todos los episcopales a orar por los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana y por todas las personas apátridas en el mundo, para que puedan encontrar casas donde sean acogidos y se les proporcione un estatus legítimo de residencia, educación y trabajo para ellos y sus hijos.
NUEVA YORK, Estados Unidos.-El Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal, establecido en 1821 e incorporado en 1846, como representación de los episcopales en los Estados Unidos, declaró mediante resolución su solidaridad con los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana que han sido afectados por la sentencia 168-13 del Tribunal Constitucional de la República Dominicana.
El Consejo Ejecutivo dispuso un llamado a todos los miembros de la Iglesia Episcopal en todo el mundo para orar por esas personas despojadas de la nacionalidad. “Dispone, que se invite a todos los episcopales a orar por los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana y por todas las personas apátridas en el mundo, para que puedan encontrar casas donde sean acogidos y se les proporcione un estatus legítimo de residencia, educación y trabajo para ellos y sus hijos”, dice la resolución.
Leer mas aquí.
[Chicago Consultation press release] The steering committee of the Chicago Consultation — an organization of bishops, clergy, theologians and lay Anglicans in Africa and Episcopalians in the United States — has issued the following statement about punitive anti-gay legislation that is supported by the archbishops of the Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda:
Christians who read and reason from the same Bible can arrive in good faith at differing conclusions about the moral legitimacy of same-sex relationships. We believe that these differences must be honored, even as we work to gain equal rights for all of God’s children, both in the church and in civil society. But we are grieved and appalled by the support of Anglican Archbishops Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria and Stanley Ntagali of Uganda for harsh anti-gay legislation that has been passed in their countries.
In Nigeria, where this law is already in effect, gay men have been rounded up and tortured. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni must decide within the next few days, whether to sign harsh anti-gay legislation that has already been approved by the country’s Parliament.
In the wake of widespread expressions of support for this legislation from Christian leaders in Africa and the silence of their allies in the west, we believe that several points must be made clear:
- There is no religiously rooted justification for perpetrating violence against innocent men and women who, whatever their sexual orientation or identity, are created in the image and likeness of God.
- There is no legitimate Christian rationale for denying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people the human rights bestowed upon all of God’s children.
- Christian leaders who argue otherwise demonstrate a shocking hardheartedness and an unwillingness to examine the meanings of Holy Scripture in depth and in totality.
- Whatever their political or theological opinions, faithful Christians are called to offer sanctuary to the persecuted, not encouragement to the persecutors.
We call on the archbishops to reconsider their support for these laws, and we call on the archbishops’ allies in the United States and the United Kingdom — organizations such as Anglican Mainstream, the Anglican Church in North America and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America — to dissociate themselves from the archbishops’ positions or explain why they will not do so.
Following an extended illness, Canon Cynthia McFarland, longtime communications director, historiographer and archivist of the Diocese of New Jersey, and active leader in the wider Episcopal Church, died Feb. 13 at Virtua Hospital in Mount Holly, New Jersey.
McFarland was editor for Anglicans Online and manager of the Episcopal Church’s Bishops and Deputies listserve. For many years she served as a member of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Communication and Information Technology.
A Choral Requiem Mass will be held at St. Mark’s Church, Locust Street, Philadelphia at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22. A graveside commital service and interment will be held at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Burlington, New Jersey, at 3 p.m.
Into your hands. O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Cynthia. Acknowledge we humbly beseech you a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
May her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen
La Asociación por los Derechos de la Mujer y el Desarrollo y Mama Cash han creado un sitio web en The Guardian, uno de los periódicos de mayor importancia en Inglaterra, dedicado a al “análisis especial sobre los derechos de las mujeres y la igualdad de género“. La sección busca compartir análisis sobre temas urgentes que afectan al género femenino alrededor del mundo. Su primera edición tuvo lugar el 4 de febrero.
La agencia informativa Associated Press ha retirado de su archivo varias fotos de Fidel Castro charlando amigablemente con las damas presidentas de América Latina. ¿Razón? Se ha comprobado que las fotos fueron alteradas mediante técnicas especiales, algo que está terminante prohibido en el mundo de la información. Un corresponsal en La Habana dijo “Fidel está más viejo de lo que revelan las fotos”.
Los resultados de la encuesta titulada La Voz del Pueblo que la cadena Univisión encargó en 12 países y fue realizada por la firma de Bendixen & Amandi ha causado polémicas en varias partes del mundo. Una agencia noticiosa afirma que la encuesta “remeció los cimientos del Vaticano”, mientras que el jefe de Información del Vaticano rechazó su valor diciendo que “no ha tenido en cuenta el trabajo de la Comisión Vaticana y ha cedido a presiones externas”. En la encuesta participaron más de 12 mil católicos romanos. Los temas tratados en el sondeo son los grandes retos de la Iglesia Católica en el Siglo XXI y los resultados revelan qué piensan los fieles y qué tan cerca o lejos se encuentran de la dirección de la jerarquía eclesiástica.
Según la encuesta el 87% de los católicos respalda la labor realizada por el papa Francisco, y el 80% los africanos y 76% los filipinos apoyan la prohibición de que las mujeres se ordenen sacerdotes, una postura que sólo comparte el 30% de los católicos europeos y 36% de los estadounidenses.
El Comité Permanente de la Diócesis del Sureste de la Florida decidió en su más reciente reunión en diciembre de 2013 comenzar el proceso de elección para suceder al obispo Leopoldo Frade, a ese fin se nombró un comité de clérigos y laicos para comenzar el trabajo que durará varios meses. Según este plan la diócesis seleccionó a un comité de 18 clérigos y laicos para elegir al obispo coadjutor, auxiliar con derecho a sucesión. Todo el proceso tiene el permiso de la mayoría de los obispos con jurisdicción y las 110 diócesis que componen la Iglesia Episcopal. Frade se retira por haber llegado a la edad que señalan los cánones para su jubilación.
En Venezuela ha habido disturbios estudiantiles contra el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro. En lugares como Caracas, Táchira y Maracaibo el oficialismo ha sacado la policía a las calles teniendo como consecuencia tres muertos y un indeterminado número de heridos. Cada día el gobierno toma más dotes dictatoriales. Varios periódicos no han podido imprimirse por falta de divisas para comprar papel en el exterior, medida que se considera un intento de limitar la libertad de expresión. La declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, adoptada por la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas el 10 de Diciembre de 1948 en París dice en su Artículo 19: “Todo individuo tiene derecho a la libertad de opinión y expresión; este derecho incluye el de no ser molestado a causa de sus opiniones, el de investigar y recibir informaciones y opiniones y el de difundirlas, sin limitación de fronteras, por cualquier medio de expresión”. Con el cierre de los periódicos en Venezuela más de 30 mil obreros y empleados quedarían sin trabajo. Una manifestante dijo que el gobierno “es cobarde porque persigue a estudiantes en lugar de delincuentes que andan libres por la calle”.
La Reforma Migratoria que admitiría a 12 millones de indocumentados en los Estados Unidos sigue sin aprobarse y las posibilidades se suceden como las olas del mar. En esta semana hubo un gran titular que decía que no se aprobaría en este año porque la Cámara de Representantes no confía en el presidente Barack Obama. Horas más tarde surgieron declaraciones de importantes políticos diciendo que “sí habían posibilidades” pese a comentarios contrarios. Decimos nosotros: “Con las vidas de tantas personas no se juega”.
EPITAFIO. “El socialismo es la filosofía del fracaso, el credo a la ignorancia, y la prédica a la envidia. Su defecto inherente es la distribución igualitaria de la miseria”. Winston Churchill, político y estadista inglés (1874-1965).
[Episcopal News Service] If Valentine’s is a day for love, then Episcopal churches are spreading it around.
Like the “Have a Heart” fundraising campaign in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, for the Church of the Redeemer’s African Children’s Mission (ACM) ministry to Malawi.
Or the cookie outreach launched by the Episcopal Church Women at Trinity Church in Newark, Ohio — home-baked cookies for homebound seniors.
So, who was St. Valentine?
Given that the Roman Catholic Church in 1996 demoted his saintly status and the Episcopal Church recognizes others on Feb. 14 (saints Cyril and Methodius), it isn’t all that clear who St. Valentine or Valentinius actually was or why a day devoted to romantic love, roses and chocolates became his namesake, according to the Rev. Sam A. Portaro.
Portaro’s Feb. 14 meditation in his “The Brightest and the Best” (Cowley Publications, 1998) companion reader to Lesser Feasts and Fasts, the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints doesn’t mention Valentine, but concentrates on Cyril and Methodius instead.
“Some people trace the influence of Chaucer as helping to elevate the prominence of Valentine, and associating him with love,” Portaro added. “In that period he is associated with courtly love which, as we know, is a very romantic view of love that’s not grounded in reality.”
The Rev. Tim Schenck agreed. “It’s, frankly, a bit odd that love is celebrated on a day named for St. Valentinus,” said Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts.
“If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with authenticity, try dressing up for your romantic dinner as the martyred saint,” said Schenck who has been known to reflect about the holy ones in annual Lent Madness “saintly smackdown” he helps run, set to resume March 6, where viewers pick their most favorite saints.
“Or perhaps just stick with chocolate and roses and tell your beloved about Saints Cyril and Methodius – the 9th century missionaries to the Slavs whom the Episcopal Church actually commemorates on February 14th,” he added.
Some traditions identify Valentine as a priest; others, a bishop. “Most of them tend to center on a character who lived in the 3rd century and was around under the persecution of Emperor Claudius II and there are stories of his martyrdom and his life tends to have been centered largely around Rome,” Portaro said.
He compared ninth century Russian brothers Cyril and Methodius, missionaries in the area that became Czechoslovakia who invented the Cyrillic alphabet and made liturgy and worship available in the language of that region, to modern-day Canadian brothers Alexandre and Frederic Bilodeau.
Alexandre Bilodeau, who won the gold medal in freestyle skiing Feb.10 at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia,
dedicated the victory to his older brother Frederic who has cerebral palsy, Portaro said.
“They’re such an icon of genuine love, the kind of love that we really do want to lift up and celebrate, a kind of selfless love of one human being for another,” he said. He noted that “Alex clearly and openly identifies his older brother Frederic as his hero.”
He said that the two brothers “exhibit such a beautiful example of the kind of love we should have for all of our relationships but especially in marriage” and that the missionaries Cyril and Methodius’ selfless work “is far more representative of the kind of love we want to lift up within the Christian community than any of the mythologies associated with Valentine.”
Bryn Mawr: ‘Have a Heart’ campaign for AIDS orphans
Since Julie Williams has a heart for helping children orphaned by AIDS in the African nation of Malwai, she hopes others will, too.
This Valentine’s weekend, she helped to launch an appeal to raise money for the African Children’s Ministry (ACM) of the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
For example, a mere $10 will provide a year’s worth of school supplies for two children orphaned by AIDS. There are an estimated 550,000 orphans in Malawi, according to the fundraiser flyer.
Just $75 treats one hundred pregnant women for malaria at the Global AIDS International Alliance (GAIA) mobile health clinics. GAIA is a parent organization of the ACM.
And for the $160 investment of paying the room and board of a nursing scholar, the returns are amazing—increased healthcare capacity in the AIDS-challenged country.
“Our fundraiser just happened to crop up at about the right time and we thought it was a natural, an easy message to have a heart and give at this time,” Williams told ENS.
Throughout the year, the ACM committee also organizes trips to Malawi and other fundraisers, including for a “GOT GOAT” food empowerment project, said the Rev. Stephen Billings, who convenes the ministry.
The ACM involves an ongoing relationship with an exchange of people between the U.S. and Malawi, Billings said.
The ministry has been incorporated as Sunday school lessons “and demonstrating how assisting the needs of the children of Malawi and their families relates to the millennium development goals,” Billings said.
“What we’re talking about, when we talk about sending Valentines to Malawi, is medical packs, bike ambulances, children’s feeding programs and school scholarships, malaria nets and other related services for the well-being and the stability of families with a priority on children who are already orphans who are at risk,” he said.
“We’re talking about training nurses; there’s a dearth of nurses. GAIA has a program for scholarships and support for several generations of nurses trained primarily in Malawai, but several are trained in this country.”
Billings said he’s also known as “the goat man” because he gives a token plastic goat to donors as a reminder to people of gifts to Malawi.
Fort Worth: a ‘Valent-erific’ night out for parents and in for their children
Erin Martin said she and her husband Josh don’t get many nights out and so she was really excited when she learned that Trinity Church in Fort Worth was offering a free Parents Night Out for Valentine’s Day.
“My kids really like it there,” she said of the church. “They enjoy the programs and feel comfortable and we feel comfortable leaving them, so I was excited that we could all be part of it without anyone being mad. The kids were happy and we were happy,” said the stay-at-home mom with three children, aged 4, 8, and 10.
Kimberly Cooper, the church’s children’s ministry coordinator, said 30 children are signed up so that, while their parents get a night out on the town, they’ll have a fun night in of their own.
The idea for the event all came about “when we realized that Valentine’s Day was on a Friday. We thought, wouldn’t it be great to give parents the night out?” recalled Sarah Martinez, church communications coordinator.
The evening starts at 5:30 p.m. and will include games, a condensed Godly Play lesson about God’s love for all creation, and an opportunity to make heart-shaped bird feeders by mixing gelatin and birdseed, Cooper said. “They’ll be able to take them home and hang them outside to feed the birds,” she said.
The event, also an outreach to the church’s preschool families and promises to be “a Valentin-terific evening for all,” Martinez said.
As for Martin, “we’re going to try and go out to dinner,” she said. “We don’t get many nights out, not just for fun. We have people we can ask to watch our kids but we use that up on things that we have to do. This is more like something we get to do. We can go and spend time and enjoy ourselves and I don’t feel like I’m inconveniencing anyone.
“We really enjoy the program,” she said, adding “it’s a good service to the community.”
Cookies and Cards, oh my!
This year, Tickie Shull and other Episcopal Church Women members at Trinity Church in Newark, Ohio weren’t content with just baking dozens of sugary treats with lots of pink icing and tasty sprinkles; they made their annual Valentine’s Day outreach a multigenerational effort.
“Our Sunday school kids made cards that are as cute as can be,” Shull told ENS. “They have Valentine spelled out vertically and then it’s says John 3:16 horizontally. And they put a special message inside: ‘from the Trinity children. You are so loved. Happy Valentine’s Day.’”
The handmade cards go with the homemade heart-shaped cookies that go to housebound seniors who seldom, if ever, get to church, she said. “It’s just been something that’s been appreciated and it’s been fun to do.”
“And, it’s always a team effort,” Shull said. “It’s a joy. We like our ministries. We just want to spread the love. Valentine’s Day is all about love, right? Well, that is what we are trying to do, to just spread it around.”
Similarly, Kimberlee Bridgeford got together with a couple of other parishioners at St. Stephen’s Church in Santa Clarita, California to make about 130 Valentine cards “for shut-ins and single people and senior citizens and newcomers.
A scrapbooker, it was second nature for Bridgeford to amass ribbons and stickers and rubber stamps and three-dimensional lace, and all the accoutrements for fancy embossed cards and heart-felt messages. She worked with Rosa Holdredge and Wendy Rickman on decorative cards, bookmarks and envelopes.
“We did them all by hand and then we had another 70 that we embellished and put bookmarks in. We gave those to the Canterbury Village retirement home adjacent to the church property, for the residents,” she said.
Bridgeford said she began the practice after her own mother passed away two years ago. She missed receiving her mom’s card, Bridgeford recalled.
“One parishioner told me she hadn’t received a Valentine since she was in grade school and she’s 70 years old,” Bridgeford told ENS. “Everyone needs to feel loved and thought of. We want them to know we do care, that this is not just a Hallmark holiday. This is letting people know we care about them.”
Now, mission accomplished, all the cards done and in the process of being delivered, she reflects. “We had a wonderful time. And I can’t wait to find out what everybody felt when they got their cards.”
Each card is unique and “every one is made with love,” she added.
Vows renewed, deeper, stronger love
Ernie McKenzie, 72, says the idea of renewing their vows has always appealed to him and his wife Anna, 71. After 17 years of marriage they will join other couples at 6 p.m. on Valentine’s Day at St. Alban’s Church in St. Pete Beach in southwest Florida for vows, snacks and champagne.
“It’s a way to not necessarily rekindle but to relive those same feelings and what they meant to us back then, and now, and hopefully will mean the same forever,” he said.
Similarly, in New York City, at least a dozen couples will gather at 6:30 p.m. at the Church of the Heavenly Rest for what the Rev. Matthew Heyd, rector, is calling “a short service of thanksgiving and renewal of marriage vows” open to the community and followed by a champagne reception in the narthex.
“It’s a wonderful way that we observe the sacred part of people’s lives,” Heyd told ENS. “We hope it will be both meaningful and fun. We’re encouraging people to bring their children. Last year, people had their kids come and watched them renew their wedding vows.”
“It’s a way to lift up the blessing of the sacrament of marriage and to honor the time that people spent together. It’s a remarkable thing to look back on commitment they made whether it is one year or 50 years and to ponder how in joy and difficulty they’ve been together.”
A lot of their relationship was physical when they first married, McKenzie said of he and Anna, “but, as time progresses, it becomes a lot deeper. You gain a lot more respect for your partner. You get to the point where the physical doesn’t mean that much anymore, but the ability to be there for your partner means everything.”
And that’s exactly the sentiment the Rev. Georgene “Gigi” Conner, priest-in-charge at St. Alban’s is hoping to acknowledge on Valentine’s Day.
“We’re expressing a deeper commitment,” Conner said. “The hope is that when people stay together, love becomes deeper. You get over romantic love and get into the deeper meaning of what love really is. We see it occasionally in couples where one person has become very ill and the other does not abandon them but is right by their side.
“Or, there’s a huge adjustment for people who’ve gone off to war and come back and they’re somewhat changed and how do you nurture that person back to wholeness and that can be done through love rather than just saying it’s not going to work. We live
in a society of quick fixes, where we think everything’s going to happen right now rather than staying in it for the long haul.”
Ernie McKenzie said the day promises to bring both tears and smiles.
“It’s just, there’s a closeness that we have that you never seem to be able to show,” he said. “Even though we talk about it, something like renewing our vows gives you something to be able to show that you really do care and that your mate really is number one.
“Renewing our vows to us is just saying that we’re willing to commit for another 17 years or however long. Our feelings are just as strong as they’ve ever been, even though they may be a little different.”
–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs, press release] The Office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has notified the Diocese of New York that Bishop Suffragan-Elect Allen K. Shin has received the required majority of consents in the canonical consent process.
As outlined under Canon III.11.4 (a), the Presiding Bishop confirmed the receipt of consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and has also reviewed the evidence of consents from a majority of standing committees of the Church sent to her by the diocesan standing committee.
In Canon III.11.4 (b), Standing Committees, in consenting to the ordination and consecration, attest they are “fully sensible of how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Office. We do, moreover, jointly and severally declare that we believe the Reverend A.B. to have been duly and lawfully elected and to be of such sufficiency in learning, of such soundness in the Faith, and of such godly character as to be able to exercise the Office of a Bishop to the honor of God and the edifying of the Church, and to be a wholesome example to the flock of Christ.”
The Rev. Allen K. Shin was elected on December 7, 2013. His ordination and consecration service is slated for May 17; Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will officiate.
While Bishop Suffragan-Elect Shin has received the necessary majority of consents, consents will continue to be accepted up to and including the April 19 deadline date.
A recap of the process
Upon election, the successful candidate is a bishop-elect. Following some procedural matters including physical and psychological examinations, formal notices are then sent by the Presiding Bishop’s office to bishops with jurisdiction (diocesan bishops only) with separate notices from the electing diocese to the standing committees of each of the dioceses in The Episcopal Church. These notices require their own actions and signatures.
In order for a bishop-elect to become a bishop, Canon III.11.4 (a) of The Episcopal Church mandates that a majority of diocesan bishops AND a majority of diocesan standing committees must consent to the bishop-elect’s ordination and consecration as bishop. These actions – done separately – must be completed within 120 days from the day notice of the election was sent to the proper parties.
If the bishop-elect receives a majority of consents from the diocesan bishops as well as a majority from the standing committees, the bishop-elect is one step closer. Following a successful consent process, ordination and celebration are in order.
[Diocese of Atlanta] Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright preached Jan. 25 at the Cathedral of St. Philip in celebration of Absalom Jones, the Episcopal Church’s and the nation’s first black priest. Click here to listen to the sermon via podcast.
[Anglican Communion News Service] A new Anglican center in the Democratic Republic of Congo is encouraging the use of nonviolent means for reconciliation and lasting peace in a country plagued by years of war and conflict.
The Centre of Non Violence for Reconciliation and Peace (CNVRP) in the eastern part of DRC is located at the Anglican University of Congo campus in the town of Bunia.
The founder of the center, the Rev. Kahwa Njojo ,told ACNS: “The wars that we have had in the past grew worse because of the desire for revenge. That desire of vengeance negatively affects all sectors of the human life, society and even the church.
“The presence of the Centre of Non Violence for Reconciliation and Peace proves to be indispensable in helping people promote peace instead of vengeance that brings other forms of violence,” he said. “Therefore, it is vital that Congolese people be trained in nonviolence to reduce violence in the world.”
The center was established in 2012 to explore different methods and strategies that Jesus used to respond “effectively to different types of violence thereby restoring the culture of nonviolence and peace in our societies.”
The center also realizes that in times of war and conflict, it is the women and children who suffer the most. Therefore, it also promotes women through education because “most of them are victims of violence due to their uneducated status.”
“Women need to be trained so as to be well represented at all levels of society,” said Njojo. “We have registered many cases of violence and most of them are women and children who are unable to take care of themselves because of cultural stereotypes.”
Since its establishment the center has been able to organize seminars and workshops to help people deal with violence and has also developed university level courses on peace and nonviolence to help students understand violence and how to address it using nonviolence in their respective regions.
Despite the various positive works that the center is involved in, it still has major financial constraints to effectively implement its programs. “The problem with trying to build capacity of victims of violence is that you not only have to train them, but in the case of women, equip them with machines to enable them do profit-making activities such as tailoring and embroidery.
“It for this reason that we are looking for partners to help us carry out these activities,” he said. “A project proposal is ready for anyone who are willing to make contributions.”
[From the Diocese of Peshawar with additional reporting by ACNS] Korean Christians are planning to build a peace center in the memory of the martyrs of the All Saints’ Church Peshawar.
The project was revealed in the Diocese of Peshawar’s newsletter The Frontier News in which the planned center would boast “a multi-storey building with a conference hall, an up-to-date library” and other facilities. The peace center will, it said, “be open for all without discrimination of cost and creed.”
The announcement came during a visit on Jan. 15 of Korean Church partners that was facilitated by the Rev. Matthew Jeon, the bishop’s commissary for the Far East. The delegation included Dr. Myoung Hyuk Kim, chairman of the Korean Evangelical Fellowship and former president of Hapdong Theological Seminary, Korea, and the Rev. Dong-Hwi Lee, senior pastor and founder of the Tin Church, a well-known church in Korea.
This initiative, primarily a goodwill visit, also had another purpose: to show solidarity with the Christian community of Peshawar in the wake of the twin suicide bombings in September last year that killed 117 people, seriously wounded 162 seriously and left 48 children without one or both parents.
Peshawar Bishop Humphrey Peters, his clergy, and diocesan staff welcomed the guests and briefed them about diocesan efforts to treat and rehabilitate the twin suicide bomb victims and their families.
A special prayer service to commemorate the martyrs of All Saints’ Church was held one evening with many people attending the worship. The congregation prayed for the departed souls and their families. In their message for the Peshawar’s Christian community and for the families of the deceased, the Korean visitors said, “Christians should keep their morale high, and faith strong in the Lord. Crisis brings us near to God. All these signs of times indicate that Jesus is coming soon, and we must be prepared.”
Later, a dinner party was hosted by the diocese in the honor of the guests. Peters thanked the visitors for their love and concern for the Christian community of Peshawar. The visitors reciprocated by thanking the bishop and his team for their warm welcome hospitality.
[Lambeth Palace] A trip to the South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and Goma in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) brings home some pretty tough realities. Two of those areas are post conflict and two are current conflict. In them the issues which mesmerise me day by day vanish, and the extraordinary courage of the Church is brought afresh in front of my eyes. By the Church I don’t only mean the Bishops and the Archbishops, extraordinary as they are, but the whole Church, in the small villages where they have been raided, where sexual violence has been the norm, where unspeakable atrocities have been carried out and yet they still trust in God.
These are churches of courage, Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, other Protestant and many others. Of course of they are flawed, we are all, but it is their courage and faith that lives with me.
However, like all churches, including ourselves, they are part of the society in which they live. Societies in conflict are societies in fear. It is on that subject of fear that I want to reflect for a few minutes, not with reference so much to the international situation but to ourselves and the way we deal with ourselves and between ourselves.
We all know that perfect love casts out fear. We know it although we don’t often apply it. We mostly know that perfect fear casts out love. In any institution or organisation, the moment that suspicion reigns and the assumption that everything is zero sum becomes dominant (that is to say that some else’s gain must be my loss, we can’t both flourish) that institution will be increasingly dominated by fear. It is an old problem in game theory. The moment at which something is zero sum, players stop looking so much at their objectives and increasingly look at each other. The more they look at each other, the more they are dominated by fear and the less they are able to focus on their objectives.
The Church of England is not a closed system, nor is the Anglican Communion and most certainly nor is the Church catholic and universal. It is not a closed system because God is involved and where he is involved there is no limit to what can happen, and no limit to human flourishing. His abundant love overwhelms us when we make space to flood into our own lives, into institutions and systems.
At the other end of the spectrum, closed systems, full of fear eventually implode under the weight of their own contradictions and conflicts. Assumptions grow about what is happening. I notice many of them.
For example, as those who were in the chamber for ‘questions’ know I recently commented that where a growing church is there is usually a good incumbent. A number of people took that to mean as well that where a church is not growing it must be because there’s a bad vicar. But I didn’t say that, and neither did I mean it. I have to confess that the moment I said it I knew I had expressed myself badly, and do apologise to those hurt by the comment. But, the underlying point remains, fear leads to the assumption of denigration.
Take another example. Yesterday this Synod by an overwhelming majority supported at its latest stage the legislation that could lead to the ordination of women to the episcopate. We all know in this place that is only a first stage, that we have some way to go. In the middle of all the paper we have in Annex a of GS1932 the five principles agreed by the House of Bishops. They are short and to the point, and to work they depend on love and trust. The love has to be demonstrated and the trust has to be earned. But the love cannot be demonstrated if it is refused and the trust cannot be earned without the iterative process of it being received and reinforced in the reception. That is how love and trust work.
So, for example, if we are to live out a commitment to the flourishing of every tradition of the church there is going to have to be a massive cultural change that accepts that people with whom I differ deeply are also deeply loved by Christ and therefore must be deeply loved by me and love means seeking their flourishing. We cannot make any sense of Philippians chapter 2 and the hymn to the Servant unless we adopt that approach. The gift that Christ gives us, of loving us to the end, to the ultimate degree is meaningless unless that love is both given and received, and then passed on.
Culture change is always threatening, and when we talk about implementing the five principles, including the one that seeks the flourishing of every part of the Church, and thus of appointments of people who disagree with us most profoundly all sorts of objections can be raised. “What would a church flourish if it appointed men who do not ordain women to senior posts, simply because in other respects those appointing sense the call and purpose of God?” What would the world think? The Church’s answer has to be “the world may think what it likes, we are seeking mutual flourishing”. Even as I say it my heart beats faster with concern about the consequences and with fear of the difficulty of climbing such a steep slope. And “how can those who are deeply and theologically committed to the idea that women should not be ordained as Bishops, how can they flourish?” I can see the answer only in the grace and love of God in a church that risks living out its call. It is a hard course to steer. Yet I know it is right that we set such a course and hold to it through thick and thin, with integrity, transparency and honesty.
Yet what lies on that journey? Well, it is certainly an untidy church. It has incoherence, inconsistency between dioceses and between different places. It’s not a church that says we do this and we don’t do that. It’s a church that says we do this and we do that and actually quite a lot of us don’t like that but we are still going to do it because of love. It’s a church that speaks to the world and says that consistency and coherence is not the ultimate virtue, that is found in holy grace.
A church that loves those with whom the majority deeply disagree is a church that will be unpleasantly challenging to a world where disagreement is either banned within a given group or removed and expelled. The absolute of holy grace challenges the absolutism of a world that says there are no absolutes expect the statement that there are no absolutes.
The Church of England is not tidy, nor efficiently hierarchical. There are no popes, but there is a College of Bishops and there are Synods and collections and lobbies and groups and pressure and struggle. When it works well it works because love overcomes fear. When it works badly it is because fear overcomes love. The resources for more fear lie within us and the resources for more love lie within God and are readily available to all those who in repentance and humility stretch out and seek them. With Jesus every imperative rests on an indicative, every command springs from a promise. Do not fear.
Already I can hear the arguments being pushed back at me, about compromise, about the wishy-washiness of reconciliation, to quote something I read recently. But this sort of love, and the reconciliation between differing groups that it demands and implies, is not comfortable and soft and wishy-washy. Facilitated conversations may be a clumsy phrase, but it has at its heart a search for good disagreement. It is exceptionally hard edged, extraordinarily demanding and likely to lead in parts of the world around us to profound unpopularity or dismissal.
This sort of gracious reconciliation means that we have to create safe space within ourselves to disagree, as we began to do last summer at the Synod in York, and as we need to do over the issues arising out of our discussions on sexuality, not because the outcome is predetermined to be a wishy-washy one, but because the very process is a proclamation of the Gospel of unconditionally loving God who gives Himself for our sin and failure. It is incarnational in the best sense and leads to the need to bear our cross in the way we are commanded.
Let’s bring this down to some basics. We have agreed that we will ordain women as Bishops. At the same time we have agreed that while doing that we want all parts of the church to flourish. If we are to challenge fear we have to find a cultural change in the life of the church, in the way our groups and parties work, sufficient to build love and trust. That will mean different ways of working at every level of the church in practice in the way our meetings are structured, presented and lived out and in every form of appointment. It will, dare I say, mean a lot of careful training and development in our working methods, because the challenge for all institutions today, and us above all, is not merely the making of policy but how we then make things happen.
We have received a report with disagreement in it on sexuality, through the group led by Sir Joseph Pilling. There is great fear among some, here and round the world, that that will lead to the betrayal of our traditions, to the denial of the authority of scripture, to apostasy, not to use too strong a word. And there is also a great fear that our decisions will lead us to the rejection of LGBT people, to irrelevance in a changing society, to behaviour that many see akin to racism. Both those fears are alive and well in this room today.
We have to find a way forward that is one of holiness and obedience to the call of God and enables us to fulfil our purposes. This cannot be done through fear. How we go forward matters deeply, as does where we arrive.
Where we work to overcome fear, and to bring society closer together we can make a real difference. Over the last few years the ‘Near Neighbours’ programme has, in extraordinary and creative ways, helped to create a stronger fabric of relationships and joint working across different faith communities. Largely funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government through the Church Urban Fund, the Church of England with its network of parishes and the four Presence and Engagement centres has partnered with people and organisations from a range of churches and different faiths to produce real, local change that has been acknowledged in two independent reports. I am delighted that it looks as though this fruitful partnership between government and faith communities led by the church can continue at least over the next two years, and we look forward to a formal announcement soon. This is recognition that the church is part of the glue that holds our society together, which casts out fear of difference and works practically for the common good.
So I come back to where I started. We live in a world of courageous churches, not only the ones I saw last week but churches like the Church of Nigeria and the Church of Kenya and the Church of Uganda and many, many others, South Africa, I could go on and on who live out the reality of a costly discipleship and somehow managed to find love in the midst of it. They are not sinless but they are heroic. We are called to be a heroic church: before us the great demons of poverty, ignorance, need, human suffering. Filling us the grace and love of Christ who leads us in mission. The churches I saw in the last 10 days are certainly heroic. That heroism should challenge us not simply to follow what they say but to be those whose heroic faith is truly holy and gracious.
In conjunction with Black History Month, the Episcopal News Service will publish feature articles on several historically black Episcopal congregations during February.
[Episcopal News Service] Feb. 13 may be the church calendar’s official recognition of the life and ministry of the Rev. Absalom Jones, but for Mary Sewell Smith and others at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, every day is founder’s day.
Jones – the Episcopal Church’s and the nation’s first black priest – founded St. Thomas in 1792 as the country’s first historically black church of any denomination, and “that spirit that permeated the early church has come down through the years and is still alive and well and thriving,” Smith said.
“A guiding force in our church is the life and legacy of Rev. Jones. It is just part of my life,” said Smith, a lifelong parishioner and current member of the church’s historical society. “We try to live up to the principles he espoused: freedom, liberty, education, worship, community service.”
Besides St. Thomas, 90-some historically black Episcopal churches remain today, congregations created by blacks not welcomed in mainline Episcopal churches post-slavery and during racial segregation throughout the United States, according to the Rev. Harold T. Lewis, a former staff officer for black ministries at the Episcopal Church Center in New York and the author of “Yet With a Steady Beat: the African American Struggle for Recognition in the Episcopal Church” (Trinity Press International, 1996).
The oldest, St. Thomas, grew out of the Free African Society, an independent mutual-aid organization created by Absalom Jones and Richard Allen to provide assistance for the economic, educational, social and spiritual needs of the African-American community. Those efforts continued in the church.
“Most black congregations have always been about uplift, social action, outreach and empowering the community,” Lewis said.
“What is unfortunate is that many people in the church, black and white, are unaware of that history and don’t know how many people have fought to get us where we are today,” he added, citing the Episcopal Church’s checkered past with regard to African Americans and racism.
Infused by the spirit of Absalom Jones
One of Smith’s earliest memories is of gazing up at the iconic portrait of Jones painted by Raphaelle Peale in 1810 and hanging in the church narthex as her father told her the story of St. Thomas’ founder, who was born into slavery, taught himself to read and purchased his freedom in 1784. Six years earlier, he had purchased his wife Mary’s freedom.
Jones served as a lay minister until he and other blacks were asked to leave St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. That exodus prompted Richard Allen and Jones to create the Free African Society. It led to Allen founding the African Methodist Episcopal Church and to Jones’ ordination in the Episcopal Church as a deacon and, nine years later, at age 58, a priest.
But then-Pennsylvania Bishop William White would agree to ordain Jones and receive St. Thomas into the diocese only if the church did not send any clergy or deputies to diocesan convention, thus depriving blacks of voice or vote in church governance, which “characterized the duality of race relations within the church for much of its history,” according to historical documents of the church.
Smith recalled visits to Jones’ grave, located “in the same cemetery where our family graves are. And when we would go to visit our family, we would always say a prayer at Rev. Jones’ marker.” Jones’ remains have been exhumed since then and cremated and placed in an urn at a commemorative chapel inside the Gothic-style church, she said.
Smith grew up playing on the church steps, along with childhood friends Mercedes Sadler and sisters Lucille and Isabel Hamill. The 70- and 80-something women continue to share a love of church and history as members of the historical society. They say the church infused them with a sense of belonging. Its story is their story, and also the nation’s story.
History lives: ‘Very much a part of church’
One of the greatest joys for retired schoolteachers and sisters Isabel Hamill, 87, and Lucille Hamill, 83, was finding a mention of their aunt, Bertha Jones, included among the names of church women supporting various war efforts.
“There were notes about the women who helped roll bandages for the Spanish-American War,” said Lucille Hamill. “And the women held canteens during World War I and World War II, where the young men could come and eat and be mothered by the older women in the church, and they used to come.”
For the Hamills, finding words for all that the church has meant to them is difficult. “It made you feel included, in a city where there was still rampant segregation when we were young,” Lucille Hamill said. “It just made you feel a part of something bigger than yourself, and that was important.”
To preserve the congregation’s history, the church had created an archive in an adjoining building but encountered climate and moisture issues that are being resolved, Smith said. The church’s archives offer a window into a past filled with social activism and community outreach, and even a glimpse of future possibilities.
“I think because we know quite a bit about what the church has been like down through the years, it leads us, it infuses the present,” Smith said.
Included in the archives are Jones’ baptismal records from the late 1700s, birth and death records, sermons and speeches, membership rolls and vestry meeting minutes.
Some documents, in the process of being restored, predate the church. “We actually have a volume of accounts from the Free African Society,” Smith said. “Everything that I ever read says that no records of this organization had survived, but, in going through our old records, we have come across this volume, from 1790 until 1792, when the society disbanded and transitioned into the church.
“Each member had a page, and it shows they paid a couple of shillings, and this was money used to serve the poor and the disabled. You can see how people paid their dues and how they would miss a couple of months and then catch it up.”
Looking back, the focus was “always on community service,” she said. “The St. Mary’s Guild in the 1800s made clothing for children who couldn’t afford clothes to go to school. The Sons of St. Thomas – we have the minutes of these organizations – fashioned themselves after the Free African Society and functioned very much the same way.”
The Dorcas Society was composed of women, “and their primary function seems to have been to arrange and pay for burials of women in the church or community,” she said.
Church membership rolls read like a who’s who in African-American society, said Mercedes Sadler, 77, a sixth-generation Episcopalian and a member of the chancel choir, one of five church choirs.
They include James Forten, born in 1766 to free black parents. He fought in the Revolutionary War and parlayed an apprenticeship at a sail-making company into a wealthy business venture. He used more than half his wealth to purchase freedom for slaves, to help finance William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, to operate an Underground Railroad station out of his home and to fund a school for black children.
Octavius Valentine Catto was “a Renaissance man and a St. Thomas vestry member back in the day,” Sadler said. “He was shot and killed while trying to get people to go out and vote.”
Catto was about 5 when his family moved to Philadelphia from South Carolina in 1850. A social activist, he was also an accomplished baseball shortstop and player-coach and the founder and captain of the Pythian Baseball Club. A Republican and supporter of Abraham Lincoln, he worked for passage of the 15th Amendment, allowing black men the right to vote, but was killed on Oct. 10, 1871, Election Day. One of his baseball bats is among the archive memorabilia.
St. Thomas’ clergy and parishioners played key roles in the abolition/anti-slavery/Underground Railroad movements and the early equal rights movement of the 1800s, according to the website. “Over the past 50 years, St. Thomas has figured prominently in the civil rights movement, the NAACP, Union of Black Episcopalians, Opportunities Industrialization Center, Philadelphia Interfaith Action and the Episcopal Church Women.”
For Smith, the memories are personal and precious. She recalled watching her brother practicing altar duties and the art of candle-lighting at home. Although girls were not allowed to serve as acolytes then, she discovered other ways to serve, as did her mother.
“My mother was what you call an acolyte mother,” Smith said. “In those days, you never knew which acolytes would show up. So, if a short one showed up, she had to pluck up the cassocks and put pins in them. I used to be in the sacristy with her before the service, getting them ready. In those days they didn’t have girls as acolytes, but I always found things to do.”
Looking back, moving forward
Besides community involvement, St. Thomas has remained committed “to uphold the knowledge and value of the black presence in the Episcopal Church,” according to the website. The church is offering a Black History Month exhibit, conducts regular tours for visitors and continues to preserve its wealth of records and to develop its archives.
“It’s such a blessing that we have these wonderful records,” Smith said. “Somehow, it was recognized, down through the years, that these records were valuable. You really get a sense of what life was like, the people, who were the movers and shakers. It has connected me and expanded my knowledge of black history and connection to the black community in a way I didn’t have.”
Although the church has moved four times since Absalom Jones founded it, it continues to grow and welcome others “with a little bit of something for everyone,” Sadler says. Its members represent the range of the African diaspora as well as “a fair number” of whites.
Stained-glass windows installed in 2000 pay homage not only to Jones but also to several black giants of the faith: Archbishop Desmond Tutu; retired Massachusetts Suffragan Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church; and Bishop Suffragan Franklin Turner, who bequeathed a crosier to the archives.
Turner, who retired in 2000, died Dec. 31, 2013, and a requiem was held Jan. 11.
At a 1992 service at St. Thomas to rebury the remains of Absalom Jones, Franklin had said of black Episcopalians, “We have indeed come this far by faith.”
“We can be justly proud of our sojourn in the Episcopal Church, although it has been an uphill struggle,” he said.
Uplift, empower, welcome
In the spirit of Absalom Jones’ push for education, the church is launching an after-school program, said the Rev. Angelo Wildgoose, associate rector.
“The after-school program is geared toward schools in our area and is basically looking towards helping with homework, technology, computer sciences, with SAT tips; and the church is involved in a variety of outreach efforts,” he told ENS.
Among other church programs, the five choirs offer a range of music: classical, spirituals, gospel, jazz.
A new middle school and high school “Souldiers for Christ” class is set to begin Feb. 16, said Wildgoose, who has served at the church since December. Another program, designed to connect students with local Episcopal churches during their college years, re-launched in December with about 15 students, he said.
“The idea is to give them that home away from home where they’ll be able to continue to worship at an Episcopal church and at the same time to have some familiar surroundings,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we keep our young people engaged, from the children up to those in college. We’re stressing a lot of parental involvement.”
Average Sunday attendance is about 400 at one service, with about 50 children in the church school. “There’s a little bit of something for everyone here,” Sadler said.
For Smith, her lifelong friends and many others, St. Thomas has been a spiritual and a palpable home, “an anchor, somewhere to organize their life around, and with people of like interests,” Smith said. “We’re fortunate that our congregation is multi-generational, with a wonderful church school, a great group of teens and all the ‘Souldiers for Christ,’ and that each age group can feel ownership in the church and become an active part of the life of the church.
“It has certainly added to my life, and I think that’s what people find when they come here, and that’s why every Sunday we have people joining the church.”
– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is an Episcopal News Service correspondent.
[Episcopal Relief & Development] Economic empowerment, especially for women, is Episcopal Relief & Development’s Lenten theme for 2014. Congregations throughout The Episcopal Church will commemorate Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday on March 9, the first Sunday in Lent, with sermons, prayers, adult forums and children’s activities that focus on sustainable solutions to global poverty.
“Lent gives us an opportunity to reflect on how our actions affect the lives of others, and commit to making mindful choices as consumers and global citizens,” said Sean McConnell, the organization’s Director of Engagement. “Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday provides an occasion for us to seek healing and reconciliation through supporting economic justice in our own communities and around the world.”
Episcopal Relief & Development’s international programs address the root causes of poverty by improving access to supplies, training and financing for small farms and businesses. Congregations can learn about and support the organization’s work with downloadable bulletin inserts (available in English and Spanish) and other resources available at www.episcopalrelief.org/sunday. A designated offering for Episcopal Relief & Development’s Global Needs Fund will enable the agency to reach those most in need worldwide.
Lent was officially designated at the 2009 General Convention as a time to encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals to remember and support the life-saving work of Episcopal Relief & Development. Although the first Sunday in Lent is the official day of observance, congregations may commemorate Episcopal Relief & Development on any Sunday during the Lenten season.
For creative ideas, read “Small Change May Seem Like Chicken-Scratch, But It Adds Up!” and other Friends of Episcopal Relief & Development features. Additional online resources include a downloadable checklist to guide planning, and stories, photos and videos to illustrate the organization’s work. Participating congregations can visit the Facebook event to exchange ideas and success stories.
Printed Episcopal Relief & Development resources, including Lenten Meditations booklets in English and Spanish, should be ordered from Episcopal Marketplace by February 15 to ensure delivery by Ash Wednesday, March 5. PDF booklets and daily email devotionals are accessible at www.episcopalrelief.org/lent.
“Particularly during this season of Lent, we are called back to our Baptismal Covenant promise of seeking and serving Christ in all persons, and caring for those most vulnerable around us,” said Rob Radtke, the organization’s President. “I am grateful to all of the diocesan and church leaders whose participation in Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday helps deepen the Church’s engagement in healing a hurting world.”
[Episcopal News Service] For some it might be a case of déjà vu; for others it’s a new day as the Church of England cleared a major hurdle Feb. 11 giving its assent to new legislation that would enable women to become bishops.
Meeting in Westminster, the church’s General Synod supported legislation “enabling women, as well as men, to be consecrated to the office of bishop if they otherwise satisfy the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who may be consecrated as bishops.”
The vote comes almost 15 months after synod narrowly rejected similar, but more complex, legislation to accept women as bishops. Various groups, including a steering committee and the House of Bishops, have since worked towards advancing as efficiently as possible a legislative package that could be supported by the overall majority.
The legislation, called a measure, now needs to be approved by a majority of the church’s 44 dioceses, which would typically take at least 12 months. But synod achieved the required 75 percent majority to suspend temporarily one of its standing orders and agreed to curtail the consultation period for the dioceses to just a few months, thus enabling the legislation to come back to synod in July for final approval. The deadline for diocesan responses is midnight on May 22. Last time, 42 of the 44 dioceses supported the legislation. Since the creation of synod in 1970, this is the first time a piece of legislation on the same subject has had to be sent to the dioceses for a second time.
While today’s vote required a straight majority, final approval at synod would require a two-thirds majority in all three houses of laity, clergy and bishops.
And even then, the measure would still require approval by the U.K. Parliament because it effectively changes English law. (The Church of England is an officially established Christian church with Queen Elizabeth II as its supreme governor.) Following the failure of the previous legislation, it was clear from parliamentary debate that many of the U.K.’s politicians were getting impatient with the church’s drawn-out journey towards acceptance of women bishops. Were synod to give final approval in July, the U.K. Parliament may take up the matter before the end of 2014.
Today’s debate indicated that many former opponents in synod are willing to commit to the new legislative package, in part due to a declaration from the House of Bishops outlining procedures for handling grievances, mediation and resolving disputes arising from those who are unable to accept the new legislation or the ministry of women bishops.
The declaration, which synod welcomed on Feb. 11, lists five guiding principles acknowledging that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter; accepting that there will be those who disagree with the decision; and committing to maintaining the highest degree of communion through “pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority.”
Bishop James Langstaff of Rochester, who chaired the steering committee that produced the new legislative package, raised up the five principles as the linchpin of the declaration. “If we stick with those then we will find that we will behave with each other as we should,” he said.
Last November, synod agreed that the new legislation should move forward as swiftly as possible, and come to the February synod for its revision stage rather than to go to a revision committee, essentially eliminating up to one year in the process.
Following the synod debate on Feb. 11, no revisions were made and the proposed new legislative package remained intact.
Several speakers upheld the importance of reciprocity, as outlined in the bishops’ declaration, “that everyone, notwithstanding differences of conviction on this issue, will accept that they can rejoice in each other’s partnership in the Gospel and cooperate to the maximum possible extent in mission and ministry. There will need to be an acknowledgement that the differences of view which persist stem from an underlying divergence of theological conviction.”
The Rev. Simon Killwick from the Diocese of Manchester is chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod, a coalition that has pushed for greater provisions for those opposed to women bishops. Killwick said he hopes the legislative package “will proceed smoothly and quickly through its final stages” while acknowledging that the church has “been greatly blessed by the degree of reconciliation that has taken place” throughout the last 15 months.
Sue Slater, a lay synod member from the Diocese of Lincoln, said she wants the Church of England to be a place “where I can talk to my children and grandchildren about … our Gospel, not just about our church order … We know that God makes things new with each generation.”
Timothy Allen, lay synod member from the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich said the delay “has done and continues to do great damage to the reputation and mission of the church. We need to take measures to convince society that we are not the hopelessly out of date, old fashioned and bigoted organization it is often felt to be.”
Allen added that “the shallow pond of male-only candidates has been overfished.”
Lindsay Newcombe, a lay synod member from the Diocese of London and the vice chairman of Forward in Faith, an organization opposed to women’s ordination, said she has found the conversations during the past year to be “mostly encouraging. I believe that there is a will to stop…talking past each other. How brilliant that we have shown that we have the will to work together through our differences.”
History of women’s ordained ministry
The Church of England opened the priesthood to women in November 1992, five years after women first were ordained to the diaconate. More than 5,000 women have been ordained as priests in England since 1994 and today they represent nearly 40 percent of all clergy.
In July 2005, 13 years after agreeing to ordain female priests, the General Synod began its steady course toward allowing them to become bishops when it passed a motion to remove the legal obstacles to ordaining women as bishops.
In July 2006, the synod called for the practical and legislative arrangements of admitting women to the episcopate to be explored. It also called for the formation of a legislative drafting group to prepare a draft measure and amending canon necessary to remove the legal obstacles.
At its July 2008 group of sessions, synod agreed that it was the “wish of its majority … for women to be admitted to the episcopate” and affirmed that “special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests.”
General Synod voted in February 2009 to send a draft measure on women becoming bishops to a revision committee so it could rework the legislation.
The revision committee met 16 times beginning in May 2009 and considered 114 submissions from synod members and a further 183 submissions from others. In May 2010, the committee published a 142-page report, which offered a detailed analysis of the draft legislation in time for the July 2010 synod debate and vote.
The July 2010 synod backed legislation that paved the way for women to become bishops and referred the measure to diocesan synods for their consideration. A majority of diocesan synods needed to approve the measure for it to return to General Synod.
From July 2010 to February 2012, 42 of the 44 diocesan synods throughout England approved the legislation supporting female bishops.
The February 2012 General Synod rejected a bid to provide greater concessions for those opposed to female bishops. Those concessions essentially were an amendment to the legislation that would have enabled two bishops to exercise episcopal functions within the same jurisdiction by way of “co-ordinating” their ministries.
The long path towards accepting women’s ordained ministry in the Anglican Communion began in 1920 when the Lambeth Conference called (via Resolutions 47-52) for the diaconate of women to be restored “formally and canonically,” adding that it should be recognized throughout the communion.
The first female priest in the communion, the Rev. Li Tim-Oi, was ordained in Hong Kong in 1944. Due to outside pressure, she resigned her license, but not her holy orders, following World War II. In 1971, the Rev. Jane Hwang and the Rev. Joyce Bennett were ordained priests in the Diocese of Hong Kong, though their ministries were not recognized in many parts of the Anglican Communion.
In 1974, there was an “irregular” ordination of 11 women in the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, which officially authorized women’s priestly ordination two years later.
Bishop Barbara Harris, now retired, was elected bishop suffragan of Massachusetts in 1988 and became the Anglican Communion’s first female bishop after her consecration and ordination in 1989.
The Rt. Rev. Penelope Jamieson made history in 1989 when she was elected bishop of the Diocese of Dunedin, New Zealand, and became the first woman to serve as a diocesan bishop in the Anglican Communion.
The Rt. Rev. Mary Adelia McLeod, who was ordained a priest in 1980, was consecrated in 1993 as bishop of the Diocese of Vermont, becoming the first female diocesan bishop in the U.S.-based Episcopal Church. She retired in 2001.
The Rt. Rev. Canon Nerva Cot Aguilera became the first female Anglican bishop in Latin America when she was consecrated bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Church of Cuba in June 2007.
The Rev. Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya on Nov. 17, 2012 was ordained as bishop of Swaziland and became the first female bishop in any of the 12 Anglican provinces.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, previously bishop of Nevada, became the Anglican Communion’s first female primate in November 2006 when she was invested as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.
– Matthew Davies is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
The Rev. A. Jeanne Finan has been called as the dean and rector of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington, Vermont. She has served for the past six-and-a-half years as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Asheville, North Carolina and prior to that at St. Mary of the Hills in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Her first Sunday at the cathedral will be March 30.