[Episcopal Peace Fellowship press release] Reacting sadly to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Jan. 30 decision to seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) asks the Episcopalian Attorney General – “What don’t you understand about ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’”?
“In a religion established on the non-violent philosophy of an innocent man who was executed based on perjured testimony, Christians should be working to abolish the death penalty. The forgiveness of Christ is unconditional,” said Ronald T Clemmons, a member of the EPF national executive council and chair of its Death Penalty Abolition Action Group.
“Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. His dying words asking God not to hold his executioners accountable for their actions are the quintessential example of love. Episcopalians, partnering with other faith-based groups, should take the lead in abolishing a judicial remedy that disproportionally affects the poor and minorities,” said Clemmons, a member of St. Paul’s Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Attorney General Holder’s decision also forces the federal government’s will upon the State of Massachusetts that has not killed a prisoner since 1947 and whose citizens banned lethal executions in 1984, wrote New York Times reporter Katharine Q. Seelye in the Times January 24, 2014 edition.
The Boston Globe commissioned a survey asking if Tsarnaev should receive the death penalty if convicted. 57 percent of the respondents favored life without parole, while 33 percent favored the death penalty.
In a related issue, the Boston Bar Association, with over 10,000 members, issued a statement on January 7 that the organization opposed the death penalty in federal cases. This decision was in line with the organization’s position on the use of the death penalty in state cases.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary year, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship has worked to promote peace since Armistice Day 1939.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the following sermon on Feb. 5 during the opening Eucharist at the Episcopal Church Executive Council meeting currently gathered at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD (Diocese of Maryland).
Martyrs of Japan
Executive Council, Maritime Center, Linthicum Heights, MD
5 February 2014
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Traditionally the church has talked about two kinds of martyrs – white martyrs and red ones. Red martyrs shed blood for claiming their faith, like Perpetua and Paul, or because of the challenge that they’ve offered to the principalities and powers of this world – like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oscar Romero. White martyrs are remarkable witnesses to the way of Jesus, who give their lives sacrificially, but more often die in their beds – people like Dorothy Day or Desmond Tutu (and may he live many more years!). The Celts saw white martyrs as those who left home and family behind to follow Jesus on the road – like Colomba, who founded Iona, or the monks who wandered the seas in little leather boats, or the ones who went to Scandinavia. There’s also an old Irish tradition about glasmartres (translated either as a green martyr or a blue martyr), who live radically ascetic lives focused on repentance. The color may have something to do with the pallor of somebody who has been fasting, or the sense that the ascetic went out into the green and wild lands, or perhaps in the Irish context, the color of the sea that surrounded so many of their cells and hermitages.
The Japanese martyrs we remember today were the red sort, persecuted, tortured, and executed for being Christians. What we know of the Christian presence in Japan began with Francis Xavier in 1549, the same year the first Book of Common Prayer was published in England. Francis Xavier stayed only three years, but left a Jesuit team in place and probably two thousand Christians. The Portuguese Jesuit mission continued to gain converts, as well as support from the ruling shogun, up into the 1580s. The next shogun, under pressure from Buddhist clergy, ordered the Jesuits to leave, but he didn’t push them all out. Things got worse when a group of Spanish Franciscans showed up in the 1590s and began to compete for converts, and charge the Jesuits with being the advance wave of Portugal’s intent to conquer Japan. The shogun executed the first 26 of the Christians we remember today, and ordered all the Jesuits out.
In 1600 a Dutch ship limped into a Japanese port with one William Adams, on whose story the historical novel Shogun is based. He was the ship’s English navigator, and in addition to teaching the shogun about shipbuilding and mathematics, he explained the difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity, and told him about the growing expulsion of Roman Catholics from several European countries. I want to point to the reality that an old world religious conflict was pretty handily exported to Japan, and our own religious history is stained by that in the same way the history of slavery has stained this nation.
The shogun understood the competition among the religious orders as a threat to his territory, rightly so, and decided to remove all the Roman Catholics. Those who didn’t leave were persecuted, tortured, crucified, and encouraged to recant their faith under pain of death. The executions finally culminated in 1637, which was the last public trace of Christianity until Japan reopened to the West in the 1850s. Yet when westerners returned, thousands of underground Christians emerged, having passed down their faith from generation to generation without benefit of clergy or missionaries.
That inherited Christianity can be seen as the result of the memory of those red martyrs and the quiet witness of ten generations. It’s an example of another kind of martyrdom – the patient endurance of people of faith, caring quietly for their neighbors, proclaiming the good news of God’s love in deed when the explicit word is not possible.
Something similar happened in China during the Cultural Revolution. It was a much shorter period, but the work of missionaries that started in the late 1800s grew and flourished during the intense and violent persecutions under Chairman Mao. An Anglican, Roland Allen, had gone to China at the end of the 19th century with the sense that he should convey the scriptures and the sacraments, and then get out of the way. He insisted that it was Paul’s way of witnessing, and that the good news requires freedom to take root in new soil and emerge as a vine that’s able to thrive in that particular part of the garden.
We still live with the painful consequences culturally bound forms or witness – among Native Americans as well as in other parts of the globe. Japan lives with that struggle to this day. Christians represent less than one percent of the population.
People who have received the witness of earlier Christians in one particular form often assume that that is the only possible or correct way of expressing their faith. The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Japanese Anglican Church) is much tied to traditional ways of worship – ways that do not easily communicate across the chasm between the church and society. We live in many places here with the same challenges – hymns that don’t connect with popular cultural idioms, tendencies in some places to overly directive ways of governing, or an insistence that Sunday morning worship is the only proper witness of the church.
We are all called into martyrdom. That’s part of the baptismal promises. That martyrdom is about being and making a witness. But what sort of martyrdom are we being invited into? What kind of life are we supposed to lose, what self-denial, what cross are we to pick up? In this season of the church’s history, and in the post-Christian context many of us live in, I believe we’re being invited to be blue martyrs.
I met one on Sunday – and the first sign of it was the blue hair. I met her in the context of church, though it certainly wasn’t in a building you’d call a church. She had gathered a sizeable group of people and their canine companions to give thanks, to recognize and make real the light we can be in the world, and to make Eucharist. I thought about Paul’s communities, and the ones Roland Allen started, and wondered about the forms and expectations that limit our imaginations. Something like that community I joined kept the Christ light burning in Japan for 250 years. And that long and quiet tradition has given the NSKK a strong countercultural witness in caring for earthquake victims, disabled children, and social outcasts.
That community of blue martyrs is called Bushwick Abbey. It’s in a gritty part of Brooklyn, meets in a music venue at noon which is late enough to sleep in or sober up or both. The sign outside says, “church that doesn’t suck.” In the two months of its existence, the experiment has already produced a community of 25. On Sunday morning besides me, there was a gray-haired couple sitting at the bar in the back, and a boy of about 10 who I think was the priest’s son, but everyone else were young adults – two-thirds of them young men. Several had come for the first or second time, and clearly a deeply caring community is developing. The music was led by a creative keyboardist, two guitars and a drummer, and they’ve written and adapted music and lyrics to fit this context. We sang their particular version of the New Zealand Lord’s Prayer (the one that goes “Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver”), and during coffee hour, beer was also offered.
Something like this community can light fires all around us. It can fan embers into flame that will change the world. A blue martyr community like this one has partnered with others in repentance, turning away from limited views about what makes church. It is an ascetic existence. What do you believe is the essence of Christian witness? How can we become a community of martyrs, either blue or white, or if called to it, even red ones? What will we let go of, in order to raise high the Christ-light?
[Anglican Communion News Service] A second Africa primate has issued a response to a recent letter by the archbishops of Canterbury and York which recalled Anglican Communion leaders’ “commitment to pastoral care and friendship for all, regardless of sexual orientation.”
In his response, Archbishop of Kenya Eliud Wabukala said, “Christians should always show particular care for those who are vulnerable, but this cannot be separated from the whole fabric of biblical moral teaching in which the nature of marriage and family occupy a central place.”
Both Wabukala and Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali — in a statement issued the previous day — stressed their intention to “uphold” the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which states that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture” and that the conference “cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”
Both primates called on Welby and Sentamu to do the same.
The public statements from both Archbishops can be read below in full.
A RESPONSE TO THE STATEMENT BY THE ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY AND YORK
This week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York sought to remind the leadership of the Anglican Communion and the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda of the importance of friendship and care for homosexual people.
Christians should always show particular care for those who are vulnerable, but this cannot be separated from the whole fabric of biblical moral teaching in which the nature of marriage and family occupy a central place.
The Dromantine Communiqué from which the Archbishops quote also affirmed (Clause 17) the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which states that ‘homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture’ and that the conference ‘cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions’.
Yet earlier this week, the English College of Bishops accepted the recommendation of the Pilling Report for two years of ‘facilitated conversation’ because at least some of the bishops could not accept the historic teaching of the Church as reaffirmed in the Lambeth Resolution.
Indeed, in making the case for such a debate, the Pilling Report observes ‘In the House of Lords debate on same sex marriage, the Archbishop of York commended that the Church needed to think about the anomalies in a situation where it is willing to bless a tree or a sheep, but not a faithful human relationship.’ The anomaly only exists of course if it really is the case that a committed homosexual union can also be Christian.
The good advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York would carry much more weight if they were able to affirm that they hold, personally, as well as in virtue of their office, to the collegial mind of the Anglican Communion. At the moment I fear that we cannot be sure.
Regrettably, their intervention has served to encourage those who want to normalise homosexual lifestyles in Africa and has fuelled prejudice against African Anglicans. We are committed to biblical sexual morality and to biblical pastoral care, so we wholeheartedly stand by the assurance given in the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that those who experience same sex attraction are ‘loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.’
May God in his mercy grant that we may hold to the fullness of his truth and the fullness of his grace.
The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman, GAFCON Primates Council
31st January 2014
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali Comments on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the Church of England’s “Pilling Report,” and the Open Letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
30th January 2014
The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill. This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”
Accordingly, we are grateful for the reminder of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to fulfill such commitments as stated in the 2005 Communique of the Primates Meeting held in Dromantine, Northern Ireland.
We would further like to remind them, as they lead their own church through the “facilitated conversations” recommended by the Pilling Report, that the teaching of the Anglican Communion from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, from Resolution 1.10, still stands. It states that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture,” and the conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”
It was the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada’s violations of Lambeth 1.10 which caused the Church of Uganda to break communion with those Provinces more than ten years ago. We sincerely hope the Archbishops and governing bodies of the Church of England will step back from the path they have set themselves on so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church.
Furthermore, as our new Archbishop of Canterbury looks toward future Primates Meetings and a possible 2018 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, we would also like to remind him of the 2007 Primates Communique from Dar es Salaam, which says that there are “consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion” for TEC and those Provinces which cannot
“Make an unequivocal common covenant that the Bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through” their governing body;
“Confirm…that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent.”
It is clear that the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada have not upheld these commitments, and so we do pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury as he considers whether or not to extend invitations to their Primates for the next Primates Meeting or to their Bishops for the 2018 Lambeth Conference. To withhold these invitations would be a clear signal of his intention to lead and uphold the fullness of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10.
The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Though church growth in Congo Brazzaville has been relatively slow over the past few years, the area now has 4 parishes, 11 sub-parishes, 7 priests, 1 deacon, 13 evangelists and a total of more than 1000 Anglicans.
The Anglican Church was first introduced in Congo Brazzaville in 1997 by the Ven. Raymond Banzouzi who was sent by the Diocese of Kinshasa in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to “establish the church in that part of the world and spread the gospel to the west of the country and beyond.”
With a total area of about 342, 000 square kilometers, the Republic of Congo would prove to be hard to penetrate especially in the southern parts where Anglicanism had not even been heard off. But through their determination and resilience, the men sent by the Diocese of Kinshasa, one of the nine dioceses of the Anglican Province of Congo, were able to sow the first seeds of Anglicanism in the area.
The men built on the vision of an ardent evangelist from Uganda who introduced the Anglican Church in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Canon Apolo Kivebulaya, that the Anglican Church “reaches all parts of the country from east to west and beyond the country.”
Currently, Congo Brazzaville is under the leadership of the Diocese of Kinshasa and last December its Diocesan Committee, under the presidency of Archbishop Isingoma Kawa, appointed the Rt. Rev. Molanga Botola as missionary bishop to Congo Brazzaville with the main mission of “preparing a new diocese of Congo Brazzaville.”
Botola emphasizes: “It is for this reason that the church here has put evangelization as a top priority. In fact it is the priority of priorities. The department of evangelisation organizes massive campaigns of evangelisation throughout all the parishes. Earlier this year we had a huge evangelisation campaign for deliverance in Kintele village situated about 45 kilometers from Brazzaville-City.”
He added, “The results were positive because many people decided to come to Jesus Christ that day. Our vision is to create a community of engaged Christians to follow and to serve Jesus Christ.”
The Church in Congo Brazzaville has the challenge of inadequate land on which to build more churches as well as start new developmental projects to benefit the community. “We also have the priority of purchasing plots for the church throughout the country for projects,” he said. “We want to have a self-reliant community with the objective of fighting against poverty among our people.”
Any new undertaking requires trained personnel to carry out various tasks. Therefore, the Church in Congo Brazzaville is also concentrating on training clergy and lay people through various seminars and workshops.
“Currently, we have conducted training on the preaching of the Gospel organized by Langham Preaching,” said the missionary bishop. “At the end of 2013, we held a seminar on the leadership in the church, which is in line with our mission of contributing to the growth of the church here so that it can one day become a diocese.”
For a relatively young church such as the one in Congo Brazzaville, the contribution of youth to its growth is important. The church there has a specific department to deal with youth and Sunday school children.
“Our plan is to make steadfast the faith of young people and children in spiritual engagement in order to contribute to the challenge of the salvation of souls in Jesus Christ,” said Botola. “Young people also need to be active and self-reliant so we have activities in such as conferences on HIV/AIDS and also participation in choir activities.”
Despite the many challenges that the church has faced in this region, it has continued to grow from strength to strength and it’s worth noting the contributions and support from various Anglican agencies around the world including the Anglican Communion Office and the Mothers’ Union.
[Diocese of Texas] “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” – Dr. Carter G. Woodson, “The Miseducation of the Negroe”
As the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, they stepped on foreign soil straight into a system that would redefine who they were and what they were. Forever gone were their family names, traditions and culture; forever gone was the pride instilled in each of them. An identity that was once connected by bloodlines was now almost untraceable.
From this point on, they would become women and men without purpose and without the hope of being anything more than property. The members of this caste system were now also the victims of identity theft.
From the slave trade, they found themselves truly lost in a foreign land, living among others who spoke different languages and originated from different tribes. Traveling through the middle passage, little by little, their entire identities were stripped away. Little by little the lives they once knew were faded memories, tossed overboard and lost at sea forever.
Those who were forced into slavery would become “strange fruit” (as described in the Billie Holiday song) and a part of a social system, which would force adaptation. Their very identities became defined through the perception of slave owners. But through it all – stolen from the shores of Africa and stripped of their native land – this courageous group of Africans would reshape and redefine life in America.
“For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.” - Dr. Maya Angelou, author and poet
During the dawning of the twentieth century, it was commonly presumed that African-Americans had little history besides the subjugation of slavery. Carter G. Woodson, a son of slaves, received a bachelor and master’s degree from the University Of Chicago and in 1912, became the second African-American to receive a PhD from Harvard University. Woodson recognized the scarcity of information of blacks and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1926, he initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976 this celebration was expanded to include the entire month of February.
Woodson, remembered as the Father of Black History, began to shed light on the richness of the African-American experience. Woodson understood the need to change the perception of African-Americans and to increase their self-worth. He wanted to free black history from the bias of whites in order to present blacks as true active participants in history. The rewards of doing this proved invaluable. It allowed blacks to begin to identify who they were for themselves and promoted social change. An awareness of African-American history is informative today to all people because it shares the contributions of many unsung heroes and she-roes who made their mark in America but still remained unnoticed.
Black History month informs all of us of a rich history where God intervened and led a people of faith into the promised land. This promised land erased identity theft so that African Americans could redefine and re-establish themselves as equals among all people. This month of celebration is a time to recognize the gifts of those who have gone before us. It acknowledges those whose backs we now stand upon and allows prejudice to be forced from the cracks and crevices which still plague communities all across America. Black History is still relevant to all today because it invites us to rethink how we can be continually challenged to imagine a different world, a better world, for all of God’s people.
I believe Dr. Woodson would feel that we still have much work to accomplish. We still must uplift the contributions of African-Americans as a model for our children and future generations. We still must realize the content and character of a person cannot be tied to ethnicity alone. I invite all to celebrate the advancements that have been made in our great country by African-Americans, realizing that a month is not enough time to remove the veils of hatred which still exist. May we each be encouraged to continue to work toward our promised land, where all are needed to truly make this the land of the free.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” - Harriet Tubman, African-American abolitionist and humanitarian
- The Rev. Glenice Robinson-Como is Canon Pastor at Christ Church Cathedral, Houston
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presented the following opening remarks at the Episcopal Church Executive Council meeting currently gathered at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD (Diocese of Maryland).
5-7 February 2014
Maritime Center, Linthicum Heights, MD
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
It is good to see you all again and particularly to see you in the flesh. I keep some track of the work that you are engaged in between full meetings of the Council, and it is a joy to see your faces in my mind’s eye as I read the extranet postings. Thank you for your faithfulness in helping us all to dream a more effective church into being.
I want to celebrate a couple of remarkable achievements this morning, relate some news and cause for prayer, and offer a brief reflection on the growth that I see happening across The Episcopal Church.
Four years ago this month, Executive Council passed a resolution expressing its deep concern for our Haitian sisters and brothers following the devastating earthquake on January 12. That resolution challenged “The Episcopal Church to raise an extrabudgetary sum of at least $10,000,000 for the long term rebuilding of the Diocese of Haiti.” I am absolutely overjoyed to tell you that we have received a written pledge of $5 million to assist the Diocese of Haiti in its recovery and rebuilding efforts. We are grateful beyond measure for this expression of generosity and faith in the Church’s work in Haiti. This pledge will be received by The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and disbursed as the work is completed. We’ll be able to make further details public in about a month, but I wanted this Council to learn of it first. This is the fruit of the quiet and dedicated work of our Development Office, under the faithful and creative leadership of Elizabeth Lowell.
Over the last several years, we have been working to increase our advocacy and partnership at the United Nations. Many of you know of the stunning witness of the Anglican Communion delegation at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. Hospitality and leadership have been provided by Episcopalians and at times by staff of The Episcopal Church. Our presence has grown in recent years, particularly in the forum concerning indigenous issues. We have been interested and involved in the evolving post-MDG (Millennium Development Goals) development agenda. Two years ago we began the process to seek recognition as a member of the Economic and Social Council of the UN, believing that it would provide a remarkable opportunity to build networks and relationships in pursuit of God’s mission. Our initial application last year was deferred, largely because of questions by one member state. This has been a major effort, and the work has already borne abundant fruit in new and deepened relationships among missions and consulates and other bodies that are concerned with the welfare of humanity. I am delighted to tell you that our application was approved last week, and will be formally adopted later this spring. This is the fruit of Lynnaia Main’s persistent leadership and the active participation of many. She will share more details with the World Mission committee.
Other news is not so immediately joyful, yet the long-suffering witness and leadership of many people continue to be vitally important. The situation in South Sudan has been deeply fraught in recent weeks, and Gradye Parsons and I have called the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches to prayer and witness with our Sudanese brothers and sisters, as a reminder that ultimately we’re all in this together, whether it seems like heaven or hell.
Recent legislative efforts in Nigeria and Uganda to impose criminal penalties on members of the LGBT community have motivated responses from human rights advocates as well as our own church’s response from the perspective of the baptismal covenant. We have promised to be witnesses to the love of God in Christ, and to respect the innate dignity of every human being, each one made in the image of God. We may disagree about particulars of how to live our lives, but we cannot disagree about the fundamental and holy dignity of every human being.
All these challenges connect us with our neighbors both near at hand and far away. We are all part of one whole, and as Paul pointed out, none of us can say we have no need of another. Our health and salvation depend on how we treat our neighbors, for that is how we demonstrate the love of God.
The Episcopal Church as a whole is growing into a new way of seeing our place in the wider world. We continue to move from a utilitarian or objectified understanding of mission to a more organic one. Those may seem like harsh and overly critical words for past behavior that was often done in entirely good faith, yet there is always an element of human self-centered sinfulness in the ways we engage others, especially those who are seen as the other. Missionaries who engage others as objects of pity or as beneficiaries or subjects for transformation are treating those others as things, rather than incarnate reflections of the creative spirit of God. It is an eternal exercise of turning around (i.e. repentance) to allow ourselves to be sent into the world to discover what God is up to, and to expect that we will be the ones transformed. It’s a way of engaging God’s creation as part of the community rather than its ruler, as a member rather than the head, as a friend or sibling rather than an all-knowing parent. Sometimes we’ve used the shorthand of moving from colonial missionary work to post-colonial mission efforts. We will never do it perfectly, but we continue to seek ways to be eager and expectant recipients of God’s abundant grace rather than its providers – and to understand that as the only way we and the whole of creation will ever find wholeness, salvation, healing, and shalom.
I think this is a piece of what it means to be part of a missionary society, rather than a society that sends missionaries to domestic places and foreign places to do something. We take the journey together with all creation, together with all humanity, expecting to find God at work, and luring us into greater wholeness.
That’s what the sustainability initiatives in Province IX, Navajoland, and Haiti are about, as well as care for the earth and the sustainability of creation. That’s what ministries of presence like Bushwick Abbey and Holy Cross monastery are about. That’s what TREC is about – and our common journey into God’s creation with Jesus who calls us friend. May we take the road together and find the joy of discovering a society of God’s making.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, presented the following opening remarks at the Episcopal Church Executive Council meeting currently gathered at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD (Diocese of Maryland).
Linthicum Heights, Maryland
February 5, 2014
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President of the House of Deputies
Good morning. Welcome to sunny Baltimore.
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. I was invited by the people of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Canandaigua to preach at a service commemorating their 200th anniversary year, and Bishop Prince Singh was kind enough to invite me to come a day early to speak to a gathering of the leadership of the Diocese – Commission on Ministry, Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, Trustees, District Deans and other leaders. Thanks to a brief Polar Vortex hiatus, I was able to make the trip in good time and good spirits.
Being with that talented group of leaders in Rochester gave me a good opportunity to reflect on the question at the bottom of the self-evaluation sheet we’ve all received. It reads, “Are you satisfied with the progress of the Executive Council’s work this triennium, and your own participation in that work?”
I won’t presume to answer that question for you, but here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about as I answer it for myself. You might remember that my first opening remarks to Executive Council in 2012 were a Top Ten list, and since we’re midway through our work together, it’s time for another one. Here we go: the top ten mid-triennium questions for Executive Council leaders.
10. We begin, of course, with our canonical mandate. It says, “The Executive Council shall have charge of the coordination, development, and implementation of the ministry and mission of the Church.” Do we have charge of what we’re charged to do? Do you have the information you need in order to fulfill this charge? If not, why not? Keep pressing until you have what you need in order to exercise appropriate fiduciary responsibility.
9. What work is ours to do and what is ours to oversee as the Church Center staff and others carry out the work? How are we doing with keeping that distinction clear?
8. This is the triennium of restructuring. As you carry out this work on Executive Council, what do you see that needs to be restructured? Reborn? Recycled? For example, does the format of these meeting give you, as members of the board, adequate time adequate time to do what needs to be done in your committee work and your board work?
7. What is your theology of power? As I said in Rochester, “We all make choices about how we use power and exercise leadership – choices that shape not only the church and diocese and congregations we serve, but our very hearts and souls. At its most basic, leadership is the exercise of power. As people with power, we have the power to influence people and shape lives. We have the power of making decisions, and we are given authority, through baptism or ordination or appointment or election, to act on behalf of others. How we exercise the power and authority we have been given is at its core a spiritual and theological issue.” How are you using your power and authority on this body? If you are passive, why is that? Think about how you exercise your power.
6. What spiritual practices are keeping you centered, attentive, humble, and responsive in your Executive Council work?
5. A year-and-a-half ago, I said, “No whining. No triangles.” How’s that going for us?
4. Do you have both a good friend and an enjoyable hobby that have absolutely nothing to do with the Episcopal Church? (If not, fix that soon. The church leadership bubble can be airtight.)
3. Can you remember an Executive Council moment—a conversation, a presentation, or a meeting—that has changed your mind or opened your heart?
2. Are you showing up—in body, mind and spirit? I truly believe that a temptation in taking on a responsibility as significant as Executive Council is that we don’t make adjustments in the rest of our life in order to do what we have agreed to do. Perhaps some of us have just added Executive Council on top of an already busy life. If you are giving short shrift to Executive Council – or any other part of your life and ministry – you may need to do some serious reflection and discernment. Lent is around the corner – a great time for self-examination!
1. Do you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? This doesn’t mean agreeing with your neighbor, or staying silent if your neighbor needs to be held accountable, or avoiding conflict. It means that I see Jesus in you, and know you to be a beloved child of God.
We’re accountable to General Convention, as we all know, and we’ve rounded the corner in our journey toward Salt Lake City 2015. This Executive Council meeting, I believe, is pivotal: We will hear the report of the Church Center Relocation Subcommittee and reports from some of our essential boards: the General Board of Examining Chaplains, the Board for Transition Ministry, and the Board of the Archives of The Episcopal Church. We’ll be briefed by the Executive Officer of General Convention, on preparation and plans for General Convention, including what it will mean to go green in Salt Lake City. We will consider the documents prepared by the United Thank Offering/GAM (Governance and Administration for Mission) working group including draft bylaws and a draft Memorandum of Understanding; products that have involved the heart and soul of this council and members of that board.
We’re halfway home, and it’s a fitting time to take stock of how we’ve begun and how we intend to finish. In the next several days, I pray that we will renew our commitment to this work, to our relationships, and to our roles as leaders in these times of transition and risk. I pray that we will have the courage to look ourselves in the eye, evaluate ourselves honestly, and change what we need to change.
Most of all, I pray that we will keep our hearts, minds, and souls centered on Jesus. Since I was 10 years old, my favorite hymn has been ‘O Master, let me walk with thee.’ I first sang it at vespers at Camp Songadeewin on Lake Willoughby in Vermont. The words speak to me about the spiritual and temporal leadership to which we each been called.
O Master, let me walk with thee
in lowly paths of service free;
tell me thy secret; help me bear
the strain of toil, the fret of care.
Help me the slow of heart to move
by some clear, winning word of love;
teach me the wayward feet to stay,
and guide them in the homeward way.
Teach me thy patience; still with thee
in closer, dearer company,
in work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
in trust that triumphs over wrong;
In hope that sends a shining ray
far down the future’s broadening way,
in peace that only thou canst give,
with thee, O Master, let me live.
Text: Washington Gladden, 1836-1918
Music: H. Percy Smith, 1825-1898
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Very Rev. Dr. Brian Baker of the Diocese of Northern California has been elected the Province 8 clergy representative on the Episcopal Church Executive Council.
The announcement was made by the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of General Convention, during the opening session of the Executive Council meeting on February 5 at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD (Diocese of Maryland).
The vacancy on Executive Council was created by the resignation of the Rev. Jenny Vervynck.
Baker was elected by the board of Province 8. Baker’s term begins immediately and continues until a Province 8 board member is elected in 2015.
Baker is the dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento http://www.trinitycathedral.org/
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Rev. Nathaniel W. Pierce of the Diocese of Easton has been elected the Province III clergy representative on the Episcopal Church Executive Council.
The announcement was made by the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of General Convention, during the opening session of the Executive Council meeting on February 5 at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD (Diocese of Maryland).
The vacancy on Executive Council was created by the resignation of the Rev. Chris Cunningham.
Pierce was elected by the board of Province III. Pierce’s term begins immediately and continues until a Province III board member is elected in 2015.
Pierce currently serves as Worship Leader of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Quantico, MD, Diocese of Easton.
[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] The Sudanese Development and Relief Agency (SUDRA), the humanitarian wing of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan & Sudan (ECSSS), is supplying food, water and medical care to people displaced by the conflict currently enveloping the world’s newest nation. Episcopal Relief & Development is providing technical assistance and financial support to SUDRA, and serving as the key liaison for a group of Anglican Communion organizations supporting the relief and recovery work.
“In cooperation with the Anglican Alliance, we are leading a unified response to the current situation in South Sudan,” said Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief & Development. “We are working in close partnership with SUDRA and ECSSS to develop and refine the response plan, and to engage our Anglican peers in supporting these critical efforts.”
According to a recent UN OCHA situation report, an estimated 743, 400 people are currently displaced within South Sudan due to the conflict that erupted on December 15, 2013, between militia loyal to opposing political factions. Of those seeking refuge within the country’s borders, fewer than half have been reached with any kind of assistance. An additional 130, 400 individuals have fled to neighboring countries. Reports from Juba indicate that some displaced people are sheltering in homes abandoned during the last outbreak of violence in December, to which the owners have yet to return. South Sudan has suffered periodic resurgences of conflict since it peacefully separated from Sudan in a referendum vote in 2011.
Working with the group of Anglican and Episcopal agencies, ECSSS and SUDRA have developed a two-phase response to the current crisis. The first phase addresses the need for immediate help in three areas unreached by other aid, and the second anticipates the Church’s role in long-term recovery.
The aim of Phase 1 activities is to reach 5,500 households (44,000 people) in Awerial, Nimule and the area around Juba with food packs distributed by volunteers and medical assistance provided at ECSSS clinics. The food packs will contain staples such as cornmeal, beans, lentils and milk, and also include bars of soap to enable proper hand-washing and curtail the possible spread of disease in the camps. Healthcare-related items such as antibiotics, oral rehydration salts, malaria test kits and first aid supplies will support the work of Church clinics in Awerial and Juba and a mobile clinic to be established in Nimule. An important aspect of this initial work is registering displaced people and assessing needs, as this information will guide future response work and prevent duplication of efforts.
The estimated timeframe of Phase 1 activities is four to six weeks, scaling back as the wider humanitarian community implements its larger response during that time. The Church will then develop its Phase 2 plan, focusing on the resettlement and rehabilitation of impacted communities. Long-term recovery work, including psychosocial counseling and programs to foster reconciliation, is an ongoing part of ECSSS’ ministry.
“It is most important for the Church to conduct holistic ministry,” said an ECSSS priest involved in the response. “We need to look into the spiritual and social well-being. We try to help with food and with health care. The Church will also be very instrumental as this community starts to consider returning. People also need trauma counseling, some have lost loved ones, some have seen dead bodies or people being killed. The Church will be very instrumental here, it is the special institution to deliver counseling.”
In order to coordinate its response to the current crisis, ECSSS has activated its diocesan Disaster Risk Reduction teams to assess needs and distribute items through volunteers at the local level. These three-person teams – made up of the Diocesan Secretary, the Development Officer and the Mother’s Union Coordinator, with leadership from the diocesan bishop – had received prior training from SUDRA in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development and Christian Aid.
At the national level, ECSSS Archbishop the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul has appointed an Emergency Crisis Committee (ECC) to network with the wider humanitarian community and direct resources according to priority. The ECC is made up of Church department heads and chaired by the Bishop of Bor, the Rt. Rev. Ruben Akurdit. The Food and Health subcommittees of the ECC are tasked with procuring their respective aid items and delivering them to the Disaster Risk Reduction teams in impacted dioceses.
“The Church in South Sudan has adapted its structure to meet, in a unified way, the massive challenges of mobilizing a response in circumstances of wide-spread conflict,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development. “The relief and development agencies of various Anglican Communion church bodies have also unified their efforts via the Anglican Alliance in order to ensure that the generous outpourings of support from around the globe can have the greatest possible impact.”
Because of its deep relationships and trusted reputation in communities throughout South Sudan, ECSSS is able to reach remote or otherwise inaccessible areas to deliver aid and gain insight regarding circumstances and needs. Episcopal Relief & Development will continue to accompany ECSSS and SUDRA as they monitor and respond to the unfolding crisis.
“I am grateful to the staff of fellow Anglican Alliance member agencies, and most of all to our partners in South Sudan, for their efforts to strengthen and support the Church in dealing with a disaster of this scale,” Nesiah said. “I would urge everyone to keep South Sudan in their prayers, that peaceful negotiations will bring the conflict to an end and that people may soon return home.”
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called for a Day of Prayer for South Sudan for February 16.
“The world is increasingly concerned over the rampant violence in South Sudan,” the Presiding Bishop said. “The recent increase in armed conflict, murder, and mayhem has been fomented in part by inaccurate reports of tribal partisanship. The new nation needs peace, in order that all its people might thrive. The Episcopal Church of Sudan is partnering with others on the ground in that work of peace-building. The Sudanese communities within our own Episcopal Church have been important and effective leaders in this work. I ask your prayers for peace, as well as your awareness and involvement in the lives of our brothers and sisters across the globe. The Prince of Peace serves the whole world. As his disciples, may we do no less!”
In July 2011, a referendum called for the African country of Sudan to become two nations – Sudan and South Sudan. Since that time, many residents of South Sudan have experienced violence and suffered inhumane treatment.
“For fifty years, as civil war raged in Sudan, it was clear to people there that the outside world knew very little of their plight, and cared less,” noted Bishop Catherine Waynick, Diocese of Indianapolis. “While this new month-long conflict has taken a huge toll and set the development of South Sudan back in incalculable ways, there is at least the assurance that this time things are different.”
The Diocese of Indianapolis maintains a companion relationship with Episcopal Diocese of Bor in South Sudan. “The world does know, and brothers and sisters around the Anglican Communion do care, and the very stones will not need to cry out for justice and peace, because we are assaulting heaven with prayers of our own. It means the world to them,” Bishop Waynick said.
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori has noted that The Episcopal Church now has a number of Sudanese congregations and communities of faith as a result of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who immigrated to the United States as refugees beginning in 2001.
“My life was forever changed by the people of South Sudan,” explained Robin Denney, former Episcopal missionary who was based in Juba, South Sudan. “They showed me that the Gospel brings life in the midst of death, and they awakened in me a deep love of the Gospel. As we commit ourselves to prayer for South Sudan, and as we give, let us open our hearts to hope and to be changed, for as I learned in South Sudan, God will never be defeated.”
Advocacy and Educational Resources
The Episcopal Church Office of Government Advocacy Memo to Congress, January 2014:
Weekly E-Blasts from the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan
“Crisis in South Sudan,” A Report of the Congressional Research Service, January 2014
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Resources on South Sudan
International Crisis Group Publications on South Sudan
Episcopal Relief & Development
Episcopal Relief & Development
For the latest update on South Sudan here
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] “I continue to be inspired by the Christians who are a small fraction of the population of most of the nations throughout the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori writes in the annual Good Friday letter to all congregations asking them to consider assistance for Jerusalem and the Middle East.
“Time and again in quiet conversation with Christian leaders and in public statements and presentations I witnessed the pain of loss expressed with passion and grief by so many on account of political and social pressures and the cycles of violence which continue in Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Egypt,” the Presiding Bishop writes. “While there was great sorrow expressed about loss, there was also great hope and expectation that peace and prosperity are possible. “
Funds collected from the Good Friday Offering are gathered and distributed to the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East which includes the Dioceses of Jerusalem and Cyprus and the Gulf, all members of the Anglican Communion.
“I encourage you and your congregation to join in supporting our sister and brother Anglicans throughout the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East through the Good Friday Offering,” she concludes.
Information and resources for the Good Friday Offering are available here.
For more information contact the Rev. Canon Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East Partnership Officer, email@example.com.
The following is the Presiding Bishop’s letter:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I thank God for the witness of the clergy and people of The Episcopal Church as the faith we share expands hope through the various ministries of our parishes and institutions. As you read this I hope you take to heart how important your role is in bringing God’s hope and peace to those whose lives you touch.
You may be aware that the theme of our recent House of Bishops meeting in September was Transforming Loss into New Possibilities. This theme continues to shape my prayers and thoughts of our ministry. The Church and the world are wrestling with many losses in terms of trust, hope and opportunity as the world continues to polarize along economic, political and religious lines. It is one thing to be comfortable at home musing over theoretical notions of transforming loss into new possibilities. It is quite something else to stand in solidarity with people who know loss at the deepest levels and who embrace that pain and loss yet do not descend into the abyss of hatred and resentment.
I continue to be inspired by the Christians who are a small fraction of the population of most of the nations throughout the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. This past May I had the privilege of participating in a conference held in Beirut, Lebanon, sponsored by the WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches, which focused on the serious challenges facing indigenous Christians throughout that region.
Time and again in quiet conversation with Christian leaders and in public statements and presentations I witnessed the pain of loss expressed with passion and grief by so many on account of political and social pressures and the cycles of violence which continue in Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Egypt. While there was great sorrow expressed about loss, there was also great hope and expectation that peace and prosperity are possible.
Is it possible? In human terms, some doubt and wonder. In divine terms, I join our sisters and brothers of the Christian churches in the Middle East and say, “Yes, not only possible, but inevitable because it is God who has the last word.”
I encourage you and your congregation to join in supporting our sister and brother Anglicans throughout the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East through the Good Friday Offering. Good Friday Offering materials will soon be available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and French: www.episcopalchurch.org/goodfridayoffering.
I am deeply grateful for your solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.
Your support of the Good Friday Offering helps transform what is loss today into tomorrow’s possibility.
Your servant in Christ,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Obispa Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal escribe a las congregaciones sobre la ofrenda del Viernes Santo para Jerusalén y el Medio Oriente
[4 de febrero de 2014] “Sigo siendo inspirada por los cristianos que son una pequeña fracción de la población de la mayoría de las naciones a través de la Provincia de Jerusalén y el Medio Oriente”, la Obispa Presidente Katharine Jefferts Schori, escribe en la carta anual del Viernes Santo a todas las congregaciones pidiéndoles considerar la asistencia para Jerusalén y el Medio Oriente.
“Una y otra vez en una conversación tranquila con líderes cristianos, y en declaraciones públicas y presentaciones fui testigo del dolor de la pérdida expresada con pasión y dolor por tantas personas a causa de las presiones políticas y sociales, y de los ciclos de violencia que continúan en Siria, Israel/Palestina y Egipto “, escribe la Obispa Presidente. “Mientras hubo un gran dolor expresado sobre la pérdida, también hubo una gran esperanza y la expectativa de que la paz y la prosperidad son posibles”.
Los fondos colectados de la Ofrenda del Viernes Santo son recogidos y distribuidos en la Provincia de Jerusalén y Medio Oriente, que incluye las diócesis de Jerusalén y Chipre y el Golfo, y todos los miembros de la Comunión Anglicana.
“Le animo a usted y a su congregación a unirse en el apoyo a nuestras hermanas y hermanos anglicanos en toda la provincia de Jerusalén y el Medio Oriente a través de la Ofrenda del Viernes Santo”, concluye.
Información y recursos para la Ofrenda del Viernes Santo están disponibles aqui
Para más información póngase en contacto con el Rdo. Canónigo Robert Edmunds, representante de la Alianza de la Iglesia Episcopal del Medio Oriente, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A continuación la carta de la Obispa Presidente:
Queridos Hermanos y Hermanas en Cristo,
Doy gracias a Dios por el testimonio del clero y el pueblo de la Iglesia Episcopal mientras que la fe que compartimos expande esperanzas a través de los diferentes ministerios de las parroquias e instituciones. Al leer esto, espero que tome en serio la importancia de su papel en traer la esperanza y la paz de Dios a aquellos que usted toca sus vidas.
Usted puede ser consciente de que el tema de la reciente reunión de la Cámara de Obispos en septiembre fue Transformando la Pérdida en Nuevas Posibilidades. Este tema continúa dando forma a mis oraciones y pensamientos de nuestro ministerio. La Iglesia y el mundo están luchando con muchas pérdidas en términos de confianza, esperanza y la oportunidad mientras que el mundo continúa polarizando las líneas económicas, políticas y religiosas. Es una cosa sentirse cómodo en casa meditando sobre las nociones teóricas de la transformación de la pérdida en nuevas posibilidades. Y es algo bastante diferente estar en solidaridad con las personas que conocen la pérdida en los niveles más profundos y que aceptan el dolor y la pérdida pero aún no descienden al abismo de odio y resentimiento.
Sigo inspirada por los cristianos que son una pequeña fracción de la población de la mayoría de las naciones en toda la provincia de Jerusalén y el Medio Oriente. En mayo pasado tuve el privilegio de participar en una conferencia celebrada en Beirut, Líbano, patrocinado por el WCC y el Consejo de Iglesias del Medio Oriente, que se centró en los serios desafíos que enfrentan los cristianos indígenas en toda la región.
Una y otra vez en una conversación tranquila con líderes cristianos, y en declaraciones públicas y presentaciones fui testigo del dolor de la pérdida expresada con pasión y dolor por tantas personas a causa de las presiones políticas y sociales, y de los ciclos de violencia que continúan en Siria, Israel/Palestina y Egipto. Mientras hubo un gran dolor expresado sobre la pérdida, también hubo una gran esperanza y la expectativa de que la paz y la prosperidad son posibles.
¿Es posible? En términos humanos, la duda y el asombro. En términos divinos, me uno a nuestras hermanas y hermanos de las iglesias cristianas en el Medio Oriente y decir: “Sí, no sólo es posible, pero inevitable, porque es Dios quien tiene la última palabra”.
Le animo a usted y a su congregación a unirse en el apoyo a nuestra hermana y hermano anglicanos en toda la provincia de Jerusalén y el Medio Oriente a través de la ofrenda del Viernes Santo. Los materiales de la Ofrenda del Viernes pronto estarán disponibles en inglés, español, chino y francés en: www.episcopalchurch.org/goodfridayoffering.
Estoy profundamente agradecida por su solidaridad con nuestros hermanos y hermanas de la Provincia de Jerusalén y el Medio Oriente.
Su apoyo con la Ofrenda del Viernes Santo ayuda a transformar lo que hoy es pérdida
en una posibilidad del mañana.
Su sierva en Cristo,
Reverendísima Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primado
La Iglesia Episcopal
[Lambeth Palace press release] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo Feb. 3 for a two-day visit to Anglican leaders in the country. While there the archbishop will witness the work of the Anglican Church in the Congo, especially in peace-building and protecting women from gender-based violence.
Welby, who is visiting DRC at the invitation of Archbishop Henri Isingoma, will meet with religious leaders and other community representatives, and visit projects supported by the Anglican Church in the Congo.
Arriving in Goma, Welby said: “I am delighted to be visiting Goma with my wife Caroline to show the love and solidarity of the wider church amidst all you have been through. We pray for stability and a lasting peace for DRC.
“The Anglican Church in the Congo has shown remarkable initiative and resourcefulness in helping communities address the challenges affecting their life. I look forward to seeing some of those initiatives in action, both in the building of a sustainable peace, and the protection of women from gender-based violence and providing of much needed care.
“I wish to pay tribute to Archbishop Henri Isingoma and his wife Madame Mugisa who together have made such a pioneering contribution to this work.”
The trip is part of Welby’s plan to visit all of his fellow archbishops around the Anglican Communion during his first 18 months in office. His desire is to express solidarity, build personal and professional bonds, understand the Primates’ work in their local contexts, and lay foundations for good collaboration over the coming years.
[From The Lusitanian Church with additional reporting by ACNS staff] Lisbon’s Lusitanian Church Cathedral of St. Paul recently played host to a ceremony marking the mutual recognition of baptism among Christian faith traditions.
The signing of a declaration of mutual recognition of the validity of the sacrament of baptism administered in the churches was part of the Week of Christian Unity celebrations.
The declaration was signed on Jan. 25 by the presidents and the bishops of churches including Anglican Bishop Jorge Pina Cabral of the Lusitanian Church (Anglican Communion in Portugal). Other signatories represented the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Methodist and Presbyterian churches.
These churches acknowledge baptism as a basic bond of unity and hope that this official recognition is a step forward on the path of the visible unity of the one Body of Christ “so that the world may believe “.
Hundreds of worshipers from different churches – including many young people – attended the lively ceremony which was considered “a very encouraging sign for the future of ecumenism in Portugal.”
Cabral expressed his joy at the signing in St. Paul’s Cathedral – at one time a Carmelite Church and Convent. He said the move offered “new opportunities for ecumenical work between the churches in Portugal” and reinforced the Lusitanian Church’s commitment to such collaborative work.
The Lusitanian Church is an extra provincial diocese to the Archbishop of Canterbury with its Anglican Communion roots coming from the Church of Ireland, the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and Igreja Anglican Episcopal of Brazil. These churches and their bishops facilitated the consecration of the Rt. Rev. D. Antonio Ferreira Fiandor on June 22, 1958. The church is also a member of the Porvoo Communion. In 1971, The Lusitanian Church in Portugal co-founded the Portuguese Council of Christian Churches, the main ecumenical body in Portugal and actively participates in the ecumenical movement with the other churches there.
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[Episcopal News Service] Hannah Perls is an Episcopal Church Young Adult Service Corps missionary serving in San Salvador with Foundation Cristosal, a human rights-based community development organization with roots in the Anglican and Episcopal churches. Here she reflects on serving as an election observer in the Feb. 2 presidential elections in El Salvador.
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[Episcopal News Service] Glen Mitchell is a member of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale Anglican Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has served as an election observer in El Salvador in previous years and observed the Feb. 2 presidential elections. Here he reflects on that experience and also talks about the country’s young electorate.
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[Episcopal News Service] The Very Rev. Kevin Dixon is dean of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in London, Ontario, and a long-time Foundation Cristosal board member. Here he reflects on 10 years’ involvement in El Salvador and on the benefits of long-term partnerships.
For ENS video interviews with El Salvador election observers, click here.
[Episcopal News Service] By 5 a.m. on Feb. 2, international and national election observers began arriving at voting stations, two hours before the start of El Salvador’s presidential elections.
Their job was to keep watch: to attend the unpacking and cataloging of the election packets and the setup of the voting stations; impartially to observe voters casting ballots throughout the day, vigilant for signs of irregularity, evidence of fraud or misconduct, or citizens being denied their vote.
At 7:35 a.m., as the National Police held voters outside the gate at San Martin, a municipality located a 25-minute drive east of San Salvador, David James, an Anglican observer from Canada, and Carlos Duran Flores, a national observer, called in the first of three reports they were required to file throughout the 14-plus-hour day. The report included the fact that one of the center’s nine voting stations hadn’t received its election packet until after 6:30 a.m., delaying the opening of the polls — a common observation across voting centers countrywide.
Besides the late start, a bit of confusion and an overall sense that some election workers were ill-trained, “things seemed to be going reasonably well,” said James, speaking just after 7 a.m. from his post in San Martin.
To win in the first round of elections, the president and vice president needed 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote. As of Feb. 3 in the evening, the two major parties, the left-leaning Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, or FMLN, and the right-leaning Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA, had received 48.93 and 38.95 percent of the vote, respectively. El Salvador’s electoral tribunal plans to release official figures on Feb. 5. A runoff likely will occur on March 9. The next five-year presidential term begins on June 1.
El Salvador’s electorate votes for party by paper ballot. At the close of the polls, election workers representing the ARENA, FMLN and UNIDAD parties, counted the ballots. Each individual voting station handled up to 500 voters. At 7 p.m., when observers filed their third report, some stations still were counting.
Included among some 3,000 international and national election observers, 26 Anglicans from Canada arrived in El Salvador on Jan. 29. They came in advance of the election to gain a better understanding of the country’s electoral process by participating in a Foundation Cristosal Global School course providing historical context and perspective on the building of democracy in a post-conflict society, and to learn about their observer responsibilities. Foundation Cristosal is a San Salvador-based human rights and community-development organization.
“I think it’s been going really, really well so far. I’m glad to be part of a group that is behaving professionally and taking the task very seriously,” said Olivia Amadon, global school coordinator, after the polls closed and final reports were filed.
This year, the local ecumenical chapter of the Latin America Council of Churches, or FECLAI, which has 20 years of election observer experience in El Salvador, and Cristosal participated in a National Observation Network. It is using statistical data about election observations to create a report tracking anomalies and to provide a statistically accurate sample of the voting-station counts that can be compared alongside official electoral tribunal accounts to verify accuracy.
“That’s something that is really important because, for instance, I was in Honduras recently, and we saw a lot of anomalies in the elections there,” Amadon said. “We saw a lot of vote buying, voter intimidation, acts of violence, people getting kidnapped so they couldn’t join the voting tables … but in the end the biggest fraud actually happened on the part of the electoral tribunal.”
In Honduras, the electoral tribunal’s vote count didn’t match the election workers’ count. Both major candidates claimed victory. The country swore in conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez as president on Jan. 27.
“I think that speaks to the importance of election observation: verifying and legitimizing election results because these institutions are still very young and have their own weaknesses,” Amadon added. “Democracy in El Salvador has only been around for 20 years; it’s still very young, and after what I’ve seen today, it’s probably one of the most successful election processes that I’ve ever seen.”
Fraud, corruption and voter irregularity often have gone hand-in-hand with elections in Latin America. But in the immediate aftermath of the Feb. 2 elections, both the observers and the media described the El Salvador voting as “tranquil” and “ordered.”
From 1980-1992, El Salvador suffered a brutal civil war fought between its U.S.-backed, military led-government and a coalition of guerrilla groups, organized as the FMLN, which later became a political party. The war was fueled mostly by the gross inequalities that existed between a small group of wealthy elites who controlled the government and the economy and the majority of the population that lived in extreme poverty.
“The church went with the people because it can’t serve two masters,” said Diocese of El Salvador Bishop Martín Barahona during a Jan. 30 welcoming of the observer delegation. “The U.S. government supported the government and the military, but the people in the United States supported the people, as did the Episcopal Church.”
The revolution that began in El Salvador in 1980 as an armed struggle continues today as civic society and human rights and social justice organization work to build, educate and empower the country’s citizenry, according to civic and human rights organizations.
When the war started, the church decided to join the revolution; the bishop is the bishop of the people, Barahona said. That is why it’s important to keep working for a functioning democracy, “and that is why you are here as observers,” he said. “Because we ask people to testify to what is working and what isn’t … no human model is perfect, but we have to keep working at it.”
The solidarity movement in El Salvador had its beginnings in the Second Vatican Council. During the civil war, Roman Catholic and historic Protestant churches played a major role in exposing human rights violations including mass murders and forced disappearances.
“The churches’ effort in bringing these violations to light is what prevented an escalation of violence in El Salvador,” said Noah Bullock, Foundation Cristosal executive director. “So those relationships of solidarity mattered, and they continue to matter today as the country continues to struggle as a democracy.”
The day before the elections, observers, including the group from the Anglican Church of Canada and seven Episcopalians from the Diocese of Chicago, gathered at San Juan Evangelista, an Anglican-Episcopal Church in San Salvador that during the war served as a camp for internally displaced people. There, they learned about the country’s electoral context, past and present, and their role as observers, with respect to the law, nonintervention, neutrality, objectivity and impartiality. The training was coordinated by FECLAI and the ISD (the Social Initiative for Democracy).
The National Observation Network was composed of more than 20 churches and civil society organizations encompassing more than 1,100 international and national observers, half of the total. The partner organizations shared resources that allowed the network to conduct a systematic observation including reports and a statistical representation of total votes cast, a media campaign to inform the electorate and legal resources to make formal denouncements of any illegal activities.
El Salvador has held six “democratic and free” post-military-controlled elections, said Eduardo Escobar, who led the observer training on behalf of ISD.
“We’re still in the process of letting the dust settle and understanding democracy,” Escobar said. “Sometimes we take one step forward and two steps back, and sometimes we take a step to the side and stay the same.”
In 1931, the people of El Salvador elected by popular majority President Arturo Aranjo, who began implementing social programs. A year later, during a coup d’état, General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez became president. From 1932 to 1979, a military regime governed El Salvador – the president was a military figure serving a five- to-six-year term – in the fashion typical of Latin America’s hardline, rightist military governments aligned with the U.S. Government in its Cold War fight against communism.
Unlike in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, where a single president governed, sometimes for decades, regular “elections” in El Salvador gave the impression of democracy, though fraud persisted throughout the 1970s and in the elections held during the civil war.
Recent elections have been characterized as imperfect but substantially improved, said Bullock.
The FMLN won the presidency for the first time in 2009, and there has been a lot of speculation in the media surrounding what a second win for the FMLN would mean; speculation that has included fear mongering but locally and internationally.
“A victory, and second consecutive administration, for the FMLN would be an affirmation of the left’s social programs and policy agenda and would be an opportunity to deepen that agenda with a greater mandate from the electorate,” said Bullock. “Because the election is likely to go into a second round, the addition of a third contender in the UNIDAD party signifies that in order to govern either the FMLN or ARENA will have to negotiate alliances.
“In theory, this type of check is good for democratic governance. In reality, the quality of the political offering is not much improved by UNIDAD. The campaign has been more of competition between populist promises than a serious policy debate.”
Out of a field of five candidates, three dominated the presidential race: current Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the FMLN; San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano of ARENA; and former ARENA President Antonio Saca, representing a coalition under the umbrella of UNIDAD. (El Salvador’s constitution prohibits presidents from serving consecutive terms; this election marked the first time a former president stood for election with a different party.)
Security and economic development top concerns
Security in a country that has been terrorized by gang violence related to global narcotics trafficking and crippled economic expansion were the topics of a Jan. 31 presidential forum attended by the election observers and the vice presidential candidates at the Sheraton Hotel – the hotel where peace accords ending the civil war were signed in 1992. The vice presidential candidates representing the three major parties clarified their party platforms related to these issues in five-minute presentations, then answered three, identical questions related to security and economic development before taking questions from the audience.
Although election observers were to remain neutral and impartial, attending the forum allowed them to get a better understanding of the country’s everyday realities. Though it has dropped in the last year, the homicide rate in El Salvador is among the world’s highest. Most of the working population is unemployed, under-employed or working in the informal economy, and one in four families relies on remittances from relatives working abroad to pay monthly expenses. A majority of the estimated 2 million Salvadorans abroad live in the United States. Two of three Salvadorans who have gotten jobs in the last 30 years found them in the United States, according to the United Nations 2013 Development Report.
El Salvador is in its third year of a five-year U.S.-supported effort to enhance democracy, safety and economic growth through a Partnership for Growth Joint Country Action Plan that was signed in 2011, two years into the current Salvadoran administration.
Concerned that the United States might influence the elections, human rights and social justice groups joined forces in writing a series of letters to Secretary of State John Kerry and held press conferences asking the United States to take a neutral position. On Dec. 16, U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte said the United States “would not be an actor” in the Feb. 2 elections.
Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs in the Ronald Reagan administration, weighed in in the Washington Post in support of El Salvador’s conservatives. The New York Times published an op-ed by William G. Walker, a retired career diplomat, who served as the United States ambassador to El Salvador from 1988 to 1992, in response to Abrams suggesting the left was not to be feared.
Changes to the voting system
There are 6.3 million Salvadorans living in 14 departments, or states, in a country the size of Massachusetts. As in the United States and Canada, voters must be at least 18 years old. And in El Salvador, they must present a valid photo ID, and the photo must match the photo alongside their name on the voter registration manifest posted at their designated voting station.
Major changes in the electoral system took place in advance of the Feb. 2 elections. A residential voting system was implemented, whereby the country’s 4.8 million registered voters vote in their communities, rather than travel to regional voting centers organized alphabetically. This increased the number of voting centers from 460 to 1,591, with some 10,000 individual voting stations. And members of the Salvadoran diaspora, the majority living in the United States and Canada, were eligible to vote.
At a voting center in a soccer field in Soyapango, one of the most densely populated and dangerous municipalities in the country, observers said that despite a “general suspicion of the parties” the voting took on a festive air and that it was obvious that the people wanted transparency in the election process and their voices to be heard.
“They really believe their vote makes a difference; in Canada we don’t see our vote as counting anymore,” said observer Anne Kessler, 21, a member of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Maybe they are building a better democracy than we are.”
The day following the elections, in a press conference, FECLAI and the National Observation Network presented the results of the previous day’s work. Based on their data collection and observation, the leadership declared electoral fraud in El Salvador a thing of the past.
– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. She served as an election observer among the Anglican-Episcopal delegation.