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Church in Minnesota forgives $1.2 million in loans to faith communities

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

[Episcopal Church of Minnesota press release] On October 11, the Trustees of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN) voted unanimously to forgive the remaining balances of all loans currently held between the Trustees and ECMN faith communities (parishes or missions within ECMN), totaling more than $1.2 million. The Trustees are elected to ensure the missional sustainability of faith communities, and have traditionally managed property, engaged in investments, and made loans to faith communities. After nearly two years of discernment about their identity and role within ECMN, the Trustees have chosen to divest themselves of the loan program, converting the remaining loan funds to a matching grant program for property maintenance called the ECMN Maintenance Savings Plan.

Of the Trustee’s recent action, the Rt. Rev. Brian Prior, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, said, “Part of our heritage is that of the Jubilee, where our spiritual ancestors reset their relationships with their neighbors by letting go of debts and obligations held against one another. I am proud that our Trustees made this brave decision, and pray that our faith communities will have even more resources from which to engage in God’s work.”

This decision affects, in total, six faith communities around the state: two in the Twin Cities metro area, two in the Duluth area, and two in Central Minnesota. One of the Central Minnesota faith communities largest outreach effort is working to educate the public and raise awareness about human trafficking, while another one of the faith communities, also located in Central Minnesota, is very active in donating to local food shelves and providing meals to those in need.

For the other four faith communities that are affected by this decision, working on issues such as providing food for those in need and combating homelessness are among the most common community outreach efforts that these parishes and missions are engaged in.

The Trustees expect to have the Maintenance Savings Plan fully operational by January 1, 2015. Through this matching grant program, the Trustees will match a portion of investments from faith communities, while offering simple tools and a template that will enable faith communities to easily create a plan for maintenance while enhancing their sustainability in God’s mission.

Ferguson: ‘El momento, para nosotros en la Iglesia, de ‘venir a Jesús’’

ENS Headlines - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Danielle Dowd, joven misionera para la Diócesis Episcopal de Misurí, ha estado pasando varios días a la semana en las calles de Ferguson y San Luis.

[Episcopal News Service] Danielle Dowd volvía a situarse frente al Departamento de la Policía de Ferguson el 15 de octubre, sólo dos días después de haber sido arrestada allí mientras protestaba por la muerte a tiros, a manos de un policía, del adolescente desarmado Michael Brown y de otros jóvenes afroamericanos.

Desde la muerte de Brown el 9 de agosto, “he venido un par de días todas las semanas, salvo cuando a mi hija de 7 años le extirparon las amígdalas y debí cumplir mis deberes de madre. He podido establecer algunas buenas relaciones con los jóvenes, cuyas voces deben ser escuchadas” dijo Dowd, de 26 años, misionera de los jóvenes para la Diócesis Episcopal de Misurí, a Episcopal News Service (ENS).

Del mismo modo, el Rdo. Jon Stratton, director del Cuerpo de Servicio Episcopal de la diócesis, pasó el 13 de octubre —día en que cumplía 30 años— desfilando, cantando, voceando “¿De quién son las calles? Las calles son nuestras. ¿De quién son las calles? Las calles son de Dios”, para ser finalmente arrestado.

Ellos y otros episcopales se cuentan entre las docenas que fueron detenidos durante las actividades del llamado “Lunes Moral” [Moral Monday] ante el Departamento de la Policía de Ferguson como parte de una serie de actos de desobediencia civil llevados a cabo durante el fin de semana en la región de San Luis y coordinados por “Manos Arriba, No Disparen” [Hands Up, Don’t Shoot] y la Organización para la Lucha de los Negros.

Algunos han comparado el movimiento emergente, su joven liderazgo y sus crecientes relaciones con el activismo de los derechos civiles de los años 60, y otros lo han llamado un movimiento pro derechos humanos. También han sacado a relucir las viejas y enconadas tensiones entre la comunidad afroamericana y el Departamento de la Policía, y han dado lugar a demandas de cambios radicales en los terrenos docentes, económico e institucionales.

El momento le presenta interesantes oportunidades a la Iglesia, dice el Muy Rdo. Mike Kinman, deán de la iglesia catedral de Cristo [Christ Church Cathedral] en San Luis. “Este es el momento para nosotros en la Iglesia de ‘venir a Jesús’”.

Chuck Wynder, misionera para la justicia y la defensa sociales de la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS), se muestra de acuerdo. “Reconocemos que la Iglesia tiene cada vez más un papel que desempeñar en ser una voz profética en un lugar seguro para la obra de justicia y reconciliación raciales. Seguimos siendo un medio para la Diócesis de Misurí y para conectar los acontecimientos y las novedades de Ferguson con los problemas, la dinámica y el dialogo en todo el país”.

Entre otras cosas, “estamos en el proceso de crear una página a través de la Red Episcopal de Política Pública (a nivel denominacional) de voces, recursos e iniciativas acerca de la muerte de Michael Brown, la situación de Ferguson y cómo eso se relaciona con la obra de justicia social y reconciliación racial a través de la Iglesia en todo el país”, dijo Wynder.

La Iglesia sigue dispuesta a ser un recurso fundamental mientras Ferguson —y el resto de la nación— esperan ansiosamente el dictamen del gran jurado y si habrá instrucción de cargos por la muerte a tiros de Michael Brown, dijo Wynder, quien añadió: “Estamos preparándonos para lo que sabemos que viene”.

La Iglesia Episcopal ha estado concentrando recursos en la zona de Ferguson desde poco después de la muerte de Brown. En septiembre otorgó $30.000 y Ayuda y Desarrollo Episcopales contribuyó con otros $10.000 para una subvención, dividida entre las tres iglesias de la zona, destinada a la labor de [combatir] la pobreza nacional, el quehacer pastoral y el trabajo comunitario en Ferguson.

La iglesia de San Esteban [St. Stephen’s] (Ferguson), de la Ascensión (Northwoods) y Todos los Santos [All Saints’] (ciudad de San Luis) han sido significativamente afectados por la perturbación social que siguió a la muerte violenta de Brown y la respuesta de la comunidad. Las iglesias han estado a la vanguardia de la movilización de recursos para la comunidad, ministrando las necesidades de manifestantes y policías por igual y simplemente “siendo la Iglesia” para todos.

La marcha: arrepentimiento, confesión, absolución y arresto
Stratton se encuentra entre un estimado de varios miles de personas que se unieron el 13 de octubre a una marcha dirigida mayoritariamente por jóvenes, y que tuvo que hacerle frente a tanta lluvia que, en un momento, “estábamos cantando ‘Wade in the Water’[‘Metidos en el agua’]”, le dijo a ENS el 15 de octubre.

“El tema era de arrepentimiento y confesión y absolución y cambio de los sistemas que perpetúan el racismo y la injusticia”, incluidos los sistemas eclesiásticos, afirmó. Los clérigos confesaron su complicidad con tales sistemas y llamaron a los agentes de policía, que se encontraban alineados frente a la estación de policía de Ferguson, a hacer lo mismo.

“Queremos dejar muy claro que el clero, hablando por mí y por los que estaban conmigo, no estábamos hablando del pecado individual, sino de un pecado sistémico”, añadió. “Les dijimos a los agentes de policía que ellos eran valiosos y amados hijos de Dios, pero que formaban parte de un sistema que no sólo estereotipa y deshumaniza a las personas [que se encuentran] del otro lado, sino que conduce también a la deshumanización de la fuerza policial.

“Siempre que salen con sus equipos antimotines, es un signo tangible de deshumanización. [En ese momento] dejan de ser vistos como personas y más como máquinas o como instrumentos de violencia”.

Era la segunda vez en su vida que a la Rda. Anne Kelsey —de 67 años, rectora jubilada de la iglesia de La Trinidad [Trinity Church] en Central West End de San Luis— la arrestaban. Ella recordaba cuando protestó en el Pentágono con la Hermandad Episcopal de la Paz y con los Testigos por la Paz, hace 42 años “y esto no fue como aquello”, le dijo ella a ENS. Entonces “estábamos en el vestíbulo del Pentágono celebrando una misa por la paz”.

De izquierda a derecha, la Rda. Anne Kelsey, el Rdo. Jeff Moore y el Rdo. Jonathon Stratton, director de la Casa de la Diaconisa Ana en San Luis, fueron arrestados juntos el 13 de octubre.

Para Kelsey, el fin de semana, especialmente la manifestación de la noche del sábado, tenía una sensación histórica, como si “estuviéramos presenciando el renacimiento del movimiento por los derechos civiles”.

De manera que ella asistió al evento del “Lunes Moral” con sotana, sobrepelliz y estola “y estuvimos allí y llovía y llovía, y a medio camino hasta hubo un anuncio de tornado”.

Kelsey se unió a las protestas después del 8 de octubre cuando la policía mató a tiros a otro joven afroamericano, Vonderrit Myers, cerca de la casa de ella en el barrio de Shaw.

“Oí los disparos y mi marido y yo caminamos las tres cuadras para ver que estaba pasando. Era sencillamente terrible, la furia y el dolor de la multitud”, recordaba. Las circunstancias que rodearon la muerte de Myers —que supuestamente tenía un arma y le disparó a la policía— difieren de los testimonios en la muerte de Michael Brown, que estaba desarmado. Pero “era realmente traumatizante después de lo de Michael Brown”.

Después que la policía se llevó el cadáver y las cintas que identificaban la escena del crimen, “nos paramos exactamente encima del lugar donde él murió y oramos¨, dijo Kelsey lenta, balbuceante y penosamente. “Me involucré de una manera que no había planeado. Este era mi barrio”, afirmó. “Existe una línea divisoria en este barrio. Yo estaba de pie allí, mientras una mujer me estuvo dando gritos durante largo rato. Decía que ella había trabajado para Amnistía Internacional y que reprendía a la clériga blanca por no hacer lo suficiente. No es una situación cómoda”.

Mientras participaban en la manifestación del 13 de octubre, Kelsy y otras personas se mantuvieron frente a la fila de policías en el Departamento de Policía de Ferguson y le pidieron a los agentes “que se arrepintieran de los pecados institucionales del departamento de policía. Le dije al hombre que tenía frente a mí que, me gustara o no, cuando yo usaba mi alzacuello, era el rostro de la Iglesia para el pueblo y tengo que ser la primera en pedir perdón por los pecados de la Iglesia, no importa que yo los hubiere cometido o no de la misma manera. Los agentes de la policía son el rostro del sistema de justicia. No creo que sea irrazonable pedirles que reflexionen al respecto”.

Cuando ella se arrodilló frente a él, “cruzó la línea” y la arrestaron e inmediatamente la esposaron y la pusieron en un vehículo de la policía. Estuvo encarcelada durante varias horas y luego la liberaron.

Un movimiento emergente: ‘Los jóvenes nos dan lecciones’
Dowd y Stratton han pasado varios días de la semana en las calles de Ferguson y San Luis “para llegar a conocer a los jóvenes que han estado allí a diario durante 67 días. Parte de lo que quiero hacer es apoyarlos y seguirlos”, dijo Stratton.

“Ellos son los más afectados por la brutalidad policíaca, pues eran amigos de Michael Brown y viven en Ferguson. Son la gente que la Iglesia debe escuchar y, de muchas maneras, seguir el ejemplo”.

Como Joshua Williams, de 18 años, y Jermell Hasson, de 27, que el 15 de octubre estuvieron junto con Dowd frente al Departamento de Policía de Ferguson.

“He estado aquí todos los días porque Michael Brown era mi primo hermano”, dijo Williams. “Lo que me trajo aquí fue que yo lo vi en el suelo. Vi su sangre en el suelo. Me pongo en su lugar. Yo podía haber estado en el suelo, podía haber sido el hijo de cualquiera. Luego, estoy luchando por los derechos de los chicos”.

“Eso me hizo presentarme aquí, en representación de todas las personas del mundo y de sus hijos”.

Hasson está de acuerdo rn que el problema significa justicia más plena y más profunda para Michael Brown, “pero eso es sólo un aspecto de lo que está en juego”.

“Esto tiene mucho que ver con los derechos humanos”, agregó. “Esto no es un movimiento de derechos civiles, es un movimiento de derechos humanos. Debo ser capaz de recibir el mismo trato que cualquier otro que entre en una estación de policía en Estados Unidos y estaré aquí indefinidamente”.

Pero por ahora, “me estoy concentrando en Michael Brown. Quiero que un asesino vaya a prisión”, añadió Hasson, quien fue arrestado en la protesta y dijo que acababa de salir de la cárcel el 15 de octubre luego de que lo arrestaran en una protesta anterior. “Si tuviera que encontrar una palabra para [definir a] Ferguson”, dijo, “sería ‘frágil’. Esto puede evolucionar en cualquier dirección. Es sencillamente muy, muy duro”.

Aunque no pertenece a ninguna iglesia, Hasson dijo que mantener una presencia fuera del Departamento de Policía le ha infundido esperanzas debido a “la diversidad que veo aquí. Me muestra que no es sólo mujeres y hombres afroamericanos los que me apoyan. Veo muchísimas mujeres y hermanos blancos, y asiáticos. Me gusta la diversidad, que todo el mundo pueda relacionarse con lo que pasamos en esta sociedad. He aprendido acerca de otras culturas aquí en conversaciones casuales. Ésta es una experiencia de aprendizaje”.

‘Esto es lo que es la teología’
Kinman dice que “una de las características más insidiosas de una sociedad segregada es que no tenemos relaciones donde nos conozcamos mutuamente” y por consiguiente estamos tentados a no vernos los unos a los otros como imágenes de Dios y estamos inducidos al temor y, particularmente cuando estamos cansados y traumatizados, estamos tentados a actuar fuera de lugar”, lo cual le permite a la Iglesia asumir papeles interesantes que pueden parecer contradictorios”.

Un papel es encontrarse “allí donde el Evangelio está surgiendo, a partir de estos líderes jóvenes en la calle. Debemos estar presentes con estos líderes jóvenes en la calle, líderes jóvenes asombrosamente no violentos”, dijo Kinman.

Otro [papel] es entablar relaciones con los agentes de policía, víctimas también de un sistema institucional, dijo Dowd el 15 de octubre. “No estoy aquí para demonizar a los agentes de la policía o de la ley. Quiero que todos trabajemos juntos para encontrar algo mejor”, dijo ella.

“El sistema no beneficia a los agentes de policía tampoco. Los priva de su humanidad; y no beneficia a los jóvenes afroamericanos: muchas veces los priva de la vida”.

Dowd dijo que ella está siendo más consciente del privilegio y de “ las ideas equivocadas que he tenido o de las maneras en que me he beneficiado por ser blanca en este país. Estoy aprendiendo muchísimo de escuchar y de darme cuenta de que no siempre tengo que ser la que esté a cargo [de las cosas]. Es importante escuchar y aprender de los jóvenes negros y seguir su ejemplo sobre el terreno aquí, día tras día, viviéndolo todo el tiempo.

“Para mí, esto es una opción; para ellos, no”, añadió. “Yo puedo participar en esto e irme en el momento en que lo desee. Pero esto es su vida cotidiana. Esto es algo que estos jóvenes sienten que es un asunto de vida o muerte para ellos. Me siento orgullosa y honrada de poder mantenerme en solidaridad para mostrarles lo que quiero decir cundo afirmo que estoy con ellos todo el tiempo”.

Kinman dijo que los manifestantes del 13 de octubre revisaron una tradicional consigna de protesta de preguntas y respuestas y en lugar de decir “muéstrame como es la democracia, así es como es la democracia”, coreaban “muéstrame lo que es la teología; esto es lo que es la teología” y añadió que muchos manifestantes le han pedido a la Iglesia una participación más plena.

Pero agregó: “éste no es el movimiento de los derechos civiles de su abuela. Estos jóvenes se congregan en Twitter y están valiéndose de la tecnología para el cambio social. Y no son episcopales. Uno de los momentos más aleccionadores para nosotros es que estas personas no han estado en nuestras iglesias. Algunos asisten a la Iglesia, pero en general las voces que emergen son voces que sienten que la Iglesia los ha dejado atrás. Quieren saber dónde hemos estado”.

– La Rda. Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Western New York Episcopalians donate to breast cancer research

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 20, 2014

The youth of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Orchard Park and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Grand Island were soggy but triumphant after placing 3,825 flags in lawn of Western New York’s Diocesan Ministry Center. The skies opened up about halfway through the time it took to complete the job. Photo: Diocese of Western New York

[Episcopal Diocese of Western New York] On Oct. 17, the Right Rev. R. William Franklin, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, presented a check for $6,375 to Roswell Park Cancer Institute to be used for breast cancer research. The check is the result of the Pink Flag Campaign held for the diocese’s Health Awareness Week, October 12-18.

The Rev. Cathy Dempesy-Sims, who serves the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Church of the Ascension in Buffalo, accompanied the bishop for the check presentation. Dempesy-Sims is a breast cancer survivor who was successfully treated at Roswell Park in 2010.

“It’s fitting that this donation from our first diocesan-wide Health Awareness Week is going to support breast cancer research at Roswell Park,” said Bishop Franklin. “This world-class cancer center was founded by Dr. Roswell Park, whose father was an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Chicago. After Moving to Buffalo, Dr. Roswell Park was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Buffalo where the Rev. Cathy Dempesy-Sims is now the priest.”

The Pink Flag campaign was coordinated by the diocese. For every $5.00 a member of the diocese donated to the campaign, that member’s church received three bright pink lawn flags for the church’s front lawn. For every flag placed on every church lawn across the diocese, one was also placed on the lawn of the Diocesan Ministry Center at 1064 Brighton Road in Tonawanda.

The campaign resulted in a total of nearly 8,000 pink flags on Episcopal properties across Western New York, 3,825 of them on the Diocesan Ministry Center’s front lawn thanks to the youth of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Orchard Park and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Grand Island.

Health Awareness Week is anchored by the Feast of St. Luke, on October 18th. St. Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons.

Next year, the diocese will focus its attention and support on a different health issue.

Catholic bishops narrowly reject a wider welcome to gays, divorcees

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 20, 2014

[Religion News Service - Vatican City] Catholic bishops meeting here narrowly defeated proposals that would have signaled greater acceptance of gays and lesbians and divorced Catholics, a sign of the deep divisions facing the hierarchy as Pope Francis continues his push for a more open church.

While the various proposals received a majority of support from the bishops gathered for the Synod on the Family, they failed on Saturday (Oct. 18) to receive the required two-thirds majority that would have carried the weight of formal approval and churchwide consensus.

Saturday’s vote was an abrupt about-face from Monday’s mid-term report from the Synod, which spoke of “welcoming homosexual persons” and acknowledging the gifts they have to offer the wider church.

The revised proposal on homosexuality, that “men and women with homosexual tendencies should be welcomed with respect and delicacy,” failed in a vote of 118 to 62; a similar statement about opening Communion to divorced Catholics who remarry outside the church failed in a vote of 104-74.

Despite the divide, Francis received a standing ovation that lasted several minutes in his final address to the Synod, where he had called for  “sincere and open” debate.

After days in which divisions inside the Vatican spilled over into the press, the pope described the two-week summit as a “journey together,” and like any human journey, one that featured moments of “desolation, tension and temptations”.

He said the role of the pope was to guarantee the unity of the church, and that he would have been “very worried and saddened if there had not been these temptations and animated discussions.”

Even though the sections on homosexuality and divorce did not pass with formal approval, Francis ordered them into the Synod’s final report so that Catholics could continue to debate the ideas.

Saturday’s vote, however, is not the final word. Francis plans to host a follow-up summit a year from now, and both sides are expected to spend the next 12 months trying to either reinforce existing policy or trying to nudge the bishops toward a more open approach.

Nonetheless, the closeness of the votes reflected a deep divide within the hierarchy that erupted into the open after Monday’s gesture toward gay Catholics.  After a vocal conservative revolt, English-speaking bishops pressed to change the wording from “welcoming” to  “providing for homosexual persons”.

Catholic reformers and gay groups wasted no time in expressing their disappointment. The progressive reform group Call To Action said the bishops’ report showed “positive steps” but also “missed opportunities.”

“It’s disappointing that some in the institutional church are not yet ready to welcome all God’s children to the table,” said Jim FitzGerald, the group’s executive director.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based gay Catholic group that’s often at odds with the hierarchy, was disappointed that the bishops’ final report overturned the “gracious welcome” issued to gays earlier in the week.

“Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples,” he said in a statement, adding that the bishops had failed to take account of those gays who receive “unjust and oppressive treatment” from governments, church, families, and society.

At a Vatican media conference earlier Saturday, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, insisted there was “no cleavage,” or divide, among the bishops, and that gays and lesbians were welcome in the church.

“Are gays welcome? I would say certainly, they are part of the church,” he said. “There’s no question of condemnation. I would say we are working together.”

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the conservative former archbishop of St. Louis who now heads the Vatican’s highest court, earlier blasted Francis for allowing the synod’s message to stray from official church teaching, especially on homosexuality.

“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke told BuzzFeed from Rome. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

Burke also acknowledged rumors that Francis is poised to demote the fiery conservative to a ceremonial post far away from the church’s center of power.

“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust, by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

Asked by the National Catholic Reporter who had told him of the pending demotion, Burke replied: “Who do you think?”

A mission revolution in the church

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 20, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] A Mission Revolution in the Church, a comprehensive video presentation by Bishop Stacy Sauls, is now available online here.

Presented October 1 to the Episcopal Business Administrators Conference (EBAC) at the group’s annual gathering in New York, Bishop Sauls details the many ways that the Missionary Society can partner with and support mission and ministry at the local level.

“The fundamental mission of the church is to remember about God,” said Bishop Sauls, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church. “That’s why the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society exists.  To help you remind the church about God.  That’s why we’re in business – to support the work you do.”

Through narrative, slides and a variety of videos, Bishop Sauls shares partnership possibilities, funding and grants, and details of the Diocesan Partnership Program.

The video is ideal for group watching and discussion.

For more information contact Bishop Sauls at SSauls@episcopalchurch.org.

Ferguson: ‘The ‘come to Jesus’ moment for us in the church’

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 20, 2014

Danielle Dowd, youth missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, has been spending several days a week on the streets of Ferguson and St. Louis.

[Episcopal News Service] Danielle Dowd was back in front of the Ferguson police department Oct. 15, just two days after being arrested there while protesting the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and other African-American youths.

Since Brown’s Aug. 9 death, “I’ve come a couple of days every week, except for when my 7-year-old daughter had her tonsils out and I needed to do the mom thing. I’ve been able to form some good relationships with young people, whose voices need to be heard,” Dowd, 26, youth missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, told the Episcopal News Service (ENS).

Similarly, the Rev. Jon Stratton, director of Episcopal Service Corps in the diocese, spent Oct. 13 – his 30th birthday – marching, singing, chanting “Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? God’s streets,” and ultimately, being arrested.

They and other Episcopalians were among dozens jailed during a “Moral Monday” action at the Ferguson police department. It was part of a weekend series of acts of civil disobedience across the St. Louis region coordinated by “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and the Organization for Black Struggle.

The emerging movement, its youthful leadership and developing relationships have been compared to 1960s civil rights activism by some and called a human rights movement by others. It has also brought into the open long-festering tensions between the African-American community and the police department, and spawned calls for sweeping educational, economic and institutional change.

The moment presents interesting opportunities for the church, says the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis. “This is the ‘come to Jesus’ moment for us in the church.”

Chuck Wynder, missioner for social justice and advocacy for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, agreed. “We recognize that the church increasingly has a role to play in being a prophetic voice in a safe place for the work of racial justice and reconciliation. We continue to be a resource for the Diocese of Missouri and to bridge the events and the developments in Ferguson with the issues, the dynamics and the conversation around the country.”

Among other things, “we are in the process of building a resource page, through [the wider church’s] Episcopal Public Policy Network, of voices, resources and practices about the death of Michael Brown, the situation in Ferguson and how that relates to the work of social justice and racial reconciliation through the church around the country,” Wynder said.

The church continues to position itself to be an instrumental resource as Ferguson – and the rest of the nation – anxiously awaits the grand jury decision and if charges will stem from the Michael Brown shooting, said Wynder, who added: “We are ramping up for what we know is coming.”

The Episcopal Church has been focusing resources on the Ferguson area since shortly after Brown’s death. In September it awarded $30,000 and Episcopal Relief & Development contributed another $10,000 for a grant to three area churches for domestic poverty, pastoral and community work in Ferguson.

St. Stephen’s (Ferguson), Ascension (Northwoods), and All Saints’ (St. Louis City) have been significantly impacted by the upheaval in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Brown and the community’s response to it. The churches have been at the forefront of mobilizing resources for the community, ministering to the needs of protestors and police alike and simply “being the church” for all.

The march: Repentance, confession, absolution, arrest
Stratton was among an estimated several thousand people who joined the Oct. 13 largely youth-led march, braving so much rain that, at one point, “We were singing ‘Wade in the Water,’” he told ENS on Oct. 15.

“The theme was of repentance and confession and absolution and turning from systems that perpetuate racism and injustice,” including church systems, he said. Clergy confessed their complicity in such systems and called upon police officers, standing in a line outside the Ferguson police station, to do likewise.

“We want to be very clear that the clergy, speaking for myself and those by me, were not talking about individual sin, this is systematic sin,” he added. “We were telling the police officers they were very valued and beloved children of God, but they’re part of a system that not only stereotypes and dehumanizes folks on the other side, but also that leads to the dehumanization of the police force.

“Every time they come out in riot gear, it is a tangible sign of dehumanization. They cease to be seen as people and more as machines or as weapons of violence.”

The occasion marked the second time in her life that the Rev. Anne Kelsey, 67, retired rector of Trinity Church in St. Louis’s Central West End, was arrested. She recalled demonstrating at the Pentagon with the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and Witness for Peace 42 years ago “and this was not like that,” she told ENS. Then, “we were in the concourse of the Pentagon having a Mass for peace.”

From left, the Rev. Anne Kelsey, the Rev. Jeff Moore, and the Rev. Jonathon Stratton, director of the Deaconess Anne House in St. Louis, were arrested together on Oct. 13.

For Kelsey, the weekend, especially a Saturday evening rally, felt historic, like “we were seeing the rebirth of the civil rights movement.”

So she attended the “Moral Monday” action in a cassock and surplice and stole “and we got there and it rained and rained, and halfway through, there was a tornado warning.”

Kelsey joined the protests after the Oct. 8 fatal police shooting of another young African-American man, Vonderrit Myers, near her Shaw neighborhood home.

“I heard the shots and my husband and I walked the three blocks to see what was going on. It was just terrible, the rage and grief and crowds,” she recalled. The circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of Myers – who allegedly had a weapon and fired at police – differ from accounts of the death of Michael Brown, who was unarmed. But, “it was really traumatizing after the Michael Brown thing.”

After police removed the body and crime scene tape, “we stood right on the spot where he died and prayed,” Kelsey said slowly, haltingly, painfully. “I just got involved in ways that I hadn’t planned on. This was my neighborhood,” she said. “There is a divide in this neighborhood. I stood there while this woman yelled at me for a long time. She said she had worked for Amnesty International and was berating the white clergy for not doing enough. It’s not a comfortable situation.”

While demonstrating Oct. 13, Kelsey and others stood in front of the police line at the Ferguson Police Department and asked officers “to repent of the institutional sins of the police department. I told the man I was facing that, whether or not I like it, when I wear my collar, I’m the face of the church for people and I have to be the first one to ask forgiveness for the sins of the church whether I’ve committed them or not in the same way. Police officers wear the face of the justice system. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask them to reflect on that.”

When she knelt in front of him she “fell through the line” and was arrested and immediately handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle. She was jailed for several hours and then released.

An emerging movement: ‘The young people are mentoring us’
Dowd and Stratton have both spent several days a week on the streets of Ferguson and St. Louis “getting to know the young folks who’ve been out there every day for 67 days. Part of what I want to do is to support them and follow them,” Stratton said.

“They’re the ones most affected by the police brutality, who were friends of Michael Brown and live in Ferguson. They are the folks the church needs to be listening to and in many ways, taking our cue from.”

Like Joshua Williams, 18, and Jermell Hasson, 27, who on Oct. 15 were outside the Ferguson police department along with Dowd.

“I’ve been out here every day because Michael Brown was my first cousin,” said Williams. “What brought me out here was, I saw him on the ground. I saw his blood on the ground. I put myself in his position. That could have been me on the ground, could have been anybody else’s child on the ground, So, I’m fighting for the rights of children.

“That made me come out here, for everybody in the world and their kids.”

Hasson agreed that the issue means fuller, deeper justice for Michael Brown, “but that is just one aspect of what’s at stake. “

“This has a lot to do with human rights,” he added. “This isn’t a civil rights movement, it’s a human rights movement. I should be able to get the same treatment as anyone else who steps into a police station across the United States and I will be here till forever.”

But for now, “I’m focusing on Michael Brown. I want a killer to go jail,” added Hasson, who was arrested at the protest and said he had just been released from jail Oct. 15 following a previous protest arrest. “If I had to find a word for Ferguson,” he said, “it’s ‘fragile.’ It can go either way. It’s just very, very hard.”

Unaffiliated with a church, Hasson said maintaining a presence outside the police department has given him hope because of “the diversity I see out here. It shows me that it’s not just African-American women and men that stand for me. I see a lot of white women and brothers, and Asians. I like the diversity, that everyone can relate to what we go through in this society. I’ve learned about other cultures out here in side conversations. This is a learning experience.”

‘This is what theology looks like’
Kinman says that “one of the most insidious pieces of living in a segregated society is that we don’t have relationships where we know each other ” and so are tempted not to see each other in images of God and are tempted into fear and, particularly when we’re tired and in trauma, we’re tempted to act out of those places,” which affords the church really interesting roles that may seem contradictory.

One role is to be “where the Gospel is emerging, from these young leaders on the street. We need to be present with these young leaders on the street, amazing nonviolent young leaders,” Kinman said.

Another is to build relationships with police officers, also victims of an institutional system, Dowd said Oct.15. “I am not out here to demonize police officers or law enforcement. I want us all to work together to find something better,” she said.

“The system doesn’t benefit police officers, either. It strips them of their humanity and it doesn’t benefit young African-Americans. Many times, it strips them of their lives.”

Dowd said she is learning more about privilege and “the misconceptions I’ve had or ways I’ve benefitted from being white in this country. I’m learning to do a lot of listening and realizing I don’t have to always be the one in charge. It’s important to listen and learn from and follow the lead of young black people on the ground here, day in and day out, living it all the time.

“For me, this is a choice; for them, it’s not,” she added. “I can step into this and step away any time I want. But this is their everyday life. This is something that these young people feel is a matter of life and death for them. I am proud and honored and humbled to be able to stand in solidarity to show them I mean it when I say I’m with them all the way.”

Kinman said that on Oct. 13 demonstrators revised a traditional protest call-and-response chant from “show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like’ to “show me what theology looks like, this is what theology looks like” and added that many protestors have called upon the church to get more fully involved.

But he added: “this isn’t your grandmother’s civil rights movement. These young people met on Twitter and are using technology for social change. And, they’re not Episcopalian. One of the major teachable moments for us is, these are people who have not been in our churches. Some go to church but in general the voices coming out are voices that feel like the church has left them behind. They want to know where we’ve been.”

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

Statements following General Seminary board of trustees’ action

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 20, 2014

Updated Oct. 21 with a statement from Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Provisional Clifton Daniel, a resolution passed by the Diocese of California and a statement from the Executive Committee of the General Theological Seminary Alumni/ae Association.

Several statements have been circulated following the Oct. 17 decision by the General Theological Seminary board of trustees to reaffirm their call to the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle as president and dean and to invite the eight striking professors to request “provisional reinstatement.”

Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Provisional Clifton Daniel (GTS trustee) writes:

While we cannot change the past, we can with the guidance of the Holy Spirit seek to redeem the future. Each party in this family quarrel we now experience at the General Theological Seminary (GTS) is called to acknowledge its responsibility and accountability for our present state. I call for a season of self-examination and repentance as our GTS community seeks the presence of Jesus to lead us toward reconciliation …

I plead with all members of the GTS community and beyond to refrain from making rash statements based on appearance and assumption without having the benefit of all the facts. I pray that all who are involved or who participate in any way in vicious and wounding attacks towards individuals or groups who are part of the Seminary community either in private communication or on social media will cease this un-Christlike, hurtful and damaging behavior…

The full text of Daniel’s statement can be found here.

The Diocese of California, meeting in its 165th  annual convention, passes resolution:

The Diocese of California deplores the actions of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in firing 8 faculty members protesting the dean and president’s allegedly inappropriate behavior.

The full text of the resolution can be found on page 5 here.

The Executive Committee of the General Theological Seminary Alumni/ae Association writes:

We denounce the tactical handling of these matters by all parties. We are called by God to model a different way of being. Where in this is respect for the dignity of every human being? Where are we seeking Christ? What practical steps have you taken or proposed toward reconciliation with any of the constituencies involved – faculty, alumni, students, or the Church at large? In conflicts such as these many differing interventions are necessary for reconciliation. We see no sign from you of this. We beseech the Board of Trustees to make those plans known so that we might cling to hope rather than give in to despair.

The full text of the statement can be found on the GTS Alumni/ae Association here.

Bishop William “Chip” Stokes of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey (GTS trustee) writes:

My support of a resolution that called for the eight faculty to be “provisionally” reinstated, as the resolution was worded, was based on my conviction that they ought to be returned to their positions, but also my deep concern that they have not, as far as I am aware, rescinded the ultimatums contained in their letters of September 17 and September 24 which were publicly issued, nor have they acknowledged their share and culpability in this matter which have played a major contributing role in this crisis. I continue to have this concern.  

Similarly, the Board, its Executive Committee and the Dean have not acknowledged clearly the major and contributing responsibility and culpability we each share in this matter.  There is, in short, a genuine need for public confession and repentance from all the major parties: Board and its Executive Committee, Dean, and Faculty.

Having stated this, I am grateful for Bishop Dietsche’s courage and leadership and for his attempt to create a clearer path toward reconciliation [see statement below].  I am willing to support his call for the faculty to be immediately and fully reinstated with the understanding that there continues to be a need for public confession, healing and reconciliation from all parties …

The full text of Stokes’ statement can be found here.

Bishop Andrew Dietsche of the Episcopal Diocese of New York (GTS trustee ex-officio) writes:

Throughout this process, I have been single-minded in my conviction that there was no imaginable way to reconcile or resolve this matter without first giving unconditional reinstatement to the eight striking faculty members.  It also became clear to me that by the decision to terminate the faculty, the board had so inflamed the situation that the board itself had become a participant in the conflict, and in ways that were impeding the hope of a just and fair resolution of the crisis.  Early on, I advocated for just such an across-the-board reinstatement in appeals directly to the executive committee of the board, and then to the full board itself.  By no means was I alone in making that case.  I was one of a number of voices across the board which have continually called for a path toward reconciliation and for the reinstatement of the faculty…

The full text of Dietsche’s letter to the diocese is available here.

Bishop Tom Breidenthal of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio writes:

I feel compelled, not only as a former member of the GTS faculty, but also as a bishop, to register my dismay and indignation regarding this decision.

First of all, as is plain for all to see, the board has been dishonest in its claim that the eight faculty members resigned their positions when they went on strike. In fact, they were summarily fired. Second, the board has placed the eight in the humiliating position of begging for their jobs back – and at that, only provisionally, for “the remainder of the academic year.” This is nothing less than shaming behavior, unworthy of a seminary board. Worst of all, the board has failed to model the humility and fellowship to which we are called in Jesus Christ.

The full text of Breidenthal’s statement can be found on his Facebook page here.

The eight striking faculty members issued the following statement:

The eight fired faculty members of the General Theological Seminary sincerely thank the thousands of academics, hundreds of clergy and colleagues, GTS alumni, and other Christian faithful from around the world who have expressed their support for us in the aftermath of the Board of Trustees’ disappointing decision today. Your prayers, your passionate commitment to our cause, and outpouring of love continue to lift us up and sustain us.

For now, we need to spend some time individually and collectively in prayerful reflection on the Board’s decision so that we can determine the best way forward.

Artistas cristianos, musulmanes y judíos se unen en oración por el mundo

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 20, 2014

El Rdo. Paul-Gordon Chandler, presidente y fundador de CARAVAN, una organización interreligiosa sin fines de lucro que une culturas y credos de Occidente y el Oriente Medio mediante las artes, de pie junto a una obra de Mahmoud Hamdy en la exposición artística de CARAVAN 2014 que con el título de “AMÉN: una oración por el mundo” se muestra en la catedral de San Juan el Teólogo de Nueva York hasta el 23 de septiembre. Foto de Amy Sowder.

[Episcopal News Service] El Rdo. Paul-Gordon Chandler creció en Senegal, país predominantemente musulmán de África Occidental donde su padre fue ministro.

A lo largo de su infancia, percibió la tensión entre musulmanes y cristianos.

“Creía que debía haber un mejor camino. La mayoría de mis mejores amigos eran musulmanes, y todavía hoy, abundan los musulmanes entre mis amigos más íntimos”, dijo el sacerdote episcopal, sentado en un banco de madera de San Juan el Teólogo [St. John the Divine] la catedral episcopal de Nueva York y el templo gótico más grande del mundo. Él respondía a llamadas y mensajes de texto de su teléfono celular mientras tomaba un receso en el montaje de CARAVAN 2014, una exposición de artes visuales titulada: “AMÉN: una oración por el mundo”.

La muestra artística, abierta al público hasta el 23 de noviembre, encarna la misión de Chandler de toda la vida: suavizar las tensiones religiosas y culturales concentrándose en las características compartidas en lugar de intentar sobreponerse a las diferencias. Con el extremismo y la persecución religiosos tan predominantes y tan densamente entrelazados con la política, especialmente en el Oriente Medio, la misión es necesaria ahora más que nunca, afirmó.

Obra de arte de Reda Abdel Rahman, cocurador de la exposición CARAVAN 2014, “AMÉN: una oración por el mundo” que se exhibe en la catedral de San Juan el Teólogo in Nueva York hasta el 23 de noviembre. Foto de Amy Sowder.

Reda Abdel Rahman es un artista egipcio que participa y que es cocurador de la exposición con Chandler, fundador y presidente de CARAVAN, organización de arte interreligioso sin fines de lucro, con la exposición anual de CARAVAN como iniciativa principal. Este año, seleccionaron a 48 artistas —30 artistas egipcios de origen musulmán y cristiano, y 18 artistas occidentales de origen judío y cristiano. CARAVAN surgió en El Cairo en 2009, para tender puentes entre las culturas y credos del Oriente Medio y Occidente a través de las artes.

La obra de 30 artistas egipcios se presentó primero en junio en el Museo de Arte Moderno de El Cairo, y luego se le agregó la obra de 18 artistas occidentales para una exposición conjunta en la Catedral Nacional de Washington, antes de su última escala en Nueva York.

Esta sexta exposición anual incluye por primera vez a artistas judíos.

Chandler and Rahman eligieron tanto a artistas destacados como noveles que comparten su misión de utilizar el arte para fomentar la unidad, la amistad y la paz en todo el mundo. Los artistas están encargados de interpretar el tema de la exposición en la forma escultórica que les han dado. Este año, es la figura humana en oración a partir de poses tomadas de las fes abrahámicas. La cara del modelo tomado para la oración escultórica es Amón, la deidad de la antigua Tebas en la XI dinastía (en el siglo XXI A.C.) que se considera el primero en inclinar la religión hacia el monoteísmo.

El tema “Amén” también encarna el espíritu de la revolución egipcia de enero de 2011, cuando multitudes de musulmanes y cristianos, de diferentes niveles de educación, antecedentes económicos y etnias, se unieron en solidaridad contra las violaciones a los derechos humanos del gobierno autocrático encabezado durante casi 30 años por Hosni Mubarak. Luego de la caída de Mubarak, las primeras elecciones parlamentarias libres del país eligieron como presidente a Mohamed Morsi líder de la Hermandad Musulmana. Pero las protestas contra el autoritarismo de Morsi dieron lugar a un golpe de Estado en 2013 y a la elección del ex general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi en 2014. Chandler estaba residiendo en El Cairo durante todo este período de agitación política.

Obras de la exposición de arte CARAVAN 2014 “AMÉN: una oración para el mundo”. Foto de Amy Sowder.

Cualquiera que usurpe el poder [en Egipto] inevitablemente tiene nexos con los grupos religiosos, ya se trate de la Hermandad Musulmana, la Iglesia Copta, los musulmanes moderados u otros aliados religiosos, y con frecuencia la secta religioso-política que pierde influencia en las altas esferas del gobierno pierde dignidad, libertad y muy a menudo también la vida de sus partidarios. De manera que los conflictos culturales y religiosos continúan.

“Lo que necesitamos es gran visibilidad en los medios de información de cristianos y musulmanes trabajando juntos”, dijo Chandler. “Empieza por configurar la visión del mundo”, afirmó. “Ese es su objetivo al unir a los artistas para los eventos de CARAVAN.

Rahman nació en Ismailía, Egipto, y es uno de los más destacados artistas de su país en la actualidad. Creció rodeado por monumentos faraónicos y monasterios coptos, y ello es evidente en su obra. También resulta clara su admiración por la figura femenina y por el papel clave de la mujer en la familia y en la sociedad en general.

Para contribuir a la exposición “AMÉN”, Rahman creó una antigua reina egipcia en torno a la cual sólo había emanaciones del bien, sentada encima de Set, el antiguo dios egipcio del mal, que muestra su control sobre las fuerzas del islam político que han agredido a la civilización. Muchas de sus obras combinan diferentes sistemas de creencias.

“Pensamos de una sola manera”, dijo Rahman, “por eso yo hago mis retratos de muchas maneras, con la estrella judía y la cruz cristiana y la media luna musulmana. Quiero que diferentes personas sientan que somos lo mismo, también el mismo Dios, tan sólo difiere la cultura”.

Rahman conoció a Chandler mientras el sacerdote episcopal atendía, como rector, la iglesia de San Juan el Bautista/Madi [St. John the Baptist/Madi] en El Cairo, la iglesia internacional episcopal/anglicana de habla inglesa de la Diócesis Episcopal de Egipto y el Norte de África. Chandler es también compañero en misión de la Iglesia Episcopal, dedicado al Oriente Medio. Rahman participó como artista en la exposición inicial de Artes Visuales CARAVAN en El Cairo. Ésta es la segunda vez que participa en la curaduría de la exposición de arte CARAVAN. Él vive con su esposa e hijos en Queens, Nueva York, y tienen también una casa en El Cairo.

Durante los últimos años, el arte de Rahman ha abordado el tema del conflicto religioso y político en Egipto, el cual se aplica a muchas áreas del Oriente Medio, particularmente al extremismo islámico en Irak y Siria.

“En el mundo de hoy, necesitamos paz”, dijo Rahman. “No tenemos que producir todos estos problemas”.

Para su obra de arte en la exposición, la artista judía Lilianne Milgrom disfrutó investigando sobre los ángeles, o mensajeros alados, en los textos sagrados islámicos, judíos y cristianos. Nacida en París, Milgrom vivió parte de su infancia en Australia y luego pasó 17 años en Israel antes de establecerse en Washington, D.C.

Ella tomó la forma escultórica “AMÉN” en la tradicional pose devota judía, y le añadió alas. El frente del pecho de su ángel aparece blasonado con el código QR para conectar el mundo espiritual con el mundo digital. Los visitantes pueden mover sus teléfonos celulares frente a su escultura para escanear el código que los llevará a www.virtualangel.weebly.com, donde pueden publicar una oración.

“La oración es un diálogo, no importa cuál sea la religión, y yo quería hacerla interactiva en cualquier nivel en que se encontrara el espectador, desde ateo a creyente”, dijo Milgrom.

Chandler usa un anillo que simboliza el puente que una persona puede tender para conectar a musulmanes y cristianos. Foto de Amy Sowder.

Las oraciones en la página web van desde el ateo al cristiano, pasando por el humanista ético y más allá, con toda una variedad de accesos: “Por favor, sálvanos de nosotros mismos”, “Paz para el mundo”, “¿Por qué?” y “Que las personas puedan verse mutuamente lo bueno”.

Milgrom y Chandler compartirán la curaduría de la exposición CARAVAN 2015, que se inaugurará en París. Chandler insiste en que la misión de CARAVAN va más allá que alentar el diálogo interreligioso.

“Soy un apasionado de las amistades interreligiosas”, dijo Chandler, quitándose el anillo de plata que usa y que muestra a una persona salvando la brecha entre los símbolos de la cruz cristiana y la media luna musulmana.

“La amistad implica tiempo y la dedicación a la otra persona”, afirmó. “CARAVAN es un catalizador creativo para eso”.

– Amy Sowder es corresponsal de ENS. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Presiding Bishop preaches at Western Kansas Diocesan Convention

ENS Headlines - Monday, October 20, 2014

Western Kansas Diocesan Convention
Feast of Ignatius
17 October 2014
Opening Eucharist

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

Ignatius was a martyr. He didn’t just die for his faith, he agitated for martyrdom. When he heard the Roman emperor Trajan was nearby, he went and stood in front of him and publicly proclaimed himself a Christian. Since being a Christian was a crime against the state – essentially treason – the emperor did what he was supposed to do. He had him arrested and taken to Rome to be executed. His sentence was to be thrown to the beasts in the Coliseum,[1] and he was likely the first Christian to die in that way – in 115 CE.

A martyr is a witness, someone who gives evidence (as in a trial) or testifies to the truth he or she knows. Ignatius gave public testimony to his allegiance to Jesus Christ, rather than the emperor or the traditional gods of the state – which is why Christianity was counted as treason. Ignatius made the ultimate witness with his very life.

Most of what we know about Ignatius is the result of seven letters he wrote to other Christian communities while he was being hauled in chains to Rome. He was escorted across the Middle East by ten Roman soldiers, whom he referred to, perhaps with some affection, as “my savage leopards.”[2]

Ignatius was probably born in Syria about the time Jesus was crucified. There is a sweet legend told that he was the child Jesus was talking about when he said, “whoever humbles himself and becomes like this child will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”[3] In any case, Ignatius was evidently a follower of Jesus by the time he was an adult and called into service as the second Bishop of Antioch – after St. Peter. He continued as bishop for more than 40 years, and his whole life as a Christian was a witness and a testimony, not just the last few months.

His letters tell us a lot about the debates in early Christianity – he insists that Jesus was fully human, rather than only appearing to be, and that he really died and rose from the dead. He offers a developed understanding of the Trinity; firm teaching about the order of the Church – including bishops, priests, and deacons; encouragement to see baptism as what unites the church across the world; and the Eucharist as what most sustains the Christian community. Here’s a sample: “Try to gather more frequently to celebrate God’s Eucharist and to praise him… At these meetings you should heed the bishop and presbytery attentively and break one loaf, which is the medicine of immortality…”[4]

He is an old man by the time he’s arrested. At the age of at least 80, he knows he is at the end of his life, and he yearns to give the ultimate witness, “let me be a meal for the beasts, I am God’s wheat, to be ground fine by the teeth of lions to become purest bread for Christ.”[5]

Most of us never have to worry about savage wild beasts or being executed by the state for what we believe. What connects us with those first century realities? The Episcopal bishops who met in Asia in September learned a lot about the challenge of being a Christian in non-Christian societies. It may not be illegal to be Christian in Taiwan, Japan, or mainland China, but it’s definitely not normative. Only 5% of the population in Taiwan and China is Christian; 2% in Japan; less than that in Pakistan; 10% in Syria[6] – at least before the recent violence. People who leave their ancestral religious traditions are often shunned and disowned and disinherited by their families. In parts of India, every baptism requires a license from the local government. We read about Muslim women arrested for the crime of apostasy for marrying Christian men. The Christians who are being driven out of Syria today date their presence from the time of Ignatius.

Yet the more immediate connection is about the foundation of baptismal witness, which Ignatius insists is most characteristic of the body of Christ. Aren’t those responding to the Ebola crisis offering their lives as witnesses to the love of God? Liberia is one of the epicenters of Ebola, and the Diocese of Liberia has turned the campus and resources of Cuttington University over to the work of caring for the sick, burying the dead, and seeking healing for a nation – and ultimately, the world. That is a very particular kind of martyrdom.

During the 19th century yellow fever outbreaks in the eastern and southern United States, Episcopalians and other people of faith stayed to care for the sick, rather than fleeing to disease-free territory. A number of them made the ultimate witness, and the Martyrs of Memphis are remembered on our calendar of saints.

There have been plenty of unsung heroes and saints and martyrs here on the plains as well – those who tended the sick and buried the dead, who sought peace with Native Americans, the Kansans who stood up for integrated and equal schools for all our children,[7] and those who continue to fight for justice everywhere.

Hisanori Kano was a Japanese martyr who lived a couple of hours north of here.[8] He became a Christian as a teenager in Japan, and then came here in the early 20th century to teach farmers and serve Japanese immigrants. He was a bold and public advocate for their inclusion in American society – and the only Nebraskan interned during WWII. He became a priest and continued to serve for decades – much like the clergy and people here.

There’s an old saying that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.[9] Today, we might say that the witness of Jesus’ friends keeps the blood of Christ circulating in the world around us. You’ve lived with that awareness about baptismal ministry for a century. Your local Ignatius, Sheldon Griswold, the first missionary bishop, put it this way in 1916, “Lay-people… must be our most active missionaries unless we are to remain a small religious body in Kansas regarded as peculiar in habit and narrow in thought and sympathy.”

The Episcopal Church today is anything but ‘peculiar in habit and narrow in its understandings.’ When we’re being faithful, we continue to offer our life for the healing of the world. It can be painful, particularly when some people decide to leave because we’re not narrow enough. A piece of our common life departs with them. Maybe we do seem peculiar to some when we say, ‘you’re welcome here, whoever you are, and we’ll hear your opinions, tell you ours, and together find ways to expand the conversation.’ As a body, we’re trying to live out what Jesus said to his disciples, “lose your life in service and witness, and you will find it.” Until Jesus comes back again, we will never end our wrestling and witnessing. For we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God – not life or death, not struggle or being called vile heretics, not wild beasts or epidemic viruses. We know that when grains of wheat die to themselves, they become part of the wild and creative possibility God continues to unfold, even if we have to push up through the dirt to find it.

What sort of martyrs do we have here? Witnesses to the love of God through 60 years of marriage. Two women, bound by baptism, who started Camp Runamok for kids from the inner city. Faithful priests who stay and serve and serve and stay some more. Friends who go to each other’s churches and learn and grow and testify to the love of God in Christ wherever they go. The nearly 60 years of witness of what is now St. Francis Community Services, transforming lives, families, communities, and the world.[10] Your current Ignatius is walking a new journey of witness to the love of God that is teaching the wider Church about the possibilities of new models amid the goodness of old ones.[11] Martyrs abound around here, and even though they may seem quiet, they’re offering persistent witness to the power of God to do a new thing when we’re willing to offer what we have and who we are.

So pray for good counsel together here in this Convention, make a witness of God’s love in Jesus Christ, die a little or a lot, and trust that together we can help to create a healed and reconciled world of peace for all.

[1] Damnatio ad bestia

[2] Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans

[3] Matt 18:2-4

[4] Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians 20:2

[5] Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans 4

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country#Sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories

[7] Brown v Board of Education http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/brownvboard/brownaccount.html

[8] http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/07/26/legendary-japanese-american-priest-celebrated-in-nebraska/

[9] Tertullian, Apologetics

[10] http://www.st-francis.org/

[11] Bishop Michael Milliken announced a shift from serving both as rector of a congregation and as bishop of Western Kansas at this Convention. He will resign as rector at the end of 2014 and serve about two more years as bishop, with the aim of leading the diocese into a pattern of episcopacy that will serve the future.

General Seminary trustees issue statement

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014

[General Theological Seminary press release] On October 17, 2014, The General Theological Seminary issues this statement:

“Shaping the future leaders of our Church is a responsibility we take very seriously; to that end, the concerns raised by eight members of the Faculty were given full consideration by both the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee. Our chief goal is a fruitful and fulfilling school year for our students.

“We are above all an institution of the Church, and we – both as individuals and as officials of the Seminary – strive to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our guiding Christian principles. In this spirit, the Board has reviewed the findings of an independent investigation and reached three resolutions.

“First, the Board has heard the findings of an independent report and the advice of the Board’s Chancellor, and has concluded after extensive discussion that there are not sufficient grounds for terminating the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle as President and Dean. We reaffirm our call to him as President and Dean and offer him our continuing support.

“Second, all eight Faculty members are invited to request provisional reinstatement as professors of the seminary. Our goal in the immediate term will be to promote an atmosphere of reconciliation so that the Seminary can turn the page and move forward with a full focus on the student body.

“The Executive Committee stands ready to meet next week to hear requests of any of the eight former faculty members for reinstatement and to negotiate the terms of their provisional employment for the remainder of the academic year.”

“Lastly, the Board commits itself to repairing the significant damage this issue has inflicted upon our Seminary, and calls upon all members of the GTS community – the Board, the Dean, students, Faculty, staff, and alumni – to foster greater accountability, repentance, reconciliation, and healing.

“For nearly 200 years, the General Theological Seminary has shaped current and future leaders of our Church. In an ever more challenging and volatile world, our Christian faith is an invaluable beacon that we all must strive to protect. We thank our Executive Committee, our Church leadership, our Faculty, and most of all our students for their continued faith during this challenging time. We commit ourselves to meditate upon these scriptures: Matthew 18:15-20, 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, and Ephesians 2:13-14.

Trinity Wall Street grants include response to Ebola outbreak

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014
[Trinity Wall Street press release] At its October meeting, the Trinity Wall Street vestry approved more than $1.7 million in new grants. A grant of $300,000 was made to the Province of West Africa for emergency relief and response to the Ebola outbreak. These funds will go directly to the Dioceses of Bo and Freetown in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.

The dioceses are coordinating with national governments and organizing local responses to educate communities about prevention; provide medical supplies for health workers; provide emergency food, particularly to those in quarantined areas; and assist with detection and case management in local communities.

Other grants approved include $396,000 to various education initiatives in the United States, $50,000 to the Metropolitan Industrial Areas Foundation to curb gun violence, and several grants totaling over $1.1 million, to Anglican dioceses in Africa to support projects of financial sustainability.

Click here for a full list of grants.

Requiescat in pace: Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014

The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE

[Diocese of Massachusetts press release] The Society of St. John the Evangelist has announced that the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, monk and, for 20 years, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, died on Oct. 17 in the care of his SSJE brothers at Emery House in West Newbury, Massachusetts. He was 69.

“During his last days, our brother Tom spoke of how very, very thankful he was for the life God had given him:  for the many wonderful people he had met, for the opportunities and challenges he had faced and for the amazing grace he had experienced throughout his life,” the Rev. Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE, Superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, said in the announcement.

Shaw “was a man of deep prayer, a charismatic figure who connected easily with young and old alike and a leader whose creativity and entrepreneurial spirit led him to invent what was needed and new. He was known for his sometimes-mischievous sense of humor, his tenacious courage and his passion to serve Jesus, both among the privileged and the poor,” the SSJE announcement said.

Funeral service arrangements are pending.

“The whole of The Episcopal Church gives thanks for the life and witness of Bishop Thomas Shaw.  He was a light in our generation, and his quiet and committed passion will not soon be extinguished.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a written statement. “And may his brothers in the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and his family, know that we share their grief – and their joy in Tom’s return to the One who loves beyond imagining.  The hosts of heaven sound the refrain, ‘well done, good and faithful servant – rest in peace.'”

Marvil Thomas Shaw III was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, on Aug. 28, 1945, the son of Marvil Thomas Shaw Jr. and Wilma Sylvia (Janes) Shaw. He grew up in the family’s parish, St. Mark’s Church in Coldwater, Mich., and graduated from Alma College. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from General Theological Seminary and a Master of Arts degree in theology from the Catholic University of America. Ordained to the priesthood in 1971, he served as curate at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, England, from 1970 to 1971, and as assistant rector of St. James’s Church in Milwaukee, from 1972 to 1974.

In 1975 Shaw entered the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE), the oldest religious order for men in the Episcopal/Anglican church. Life-professed in the order in 1981, he was elected its superior the following year and served a 10-year term. During that time, according to the SSJE, he was instrumental in developing the society’s rural Emery House property as a retreat center, establishing the Cowley publishing imprint for books on prayer and spirituality and renewing the society’s longtime commitment to at-risk children in Boston through Camp St. Augustine in Foxborough, Massachusetts. He also initiated the brothers’ rewriting of their The Rule of Life of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, an eight-year process that resulted in a unique contemporary monastic rule.

He was in demand nationwide as a preacher, retreat leader and spiritual director, and served, beginning in 1993, as chaplain to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

Shaw was elected bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Massachusetts on the first ballot at a special Diocesan Convention on March 12, 1994, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. He was ordained and consecrated a bishop on Sept. 24, 1994, and succeeded the late Rt. Rev. David E. Johnson on Jan. 15, 1995, to become the 15th bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts.

At a retirement celebration for Shaw in June, the Rt. Rev. Frank T. Griswold III, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, acknowledged the difficult circumstances of Shaw’s abrupt entry into office following the suicide of his predecessor, and how the subsequent years were about both diocese and bishop shaping one another “according to St. Paul’s notion of the church as Christ’s risen body constituted by the relationship of its diverse limbs one to another.”

Calling his friend and colleague “a catalyst and at times a provocateur,” Griswold highlighted Shaw’s success at fundraising, his initiatives focused on young people and his work to build global relationships.

“During these last 20 years he has exercised a ministry of accompaniment in various parts of our Anglican Communion that has both respected and transcended difference,” Griswold said.

Shaw traveled frequently and led groups to Israel and Palestine, Africa and Central America, developing and strengthening mission relationships with Anglican partners to further the church’s work of reconciliation and service in the world, with particular focus on peacemaking and alleviating poverty and disease. In 1998 he contributed to the work of the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops on international debt and economic issues.

When Shaw returned for his second Lambeth Conference 10 years later, there was rift in the Anglican Communion over issues of sexuality surfaced by the 2003 consecration of the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson.

Shaw, himself a gay man, often spoke of conversation as the hard work that is necessary to conversion — a theme of his 2008 book, Conversations with Scripture and with Each Other — and he attended Lambeth with a commitment to sharing the experience of the Diocese of Massachusetts, where the ordination process was open to all qualified candidates and same-sex marriage had been legal statewide since 2004.

“You know, we didn’t come to where we are around ordaining gay and lesbian people or blessing same-sex unions lightly. It is the context out of which Christ has called us to minister, and we’re trying to do that as faithfully as we can to tradition, to Scripture and to the experience that we have,” Shaw said in an interview upon his return from Lambeth. Remaining faithful to God’s mission in the world — particularly where that meant advocating and implementing poverty-alleviating measures — was the communion’s way forward, he said.

Shaw saw no dichotomy between the daily hours he spent in solitary prayer and the public demonstrations he joined on city streets and State House steps; he believed that prayer leads to action, and sought to make the Episcopal Church a visible and vocal presence in the public arena.

“We are what God has to do good in the world.  Every one of us has a voice and can make a difference if we exercise that,” he said in a 2004 interview. “I don’t think that on most civil rights issues, for instance, we can point to one huge event that’s changed everything.  I think instead it’s thousands of ordinary people doing what they think is right, taking risks, speaking out in their lives in big ways and small ways.  Eventually that turns the tide.  God really depends on us for that.”

He spoke out over the years against the death penalty and for immigration policy and gun law reform, marriage equality and transgender civil rights, among numerous other social justice issues. Annually he led groups of Episcopalians across Boston Common to the Massachusetts State House to be lobbyists for a day. In the spring of 2000, he spent a month in Washington, D.C., as a congressional intern, exploring the church’s role in public life. In 2001 he caused an uproar when he and his assisting bishops joined a peace witness outside Boston’s Israeli consulate to bring attention to the situation of Palestinians.

Monk in the Midst,” Shaw’s 2013 blog of videos and personal reflections, “encapsulates the dual blessing he brought to his episcopate,” according to his successor, the Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates. “Because he was a monk, he brought the heritage of a Christian spirituality which invited us to deeper prayer, deeper reflection, a more disciplined approach to ‘going deep.’ But he was also ‘in the midst’ — fully present to the realities of societal change and communal need far beyond the walls of his monastic dwelling, realities which demanded the church’s engagement and response,” Gates said.

Within the diocese, Shaw was especially committed to ministry with young people, advocating full inclusion of children, youth and young adults in the life of the church. He was unstinting in his support for start-up projects to serve them, including the establishment of tuition-free schools for economically disadvantaged children in Boston and Lawrence; summer programs for city children hosted in Episcopal churches located in violence-plagued neighborhoods; the creation of a youth leadership training program for high school-aged Episcopalians; and the financing and construction of the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield, New Hampshire.

He would clear his calendar to chaplain children’s summer camp sessions, travel with teens and college students on mission trips and venture into downtown bars to speak to young adult gatherings, often returning with enthusiasm for replicating something transformative he had learned or experienced.

Recognizing that young adults are more inclined to seek out faith connections through engagement with their peers and public service, for example, he fostered vocational discernment and intern programs in the diocese that, in their current iteration, deploy young adults trained in community organizing to serve in churches and nonprofits while devoting themselves to spiritual practices and living together in intentional Christian community.

Shaw proved over his tenure to be a bishop who was not only unafraid to talk about money but who also didn’t mind asking people for it when he believed it would do Gospel good in the world. On the heels of the recession, he persistently  launched a $20-million fundraising campaign, completed a year-and-a-half later, for an array of initiatives focused on building up congregational life and mission in the diocese through collaboration and by expanding the reach of successful diocesan programs that had begun as experiments. Campaign funds are now making possible “green” grants and loans to help churches make energy-efficiency improvements to their buildings and reduce their carbon footprint; regional “mission hubs” through which Episcopal churches are collaborating on community service projects to meet local needs; a Mission Institute to provide ministry and leadership training; and renovations to the diocese’s Cathedral Church of St. Paul to make it more accessible and energy efficient and better configured to host and model innovative worship, ministry and public witness.

“I don’t think this is a time that is appropriate for raising endowment to preserve the institution,” Shaw said of the campaign’s success, in a 2013 interview. “God is calling the church into change, and to have funding for experimentation and to further mission in ways that we know are capturing people’s attention is critical.  From that we’ll discover what has lasting value,” he said.

Shaw announced in January 2013 his intention to retire; later that year, in May, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He resigned his office on Sept. 13, 2014, at the consecration of Gates as his successor.
“To follow in the footsteps of Bishop Tom Shaw is a very great gift, and a very positive challenge. Christ’s ministry through the church in this diocese is strong and vital, the legacy of leadership left by Bishop Tom is inspiring,” Gates said.

Throughout his years as bishop, Shaw continued to live at the SSJE monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, retreating regularly to his cottage studio at Emery House where he enjoyed crafting pottery. He is survived by his SSJE brothers and his family, including his sister, Penny (Lee Deters) Shaw, of Louisville, Kentuckey, brothers Sam (Nancy) Shaw of Boulder, Colorado, and Stephen (Linda) Shaw of Sherwood, Oregon, and his nieces, nephews and godchildren.

–Tracy J. Sukraw is director of communications of the Diocese of Massachusetts.

RIP: The Rev. John Andrew, former rector of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014

[St. Thomas Fifth Avenue] The Rev. Canon John Andrew, faithful priest and XI rector of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, entered into glory at 5:20 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, Oct. 17 at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

On Wednesday evening, Father Andrew had dinner with Bishop John O’Hara, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. On his way home, Father Andrew suffered a massive cardiac episode and collapsed. He was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital but never regained consciousness.

Father Carl Turner, XIII Rector, celebrated the last rites of the church with Father Andrew Thursday afternoon. Father Andrew was not in pain and was receiving exemplary care. He was surrounded by many prayers and much love as he died.

Bishop O’Hara told us that he had a wonderful evening with Father Andrew; he was reminiscing with great happiness and especially about Saint Thomas Church. Very appropriately, he died furthering ecumenism and feeling loved by his friends and family.

Details of his funeral arrangements will be posted here in due course.

Andrew OBE, DD, who was born in Yorkshire, England, was a priest in the Church of England and served as domestic chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, a position from which he was called to Saint Thomas in 1972. As XI Rector, he had a distinguished tenure, in which his preaching, pastoral presence and leadership of the liturgy drew large congregations to the Church, an achievement especially notable during an era of general decline in the Episcopal Church. He was awarded honorary degrees from several Episcopal/Anglican seminaries in recognition of his work.

John Andrew was a friend and confidant of many church leaders both within and outside Anglicanism. He was a particular friend of Cardinal Terence Cooke and was a promoter of ecumenical relations between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

Father Andrew’s ministry was remarkable for his ability in social conversation, humor, and joyousness – for which reasons many were eager to claim him as their friend. The secret of his influence was a gift he received and passed on from Archbishop Ramsey – namely, his transparent faith in Jesus and the miracles of the Gospel.

After a brief retirement to England, Father Andrew returned to New York in 1999 where he eventually returned to Saint Thomas at his successor’s invitation to be the “junior curate” as Rector Emeritus. In this role he took part in the liturgy, in social conversation with parishioners, and in fund raising. He departs this life as a beloved member of the Saint Thomas family for over 40 years.

Gibaut named as Anglican Communion director of unity, faith and order

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014

Canon John Gibaut (left) meets Pope Francis.

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Rev. Canon John Gibaut has been appointed to succeed the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan in March 2015 as director for Unity, Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion.

Gibaut is currently the Director of the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order based in Geneva Switzerland. Faith and Order is the theological commission that resolves issues of Christian disunity, and promotes a vision of the Church as a communion of unity in diversty.

A priest and canon theologian of the Diocese of Ottawa, Anglican Church of Canada, Canon Gibaut is currently an assistant priest of Eglise St-Germain, Geneva, église catholique-chrétienne (Old Catholic Diocese of Switzerland).

Previously to his appointment to the WCC position, he was a professor at Faculty of Theology, Saint Paul University, Ottawa. Here he taught in the areas of ecumenism, liturgy, church history, historical theology, homiletics, and Anglican studies. Canon Gibaut has also served at Toronto’s St James’s Cathedral and St Clement’s Mission Centre in the Diocese of Quebec.

Well known in ecumenical circles, the 55-year-old Canadian has served on several national and international dialogues and commissions including the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations, and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order.

Responding to his appointment, Canon Gibaut said, “I am excited to take up the post of Director of Unity, Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion, and to continue the fine work undertaken by Alyson Barnett-Cowan and her predecessors in this office.

“The Anglican Communion has a robust tradition of ecumenical engagement that has contributed so much to the unity of the Church, including the World Council of Churches. It is a particular privilege for me to bring to the Anglican Communion the experience that I have gained during the past seven years working at the World Council of Churches and its Commission on Faith and Order.

“I look forward to accompanying the Anglican Communion, as together we rediscover and proclaim a compelling vision of Communion as the gift by which the Church lives, and at the same time, the gift that God calls the Church to offer to a wounded and divided humanity.”

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon welcomed the appointment, “There are few more important positions in the Anglican Communion than that of Director for Unity, Faith and Order, a role which supports and enables our relationships with other Christian churches and communions, our ecumenical dialogues, and our internal conversations about our faith.

“In Canon Gibaut we will have someone of immense experience, ability and wisdom to lead us. I am truly delighted he has accepted this position, and wish him and his wife Terri every blessing as they prepare for this transition to London and the Anglican Communion Office.”

Welby visits reconciliation projects in Ireland

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014

[Church Times] The Archbishop of Canterbury spent two days earlier this month with Church of Ireland leaders, congregations, and their communities, on both sides of the Border, as part of his worldwide visitation among provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Accompanied by his wife, Caroline, he visited reconciliation projects led by Anglican churches in their communities in Belfast, Armagh, and Dublin.

He was welcomed by the Church of Ireland Primate, Dr Richard Clarke, and other bishops, and visited the historic peace-wall that divides the Protestant Shankill from Roman Catholic Falls, in West Belfast.

Full Story

Islamic State poses ‘once in a millennium threat,’ says Welby

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014

[The Daily Telegraph] Isil poses a “once in a millennium” threat to the survival of Christians in the Middle East, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Thursday.

The Most Rev Justin Welby compared the Isil terrorists who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria to the Mongol hordes who invaded the Middle East in the thirteenth century, massacring whole populations.

In an interview with ITV, Archbishop Welby recalled a meeting in London of Christian leaders from the Middle East.

“They had flown here for this meeting from situations of the utmost horror – indescribable horror,” he said. “We spent two hours listening to their stories. The memorable comment was ‘this is the worst threat we’ve faced since the Mongol invasion of 1259’. This is an extraordinary once in a millennium threat.”

Full Story

‘We are still begging for justice’ – Peshawar Anglicans

ENS Headlines - Friday, October 17, 2014

[Anglican Alliance] In a recent visit to the Diocese of Peshawar, Pakistan, Andy Bowerman, Co-Director for the Anglican Alliance, heard from those affected by the bombing of All Saints Church last year.  He writes this reflection.

“Last year was the worst year of my life. I do not see things getting better in the near future,” says Uzma Insar, a 33-year-old homemaker, who belongs to the Christian community of Peshawar.

Uzma lost her two children on September 22, 2013, when two suicide bombers blew up All Saints Church located inside the Kohati Gate of the old walled city of Peshawar after a Sunday service, killing nearly 100 worshippers.

She tells me that she remembers she tried to convince her nine-year-old daughter, Nehar, who was running a fever that day, and her 11-year-old son Eshan Gohar to miss Sunday school at the church. “They were excited to attend school, as they had done their homework and wanted to show it in the class,” she says. For Uzma time has not moved on, it’s frozen. She vividly recalls every detail of the explosion – the two blasts and then destruction, smoke, painful cries, blood, bodies. “I wish I had not lived to see it at all”, she says quietly.

The explosion had critically injured Uzma. She was kept in the intensive care unit for a week and then in the ward for two months, where her injuries were treated. One year on, Uzma and her community members live under the shadow of the two blasts. She says there is no respite from fear. “I could not weep or smile for two months after the incident. I had to go through psychological counselling for a month to feel anything like normal,” says Uzma’s husband Insar Gohar.

The tragic incident has however enabled him to find what he calls a deeper faith. “We go to church regularly but avoid the All Saints Church. We go to other churches because All Saints Church reminds us of our children,” he says. “But we count it as a privilege that we have been enabled by God’s grace to go through this trial and come out with a stronger faith.”

Insar is part of the religious counselling programme and visits the survivors of the bomb attack at their homes. Many are still dealing not just with the physical but the mental affects of the tragic events.

All of the Christian families that I met in the Kohati area of Peshawar have a heart-wrenching story to tell. According to data collected by the Diocese of Peshawar, the September 2013 attack, left 54 children orphaned, 16 widows, seven widowers. Five people that were critically injured are still recovering and seven others have been significantly disabled.

Several people belonging to the Christian community have already moved from Peshawar to Sri Lanka and Malaysia. “Most of the families who have links or resources have either left the area or are in the process of moving,” says Danish Younis, 35, who was injured in the blast.

Danish goes to the church regularly but feels the place has changed. “We have to go through strict security checks. There are signs of destruction from the blasts on the walls of the church. Every visit to the church reminds me of September 22, 2013. My two children were also with me. They were saved but I saw dozens of children getting killed,” he says, adding, “It is not easy to forget those scenes.”

Although the religious leaders of the community still preach faith and hope, Rev. Joseph John, priest at Diocese of Peshawar says, “the current situation is difficult. Yes, there is hope because ours is the God of hope but the entire Christian community feels insecure after the attack”.

Rev Joseph continued, “There is a danger that the church will lose its identity. It is no more the All Saints Church — but the church that was attacked in September 2013 when nearly 100 people were killed.”

Haroon Sarab Diyal, chairman of All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement and executive member of Commission for Peace and Minority Rights, says every second non-Muslim Pakistanis (he refuses to use the word minority for them) and even members of some Muslim sects want to leave this country: “Nine members of the Sikh community were killed in Peshawar in the last year. In January, this year, a Hindu temple was attacked,” he said.

The Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, I.A. Rehman said “Minorities in Pakistan are increasingly feeling insecure since the present government came to power in June last year. He referred to their 2013 annual report saying that the last year was “one of the darkest ” for Christians in Pakistan, with the deadliest ever attack on the community mounted in Peshawar in September.

A year on, and the Christian community in Peshawar is still waiting for justice and fulfillment of promises by the government. “We are still begging for justice,” says Bishop Humphrey Peters, Diocese of Peshawar and Anglican Alliance board member. “But we don’t simply want handouts from people, we want recognition and them to support us to be the church that God has called us to be”

The federal government pledged to fund Rs200 million for an endowment for orphans and widows. “We decided to develop a church house for orphans and widows with the promised amount but it has not been released yet. The struggle for justice and compensation has already become too long,” says Bishop Humphrey.

Facilitator’s guide now available for Episcopal Church forum

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 16, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Facilitator’s guide to assist in group discussions and better understanding is now available for downloading here for the Episcopal Church live webcast, Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good on October 22.

Political, interfaith and education leaders will offer provocative insights and views during the discussion on Civil Discourse in America: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good on October 22.

Produced by The Episcopal Church, the 90-minute live webcast will originate from historic Christ Church, Philadelphia (Diocese of Pennsylvania), the birthplace of the Episcopal Church and the home of our country’s beginnings. In partnership with the Diocese of Pennsylvania, Civil Discourse in America will begin at 2 pm Eastern (1 pm Central, noon Mountain, 11 am Pacific, 10 am Alaska, 9 am Hawaii). The webcast will be viewable here.

Facilitator’s guide
The forum is ideal for live group watching and discussion, or on-demand viewing later. It will be appropriate for Sunday School, discussions groups, and community gatherings.

The Facilitator’s guide offers questions and insights for discussion.  Also included in the guide are:

  • Preparation for facilitators
    • Pre-viewing points
    • Prayer and Scripture resources
    • Materials
    • Resources
    • Bibliography of books, webs and articles

The Facilitator’s guide is available at no fee.

Forum Participants
The forum will be moderated by well-known journalist and commentator Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor for the Huffington Post.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will present the keynote address.

Two panel discussions will focus on main themes: Civil discourse and faith; and Civil discourse in politics and policy. Panelists include:

  • David Boardman, Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia. He serves as president of the American Society of News Editors and chairs the National Advisory Board of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Florida. He is an accomplished investigative journalist, past Executive Editor of the Seattle Times, and a four-time Pulitzer Prize jurist.
  • Dr. John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University, Washington DC. Dr. DeGioia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Forum for the Future of Higher Education and among other board endeavors, serves on the Boards of the Carnegie Corporation, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Executive Committee of the Council on Competitiveness. He has received national recognition as an advocate for civil discourse and a commitment to the common good.
  • Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, Washington DC. A trustee of Faith in Public Life, which helps shape public debates and advance faith as a positive and unifying force for justice, compassion and the common good, he has been recognized as one of the country’s most influential Jewish leaders.
  • Hugh Forrest, Director of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, which each year brings together more than 30,000 creative professionals from around the world to foster a global community of ideas and creativity. TIME Magazine refers to him as an “interactive agent,” ushering new, groundbreaking technology into the popular culture that changes the way we share, learn and think.
  • Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute on Civil Discourse and a leader in the field of deliberative democracy. She founded AmericaSpeaks, which promotes nonpartisan initiatives to engage citizens and leaders through innovative public policy tools and strategies. Dr. Lukensmeyer also has served as a consultant to the White House Chief of Staff and as a chief of staff for Ohio’s governor, the first woman in this capacity.
  • Dr. Elizabeth McCloskey, President and CEO of The Faith & Politics Institute, a national organization devoted to advancing reflective leadership among members of Congress and congressional staff to bridge the divides that arise in a thriving democracy.  She has taught and published numerous articles and book chapters on faith, ethics and politics, and is a former columnist for Commonweal magazine.
  • Bishop Prince Singh of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY.  Bishop Singh is a frequent contributor to regional and national publications on topics related to accepting and embracing people with views and beliefs other than his own.

The Forum
There is no fee to view the live webcast. The webcast will be viewable here as well as YouTube.

Registration is not required for the live webcast.

  • Questions can be emailed prior and during the live webcast; send questions to publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org.
  • The forum will be available on-demand following the live webcast.
  • The forum is ideal for live group watching and discussion, or on-demand viewing later.  It will be appropriate for Sunday School, discussions groups, and community gatherings.
  • Resources such as bibliography, on-demand video, materials for community and individual review, discussion questions, and lesson plans will be available.
  • #EpiscopalForum – follow the discussion

Forum information is available here

For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org.

 

Gifts for Life features 75th Anniversary Christmas package

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 16, 2014

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Each year, hundreds of congregations around The Episcopal Church make Gifts for Life, Episcopal Relief & Development’s alternative giving catalog, a part of their Advent and Christmas celebrations.  With more than 30 gifts to choose from in categories such as “Animals & Agriculture” and “Green Gifts,” Gifts for Life provides a way for Episcopalians and friends to include their communities and loved ones in creating a thriving future.

Gifts for Life choices range from a $12 mosquito net, which includes installation and follow-up by a trained health volunteer, to $5,000 for a village well, which includes maintenance training and hygiene education.  Along with popular gifts such as literacy education to empower women and fruit trees to produce nutritious food, a new gift joins the catalog this year: medicine packages and training for health workers and parents to stop the three leading killers of children in Africa ­– diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia.

Additionally, in honor of the organization’s 75th Anniversary Celebration, Gifts for Life now features a 75th Anniversary Christmas Package with five of the most essential building blocks for strong communities.

“The 75th Anniversary Package includes Clean Water, Care for Moms and Newborns, Micro-Credit Loans for Women, Reforestation and Goats – which are one of the hardiest and most versatile animals kept domestically around the globe,” said Judy Sawler, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Manager of Direct Response Marketing, who oversees the catalog.  “Together, these items support the holistic well-being of families around the world, improving health, nutrition, livelihoods and the environment.”

Giving Gifts for Life is a fun and simple way to nurture a world where communities are strengthened and empowered from within.  Individuals and families can send gifts to friends and relatives through the print catalog or by ordering online, and choose to send recipients an attractive printed card or convenient e-card.

Banding together to create an even bigger impact, churches and school groups can use Gifts for Life as an Advent campaign to raise awareness and funds for Episcopal Relief & Development’s life-giving work. The Advent Toolkit available on the organization’s website (http://www.episcopalrelief.org/advent) provides helpful planning and activity resources such as an Advent Calendar, bulletin inserts and special prayers.  Handy tri-fold brochures highlight the special 75th Anniversary gifts and are perfect for fundraising events and alternative gift markets.  These tools are designed to help groups engage and motivate their whole communities to join hands in outreach.

“The spirituality of Advent is one of joyful expectation, as we await the Christ Child; but it is not a dead season of waiting, it is a living season of action,” said Sean McConnell, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Director of Engagement.  “Building God’s Kingdom takes all hands, which means striving alongside our neighbors toward economic, food and environmental justice worldwide.  Giving and organizing around Gifts for Life helps us see how small boosts – a chicken, a garden, a water tank – can lead to lasting change, and it creates connections in our own communities and across the globe that can have an impact for generations to come.”

The easiest way to order Gifts for Life is with a credit card, by visiting http://www.episcopalrelief.org/giftsforlife or calling 1.855.312.HEAL (4325).  To order with a check or money order, download an order form and mail to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.  E-cards are not available for orders made by phone or mail.  Gifts to Episcopal Relief & Development are tax-deductible.

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise.  An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future.  In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.

 

Christian, Muslim and Jewish artists unite in prayer for the world

ENS Headlines - Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, president and founder of CARAVAN, an interfaith nonprofit organization that unites cultures and creeds of the West and Middle East through the arts, stands next to an art piece by Mahmoud Hamdy in the 2014 CARAVAN art exhibition, “AMEN: A Prayer for the World” at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City until Nov. 23. Photo: Amy Sowder

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler grew up in Senegal, a predominately Muslim country in West Africa where his father was a minister.

Throughout his childhood he observed the tension between Muslims and Christians.

“I thought there has to be a better way. Most of my best friends were Muslims, and today still, Muslims number among my closest friends,” the Episcopal priest said, sitting on a wooden bench at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. He answered logistics calls and texts on his cell phone while taking a break from working on the 2014 CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art, “AMEN: A Prayer for the World.”

Open to the public until Nov. 23, the art show embodies Chandler’s lifelong mission: to ease that religious and cultural tension by focusing on commonalities rather than trying to overcome differences. With religious extremism and persecution so prevalent and interwoven so thickly with politics, especially in the Middle East, this mission is needed now more than ever, he said.

Artwork by Reda Abdel Rahman, co-curator in the 2014 CARAVAN art exhibition, “AMEN: A Prayer for the World” at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City until Nov. 23. Photo: Amy Sowder

Participating Egyptian artist Reda Abdel Rahman co-curated the show with Chandler, founder and president of CARAVAN, an international interfaith arts nonprofit organization, with the annual CARAVAN exhibition as a flagship initiative. This year, they selected 48 artists – 30 Egyptian artists with Muslim and Christian backgrounds, and 18 Western artists with Jewish and Christian backgrounds. CARAVAN originated out of Cairo, Egypt in 2009 to build bridges between the cultures and creeds of Middle East and West through the arts.

The work of 30 Egyptian artists was first unveiled in June at the Museum of Modern Art in Cairo, Egypt, and joined the work of 18 artists in the West for a joint exhibition at Washington National Cathedral, before its final stop, in New York City.

This sixth annual exhibition includes Jewish artists for the first time.

Chandler and Rahman chose prominent as well as emerging artists who share their mission of using art to foster unity, friendship and peace worldwide. The artists are charged with interpreting the exhibition’s theme on the sculptural form they’re given. This year, it’s the human form in prayer in poses from the Abrahamic faiths. The face on the model for the sculptural prayer form is Amun, the deity of ancient Thebes in the 11th dynasty (in 21st century BC) who is considered the first to develop religion toward monotheism.

The “Amen” theme also embodies the spirit of the January 2011 Egyptian Revolution, when hordes of people from Muslim and Christian backgrounds, levels of education, economic background and ethnicity joined in solidarity against the human rights violations of the almost 30-year rule by the Hosni Mubarak-led autocratic government. After ousting Mubarak, the country’s first free parliamentary elections chose Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi for president. But protests against Morsi’s authoritarianism led to a 2013 military coup d’etat and the election of former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president in 2014. Chandler was residing in Cairo during all this political turmoil.

Art pieces in the 2014 CARAVAN art exhibition, “AMEN: A Prayer for the World.” Photo: Amy Sowder

Whoever usurps power inevitably has ties to religious groups, whether it’s the Muslim Brotherhood, the Coptic Church, moderate Muslims or other religious allies, and often the religious-political sect that loses clout in top government loses dignity, freedom and all too often, their lives as well. So the cultural and religious clashes continue.

“What we need is high visibility in the media of Christians and Muslims working together,” Chandler said. “It begins to shape the world view.” That’s his intent with uniting the artists for CARAVAN events.

Rahman was born in Ismailia, Egypt, and is one of his country’s leading contemporary artists today. He grew up surrounded by Pharaonic monuments and Coptic monasteries, and it’s evident in his work. Also clear is his admiration for the female figure and women’s key role in the family and society at large.

For his contribution to the “AMEN” exhibition, Rahman created an ancient Egyptian queen emanating good all around her while sitting on Set, the ancient Egyptian god of evil, which demonstrates her control over the forces of political Islam that have damaged civilization. Many of his works combine different systems of belief.

“We’re only thinking one way,” Rahman said, “so I do my portraits in many ways, with the Jewish star and Christian cross and Muslim crescent. I want different people to feel we are the same, the same God also, just different culture only.”

Rahman met Chandler while the Episcopal priest served from 2003 to 2013 as rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist/Maadi in Cairo, Egypt, the international English-speaking Episcopal/Anglican church within the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt and North Africa. Chandler is also a mission partner of the Episcopal Church, focused on the Middle East. Rahman was a participant artist the initial CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art in Cairo. This is his second year co-curating the CARAVAN art exhibition. He lives with his wife and children in Queens, New York, and they also have a home in Cairo.

The last few years, Rahman’s art has dealt with the religious and political strife in Egypt, which applies to many areas of the Middle East, particularly the tumultuous Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria.

“In today’s world, we need peace,” Rahman said. “We don’t have to make all these problems.”

For her art piece in the show, Jewish artist Lilianne Milgrom enjoyed researching about winged messenger angels in the Islamic, Jewish and Christian sacred texts. Born in Paris, France, Milgrom lived in Australia during part of her childhood and later spent 17 years in Israel before settling in Washington D.C.

She received the “AMEN” sculptural form in the traditional Jewish sitting prayerful pose, and she added wings. The front of her angel’s chest is emblazoned with a QR code to connect the spiritual world with the digital world. Visitors can wave their cell phones in front of her sculpture to scan the code, which will take them to www.virtualangel.weebly.com, where they can post a prayer.

“Prayer is a dialogue no matter which religion, and I wanted to make it interactive on whatever level the viewer is on, from atheist to believer,” Milgrom said.

The prayers on the website do range from atheist to Christian, ethical humanist and beyond, with a variety of entries: “Please save us from ourselves,” “Peace for the World,” “Why?” and “May people see the good in each other.”

Chandler wears a ring symbolizing the bridge a person can build to connect Muslims and Christians. Photo: Amy Sowder

Milgrom and Chandler will co-curate the 2015 Caravan exhibition, which will launch in Paris, France. Chandler is adamant that Caravan’s mission is to go further than encouraging interfaith dialogue.

“I’m passionate about interfaith friendships,” Chandler said, slipping off the silver ring he wears, which depicts a person bridging the gap between the symbols of the Christian cross and Muslim crescent.

“Friendship involves time and investment in the other,” he said. “CARAVAN is a creative catalyst for that.”

– Amy Sowder is an ENS correspondent.