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Un centro de refugiados en Roma le pide a todos que ‘acojan al forastero’

ENS Headlines - Friday, June 5, 2015

ÚNETE A NOSOTROS EL DOMINGO 21 DE JUNIO EN QUE CELEBRAMOS EL DOMINGO MUNDIAL DE LOS REFUGIADOS

[Episcopal News Service] La experiencia del refugiado es una parte fundamental de la historia cristiana y “al acoger a un forastero, estamos acogiendo al mismo Cristo y al Dios que proclamamos”, dice el Rdo. Austin Ríos, rector de la iglesia episcopal de San Pablo Intramuros [St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church] en Roma, Italia.

La cripta de San Pablo es el hogar del Centro de Refugiados Joel Nafuma (JNRC, por su sigla en inglés), un ministerio de hospitalidad radical en el corazón de Roma, donde cientos de refugiados pueden encontrar un desayuno y multitud de otros recursos para sobrevivir y reconstruir sus vidas. Debido al elevadísimo número de africanos que migran a través del mar Mediterráneo para escapar de la persecución, muchos de los cuales se ahogan en el camino, Italia se encuentra en el foco de la última crisis migratoria.

Cada año, el Día Mundial de los Refugiados se conmemora el 20 de junio. Con la crisis mundial de refugiados en su peor nivel desde la segunda guerra mundial, [la iglesia de] San Pablo quería ofrecer a la Comunión Anglicana materiales litúrgicos y de otro tipo para usarlos en las congregaciones el domingo 21 de junio (el domingo más cercano al Día Mundial de los Refugiados) como parte de su campaña “Acoge al forastero” para crear conciencia de los refugiados y de sus conflictos, y para alentar una respuesta más compasiva hacia su travesía. Es una iniciativa que apoya la embajada de Estados Unidos ante la Santa Sede.

Los misioneros Jared Grant y Will Bryant del Cuerpo de Servicio de Jóvenes Adultos, cuyas experiencias en el Centro de Refugiados Joel Nafuma los inspiró a preparar los materiales para el Domingo Mundial de los Refugiados, adaptaron el material eucarístico a partir de una liturgia del Seminario Teológico General.

“El Día Mundial de los Refugiados nos da a los cristianos una oportunidad de poner en práctica lo que predicamos”, dijo Bryant, que está prestando su segundo año de servicio como misionero del YASC y quien sucedió a Grant en 2014 como voluntario en el centro de refugiados. “Nos da una oportunidad de hablar en nombre de aquellos que no tienen voz. Nos permite honrar a los que nos resulta fácil olvidar: los millones de refugiados que viven en la periferia de la sociedad. Son pobres, son vagabundos, pero siguen siendo el cuerpo de Cristo”.

Bryant, cuya colocación en el YASC concluirá en agosto, dijo que una conmemoración del Día Mundial de los Refugiados en toda la Comunión [Anglicana] se necesita ahora más que nunca cuando la crisis de los refugiados ha alcanzado niveles históricos.

“Debemos cambiar la dinámica y las vidas de los refugiados [y] cambiar las actitudes de la gente hacia ellos”, dijo a ENS en una entrevista por Skype desde Roma, en el centro donde los muchos voluntarios de diferentes comunidades religiosas conocen a los refugiados como “huéspedes”. “Se trata de inspirar a la gente a acoger a los forasteros, en lugar echarlos fuera”.

Los movimientos migratorios globales y sus pérdidas afectan a todos, dijo, y responder a las necesidades de los refugiados “no recae sobre un solo país ni sobre un solo continente, sino sobre toda la raza humana. Mi esperanza es que gente de todo el mundo conmemore esta ocasión especial, y que cuando nos congreguemos el 21 de junio, nos comprometamos con nosotros mismos y con el mundo a recibir a los extranjeros en medio nuestro. Después de todo, y esto es particularmente cierto para los norteamericanos, todos fuimos una vez inmigrantes”.

La Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera (DFMS) — el nombre legal y canónico con el cual la Iglesia Episcopal está incorporada, funciona empresarialmente y lleva a cabo la misión— también ha preparado materiales para conmemorar el Día Mundial de los Refugiados en diócesis y congregaciones a través de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Los materiales incluyen textos para el culto y un boletín para insertar [en los programas de los oficios] del domingo 21 de junio; una mapa interactivo de las actividades del Día Mundial de los Refugiados a través de la Iglesia Episcopal e información acerca de dónde encontrar un afiliado al Ministerio Episcopal de Migración y oportunidades para voluntarios locales.

“En conmemoración del Día Mundial de los Refugiados, la DFMS invita a los episcopales a aprender más de la manera en que la Iglesia Episcopal recibe y reubica a refugiados en asociación con nuestros treinta afiliados de reasentamiento en 26 diócesis”, dijo el obispo Stacy Sauls, director de operaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal según un comunicado de prensa.

Deborah Stein, directora del Ministerio Episcopal de Migración la agencia de reasentamiento de refugiados de la DFMS, dijo que el Día Mundial de los Refugiados, establecido por la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas en 2000 para honrar las contribuciones de los refugiados en todo el mundo y crear conciencia acerca de la creciente crisis de refugiados, “es especialmente significativa este año en que la Sociedad Misionera Nacional y Extranjera sigue celebrando el 75º. aniversario de este ministerio de salvar vidas”.

Para la celebración de los 75 años, la DFMS ha lanzado #ShareTheJourney, un empeño de multimedia “para educar, formar y preparar a los episcopales a comprometerse en amoroso servicio con los refugiados reasentados y a convertirse en testigos proféticos y defensores de los refugiados, asilados, migrantes y personas desplazadas en todo el mundo”.

Esta no es la primera vez que la Iglesia Episcopal ha respondido con recursos para hacer frente a los problemas de los refugiados: durante la crisis migratoria de menores de edad en la frontera de EE.UU. y México en 2014, muchas iglesias encontraron modos de consolar y de acoger a menores que llegaban solos y de ayudarlos a través de su laberinto burocrático.

“He tenido la oportunidad de ser testigo de primera mano de la obra compasiva e inspiradora del JNRC, y de oír de sus huéspedes como la acogida que reciben allí es tan vital para su capacidad de afirmar su humanidad en media de circunstancias verdaderamente desesperadas”, dijo Stein, que dirigió una peregrinación a la región de los Grandes lagos en África en marzo para analizar la apremiante situación de los refugiados. “En tanto los episcopales celebran la labor que realizamos aquí en Estados Unidos para acoger a refugiados, el Día Mundial de los Refugiados es un recordatorio de que estamos uniéndonos con las iglesias anglicanas y episcopales a través del mundo en este importante ministerio”.

El Centro de Refugiados Joel Nafuma se inauguró en 1995 y ofrece santuario a refugiados que buscan consejo y ayuda en San Pablo Intramuros, una parroquia de la Convocación de Iglesias Episcopales en Europa. El centro ofrece desayuno, distribuye artículos de aseo personal y prendas de ropa, ayuda con solicitudes de empleo y ofrece servicios para que los refugiados aprendan idiomas y se familiaricen con el manejo de computadoras.

Mediante un programa de orientación, un mediador cultural adiestrado acompaña a los refugiados a las audiencias de asilo o a las citas con abogados y médicos, explicó Ríos en un reciente ensayo reflexión. Durante más de dos años, un grupo de artesanos ha estado fabricando y vendiendo objetos de artesanía. Cada pieza de artesanía va acompañada de una historia que aboga a favor de los refugiados en Roma y da a conocer sus dificultades. Los artesanos comparten las ganancias entre ellos y hacen donaciones al centro.

“Los cristianos siguen y adoran a un Señor que no sólo ‘descendió del cielo’, migrando en el misterio de la Encarnación, sino que con sólo unos días de nacido se vio obligado a huir a un país extranjero debido a una campaña gubernamental de infanticidio”, dijo Ríos a ENS. “Jesús experimentó tanto la acogida (de María y José, de los pastores, los magos, los animales) como el rechazó (de Herodes) desde su nacimiento…—una dinámica que continuaría a lo largo de toda su vida terrenal.

“Jesús comisionó a sus primeros discípulos a llevar a cabo su misión cuando en Mateo 10:40 dice: ‘el que a vosotros recibe, a mí me recibe; y el que me recibe a mí, recibe al que me envió’”, explicó Ríos.

“Como herederos de esta tradición de comisión y sus inherentes responsabilidades tanto de recibir como de extender la hospitalidad que Dios nos ha ofrecido, somos llamados a brindar también esta acogida, especialmente en lo que concierne a los que son vulnerables debido a la itinerancia o migración forzada”, dijo Ríos, “no sólo porque la acogida es una respuesta propiamente humana al sufrimiento, sino porque es parte esencial del ADN de nuestra fe. […] Acoger nunca resulta fácil; implica sacrificio. Pero si hemos de creer en las promesas de Dios, entonces sabemos que de ese sacrificio proviene la vida gozosa, abundante y compartida que respalda nuestra salvación”.

Además de San Pablo [Intramuros], la catedral de San Juan [St. John’s Cathedral] en Hong Kong y la catedral de los Fieles Difuntos [The Cathedral of All Souls] en Asheville, Carolina del Norte, se han comprometido a celebrar el Domingo Mundial de los Refugiados con una liturgia especial el 21 de junio.

Los materiales incluyen también reflexiones que se pueden descargar escritas por líderes religiosos y huéspedes del Centro de Refugiados Joel Nafuma que vienen de países devastados por la guerra en Oriente Medio y África, con la intención de que los feligreses puedan llegar a entender más profundamente la situación de los refugiados en la crisis migratoria de la actualidad.

“Ayudar a aliviar a los refugiados significa no sólo proporcionarles alimento, agua y albergue, sino también ayudarles a aprender un idioma, a ir a la escuela, a encontrar trabajo”, dijo el obispo Pierre Whalon de la Convocación de Iglesias Episcopales en Europa en un ensayo reflexión del 2 de junio en la página web del centro. “Los beneficios de acoger son grandes, incluidos los económicos y sociales. Las penas por rehusar acoger al forastero son severas. En las enseñanzas de Cristo, es un asunto de vida o muerte, no sólo para el migrante, sino para todos nosotros”.

Este es un momento de extrema crisis para los migrantes en todo el mundo, especialmente los que viajan desde el norte de África a través del mar Mediterráneo, según un comunicado de prensa de San Pablo.

En abril, más de 900 migrantes a bordo de una embarcación murieron en el intento de ir de África a Italia. “Esta tragedia insensata estuvo en el foco de los principales medios noticiosos durante una semana. Arrojó luz sobre las difícil situación de los refugiados en todas partes”, señalaba el comunicado. “Pero luego, tan rápidamente como había aparecido, el tema desapareció de los titulares y de la vista del público. Conmemoramos el Día Mundial de los Refugiados como un mensaje al mundo de que no hemos olvidado a los refugiados, aunque el resto del mundo simplemente ha cambiado el canal. Estamos unidos para acoger a los forasteros en medio nuestro”.

— Matthew Davies es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast notified of successful consent process

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 4, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Registrar of General Convention the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe have notified the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast that Bishop-Elect James “Russell” Kendrick has received the required majority of consents in the canonical consent process.

The Rev. James “Russell” Kendrick was elected bishop on February 21.  His ordination and consecration service is slated for July 25; Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will officiate.

While Bishop-Elect Kendrick has received the necessary majority of consents, consents will continue to be accepted up to and including the August 7 deadline date.

In Canon III.11.4 (b), Standing Committees, in consenting to the ordination and consecration, attest they are “fully sensible of how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Office. We do, moreover, jointly and severally declare that we believe the Reverend A.B. to have been duly and lawfully elected and to be of such sufficiency in learning, of such soundness in the Faith, and of such godly character as to be able to exercise the Office of a Bishop to the honor of God and the edifying of the Church, and to be a wholesome example to the flock of Christ.”

Judge postpones start of Heather Cook’s homicide trial

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 4, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] A Baltimore judge June 4 postponed until September former Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook’s criminal trial.

Cook’s trial was scheduled to start that day in Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Wanda Heard’s courtroom. She stands accused of 13 charges for allegedly causing the Dec. 27, 2014, car-bicycle accident in suburban Baltimore that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo, a software engineer at Johns Hopkins Hospital who also built custom bike frames. She is charged with driving the car that struck Palermo while having nearly three times the legal limit of alcohol in her blood system, texting while driving and then leaving the scene of the accident.

David Irwin, Cook’s attorney, asked for the postponement, and Cook told the judge during a brief court appearance that she waived her right to a speedy trial, the Associated Press reported. The trial is now set for Sept. 9.

“We would hope that we could resolve the case without trial for everybody’s sake, most importantly the Palermo family’s sake,” Irwin told reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing. “To go through the trauma of a trial, my client certainly doesn’t want to have to put them through that.”

Irwin also said he had made the “earliest of plea considerations” but had spoken only “very, very briefly” with prosecutors on the matter, according to the Baltimore Sun.

On May 1 Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced that she and Cook had reached an agreement that deprived her of her status as an ordained person in The Episcopal Church and ended all ecclesiastical disciplinary matters pending against her. That announcement came on the same day that Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton said he had accepted Cook’s resignation from her diocesan post.

A Baltimore grand jury indicted Cook Feb. 4 on 13 counts for allegedly causing the Dec. 27 car-bicycle accident.

Five of the charges listed in the indictment by a Baltimore City grand jury come in addition to those Cook had faced since being charged Jan. 9 with four criminal offenses and four traffic violations.

The grand jury had added charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol per se (a “per se” DUI charge involves drivers whose blood alcohol limit is above the .08 percent legal limit; such drivers can be charged with drunk driving even if their ability to drive does not appear to be impaired), driving under the impairment of alcohol, texting while driving, reckless driving and negligent driving.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in January that a breathalyzer test administered to Cook after the accident showed she had a blood alcohol content of .22 percent.

The original Jan. 9 criminal charges included manslaughter by vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter by vehicle, homicide by driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol per se and homicide by driving a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol.

The traffic charges filed on Jan. 9 included failing to remain at an accident resulting in death, failing to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, using a text-messaging device while driving causing an accident with death or serious injury, and driving under the influence of alcohol. The grand jury added to the two failure-to-stop offenses a charge of failure to stop the vehicle as close as possible to the scene of an accident.

The failing to remain at an accident resulting in serious bodily injury and the failing to remain at an accident resulting in death are both felony charges.

Cook appeared in court on the charges for the first time April 2 during an arraignment in Baltimore Circuit Court. Her acceptance at that time of a June 4 trial date meant that she essentially had pleaded not guilty to the 13 charges.

Cook faces a combined maximum penalty of at least 39 years in prison and a $39,000 fine, depending on whether her 2010 arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and for marijuana possession and subsequent “probation before judgment” sentence is considered a first offense for any sentence she might receive if she were convicted of the charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or driving while under the influence of alcohol per se.

Cook, who is free on $2.5 million bail, remains in treatment for her issues with alcohol, according to her attorney. She has been living in a drug and alcohol treatment facility since soon after the accident.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal Relief & Development partners with Texas dioceses on flood response

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 4, 2015

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Episcopal dioceses of Texas and West Texas in response to severe flooding caused by weeks of heavy rain across the region. Church teams in both dioceses are providing pastoral care and conducting needs assessments in areas where people lost homes and belongings to the floods, and church facilities are acting as ministry bases for outreach efforts. Episcopal Relief & Development support will assist affected households with gas, groceries and repair supplies, as well as storage for salvaged belongings and temporary housing for evacuees.

“The dioceses of Texas and West Texas were able to convene teams quickly to identify community needs and see how churches can be of unique help,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President for Programs. “Right now, response planning is focused on low-income households that are uninsured or underinsured, as well as people with disabilities who might need extra assistance as they recover from the storm. Church networks help ensure that vulnerable neighbors are included and cared for.”

The extensive flooding began and worsened over May 24-26, with some areas receiving up to 20 inches of rain. In Texas, 27 people died as a result of the storm, and 10 people were still reported to be missing as of May 31. Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged, and roads and bridges have been washed out.

One of the most heavily impacted areas was along the Blanco river, which runs through the towns of Wimberley and San Marcos, about halfway between San Antonio and Austin in the Diocese of West Texas. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley and St. Mark’s in San Marcos have mobilized Flood Response Committees to conduct needs assessments and distribute gift cards for gas, food and emergency supplies.

Wimberley is the town where eight people went missing after the river-front vacation home they were staying in was swept away. Five were members of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Corpus Christi.

In Houston, The Ven. Russ Oechsel, archdeacon for the Diocese of Texas, led the diocese’s Spiritual and Emotional Care team through the streets of the Meyerland neighborhood, where there was significant damage to homes. The group of trained lay and ordained volunteers distributed cold water and gift cards for repair supplies, and listened to residents’ storm experiences. They also offered information about how to connect to local and national disaster recovery resources and services.

Oechsel is also Texas’ Diocesan Disaster Coordinator and a member of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Partners in Response team, which accompanies churches in disaster-impacted communities as they discern their role in the recovery process. Oechsel and fellow Partners in Response member Deacon Elaine Clements, from the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, are assisting the dioceses of Texas and West Texas at this time.

“We are still very early in the disaster cycle, where folks are ripping out carpet and drywall or just trying to figure out what to do – depending if they own or rent their home, whether they had insurance or not, if they have somewhere close-by where they can stay while they sort things out,” Oechsel said. “Getting out into the neighborhood to provide pastoral care and gift cards for food and supplies also helps churches connect with people who may need help toward long-term recovery. We will start to know in the coming weeks where those longer-term needs are and how we can help.”

Elsewhere in the region, the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is responding to two waves of severe storms on May 6 and May 10 that brought tornadoes and flooding to the area. In Texas, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Lindale (Diocese of Texas) is assisting in Van, 10 miles west, where a tornado and subsequent flood on May 10 destroyed a significant number of homes; Episcopal Relief & Development is working with the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas to develop a response plan. The organization has also been in contact with the Episcopal dioceses of Arkansas and Louisiana following the storms.

For more information about Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program, visit the organization’s website.

To enable Episcopal Relief & Development to respond to disasters in the United States, please donate to the US Disaster Response Fund.

Presiding Bishop preaches at Province IV Synod

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 4, 2015

Province IV Synod
Martyrs of Uganda
3 June 2015
Chapel of the Transfiguration, Kanuga

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

We’re celebrating the martyrs of Uganda tonight, but I’d like to start by inviting you to remember some of the martyrs of Province IV. These are a few who have given their lives as a witness, some actually in death, others in the purpose to which they gave their lives:

Martin Luther King, assassinated for a vision of equality. 1968

Jonathan Daniels, shot to death for believing and acting for the equal dignity of all people – he offered his life to protect Ruby Sales. 1965

The martyrs of Memphis, nuns and priests who cared for yellow fever victims and died as a result. 1878.

Manteo and Virginia Dare, the first baptized on these shores, lost in the mists of time with other members of the Roanoke Colony. 1587.

Frances Joseph Gaudet, prison reformer and educator, African American and Native American, who gave us juvenile justice courts. 1934

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (Raleigh, NC) and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright (Georgia), African-American educators who insisted on the equal dignity of all people. Wright founded Voorhees. 1964 and 1906

John and Charles Wesley, godly witnesses in Georgia – Methodists and Charles a hymnist. 1791 and 1788

William Guerry, bishop of South Carolina, who sought to bring Episcopal Church support to Voorhees, and episcopal ministry to African-Americans, murdered in his office by one of his priests. 1928

Henry Delany, born a slave, educated at St. Augustine’s, educator, evangelist, and bishop for African-American congregations. Also 1928.

James Weldon Johnson, poetic witness (Lift Every Voice and Sing), as well as diplomat and peace-maker here and in Latin America. 1938.

William Porcher DuBose, theological witness, chaplain, and professor at Sewanee. 1918.

George Freeman Bragg, Jr. North Carolinian priest and writer who argued that African-American congregations should work for sustainability, rather than live on charity. 1940

Samuel Ferguson, born in South Carolina, Bishop of West Africa and founder of Cuttington College in Liberia. 1916

We have living martyrs, too, like Duncan Gray, Jr. and Chip Marble, persistent challengers of church and society toward the full and equal dignity of all human beings.

There are many kinds of martyrs, and an ancient Irish tradition tells of three.[1] Red ones have their lives taken from them – like Jonathan Daniels and Martin Luther King. White martyrs give witness through lives of holiness or particular sanctity – like those who tend yellow fever or Ebola patients. The Celts speak of blue or green martyrs (glasmartyrs) who turn that color as a result of extreme asceticism or sacrifice – think of a hunger striker or the Dorchester chaplains. And in the same way that we speak of all the baptized as saints, martyrs are witnesses to the love of God in human flesh, whose lives are given for the sake of God’s world: leaders, social transformers, teachers, poets, diplomats, engineers and inventors, anyone who gives evidence of the sacrificial love of God in human flesh.

Sacrifice is part of what Habakkuk is chiding people about when he confronts them for protecting their goodies – what he calls “setting your nest up high to be safe from harm.” He’s especially concerned about unjustly accumulated goodies, but I think we’d have to say that it applies to almost anything we’re overly possessive about. The martyr takes that nest egg down off the shelf and puts it to use for the love of others.

What’s in your nest? Books? Privacy? Dollars? Particular skills and talents, creativity? Even the secrets we’re afraid to share have the potential to be liberating when the story is told. The act of giving away makes almost anything sacred when it’s done for the love of God. That is really the key to martyrdom, to being a witness.

The martyrs of Uganda were Christian converts, both Anglican and Roman Catholic, who were put to death by the king Mwanga. His father Mutesa had permitted Church Missionary Society and Roman Catholic missionaries to work in the royal compound beginning in 1876. The king was jealous enough of his territory that he didn’t let them work farther afield. Mwanga was 18 when Mutesa died, and he was curious about this new religion – until he heard about monogamy (he had 85 wives), and that England, who had sent these people, was ruled by a woman. Both ought to tell you that women in that society were little better than slaves. That status also applied to most of the members of the court. The king was also nervous about what an oracle had told him – that he could be overthrown by “a man who came to Kampala through the jungles to the east.”

Hearing of Bishop Hannington’s journey[2] toward Kampala in late 1885, Mwanga sent soldiers to assassinate him. A few months later, one of his pages who had become a Roman Catholic confronted the king about the murder. The king ordered him executed, later relented, but the message arrived too late. The king was wont to use these young pages sexually, but the ones who had become Christian declined his advances. It appears not to have become an issue until the king returned from an unsuccessful hunting trip in May of 1886. None of the pages was willing to greet him, and he killed two that night. The next morning he summoned all the pages and demanded the converts renounce their faith. The Christians all refused. He sent a number to be burned and others to be castrated. A number were marched miles to their place of execution and on the way they worked to free the Muslim among them – successfully. He later told the story, becoming a witness himself.

The boys or young men prayed and sang hymns as they marched to their deaths and as they waited for the flames to consume them – on the feast of the Ascension. The only wailing heard came from the executioner, whose son was among them. The witness of these young Christians quickly spread across the land, and many people joined this new faith. Uganda became the birthplace of modern African Christianity. [3]

These martyrs and their story are one of the reasons the Anglican Church of Uganda has had so much difficulty with TEC in recent years. Some in that church believe we deny their primary witnesses by welcoming gay and lesbian people. Yet there are other witnesses, including Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, who was defrocked for his pastoral ministry with gay and lesbian Ugandan Christians rejected by the Church.

There are many kinds of witnesses. Jesus challenges his friends to recognize that they will be rejected, some will fall away, and there will be plenty of false prophets trying to lead them in other directions. Yet those who love sacrificially, who are willing to take their treasures out of safe keeping and spend it, will find what they’re looking for. Life abundant comes from giving it away – whether it’s our fondest political prejudice or fattest wallet or most prized possession, idea, structural conceit, favorite candidate…. Let it go and find life returned a hundredfold.

So, provincial synod, who’s going to be a martyr here or at General Convention? What’s in the nest you’ve put up on that shelf for safe-keeping?

The way to give witness most like Jesus is in openness and vulnerability. The work here and in Salt Lake will be far more abundantly fruitful if we go with open hands, open hearts, and open minds – traveling light – to discover what God is up to in all these other folks around us. Together, we can be a witness to the love of God for those who are not members of this institution called The Episcopal Church.

Desmond Tutu counts the roots of his own vocation from the witness of Trevor Huddleston, who gave him a deep sense of his own dignity and creation in the eyes of God. Huddleston’s prayer is often heard in Africa: God Bless Africa; Guard her children; Guide her leaders. And give her peace, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

We might use the same frame here: God, bless your Church. Guard her children, guide her leaders, and give the world peace through her witness, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer.

[1] Cambrai Homily

[2] Hannington was the first Bishop of East Africa

[3] Cf. Fr. John-Julian, OJN, Stars in a Dark World, Outskirts Press, Denver: 2009, from which this story is retold.

Church in Brazil to celebrate 125 years

ENS Headlines - Thursday, June 4, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] For 125 years the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil has been rooted in mission. What began as a mission church of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church has expanded its own mission fields into remote corners in what is the largest country in South America.

In the coming days, the church will gather in Porto Alegre, the birthplace of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, to celebrate not only its 125th anniversary but also 50 years of autonomy and 30 years of women’s ordination.

“It is important to celebrate this milestone because it is imperative that the history and memories of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil are kept alive,” said Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, Brazil’s primate since 2013, and bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Brazil. “It is also an opportunity to celebrate and give thanksgivings for the dedication and devotion of many generations and to make visible the Anglican presence in Brazil.”

In 1890, two missionaries from Virginia Theological Seminary, Lucien Lee Kinsolving and James Watson Morris, felt called to start the church in Brazil and established a presence in the southern city of Porto Alegre, where today the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity is located. Three additional missionaries — William Cabell Brown, John Gaw Meem and Mary Packard — came to Brazil in 1891 and established new missions in Santa Rita do Rio dos Sinos, Rio Grande and Pelotas, explained da Silva.

In addition to the anniversary celebrations, the church will introduce a version of the Book of Common Prayer adapted to the Brazilian context. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will attend the June 5-7 celebration and is scheduled to give a lecture in commemoration of women’s ordination.

“The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil has invited many friends and partners to celebrate this momentous and beautiful event,” said da Silva, adding that the church in Brazil hasn’t been alone in its mission, but has worked with religious partners. “We are ecumenical in both our souls and in our actions. It is important that the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil builds foundations and communities with a spirit for justice and justice for the next 125 years, just like it has been done for the last 125 years.”

In 1810, when Brazil was still a Portuguese colony, the Anglican Church established expatriate chaplaincies. Later, after independence and the official separation of church and state in 1889, it sent missionaries. Still, the bonds of affection remain strongest with The Episcopal Church, since the mission field established in 1890 by Kinsolving and Watson remained part of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church until the Brazilian church became an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion in 1965.

“These missionaries came to work with the Brazilians, unlike the British that came to work with their own,” said the Rev. Arthur Cavalcante, the church’s provincial secretary, during a late 2014 bilateral committee meeting in Sao Paulo. “Our relationship is obviously stronger with the Americans as they took the initiative to open a dialogue with the Brazilians.”

In 1907, the missionary efforts in Brazil resulted in the establishment of a missionary district of The Episcopal Church under the leadership of Kinsolving, who by then was a bishop. In the 1950s, the Brazilian church began talking about its autonomy, and in 1965 the missionary district became the autonomous Province of Brazil. The Episcopal Church continued its financial support of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil until 1975.

Following autonomy, though the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil maintained a strong connection to the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, it began to feel isolated. In 1990, at the time of the church’s centennial celebration, the primates of the two churches agreed to establish a bilateral committee to reconnect, re-establish friendships and encourage partnerships and companion relationships between the two churches.

“No church lives in isolation,” said the Rev. Glenda McQueen, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that the church is Brazil presents an opportunity for partnerships. “The church in Brazil is responsible for the mission of the church in this part of the continent, but the church in Brazil also needs and invites her brothers and sisters in the church in other parts of the world to come and share, to come and learn. To come and experience God in this context, and for us in The Episcopal Church this is a wonderful opportunity for mission and ministry.”

Being a young province of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil’s energy and abundant life serve not only as an example for others, but as an opportunity to be re-energized, to learn and to grow, and to share that energy, said McQueen.

The Episcopal Church continues to send missionaries to Brazil: Church-appointed missionaries Monica Vega and Heidi Schmidt are serving the province, and Young Adult Service Corps missionary Rachel McDaniel is serving the Diocese of Southwestern Brazil. Two additional YASC missionaries are expected to head to Brazil later this year. The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Sao Paulo, and the Diocese of Brasilia and the Diocese of Indianapolis have existing companion relationships.

In addition to seeking partnerships with The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Anglican Church in Brazil recently hosted a three-day meeting of Portuguese-speaking churches, including some from Angola, Mozambique and Portugal, to promote the expression of the Portuguese church and to establish relations and partnerships in mission.

“One hundred and twenty-five years after the missionaries came, Brazil is still very much a land of mission,” said Cavalcante. “There still needs to be a lot of support: Brazil is enormous and we still need missionaries to work in areas where the church is underrepresented in places like Amazonia, which covers 3.5 million kilometers squared, places reachable only by boats and in the northeast.”

Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country both geographically and by population, with more than 200 million people. Though Roman Catholicism is no longer the state-sponsored religion, it has more Roman Catholics, 123 million, than any other country in the world.

Unlike other Protestant and Evangelical churches, which in recent years have gained on the Roman Catholic Church’s dominance in South America, the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil preaches a social gospel aimed at engaging congregations and communities in conversations still considered taboo in certain circles.

“We understand that the gospel shouldn’t be proclaimed just as salvation of the soul, but as the whole being,” said Rio de Janeiro Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira Neto, during the bilateral committee meeting.

Despite having one of the fastest-growing economies over the last decade – the largest economy in South America and the seventh-largest in the world, with a growing middle class – Brazil has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. Access to land and affordable housing; high levels of domestic violence, racism and homophobia; discrimination and exploitation aimed at the high number of migrants working in the informal economy are issues not necessarily talked about in polite company, but are problems that the church is addressing.

The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, as opposed to other Christian denominations, takes a more inclusive approach to preaching the Gospel. It offers a social gospel to Brazilian society, advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians, initiating conversations aimed at addressing the epidemic problem of violence against women, and standing with indigenous people and the landless rural workers movement.

“It’s still a minority church, and since it’s more ‘liberal’ it has developed its own identity. … We offer a theology different from the more traditional Roman Catholic theology and that can be uncomfortable for people,” said Cavalcante. “The Anglican Church is a place where you can have an alternative vision for how to be and what is church.”

— Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.

Roman refugee center petitions all to ‘Welcome the Stranger’

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The refugee experience is a fundamental part of the Christian story and “by welcoming a stranger, we are welcoming the very Christ and God that we proclaim,” says the Rev. Austin Rios, rector of St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church in Rome, Italy.

The crypt of St. Paul’s is home to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, a ministry of radical hospitality in the heart of Rome where hundreds of refugees can find a breakfast and a host of other resources to survive and to rebuild their lives. Because of the sheer numbers of Africans migrating across the Mediterranean Sea to escape persecution, many drowning en route, Italy is at the center of the most current migrant crisis.

Each year, World Refugee Day is observed on June 20. With the global refugee crisis at its worst level since World War II, St. Paul’s wanted to offer the Anglican Communion the gift of liturgical and other resources or use in congregations on Sunday, June 21 (the closest Sunday to World Refugee Day) as part of its “Welcome the Stranger” campaign to raise awareness of refugees and their struggles, and to encourage a more compassionate response to their journey. It’s an initiative that is supported by the American Embassy to the Holy See.

Eucharistic resources, adapted from a General Theological Seminary liturgy, was prepared by Rios and Young Adult Service Corps missionaries Jared Grant and Will Bryant, whose experiences at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center inspired them to prepare the resources for World Refugee Sunday.

“World Refugee Day gives us Christians a chance to practice what we preach,” said Bryant, who is serving his second year as a YASC missionary and succeeded Grant in 2014 as a volunteer at the refugee center. “It gives us an opportunity to speak on behalf of those who have no voice. It allows us to honor those it is easy for us to forget: the millions of refugees living on the periphery of society. They are poor, they are homeless, but they are still the body of Christ.”

Bryant, whose YASC placement will conclude in August, said that a Communion-wide observation of World Refugee Day is needed now more than ever with the refugee crisis at record levels.

“We need to change the dynamic and lives of refugees [and] change the attitudes of people towards them,” he told ENS via a Skype interview from Rome, where at the center the refugees are known as “guests” by the many volunteers from different faith communities. “It’s about inspiring people to welcome the stranger rather than push them away.”

Global migration movements and their casualties affect everyone, he said, and responding to the needs of refugees “falls on not a single country or a continent but on the whole human race. My hope is that people all over the world will mark this special occasion, and that when we come together on June 21, we will pledge to ourselves and to the world that we will welcome the strangers in our midst. After all, and this is especially true for Americans, we were all immigrants once.”

Resources also have been prepared by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society – the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission – to observe World Refugee Day in dioceses and congregations throughout The Episcopal Church.

The resources include worship materials and a bulletin insert for Sunday, June 21; an interactive map of World Refugee Day events across The Episcopal Church; and information about where to find an Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliate and local volunteer opportunities.

“In observance of World Refugee Day, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society invites Episcopalians to learn more about how The Episcopal Church welcomes and resettles refugees in partnership with our 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses” across the United States, said Bishop Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer of The Episcopal Church, according to a media release.

Deborah Stein, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries the refugee-resettlement agency of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, said that World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 to honor the contributions of refugees throughout the world and to raise awareness about the growing refugee crisis, “is especially significant this year as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society continues to celebrate its 75th year of this life-saving ministry.”

For the 75-year celebration, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has launched #ShareTheJourney, a multimedia effort “to educate, form, and equip Episcopalians to engage in loving service with resettled refugees and to become prophetic witnesses and advocates on behalf of refugees, asylees, migrants, and displaced people throughout the world.”

This is not the first time The Episcopal Church has responded with resources to focus on refugee problems: During the child-migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, many churches found ways to comfort and welcome unaccompanied minors and help them through their bureaucratic maze.

“I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand the compassionate and inspiring work of the JNRC, and to hear from their guests about how the welcome they receive there is so vital to their ability to assert their humanity amidst some truly desperate circumstances,” said Stein, who led a pilgrimage to Africa’s Great Lakes region in March to study the plight of refugees. “As Episcopalians celebrate the work we do here in the United States to welcome refugees, World Refugee Day is a reminder that we are joining with Anglican and Episcopal churches throughout the world in this important ministry.”

The Joel Nafuma Refugee Center was dedicated in 1995 and provides a sanctuary for refugees to seek advice and assistance at St. Paul’s Within the Walls, a parish in the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. The center offers breakfast, distributes toiletries and items of clothing, assists with job applications, and provides services for refugees to learn languages and computer skills.

Through a navigator program, a trained cultural mediator accompanies the refugees to asylum hearings or appointments with lawyers and doctors, Rios explained in a recent reflection essay. For more than two years, a group of artisans has been making and selling handicrafts. Each artisan piece is accompanied by a story that advocates and educates about the plight of refugees in Rome. The artisans share proceeds among themselves and donate back to the center.

“Christians follow and worship a Lord who not only ‘came down from heaven,’ migrating in the mystery of the Incarnation, but who only days after his birth was forced to flee to a foreign land because of a governmental campaign of infanticide,” Rios told ENS. “Jesus experienced both welcome (from Mary and Joseph, shepherds, magi, animals) and rejection (from Herod) from his birth …­ a dynamic that would continue throughout his earthly life.

“Jesus commissioned his earliest disciples to carry out his mission when in Matthew 10:40 he said: ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me,’” Rios explained.

“As inheritors of this tradition of commission, and its attending responsibilities to both receive and extend the hospitality that God has offered us, we are called to offer this welcome as well, especially as it relates to those who are vulnerable because of itinerancy or forced migration,” said Rios, “not only because welcoming is a proper human response to suffering, but because it is an essential part of our faith DNA. … Welcoming is never easy; it involves sacrifice. But if we are to believe in God’s promises, then we know that from such sacrifice comes the joyful, abundant and shared life that underwrites our salvation.”

Along with St. Paul’s, St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong and The Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, North Carolina, have pledged to celebrate World Refugee Sunday with the special liturgy on June 21.

The resources also include downloadable reflections written by faith leaders and guests of the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center coming from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa with the intention that parishioners may seek to understand more deeply the plight of refugees in today’s migration crisis.

“Helping put refugees at ease means not only providing food, water, and shelter, but also helping learn a language, go to school, and find work,” said Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe in a June 2 reflection essay on the center’s website. “The benefits of welcoming are great, including economic and social. The penalties for refusing to welcome the stranger are severe. In the teachings of Christ, it is a matter of life and death, not only for the migrant but for us all.”

This is a time of extreme crisis for migrants all over the world, especially those traveling from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, according to a press release from St. Paul’s. In April, more than 900 migrants aboard one vessel died trying to cross from Africa to Italy. “This senseless tragedy was the focus of mainstream news media for a week. It brought to light the ongoing struggles of refugees everywhere,” the release noted. “But then, as quickly as it had appeared, the issue vanished from the headlines and the public eye. We celebrate World Refugee Day as a statement to the world that we have not forgotten refugees, even if the rest of the world has simply changed the channel. We stand united to welcome the strangers in our midst.”

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

Canada: Churches promise to heed TRC’s call to action

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Archbishop Fred Hiltz reads the ecumenical response while (L-R) Fr. Peter Bisson, the Rev. Stephen Farris, Archbishop Gérard Pettipas and the Rt. Rev. Gary Paterson look on. Photo: Art Babych

[Anglican Journal, Ottawa] Acknowledging that their apologies for harms done at Indian residential schools “are not enough,” Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United church leaders on June 2 welcomed the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which they say will offer direction to their “continuing commitment to reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples.

“It is clear that Indian Residential Schools, in policy and in practice, were an assault on Indigenous families, culture, language and spiritual traditions, and that great harm was done,” said a joint response read, on behalf of the churches, by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

While noting the “good intent and care of many who worked” as staff in these federally funded, church-run schools, the churches admitted that “those harmed were children, vulnerable, far from their families and communities,” and that “the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse they suffered is well-documented.”

The response was made  after the TRC released its final report that offered 94 “Calls to Action” on issues around Aboriginal spirituality, education, health, missing residential schools children, justice and language, among others.

The churches — all signatories to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement—responded to some of the TRC’s recommendations that were directly addressed to them. “We are committed to respect Indigenous spiritual traditions in their own right,” they said, a promise that was met with loud applause.

The TRC report specifically calls on churches as well as other faith groups to “formally recognize Indigenous spirituality as a valid form of worship that is equal to their own” in order to address the “spiritual violence” committed in the schools.

“As individual churches and in shared interfaith and ecumenical initiatives…we will continue to foster learning about and awareness of the reality and legacy of the residential schools, the negative impact of such past teachings as the Doctrine of Discovery, and the new ways forward found in places, such as  the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the churches also vowed.

They also promised to continue funding “community-controlled initiatives in healing, language and cultural revitalization, education and relationship-building, and self-determination.”

The statement also committed to involving the churches in “Calls to Action that include our members as citizens and residents of Canada,” such as the call to establish a National Council of Reconciliation.

The statement was signed by the Rev. Stephen Farris, moderator of the Presbyterian church; the Rt. Rev. Gary Paterson, moderator of the United Church; Fr. Peter Bisson, Provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada, and Archbishop Gerard Pettipas, President of the Catholic Entities Parties to the Indian Residential School Settlement, all of whom were present for its reading.

Pettipas proceeded to read a statement from the Roman Catholic entities involved in residential schools, which reiterated a commitment to healing and reconciliation. But the statement did not address the TRC’s call for the Pope to issue an apology “for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

In addition to the churches, there were also responses from the survivors, represented by former Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Phil Fontaine (who was instrumental in negotiating the Indian residential schools settlement agreement that launched the TRC); the federal government, represented by Aboriginal affairs and northern development minister Bernard Valcourt; the AFN, represented by national chief Perry Bellegarde; and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, represented by National Inuit Leader Terry Audla.

Canada: TRC report ‘comprehensive, far-reaching,’ says Hiltz

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Archbishop Fred Hiltz calls release of the TRC report a “historic day for Canada, a sacred day for most of us, an absolutely great day” for residential school survivors. Photo: Art Babych

[Anglican Journal, Ottawa] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, on June 2 commended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for issuing a final report that he described as “very comprehensive and far-reaching into the soul of the country with respect to what we need to do to bring about reconciliation [between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians] that is just so long overdue.”

He called the release of the report a “historic day for Canada, a sacred day for most of us,” adding, “it [has to] be, for survivors of residential schools, an absolutely great day.”

In an interview, Hiltz said he appreciated the direction and clarity of the 382-page report, and its 94 “Calls to Action” specifically aimed at holding to account Parliament, the federal, provincial and local governments, churches, civic institutions and all Canadians.

These recommendations essentially say, “here are some initiatives that need to be in place, to which you need to commit yourselves and show concrete results,” he said. (See related story.)

Some recommendations particularly resonated with him. “The idea for a Royal Proclamation is bang on,” said Hiltz. “I think the idea of a Covenant of Reconciliation is absolutely beautiful. The idea of a National Council for Reconciliation gives credence and authority to what the Commission has said that this is not an ending, it’s a beginning.”

In its report, the TRC called on the federal government to jointly develop, with Aboriginal peoples, a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown. “The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown,” it said. The proclamation must repudiate “concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples,” said the TRC, including the Doctrine of Discovery, a principle of charters and acts developed by colonizing Western societies 500 years ago to expropriate Indigenous lands and territories.

It also called on all parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement — the federal government, churches (including the Anglican Church of Canada), survivors and the Assembly of First Nations — to develop and sign a Covenant of Reconciliation. This covenant must reaffirm their commitment to reconciliation, repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and support the renewal or establishment of Treaty relationships “based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships in the future.”

The TRC also asked the Parliament of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish a National Council for Reconciliation that will monitor, evaluate and report annually on “post-apology progress on reconciliation to ensure that government accountability for reconciling the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown is maintained in the coming years,” said the TRC.

Hiltz said he felt “very challenged” by some of the calls to action directed specifically at churches, but also felt “encouraged that some initiatives are already in place.” He cited the TRC’s call for the government and churches to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation. “They want a statement by March 31, 2016 about what you’re going to do about that. I look at that and think, ‘we’ve got a lot of work to do,’ ” he said. “And then, I think, we [the church] have a [Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Healing] in place…”

Conversations around the U.N. declaration and the Doctrine of Discovery have already started in the church, and the TRC’s recommendations “challenge us to be steadfast and be accountable, and I think that’s entirely in order,” he added.

Hiltz also said he agreed with the TRC’s assessment that the residential schools constituted a form of cultural genocide. “That’s what it was. I agree with that. The policy of assimilation was to ‘kill the Indian in the child,’ and turn him or her into a citizen. That’s cultural genocide,” he said.

Asked what his message was to Anglicans, Hiltz said, “My message is as simple as what I heard this morning: we need to turn apology and actions associated with that into priorities, and so I’m saying, we need to take the recommendations of the TRC, which apply to the churches, and declare them to be priorities in our church.”

In its recommendations specific to churches that operated the federally funded schools (Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic), the TRC asked that education strategies be developed “to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families and their communities were necessary.”

The TRC also called on church signatories to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement as well as other faith groups to “formally recognize Indigenous spirituality as a valid form of worship that is equal to their own” in order to address the “spiritual violence” committed in the schools, the effects of which, reverberate to this day in Aboriginal communities.

Churches must also establish permanent funding for Aboriginal “community-controlled” healing and reconciliation projects, education and relationship-building projects and regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss Indigenous spirituality, self-determination and reconciliation, said the TRC.

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their homes and sent to residential schools as part of the government’s policy of cultural genocide, said the TRC. “The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources,” it noted. “If every Aboriginal person had been ‘absorbed into the body politic,’ there would be no reserves, no Treaties and no Aboriginal rights.”

Cultural genocide, explained the TRC, involves the destruction of political and social institutions of a group, the seizure of their land, the forcible transfer of populations and restriction of their movements, the banning of their language and spiritual practices, the persecution of spiritual leaders and the disruption of families to prevent the transfer of its cultural values and identity to succeeding generations. “In its dealings with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things,” said the TRC.

Canada: Residential schools a form of ‘cultural genocide,’ says TRC report

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

[Anglican Journal, Ottawa] Addressing what it described as a “cultural genocide” inflicted for over a century on Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on June 2 issued 94 wide-ranging “Calls to Action,” including the creation of a National Council for Reconciliation, a Royal Proclamation and Covenant on Reconciliation and an apology from the Pope for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

The Calls to Action — with specific directives to parliament, the federal and provincial government, churches, faith groups and all Canadians — would “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation,” said the TRC in its exhaustive, 382-page final report.

Reconciliation is about “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship”  between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada, but “we are not there yet,” said the report released by TRC Commissioners Justice Murray Sinclair, Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild. “By establishing a new and respectful relationship, we restore what must be restored, repair what must be repaired, and return what must be returned.”

During its six-year term, the TRC gathered voluminous residential school documents, received over 6,750 statements (from  former students, their families, Aboriginal communities and former school staff), held seven national events and conducted 238 days of local hearings in 77 communities across Canada. The goal: to document the truth about what happened in the residential schools, which operated from the 1860s to the 1990s, and to educate Canadians about what has been dubbed “Canada’s shame.”

For churches that operated the federally funded schools (Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic), the TRC recommended education strategies “to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families and their communities were necessary.”

The TRC also called on church signatories to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement as well as other faith groups to “formally recognize Indigenous spirituality as a valid form of worship that is equal to their own” in order to address the “spiritual violence” committed in the schools, the effects of which, reverberate to this day in Aboriginal communities.

 

Churches must also establish permanent funding for Aboriginal “community-controlled”  healing and reconciliation projects, education and relationship-building projects and regional dialogues for Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth to discuss Indigenous spirituality, self-determination and reconciliation, said the TRC.

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their homes and sent to residential schools as part of the government’s policy of cultural genocide, said the TRC. “The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources,” it noted. “If every Aboriginal person had been ‘absorbed into the body politic,’ there would be no reserves, no Treaties and no Aboriginal rights.”

Cultural genocide, explained the TRC, involves the destruction of political and social institutions of a group, the seizure of their land, the forcible transfer of populations and restriction of their movements, the banning of their language and spiritual practices, the persecution of spiritual leaders and the disruption of families to prevent the transfer of its cultural values and identity to succeeding generations. “In its dealings with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things,” said the TRC.

Saying that reconciliation requires “an awareness of the past, acknowledgment of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behavior,” the TRC also called for action on issues around Aboriginal child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, equity for Aboriginal people in the legal system, professional development and training for public servants, missing children and burial information, among others.

Canada lost an opportunity for reconciliation in 1996, when the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ call for Canadians to begin a national process of reconciliation and for the government to change its relationship with Aboriginal peoples was ignored, said the TRC.

It urged the Harper government and all Canadians to seize the opportunity  for “a rare second chance” at reconciliation, noting that “at stake is Canada’s place as a prosperous, just and inclusive democracy” in the global world.

Although some progress has been made, “significant barriers” to reconciliation remain, said the TRC. “The relationship between the federal government and Aboriginal peoples is deteriorating. Instead of moving towards reconciliation, there have been divisive conflicts over Aboriginal education, child welfare and justice.” It cited issues ranging from the call by Aboriginal groups for a national inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls to the impact of economic development of lands and resources on Treaties and Aboriginal title and rights.

Royal Proclamation and  Covenant of Reconciliation
On behalf of all Canadians, the federal government must jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown, said the TRC. “The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown.”

This proclamation, it added, should repudiate “concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples,” including the Doctrine of Discovery, a principle of charters and acts developed by colonizing Western societies 500 years ago to expropriate Indigenous lands and territories.

All parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement — the federal government, churches (including the Anglican Church of Canada), survivors and the Assembly of First Nations — must also develop and sign a Covenant of Reconciliation, recommended the TRC.

This covenant must reaffirm their commitment to reconciliation, repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and support the renewal or establishment of Treaty relationships “based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships in the future.” (The report noted that some churches, including the Anglican Church of Canada, have already repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.)

Recognize Indigenous spirituality
Reconnecting with their traditional Indigenous spiritual teachings — banned during their time at the schools — has been essential to the healing and reclaiming of identity of some survivors and their families, said the TRC.

However, this hasn’t been possible for many, said the TRC. Spiritual fear, confusion and conflict exist in many Aboriginal communities today as “direct consequences of the violence with which traditional beliefs were stripped away from Indigenous peoples” during the residential schools era, it noted. “Many survivors continue to live in spiritual fear of their own traditions. Such fear is a direct result of the religious beliefs imposed on them by those who ran the residential schools.”

Survivors who have attempted to reclaim spiritual teachings have also been criticized, and sometimes ostracized, by family members who are Christian and by their church, it added. “Survivors and their relatives reported that these tensions led to family breakdown — such is the depth of this spiritual conflict,” said the report. “…This turmoil gives particular urgency to understanding the role of churches in effecting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

The TRC nonetheless recognized efforts made by churches, including the Anglican church, which has “developed a vision for a self-governing Indigenous church to coexist within the broader institutional structure of the church,” and appointed Mark MacDonald as its first National Indigenous Bishop.

The TRC also called on leaders of church parties to the agreement and all other faiths to collaborate with Indigenous spiritual leaders, survivors, schools of theology, seminaries and other religious training centers in developing a curriculum for all student clergy, clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities that respects Indigenous spirituality. Such a curriculum must teach the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the churches, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, “and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence,” said the TRC.

“That Christians in Canada, in the name of their religion, inflicted serious harms on Aboriginal children, their families and communities was in fundamental contradiction to what they purported to be their core beliefs,” said the TRC. “For the churches to avoid repeating their failures of the past, understanding how and why they perverted Christian doctrine to justify their actions is a critical lesson to be learned from the residential school experience.”

Put words into actions
In asking the Pope to issue an apology “ for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools,” the TRC noted that unlike the three Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church in Canada does not have a single spokesperson with authority to represent its dioceses and religious orders. “The result has been a patchwork of apologies or statements of regret that few survivors or church members may even know exists.” It has been “disappointing” to survivors that the Pope has “not yet made a clear and empathic public apology in Canada” for residential schools abuses, said the TRC.

But apologies given by the government and churches can only go so far, the TRC said, noting that while they may be graciously received, they are “understandably viewed with skepticism” by survivors and their families. “When trust has been so badly broken, it can be restored only over time as survivors observe how the churches interact with them in daily life,” said the TRC. “…Apologies mark only a beginning point on pathways of reconciliation; the proof of their authenticity lies in putting words into action.”

National Council for Reconciliation
The Parliament of Canada must, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, establish a National Council for Reconciliation that will monitor, evaluate and report annually on  “post-apology progress on reconciliation to ensure that government accountability for reconciling the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown is maintained in the coming years,” said the TRC. The federal government must provide multi-year funding for this independent, national oversight body, it added.

The TRC also reiterated a recommendation it made in its 2012 interim report for the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

It also called on church parties to the agreement, and all other faith groups and interfaith social justice groups in Canada who have not already done so, to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as framework for reconciliation.

On the matter of missing residential schools children, the TRC called on the federal government to allocate funds that will allow the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Register established by the TRC.

The federal government, churches, Aboriginal communities and former students must also work together to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, “including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children,” it added.

They must also work together “to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.”

The TRC report also called on the federal government to commit $10 million over seven years to help fund the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, plus additional funds to assist communities in researching and producing histories of their own residential shock experiences and their involvement in truth, healing and reconciliation.

Archdeacon finds neighbor helping neighbor in Houston

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 1, 2015

Bags of garbage line the street for blocks and blocks around Braes Bayou in Southwest Houston. Photo/Carol E. Barnwell

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] “I saw a lot of people with a light in their eyes,” said the Very Rev. Russ Oechsel, archdeacon for the Diocese of Texas. “They know God is with us all the time.”

Oechsel led an emergency spiritual care team from the Diocese of Texas through the streets of the Meyerland area in Southwest Houston, an area especially hard hit by recent flooding. Their purpose was to show up to listen to the stories of those affected by the flooding during the past week. In addition, they carried coolers filled with water bottles and Home Depot gift cards. They heard many stories and were struck by the number of Houstonians out helping their neighbors as flooded homes were cleaned out.

“We saw off -duty police officers, firemen and military personnel helping people clear out wet carpet and sheetrock. There was one group who showed up with food,” Oechsel said. “They set up under a big tent serving lasagna to anyone who came.”

In the Westbury neighborhood, they met Stephanie, the leader of the Westbury Civic Club. Stephanie was under a blue tent recording the needs of the various homeowners and at the same time sending out volunteers to help those homeowners address their needs.

“Stephanie was doing this on an ad hoc basis with no particular training, but with the heart of a leader and the compassion of our Savior,” Oechsel said. “It was a powerful example of people caring for each other.”

The team met a young minister and his wife who were renting their home, now flooded. The couple has a young son, 18 months old, and they are expecting another boy soon. The owner of the house had come to remove carpeting and friends were helping them move their furniture and items that were not ruined into storage. Their church has found temporary housing for them.

Oechsel said they met a single woman who had insurance, but it would not cover temporary housing. She’d begun cleaning out the house, but still needs help. The team left contact information and plans to follow up with emergency funds early next week.

“We met a wonderful man named Drew,” Oechsel said. “He lost his father early in his life, but was raised in the neighborhood. He takes care of his elderly neighbors, mowing their grass and watching out for them. He asked us to go and see Mrs. Hamilton. He said he knew she needed to talk. We walked down the street and knocked on her door and were greeted by a lovely older woman. She cares for her husband who has Alzheimer’s and is bed bound. He is in hospice and she pays for a caregiver during the day and at night,” he said. “Mrs. Hamilton’s son came to help clean out so she can save her energy to care for her husband. She was very grateful for our visit promised she would call when she was ready for help.”

“We have some funds,” he said, “and I handed out a lot of cards with my phone number. Mostly, we spent the day listening to peoples’ experiences,” he added.

“I spoke to the former senior warden at Ascension Episcopal Church,” Oechsel said. “He and his brother were helping their father who is in his 80s and has Alzheimer’s.” The man has lived in his home for nearly 60 years and it was completely flooded.

“It’s important that we are present,” Oechsel said. “Our spiritual care team is there to listen to people, to pray with them, assess their needs, offer gift cards, water and chat.”

Oechsel plans to travel to Wimberley soon to work with the Diocese of West Texas and others to plan strategic long term response to the devastation. Episcopal Relief & Development has already granted $15,000 for emergency relief for which Oechsel is very grateful. The Diocese of Texas also sent a donation to the Diocese of West Texas in relief aid for Central Texas and in Acuna, Mexico on the border with the Diocese of West Texas where a tornado killed 17 people over the weekend.

“We’ll sit down with the diocesan staff in West Texas to map out our resources for long term recovery once the first wave of cleanup has taken place,” he said. Most of the homes destroyed in Wimberley were likely to be insured. That is not the case to the south in San Marcos. “If we begin a major rebuilding effort, it may focus on the San Marcos area, but we will know more in a few weeks,” he said.

West Texas Bishop Gary Lillibridge last week wrote to his diocese about those disasters.

The Diocese of Texas had several churches report minor damage, but no major flooding, although many parishioners are facing major rebuilding once the storms are past. Many cars were flooded as well.

The Rev. Gena Davis, right, had just put her house on the market when it was flooded. She and husband Gary have spent the past week throwing most of their soaked library onto the curb and taking clothes to the dry cleaners with lots of help from parishioners. “Well, it’s a heck-of-a way to downsize!” she said. Photo/Carol E. Barnwell

The Rev. Gena Davis, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Houston, had more than two feet of water in her home and lost two cars. Much of her extensive library was lost to water damage, although she was able to find her treasured icons in time to dry them off and save them from permanent damage.

Her husband Gary worked for three years overseeing the rebuilding efforts in Galveston following Hurricane Ike and now finds it strange to be on the receiving end of the flooding. “I remember comforting people who were very upset at having lost everything,” he said. “I still can’t take this all in,” he added, looking around at the piles of furniture and household items hauled to the curb from their home.

Davis said she ignored the numerous alerts from her cell phone the night of the flood and it wasn’t until she realized the car’s alarm was going off that she got out of bed to check. It was then she stepped into several inches of water, “that just continued to rise.”

Texas hopes for a drying out period in the coming days and many consider that the drought the state has suffered for the past several years might not look so bad.

Donations are being accepted for flood victims at the Diocese of Texas. Make checks payable to The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, marked “flood relief,” and mail to: 1225 Texas St., Houston, TX 77002.

Online donations are being accepted by the Diocese of West Texas. Go to dwtx.org/departments/world-mission and click “donate.” Apply your gift to “commission of emergency response” or contact Kaitlin Reed at 888.210.824.5387 or email her at Kaitlin.reed@dwtx.org with further questions.

— Carol E. Barnwell is the director of communications for the Diocese of Texas.

Presiding Bishop preaches at Grace Church, Newark

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 1, 2015

Trinity 31 May 2015
Grace Church, Newark NJ

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

I met a couple of remarkable young people last week. Both are survivors of some of the worst that the world can throw at a person. One was kidnapped from school as a child and forced into what is effectively a giant gang war. He was held and trained as a soldier to murder the enemy, and he spent years in the killing fields. Today he works with kids the age he was at the beginning of his deadly detour. He attributes his deliverance to the love he learned from his parents and his church as a child. His rebirth had its beginning long before the end of his warring.[1]

The other is a young woman who has awakened to the suffering of many of her sisters in this world. She noticed girls married off too young to much older men, some of them beaten by drunken husbands, even while living next to a convent. No one would come to their aid, and no one would tolerate discussion of the violence. She saw and experienced teachers who demanded sexual favors from their students. She found her voice and is helping others to find theirs. Today, she prods the churches and builds bridges between them to make a difference in the lives of girls and women, to help affirm their equal dignity and creation in the image of God.[2]

Both these young people found their paths in the midst of the violence and war of eastern Congo, but the realities of their lives are not so different from the violence of inner cities here. Gangs recruit children to perpetrate violence as a mark of belonging. Girls and young women are treated like playthings and commodities to be sold to the highest bidder. The devaluation of human life and the exploitation of human beings continue to pervade the world. Life is counted as cheap today as it was in Pharaoh’s day or in first century Palestine. Yet human beings continue to be surprised by hope and possibility even in the face of the world’s ancient evils.

Moses had violent encounters as a young man, too. Exodus tells it as an act of righteous defense of his countryman, but he murdered an Egyptian, and then fled lest he be discovered. He wanders into Midian, and comes to the aid of a band of sisters trying to water their sheep. Their father invites him into his household and he ends up marrying one of the boss’ daughters. And then comes the call from the holy fire. He hears God speaking from the burning bush – ‘Go and deliver my people, they’re crying out for mercy in the midst of their suffering, go confront Pharaoh and lead my people into a land of milk and honey.’[3]

Moses had several encounters with threat and deliverance, beginning in the bulrushes soon after his birth. The God of his ancestors keeps turning Moses around, finding safety and nurture for him among the Egyptians, and later sending him to plunder the King of Egypt and take away all his slaves. This God who says “I am who I am” uses enemies and ruses and rushes and bushes to snatch new life out of the jaws of death. Those rebirths keep coming – when they’re least expected.

This feast of Trinity is meant to celebrate the otherness of God, God’s ineffable (indescribable) and unknowable nature, and it’s also meant to keep us growing into the image of the One who created us. Christians understand God’s nature as community – three persons in one essence, one being. The very nature of God is social, and some of the early theologians speak of the Trinity as a cosmic, holy dance.[4] Quantum physicists use similar language to talk about the mystery of the smallest particles of matter – we can say something about what they are or where they are but not both at the same time. The Godhead is something like that – persons dancing in whole and holy being, beyond what we can ever fully comprehend.

Yet we keep trying to understand and define, a yearning born of our hunger to reconnect with divine reality. That’s the rebirth Jesus is urging on Nicodemus: get out of your little box, your limited understanding, let go and open up to the otherness of God, discover that overwhelmingly abundant love and find life that endures. Those two Congolese young people have had a taste of that rebirth. The trauma and violence they’ve endured are birth pangs, the labor of transition that brings transformation and new life. That greater love will indeed transform us and the world if we give our hearts to it fully.

We are connected like the members of the Trinity – so intimately and so thoroughly that we cannot be parted – even by death. Yet how often do we really recognize it or live as though it’s true? We are created in community, for community, in spite of the death and violence around us. Believing that we are gathered into God and one another as our ultimate reality is what it means to love God with all we are and all we have and love our neighbors as ourselves. When we give our hearts to that, we begin to discover that love will have the final word, not violence or death. Junior Nzita is teaching children that peace is their destiny, rather than war. Olga Kangaj is empowering young women and others to see human relationship as partnership rather than slavery.

We are all connected as God is connected, by solidarities not of our own choosing, as Rowan Williams put it. The gifts Joseph Arndt has shared with you over these seven years will continue to bless you after he moves west.[5] He’s evidently seen a burning bush of his own, and he’s off to Oklahoma for a new chapter in his life, and yours, and the folks in Tulsa. The connections you have may change, but the bonds will not die.

Those unchosen solidarities are the spirit of God at work in our lives – nudging, calling to us out of burning bushes, surprising us with bonds of affection not recognized before. Often the discovery comes out of the midst of pain and suffering. I understand that Jim McGreevey has spoken in the forum here. His painful journey and rebirth have become a gift in his ministry with prisoners. Your work with HMI: Newark[6] is solidarity work that gives incarnate evidence of our interconnection. The whole community is learning to see the variety in which the image of God is present in this world – with more creativity and diversity than many have ever dreamed! We are made for community, created in the image of God, who is both wholly other and as close as our breath. Give your heart to that reality, and find life abundant and beyond human limitation. Our lives are found in God and one another, steeped in love. Thanks be to God.

[1] Paix Pour l’Enfance https://paixpourlenfance.wordpress.com/author/paixpourlenfance/   http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/25/us-congodemocratic-childsoldiers-un-idUSKBN0ML2DS20150325

[2] http://www.umcmission.org/explore-our-work/missionaries-in-service/missionary-profiles/kangaj-olga

[3] Exodus 3

[4] Perichoresis

[5] The music director and organist is departing: http://www.gracechurchinnewark.org/arndt-announcement.php

[6] https://www.hmi.org/ and http://www.hmi.org/NewJersey

Archbishop of Canterbury preaches in China

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 1, 2015

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preached on Sunday, May 31, at Muen Church, Shanghai, China. In his sermon, the archbishop spoke of “the community of the church” in the light of the Trinity.

Welby is visiting China May 27 to June 5 at the joint invitation of SARA (China State Administration for Religious Affairs) and CCC/TSPM (China Christian Council/National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Association of the Protestant Churches in China).

The purpose of the visit is to build on existing friendly relations with the Christian Church in China, and to meet and learn about faith communities and their role in the major economic and social developments in the country.

Read the full text of Archbishop Welby’s sermon and learn more about his visit to China.

Canada: Walk for reconciliation a celebration and a reminder

ENS Headlines - Monday, June 1, 2015

Between 7,000 and 10,000 people from across Canada marched from Gatineau to Ottawa as part of the launch of the final event of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, May 31 to June 3, in Ottawa. Photo: Art Babych

(For more photos, click here.)

[Anglican Journal] Drums thunder in the Rue Laurier underpass, and voices echo in song and conversation. Banners, placards, signs and flags catch the wind coming in off the Ottawa River, and below them thousands of marchers approach Portage bridge, which links Gatineau with Ottawa.

They are walking to signal the beginning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) final event. The TRC’s six-year inquiry into the sad legacy of residential schools — which saw 150,000 aboriginal children removed from their homes and enrolled in church-run schools — will end with the release of a final report on June 2.

Despite the gravity of the issues at hand, there is a festive feel to the air. Old friends see each other across the crowd and rush to embrace. Yarmulkes mix with crucifixes and headscarves and eagle feathers. Traditional dress from many nations is worn, and songs are sung in several languages. Young parents push their children in strollers, or sit them on the backs of their bicycles. A group of brightly dressed women whose signs declare that they are Ottawa’s “raging grannies” exchange banter with curious walkers.

They have come from across the country, these walkers: Inuit from Inukjuak on Hudson’s Bay, Cree from Moose Factory in North Manitoba, Coast Salish from Vancouver Island, Mohawks from the Six Nations Territory outside of Brantford, Ontario. They are joined by non-aboriginal Canadians of all races — Canadians who have come from Toronto and Montreal, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Saskatchewan and Vancouver — to hear the truth about Canada’s past, and to show their willingness to work for a future of reconciliation.

The walkers began to gather at École secondaire de l’Île in Gatineau the morning of May 31, where they were welcomed to the traditional territory of the Algonquin people by Chief Kirby Whiteduck of Pikwakanagan First Nation, before hearing words from a number of First Nations and government leaders, including Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt and TRC commissioner Marie Wilson.

“Today is just a stop over as we catch our breath on a six-year journey,” says Wilson before the walk begins in an explosion of drumming. “We have a long road ahead of us, and this walk is the symbolic beginning of a movement…that cannot end.”

Not long into the walk a group of women stop beside Rue Saint-Rédempteur to wait for a friend to catch up.

“I’m walking to show that I’m finishing that part of my life,” says Evelyn Spence, one of a group of eight residential school survivors who flew from the remote Northern Ontario town Webequie to Thunder Bay and then drove 16 hours to Ottawa to attend the closing event for the TRC.

Further ahead, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, walks with Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and later, with Diocese of New Westminster Bishop Melissa Skelton. He carries a hand drum, and at one point joins in with a group of indigenous drummers.

Nearby, Anglicans from St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in the Diocese of Ottawa walk under a banner decorated with an inukshuk. They explain that the inukshuk is in honor of their Inuit members (St. Margaret’s is home to many Inuit, and has an Inuktitut service).

Other Anglicans have also come from the dioceses of Saskatchewan, Niagara, Toronto and the Spiritual Indigenous Ministry of Mishamikoweesh.

As the walkers turn onto Wellington Street and made their way past Parliament Hill, the air fills with the sound of bells ringing from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

“We’re ringing the bells for you!” declares Elizabeth Phillipson to the walkers, pulling the belfry rope at the entrance to St. Andrews. Jennifer Henry, the director of the Canadian ecumenical justice group KAIROS, runs up the steps to join her, as does Hilary Johnson, a survivor from Williams Lake in B.C.

Phillipson hands Johnson the rope, and he gives it a couple of energetic pulls. “They let me ring the bell!” he laughs happily before re-joining the march.

Not all the walkers are as joyful. Further along the road, John Moses carries an old photograph of his father and aunt. Moses’ father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all attended the Anglican-run Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ontario. “I’m the first generation after four that wasn’t raised at the Mohawk,” Moses, who is raising his own family in Ottawa, says with a mix of pride and sadness.

Not far from Moses, Janet Head carries a picture as well. It shows her father and mother, both of whom passed away in recent years. Her mother, the Rev. Hagar Head, an Anglican priest, wears a clerical collar in the picture. “The reason why she went into ministry is because she wanted to educate the church about what happened to her in residential school,” says Head, “but when she told her story, they told her to get over it.”

The walk ends at Marion Dewar Plaza, outside of Ottawa City Hall. The walkers — an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 of them —  struggle to fit into the square, and flow over onto Laurier Ave. The plaza is filled with tents, and before the speeches begin, an Ottawa troupe of Métis dancers — Jaime and the Jiglets — takes the stage to raise the mood.

The series of speakers who follow — Ottawa mayor Jim Watson,  Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair — remind the crowd of why they have gathered.

Wynne promises to walk alongside Indigenous Ontarians, citing a recent decision to expand teaching about residential schools in the Ontario schools curriculum. Not everyone in the crowd is convinced.

“Honor the treaties!” A young man with a thick black braid and a t-shirt with a tepee on it shouts.

“That is my exact next point,” Wynne responds, promising that her government will do more to raise awareness, especially among children, about the “important role the treaties play in our lives.”

But the last speech of the afternoon, by Justice Murray Sinclair, offers a somber reminder.

“We have a lot of work to do as a society,” he says. “We have a lot of distance to cover. Seven generations of damage have occurred. Reconciliation will not be achieved in my lifetime…reconciliation will probably not be achieved in the lifetime of my children. But reconciliation will be achieved if we understand this: you do not have to believe that reconciliation will happen, you have to believe that reconciliation should happen.”

EPPN Policy Alert: Sign a petition in support of debt relief for Nepal

ENS Headlines - Friday, May 29, 2015

[Episcopal Public Policy Network press release] In April, a devastating earthquake struck Nepal. This earthquake and the aftershocks that followed have led to an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country. One of the poorest countries in the world, Nepal is now in desperate need of resources to recover and protect its citizens, especially as monsoon season draws near. Many impacted families lack access to food, shelter, healthcare, or schools. Unfortunately, recovery and rebuilding efforts are complicated by the fact that the Nepalese government has to pay nearly $600,000 a day towards its foreign debt.

Episcopal Church policy on sovereign debt reduction supports debt relief for poor countries that are heavily indebted and have not previously qualified for debt cancellation. In that spirit, we join Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of organizations and faith communities of which The Episcopal Church is a member, in calling the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to provide immediate debt relief to Nepal so that the government can redirect these funds towards recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Click here to sign the petition now!

World Refugee Day resources available for congregations, dioceses

ENS Headlines - Thursday, May 28, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] June 20 is World Refugee Day and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has prepared resources to observe this important event in dioceses and congregations of all sizes.

“In observance of World Refugee Day, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society invites Episcopalians to learn more about how The Episcopal Church welcomes and resettles refugees in partnership with our 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses across the country,” commented Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church.

“World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 to honor the contributions of refugees throughout the world and to raise awareness about the growing refugee crisis in places like Syria and Central Africa,” said Deborah Stein, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  “World Refugee Day is especially significant this year as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society continues to celebrate its 75th year of this life-saving ministry.”

Resources
To support local World Refugee Day celebrations, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has created several tools:
•    Worship materials for Sunday, June 21 (the closest Sunday to World Refugee Day) including prayers of the people and sermon starters, that can be downloaded at no fee here.
•    Bulletin insert for Sunday, June 21 (the closest Sunday to World Refugee Day) which focuses on bringing awareness to refugee issues and opportunities for local involvement in this life-saving ministry. Insert can be downloaded at no fee here.
•    An interactive map of events across The Episcopal Church to find a World Refugee Day event that is convenient to your community. Interactive map is here.
•    Information about where to find an Episcopal Migration Ministries affiliate in your community and how you can volunteer locally can be found here.  If you are interested in learning more about partnership opportunities, contact Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement (aduvall@episcopalchurch.org)
•    #ShareTheJourney with Episcopal Migration Ministries by hosting a World Refugee Day event in your congregation or diocese. Send your event details to wjohnson@episcopalchurch.org to be included in the World Refugee Day interactive map.

Did you know?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports:
•    Every four seconds someone is forced to flee due to conflict, persecution or fear of violence.
•    There are currently more than 50 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people worldwide, the most in the post-World War II era.
•    To date, more than 3 million Syrians have fled the violence in their country.

Resettlement facts from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society:
•    70,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. in 2014.
•    5,155 refugees were resettled in 2014 by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and its network of affiliate offices

Questions? Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement for Episcopal Migration Ministries, at aduvall@episcopalchurch.org, 212-716-6000.

Episcopal Migration Ministries
Episcopal Migration Ministries is the refugee resettlement program of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Each year the Missionary Society works in partnership with its affiliate network, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe.

#ShareTheJourney as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society celebrates 75 years of resettling refugees in the United States. #ShareTheJourney is a multi-media effort to educate, form, and equip Episcopalians to engage in loving service with resettled refugees and to become prophetic witnesses and advocates on behalf of refugees, asylees, migrants, and displaced persons throughout the world.

Check out the website: www.episcopalchurch.org/emm and www.episcopalchurch.org/sharethejourney

West Texas bishop reports on diocesan response to flooding, tornado

ENS Headlines - Thursday, May 28, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas] Diocese of West Texas Bishop Gary Lillibridge has written to the members of the diocese with an update about recent flooding.

His letter is here. The text of the letter follows as well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
TO:        All Clergy and Congregations in West Texas
FROM: Bishop Lillibridge

I am writing in regard to two tragedies over the weekend, one due to flooding in Central Texas; and one due to a tornado striking Acuna, Mexico, which is directly across from Del Rio on our diocesan border.  Both areas are in great need, and this letter begins to explain how we might respond in concrete ways in these communities. Your assistance, in whatever way is possible for you and your congregation, will be deeply appreciated.  Please also accept my personal thanks, and that of Bishop Reed, who is on his way to Wimberley this afternoon, for your compassion, care, and generosity to all those who are in need from these events. We are also blessed by the great efforts of our Diocesan Disaster Response Task Force, under the leadership of Bob Thompson of St. Thomas, San Antonio.

Flooding in Central Texas, particularly the Wimberley area
The recent heavy rains and flooding in Central and South Texas have left many communities in disarray, most notably Wimberley and the surrounding areas after the Blanco River rose 40 feet over the Memorial Day weekend. The devastation in Wimberley is widespread.

Among the people missing, eight are from Corpus Christi who were vacationing in a home on the river over the Memorial Day weekend.  Five of the missing are members of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi.  One of the missing Good Shepherd family members was found on May 27, and did not survive. Search efforts continue, and avenues to donate supplies and money have been set up to help the entire community.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and School in Wimberley is accepting monetary donations.  Checks can be made to the church and in the memo line, please write “flood relief.”  Checks can be mailed or delivered to:
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church
6000 FM 3237
Wimberley, Texas 78676

The Diocese of West Texas is also offering monetary assistance and can accept donations on behalf of the community of Wimberley.  If you would like to make a donation to the diocese for flood relief, checks should be made out to the Diocese of West Texas with “flood relief” in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to:
The Diocese of West Texas
Attention: Kaitlin Reed
PO Box 6885
San Antonio, TX 78209

Online donations are also being accepted for these relief efforts.  Go to www.dwtx.org/departments/world-mission and click “DONATE.” Apply your gift to “Commission on Emergency Response.” Please contact Kaitlin Reed at 888/210-824-5387 or kaitlin.reed@dwtx.org with any further questions.

To find out immediate needs and how to help, you can call the Hays County hotline at 512-754-2275, or contact Traci Maxwell, member of St. Stephen’s, at Wimberleybroker@yahoo.com.

Tornado damage in Acuna, Mexico
Here is an update from the Rev. John Fritts, rector of St. James Episcopal Church and School in Del Rio, on the Acuna situation, across the border from Del Rio:

There were 17 souls who lost their lives in Acuna—none of the St James Episcopal School students or their families from Acuna have lost their lives or have been immediately impacted by the tornado that swept through a small area of the city on Memorial Day.  The people who are St. James Church and School are lifting all those involved in this tragedy up in our thoughts and prayers very intentionally in school during our chapel time together and also in our congregational life together.

St. James in Del Rio is coordinating with the local Emergency Operation Center for items needed to aid those affected in our sister city of Acuna.  Right now these are the items needed:  canned goods, bottled water, dry goods, hygiene products, baby formula and diapers, cleaning supplies, and monetary donations are accepted at all Del Rio Bank and Trust locations.

As we continue to coordinate support for our sister city in Acuna, monetary donations, as well as items, will be accepted at St. James Episcopal Church, Del Rio, 206 West Greenwood (PO Box  1129, 78841), Phone 830-775-7292.  Disaster Preparedness contacts at St. James are Ann Beitel and the Rev. John C. Fritts.

Presiding Bishop moderates WCC panel on peace, security in the Congo

ENS Headlines - Thursday, May 28, 2015

During a July 2011 visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Rev. Margaret Rose and the Rev. Petero Sabune stop to say a prayer with widows in a community near the Anglican University of Congo in Bunia. Widows are considered outcasts in many Congolese communities. Photo: Matthew Davies

[Episcopal News Service] The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is ranked among the world’s poorest countries, and since the former Belgian colony fell into the hands of corrupt and power-hungry leaders following its independence in 1960, the Congolese have rarely experienced life without conflict.

A May 27-29 World Council of Churches’ conference in Geneva, Switzerland, includes religious leaders, victims of war, former child soldiers, United Nations representatives, members of relief agencies, and post-conflict practitioners, all seeking solutions for peace and security in the war-weary nation. Participants at the event are addressing violent conflict, electoral integrity, environmental protection and human rights.

Quoting from Isaiah 58, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said: “The peacemaking work that we are all about is repairing [the] breach, that gap in abundant life that Jesus believes is the birthright of all human beings. Repairing that breach is what we are about and why we are here.”

Jefferts Schori was moderating a panel at the conference that focused on international cooperation for peace building and reconstruction. She visited the DRC for six days in July 2011 to spend time with the victims of war, orphaned children and women who’ve been raped by rebel soldiers leading to stigmatization and abandonment by their families and communities. Jefferts Schori witnessed how the Province L’Eglise Anglicane du Congo (Anglican Church of Congo) and its partners are committed to serving the vulnerable, needy and traumatized in the Central African nation of some 72 million people.

“It’s incredibly powerful to see that work going on and to hear the women’s stories and to hear about how the churches are supporting the healing of communities,” Jefferts Schori said in opening the WCC panel.

She described how The Episcopal Church has been involved in the DRC for many years through advocacy and partnerships. “One of the ways that we try to improve our constructive support is by gathering people who work on issues relating to the Congo,” she said. “It is a way to keep everyone aware of the latest developments. We have at times called for a week of prayer … to raise awareness among our own members” and to encourage advocacy.

Episcopal Relief & Development partners with the Anglican Church of the Congo on programs that support post-conflict healing. Through Ensemble Nous Pouvons, or Together We Can, church partners have mobilized community-based groups to identify their existing resources, along with actions they can take to foster development.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and Episcopal Relief & Development also have supported the work of Union des Femmes pour la Paix et la Promotion Social, or United Women for Peace and Social Promotion, in medical and psychological healing and social reintegration.

Following independence in 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo – about the same size as the continent of Europe – faced more than three decades of gross corruption under the presidency of Joseph Mobutu, who was supported by the United States as a “friendly tyrant” for his resistance to the Soviet Union. Rebels led by Laurent Kabila overthrew Mobutu in 1997.

Initially raising hopes, Kabila was installed as the new president and changed the country’s name from Zaire to the Democratic Republic of Congo. But his allies became enemies, and the DRC entered five years of brutal war in which an estimated 5.4 million people died. When he was assassinated in 2001, Kabila was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila, who remains the DRC’s president in a power-sharing government that includes former rebels.

The war was fueled largely by a scramble for the country’s vast mineral resources. Rebels in the east, supported by Tutsi militias and neighboring countries Uganda and Rwanda, battled the Kinshasa-based government, backed by Hutu militias and Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. In October 2004, the human rights group Amnesty International announced that 40,000 cases of rape had been reported over the previous six years.

As the DRC – which hosts the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping team – attempts to recover from what has been dubbed the bloodiest conflict since World War II, rebel activity still roils the east of the country and is synonymous with gender-based violence, particularly in rural villages. Some reports reveal stories of rebel soldiers raping women while their husbands are forced to watch, then killing family members and carrying out acts of cannibalism.

A major consequence of the Congo’s war and the associated atrocities is the plight of some 3 million internally displaced people and refugees who have fled to camps in neighboring countries.

In early March, eight Episcopalians traveled to Kenya and Rwanda to learn about refugee resettlement today through the lens of Congolese refugees on a #ShareTheJourney pilgrimage organized by Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s refugee resettlement service.

In 2014, Episcopal Migration Ministries and its partners helped to resettle 5,155 of the tens of thousands of refugees who came to the United States through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ screening process. The agency will work to serve as many people this year, as the United States plans to resettle 70,000 refugees. Many of those refugees will come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Geneva, Jefferts Schori said she was struck by the reflections and the vision that Christians hold together of a world without violence. She urged those attending the WCC conference to consider how they might better partner in peacemaking and for positive action.

The conference follows on from a 2009 visit to the Congo by a WCC delegation, identification by the 2013 WCC Assembly of the Congo as a “priority country” in its international work, and an April 2014 visit by WCC general secretary, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, to an ecumenical forum in the nation’s capital, Kinshasa.

Tveit, in his opening remarks at the Geneva conference, said the time is ripe “to bring our discussions into action.” Although for many years the Congo has been “a context of suffering,” he said, “this gathering is a sign of hope for another story, another reality, another future” for the nation as churches decide how to use their resources together for peace, security and sustainable development there.

The conference concludes on May 29 with a look towards the 2016 DRC presidential elections and the future work of an ecumenical forum on issues relating to the DRC.

— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.

Japanese Anglicans commit to becoming ‘symbols of peace’

ENS Headlines - Thursday, May 28, 2015

[Anglican Communion News Service] The House of Bishops of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK – The Anglican Communion in Japan) has renewed commitments to put peace and reconciliation at the core of the church’s mission in a message concerning the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in the Pacific.

The anniversary was a time to renew efforts for peace because the wounds of the war had not healed even after 70 years, the message stated.

The bishops affirmed as cornerstones in this reconciliation journey the NSKK’s Statement on War Responsibility of 1995, which pledged to walk with those persecuted during the war and those still suffering discrimination, and the 1996 General Synod’s decision to send an apology to the churches in the countries which Japan had invaded.

The NSKK would continue to strengthen its relationships with Asian churches, especially the Anglican Church of Korea and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, and support peace and reconciliation efforts in the entire East Asian region, the bishops said.

“A peaceful reunion of North and South Korea and the establishment of a more peaceful Okinawa will continuously be important issues in the missionary work of Nippon Sei Ko Kai,” they noted.

Domestic problems such as the increased push for remilitarization in Japan, ongoing radioactive contamination from the explosion of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, widening economic disparity, and an increase in hate speech called the church to renew “hearts and minds … by learning from the history and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Although only a small group within Japanese society, all NSKK members could be “symbols of peace,” the bishops affirmed.

They vowed to continue putting into practice the commitments of the Statement on War Responsibility and the 2012 mission consultation, “Life: Unlimited Dignity – Seeking a New Communal Way to Proclaim the Gospel”.

“We will let [Jesus’] life shine in us, help break down dividing walls wherever we can, gather the separated into one, and walk as instruments of his peace.”

The message from the NSKK House of Bishops is available on the NSKK website.

Anglican churches assisting those displaced by crisis in Burundi

ENS Headlines - Thursday, May 28, 2015

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi is preparing to assist people displaced by violence and insecurity due to the ongoing political crisis in the country.

Unrest began last month with President Nkurunziza’s announcement that he intended to run for a third term of office, a re-election bid which his opponents say violates the constitution. At least 20 civilians have since died in clashes with police during mass demonstrations.

The security situation has continued to deteriorate in the wake of the failed military coup on May 13 and the death of Zedi Feruzi, opposition leader of the Union for Peace and Development (UPD) party.

Many people have fled their home in fear of the “Imbonerakure” youth militia who are faithful to the president’s party. The opposition coalition has accused the government of targeting its leaders for arrest and detention, forced disappearance, torture and inhumane treatment of demonstrators, UNHCR said. Many opposition leaders have gone into hiding. Nearly all privately operated media have been forced to shut down.

Nearly 90,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries since April 2015, according to UNHCR, while a significant number have sought refuge with friends or family in other towns or provinces.

Internally displaced
Those fleeing the insecurity and violence are living in dire conditions and lack food, water, sanitation and health services, clothing and shelter, Leonidas Niyongabo, provincial development officer of the Anglican Church of Burundi, reported to the Anglican Alliance. With the closure of universities and secondary schools, students are particular vulnerable.

Many people are stranded at Burundi’s borders, unable to cross into neighboring countries due to administrative obstacles.

“Urgent intervention is very much needed,” he said.

The church has created emergency committees in 10 of its parishes to assist as the security situation permits. A rapid needs assessment will be carried out to determine how best to respond, particularly to give support to children and women.

“Most humanitarian organizations are leaving the country, which adds to the urgency,” Niyongabo said.

Anglican churches in neighboring countries also are responding to the crisis, assisting Burundian refugees arriving in their dioceses. Nearly 10,000 Burundians have crossed into the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and nearly 47,000 have sought refuge in Tanzania, according to UNHCR.

The Diocese of Bukavu in the Province of the Anglican Church of Congo (Province de l’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo) is seeking to assist 150 refugee families, in total 600 people, who are living either in church buildings or with host families, the Anglican Alliance reports.

The Diocese of Western Tanganyika in the Anglican Church of Tanzania reports a new influx of Burundian refugees. The diocese has been donating food and non-food items to way stations for refugees families on their journey to the Nyarugusu refugee camp.

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Burundi, Niyongabo thanked the Anglican Communion for its support for people in crisis and requested further prayer.

“We ask you to continue to pray for the country and for all the people of Burundi. May the hand of God continue to work so that God’s righteousness, peace, and unity prevail in Burundi,” he said.

*This news story is based on information from the Anglican Alliance which is working closely with the Relief Department of the Anglican Church of Burundi.

Information on how to support the response of Anglican churches to people displaced by the crisis in Burundi will be available shortly from the Anglican Alliance. Please visit the Anglican Alliance website for further updates on the situation in Burundi and neighboring countries.

Share prayers for Burundi on the Prayer Wall of the Anglican Communion website.