[Episcopal News Service] Call them Lutheran-Episcopal digital collaborators.
Episcopalian Dr. Elizabeth Drescher and Lutheran Pastor Keith Anderson co-authored “Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible” and closed out the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a Jan. 25 “CommFest 2014” workshop about church communication and social media at Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Theirs is among a growing number of creative ministries and mission-minded expressions of the 12-year-old Called to Common Mission unifying agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church.
Other evidences of deepening collaborative relationships include: the November joint statement from the presiding bishops of both churches, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and her Lutheran counterpart, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, regarding the Dec. 1 observance of World AIDS Day. There is also the recently announced agreement with their Canadian counterparts to coordinate responses to natural disasters and other events that may transcend their borders.
Additionally, the Episcopal Church and the ELCA share an Office of Government Relations staff position of legislative representative for international issues, and there is a joint ministry and training among the federal chaplaincies.
The Rev. Jon Perez, a member of the Lutheran Episcopal Coordinating Committee (LECC), estimated that about 50 “formal and informal” joint Lutheran and Episcopal ministries approved by governing bodies of both churches exist around the country, including his own congregation, Epiphany Lutheran and Episcopal Church, in Marina, California.
“We’ve passed the ten year mark with Call to Common Mission (CCM) and in this next ten years we want to focus on how to make this more intentionally missional work … and to see how we both can better use this relationship to reach the unchurched and those who have left the church and do it in a bold way,” he said.
Despite concerns about CCM, “we didn’t lose our identity,” Perez added. “Twelve years into it, the ELCA is still the ELCA and the Episcopal Church is still the Episcopal Church and now it’s time to see how we can function more effectively as a missional tool together.”
Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe, a LECC co-chair, agreed. “The work has changed over time. Initially, it was about monitoring where we were and where we might have differences, like was everybody rightly represented at all the ordinations.
“But, we’ve moved on, to a place where we regularly set goals, have a five-year plan,” Scarfe said. “The idea of focusing on mission is to focus on how much there is to do in God’s name and the fact that we can all come together to do this across our denominations, that’s what ecumenism really is.”
Digital Collaborators, ‘match.com colleagues’
Drescher’s and Anderson’s collaboration happened “in an organic way in the digital world … a match.com colleague relationship” and embodies the ecumenical relationships enjoyed by the ELCA and the Episcopal Church, she said.
“We connected on Facebook. I enjoyed his blog. We stayed in touch” and when Drescher, an author and academic who teaches in the religious studies and pastoral ministries department at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, was considering a follow-up to her book “Tweet If You ♥ Jesus”, she invited Anderson’s input.
They collaborated on “Click 2 Save: the Digital Ministry Bible” but didn’t actually meet until the book was in the final stages, according to Anderson, a pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia, during a recent telephone interview with ENS. “We did everything by email, Twitter, Google hangouts, Skyping; our weekly writing meetings were on Google plus.”
It led to joint speaking engagements, like the recent CommFest 2014 where the duo offered a basic message that while the CCM is really important, “a lot of things happen organically on the ground and especially even more so with social media,” said Anderson, 40.
“It allows people to connect beyond denominational networks, and share interests, concerns and passions, person to person and that’s certainly what we experienced,” he said. “Through social media, we were able to serendipitously become connected, grow deeper, and make contributions for the life of the church.
“Through our story we are helping people to think about how social media can enable people to connect, to contribute to the larger church,” he said. “In some ways we’re just living into what the Call to Common Mission means.”
Drescher agreed. “Our collaboration has brought the conversation to both of our denominational communities and that’s allowed us again to model a way of being in relationship,” she said during a recent telephone interview. “It tends to happen that I get invited to Episcopal things and Keith gets invited to Lutheran things and we bring each other along to the extent we can. It’s great to color outside the lines with him.”
At CommFest 2014 the pair discussed the spirituality of the “nones” — those who check the ‘none’ box on forms asking for religious affiliation — “but who remain interested in questions of meaning and value and the spirit.”
About 70 percent of “nones” come from Christian backgrounds and about 50 percent of those raised in the Episcopal Church will not be Episcopalians as adults (40 percent for Lutherans), Drescher said. Yet, they remain interested in “the very kind of questions that are our stock and trade in churches; we need to be thinking about more creative ways to be in conversation with them,” she said.
Ecumenical advocacy, shared strategies
In issuing a joint statement about World AIDS Day last November, the presiding bishops of both churches called upon Episcopalians and Lutherans to explore ways the common mission agreement might facilitate collaborative advocacy and shared strategies.
“Our churches’ full-communion relationship is more than ten years old, and local communities are now collaborating in varied and exciting ways,” according to the statement. “Can shared strategy toward AIDS-free communities be a part of this? Could congregations challenge themselves to see the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS – observed annually beginning the first Sunday in March – as an opportunity to begin?”
Sarah Dreier, who until December 2013 served as the ELCA and Episcopal Church legislative representative for international issues, said that collaborative role “helps to magnify our voice” on such global issues as combating HIV/AIDS and reforming federal food aid policies “that would help reach many more people … and substantially address the needs of poor and hungry people around the world.”
“It was a policy that both the Episcopal Church and the ELCA are deeply committed to,” said Dreier, 31, the daughter of Lutheran pastors, who left her position to pursue a doctorate in global peacemaking and economic justice at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We were able to do a very substantial amount of advocacy work, reaching out to key members of Congress who would have the potential of helping to move this issue from across the aisle.”
Alex Baumgarten, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church, said the two churches initiated the joint position in 2011 in part because of “financial stewardship in the area of declining budgets, but even more by a sense that the two churches shared very similar witnesses – with the chief distinctions often being the cultural and geographic perspectives that informed those witnesses – and that each of those two similar witnesses would be strengthened by more intentional collaboration with the other.”
Shared resources were another factor, as “the ELCA has global Lutheran partners in some places where the Anglican Communion is not widely represented, and vice versa,” he added. “We have found over the past nearly three years of sharing this work that our witness as churches has been magnified and enriched substantially as a consequence of partnership with the other.”
Now, bishops from both denominations are considering shared advocacy on domestic, state and local public policy initiatives. “The gift of sharing one particular missional staff position with the ELCA has allowed The Episcopal Church, I believe, to challenge our thinking in much wider ways about what unity and common mission mean,” Baumgarten said.
“While financial scarcity initially led us to consider sharing this work, it has now become apparent that this scarcity was, in fact, an invitation into a place of far greater abundance than was possible when we maintained separate staff positions in this area.”
Becoming missional tools: ‘do it in a bold way’
Often collaborative partnerships have developed from necessity but have blossomed into new initiatives. One such is the Komo Kulshan Cluster in Washington’s Skagit Valley about 60 miles south of the Canadian border where four Episcopal churches and a Lutheran church exercise a joint ministry.
With average Sunday attendances ranging anywhere from a few people in some congregations to as many as 40 in others, the cluster of five churches — Celebration Lutheran and Christ Episcopal in Anacortes, Resurreccion Episcopal and St. Paul’s Episcopal in Mt. Vernon, and St. James Episcopal in Sedro-Woolley — have shared clergy, staff and resources like Godly Play classes and jointly hosted a summer day camp for immigrant children.
“We are doing vastly more than any one congregation alone could do,” according to the Rev. Helen McPeak, an Episcopal priest.
As a result last year, 110 children received summer tutoring and fall school supplies. On Jan. 30 the churches will jointly take on the state legislature at an Interfaith Advocacy Day, according to the Rev. Heidi Fish, a cluster ELCA pastor.
“Each congregation would probably only be able to produce one or two folks to go, but with the energy of the leadership and … highlighting the needs, we’re expecting to bring 15 folks,” she said. “One of the issues being discussed is immigration reform and the Dream Act,” which affects some members of the community.
In San Francisco, a nearly two-year collaboration began when First United Lutheran (FUL) recognized “we were property-rich and cash poor” and sold their building, according to the Rev. Susan Strouse. They were looking for a place to rent and St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church had an appealing space and community center.
St. Cyprian’s, a historically black congregation, was facing drastically changing demographics “but there was a real openness to be part of the community,” recalled Jarie Bolander, a member. Now, he says, the two congregations are “friends with benefits” and recently–with the support of their local and church-wide governing bodies, hired a full-time mission developer to reach out to the “nones,” the spiritual but not religious in the community.
“We envision two congregations who are going to maintain their own identities … but we also expect there will be something else that will grow and emerge and we don’t know what that will be,” Strouse said. “We’re trying to make a space for something new and wonderful to happen and we don’t want to put a definite vision on what that’s going to look like. We want it to come from the ground up.”
But, she added: “there’s no template, no guidelines …and even though we’ve got this Call to Common Mission, the two denominations are different—our worship styles, our polity. We knew it was going to be messy but you don’t know what are the minefields until you step into them. But, we’re learning.”
The Rev. Canon Stefani Schatz, canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of California, said this first Lutheran-Episcopal collaboration of its kind “is part of a much larger vision that Bishop Marc Andrus has had for the diocese. We understand the whole of our diocese to be an emerging church; we understand all of our diocese to be a mission enterprise zone.”
Schatz agreed that “there’s no playbook for it. It’s part of us really looking forward into what I’m calling 21st century church … and we’re trying our hardest to be open within the structures of both churches’ judicatories. It’s been amazing how supportive the Lutherans have been in working with us.”
As the mission developer for the two congregations as well as the Sierra Pacific ELCA Synod and the Diocese of California, the Rev. Anders Peterson, 30, a newly ordained ELCA pastor, said he hopes to help add a spiritual component to the center’s existing ARC, or arts, resilience and community, identity.
“There’s a hope we can engage spirituality in a communal sense; where we can gather together and ask ourselves what it means to be supporting and helping each other in hopes and hurts, vulnerability, passion, our quest to find ways to connect with what is more than ourselves, with what is luring us to be whole and loving and compassionate people. My role is to direct that initiative” and to serve as a kind of community chaplain, he said.
While Cyprian’s Center provides daily activities, serving as many as a thousand people weekly, average Sunday attendance at the church ranges about 20, Peterson said. In addition to alternately sharing the facility for worship — First United at 5 p.m. and St. Cyprian’s at 10 a.m. on Sunday — they sometimes host joint services and community events.
But he added that “the mission is not to just mush the two together; the mission is to let these congregations flourish in abundance by responding to the needs of their local community. Their local communities are often made up of folks who are unfamiliar with or who have departed from faith life so what does it mean to open up your doors radically and say welcome here, we welcome you just as you are. We welcome you to be in partnership with us and let’s begin with common ground?”
He said the congregations are striving to answer the questions of what it means to be “a 21st century spiritual community.
“People here [in San Francisco] don’t go to church on Sunday,” he said. “If that’s the case, then how do we be church? How do we be spiritual community? That’s a great challenge.”
–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.
[Diocese of Central Pennsylvania] A Service of Solemn Choral Morning Prayer was attended by approximately 250 clergy and lay people on Saturday January 25th for The Investiture of Honorary Canons.
The Rt. Rev. Nathan Baxter and the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania invested seven honorary canons (5 clergy and 2 lay) at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Harrisburg. They were seated in Cathedral stalls during a service of Solemn Choral Morning Prayer at which Bishop Baxter officiated. Among those installed was a Moravian Pastor, the Rev. Gary L. Harke, who has been Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches for fifteen years and a leader in the Moravian—Episcopal Dialogue which led to full communion between the two Churches. He is also an assisting minister at the Cathedral of St. Stephen’s. Also invested was Biblical Scholar and General Seminary Professor Deirdre J. Good. Professor Good was recognized for her long and defining service to the Episcopal Church on Biblical ethics; her service to the Diocese as a continuing education teacher for the clergy; and her generosity as a consultant to the Diocesan School of Christian Studies.
The following Diocesan clergy were invested: The Rev. Nelson Kuule Baliira; The Rev. Dolores Calhoun; The Rev. Fred Miller; The Rev. Dr. David Robson. Mr. Walter Wells, Music and Choir Director of St. Andrew’s, State College, was invested as a lay canon.
[St. George's College Jerusalem] The Very Dr. Rev. Graham M. Smith, dean of St. George’s College in Jerusalem has announced the appointment of the Rev. Mike Billingsley as College Chaplain for 2014.“It is a joy to welcome Mike and Judy Billingsley to the Cathedral Close,” said Smith. “Mike will be a caring pastor as pilgrims find their way to St. George with its first-rate courses, beautiful accommodations and gourmet food!” The Rev. Billingsley recently retired from Christ Episcopal Church in Medway, Mass. A graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, Mr. Billingsley was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Atlanta in 1992, following a 20 year career in the United States Coast Guard. His wife, Judy, is an oncology nurse, and they both “fell in love” with the College and the City of Jerusalem when they attended a course April 2013.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affair press release] Applications are now being accepted for the Part-Time Ecumenical and Interreligious Associate on the staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS).
This position reflects the priorities of Episcopal Church General Convention 2012 and focuses on the Five Marks of Mission. The Part-Time Ecumenical and Interreligious Associate will be based at the Church Center in New York City. Position information is located here
Information on all available positions as well as application instructions are availablehere.
For more information contact a member of the Episcopal Church Human Resources Team at HRM@episcopalchurch.org.
[Anglican Journal] On Jan. 25,1944, as much of China lay in the iron grip of the Japanese invasion, the church marked a groundbreaking event. A fearless Anglican bishop, discerning a match between wartime need and a uniquely gifted person, ordained a humble yet steel-spined disciple of Christ into the priesthood. The bishop was Ronald Hall of Victoria and the ordinand was Hong-Kong-born Li Tim-Oi, the church’s first woman priest.
Later, graciously relinquishing her licence in the face of Canterbury-led reaction from the establishment, Li continued her ministry during the Japanese occupation and the Communist regime that followed.
On January 25, 2014, the 70th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Florence Li Tim-Oi’s ordination was the leitmotif of a choral eucharist celebrating the ordination of women at Toronto’s Cathedral Church of St. James. Organized with the University of Waterloo’s Renison University College, which holds Li’s archives, and presided over by Bishop Linda Nicholls of the diocese of Toronto, the service honoured Li’s unwavering ministry during the war and the Cultural Revolution.
From Lambeth Palace, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby sent greetings, noting that Li Tim-Oi “had been given the gift of priesthood” and that though she resigned her licence in the face of controversy, she never resigned her priestly orders but served God all her life.” Tim-Oi means “much beloved,” and Welby said she “was a gift to the worldwide Anglican Church and will continue to be much beloved for all that she did.”
Archbishop of Toronto and Metropolitan of Ontario Colin Johnson welcomed attendees and praised Bishop Hall for his visionary decision. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, called the pioneering priest “a woman who is remembered for the Christ-like nature of her character.” He added that “she lived her vocation as a priest with such a faithfulness and quiet dignity that it convinced many across the Anglican Communion that the Holy Spirit works as wondrously among women as among men.”
Renison’s Chancellor Ralph Spence called her “one of the true saints of the church…a determined Christian who set an example.”
Reading a wartime excerpt from Li’s autobiography, Raindrops of my Life, Li Tim-Oi’s niece, Sze Sze Lee, revealed how her aunt felt compelled to preach the gospel of Christ no matter the circumstances.
With a choir gathered from several Chinese-Canadian parishes, the Rev. Philip Der of St. Christopher’s, North York and Richmond Hill, Ont., was cantor in a responsive singing of the Lord’s Prayer in Cantonese.
From the pulpit, Canon Judy Rois, executive director of the Anglican Foundation of Canada, called the occasion a day to remember “the hard work, resolve and dedication of women in the priesthood” and a day to “thank all those who helped us get here…who held our hand and dried our tears”—those who stood in solidarity with women when it was unpopular to do so.
With 38 years of women’s ordination in Canada behind us, the homilist recalled her time in the 1990s as the cathedral’s first woman vicar. Once, when filling in at a Friday mass, she began the liturgy with her back to a congregation of about 10. When she turned to face them for the Collect, not a soul remained to receive the sacrament. Had they left because of her gender, she wondered?
But her disappointments two decades into women’s ordination in this country were small compared with the obstacles faced by Li Tim-Oi, Rois said. Noting that there are now more than 700 women clergy in Canada and 35 women bishops in the Anglican Communion, Rois said that the story that began with women in our sacred scriptures, and continued down through the ages, is still being written today by women writing chapters in their lives and that of the church. “It is a better world when we all work and serve together as the body of Christ…a world where there is a place-card for everyone at God’s table.”
[Episcopal News Service] In the months leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, Episcopalians in New Jersey and surrounding states have been gearing up, not for the big game, but for an influx of women and children who officials say will be trafficked into the region for sexual exploitation.
The dioceses of New Jersey and Newark have been hosting educational workshops and seminars at churches across the state, led by Episcopalians like Louis Cavaliere, a retired U.S. Navy captain who became interested in trafficking when he witnessed the “demand side” during active duty.
“I was sending people overseas, and they were engaging in this,” said Cavaliere, a member of Grace Church, Merchantville, New Jersey, in a telephone interview.
In 2000, the United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which defines sex trafficking as a “severe form of trafficking” in which “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion.”
In the Diocese of New Jersey, Cavaliere gave talks at churches that focused on the problem of human trafficking occurring alongside huge sporting events such as the Super Bowl.
“One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks,” New Jersey Rep. Christopher H. Smith said in an Associated Press article on the state’s efforts to curb sex trafficking before the Super Bowl.
The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will play Feb. 2 in the Meadowlands, a stadium in northern New Jersey, in the Diocese of Newark.
“The Super Bowl will bring more glitz and glamour than perhaps any other event New Jersey has ever hosted. And, as Super Bowl history has demonstrated, it will bring more suffering and darkness — in the form of human slavery — than we can possibly measure,” said Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith in a Jan. 24 op-ed that ran in the Star-Ledger. “Most of us won’t see this evil. Most of us won’t know if it is happening in Newark or Nutley, Ho-Ho-Kus or Hackensack, or places in between. Any witness we can make, any awareness we can gather and any light we can shine has the potential to shut down some traffickers — and may provide an opportunity for some in slavery to escape to freedom.”
Human trafficking takes many forms: international adoptees, refugees and asylum seekers getting caught in traps, teenage runaways and kidnapping victims. An estimated 27 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking, with most being trafficked for labor and sex, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report . In 2012 alone, an additional 46,000 victims were identified, the most recent report says.
During the Diocese of Newark’s annual convention, Laura Russell, a lawyer and member of the diocese, gave a Jan. 25 presentation and workshop focused on human trafficking.
“It was a very good workshop yesterday, a lot of information and learning,” Martha Gardner, who serves on the diocese’s Justice Board, told ENS in an interview the next day.
After the workshop, clergy and laity wanted to know what further training might be available and what congregations could do locally to identify and assist victims, said Gardner, who also chairs the diocese’s Women’s Commission.
The Diocese of Newark offers liturgical resources here.
In other efforts, Episcopalians from the state’s two dioceses have partnered with the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking to create awareness in communities across northern New Jersey and as far south as Atlantic City, training hotel managers, who later would train employees, to identify signs of sex trafficking and training truck drivers on how to look for signs that someone is being held against his or her will.
“Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry,” according to the Polaris Project, a nongovernment organization that works against human trafficking and that runs a national hotline to report a tip, access resources, request training or receive referrals.
The New Jersey coalition also partnered with SOAP, or Save our Adolescents from Prostitution, to place bars of soap, wrapped with a red band that gives the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, in hotel rooms.
“The Super Bowl was an opportunity to highlight the issue,” said Gardner. For at least six months, she said, the diocese has been discussing human trafficking and putting together resources. “On Monday, Feb. 3, it will still be happening here.”
Other organizations also hope the Super Bowl will help them raise awareness.
A United Nation’s working group, the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons, includes some 50 nonprofit organizations and a large interfaith presence, including Cavaliere; Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s officer for global relations and partnerships; and other Episcopalians. It has sponsored a U.N. GIFT Box in New York.
Beginning on Jan. 23, visitors to Union Square passing along 17th Street and Broadway could see a big blue gift box with a red ribbon. The GIFT stood for “Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.”
On the inside, the box told the stories of trafficking victims like 35-year-old Holly Smith, an American who, when she was 14 and already had been the victim of sexual exploitation, fell into the hands of a trafficker. And there’s the story of Sofia, a 20-year-old Mexican who was kidnapped in her country, brought to New York and forced into prostitution by an international trafficking ring.
The gift box concept first was deployed in London before the 2012 Olympic Games by the founder of Stop the Traffik, said Rita Fishman, who represents the International Council of Jewish Women on the NGO committee.
“You’re so intrigued by the paper and the ribbon, the whole feel of it,” she said during an interview with ENS on Jan. 24. “But, sadly, in the hands of someone who wants to deceive you …”
“The problem is, it’s a hidden population, and we don’t know who they are,” said Fishman. Box visitors’ reactions, she said, range from “I’ve learned a lot” to “I didn’t know this was going on here.”
“And when you tell them it’s happening in New York, California, Connecticut, they are incredulous … it’s amazing to learn it’s in your own backyard.”
Nationally, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that 100,000 to 300,000 children, average ages 12 to 14, are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation, a form of human trafficking, each year in the United States.
Since 2000, General Convention has passed resolutions condemning human trafficking, supporting trafficking victims and calling for churchwide public-education campaigns. In 2012, the convention passed a resolution calling for dialogue across provinces. (Episcopalians Against Human Trafficking have started a Facebook page.)
In March 2013, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori hosted a churchwide conversation focused on defining human trafficking and showing how it links with violence against women and girls. The event was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
“I have seen an evolution since the churchwide conversation in March,” said Main, staff liaison to the subcommittee of the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women. “One of the things we discovered is that there are lots of Episcopalians doing local work, [operating] shelters, educational awareness, going to hubs and administering Communion, social services and all the rest.”
On Jan. 17, Main helped facilitate a 90-minute call including some 35 people from the East Coast to Hawaii. Participants shared information, programs and resources on trafficking, victim rescue and awareness materials for schools, churches and communities, as well as discussed the upcoming Super Bowl.
Executive Council member Lelanda Lee, who chairs the Joint Standing Committee on Advocacy and Networking for Mission, coordinates the work of the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women.
“Human trafficking is a topic that is a concern to many parts of the church,” said Lee after the Jan. 17 call. Based on what participants shared, it’s obvious a lot of work is happening on the ground, she said. “For my committee, I want to be aware of that activity, to better know and network that work across the church.
“And we also want to support the work of OGR [the Episcopal Church’s Washington-D.C.-based Office of Government Relations] that interacts with policymakers in regard to legislation that impacts people who are trafficked, both citizens and internationals.”
– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
The fate of a bill passed by the Ugandan parliament remains uncertain after President Yoweri Museveni refused to sign it, but news reports from Nigeria indicate that there have been mass arrests of gay men following President Goodluck Jonathan’s signing of the National Assembly’s anti-gay bill.
World leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have expressed their dismay. Many Christian leaders around the world, regrettably, have been largely unwilling to criticize Christian leaders in Africa who cheered the passage of these punitive laws.
The Anglican primates of Uganda and Nigeria enthusiastically support anti-gay legislation in their countries. I, like them, am a member of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide body of more than 80 million Christians. I am troubled and saddened that fellow Anglicans could support legislation that fails to recognize that every human being is created in the image of God.
Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it.
Twice in the last three years, I have traveled to Africa to meet with biblical scholars, grass-roots activists and church officials at consultations about the Bible and sexuality. These brave leaders have taught me that there is no getting around the Bible when searching for the origins of the homophobia that is rampant in many African cultures. What’s more, Europeans and North Americans bear much of the historical responsibility for this sad state of affairs. As Zimbabwean biblical scholar Masiiwa Ragies Gunda has written, it is “far-fetched to look beyond the activities of Western missionaries” when considering the role of the Bible in Africa.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Western missionaries, fired with fervor to save souls in what they called “the dark continent,” sought to translate the Bible into indigenous languages so that converts could hear the Word of God, with special emphasis on the passages that urged hard work and submission. We know the result: as former President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya reportedly said, “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
Along with the Bible, Western missionaries also bequeathed to Africans a literal understanding of how to read it. Today, that literalism continues to encourage fundamentalist interpretation of difficult passages like the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Although many scholars in Africa now understand that these passages are properly read in context of the ancient cultures that produced them, people can still fuel grass-roots homophobia by appropriating a handful of biblical texts that seem to vilify gay people.
As a result, Christians who publicly advocate for more historically accurate biblical interpretations and more generous treatment of LGBT people can find themselves jobless, homeless and in grave danger.
The situation is not hopeless. Across Christian Africa, tools like contextual Bible study, developed in post-apartheid South Africa, provide new ways to read the Bible and what it has to say about sexuality and other central issues in the lives of African Christians. These new readings of old texts encourage Christians to accept LGBT people as God’s children.
Even so, progressive African Christians are fighting an uphill battle. The voices of strident homophobic leaders in Africa have been amplified by large infusions of money from American right-wing culture warriors such as Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., who has bankrolled homophobia on both sides of the Atlantic and helped make common cause between right-wing American Anglican splinter groups and the Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda.
Western Christians cannot fix the homophobia that is currently gripping Nigeria, Uganda, or other African countries. We can, however, stand in solidarity with progressive Africans and support their efforts to teach new ways of interpreting the Bible and understanding sexuality. When we see human rights abuses, we can speak out. And most of all, we can acknowledge with humility that we bear our share of the responsibility for this tragic legacy of empire and insist on repudiating contemporary efforts to expand its reach.
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings is the president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies and is a member of the worldwide Anglican Consultative Council. She is a founding steering committee member of the Chicago Consultation.
[Washington National Cathedral press release] Washington National Cathedral and the Office of Tibet will welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Cathedral on at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 7. This is the Dalai Lama’s fourth visit to the National Cathedral.
“We are eager to welcome the Dalai Lama back to this spiritual home for our nation,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral. “His Holiness’ message of peace is an important one for all people of faith. We are eager to listen and to discuss how peace within ourselves can bring peace to the world.”
Through a talk entitled, “Beyond Religion: Ethics for the Whole World,” the Dalai Lama will share his vision of a path to leading an ethical, happy and spiritual life, and offer a road map to building a more compassionate and peaceful world. The program will also include a conversation between His Holiness and Cathedral Dean Gary Hall about the pursuit of peace. A question and answer session with the public will conclude the program.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Born July 6, 1935, in northeastern Tibet to a peasant family, his Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama, and thus an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion. Forced into exile by the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, he now resides in Dharamsala, India, as the leader of the Tibetan government in exile. He was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his lifelong commitment to nonviolence.
[Episcopal News Service] Five Episcopal bishops, three theologians, diocesan missioners and observers gathered Jan. 21-23 in a suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, conference center to begin a conversation about discovering a new identity for the church in a new age.
The three-day Missional Summit was designed to explore new ways of interpreting, experiencing and acting out God’s mission (‘missional imagination’) and that engaging in God’s mission—not the church’s mission—there are possibilities to change the very identity and culture of the church to better serve the world.
Kindred spirits in making change
The gathering included representatives of four Episcopal dioceses who have, according to the host, Minnesota Bishop Brian Prior, “taken a deep dive into the missional church.” In his opening remarks he described the participating bishops are “kindred spirits who have begun to make organizational and systemic changes in their dioceses,” and said the idea for the Missional Summit, which grew out of conversations with Connecticut Bishop Ian T. Douglas, was that it would be an opportunity for peer learning and sharing best practices and grounded in deep theology.
Colorado Bishop Robert O’Neill, and Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano also participated with Prior and Douglas, as well as members of their diocesan staffs. And the Rev. Thomas Brackett, the Episcopal Church’s officer for church planting and ministry redevelopment, was invited to observe on behalf of wider church.
Also participating was Maine Bishop Stephen Lane, who is spending a month-long sabbatical in the Episcopal Church of Minnesota to study firsthand how it “is beginning to organize itself differently and to consider its life differently in relation to God’s mission.” He says he perceives the focus in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota is “less on its own internal life and more on the life of God in the world and is organizing for that. I’m trying to see how that works.”
Lane said that following the Missional Summit he planned to “tag team” with members of the diocesan staff as they travel around the state.
Challenged by the theology of Misseo Dei
The Missional Summit was facilitated by three theologians—all consultants with the Missional Network and leading voices in the missional church movement : the Rev. Alan Roxburgh, the Rev. Craig Van Gelder and the Rev. Dwight Zscheile. Their charge was to provide historical, organizational and biblical/theological resources to serve as a baseline for discussion and peer learning about missional efforts and discoveries in each participating diocese.
Roxburgh is a Canadian pastor, teacher and writer who consults with denominations, congregations and seminaries worldwide. He is a member of the writing team that authored The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Eerdmans, 1998).
Van Gelder and Zscheile teach congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They are the authors of The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation (Baker Academic, 2011). Zsceheile is also associate priest at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Saint Paul.
Brackett said one of the reasons he readily accepted the invitation was that he wanted to hear how Roxburg, Van Gelder and Zscheile “are evolving in their relationship to the possibility of missional ministries coming out of an institutional setting.”
The theologians’ opening presentation, “Cultivating a Missional Imagination,” suggested that missional transformation in the church is possible, but only with a major shift in the way it understands its identity and context: not as having its own mission in the world, but rather as an instrument of the mission of God (Missio Dei).
Zscheile described “missional” as “identity shaped by participation in the Triune God’s ongoing mission of creation, redemption, reconciliation and consummation in the world.” He quoted theologian Jürgen Moltmann (from The Church in the Power of the Spirit, Augsburg Fortress, 1991) who said “It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church, creating a church along the way.”
Douglas, who served as professor of mission and world Christianity at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for 22 years before being elected bishop of Connecticut in 2009, said in the October 2013 issue of Crux, the magazine of the diocese (which was distributed at the gathering), that the change of language in describing God’s mission is “more than semantics.”
“Moving from ‘my/our mission’ or ‘the church’s mission’ to the mission of God reflects a profound theological shift, a radical change of perspective. In the mission of God, God is the focus, not us and our activities. God’s mission starts with God and what God is up to,” wrote Douglas.
Van Gelder said that understanding a missional view of the church has three implications for its identity: it is missional by nature, the world is the horizon for God’s mission, and every context is a mission location. He said the missional church learns to “read its context,” asking “what is God up to in the neighborhood?”
“God’s spirit is always out ahead of us,” said Van Gelder. “When we really begin to believe that, it invites a very different understanding about how we relate to the world around us and our identify in God tied to the context in which we live.”
The Missional Network team also presented information and facilitated discussions around topics including “Historical Perspective on Denominations and Their Congregations,” “Understanding the Difference Between Technical and Adaptive Change,” “Addressing Adaptive Challenges,” and “Cultivating Missional Life and Practices.”
“The presentations were challenging because we are trying to turn over agency to God and we are the institutional managers,” said Lane. “It’s so easy to fall back into just being church—church centric. It’s a struggle to get out of our own way. That’s a challenge we talked a lot about.”
“The theologians have done a really great job of walking with us and pushing us to places where I don’t think we would have gone on our own,” said Prior. “We would have shared our best practices, been impressed and there would have been good networking, but they have really forced us into something much deeper and that’s been very beneficial.”
Common themes, common challenges, common bonds
The Missional Summit also provided a setting to use the theological concepts as lenses through which the specific contexts and missional efforts in the participating dioceses could be examined and discussed. Each diocese presented a comprehensive case statement about its history and current efforts to change identity, culture and practice, and common themes began to emerge. All four dioceses are working to make governance less hierarchical and more collaborative; there are efforts to help congregations discover their unique identities and understand their unique contexts (Van Gelder’s question about “what is God up to in the neighborhood?”). One participant wrote on the white board “context is everything . . . and every context is challenging.”
There was also no illusion that significant challenges and needs exist, such as changing the narrative “from church to God”; redefining the role of clergy in ministry development; identifying and equipping lay leaders; teaching and cultivating a “posture of listening”; cultivating a culture of deep formation as lifelong practice; fear of failure and many more.
Through a series of honest and vulnerable conversations over the three-day gathering, the participants agreed they did not have “all the answers,” but felt a renewed confidence in the directions they have charted. They spoke of growing close together in a new sense of community that they said would be supportive and empowering as they move forward.
“This has been about bringing together people who are struggling with the same issues; struggling with how we awaken the imagination that God is calling us into without being encumbered by all the typical things that we have to deal with,” said the Rev. Tim Hodapp, canon for mission leadership in the Diocese of Connecticut.
“Having all these people at the table has been really extraordinary,” said Rolf Lowenberg-DeBoer, missioner for community engagement in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. “So many things came to light. We came up with some key growing edges and ministry challenges that we are all facing across each of our dioceses.”
“Many of the changes we need are very big picture, adaptive changes—paradigm shifts,” said Lowenberg-DeBoer. “You can’t just say we are going to do this, this and this in a technical process and make certain results occur. What we really need to do is to change the conversation and the questions about what is at stake here—in the Gospel, for Christians and for the world—and then take the conversation out and help people connect the biblical narrative to their own stories and experience.”
“It’s a bit challenging for me in that it means I have to question some of my assumptions about the church,” said Provenzano. “For example, it will inform who we look to for leadership in the church, particularly in terms of ordained ministry. Usually we look for people who are the best and the brightest, the most energetic, the entrepreneurs, people of prayer. But maybe now we also need to look for people who are going to be adaptive leaders, people who understand the collaborative nature of doing ministry moving forward.”
Douglas said it was “confirming and very encouraging to be together both with thinkers who spend a lot of time pondering how churches can be ever more faithful to the mission of God and with colleagues, both in the episcopate and on diocesan staffs, to have a liminal space to wrestle with and open up these questions. It has been really confirming and empowering.”
The participants promised each other that the conversation will continue. They made initial plans to continue sharing ideas, efforts, successes and failures with each other via social media and began a discussion about “widening the circle” by inviting other dioceses into the conversation.
In interviews with ENS on the last morning of the gathering, participants said they found the summit helpful and hopeful and expressed resolve to continue with the work at hand .
“This has completely exceeded my expectations,” said Prior. “The sharing by people about their own contexts, what they are doing and the level at which they are doing it far surpassed what I assumed or expected and that has caused us to go deeper—to take a deeper dive.”
Brackett said he observed “a greater tolerance for uncertainty, a willingness to say ‘I don’t know but let’s discern this together,’ and a renewed sense of hopefulness for what is emerging on the margins of our institutions.
“It’s encouraging that there are people in the church who are thinking about the realities of what is happening about the call to engage God’s mission in ways we are not typically thinking about within diocesan structures,” said Provenzano. “We are usually plodding along, addressing issues as they come at us and not being proactive about where the church is headed. We need to engage mission in a very different way. Personally for me the last couple of days have provided an opportunity to reflect on leadership of a diocese that is very complex and the need for me to perhaps ask more questions than have answers.”
“God is saying ‘come on out and be part of what I am doing,’” said Hodapp. “Here we’ve been able to take some real intentional time and give ourselves the permission to not have all the answers and explore what is possible. It’s been hopeful and exciting!”
– Joe Bjordal is an ENS correspondent.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will visit South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet Primates of the Anglican Communion, in a five-day visit to the region starting on Thursday this week.
During his first 18 months in office, Archbishop Justin plans to visit all of his fellow Archbishops around the Anglican Communion. His desire is to express solidarity, build personal and professional bonds, understand the Primates’ work in their local contexts, and lay foundations for good collaboration over the coming years.
Archbishop Justin spoke this week about the church’s role in promoting reconciliation in areas of conflict in this interview with BBC HARDTalk.
[World Council of Churches press release] Traditionally celebrated each year between 18 and 25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere), the week brings together in prayer Christians from diverse confessional backgrounds.
Since 1968, the liturgical and biblical material for the annual week of prayer has been jointly coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order Commission and by the Roman Catholic Church through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
This year’s week of prayer materials were prepared by a group of writers led by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, Montréal, and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, Saskatoon, as well as the Atlantic Ecumenical Council and the Canadian Council of Churches in Toronto.
Diverse Canadian contexts were reflected in the service, which begins with prayer to God in the four directions, a practice of Canada’s First Nations communities, and concludes with the sign of peace, exchanged with an expression significant in French Canada, “Don de Dieu,” to express the particular gifts that different Christian churches can share with one another.
The introduction to this years’ theme, referring to the Canadian churches reads, “Living with this diversity, but being faithful to Christ’s desire for the unity of his disciples, has led us to a reflection on Paul’s provocative question in 1 Corinthians: “Has Christ been divided?”
“In faith we respond, ‘No!’ yet our church communities continue to embody scandalous divisions. 1 Corinthians also points us to a way in which we can value and receive the gifts of others even now in the midst of our divisions, and that is an encouragement to us in our work for unity.”
Prayers around the world
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) in partnership with Christian Aid have celebrated this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, linking the theme to concern for divisions and Christian faith, as well as to issues of poverty and advocacy of justice.
In Berlin, the Council of Christian Churches in Germany also held an ecumenical event for the week of prayer. Norbert Lammert, president of the German parliament, preached at the event at the St Hedwig’s Cathedral, focusing on the theme “One faith in Christ as a bridge between cultures.”
A number of churches in Jerusalem, including churches from Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic traditions, held ecumenical services throughout the week of prayer.
The week of prayer was also celebrated in Republic of Korea, the venue of the WCC’s 10th Assembly, where the National Council of Churches in Korea, along with Catholic churches there, organized events.
Other ecumenical services during the week were also commemorated in Fiji involving the Fiji Council of Churches, as well as Peru, where ecumenical services were held by various churches.
In Geneva, several events were held to commemorate the week of prayer, including a vigil at the St. Pierre Cathedral, and baptism celebrated ecumenically at the major Sunday service.
A service which took place the Ecumenical Centre chapel was organized by the Fellowship of the Christian Churches in Geneva, at which the preacher was Bishop Charles Morerod, Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.
Students from the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute in Bossey currently in Rome, also participated in the week of papal celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.
Resources for the week are available in English, French, German and Spanish, and include an introduction to the theme; a suggested ecumenical celebration which local churches areencouraged to adapt for their own particular liturgical, social and cultural contexts; biblical reflections; and an introduction to the ecumenical contexts in Canada.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Malawi has joined other faith groups in the country to educate people on the importance of family planning considering Malawi’s rapid population growth rate.
Malawi’s current population of 15 million is expected to grow to about 40 million in the next 20 years “if strong measures for controlling the birth rate per year are not put in place.”
In an interview with ACNS, Bishop of Upper Shire Brighton Malasa said that his diocese would participate in addressing the effects of rapid population growth through “preaching in their churches as well as ensuring that the two hospitals and many other health centers owned by the church teach people the importance of family planning.
“Last year, we marked August 25 as a special day for teaching people on the effects of overpopulation,” he said. “One of the sermons emphasized that overpopulation would lead to the shortage of learning materials in schools and would put more stress on parents. Health facilities would also be under a lot of pressure.”
Many church organizations, including the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) — of which the Anglican Church is a part — and the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM), partnered with the government of Malawi through the sanctioned Health Population Project (HPP) to tackle population growth in the country.
The government there considers the inclusion of faith-based organizations an important step in purveying development and population related information to the masses since about 97 percent of the population are religious followers.
“The Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire believes that overpopulation can lead to unhappy families, miserable villages, gloomy districts and a lifeless country,” said the bishop. “All the people of God in Malawi are called to fight against overpopulation which might lead to too much pressure on the available resources.”
The USAID-funded HPP in collaboration with the University of North Carolina supports the initiative through the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Malasa concluded: “All Malawians should remember that the square kilometers of the earth shall remain the same though the population is growing. Strong measures should be followed in order to curb the negative effects of overpopulation.”
[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Harare Chad Gandiya has expressed his gratitude for a recent visit to his diocese by three women priests from the Church of England.
The Rev. Canon Liz Walker, the Rev. Judy Henning and the Rev. Anne Jablonski, all from the Diocese of Rochester, traveled to the African nation with their bishop the Rt. Rev. Brian Castle.
The trip was, however, more than just a friendly visit, and the three women were deployed to various parishes within the Diocese of Harare. They spent two weekends in parishes and were in Zimbabwe from Jan 4-13.
In an interview with ACNS on Jan. 23, Gandiya said, “This was the first in the diocese! The [Church of England] priests were surprised by the reception they received in those parishes and they were able to carry out their work joyfully.”
The priests also joined fellow clergy from Zimbabwe for a week-long annual clergy retreat at Peterhouse, in the town of Marondera. “It was as if we had women priests in the diocese already,” said Gandiya.
At its provincial synod held in November last year, the Church of the Province of Central Africa, of which Zimbabwe is a part, voted against a motion to allow individual dioceses who want to ordain women to go ahead.
“Obviously many women are asking why our province turned down our request and what we are going to do about it,” said Gandiya. “The first thing we are going to do is report back to Diocesan Synod that had sent us with request in the first place. Secondly, we are continuing with the training we are giving to the laity – in particular women – in theology.”
The bishop also said he would ask synod to approve the training of women as ordinands in preparation for the future. “Our diocese has women who, in order to fulfill their calling to ordained ministry, have had to leave the country to train and get ordained and are currently serving as priests abroad. This is not right,” he said.
He added, “They should serve in their home dioceses. We in Harare are generally ready for women priests. We feel God’s mission in our context is being retarded by the continual refusal by our province to allow us to ordain women.”
The Diocese of Harare has a long-standing link with the Diocese of Rochester and the two dioceses support and encourage each other in God’s mission as well as share both material and spiritual resources.
[Episcopal News Service] Residents of Millington, New Jersey, have turned to the local All Saints Episcopal Church as a prayerful gathering place as they await word on the fate of a missing Wall Street Journal reporter who lives with his family near the church.
Local residents seeking out the comfort of All Saints is an outgrowth of the parish’s sense of call to what its rector describes as “community hospitality.” The nearly 110-year-old church about 38 miles from Midtown Manhattan follows “the old village church model” whose sense of caring for a parish extends beyond members of the church to all residents of the area, according to the Rev. Victoria Geer McGrath.
About 12 hours after David Bird, 55, did not return from what he reportedly told his wife would be a short walk on Jan. 11, McGrath was on her way to church for Sunday worship when she got a phone call from parish administrator Susie Harris telling her that Bird was missing and asking that she put him and his family on that morning’s prayer list. While McGrath was presiding at the 10 a.m. Eucharist, Harris was in her church office making missing-person fliers.
While the Birds are not members of All Saints – they worship at the Roman Catholic church in town – they are well known to All Saints members, and not just because they live in the neighborhood. David Bird serves as the troop committee chair for Boy Scout Troop 56 of which All Saints is the chartering organization and Nancy Bird leads a Girl Scout troop that meets at the parish. David Bird has helped connect the Boy Scouts with All Saints service projects. For example, scouts always help set up for the church’s large annual outdoor rummage sale.
“Just kind of being good neighbors together,” is how McGrath described the relationship in an interview.
The Birds’ daughter and son, a middle schooler and a high schooler, are friends with many children in the parish, she said. After confirmation class the day after Bird went missing, All Saints high school members searched for Bird in some of the areas where they knew he liked to run and hike.
The parish’s relationship with the Birds is a long-standing one. When David Bird needed a liver transplant nine years ago, All Saints members contributed to a fundraising effort.
On Jan. 13 – a day during which All Saints was the site of a funeral and reception for a six-year-old member of the parish who died of cardiac arrest – McGrath got a call from a parishioner who was trying to connect a friend of the Birds with Harris. The Birds’ friend reported that Nancy Bird was “completely overwhelmed” with offers for help and that all she wanted people to do was to pray that her husband will be found and can come home.
Because so many community activities happen at All Saints, the friend’s “first thought” was that that would be the place to have the service, she said. McGrath agreed to host the service and then learned they hoped to have it that evening. Church and community members pitched in to make the service happen after people saw announcements on the church’s website, Facebook, and a telephone tree run by the Boy Scouts.
Close to 200 people gathered that evening outside All Saints, which sits prominently at a five-way intersection. Luminaries lined the triangle of All Saints land, the Scouts came in uniform and two of them were the readers (reading Isaiah 40:28-31 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
That service was followed by a quieter prayer vigil at All Saints on Jan. 18, marking a week since Bird’s disappearance. Harris, the parish administrator, suggested that the church announce it would be open for prayer between 4-5 p.m., the time when Bird left his home for his walk.
Most of the 40 people who came were not parishioners. Those folks said they “felt like there was a place to put their anxiety and their worry, and also their sadness because a week out people were feeling like this may not go the way we hope it would go,” according to McGrath.
All Saints sent the Jan. 19 altar flowers to Nancy Bird. That gesture followed up on McGrath’s call on Nancy Bird the day after David went missing.
But the rector said she has been trying to be clear that All Saints is not seeking to usurp the pastoral role of the Birds’ parish priests.
“This was really all driven by the wider community coming to us and asking for a response, which we’re glad to do,” she said.
Nancy Bird has said that the couple was putting away Christmas decorations when her husband said he wanted to take a quick walk before an expected rainstorm. He left the house at 4:30 p.m. and didn’t take his phone. It has been reported that Bird, a marathoner, frequently hiked in an area near his home called the Hicks Tract in the Millington section of Long Hill Township, New Jersey. The area is near the Passaic River, which flooded some backwater swamps after a large downpour later that day. It was in the midst of that storm when Bird did not return home that his wife reported him missing.
David Bird was recovering from a gastrointestinal virus the day he went missing, according to his wife. He is a liver-transplant recipient and takes medication twice a day. His wife has said he could become ill without the medication.
A massive search effort began shortly after Bird was reported missing and has included personnel from surrounding municipalities, along with the New Jersey State Police, on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles, and in the air. Divers have searched icy waters and others walked railroad track. Authorities have also reviewed footage from business and resident surveillance cameras in the area in hopes of spotting Bird. They have also asked residents and business owners to check any place on their properties where a person might take refuge.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Jan. 20 that it was helping the Long Hill Township Police Department in its search for Bird, FoxNews.com reported.
First Assistant Morris County Prosecutor Thomas Zelante told ENS on Jan. 23 that the police department “continues to receives leads from various independent sources around the region and the department is taking all leads seriously and following up on the information.”
Meanwhile small teams of searchers are retracing previously searched areas to help ensure that clues have not been overlooked, he said. Those searchers are not looking in any new areas, Zelante added.
Meanwhile, despite a massive snowstorm on Jan. 20 and 21 and dangerously cold weather since, the effort “has not changed from a search and rescue” operation, he said.
Bird is described as white, 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighing about 200 pounds. He is partially balding and has a gray beard. He was last seen wearing a bright red rain jacket with two yellow zippers.
While it might seem obvious that Bird’s neighborhood church would be a place to which people turn in a time of crisis, it is also true that All Saints and McGrath have focused on fostering connections with the wider community. She traces the effort to 2007 when the parish decided to close its pre-school nursery because of declining enrollment. The school had met in the separate parish hall building so the parish had to “think and pray about how God wanted us to use the parish house,” McGrath said.
During that discernment the parish realized that its parking lot was heavily used and needed repaving. They saw that neighbors used the lot for overflow parking, especially when they had parties, and that it is a school bus stop as well as a place where younger kids meet to walk to the elementary school. It is also the place where many teenagers get their first driving lesson and learn how to park, McGrath said. Truck drivers and utility workers often pull in during the day to eat their lunch.
A parishioner offered a $20,000 challenge grant if the parish could raise a comparable amount within six weeks. “So we went to the neighborhood” and the resulting donations, plus those from parishioners, along with a fish-and-chips dinner and a car wash staged by the youth “more than met our match,” McGrath said. A bequest covered the remaining amount needed for the work.
“Beyond the money, what it did was it made us really engage with [the questions of] how is the resource of this property being used, how does it function in the community,” McGrath said.
Then the same donor offered to help make the parish hall wheelchair-accessible as a way for him to honor his recently deceased wife. That project has, among other things, allowed All Saints to go from hosting three or four small Alcoholics Anonymous groups a week to hosting nine, including a Friday night meeting specifically for young adults.
Converting the hall to such use in a town with little community space has been a ministry, McGrath said, adding that parishioners understand that hosting those AA meetings, along with other activities that invite AA members into the life of the parish, is “our primary community outreach.”
“It’s not just about offering the building; it’s about offering ourselves as hospitality and we’re always finding new ways of what that actually means,” she said. “One of the things we can do in this very polarized political environment is to build local community bonds so that when there is a concern or issue people already have those bridges that have been built.”
McGrath and the congregation are clear about why it practices community hospitality.
“As important as this kind of ministry is, we don’t do it because we think it will help our church grow,” she said. “I think there’s a greater vitality to our parish life but it’s not going to balance the budget. It’s not going to necessarily bring all sorts of new members; that’s not why we do it. The parish understands that that’s not why we do this. If people want to come and join us, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s fine too, but we are doing our part to make the kingdom of God a reality in our own community.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
El folleto de las Meditaciones de Cuaresma que publica la Agencia Episcopal de Alivio y Desarrollo ya está disponible en inglés y español. La colección de este año nos trae cuarenta y seis reflexiones centradas alrededor de la creación de oportunidades económicas y el robustecimiento de las comunidades, y se enfoca más concretamente en el fortalecimiento de la mujer.
Los folletos impresos deben solicitarse antes del 15 de febrero para poder recibirlos antes del 5 de marzo, Miércoles de Ceniza, y pueden pedirse en línea desde Marketplace Episcopal o llamando al 1.866.937.2772. Los folletos en PDF y otros recursos materiales para la cuaresma aparecen publicados en la página en Internet de la Agencia Episcopal de Alivio y Desarrollo en www.episcopalrelief.org/lent, y las personas que deseen recibir devocionales diarios por correo electrónico pueden inscribirse en dicha página.
“Estoy agradecido con todos los escritores que contribuyeron a la colección de este año de las Meditaciones de Cuaresma”, comentó Sean McConnell, Director de contratación de la agencia. “Tenemos reflexiones de una variedad de orígenes y perspectivas teológicas, centrados en cómo sanar un mundo herido que trabaja por la justicia económica y el fortalecimiento de medios de subsistencia locales”.
A las congregaciones también se les invita a conmemorar el domingo de la Agencia Episcopal de Alivio y Desarrollo que se celebra el 9 de marzo (primer domingo de Cuaresma) o cualquier otro domingo que sea de conveniencia durante la temporada. En este domingo en especial, las congregaciones oran por las personas que viven en la pobreza y dedican una ofrenda en apoyo al Fondo de Necesidades Globales de la organización (Global Needs Fund, en inglés), el cual destina la ayuda a las causas que más la necesitan.
En Episcopal Marketplace también encontrará alcancías de cartón armables, tarjetas de oración, marca páginas y sobres para ofrendas, los que pueden ser utilizados junto con los folletos devocionales el domingo de la Agencia Episcopal de Alivio y Desarrollo y a lo largo de toda la Cuaresma.
“Animo a todos los episcopales a que durante el tiempo de Cuaresma reflexionen sobre cómo nuestras acciones pueden ayudar a fortalecer a las personas que están pasando necesidad”, pide Rob Radtke, Presidente de la organización. “Hay programas especiales tales como el microcrédito o la formación profesional a través de Gifts for Life que representan una enorme diferencia en la vida de otras personas. Sin embargo, nuestras decisiones diarias también marcan un impacto. Tener consciencia del impacto que podemos causar en la vida de otros sería un ejercicio muy significativo que podemos hacer en la Cuaresma, y además nos serviría para acercarnos en espíritu a personas que quizá nunca lleguemos a conocer, pero con quienes estamos entrelazados a través de nuestro mundo globalizado”.
En www.episcopalrelief.org/sunday encontrará recursos y guías para el domingo de la Agencia Episcopal de Alivio y Desarrollo. Sírvase comunicarse con email@example.com o llamar al 1.855.312.HEAL (4325) si tiene alguna pregunta.
[Episcopal Relief & Development] Episcopal Relief & Development’s Lenten Meditations booklets are now available in English and Spanish. This year’s collection of forty-six reflections focuses on creating economic opportunities and strengthening communities, with a particular focus on empowering women.
Printed booklets should be ordered by February 15 for delivery by Ash Wednesday, March 5, and can be ordered from Episcopal Marketplace online or by calling 1.866.937.2772. PDF booklets and other Lenten resources are posted on Episcopal Relief & Development’s website at www.episcopalrelief.org/lent, and individuals wishing to receive daily email devotionals can sign up online.
“I am grateful to all of the writers who contributed to this year’s collection of Lenten Meditations,” said Sean McConnell, the agency’s Director of Engagement. “We have reflections from a variety of backgrounds and theological perspectives, all focused on how we can heal a hurting world through working for economic justice and strengthening local livelihoods.”
Congregations are also invited to commemorate Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday on the first Sunday in Lent, March 9, or another convenient Sunday during the season. On this special Sunday, congregations pray for those living in poverty and dedicate an offering in support of the organization’s Global Needs Fund, which provides help where most needed.
Hope chests, prayer cards, bookmarks and offering envelopes are also available through Episcopal Marketplace and can be used in accompaniment with the devotional booklets on Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday and throughout Lent.
“I encourage all Episcopalians to take time this Lenten season to consider how our actions can help empower those in need,” said Rob Radtke, the organization’s President. “Special efforts such as providing a micro-loan or vocational training through Gifts for Life are one way to make a difference, but our everyday decisions have an impact as well. Mindfulness of this can be a meaningful Lenten practice, and it can also serve to bring us closer in spirit to people we may never meet, but with whom we are entwined in a globalized world.”
Resources and guides for Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday are available at www.episcopalrelief.org/sunday. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1.855.312.HEAL (4325) with any questions.
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion is reeling at the sudden death of the the Primate of The Church of the Province of West Africa on Jan. 21.
Archbishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson, 59, was also Metropolitan Archbishop of the internal province of West Africa, and bishop of Gambia. A popular figure both home and abroad, he died in Fajara while playing tennis - one of his favorite pastimes.
Canon Anthony Eiwuley, provincial secretary, said he had received confirmation of the archbishop’s death from the family. He added that, in time, he planned to open a book of condolence to receive messages on behalf of the province and the family.
Shock and sadness
Many people across the Anglican Communion have already expressed their shock at his death. In an e-mail to the Anglican Communion’s Francophone Network, bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe Pierre Whalon said, “What a loss for the Province of West Africa, for the Anglican Communion and for us all.”
Bishop Zacharie Masimango Katanda of Kindu and Archbishop Henri Isingoma of the Democratic Republic of Congo also told network members how they had been saddened to hear of his death.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said: “The bishops and people of The Episcopal Church are grieving the death of the Primate of West Africa. The province and his family are in our prayers.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote to Johnson’s wife, Priscilla, and to the archbishop of the Internal Province of Ghana, the Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo, to offer his condolences and assurance of his prayers.
He wrote to Sarfo: “I know that many will miss Archbishop Tilewa for his boundless energy and the great enthusiasm he had for his ministry, in the Church, both in Gambia, in the Province of West Africa, and in the wider Anglican Communion.
“His gifts were not confined exclusively to the Church, and he had an active role within the national life of Gambia, serving as a member of a number of boards and committees. He was generous in his hospitality, and was always glad to welcome visitors to the Gambia, where he had served as Bishop since 1990.
“I know that all my colleagues, the people of the Church of England, and especially those in the Diocese of Chichester with which the Diocese of the Gambia is linked, as well as your brothers and sisters across the Communion, will be holding you in prayer and love at this time.”
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said, “Archbishop Tilewa was a big man in every sense of the word. His great height made him stand head and shoulders over others, but so did his heart. He had a great love for the church, and worked hard for the spread of the Gospel in his own country, his diocese, and more recently, the Church of the Province of West Africa, which he served with distinction as Primate.
“His immense pride in being able to represent his diocese at the Lambeth Conference of 2008 was matched by his love and compassion for those in any sort of need. He was a man of justice, and served with distinction on his country’s Independent Electoral Commission. All of this was rooted in his love for his Savior. To his wife and family, of whom he was so proud, to his church and to his country, we extend our prayers and our sincere sympathy.”
Anglican Ollie Sagnia was one of those who expressed their grief on the late Archbishop’s Facebook wall, “Today we mourn but tomorrow we hope to celebrate your life and continue your work as you pass on the torch. You excelled at being a great family man and an outstanding leader, an embodiment of peace, love and humility. Your vibrancy, zeal and enthusiasm, blended with humor and wit, awed us all. You will always be our bishop.”
John Kafwanka, Zambian priest and director for mission in the Anglican Communion Office, wrote, “What a shock to hear about the death of Archbishop S. Tilewa Johnson. You will be fondly remembered for your service to the Lord and humanity. We prayer for your family and the Church in Gambia and the whole Province of West Africa. Rest in God’s eternal peace.”
Johnson served as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.
“He was a highly motivated and effective church leader,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches. “I came to know him in 2013 at the assemblies of both the All Africa Conference of Churches and the WCC.”
“He possessed a strong commitment to the vision of fellowship and common witness and service. His ecumenical leadership internationally and nationally was inspirational,” Tveit added.
The many other posts on Johnson’s Facebook page and elsewhere on social media sites expressed shock, sadness and a very personal sense of loss from people in countries including Ghana, Nigeria, the Gambia, England, Tunisia, and Sierra Leone. Several people even changed their Facebook photo to one of the archbishop to honor his memory.
A man of firsts
Johnson is the ninth primate and archbishop of the West African province. He became the first Gambian bishop, archbishop and primate.
He was due to join members from across the Church of the Province of West Africa — from Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and The Gambia – at its Synod in February.
A life of service
Solomon Tilewa Ethelbert Willie Johnson was born in Banjul, The Gambia, on 27 February 1954. He attended the Wesley Primary School in Gambia from 1962 to 1966 and then Gambia High School until 1972.
He started his career in 1975 as a teacher at Banjul’s Gambia High School. However, after two years he applied and was admitted to Trinity Union Theological College, Umuahia, Imo State, Nigeria. In 1980 he left with a Diploma in Theology.
After three years at The UK’s University of Durham (1982-1985) he obtained a BA (Hons) in Theology. Twelve years later he returned to Britain to gain a Certificate in Theology from Oxford University. In 2000 he became a graduate of the Theological Foundation of Indiana in USA with a Doctorate degree in Applied Ministries.
Solomon Tilewa Johnson was a deacon from 1979 to 1980, a priest from 1980 to 1990, and was a diocesan bishop from 1990. On 29 September 2012, he was elected as the 9th Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa as well as Metropolitan Archbishop of the Internal province of West Africa. He was enthroned on 16 November 2012.
He was designated ‘Person of the Year’ 2012, by the Gambia News and Report Weekly Magazine who said his selection was because of his “election as the 9th Archbishop and Primate of the 38 member Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA), making him the first Gambian Bishop to hold such a position.”
He was involved with a range of organisations and committees both in Gambia and overseas including mission agencies; educational establishments; national bodies tackling socio-economic issues; and such ecumenical bodies such as the All Africa Conference of Churches, and the World Council of Churches and the Gambia Christian Council.
Archbishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson is survived by his wife, Priscilla Gladys Johnson and three children, Njilan Johnson, Jeggan Johnson and Dado Johnson.
[Episcopal City Mission] Episcopal City Mission (ECM), a faith-based ministry which promotes social and economic justice working through congregations, community-based organizations and people within the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, presented their Burgess Urban Fund grants to 20 grassroots community organizations working to reach those affected by social injustice.
The Burgess Urban Fund (BUF) was established in 1976 to improve the lives of the urban poor and oppressed. Grants are intended to reach community-based organizations that have the power and capacity to reach into many neighborhoods. Over 37 years, it has awarded over $6.8 million in grants; this year grants ranged from $10,000 to $20,000.
“The Burgess Urban Fund recognizes that community organizing is an important process that develops power and capacity in solidarity with those in need. Strong organizing requires grantees to engage members of the community to identify shared concerns and create goals for social change; develop new leaders, especially among those affected by social inequality; undertake projects with concrete goals for the core constituency; articulate both the immediate and root causes of the problem through social change, and collaborate with other organizations, regional and statewide,” said Dr. Ruy Costa, Executive Director, Episcopal City Mission. The fund focuses on six key areas: faith-based organizing, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, affordable housing, poverty-related organizing and youth organizing.
Katie Campbell Simons, ECM’s Associate Director Community Partnerships & Public Policy, said, “It is evident that there is an overwhelming need for organizing and advocacy to right the injustices of many. This year again, we received a record high of 60 applications with a large number from the workers’ and immigrants’ rights sectors.”
This year’s Burgess Urban Fund grantees are:
- Boston Youth Organizing Project Network
- Boston Workers Alliance
- Brazilian Immigrant Center
- Brazilian Women’s Group
- Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores
- Community Economic Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts
- Dominican Development Center
- Dorchester Bay Youth Force
- Essex County Community Organization
- Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending
- Massachusetts Community Action
- MetroWest Worker Center
- The Neighborhood Developers
- Neighbors United for a Better East Boston
- Student Immigrant Movement
- United Neighbors of Fitchburg
- Worcester Homeless Action Committee
- YWCA of Great Lawrence: Women’s Health Advocacy Initiative
- Youth on Board
Lewis Finfer, Director, Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN) said, “We will use the Burgess Fund grant towards our organizing and education for passage of the referendum to raise the minimum wage and enable all to have sick days at work. This will mean some $1 billion in wage increases for the lowest paid workers and some 1 million people benefiting from the wage increase and sick days.”
Grace Ross, Executive Director, Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending said, “We can now prove that many thousands of MA foreclosures were illegal and 10s of thousands more homeowners have mortgages that are not actually owned by the banks and Trusts that claim them. The BUF grant will mean that we can begin to reach out and organize these many thousands and bring home justice and millions to MA households especially in the African American and Latino communities!”
The Rev. Noah Evans, ECM Board Chair, closed the awards presentation by thanking the grantees for their quest to improve the lives of those in the Commonwealth affected by social injustice.
ABOUT EPISCOPAL CITY MISSION
Incorporated in 1844, ECM seeks to mobilize Episcopal parishes, individuals and resources in partnership with other community organizations for social structural change in Massachusetts, with particular emphasis on the urban poor. ECM does this through support for community organizing, mission-related investments in affordable housing, parish-based community economic development, and public policy advocacy. The Burgess Urban Fund was established as a tribute to The Rt. Rev. John Melville Burgess, former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; he wanted a collection of money given to community-based organizations that empowered the poor. ECM’s mission is to work for the economic wellbeing of the underserved as an expression of God’s grace.
En una reunión entre el Vaticano y un comité de la ONU, el Vaticano reconoció que no existe ninguna excusa válida para los casos de abuso y violencia contra niños, al tiempo que enfatizó que existen responsables de abusos “en todas las profesiones”, incluso “entre miembros del clero”, señaló Silvano Tomasi, representante de la Santa Sede ante Naciones Unidas en Ginebra. En una entrevista con CNN el sacerdote argentino Carlos Mullins, radicado en Nueva York, dijo que estos escándalos han costado caro a la iglesia, pero aún más moralmente. Esta es la primera vez que la jerarquía de la Iglesia Católica Romana participa en un escrutinio público sobre los abusos sexuales contra menores cometidos por sacerdotes en todo el mundo.
No sólo los hombres. Yingluck Shinawatra, primera ministra de Tailandia que ha gobernado a su país con mano dura ha dicho “que no piensa dimitir del cargo”. La oposición se organiza aunque no quiere provocar una guerra civil. Tailandia es el país más grande en el sudeste asiático con una población de más de 64 millones de habitantes. Su etnia es 75 por ciento thai-chino. La religión predominante es el budismo, su capital es Bangkok. Antes se llamaba Siam.
En una larga comparecencia televisiva el presidente Barack Obama advirtió del peligro de las drogas y dijo que “fumar marihuana es igual de peligroso que beber alcohol”. Johnny Ventura, el popular cantante y compositor dominicano, dijo en una entrevista que sin dudas las drogas conducen a tres lugares: al hospital, a la cárcel o al cementerio. Añadió que en cada Nochebuena hay “pan de frutas” en su mesa como recordatorio constante de que cuando niño era tan pobre que ese era el único plato que su madre podía servir.
Una compañía argentina-italiana está preparando un documental sobre el papa Francisco que se llamará “Francisco de Buenos Aires” y que se estrenará el 13 de marzo al cumplirse el primer año de su papado. Los productores cuentan con más de 50,000 horas de grabaciones. El documental aborda temas que van desde su pasión por el fútbol y el club San Lorenzo, pasando por su deleite por la música, la literatura y la amistad con el escritor agnóstico Jorge Luis Borges. El trabajo no excluye temas polémicos como su vida durante la dictadura y su militancia en el peronismo. También habla de su interés en el diálogo ecuménico e inter-religioso sus relaciones con importantes personalidades de la vida argentina, así como su interés por los pobres y desamparados.
Siguiendo el ejemplo de ayudar a jóvenes cubanos que quieren superarse académicamente, la Universidad del Sagrado Corazón en San Juan, Puerto Rico, ha otorgado una beca a Anyer Antonio Blanco para que haga sus estudios de bachillerato esa institución. La beca lleva el nombre de Jerónimo Esteve Abril, en honor al fundador de Bella Internacional, distribuidores de los automóviles Honda. Cualquier otra cosa que le falte será cubierta por el legislador puertorriqueño Kenneth McClintock y la comunidad cubana exilada. Anyer fue preso político por seis años en Santiago de Cuba.
A los 83 años ha fallecido en la Ciudad de México, Juan Gelman, laureado poeta ruso ucraniano hijo de refugiados judíos nacido en Argentina. Durante su vida el poeta sufrió la desaparición de su hijo Marcelo y su esposa embarazada María Claudia en la época de la violencia de la dictadura militar (1976-1983). Como era práctica común en ese tiempo los padres fueron asesinados y su hija regalada, en su caso a un oficial del ejército uruguayo. Después de 22 años se pudo demostrar que la niña era hija de los Gelman.
Un momento culminante de su saga fue el encuentro de la niña desaparecida después de 22 años y sus abuelos biológicos. Gelman perteneció a grupos de izquierda como la organización terrorista Montoneros por lo que guardó prisión en más de una ocasión. Actualmente era considerado el mejor poeta argentino del siglo XX.
Una “pequeña” decisión de las autoridades de Río de Janeiro puede traer grandes consecuencias en la vida social de Brasil. Desde ya las empleadas domésticas no podrán ser obligadas a usar uniformes en su trabajo, una costumbre que data desde los tiempos de la esclavitud. Se espera que otras ciudades adopten la misma ley. También la ley prohíbe que las empleadas y sus empleadores utilicen diferentes elevadores para llegar a su trabajo.
EJEMPLO: Jesús a sus discípulos: “El sirvo no sabe lo que hace su amo… los llamo mis amigos”. San Juan 15:14.
[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The co-chairs of The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) have issued an update on the group’s work and progress.
The JNCPB Committee continues to meet in sub-groups as we focus on the work of preparing for the nomination of the next Presiding Bishop. The committee members are faithfully focused on the charge given them to establish the nomination process for Presiding Bishop leading up to General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City. Further updates, including timelines and facilitation of the process, will be announced prior to Ash Wednesday.
JNCPB also wishes to thank all who completed the survey issued by the committee which invited broad-based feedback on the desired qualities and gifts of the next Presiding Bishop. The data collected has provided the committee with an overview and understanding of the wishes of the Church.
We ask that you continue to keep JNCPB in your prayers as we continue our important discernment.
Sally Johnson, Diocese of Minnesota
Bishop Ed Konieczny, Diocese of Oklahoma
The JNCPB is comprised of a lay member, a priest or deacon, and a bishop elected from each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church, plus two youth representatives, appointed by the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Jennings. The General Convention Deputies and bishops serve a three-year term to conclude with the election of the next Presiding Bishop at General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).