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New archbishop of South Sudan announces decade-long focus on Lord’s Prayer

2 hours 9 min ago

[Anglican Communion News Service] Thousands of Christians descended on All Saint’s Cathedral in Juba on April 22 for the installation of Justin Badi Arama as the fifth archbishop and primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. The new archbishop used the occasion to announce a decade-long focus on the Lord’s prayer as a tool for making and teaching disciples. He wanted Anglicans in South Sudan “to do the Lord’s Prayer and to live the Lord’s Prayer in their daily lives.”

Read the full article here.

Episcopal Church needs to change approach to substance abuse, report says

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 4:51pm

The Commission on Impairment and Leadership has made recommendations the Episcopal Church’s ordination, training, transition, deployment, wellness, management and oversight processes. Photo: Getty Images

[Episcopal News Service] It often takes a well-publicized tragedy to activate legislation, and the Episcopal Church is no exception.

After then-Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook, who was driving and texting while drunk, killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo in December 2014, the church has taken a deeper look at the way it handles impairment of various kinds at every level and stage. The church’s culture surrounding alcohol also has faced scrutiny. Cook had a prior drunken-driving charge in 2010.

About three months after the fatal crash, the church’s Executive Council affirmed a House of Bishop resolution calling for the creation of what became known as the Commission on Impairment and Leadership, and provided funding for the work. The group was charged with exploring “the canonical, environmental, behavioral and procedural dimensions of matters involving the serious impairment of individuals serving as leaders in the church, with special attention to issues of addiction and substance abuse.” 

A year after turning in the report to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the report became public in March of this year. Executive Council received the report before the start of its April 21-23 meeting in Austin, Texas. Curry summarized the group’s work during council’s opening session.

“How do we respond when leaders are impaired in a variety of ways; how do we effectively respond as the community of faith?” Curry said about the focus of the report’s recommendations. That response, he said, also needs to consider how the church can practice prevention by doing things that “foster health and wholeness, and that can screen, as best we can, for problems that may emerge.”

Curry said that some of the recommendations are already being implemented by his Office of Pastoral Development, which assists dioceses in bishop elections and disciplinary issues, as well as providing in pastoral care and training for bishops. The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, the bishop in charge of that office, will brief the council in more detail at its January meeting, Curry said.

In one such change that has already happened, the presiding bishop said his office has a new consulting psychiatrist to help improve the existing psychiatric and psychological screening process for bishop candidates. Dioceses are in charge of their own search and election processes. While Curry’s office cannot require dioceses to do so, he said the staff is encouraging dioceses “as strongly as we can” to do those screenings before an election, perhaps when the slate of candidates is chosen.

Dioceses are responding well to that suggestion, Curry said. Dr. Kevin Kelly, who is also the New York Fire Department’s consulting psychiatrist, has 30 such assessments to do in the next six months, the presiding bishop said.

At the same meeting, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies and council vice president, said several members of the impairment commission will serve on General Convention’s legislative committee on church-wide leadership. Jennings has asked the deputy members to consider drafting resolutions that pertain to parts of the report’s recommendation that have not been addressed elsewhere.

The report summarized the commission’s work and makes recommendations about the church’s ordination, training, transition, deployment, wellness, management and oversight processes. The report focuses on substance abuse, while also acknowledging behavior patterns and mental health issues may also lead to impairment.

The 29-page report is now available online in English here and in Spanish here.

“We are recommending actions that promote a significant cultural shift in the Episcopal Church,” the commissioners wrote. “These recommendations address the problem of impaired leaders, but they also diagnose and suggest treatment for an impaired system that maintains denial and helplessness toward addiction, mental illness and physical disease.”

The Rev. Jan Brown leads a workshop in October 2017 at the Gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, an annual networking meeting held by Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church. Photo: Holly Cardone

At the 78th General Convention, held June 25-July 3, 2015, the Special Legislative Committee on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse recommended three resolutions, all of which passed after some revisions.

“Our church culture too often avoids hard conversations about alcohol use, and the role of forgiveness and compassion in healing and recovery,” Resolution A158, titled “Adopt Policy on Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse,” states. 

(The other two resolutions were A159: Promote a Healing Ministry to Those Affected by Addiction and D014: Evaluate Individuals in the Ordination Process for Addiction Concerns.)

The Very Rev. Steven L. Thomason was chairman of the legislative committee, as well as a member of the impairment commission. He is the dean of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, as well as a physician who was once the medical director overseeing a large group of doctors. 

“So, I had experience dealing with physicians who had impairment; I’d usually come out of it from an advocate point of view, dealing with state medical board, seeing how they can get help,” Thomason told Episcopal News Service. “As a physician, I recognize addiction as a disease much the way I’d recognize diabetes or high blood pressure. And we don’t apply moral judgement on those other diseases; it’s about how we can be supportive as they struggle with that and find their way into healthier waters. That’s what the church is called to do.”

Practicing moderation is not a viable option for those whose alcohol use has gone beyond abuse and into addiction, which is a medically recognized disease. Photo: Getty Images

True, clergy struggling with substance abuse or addiction risk disappointing their congregations, facing disciplinary action or possibly losing their jobs, but factors that often prevent alcoholics or addicts from seeking help aren’t unique to clergy, he emphasized.

“Yes, it is difficult for leaders, but I don’t want to suggest that it’s somehow a harder road for a priest as it is for anyone,” Thomason said. “Everyone who has this disease experiences it in his or her own unique way. It’s just hard.”

What the commission found

In the same way that an alcoholic has to first acknowledge the problem in order to solve it, commission members had to dig into what the difficulties are within the church relating to impairment.

To do this, they looked at drinking and drug-related convention resolutions dating back to the 1970s, interviewed people involved in other impairment cases church-wide and looked at procedures used for handling other impaired professionals, such as airline pilots, doctors and lawyers.

They also relied on research into the dynamics and treatment of addiction, and turned to Christian theological tradition.

Several dioceses and churches are re-examining their policies on the way alcohol is presented at church events and meetings. Photo: Getty Images

To “uncover both individual and systemic failures that led to negative outcomes” in their case studies, the commission said it used the model for in-depth forensic accident investigations originally developed by the National Transportation Safety Board for accidents in the airline industry.

“We did feel that there are definitely systemic changes in the church that need to be addressed,” the Very Rev. Martha J. Horne, commission chairwoman and dean and president emerita of Virginia Theological Seminary, told ENS. 

The commission found that some Episcopal dioceses and congregations are proactive, while others are not, she said. On the plus side, when Horne was undergoing her ordination process more than 35 years ago in Virginia, the then-bishop of Virginia was very open about being in recovery. He required anyone going through ordination to go through alcohol awareness training, and the seminary had a required course in addiction, Horne said.

On the minus side, the commission said it observed “how the isolation of leaders and the authority structures within and among dioceses can work together with the denial and codependence that are typical of addiction to prevent identification and treatment of impairment.”

A key conflict is the tension between the right to privacy and accountability to the church and community, according to the report. There’s a need to distinguish between loyalty and responsibility, commissioners wrote. Fear of exposure to liability, as individuals and as a corporate body, is another reason impaired people, or those affected by them, avoid action. The report stated that case studies revealed often an “underdeveloped theology of forgiveness” can allow substance abusers to repeat their behaviors without consequences.

Still, the commission asserts that many impairment issues would be better addressed with a ministry canon rather than a disciplinary one, to provide more opportunities for recovery, reconciliation and healing.

In each impaired leadership situation that the commission studied, those interviewed described the same four experiences: isolation, disempowerment, mistrust and guilt.

The report’s recommendations

The commission identifies five key phases of ministry that present opportunities for preventive measures and effective responses throughout the lifespan of ordained leadership in the church. These include:

  • The discernment and screening process for ordination and episcopal elections; 

  • the training and formation process for those preparing for ordination and for newly elected bishops;
  • the transition and deployment process for clergy of all orders;

  • self-care and wellness practices (including CREDO) for deacons, priests and bishops; 

  • and ongoing management and oversight of all clergy, including bishops, particularly with regard to evaluation and licensing.

Details on the recommendations are here.

As bishop of the Office of Pastoral Development, Ousley is right in the thick of this issue. He’s been counseling more bishops lately about impairment issues, bishops asking whether a cleric should continue, how they should serve that cleric and about the cleric’s ability to serve, Ousley told ENS.

“We’ve worked really hard in the church to create an environment where you can come and ask questions, speak the truth and expect the support you need. We want that throughout all the dioceses and on the congregational level,” Ousley said. “We’re about fostering healthy spiritual community; that means meeting people where they are, challenging them and holding them accountable and getting them the help they need either individually or community-wide.”

The Rev. John Christopher, Pastor Tom Weller, the Rev. Steve Lane and the Rev. Lisa Kirby participated in discussions at the Gathering in October 2017, an annual program hosted by Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church. Photo: Holly Cardone

When it comes to discernment and screening for ordinations, “we have to ask questions differently to assess whether they’re in addiction or recovery,” and if they are in recovery, whether the longevity of their sobriety can support the major changes that ordination brings, Ousley said. While relapse is always a possibility no matter how many years in recovery, some experts say three years of active work in a recovery program may be enough to be considered for leadership roles, while others assert 10 years is needed. The answer may also depend on the person and situation, Ousley said. After her first drunken-driving charge in September 2010, Cook had one year of sobriety before relapsing, her defense attorney said at her October 2015 sentencing

Activating GC2015 resolutions at the grassroots level

The solution is not limited to making better policies, whether more resolutions at the next General Convention or canon revisions, according to the report.

Horne said members were clear that the commission’s charge was to explore and examine issues of addiction as they pertain to the church and present a report to Curry, not to craft resolutions or propose canonical changes.

“The commission cannot state strongly enough our belief that legislation and policy alone cannot accomplish the greater cultural shift required in our church to address issues of addiction and substance abuse,” the report states. “We believe firmly that the health and wellbeing of our church invites a more concerted, broad-based, grassroots effort.”

Meanwhile, at least two groups that report to the General Convention — the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons and the Task Force on the Episcopacy — already have filed resolutions that address some of the same areas that concerned the commission. Specifics are in an ENS article on the commission’s recommendations.

Despite the 2015 resolutions falling in line with a history of impairment resolutions using soft language such as “encourage” rather than “require,” Episcopalians have been working to make these most recent resolutions matter in their congregations and dioceses.

St. Mark’s vestry in Washington has adopted the convention’s Resolution A158 on alcohol policy “word for word,” Thomason said, because it was more robust than their old policy.

Resolution A159 encourages dioceses to work more with Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church, a church-wide ministry for networking for clergy and lay people, providing resources, education and awareness. The organization holds an annual gathering to provide networking and support for those doing recovery work within the Episcopal Church. The next gathering is Sept. 26-29, in Asheville, North Carolina. 

At the October 2017 gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, Eleanor Stromberger received the Sam Shoemaker Award for her grassroots work. She’s been active in recovery in San Antonio, in the Diocese of West Texas and the nation, leading recovery commissions and hosting gatherings, doing much legwork. 

“I believe that each one of us who does the work of recovery ministry serves as a doorkeeper for the wisdom, healing and recovery about which the larger church needs to know,” Stromberger said as she received her award. “And trust me, we will always have a mission field in which to work.”

Support, hope and healing

Despite its failings with this issue, the Episcopal Church has a rich history in recovery, said the Rev. Ben Nelson, the new president of the board of Recovery Ministries.

“We’re connected to Bill W. [co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous]. He got sober when he met with a friend named Ebby, who got sober with the Oxford Group, which was led by an Episcopal priest named Sam Shoemaker,” Nelson told ENS, which explains the name of the award Stromberger received. “I think the 12-step movement is really a great spiritual movement, and the Episcopal Church has been present since the beginning. When we’re at our best, this is who we can be.”

The Rev. Holly Cardone, Sandy Blaine and the Rev. Ben Nelson attended the Gathering, a meeting for those who do substance abuse recovery work within the Episcopal Church. Clergy and lay leaders meet to swap ideas, tips and provide support to one another in their own recovery ministries. Photo courtesy of Holly Cardone

Nelson is also rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Marcos, Texas, and co-chairman of the Recovery Commission in the Diocese of West Texas.  The commission is revisiting the alcohol policy of the diocese to see how it compares to the 15-point policy in Resolution A158, he said.

For anyone, cleric or lay person, who wants help, Nelson first recommends Alcoholics Anonymous. Al-Anon provides the same support, but for family and friends worried about someone with a drinking problem. There are 12-step meetings for other addictions as well, from Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

Many churches offer their facilities for 12-step meetings, and clergy can seek meetings outside their own community to feel safe enough to share honestly while protecting their anonymity, Nelson said.

The Episcopal Church is the first mainline church to have an official prayer for victims of addiction, which is in the Book of Common Prayer, Nelson said. People also can order liturgical templates for a Recovery Eucharist on one of Recovery Ministries’ pages.

“Many people go to clergy asking for help, and there is a responsibility to help. And if clergy need help, I think it’s the responsibility for the diocese to help. We’d put them in touch with people who might help, possibly in-patient, out-patient, 12-step or therapeutic help,” Nelson told ENS.

“It takes a diocese that says, ‘We can walk you through this. There can be a process so that you don’t have to lose everything to get well. You’re responsible for what happens in your own life, but there is help.’”

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com. The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, ENS interim managing editor, contributed to this report.

 

Key commission recommendations for the Episcopal Church on substance abuse

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 4:50pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Commission on Impairment and Leadership created a list of 13 detailed recommendations for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and others to consider when tackling the pressing issues of alcohol and substance abuse prevention and intervention within the church.

(Details about the commission’s report and information about efforts to implement some of the recommendations are available in an Episcopal News Service story here.)

These are some of the key points among the recommendations, edited for brevity.

  • We recommend that the presiding bishop and president of the House of Deputies commission a task force or other group to develop a more complete process of screening people applying for ordination about their history and experience with alcohol and substance abuse. Bishops and commissions on ministry would benefit from education and training in how best to evaluate applicants with a history of addiction who are now living in recovery. In a related action, the Task Force on the Episcopacy has filed Resolution A148, which calls for amending the church’s canons on ministry to further define the substance of background checks required for bishop election nominees. The amendment requires that nominees be evaluated for substance, chemical and alcohol use and abuse.
  • We recommend that the Executive Council and the General Convention take necessary steps to develop and implement a required alcohol and substance abuse training program for all persons in the process of formation for ordination and for those already ordained. As in other professions, clergy should be required to repeat this training at designated intervals in order to maintain their license.
  • We recommend that the Church Pension Group (CPG), in its function as recorder of ordinations, establish a central personnel database to track clergy employment, discipline, issues with impairment and other related background information for all clergy in the church that can be accessed during search and transition processes. The Standing Commission on Governance, Structure, Constitution and Canons has filed Resolution A120 calling for the Archives of the Episcopal Church to create a secure database registry to track clergy discipline data to provide statistical information. In its current proposed form, such a database would not track specific incidents by name. 
  • We recommend that the College for Bishops develop a substantive training component on addiction and substance abuse to be incorporated into the “Living Our Vows” program for new bishops that would include several components. We recommend that the House of Bishops incorporate into its meetings an ongoing process to address the same areas.
  • We recommend that the bishop with oversight of the Office for Pastoral Development, drawing on the research from this commission, establish a standardized process for conducting episcopal elections, based on best practices so that it can be tailored to meet the particular characteristics of a given diocese and that doing so can ensure that the key components to effective screening and discernment will not be lost in the process. The Task Force on the Episcopacy has filed Resolution A142  and Resolution A145 calling for dioceses to develop processes for bishop elections that are consistent with the task force’s recommendations. 
  • We recommend that the presiding bishop, drawing on the research of this commission, establish a team to serve as a resource on alcoholism and other forms of addiction to provide a rapid response to issues of questionable impairment, to provide clergy or other concerned individuals with confidential advice, and to assist with monitoring, recovery and re-entry into ministry.
  • We recommend that CREDO develop a program component to help participants explore their relationship to alcohol, drugs and other addictive substances and behaviors.
  • We recommend that the Pastoral Development Committee of the House of Bishops, working with a knowledgeable and skilled advisor, as well as the Executive Council, evaluate the policies and practices of meetings, as well as the meetings of its commissions, committees and boards, to recommend changes that may contribute to a healthy environment with regard to alcohol and addiction.
  • We recommend that the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies appoint a working group to conduct a review of the canons of the church and to identify canonical impediments to the effective pastoral response, intervention and treatment of addiction and substance abuse. This working group should report its findings and recommendations to the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons, for review and action.

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com. The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, ENS interim managing editor, contributed to this report.

‘Flyover Church’ campaign invites clergy seeking calls to give Middle America a closer look

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 3:57pm

[Episcopal News Service] It’s a term typically uttered with a tone of dismissiveness: Flyover Country.

You know, that nondescript middle part of the United States that you have to fly over to get from one lively and exciting coast to the other. But the great American middle is actually a lot more lively and exciting – and spiritually rich – than the “flyover” stereotypes suggest, according to Episcopal transition ministers who are taking a lighthearted new approach to recruiting clergy to their dioceses.

They’ve dubbed their campaign Flyover Church, and they see it as a way of reclaiming that epithet, by using local examples, compelling personal stories and an upbeat marketing plan to encourage more priests to consider religious calls in the center of the country.

“We want to tell the church that what we have going on here is just as exciting as what’s going on the coasts,” said the Rev. Michael Spencer, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Eastern Michigan.

Spencer and the other transition ministers behind the Flyover Church campaign are careful not to present their efforts as a competition with other dioceses. There are worthwhile calls in every part of the country, they say, and they hope this campaign will catch the attention of people who otherwise would never have considered moving to a place like Flint, Michigan, or Omaha, Nebraska.

“Many of us found our way here from other places,” said the Rev. Liz Easton, the Diocese of Nebraska canon to the ordinary. She is a Seattle native and part of the team behind Flyover Church. “It was sort of a mystery: How can we help tell the story of this place where good work is being done and Jesus is being met and served?”

The Flyover Church website combines a list of calls at partner dioceses with personal testimonials about why those seeking calls should consider the region.

What exactly is Flyover Church? At this point, it’s primarily a website, flyoverchurch.org, that offers a list of calls at some of the participating dioceses. So far, those dioceses number 13: Arkansas, Eastern Michigan, Kansas, Kentucky, Lexington, Michigan, Milwaukee, Missouri, Nebraska, Northern Indiana, Ohio, Southern Ohio and Western North Carolina. Spencer is in talks with additional dioceses to join the campaign.

“Ministry in Flyover Country is unlike – and exactly like – ministry in other parts of the world,” is how the campaign introduces itself on the website.

Flyover Church also offers a platform for sharing homespun testimonials from some of those dioceses. A post by the Rev. Torey Lightcap, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Kansas, is playfully titled “The Middle: Not the Sameness You Were Looking For.”

“Every week I get to meet people who are eager to make the church go and to put Christ’s words into action,” Lightcap writes. “Everywhere you stop and look there are faithful, entrepreneurial Episcopalians who are getting the job done. You’ll find that your priestly ministry is every bit as valuable and necessary and appreciated to these wonderful people as it is anywhere else.”

The challenge of finding candidates to fill calls, of course, is felt across the Episcopal Church, regardless of geographic region. “The number of applicants for clergy positions will be fewer than in years gone by,” a 2016 report by the Board of Transition Ministry noted, and “clergy are less willing or able to relocate.”

Such trends have become a common topic at the biannual meetings of diocesan transition ministers from the three Episcopal provinces in the center of the country. Spencer was part of those conversations, as well as similar discussions among a group of canons to the ordinary, many of whom were also transition ministers.

Years ago, Spencer said, eight to 10 priests would have applied for an open call, giving the parish search committee plenty of candidates to choose from. Now, those committees may only have two or three candidates – sometimes just one.

Flyover Church also has a Twitter account, twitter.com/flyoverchurch.

Members of the transition ministers group and and canons to the ordinary group put their heads together and came up with Flyover Church as an effort to turn those numbers around by touting the unique appeal of ministry and life in these dioceses. Quality of life and low cost of living are among the selling points. The website boasts that these 13 dioceses have 19 research universities, 72 national parks and one “mitten-shaped” state.

The state that looks like a mitten is Spencer’s own Michigan.

“It’s one of the states where, once you’ve been here, you fall in love and it’s probably difficult to imagine life anywhere else,” he said.

But he and other transition ministers also want to convey the ministry potential embedded in the diversity of their communities, from small towns and farmlands to cities and suburbs. These places have unique challenges, which can become opportunities for priests to bring Jesus’ love to people who need it most.

Spencer cited the example of Flint, now known as a ghost town of auto industry downsizing and, more recently, for its contaminated water crisis.

“There is stark need for the kingdom to be built here,” he said.

The Rev. Meghan Froehlich, director of the Episcopal Church’s Office for Transition Ministry, said the church is supportive of Flyover Church and any grassroots campaign aimed at raising the profile of the many communities with open calls.

“Anything that helps people be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in their call is really valuable,” Froehlich said.

Spencer said Flyover Church aims to complement the work of the Office of Transition Ministry, not duplicate it. And Froehlich said knocking down geographic stereotypes is a worthwhile goal.

“It can be easy to think that we know about a place from stereotypes or assumptions,” she said. “I think it’s better if we have more information.” The Flyover Church website highlights the “vibrant ministry and the unique gifts of this part of the country.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Faith leaders in Australia unite to oppose plans for new coal mine

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 1:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than 50 religious leaders from across Australia have called on Gautam Adani, chairman and founder of the Adani Group, to abandon plans to build a new coal mine in Northern Queensland.

In an open letter delivered on April 18 to representatives of the Adani Group at their Townsville office, the coalition – including Anglicans Bishop Philip Huggins of the Diocese of Melbourne and Dean of Brisbane’s Cathedral Peter Catt – said they oppose all new coal mining in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. The faith leaders argued that the environmental impact of a new mine would be “too great,” while the economic rationale was “grasping at short-term profits from a thermal coal industry in worldwide structural decline” and could not provide the long-term jobs the region needs. Instead, they urged Adani to invest his company’s wealth into renewable energies.

Read the full article here.

Anglican, Lutheran leaders in Canada ask for Earth Day prayers and action

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 1:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] In a joint statement, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; Mark MacDonald, National Anglican Indigenous Bishop, and the Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, invited people to join them in praying “for the humility and discipline to use Earth’s resources wisely and responsibly” on Earth Day, April 22.

Read the full article here.

British bishop welcomes proposed plastic ban

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 1:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam recently spoke in favor of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s potential plan to ban a number of single-use plastic products. Holtan went on to encourage the U.K. to swap the use of cheap plastic with more sustainable alternatives, calling it a “no-brainer.”

Read the full article here.

Archbishop of Canterbury breaks ground on new library

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 1:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Work began on a new, bigger library at Lambeth Palace on April 20 when Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby symbolically “broke ground” for the building.

It is the first new building at the Palace in more than 100 years. The new library will bring together what’s thought to be one of the largest historical ecclesiastical book collections outside the Vatican. There will also be easier access for the public to see these treasures.

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop offers tribute to Barbara Bush

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 10:47am

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] The following statement from Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is in tribute to Former First Lady Barbara Bush.

The funeral for former first lady Barbara Bush, shown during her White House days, will be April 21 at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. Photo: White House

Today and tomorrow, as the Bush family and the nation they have served so faithfully give thanks for the life and witness of Mrs. Barbara Bush, we of the Episcopal Church likewise give God thanks for her life and her witness to us. While her husband President Bush, her family, friends and colleagues know this more intimately than those of us who only knew her from afar, we saw in her a witness to the virtues of personal integrity, devotion to family, commitment to speak truth come what may, and service to her country and to the well-being of the breadth of the human family of God. Because of her commitment to literacy, there are many today who behold new worlds and have hope because of the written word. And, because of her life and real faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and his way of love, we have beheld a great soul, and have hope that we can live likewise.

May the soul of Barbara and the souls of all the departed, through the mercies of God, rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
The Episcopal Church

Episcopalians balance fear with preparation in the wake of U.S. mass shootings

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 5:57pm

The Rev. Mike Angell, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri, speaks at an April 11 ecumenical unity press conference. Photo: Fred Koenig

[Episcopal News Service] As Americans reel from the rising number of mass shootings, the possibility of such violence happening at any gathering anywhere seems more real.

To cope, Episcopalians have relied on  efforts to balance preparing for the worst with their faith. The most recent tragedy — the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people  — mobilized youth nationwide to fight for better gun-violence prevention laws with marches and protests, Episcopal youth included.

“We’re trying very hard not to encourage hysteria, but we want to be prepared,” said the Rev. Kate Atkinson, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which is across the street from the state house in Concord, New Hampshire. “Who knows what the dangerous person will look like? We have to be vigilant but not frightened. I refuse to be frightened. But at the same time, I am responsible for my parish and I don’t want anything to happen to them.”

Numbers vary depending on how a mass shooting is defined. Often the term requires three or more deaths. Regardless, 2017 was called the deadliest year for mass killings in a decade, totaling 208 deaths shortly after the Nov. 5 shooting that killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

If the Feb. 14 school shooting is any indication, 2018 won’t be much better. Meanwhile, Episcopal leaders are striving to comfort and calm their congregations while also examining ways to prepare for the worst.

Before those 26 people were gunned down in the Texas church, the closest mass church shooting killed nine people on June 17, 2015, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Three people died in a May 3, 2012 shooting at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland. The assumed assailant was a homeless man who used the church’s soup kitchen, who police believe committed suicide by shooting himself afterward.

The church’s warden at the time, Craig Stuart-Paul, later pledged that the parish’s ministry would continue, “and we won’t do it from behind bulletproof glass.”

Many plans, procedures and technologies are already in place, but Episcopalians are being made more aware of them. Vestries are updating their emergency plans. Some priests and bishops are participating in gun violence seminars, workshops and other trainings. Still others are fighting state gun laws.

Include gun violence in emergency plans

The Church Pension Group’s Safety & Insurance Handbook for Churches, available online, addresses what to do in an emergency involving gun violence.

Quick communication and notification is key, the handbook emphasizes. And depending on church needs and budget, leaders can implement or update their regular security measures to incorporate newer technology, such as buzzed-in entry, automated locking, camera systems and key access. A diocese with a large, metropolitan cathedral often has a security guard.

But it’s more than that.

“As recent devastating events in a wide variety of public places have demonstrated, it’s important to have plans in place to mitigate the risk of violence — and to be able to react appropriately and quickly in case something does happen,” the handbook, written in 2015, states. “You should have a violence preparedness plan, just as you have disaster preparedness plans in case of fires, floods, or tornadoes — and run drills, too, just as you would for a fire or tornado.”

In the Diocese of New Hampshire, at least four churches have hosted active shooter drills or seminars. About 120 people attended a drill on how to deal with active shooter situations at Grace Episcopal Church in Manchester on April 8.

The free drills were led by Blue-U Defense, a group of off-duty or retired law enforcement officers with training experience in preparedness for organizations including churches, Bishop Rob Hirschfeld told Episcopal News Service. The events were hosted by Episcopal churches and were open to people from other faith communities as well.

“I’m encouraged by people coming away from this with a sense of reasonableness; they’re less panicked, more empowered, more aware of the space they’re in and the possibilities to frustrate the intent of those who wish to do harm. And that’s good,” said Hirschfeld, a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

“They’re given strategies. We don’t want our people to live in fear. As Marianne Williamson has said, ‘Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,’” he said, quoting the spiritual activist and author.

On April 11, about 45 leaders of area faith communities convened for a Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event (CRASE) training led by local police at St. Paul’s in Concord. The training was geared toward heightened security, urging faith leaders to be wise about what doors are locked and unlocked, who’s monitoring the building, what’s happening with the children and official response protocol, according to Atkinson, the rector.

The first piece of advice used to be to hide, but now it’s ADD: Avoid, deny and defend, Atkinson said the CRASE experts told them. The first line of action is to try to escape. If that’s not possible, deny access by hiding, barricading and calling 911. If the shooter does reach you, defend yourself however you can, especially as a group.

After that initial seminar, Concord police officers are continuing the training by arranging site visits with each participating religious group to tour the buildings and give tips, Atkinson said. The church safety policy discourages people from bringing in concealed weapons, Atkinson said.

The downtown church serves many visitors in its food pantry, thrift store and clothing bank. Those ministries mean a higher percentage of homeless and mentally ill visitors. But as Atkinson has realized, you never know what the shooter will look like, so you can’t stop doing God’s will.

“A lot of the people we deal with on a daily basis can be frightening, but they’re also frightened, and they need our help,” she told ENS.

At St. Peter’s in Carson City, Nevada, on March 9, representatives from the Carson City Sheriff’s and Fire departments met with parishioners and discussed church safety and active shooter situations, as well as emergency medical situations, fires and earthquakes. The training brought calm assurance to people, Nevada Bishop Dan Edward told ENS.

Donna Bernert, a member of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Eureka, Missouri, organized members of her parish to staff a Lock It for Love booth at the annual Eureka Days celebration on Sept. 8-9. Fifty gun locks were distributed free of charge. The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has partnered with Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, a St. Louis advocacy organization, in supporting Lock It for Love. Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Missouri

Part of planning for emergencies involves prevention methods, such as distributing gun locks so the guns don’t get in the wrong hands.

St. James Episcopal Church in Keene, New Hampshire, has a social justice ministry that brokered an arrangement between local law enforcement agencies and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an National Rifle Association-affiliated, Second Amendment advocacy group based in Newtown, Connecticut. Despite what Hirschfeld called the chasm between the church and the NRA, the foundation will make these gun locks available to 15 police stations in the Monadnock region of southwestern New Hampshire, he said. It’s called Project ChildSafe, a free national program.

“It’s a little thread across the chasm,” Hirschfeld said.

Carrying guns inside churches — legally

Parallel to the controversial arm-the-teachers solution in schools, proponents of more freedom to carry firearms inside churches say it will enable parishioners to defend themselves and protect others. Otherwise, church members are sitting ducks, they say. That thinking has influenced lawmakers.

Yet the Episcopalians ENS spoke to said trained police often miss their intended targets, so inexperienced civilians will have even less chance of aiming correctly and can make the fatal mistake of shooting an innocent bystander. Plus, when more people are wielding guns, it’s often difficult to tell who the “bad guy” is when law enforcement does arrive to make split-second decisions.

Some Episcopalians, such as those in Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, are grappling with either existing state laws or proposed amendments that allow firearms in church.

On April 11, Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and other Episcopal leaders joined Roman Catholic, Jewish, Methodist, Baptist and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America leaders at a press conference decrying the proposed Missouri House Bill 1936 amending a law to expand where concealed weapons are allowed, extending the allowance to churches.

Missouri churches have historically been gun-free zones.

As the law states now, a person must receive special permission from clergy to carry a concealed weapon on church property. The new law would allow someone to carry a concealed weapon inside a church or other religious institution unless a sign banning weapons is prominently displayed. The sign must be at least 11 by 14 inches with writing that is at least 1 inch tall, according to the bill.

The Rev. Mike Angell helped organize the ecumenical press conference.

This proposed gun legislation has galvanized a rare show of unity among faith communities that normally disagree, he said. The various participating faith leaders argue that the proposed state amendment is a radical expansion of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, at the expense of their First Amendment right of religious freedom. Throughout history, religious groups have fought wars over what was displayed inside houses of worship, Angell said. And to have to post government-regulation signs that in order to preserve the sanctuary of these faith centers is “offensive,” he said, and the faith communities were not even consulted during the legislative process.

“We do believe people have a right to responsible gun ownership. Several bishops are gun owners,” Angell told ENS. “But this is a radical redefinition of what the Second Amendment means. It would also allow guns in day care centers, bars and schools. That’s problematic. We don’t operate a bar, but we operate all those others.”

Angell is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri, which rents out some of its facilities to a children’s music school, AA groups and other community activities. The vestry is examining new emergency plans and active-shooter training possibilities.

“We’re looking at all sorts of ways to update those emergencies procedures. We’ve been asked by some of our tenants, really since the Parkland school shooting and the Texas church shooting,” he said.

As the bishop’s deputy for gun violence prevention, the Rev. Marc Smith uses his 10 years’ experience as the former president of the Missouri Hospital Association to come at the problem from a public health perspective. He’s been working on six initiatives since his appointment almost three years ago.

The Rev. Anne Kelsey and the Rev. Marc Smith, the Missouri bishop’s deputy for gun violence prevention, protest with signs during the St. Louis March for Our Lives on March 24. Photo: the Rev. Paula Hartsfield

While other Episcopal churches and diocese across the United States have undertaken several similar initiatives such as awareness campaigns and gun lock distributions, two of the most cutting-edge initiatives that Smith hasn’t noticed elsewhere involve training clergy and creating a curriculum.

First, a partnership with Washington University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and the Walker Leadership Institute at Eden Seminary has helped develop and present seminars to equip clergy and laity to care for the victims of gun violence. Smith has conducted seminars regularly with crime victim care organizations, as well as seminars at Eden Theological Seminary and Concordia Seminary.

Second, Smith is creating a six-module curriculum for use by faith communities to explore the many forms of violence in American culture and the church’s responsibility for responding to them: violence in scripture; America as a culture of violence; gun violence; domestic abuse and sexual violence; bullying and suicide; and reconciliation and forgiveness. He’s invited experts in each area to share on instructional videos, and the curriculum will be online.

Smith also wrote a litany for victims of gun violence, available online.

In November of 2012, Bishop Edward J. Konieczny issued a policy for every organization in the Diocese of Oklahoma, in direct contrast to the just-passed Oklahoma Self-Defense Act/Open Carry Law. The law says no person, property owner, tenant, employer or business entity can make a policy prohibiting anyone, except a convicted felon, from carrying a weapon on premises.

That did not stop Konieczny, a former Southern California police officer.

He wrote: “As such, after careful review, the policy of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is to prohibit any weapon inside any building owned or occupied by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, Episcopal churches, Episcopal schools or institutions, and Episcopal camp and conference centers.”

The bishop’s exceptions included government employees acting in their capacity to do so, security officers for special events and organized training or sporting events such as skeet shooting. Any other exception would require prior written approval from the bishop.

Konieczny has his own concealed weapon permit, and told the crowd at the April 2014 Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: an Episcopal Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence conference hosted in his diocese that he has been called “the gun-toting bishop.”

“By any definition of the word, the frequency of violent acts in our society is of epidemic proportion,” he told the conference members. “I am not willing to accept that we are destined to suffer the tragedies that have plagued our society. Instead, I am convinced that we can change judgmental attitudes, intolerant behaviors and the violence in our society.”

After the Feb. 25, 2016, shootings in Hesston and Newton, Kansas, that killed three people, Episcopal Diocese of Kansas’ then-Bishop Dean Wolfe and Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas Bishop Michael Milliken issued a pastoral directive banning firearms from Episcopal churches in the state, unless they are carried by designated law enforcement officials in the line of duty.

In a letter sent to all churches, the bishops said the state law amendments reversed long-standing law and practice. The changes allowing anyone to bring guns into a church, they wrote, “unnecessarily endanger the citizens of our state and the members of our parishes.”

Protecting the young

Churches often have day care centers and primary schools on their premises, which call to mind how the response of adults can affect some of the most vulnerable populations.

Nevada Bishop Dan Edward said the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have had more impact on churches in his diocese than an Oct. 1 shooting at a Las Vegas country music concert that killed 58 people. That mass shooting caused an outpouring of compassion, he told ENS, but the Parkland school shooting mobilized youth across his diocese in marches and protests. At the Las Vegas March for Our Lives in March, survivors of the October shooting, as well as gun violence victims in domestic abuse and LGBTQ hate crimes, spoke.

Prevention of gun violence and caring intervention for its victims are key to maintaining a safe, holy sanctuary, Episcopal leaders say. They’re taking action, while keeping in mind their higher calling in the Christian faith. They must stay reasonable, these priests and bishops told ENS.

It’s good to remember that there is an extremely low likelihood of people being killed or injured in mass shootings, and even more so in churches; they’re taking far greater risk getting in their cars and driving on the highway, Edward said.

“That doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to us, but we live in faith. Our call in facing violence is to respond nonviolently,” Edward said. “The most frequent command Jesus gave us was ‘Do not be afraid.’ Not that we shouldn’t feel fear, but don’t live in fear and let it have you, to control our lives.”

“Instead, let our faith control our lives.”

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com

Washington National Cathedral mourns the loss of former first lady Barbara Bush

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 5:45pm

[Washington National Cathedral] The Very Rev. Randolph ‘Randy’ Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, released the following statement and offered a prayer on the death of First Lady Barbara Bush.

“Washington National Cathedral joins the nation in mourning the loss of former First Lady Barbara Bush, and we extend our heartfelt prayers to President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush and the entire Bush family in their time of sorrow,” said Dean Hollerith.

“As a wife, mother and grandmother, she became in many ways a beloved matriarch to Americans from all walks of life, and she enriched the lives of everyone she touched with compassion, humor and graciousness.

“Through her work on literacy, Mrs. Bush became among the brightest of the ‘thousand points of light,’ serving as an example in her husband’s initiative to extend volunteerism and community engagement. She was a living example of faithfulness, both to her family and to the nation, always facing adversity with grace and courage. Her 73-year marriage to her beloved husband remains a shining example of lifelong love nurtured by selfless devotion and affection.”

Mrs. Bush was a longtime friend of Washington National Cathedral, attending countless services and state occasions, including the 1990 celebration when the final stone was set atop the Cathedral tower. A lifetime Episcopalian, Mrs. Bush exemplified the values of her favorite scripture, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

“I have great respect for people of other faiths who believe in a greater being and live a life that is based on kindness and generosity,” she said in a 2012 interview with Cathedral Age magazine.

“Together with all the saints in glory, we give thanks for the life of Barbara Pierce Bush and pray that the gates of heaven will be opened wide to this kind and generous child of God.”

“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Barbara. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.Watch the latest video at foxnews.com

New Jersey court rules churches can’t receive county’s historic preservation money

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 5:17pm

Early progress is seen in the slate roof replacement project at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, in this photo posted to the church’s Facebook page on Oct. 12.

[Episcopal News Service] It was an offer too good for a congregation to refuse.

Need your church tower preserved? Your roof replaced? Your parish house restored? Morris County, New Jersey, was ready to help, with a historic preservation grant program offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in upkeep assistance for a range of properties, including houses of worship.

The problem: Such direct taxpayer assistance to churches violated the state constitution, the New Jersey Supreme Court has concluded, ruling April 18 against a list of defendants that includes 12 churches, three of them Episcopal churches.

The potential financial ramifications for Morris County churches are significant. The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, as one prominent example, received a $294,000 grant in 2013 to restore its 1926 parish house and an additional $272,000 in 2015 to restore the church’s slate roof. The court did not require Church of the Redeemer and the other 11 churches named in the lawsuit to repay the $4.6 million they received over four years, but the county is barred from awarding money to churches in the future.

“The historic preservation grant we received saved our bacon,” Donald MacGowan, senior warden at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Mountain Lakes, told Episcopal News Service. The church, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, spent $450,000 on a new slate roof, including $262,000 from the county fund.

“I have absolutely no idea what we would have done without their help.”

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religious Foundation and a Morris County resident sued in 2015, arguing that the grant program was in clear violation of the Religious Aid Clause in the New Jersey Constitution. The county and churches countered that the grants were legal because they advanced the public’s interest in historic preservation and that excluding churches from such a program would violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protection of religious freedom.

Taxes, the state Constitution says, can’t be used “for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry.”

Morris County’s Historic Preservation Trust Fund was created after a 2002 voter referendum. Its goal was to support acquisition and preservation of historic sites and facilities, and in nearly 16 years it has awarded millions of dollars to a variety of sites, including numerous churches.

“In Morris County, as in all counties in New Jersey and across the nation, churches and other religious buildings are a vital part of the historic fabric of where we live, interwoven in the history of how our county, state and nation developed,” Morris County Administrator John Bonanni said in a statement released after the state Supreme Court ruling.

“We believe historic churches are a strong component of that overall rich history, and we have considered churches – only those eligible for the State or National Registers of Historic Places – among historic sites that have been eligible for consideration by the county’s historic preservation grant program.”

The Church of the Redeemer received construction grants in 2013 and 2015. A county news release noted the church’s 2013 grant was the fund’s largest of the year. A 2015 news release touted the 1917 church’s Gothic Revival style, its architectural pedigree and its place on state and national historic registers.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, another church named in the lawsuit, received a 2012 grant of $428,000 to preserve the interior of its church tower. The state Supreme Court noted the church’s application explicitly connected the project to the congregation’s ability to worship safely in the building.

“These are really hard times for houses of worship. And we really do so much for the community,” the Rev. Janet Broderick, rector of St. Peter’s, told MorristownGreen.com after the state Supreme Court ruling.

St. Peter’s in Mountain Lakes received $13,000 in 2015 for a preservation study, another $13,000 in 2016 for “construction documents” and $262,000 in 2017 for roof replacement. That project is detailed in photos posted on the church’s Facebook page.

“Scaffolding came down today!” a Dec. 2 post announces. “The beauty of our new slate roof in time for the beginning of Advent!”

Whatever the beauty of such projects, the state Supreme Court ruled, 7-0, that the county can’t pay for them.

“The plain language of the Religious Aid Clause bars the use of taxpayer funds to repair and restore churches, and Morris County’s program ran afoul of that longstanding provision,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote in the decision, which reversed a lower court’s decision in favor of the county and churches.

The other question raised by the lawsuit, however, was whether the county program was protected by a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision siding with a Missouri church, Trinity Lutheran, that had applied for state aid for day care playground improvements but was denied.  The New Jersey court ruled that the Morris County program was different because it offered widespread benefits to churches, including for improvements that directly supported the congregations’ spiritual missions.

“It’s shocking that it took a trip to the New Jersey Supreme Court to enforce such a plain constitutional command,” Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a written statement. “New Jersey taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief that their constitutional religious liberty rights have been protected.”

Kenneth Wilber, the attorney representing the churches, disagreed with the court’s conclusion, calling the county grants “a neutral public welfare program.”

“The purpose of these grants is not to aid religion but to advance the government’s secular interest in historic preservation,” Wilber told the Daily Record, invoking the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Trinity Lutheran case.  “Denying churches grants because they are churches, without regard to the purpose of the grant, is exactly the kind of categorical exclusion Trinity Lutheran prohibits.”

MacGowan acknowledged some residents may not be happy with tax dollars being spent on church buildings like St. Peter’s. “On the other hand, there’s a lot of history in Morris County, and it’s integral to who we are,” he said, and to preserve church buildings that embody that history often requires more money than today’s congregations can afford.

“I feel terrible for the [churches] that will not now be able to do this,” he said.

The county and churches could pursue their legal fight in federal court. For now, congregations like St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mendham will have to move forward with any construction projects without the help of Morris County.

“The issue for us, being a smaller congregation, is we don’t have a whole lot of money sitting around,” said the Rev. Shawn Carty, part-time rector of St. Mark’s, which was not a defendant in the court case but received a 2016 county grant of $30,000 to conduct a detailed preservation study.

That study did not identify urgent need at St. Mark’s for any preservation projects on the scale of those carried out by the Episcopal churches named in the lawsuit, though Carty said he would have welcomed county assistance for smaller projects, such as repairing his church’s stained-glass windows.

Carty said the preservation study alone was a significant value for the congregation, with an average Sunday attendance of about 40. Such studies are a county requirement before sites can apply for money for construction projects.

“So, we have a nice binder with lots of historic information about our building,” he said. “It’s unlikely that we would have paid for as significant and thorough a preservation study as was required by this.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

 

Young Africans urged to take leadership roles in churches

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 11:23am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Young people from across Africa have been urged to take leadership roles in their churches and communities and be active voices in the continent’s development. The call came at last week’s Continental Youth Congress organized by CAPA – the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa.

Read the full article here.

Archbishop of Canterbury convenes high-level Commonwealth freedom-of-religion discussion

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 11:21am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Parliamentarians and senior religious leaders from 11 Commonwealth countries gathered at Lambeth Palace, the London official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for two-days of discussions on freedom of religion or belief. The event was convened by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in partnership with the Commonwealth Initiative on Freedom of Religion or Belief project director, Baroness Berridge.

Read the full article here.

Episcopal delegation participates in UN conference on indigenous issues

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 6:09pm

[Episcopal News Service] A seven-member delegation of Episcopalians from Native tribes across the U.S. represented Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in New York this week during the opening days of the annual meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The delegation, included the Rev. Bradley Hauff, Episcopal Church missioner for indigenous ministries, as well as clergy and lay leaders from Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Oklahoma and the Navajoland Area Mission.

Wilton Littlechild, Cree Chief from Canada, addresses the audience April 17 at the first informal interactive hearing of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Photo: United Nations

The purpose of the Permanent Forum is to allow indigenous people to provide expert advice to global leaders through the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, or ECOSOC, and to inform U.N. agencies working on a variety of international issues, from human rights to the environment. As an ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organization, the Episcopal Church has a powerful perspective to present in those discussions, Hauff said.

“I hope it’s an indicator to people that we as a church, those of us who are indigenous and who are not, we want to own up to what has happened historically, and we do want to be instruments of justice and restitution, equity and reconciliation,” Hauff told Episcopal News Service on April 18, the third day of the conference. “We really see that as the church’s role, and we want to be a part of it.”

The church history that Hauff referred to is one of close ties to early American colonialism and the oppression of Native people in North America through much of the last 500 years. Episcopal missionaries ministered to American Indian tribes, but conversion to Christianity typically required leaving Native spirituality behind.

The Episcopal Church has made a deliberate effort in recent decades to atone for its role in past injustices and to welcome Native Episcopalians into fuller participate in the church. General Convention resolutions starting at least as far back as the 1970s sought to support Native American land claims and human rights. A 1997 resolution specifically called on the church to “take such steps as necessary to fully recognize and welcome Native Peoples into congregation life.”

And in 2009, General Convention repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, rooted in a 1493 document that purported to give Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and convert the people they encountered. The General Convention resolution described the doctrine as “fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and pledged to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was formed by U.N. resolution in 2000 to focus on indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. Its first meeting was held in 2002.

This year, the 17th meeting of the Permanent Forum is being held April 16 to 27 at U.N. headquarters in New York. The theme is “Indigenous people’s collective rights to lands, territories and resources.”

Indigenous people risk falling short of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals “as long as our rights over our lands, territories and resources are not recognized,” Chairwoman Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine of Mali said in her opening remarks April 16. “In the same way, the world risks losing the fight against climate change and the destruction of the environment.

The Doctrine of Discovery was among the topics of discussion in the first days of the session, Hauff said, as were treaty violations, misuse of natural resources and substance abuse. He said he was struck by the similarities between the concerns of indigenous cultures around the world and those in the U.S. and the Episcopal Church.

One member of the Episcopal delegation, Ronald Braman of Idaho, a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, sat on a panel discussion on the Doctrine of Discovery, and the Rev. Brandon Mauai, from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, spent part of April 18 attending a presentation about the federal response to Standing Rock’s 2017 standoff in opposition to an oil pipeline across the Missouri River.

Mauai, through “his work with the tribal council there, as well as the church, has a direct link to a number of the issues being discussed here at the forum,” Hauff said.

Although the Episcopal delegation is only participating in the Permanent Forum session through April 19, delegates have plenty of experiences, information and lessons to bring back to their home communities. In one memorable episode, an indigenous woman from Latin America spotted the Rev. Michael Sells, a deacon from Navajoland Area Mission, and her attention appeared to be drawn to his clergy collar.

“She pointed at him and said, ‘colonista,’” Hauff recalled, or “colonialist” – a present-day reminder of the church’s past association with colonial powers.

“We had a conversation about that in our group, what that experience meant,” Hauff said. Sells, who is part Navajo and part Athabaskan, acknowledged it was a powerful, uncomfortable moment, “but it was important for him to experience it, based on our history.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Faith leaders call for urgent climate change action at Commonwealth leaders’ meeting

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 1:55pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has joined more than 170 other leaders from across the Commonwealth urging the 53 member-nation governments to turn “words into action” on climate change. The heads of government are meeting in London this week for their biennial CHOGM summit. The Anglican Communion is playing a significant role in official Commonwealth youth, women, business and citizens forums; and in a parallel program of events. In a letter published in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, the faith leaders say that “not even the remotest corner of the Commonwealth remains unaffected” by climate change, and that the greatest impact is felt by the group’s poorest people.

Read the entire article here.

Funerals held as 157 victims of the genocide in Rwanda buried in Ruhanga memorial

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 12:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The recently discovered bodies of 157 victims of the Rwandan Genocide have been laid to rest in a former Anglican Church, alongside the bodies of 36,700 victims already buried there. On April 15, 1994, more than 25,000 people seeking refuge and sanctuary at the Ruhanga Episcopal Anglican Church were slaughtered. The church is now a memorial for the victims. The scenes at Ruhanga were repeated at other churches across Rwanda. While several of them have been turned into memorials, Ruhanga is the only Anglican church that has become a memorial site.

Read the entire article here.

Beloved Episcopal priest, 87, mourned as New York police seek his attackers in home invasion

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 11:17am

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians in the Diocese of Long Island are mourning a beloved priest, the Rev. Paul Wancura, who died this week at age 87 from injuries suffered during a home invasion last month at his home.

No suspects have yet been identified in the attack on Long Island’s East End, and a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

“The sad news of the death of Canon Wancura has touched everyone in our diocese,” Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said late April 17 in a message to the diocese. “Those who knew him well are suffering the loss of a devoted priest and friend who was quick to provide support and prayerful insight to all who sought his counsel. Those who did not know him personally are struck nonetheless by the reported cruelty and violence during a home invasion that resulted in the death of this beloved priest.”

A fellow priest found Wancura on March 19 tied up between a bed and a wall in the elder priest’s Shelter Island home. He had failed to show up as expected at a Sunday service March 18 at Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Central Islip, and church leaders asked the Rev. Charles McCarron, rector of Shelter Island’s St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, to check on him.

The initial police investigation indicated the attacker or attackers may have specifically targeted Wancura, who had been tied up for at least two days when McCarron found him, according to the Shelter Island Reporter.

Wancura was flown to Stony Brook University Hospital in critical condition. His injuries from being tied up led to amputation of a hand. This month, a “slight improvement” in his condition was reported, but he died April 16.

Caroline Church of Brookhaven, where Wancura served as rector for 26 years, said in a Facebook post that his funeral was scheduled for April 24 at the church in Setauket, New York.

“I feel like I lost a beloved uncle,” McCarron, rector at St. Mary’s, told Newsday, saying the cause of death was sepsis.

Wancura, a native of Queens, New York, felt a calling to the priesthood while serving in the Army in Europe during the Korean War, according to Newsday. He was reported to have earned a Master of Divinity degree from General Theological Seminary in New York.

Provenzano’s message noted that Wancura had served the diocese as priest for more than 50 years. His ordained ministry began at Church of the Ascension in Brooklyn, New York, and he was archdeacon of Suffolk County from 1966 to 1974, assisting parishes and missions and providing administrative oversight on behalf of the bishop’s office.

This portrait of the Rev. Paul Wancura is included in a timeline of rectors maintained online by Caroline Church of Brookhaven, where Wancura served from 1974 until his retirement in 2000.

In 1974, Wancura became rector of Caroline Church of Brookhaven on the north shore of central Long Island.

He retired in 2000 but continued to assist churches in the area as needed, and at the time of his death he was the second oldest priest still serving on Long Island, including as a supply priest at Church of the Messiah, Provenzano said.

“Paul was an old-fashioned priest with the sensibility and spirit of a very forward-looking man,” Provenzano said. “He was spry and witty – the kind of person who would engage everyone in conversation and be interested in knowing about everything happening around him. … Not only could he tell a story well, he was always interested in hearing the story of the people he met. His intellect and good humor were a delight to encounter.”

Wancura’s wife died shortly after he retired, and they had no children, friend Kevin Lockerbie told Newsday.

“He was so human,” Lockerbie said. “He understood people’s trials. … He was very connected to the common man because he had been one.”

McCarron remembered Wancura as a dedicated priest, a sharp dresser and a reserved man with a deadpan sense of humor.

“He would make a comment, pause and give you a look,” McCarron told the Shelther Island Reporter. “There was a twinkle in his eye.”

The attack on Wancura is now being investigated as a homicide by Shelter Island and Suffolk County police. A second burglary was reported near Wancura’s house on April 4, and police are trying to determine if the two crimes are connected.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached atdpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Fueron anunciados los miembros del Equipo de Planificación del Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales 2019 (EJE19)

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 6:34am

Ya fueron anunciados los 14 miembros del Equipo de Planificación del Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales 2019 (EJE19).

Tentativamente, EJE está programado para ser celebrado durante el mes de julio de 2019. El lugar aún no ha sido confirmado.

EJE19 está siendo planificado conforme a la resolución #1982-D079 de la Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal que convoca a un evento internacional para los jóvenes de tal manera “que la energía de la juventud de la Iglesia Episcopal pueda continuar siendo utilizada de manera activa en el ministerio como miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo”.

“El Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales se da en respuesta al crecimiento de los ministerios de Jóvenes y Jóvenes Adultos de la Iglesia Episcopal a lo largo de la IX Provincia”, dijo Bronwyn Clark Skov, directora de Ministerios de Formación, Jóvenes y Jóvenes Adultos. “EJE19 es un evento contextualizado, planificado e implementado por y para los episcopales que viven en y alrededor de la IX Provincia”.

“Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales (EJE), es un gran logro y va a unificar el Ministerio de Jóvenes en nuestra Iglesia,” dijo Coromoto Jiménez de Salazar, Representante Laico IX Provincia, Consejo Ejecutivo. “Le va a dar oportunidades iguales de participación a aquellos  jóvenes que viven en zonas urbanas, zonas rurales y zonas indígenas de nuestros países, y quienes poseen dones y talentos maravillosos.”

El siguiente grupo de jóvenes servirá en el Equipo de Planificación de EJE19, el cual se reunirá a lo largo de los próximos 17 meses para planificar EJE19. Ellos son:

  • Erika Alejandra García Gordón, Diócesis de Ecuador Central
  • Diana Marcela Abuchar Sierra, Diócesis de Colombia
  • Ana Victoria Lantigua Zaya, Diócesis de la República Dominicana
  • Dannes Alexis Olvera Díaz, Diócesis de Ecuador Litoral
  • Byron Fabricio Fernández, Diócesis de Honduras
  • Kenianne Joan Rivera, Diócesis de Puerto Rico

Los siguientes jóvenes servirán en el Equipo de Eventos de EJE19, el cual proveerá liderazgo local y apoyo durante el evento:

  • Andrea C. Salazar, Diócesis de Venezuela
  • Wilfreddy Alexander Carmona, Diócesis de la República Dominicana
  • Santiago Felipe Hincapié Guzmán, Diócesis de Colombia
  • Sofía Norellisa Calidonio Cerna, Diócesis de Honduras

Los siguientes mentores adultos servirán en el Equipo de Planificación de EJE19:

  • Luis Brenes Vargas, Diócesis de Honduras
  • Jairo Chirán, Diócesis de Ecuador Litoral
  • Hilbeth Daniela Salazar, Diócesis de Venezuela
  • Patricia Martín, Diócesis de la República Dominicana
  • Wendy Barrett Buchanan, Diócesis de Ecuador Central
  • Bryan Alexis Vélez, Diócesis de Puerto Rico
  • Israel Portilla Gómez, Diócesis de Colombia
  • Ángel Dávila, Diócesis de Puerto Rico
  •   Francisco Morales, Coordinador IX Provincia

Los siguientes mentores adultos servirán en el Equipo de Eventos de EJE19:

  • Kara de Mejía, Diócesis de Honduras
  • Pastor Elías García Cárdenas, Diócesis de Colombia
  • Luis Alberto García Correa, Diócesis de la República Dominicana
  • Juan Carlos Quiñonez Mera, Diócesis de Ecuador Central
  • Gina Angula Zamora, Diócesis de Ecuador Litoral

Financiamiento parcial para el Equipo de EJE19 es proveído por el Fondo Constable. El evento está siendo planificado en conjunto con la Oficina de Ministerios Jóvenes, Oficina del Ministerio de Jóvenes Adultos y Universitarios, Oficina de Relaciones Globales, Oficina de Ministerios Latinos, La Diócesis Episcopal de Panamá y las siete diócesis de la IX Provincia.

Para más información favor comunicarse con Skov en bskov@episcopalchurch.org.

Planning team members announced for 2019 Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales (EJE19)

The 14 members of the Planning Team for the 2019 Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales (EJE19) have been announced.

Tentatively, EJE19 is slated for July 2019 and will include young people ages 16-26. The location has not yet been confirmed.

EJE19 is being planned in accordance with General Convention Resolution #1982-D079, the Episcopal Church convenes an international youth event so “that the energy of the youth of the Episcopal Church can continue to be utilized in active ministry as members of the Body of Christ.”

“Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales is a response to the growing youth and young adult ministries of the Episcopal Church throughout Province IX,” noted Bronwyn Clark Skov, Episcopal Church Director for Formation, Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “EJE19 is a contextualized event, planned and implemented by and for Episcopalians living and worshipping in and around Province IX.”

“EJE represents a great achievement that will unify youth ministry in our church,” said Coromoto Jiménez de Salazar, Lay Representative IX Province, Executive Council. “It will give equal opportunities for participation to those young people who live in urban areas, rural areas and indigenous areas of our countries, who possess wonderful gifts and talents.”

The following young people will be serving on the EJE19 Planning Team, which will be meeting throughout the next 17 months to plan EJE19:

  • Erika Alejandra García Gordón, Diocese of Central Ecuador
  • Diana Marcela Abuchar Sierra, Diocese of Colombia
  • Ana Victoria Lantigua Zaya, Diocese of Dominican Republic
  • Dannes Alexis Olvera Díaz, Diocese of Ecuador Litoral
  • Byron Fabricio Fernández, Diocese of Honduras
  • Kenianne Joan Rivera, Diocese of Puerto Rico

The following young people will be serving on the EJE19 Event Team, which will provide on-site leadership and support during the event:

  • Andrea C. Salazar, Diocese of Venezuela
  • Wilfreddy Alexander Carmona, Diocese of Dominican Republic
  • Santiago Felipe Hincapié Guzmán, Diocese of Colombia
  • Sofía Norellisa Calidonio Cerna, Diocese of Honduras

The following adult mentors will be serving on the EJE19 Planning Team:

  • Luis Brenes Vargas, Diocese of Honduras
  • Jairo Chirán, Diocese of Ecuador Litoral
  • Hilbeth Daniela Salazar, Diocese of Venezuela
  • Patricia Martin, Diocese of Dominical Republic
  • Wendy Barrett Buchanan, Diocese of Central Ecuador
  • Bryan Alexis Vélez, Diocese of Puerto Rico
  • Israel Portilla Gómez, Diocese of Colombia
  • Angel Dávila, Diocese of Puerto Rico
  • Francisco Morales, Province IX Coordinator

The following adult mentors will be serving on the EJE19 Event Team:

  • Kara de Mejía, Diocese of Honduras
  • Pastor Elías García Cárdenas, Diocese of Colombia
  • Luis Alberto García Correa, Diocese of Dominican Republic
  • Juan Carlos Quiñonez Mera, Diocese of Central Ecuador
  • Gina Angula Zamora, Diocese of Ecuador Litoral

Financial support for the EJE19 Planning Team is provided by the Constable Fund. The event is a partnership of the Office of Youth Ministries, Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries, Office of Global Relations, Office of Latino Ministries, the Episcopal Diocese of Panama and the seven dioceses of Province IX.

For more information contact Skov at bskov@episcopalchurch.org.

World Council of Churches reiterates calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 1:23pm

[World Council of Churches] The World Council of Churches, or WCC, has urged the international community to find a way to break the cycle of violence in Syria. A WCC statement issued April 16 came two days after the U.S., France and the U.K. carried out missile strikes following a suspected Syrian government chemical weapons attack.

“A just and sustainable peace for all Syrians can only be brought about through a political solution,” the WCC statement says.

Read the full statement here.

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