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Updated: 1 min 18 sec ago

Niagara bishop describes African-Canadian dialogue as a model for whole communion

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 12:45pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The eighth annual meeting of bishops from Canada and Africa has just taken place in Kenya, with Bishop of Niagara Michael Bird suggesting the yearly encounter could act as a model for reconciliation across the Anglican Communion.

Full article.

‘Heartbroken’ bishops back South Sudan peace move

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 12:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican leaders in Africa are sponsoring a church-led initiative to end the conflict in South Sudan. The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa has invited South Sudanese church leaders to Zambia next month to press for the guns to be silenced.

Full article.

Teaching bishops to be bishops

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 9:35am

One of the goals of the College for Bishops is to connect new bishops. Diocese of Spokane Bishop Gretchen Rehberg (ordained March 18), left, and Diocese of Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe (ordained Dec. 3) and Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows (ordained April 29) share conversation after lunch on June 14. They were at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia, for the 2017 session of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] How do you learn to be a bishop? For most of the Episcopal Church’s life, new bishops learned on the job with little or no outside help.

It’s only in the last 24 years that the church has had a formal process for such learning. That process, run by the College for Bishops, is about to undergo a major transition.

Bishop F. Clayton Matthews, who leads the college in his role as the head of the presiding bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development, will retire June 30. He served in that role since 1998.

Matthews led the formation of the College for Bishops’ three-year program for new bishops, known as Living Our Vows, in 2004. The college also provides continuing education offerings for all bishops. Living Our Vows was developed after a multi-year study of bishops’ needs. The resulting program is designed to help bishops grow spiritually, vocationally and in “their capacity to provide the kind of leadership that the Church needs for the mission of Jesus to which we are called,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said.

The College for Bishops will leave the pastoral development office with Matthews when he retires. He will report to Curry and direct the college’s formation mission for another two years on a part-time basis.

Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley succeeds Matthews as head of the pastoral development office on July 5. That office will continue to support the House of Bishops and the presiding bishop with pastoral care of bishops, their families and diocesan systems; and mediation in Title IV disciplinary matters.

The College for Bishops has been part of the Office of Pastoral Development until now. However, its status within the governance structure of the Episcopal Church changed in 2010. The House of Bishops unanimously voted to incorporate it as a separate nonprofit entity. Matthews explained that the college is now owned by the House of Bishops. It has a $6 million endowment, according to Matthews.

All of the changes come as the Task Force on the Episcopacy considers the election, appointment, roles and responsibilities of the church’s bishops. General Convention asked in 2015 for the study. It also charged the task force with proposing to the 2018 convention a new process for discernment, nomination, formation, search, election and transition of bishops.

Some members of the Task Force on the Episcopacy are challenging the ownership of the college and the fact that it reports directly to the presiding bishop.

Participants in the 2017 session of Living Our Vows, the College for Bishops’ three-year formation program for new bishops, discuss (via teleconference) author Donna Hicks’ research about the role of dignity in conflict resolution. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Living Our Vows – sometimes known around the church as “Baby Bishop School” – consists mainly of an annual one-week “residency” meeting. Some of the classes offered during the week are geared to whether a participant is a first-, second- or third-year bishop. They run the gamut from canon law to leadership training to dealing with the media. Bishops debrief each other on incidents that have occurred in their dioceses, offering them as a chance for all to learn.

A so-called “Hats and Sticks” session teaches bishops what to do with their miter and crozier, and when to do it. There is a session on the liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer at which only a bishop presides: confirmation and ordinations.

Bishops listen June 14 as Mary Kostel, special counsel to the presiding bishop for property litigation and discipline, explains the Episcopal Church’s clergy discipline canon, known as Title IV. The session was part of Living Our Vows, the College for Bishops’ three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Building community is another goal of Living Our Vows. Beginning with a gathering of new bishops and their spouses each January, the college connects bishops elected around the same time. Some so-called “classes” are large – the 2017 one has 12 – while some are small, such as the Class of 2015 with four. Twenty-five bishops participated in the 2017 session, held June 12-16 at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia.

“You realize that you’re not alone,” said the Rt. Rev. Gretchen Rehberg, who became the bishop of Spokane in mid-March. The program, she said, is beginning to teach her to whom to turn for help in doing what she called “a singular job.”

Puerto Rico Bishop-elect Rafael Morales Maldonado said his first session of Living Our Vows comes at a “providential” time. He will be ordained as a bishop on July 22.

The Class of 2017 also includes bishops and bishops-elect from Central New York, Indianapolis, Northern Indiana, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Spokane and Western North Carolina, as well as the church’s federal ministries bishop and three from Toronto in the Anglican Church of Canada. That diversity is “a treasure for me,” Morales said.

“In many cases, their experiences are similar but in different contexts,” he said.

Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutierrez, center left, shares a smile with Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor-Elect John Taylor, center right, during the June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows. Presenter Matthew Sheep (striped shirt), Central Gulf Coast Bishop Russell Kendrick (light blue shirt back to camera), Eastern Oregon Bishop Patrick Bell and Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries Carl Wright were also part of the group. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Quebec Bishop Bruce Myers, in the Class of 2016, represents a growing trend for the college: welcoming bishops from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. There are currently four Canadian bishops participating. And the session at Roslyn was the last for El Salvador Bishop David Alvarado from the Anglican Province of Central America.

Myers said the college is giving him “some intentional formation around what becoming a bishop and serving in the order of bishops is all about.” That work happens with the Canadian bishops in the program (there is no such training in Canada), as well as Episcopal Church bishops.

“In a way, this is a great leveling place and we find the common ground of our episcopal ministry,” he said.

Living Our Vows pairs new bishops with a “peer coach” bishop. Myers’ is Bishop Steve Lane of Maine, whose diocese forms a common border with Quebec.

The Canadian bishops might, he said, bring to the college “a glimpse of a church that’s similar in many ways, shares a common territory and common context in many ways, but is dealing with those realities, perhaps, in slightly different ways simply because of our circumstances,” he said

For example, the abusive legacy of the residential school system obligates Myers’ church to find ways to “walk together with indigenous Anglican and indigenous Canadians outside the church in meaningful and appropriate ways.” That work might be an example to the Episcopal Church bishops, he said.

Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Alan Gates speaks to Bishop F. Clayton Matthews, right, and retired Bishop Suffragan Terry Dance of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Huron, during a June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Massachusetts Bishop Alan Gates, who finished Living Our Vows with the recent session, said the college is valuable in two ways. First is the content. “There is no training track for bishops in advance of election because our polity, our theology, suggests that we don’t know in advance who will be called to be a bishop,” he said.

Second, he said, “it would be hard to overstate the importance” of the creating support networks, he said, noting that many bishops work alone in their dioceses without bishop suffragans or assistants.

“It’s widely misconstrued as a kind of exclusive attitude that bishops would feel the need for more time together,” he said. “But, for me, that’s not what’s driving it. It really is a yearning for that kind of support, knowing and being known by others who face the particular challenges of this.”

Collegiality in the House of Bishops is one of the college’s goals. In an interview with Episcopal News Service (available here), Matthews said the atmosphere in the house when he began his work was “toxic” and one of “total distrust.” This stemmed mainly from the wider church’s debate about the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, he said.

“We had to create an atmosphere where there was more respect within the house for the context in which bishops worked,” he said.

The presiding bishop said the plan is working. “I have seen it in the 17 years that I have been a bishop,” he said. “I have seen real development and real growth in our capacity to be a community of bishops and spouses that is real and genuine.”

“I’ve seen the impact of that in the house in terms of our increased capacity to be able to navigate complex and sometimes difficult terrain in decision-making as a community and still maintain relationships that bind us together,” he said.

The college helps bishops be “more deeply faithful and effective in the performance of our duties and in the living out of our episcopal ministry,” the presiding bishop said.

A bishop’s work and ministry are different from that of a priest, Curry said, recalling that an older bishop told him that when he first became a bishop he was really changing careers.

The college faces a great challenge in forming bishops who can help lead the Episcopal Church into becoming a branch of the Jesus Movement, he said. The coming question is how to train bishops so they can provide spiritual leadership to the church so it can “bear witness to a way of being Christians that actually looks something like Jesus of Nazareth?”

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle, a member of the college’s board of directors, sets up the June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The presiding bishop chairs the college’s board of directors and nominates its members. Of the 19 current members, 14 are male bishops, four are lay people and one is a priest. The priest and one of the lay members are bishops’ wives.

In the next two years, Matthews said, he hopes he is “not having to spend all of my energy defending the right of the college to exist.”

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, a task force member, said he and others are not concerned about the existence of the college, but about its governance. If all orders of the church elect bishops, then the board of the entity charged with forming bishops ought to better represent all those orders.

Hall said that making the college a separate entity worries some on the task force because the curriculum and the logistics of the programs were developed when the college was part of the church. That intellectual property left the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the name under which church is incorporated) when the college separately incorporated, Hall contended.

He sees nothing nefarious in the college’s effort.

“I think that the desire to make it a [nonprofit entity] was a desire to protect it financially, and nobody really thought through the implications of that in terms of the legal issues or the governance issues or accountability to the whole church.”

However, the move points to an attitude that Hall called “episcopal exceptionalism.”

“The culture of bishops in my working life has become much more distinct from the culture of the rest of the church,” he said.

This has happened in the same years that the church has moved to an understanding of baptism as being the “fundamental commissioning of ministry.”

“The culture of the episcopacy has gone in exactly the opposite direction,” said Hall, who was ordained in 1977. An insular formation process contributes to that trajectory, he added.

A bishop’s job is getting harder, Hall said, and he believes they need “all the professional education and support that they can get. That’s not the issue. The issue is we all have a stake in the education and wellness of bishops.”

The task force is due to make its proposals to General Convention via a “Blue Book” report sometime early next year. The suggestions will be debated during the July 5-13, 2018, meeting in Austin, Texas.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Q&A: Bishop F. Clayton Matthews on helping shape the House of Bishops

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 9:34am

Bishop Clay Matthews and Betsy Jutras, College for Bishops administrative assistant and events coordinator, set up a projector for a June 14 session of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] When Bishop F. Clayton “Clay” Matthews retires from the Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development on June 30, he will leave having made an indelible mark on the House of Bishops.

Matthews began that work in 1998. During that time, he refined and reshaped many of the office’s ministries. The office supports the bishops and the presiding bishop with episcopal formation and development; pastoral care of bishops, their families and diocesan systems; and mediation in Title IV disciplinary matters.

High on the list of duties is the College for Bishops, which provides a three-year cycle of training for new bishops, known as Living Our Vows, as well as continuing education for longer-serving bishops. He will continue in his role as the college’s managing director for the next two years. The transition will, he told Episcopal News Service, help the college choose a new leader who will report directly to the presiding bishop.

Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley will leave his diocesan post to succeed Matthews as head of the Office of Pastoral Development. He begins work on July 5.

During the 2017 session of Living Our Vows, Matthews spoke to ENS about his ministry.

What was the greatest challenge you faced in June 1998 when you began in the Office of Pastoral Development?

The greatest challenge was living into the breadth of the office while also honoring the hard work of responding to misconduct issues. Misconduct had dominated the last few years of Harold Hopkins’ tenure. Hoppy was having to do everything himself with the election processes, and the College for Bishops was having trouble getting participants into the program. [Presiding Bishop] Frank Griswold wanted to create a pool of consultants for election processes. That would free up time to address the lack of vision and resources for the [five-year-old] College for Bishops. Without consultants, they were canceling more programs than they were actually having, and it was totally supported by outside funding. The general church [budget] was not paying any of it.

Bishop F. Clayton Matthews


Age: 70
Home: New Bern, North Carolina
Education: Hampton Sydney College, B.A.; Virginia Theological Seminary. M. Div. and D.D
Ordained ministry: 1973 ordained priest; 1985 became canon to the ordinary in Diocese of Virginia; 1993 ordained bishop suffragan in Virginia; 1998 hired as bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development.

What were yours and the presiding bishop’s goals for this office when you began? How have those changed, if they have?

The goals were, one, to represent the next generation of bishops in the house because at that time I was young. The second was to create trained leaders who could extend the work of the office beyond the individual holding the office. The work is bigger than the person holding the office. The work of those cohorts was as consultants, teachers, therapists for interventions, advisors in Title IV disciplinary matters. None of those groups existed.

You have spent nearly 20 years doing this work. How have the issues that bishops face changed?

To answer that I have to say a little bit about what happened before 1998. Obviously, the General Convention in 1991 in Phoenix, there was a meltdown within the House of Bishops and there was a toxic environment and an atmosphere of total distrust. It was in response to that, partly, that in 1993 the college had its first embryonic days because it was just absolutely necessary. Then in 1994 the Church created its first uniform disciplinary canons. There was also the Lambeth Conference that took place in 1998 [during which] this Church felt betrayed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. That was the scene in which I came into.

In 1998, we knew we had to deal with the toxic environment. We had to create an atmosphere where there was more respect within the house for the context in which bishops worked. And the college had to change its focus so that more bishops would participate, and so that it was not just for new bishops but for all bishops. So we expanded the program. So we were offering programs such as “the bishop as pastor” or “the bishop as public person” so that any bishop could come to them, not just brand-new bishops. We still do this today.

In 2002 and 2003, we were in a period of bishops creating constitutional crises to challenge the Church. We had sessions of bishops [meeting] outside of the House of Bishops. We had to create Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight [for Episcopalians who felt their bishops’ stances on some issues meant they could not be their pastors]. And it was also when the college finished a three-year research project with the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] on what bishops needed coming into this office.

By the time we get to 2008, we’re into property issues; we’re into abandonment of communion by bishops. And we’re into a total reorganization of the College for Bishops to meet the needs of the Church. 2009 was the first time the General Convention supported the work of the College for Bishops. It’s also the convention when [many people on the church-wide staff] lost their jobs, so it was a huge matter.

By 2013, the atmosphere in the house was much less toxic. Many of the detractors had left the house and formed new churches. It was also the creation of the new Title IV [clergy disciplinary] canons and I became the intake officer for the Church [the person designated to receive reports of offenses by bishops]. The work there was overwhelming, just overwhelming because there was no governor on who could make a complaint and what a complaint consisted of. By then, the College for Bishops is robust; it’s in full bloom and functioning quite well with a board. We became incorporated in 2011 by unanimous vote of the House [of Bishops].

Now, 2017, it’s time for the next generation and hence to Todd [Ousley]. It’s time for the job description for the bishop of the Office of Pastoral Development to be examined and changed, which it has been. It’s time for college to see what it has in terms of its offerings to this Church and to the [Anglican] Communion. It’s a time of exploration.

What do you see on the horizon for bishops? What new issues are bubbling up?

Bishops are going to have to deal with increased expectations with fewer resources. That is going to be a huge issue. They’re going to be asked to have expertise in areas that are not part of their history. An example of that is support for small congregations. Most bishops do not come from small congregations.

And challenge is continued clarity of our corporate – and I don’t mean institutional, I mean whole body – responsibilities, care for one another, the haves and the have-nots.

There will also be challenges to our polity.

Bishop Clay Matthews, right, listens to Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Alan Gates during a June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Retired Bishop Suffragan Terry Dance of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Huron, listens as well. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

There seems to be a sense that the members of the House of Bishops are more connected to each other, and that there is less tension in the house. From your perspective, is that the case and, if so, to what do you attribute that change?

There’s greater respect for the context in which bishops work, which informs our theology. Beforehand, there was little appreciation for the diversity of this Church and therefore little opportunity to understand the theology that grounded some decisions made by bishops based on their contexts, on where they worked and lived. [The House of Bishops] was more a theoretical debate society rather than a sense of understanding ministry on the ground.

The biggest disrupter was in 2003 when the House of Bishops gave its consent to the election of Gene Robinson [the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion]. It really tore at the fabric of the house. We had a group of bishops that got up and left. We had bishops who did not give consent but who stayed in the house. They are widely respected but who felt, because of their decision, ostracized. Within that [atmosphere] you had bishops who might have felt one way theologically but had to act another way because of the context in which they were exercising their ministry.

It was a very difficult period in 2003, 2004, 2005. It was all focused on the bishops giving consent. The deputies could go home and [for the bishops] it wasn’t quite the same. The bishops had to respond to the reaction of the people of their diocese. Of course, it was on both sides; every diocese, it was on both sides.

Today, there’s a greater sense of respect within the house for each other and for what they are having to address at home.

What would you like the wider church to know about the work and ministry of bishops?

I’d like for them to know or have the opportunity to experience the faithful, prayerful, respect each one has for their call. It goes so much deeper than how they’re seen in the trappings of the office; the faithful Christian trying to be the best bishop they can be for the church, rather than the role.

The problem, of course, with that is everybody’s had an experience with the role and they project that experience onto whoever holds the office. That’s one of the things that people who come [to the College for Bishops] to teach and have an experience like this, they can’t stop talking about what a pleasure it is to be able to hear how the bishops handle the content of what we’re trying to do. It’s hard to see when you’ve got somebody up there in these fine vestments that are all kingly and royal. It’s one thing to look at it from the outside; it’s another thing to live it.

What advice have you given your successor, Bishop Todd Ousley?

Trust his own instincts. Make what I did his own and get rid of the things that he doesn’t think are helpful. Accept the support that others will offer him. Be collaborative. Don’t get caught up in the bureaucracy. For example, when I first came into the office there was consideration of me being the chaplain to the Church Center [staff]. I said no. I have only been to one Executive Council meeting when asked. Don’t get caught up in the bureaucracy of the Church so you can do ministry. Be there when they need you, when they want you, but otherwise, you’ve got plenty to do.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

Diocese of San Joaquin notified of successful canonical consent process

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:04am

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry and the registrar of General Convention, the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, have notified the Diocese of San Joaquin that Bishop David Rice has received the required consents, from both bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church, to become bishop diocesan. 

Bishop David Rice. Photo: Diocese of San Joaquin via Facebook

Under Canon III.11.3 (b), standing committees must “testify that we know of no impediment” which would cause them not to support a bishop-elect from being a bishop. Bishops exercising jurisdiction (essentially, bishops diocesan), either consent or do not. In each case, a majority is required for a bishop-elect to become bishop.

Since 2014, Bishop Rice has served as bishop with provisional charge and authority for the Diocese of San Joaquin (Canon III.13.1). Previously, he served as assistant bishop of San Joaquin and bishop in the Diocese of Waiapu in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia.

Bishop Rice was elected bishop diocesan of San Joaquin on March 4 and will be seated as bishop diocesan on Nov. 18; Presiding Bishop Curry will officiate at the service.

Previous ENS coverage: San Joaquin poised to take unusual step in bishop election

Director of next Lambeth Conference appointed

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:56am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion has announced the appointment of a chief executive officer for the 2020 Lambeth Conference, Phil George, currently executive director of the New Wine network of churches in the UK.

George has worked for New Wine for 14 years, following a 26-year career in corporate banking. He will take up his new post in September.

Full article.

Archbishop of Canterbury reacts to independent report on bishop misconduct

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:54am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Justin Welby has said an independent report into sexual misconduct by a disgraced Church of England bishop makes for “harrowing reading.” The Archbishop commissioned the report – “An Abuse of Faith” – after Bishop Peter Ball was convicted in 2015 of misconduct in public office and indecent assaults against teenagers and young men. Ball is a former bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester.

Full article.

Interfaith Rainforest Initiative participants issue statement

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:13am

[Interfaith Rainforest Initiative] Religious and indigenous leaders in Oslo pledge to put their full force behind protection of the Earth’s rainforests. 

The Earth’s rainforests are an irreplaceable gift. 
They support boundless biodiversity, a balanced climate, and the cultures and communities of Indigenous Peoples who live in them.  They generate cooling air and rains that water the Earth.  They are spectacular, and vital to all life.

And they are at grave risk.

We, people of many faiths and spiritualities, gathered in Oslo to hear the cry of Earth’s rainforests, their flora and fauna, and the people who live in them.  We are Indigenous, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Daoist, joined by scientists who share with us, and open for us, a deeper appreciation of the miracle of the forests.  We are from 21 countries—from Amazonia, the forests of Indonesia, the Congo Basin, Meso-America and South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, and from the US, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and China.  While from many places, we recognize that we are one human family, that we share one Earth.

These glorious forests make our lives possible.  They provide clean air and abundant water.  They store carbon and stabilize the climate, literally around the globe.  They provide homes, food, medicines, and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people.  They are dependent on the health and well-being of their indigenous and forest-dwelling peoples, just as these peoples, and all the rest of us, depend on the forests.  We are in this together—humanity and forests, people and planet.  If forests thrive, we will thrive.  Without forests, we all perish.

During our time together, we spoke frankly.  We recognized that unrestrained consumption, lifestyles of the Global North, and irresponsible financial systems, devastate the rainforests’ biosphere and ethno-sphere.  We listened to accounts of the persecution and murder of Indigenous Peoples and others who protect the forests.  We learned about governments unwilling to pass or enforce laws needed to ensure rainforests’ future and the rights and traditions of those who continue to be their guardians.

These realities are haunting.  This destruction is wrong.  As we formed a community, becoming one out of many, a resolve emerged among us.

We will not allow this to happen. 

Together, we affirm the gift of life, our reverence for our common home and for the miraculous manifestation that rainforests embody.  We affirm that we are all caretakers of Earth’s rainforests, just as the forests care for us.  We embrace the responsibility for ongoing action which that entails.

We commit to form an international, multi-faith rainforest alliance, devoted to the care of these forests and the people who protect and live in them.

We pledge to rally our spiritual and religious communities to act. 

We will train our leaders and educate our followers about the urgent need to protect rainforests, sharing the insights of traditional knowledge and science in the service of truth, knowing that without protecting, restoring, and sustainably managing forests, we cannot save Earth from the ravages of climate change.

We will advocate for the restoration of rainforests and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, sharing with leaders in government and business that protecting forests is a moral duty and that failing to do so is an offense against life itself.  We will support indigenous and forest peoples to assert and secure their rights, including their free, prior, and informed consent to development on their territories. We will advocate for increased access to finance for the ongoing protection of rainforests.  We will work for an end to the criminalization of forest protectors and for their safety.

We will change our own lifestyles, including our diets and consumption patterns, learning to live in harmony with the rainforests.

Finally, we pledge to continue to work together, to strengthen our resolve, and to act boldly in the months and years to come.  We invite other people of faith and of diverse spiritualties to join us.

A spirit of compassion and truth has been with us as we have met.  This spirit awakens hope.  It calls to us.

We have listened together and learned together.  In this statement we are speaking together.  Now, we will act together.  For the sake of the rainforests and the peoples who live in them, and for the future of the planet, we commit to respond.

[1] This statement is addressed to Leaders in Government and Business, to Leaders and Followers of our Spiritual and Religious Traditions, and to the wider Human Family. 

Signed by individuals who participated in the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative

 

Brazil Mr. Antonio Donato Nobre Brazil Mr. Biraci Brasil Junior Brazil Mr. Marivelton Rodrigues Barroso Baré Brazil Fernando Dua Bussẽ Brazil Ms. Sônia Guajajara Brazil Pastor Ariovaldo Ramos dos Santos China Ms. Yun He Colombia Deacon Alirio Cáceres Aguirre Colombia Mr. Harol Jhonny Rincon Ipuchima Colombia Mr. Martín von Hildebrand DRC Mr. Henri Muhiya DRC Mr. Joseph Itongwa DRC Mr. Rigobert Minani S.J. DRC Pasteur Léon Lepamabila Ecuador Mr. Mauricio Lopez Oropeza France H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel France Archimandrite Maximos Pafilis France The Right Reverend Bishop Pierre W. Whalon India Dr. Nanditha Krishna Indonesia Dr. Din Syamsuddin Indonesia Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir Indonesia Mr. Abdon Nababan Indonesia Mr. Azis Asman Israel Sir Rabbi David Rosen, CBE Myanmar Mr. Bo Bo Lwin Netherlands Mr. Johannes Van de Ven Nicaragua Mr. Marvin Gustavo Sotelo Reyes Norway Bishop Emeritus Gunnar Stalsett Norway Mr. Håkon Grindheim Norway Ms. Risten Turi Aleksandersen Norway Reverend Einar Tjelle Norway Simon Rye Norway Lars Lovold Peru Monseñor Alfredo Vizcarra Peru Mr. Jorge Perez Philippines Ms. Vicky Tauli-Corpuz South Africa Dr. Nigel Crawhall Sweden Rev. Henrik Grape Thailand Phra Paisal Vongvoravisit UK Mr. Fazlun Khalid USA Mr. Kevin Currey USA Dr. Kusumita Pedersen USA Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker USA Dr. William F. Vendley USA Mr. Alexander von Bismarck USA Mr. Dan Kammen USA Mr. Peter C. Goldmark, Jr. USA Ms. Frances Seymour USA Ms. Leslie Parker USA Rev. Douglas Satre USA Reverend Fletcher Harper USA John Ehrmann USA Charles McNeill USA Eileen de Ravin USA Maryka Paquette USA Joseph Corcoran USA Owen Fitzgerald USA (from Indonesia) Ms. Nana Firman Vatican City Ms. Gabriella Marino Vatican City S.E. Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo

 

###Partners: The meeting was convened by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, GreenFaith, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Religions for Peace, REIL Network, and the World Council of Churches.

About Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI)

Since its launch in 2007, the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) has cooperated with international partners, governments in forest and donor countries and a broad range of non-governmental organizations to reduce tropical deforestation and forest degradation.

Standing with Standing Rock taught Episcopalians about solidarity

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 9:30am

Some of the more than 3,000 pounds of flour, salvaged from the Oceti Sakowin Camp of water protectors near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, sits in the Rev. John Floberg’s Bismarck garage, awaiting a new home. Photo: John Floberg

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. John Floberg has more than 3,000 pounds of flour in his garage. Depending on your point of view, the bags symbolize either the Episcopal Church’s mission and ministry or the law of unintended consequences, or both.

Floberg, priest-in-charge of Episcopal congregations on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, salvaged the flour when the Oceti Sakowin Camp of water protectors near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was disbanded. It’s what is left after he and others distributed hundreds of bags to area food banks.

The Episcopal Church began standing with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in mid-2016 to support its struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Church supported the tribe’s claims of tribal sovereignty and the desire to protect its drinking water and culturally important lands.

Even for a church steeped in justice and reconciliation work, Episcopalians learned some lessons and were reminded of their calling to social justice work that is broad, deep and coordinated. The lessons can put the Church in good stead the next time it gets involved in advocacy on any scale.

Some lessons were theological; others were logistical. Some were both.

Episcopalians learned about the lengths to which they are called to reconcile with all peoples. They learned about listening and discerning before acting. The Church learned that standing in solidarity can come with unexpected costs.

“For us as a Church, what we are learning is what we already know; it’s just being affirmed for us, which is when we want to partner with communities whose health and livelihoods are being threatened, we really need listen to what it is they want and not presume that we know best,” said Heidi Kim, Episcopal Church’s staff officer for racial reconciliation.

The Rev. Bradley S. Hauff, Episcopal Church missioner for indigenous ministries, suggests Standing Rock reminded Episcopalians that “issues of justice, whether it’s political, economic, environmental, racially based injustice, must be priorities to our Church because it is what we do as followers of Christ.”

Local Episcopalians and, at times, Episcopalians from elsewhere, ministered to the locals and newcomers who joined the protest. The gathering drew members of close to 300 tribes in an unprecedented show of unity that resurrected the indigenous rights movement in the United States. Upwards of 6,000 to 10,000 people, indigenous and non-indigenous, were gathered along the river.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, left, superintending presbyter of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West), and the Rev. John Floberg, priest-in-charge of the Standing Rock Episcopal Mission on the North Dakota side, shortly after the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Photo: Paul Lebens-Englund

The pipeline crosses under Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River that flows along the eastern edge of Standing Rock. The tribe has water, treaty fishing and hunting rights in the lake. Sioux leaders repeatedly warned an oil spill would damage the reservation’s water supply and said the pipeline posed a threat to sacred sites and treaty rights.

The company that built the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe and better than transporting oil by truck or railcar. Oil began flowing through the entire 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline on June 1. The line will carry up to 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota – through South Dakota and Iowa – to Illinois, where it will be shipped to refineries.

Hauff said Episcopalians have learned they are called to such advocacy work “regardless of the outcome, regardless of whether we’re successful.” The tribe has not yet achieved its objective of getting permitting authorities to abide by its treaty rights and renegotiate a route to take the pipeline away from its drinking water.

“But, that doesn’t matter. We do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Hauff said. “We’re called to try. Whether we succeed or not is out of our hands. But we have to try and keep on trying to correct the flaws of the world, or at least point them out.”

Standing Rock’s story continues to unfold. On June 14, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg said the Corps needs to reconsider those issues. Whether Dakota Access must cease pipeline operations in the meantime is a separate question, which he has yet to consider.

‘Reputation’ and racism

When local resistance to the pipeline’s route began in April 2016, Floberg and other Episcopalians began discerning the Church’s place in the budding water-protection movement. They organized to help the tribe protect its sovereign rights and its drinking water.

Floberg, who has ministered with and to reservation residents for more than 20 years, repeatedly asked all Episcopalians to stand with the tribe. He urged them to avoid the other agendas that swirled over the Missouri River.

His behind-the-headlines work, along with a September visit by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Executive Council’s support, changed the Church’s reputation on Standing Rock.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks Sept. 24 at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“It is widely known that the Episcopal Church stepped in. It’s widely known that the Episcopal Church laid it out there and put its own life, its own reputation, out there alongside the tribe and all its members,” Floberg said.

Early on pipeline and law enforcement officials developed a disinformation campaign to discredit the protesters. They used “a lot of very provocative language,” Floberg said, referring to “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component.” The Intercept website recently reported that the pipeline company hired TigerSwan, a security firm founded by retired military special forces members, to lead that effort.

“Even when we were being discredited, even when the arrests rose into the hundreds, even 700, the Episcopal Church did not abandon its commitment and its public statements,” Floberg said. “That was critical.”

Some water protectors’ goals and tactics did not coincide with those of the Standing Rock Sioux, but, Floberg said, he knew the core was a peaceful movement. “I also knew the state of North Dakota was using tactics that were escalating the whole thing, and now there is evidence out there in public,” he said of TigerSwan’s report involvement.

The Rev. Lauren Stanley, supervising presbyter on the neighboring Rosebud Reservation in northwestern South Dakota, said the Church had been making “a huge difference with relations between whites and natives.” But, she said, “Standing Rock brought out the worst of the racism,” she said. It was hard to find allies among the non-native population in the Dakotas.

Floberg belongs to a fledgling ecumenical clergy group that seeks to address the persistent racism.

More than 500 interfaith witnesses march north along Highway 1806 Nov. 3 to the Backwater Bridge where they formed a Niobrara Circle of Life. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“To be able to stand up for native rights, which nobody pays attention to in this country at all, galvanized this Church to say, ‘Yes, this is a baptismal covenant moment,’” Stanley said. “Are we going to respect the dignity of every single human being, are we going to work for justice and peace, or aren’t we?”

Standing with Standing Rock turned out to be risky to the Episcopal Church’s reputation, even among its own members. “We learned that some people in the Church – and this is probably not a new learning for the Episcopal Church at all – can’t tolerate the Church taking a position that is contrary to their personal one,” Floberg said. “So, we lost some people in the Episcopal Church in North Dakota based on this. I know that we lost some in Minot, we lost some in Bismarck.”

Advocacy through action, not just words

Yet, that involvement impressed others. People who aren’t churchgoers, especially indigenous people, were not used to seeing Christians in solidarity with native people. For Episcopalians to stand with Standing Rock activists who were not only not Episcopalian, but not Christian, “meant the world to people who are involved in these battles,” Hauff said.

For the Rev. Brandon Mauai, a deacon on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and one of the organizers of the Episcopal Church’s response, the emerging solidarity between the Church and indigenous people held a powerful lesson.

“Not only did we stand with the people of Standing Rock and all native nations, but also, we were able to stand amongst them as a Church and to tell them we, the Episcopal Church and many other denominations, have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery,” Mauai said.

The Episcopal Church in 2009 renounced the document issued in 1493 that purported to give Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and convert the people they encountered. During an interfaith gathering of more than 500 clergy on Standing Rock on Nov. 3, ministers burned a copy of the document near the Oceti Sakowin Camp’s scared fire.

Religious leaders representing Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists and others read their faith’s repudiations of the Doctrine of Discovery. Then they gave a copy of the 15th century document that gave Christian explorers the right to claim the lands they discovered to elders in Oceti Sakowin Camp and asked them to burn it. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“General Convention can pass resolution after resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and that is all fine and dandy, but not every native person is an Episcopalian,” Mauai said. “To be in their presence and symbolically burn this piece of paper and tell them that we don’t believe in this document and that we are here for you, it meant a lot.”

As a native person and as an Episcopal deacon, Mauai said, the ashes of that document symbolized the beginning of something that has needed to happen.

“It is our duty to go out there and make it known, and act in such a way that we’re compassionate and wanting to reconcile for anything that our ancestors of the previous churches might have done,” he said.

Listening before acting

The Church’s stand with Standing Rock gave Episcopalians a way to “put their Baptismal Covenant vows into action in a way that is desperately needed in this country,” Stanley contends.

Yet, it was important for Episcopalians to not assume they knew exactly how to act out those vows on Standing Rock. They needed to listen to what the people there needed from the Church and, Hauff said, what they did not need.

They need to learn that “not all indigenous people are of the same mind on all issues” and many are politically and theologically conservative, he said.

Carmen Goodhouse, a full-blood Hunkpapa Lakota and a third-generation Episcopalian, speaks with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during a listening time Sept. 24 at Oceti Sakowin Camp. South Dakota Bishop John Tarrant is beside Curry. The Rev. John Floberg, behind Curry, arranged the session. Floberg is supervising priest of the Episcopal churches on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock Reservation. Former Executive Council member the Rev. Brandon Mauai, left of Floberg, also welcomed Curry to the camp. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Many tribal members recognized the economic benefit that would flow during the pipeline’s construction and its management, he and Kim said. They were not universally opposed to fossil fuels or to oil pipelines.

All the Sioux Nation wanted, Kim said, was to protect its drinking water the way people in Bismarck did. They objected to the pipeline coming too close to the capital city’s water supply, and the Corps change the route.

Some environmental activists used the pipeline to protest any use of fossil fuels, Hauff said. That made for conflicting agendas and tactics, some enacted by people who indulged in what Kim called a self-congratulatory attitude about being activists “on the reservation.”

The Episcopal Church was just one of many groups that got involved with Standing Rock. “We had no control over what all the other groups did, but we had control over ourselves and I think we did well,” Hauff said.

Kim said that Floberg’s leadership on Standing Rock epitomized the Church’s role and can be a guide to future advocacy.

“One of the things I liked about how John [Floberg] organized the clergy and lay folks coming to Standing Rock was that it was just prayer – prayer and peaceful demonstration,” Kim said of the Nov. 3 gathering. Some clergy from other denominations traveled north to Bismarck later that day, determined to get arrested to show their commitment. Floberg consistently counseled against such demonstrations.

Oceti Sakowin camp spreads out in late January along land near where the Missouri River meets the Cannonball River. North Dakota Highway 1806 run across the top of the photo. Photo: Oceti Sakowin via Facebook

Ministry of presence in practical form

Along with advocacy and solidarity, the Church had a nitty-gritty and practical ministry of presence.

St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, one of the churches Floberg serves, offered an inside place to meet. Its kitchen and working Wi-Fi were bonuses. The Episcopal Church flag flew in Oceti Sakowin Camp. The area it marked was known as a welcoming place.

To anticipate where they were needed, Floberg and others watched what was happening and listened to what was being said, including on social media. They soon realized the camp needed portable toilets and dumpsters. Episcopalians told the rest of the Church that they wanted to help the tribe pay for them. People donated money.

Episcopalians could not anticipate other needs so clearly. Floberg said ministry on Standing Rock “would have always been behind the eight ball” had it not been for people who contributed money and trusted in its wise use.

Episcopalians donated $116,369.29 to the Stand with Standing Rock effort, according to Floberg. The money covered things such as Christmas dinner at St. James, various kinds of support in the camps and housing costs. Anticipating future needs, Episcopalians bought a cargo trailer, a dump trailer and a skid-steer loader.

When the authorities decided to close the camps, they turned to Episcopalians for help. Floberg saw the Church’s first task: “We’ve got to get people out of this without harm.” He enlisted people with pickup trucks and vans.

Then, there was all the material left behind. A December blizzard had collapsed and buried tents and other flimsy structures – debris that the tribe did not want spring floods to sweep into the river.

Plus, Floberg said, “everybody that came to the camp seemed to need to bring a bag of macaroni or a bag of flour.” Moreover, people sent material goods that were not needed. The donations were an unintended consequence of constant media coverage. Some, Kim said, came with what she called a “colonial model” assumption that the reservation was so poor that residents would appreciate the donations.

Before and after the closing, Floberg helped salvage and distribute of more than 7,000 pounds of rice, beans and macaroni, as well as much of the flour, to area food banks. The remaining flour is now in his garage, awaiting a home.

Gilbert Summers, left, and Isaiah Floberg collected usable food at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in February so it wouldn’t get washed away in spring flooding. Photo: John Floberg

Now what?

“What we know in the Church is that now when the camps are empty and the pipeline is going through, now is when we are truly called to walk in solidarity with the community whose water is being threatened,” Kim said. “Just because the cameras have gone away, doesn’t mean the ministry has gone away. Now that the cameras have gone away the ministry can begin in earnest.”

That lesson was one the Church began to learn as Episcopalians responded to the aftermath of the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Kim said.

Mni Wiconi, Water is Life, has been the motto of the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline whose route now passes a half mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“What we’re recognizing is that we need to take a step back from all the hyperbole,” she said. “You can’t really engage in a conversation around discernment, collaboration and true partnership when all of that is going on.”

While the Episcopal Church continues to minister with and to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, Episcopalians elsewhere can use the example in their own communities.

“Find out whose territory you are living in. Don’t make the big claim about Standing Rock unless you’re willing to put forth the effort locally,” Floberg said. “What’s true about Standing Rock’s relationship with the federal government, what’s true about Standing Rock’s issues and problems, it’s true all over Indian Country. It’s not that the federal government is dealing differently with Standing Rock than they are with some other tribal entity elsewhere.”

Hauff said there is an even larger lesson for the Church. Its staying power – and its most effective ministry – needs to be rooted in a discipline to “not jump into every cause célèbre that may happen in the world,” he said.

“We’re not in there to get the headlines and the attention. We are always about doing what is right, regardless of whether there is any attention paid to it at all,” Hauff said. “It’s not about photo ops; it’s not about getting the lead story on the evening news. If we do, that’s great but … that’s not the end-all of it.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal Migration Ministries hosts World Refugee Day interfaith conversation

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 2:54pm

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, left, Rabbi Victor Urecki, of B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston, West Virginia, center, and Hani Hamwi, of Islamic Relief USA, during a June 20 interfaith panel discussion for World Refugee Day.  Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Judaism, like all religious traditions, calls Rabbi Victor Urecki to welcome the stranger, the refugee. In the Torah, God tells the Jews no less than 36 times to “love the strangers in their midst,” reminding them they were once strangers in Egypt, he said.

Still, it’s not Urecki’s Jewish faith that drives him to welcome and to assist refugees arriving in Charleston, West Virginia. “As a Jew, I feel I’m called to be there for refugees because the refugee story is very personal for Jews,” said Urecki, a West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry adviser. “It’s my people’s story. The image of every refugee should be an image imprinted on every Jew’s heart.”

Urecki spoke on a six-person panel during a June 20 interfaith conversation and prayer for World Refugee Day hosted by Episcopal Migration Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. An iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan, followed the panel conversation. (The holy month of Ramadan, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad, began May 26 and ends June 24.)

EMM encouraged congregations across the country to host similar interfaith conversations, and the June 20 panel was recorded on video for future use, said moderator Allison Duvall, EMM’s manager for church relations and engagement.

The refugee narrative is encoded in Jews’ spiritual DNA. They were forced to flee pogroms in Europe, withstood anti-Semitism and hatred across the globe and endured centuries of war and bloodshed. “We’ve been swept up as bystanders and brutalized as victims. We’ve been killed in our homelands … because of who we were, what we believed and what we practiced,” said Urecki, an immigrant whose grandparents and father were refugees.

Refugees are forced to flee because of who they are, what they believe and their religious practices, as another panelist confirmed. Anastasia Orlova is an asylum seeker from Russia. She arrived in the United States last October with her wife. Russia’s intolerance of LGBT people meant the couple kept few close friends, and Orlova would tell acquaintances she had a husband. She didn’t realize how depressed she was until she left Russia.

“When you are scared or ashamed of yourself, you live in inner isolation,” Orlova said. In the United States, Orlova and her wife can be married legally, practice their beliefs and speak up for themselves. “Here in the U.S. we finally feel protected.”

Refugees on the panel acknowledged that though they feel secure and free to be themselves in the United States, the country’s polarized politics and overarching economic and security fears are worrisome. The Trump administration has sought to suspend and reduce the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program; as a result, EMM was forced to reduce its resettlement work.

“Maybe the stakes now are so high and the fear is so deep and the walls are so thick that the only way we can heal the soul of a nation is for a wider-than-ever circle of allies to gather around to stand with refugee and resettlement agencies,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation. Spellers represented the Episcopal Church on the panel.

In Charleston, for example, West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry operates, “in the heart of Trump country,” said Urecki. But if anything gives him hope, it’s that the people, even those who fear for their security and the economy, are open to conversation. “If you can get your foot in the door and have a conversation, you can win,” he said.

West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry became an EMM affiliate in December.

As the Episcopal Church’s refugee resettlement agency, EMM is one of nine agencies partnered with the U.S. State Department to welcome and resettle refugees; it operates 31 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, providing direct assistance to recent arrivals. The Episcopal Church has worked to resettle refugees since the 1930s. The federal government formalized the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in 1980, partnering with religious and secular organizations to provide direct assistance to newly arrived refugees in communities nationwide. Six of the government’s resettlement partners are faith-based; the program has historically, for the most part, enjoyed bipartisan support. Over the last two years, however, Americans’ attitudes toward refugees have begun to shift from quiet acceptance to fear of the other.

Recently, EMM held a conference to train refugee supporters as advocates. EMM also offers ways for congregations to engage in refugee resettlement in their communities. The agency encourages Episcopalians to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network and advocate for policies that protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

World Refugee Day is held annually on June 20; the day is set aside to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. An unprecedented 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide. Among them 22.5 million have received refugee status and less than 1 percent will be resettled. Over half of all refugees are younger than 18 years old. Many were born in refugee camps where the average stay is 20 years.

-Lynette Wilson is managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Auckland Cathedral reaches out to Shia Muslim communities during Ramadan

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 12:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Auckland, New Zealand’s Holy Trinity Cathedral and the city’s Shia Islamic community have been praised for coming together for a Ramadan fast-breaking meal. New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission Race Relations Adviser Rakesh Naidoo and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff congratulated the two communities for their mutual gesture of goodwill.

Full article.

Episcopal Migration Ministries organise un dialogue interconfessionnel pour la Journée mondiale des réfugiés

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 4:13am

La révérende Stephanie Spellers, chanoine auprès de l’Évêque Primat pour l’évangélisation, la réconciliation et la création, à gauche, le rabbin Victor Urecki, de la Synagogue B’nai Jacob de Charleston (État de Virginie Occidentale), au centre, et Hani Hamwi, d’Islamic Relief USA, lors d’un panel de discussion interconfessionnel le 20 juin pour la Journée mondiale des réfugiés. Photo : Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Le judaïsme, comme toutes les traditions religieuses, appelle – dit le rabbin Victor Urecki – à accueillir l’étranger, le réfugié. Dans la Torah, Dieu dit aux juifs pas moins de 36 fois d’« aimer les étrangers en leur sein », leur rappelant qu’ils étaient jadis des étrangers en Égypte, a-t-il déclaré.

Et pourtant, ce n’est pas la foi juive qui conduit Victor Urecki à accueillir et aider les réfugiés qui arrivent à Charleston (État de Virginie Occidentale). « En tant que juif, je me sens appelé à être là pour les réfugiés car l’histoire des réfugiés touche de près les juifs », explique Victor Urecki, conseiller de West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry . « C’est l’histoire de mon peuple. L’image de chaque réfugié devrait être imprimée dans le coeur de chaque juif ».

Victor Urecki est intervenu dans le cadre d’un panel de six personnes lors d’un dialogue et prière interconfessionnels, organisé le 20 juin par Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) à l’Episcopal Church Center à New York.  Un iftar, le repas que font les musulmans après le coucher du soleil pendant le Ramadan, a suivi le dialogue. (Le mois sacré du Ramadan, observé par les musulmans dans le monde entier comme un mois de jeûne pour commémorer la première révélation du Coran au prophète Mahomet, a commencé le 26 mai et se termine le 24 juin).

EMM a encouragé les congrégations à travers le pays à organiser des dialogues interconfessionnels semblables et le panel du 20 juin a été enregistré en vidéo pour une utilisation future, a déclaré l’animatrice Allison Duvall, responsable d’EMM pour les relations de l’église et l’engagement.

L’histoire des réfugiés fait partie de l’ADN spirituelle des juifs. Ils ont été contraints de fuir les pogroms en Europe, ont été confrontés à l’antisémitisme et à la haine partout dans le monde et ont enduré des siècles de guerre et de carnage. « Nous avons été injustement pris en tant que spectateurs et brutalisés en tant que victimes. Nous avons été tués dans nos pays… en raison de qui nous étions, de ce en quoi nous croyions et ce que nous pratiquions », a déclaré Victor Urecki, immigré dont les grand-parents et le père étaient des réfugiés.

Les réfugiés sont contraints de fuir en raison de qui ils sont, de leurs croyances et de leurs pratiques religieuses, comme l’a confirmé un autre membre du panel. Anastasia Orlova est demandeur d’asile en provenance de Russie. Elle est arrivée aux États-Unis en octobre dernier avec son épouse. Du fait de l’intolérance de la Russie vis-à-vis des personnes LGBT, le couple n’avait que quelques amis proches et Anastasia Orlova disait à ses connaissances qu’elle avait un mari. Elle ne se rendait pas compte à quel point elle était déprimée jusqu’à ce qu’elle quitte la Russie.

« Lorsque vous avez peur ou que vous avez honte de vous-même, vous vivez dans un isolement intérieur », explique Anastasia Orlova. Aux États-Unis, Anastasia Orlova et son épouse ont le droit d’être mariées légalement, de pratiquer leurs croyances et elles peuvent s’exprimer en leur propre nom. « Ici aux États-Unis, nous nous sentons finalement protégées ».

Les réfugiés qui participaient au panel ont reconnu que, bien qu’ils se sentent en sécurité et libres d’être eux-mêmes aux États-Unis, la politique partisane du pays et les craintes économiques et en matière de sécurité dominantes sont inquiétantes. L’administration Trump a cherché à suspendre et réduire le Programme américain de réinstallation des réfugiés ; en conséquence, EMM a été contraint de réduire ses actions de réinstallation.

« Il se peut que les enjeux soient maintenant si élevés, les craintes si profondes et les murs si épais que la seule manière de guérir l’âme d’une nation soit dans le rassemblement d’un cercle d’alliés plus vaste que jamais pour soutenir les réfugiés et les organismes de réinstallation », déclare Stephanie Spellers, chanoine auprès de l’Évêque Primat pour l’évangélisation, la réconciliation et la création. Stephanie Spellers représentait l’Église épiscopale au sein du panel.

À Charleston, par exemple, West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry exerce ses activités « au cœur du fief Trump », explique Victor Urecki. Mais si quelque chose lui donne de l’espoir, c’est que les gens, même ceux qui craignent pour leur sécurité et l’économie, sont ouverts au dialogue. « Si vous arrivez à passer la porte et à engager un dialogue, vous pouvez réussir », poursuit-il.

West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry est devenu affilié d’EMM en décembre. En tant qu’organisme de réinstallation des réfugiés de l’Église épiscopale, EMM est l’un des neuf organismes qui travaillent en partenariat avec le Département d’État des États-Unis pour accueillir et réinstaller les réfugiés. Au travers de ses 31 organismes de réinstallation affiliés dans 26 diocèses, EMM apporte une aide directe aux réfugiés récemment arrivés. L’Église épiscopale œuvre à la réinstallation des réfugiés depuis les années 1930. Le gouvernement fédéral a officialisé le Programme américain de réinstallation des réfugiés en 1980, en établissant des partenariats avec des organisations religieuses et laïques pour apporter une aide directe aux réfugiés nouvellement arrivés au niveau du pays tout entier. Six partenaires du gouvernement pour la réinstallation sont confessionnels ; le programme a dans l’ensemble bénéficié d’un large soutien bipartisan. Toutefois, au cours des deux dernières années, l’attitude des Américains à l’égard des réfugiés a commencé à changer et à passer d’une acceptation sans protestation à un sentiment de peur.

Récemment, EMM a organisé une conférence pour former les défenseurs des droits des réfugiés. EMM propose également aux congrégations des moyens pour participer à la réinstallation des réfugiés dans leur communauté. L’organisme encourage les épiscopaliens à rejoindre le réseau Episcopal Public Policy Network et à défendre les politiques qui protègent les droits des réfugiés et des demandeurs d’asile.

La Journée mondiale des réfugiés se tient chaque année le 20 juin, la journée sert à commémorer la force, le courage et la persévérance des millions de réfugiés. Un chiffre sans précédent de 65,6 millions de personnes ont été déplacées par la force dans le monde entier. Parmi elles, 22,5 millions ont reçu le statut de réfugié et moins de 1 % fera l’objet d’une réinstallation. Plus de la moitié de tous les réfugiés ont moins de 18 ans. La plupart sont nés dans des camps de réfugiés où le séjour moyen est de 20 ans.

– Lynette Wilson est rédactrice en chef de l’Episcopal News Service.

El Ministerio Episcopal de Migración auspicia un diálogo interreligioso sobre el Día Mundial del Refugiado

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 4:01am

La Rda. Stephanie Spellers, canóniga del Obispo Primado para la evangelización, la reconciliación y la creación, a la izquierda; el rabino Victor Urecki, de la sinagoga B’nai Jacob en Charleston, Virginia Occidental, al centro, y Hani Hamwi, de Ayuda Islámica USA, durante la mesa redonda interreligiosa del 20 de junio en ocasión del Día Mundial del Refugiado. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service] El judaísmo, al igual que todas las tradiciones religiosas, llama al rabino Victor Urecki a acoger al extranjero y al refugiado. En la Torá, Dios le dice a los judíos no menos de 36 veces que “amen a los extranjeros que habitan en medio de ellos” recordándoles que ellos fueron alguna vez extranjeros en Egipto, dijo él.

Sin embargo, no es la fe judía de Urecki la que lo impulsa a ayudar a los refugiados que llegan a Charleston, Virginia Occidental. “Como judío, me siento llamado a dar la cara por los refugiados, porque la historia de los refugiados es algo muy personal para los judíos”, dijo Urecki, un asesor del  Ministerio Interreligioso para los Refugiados de Virginia Occidental . “Es la historia de mi pueblo. La imagen de cada refugiado debería ser una imagen impresa en el corazón de todo judío”.

Urecki habló en una mesa redonda de seis personas durante la conversación y oración interreligiosas por el Día Mundial del Refugiado  auspiciado por el Ministerio Episcopal de Migración (EMM por su sigla en inglés) en el Centro [Denominacional] de la Iglesia Episcopal en Nueva York. Una iftar, la comida de los musulmanes después de la puesta del sol durante el Ramadán, siguió al debate en la mesa redonda. (El mes santo del ramadán que lo guardan todos los musulmanes del mundo como mes de ayuno para conmemorar la primera revelación del Corán a Mahoma, comenzó el 26 de mayo y termina el 24 de junio).

El EMM alentó a las congregaciones a través del país a auspiciar conversaciones interreligiosas semejantes, y el panel del 20 de junio fue grabado en vídeo para su uso futuro, dijo la moderadora Allison Duvall, directora de relaciones eclesiásticas y colaboración del EMM.

La narrativa del refugiado está codificada en el ADN espiritual de los judíos, que se vieron obligados a escapar de pogromos en Europa, que sufrieron el antisemitismo y el odio a través del planeta y padecieron siglos de guerras y masacres. “Hemos sido arrasados como testigos y brutalizados como víctimas. Hemos sido asesinados en nuestras patrias… por ser quienes éramos, por lo que creíamos y lo que practicábamos”, dijo Urecki, un inmigrante cuyos abuelos y padre fueron refugiados.

Los refugiados se ven obligados a huir debido a lo que son, a lo que creen y a las prácticas de su religión, como confirmó otro de los panelistas. Anastasia Orlova es una solicitante de asilo procedente de Rusia. Llegó a Estados Unidos en octubre pasado con su esposa. La intolerancia de Rusia con las personas LGBT significaba que la pareja tenía muy pocos amigos, y Orlova le decía a sus conocidos que tenía un marido. Ella no se dio cuenta de cuan deprimida estaba hasta que salió de Rusia.

“Cuando tienes miedo o estás avergonzada de ti misma, vives en un aislamiento interior”, dijo Orlova. En Estados Unidos, Orlova y su esposa pueden casarse legalmente, practicar sus creencias y expresarse con libertad. “Aquí en EE.UU. al fin nos sentimos protegidas”.

Los refugiados que participaban del panel reconocieron que si bien se sienten seguros y libres para ser ellos mismos en Estados Unidos, la política polarizada y los temores económicos y de seguridad generalizados son preocupantes. El gobierno de Trump ha buscado suspender y reducir el Programa de Reasentamiento de Refugiados de EE.UU.; como resultado el EMM se vio obligado a reducir su labor de reasentamiento.

“Tal vez el desafío ahora es tan grande y el temor tan profundo y los muros tan gruesos que la única manera de restaurar el alma de una nación es mediante la creación de un círculo cada vez más amplio para respaldar a los refugiados y a las agencias de reasentamiento” dijo la Rda. Stephanie Spellers, canóniga del Obispo Primado para la evangelización, la reconciliación y la creación. Speller representó a la Iglesia Episcopal en el panel.

En Charleston, por ejemplo, el Ministerio Interreligioso para los Refugiados de Virginia Occidental funciona “en el corazón del país de Trump”, dijo Urecki. Pero si algo le da a él esperanza, es que las personas, incluso aquellos que temen por su seguridad y por la economía, están abiertos al diálogo. “Si puedes poner un pie en la puerta y sostener una conversación, puedes ganar”, afirmó.

El Ministerio Interreligioso para los Refugiados de Virginia Occidental se convirtió en una filial del EMM en diciembre.

Como la agencia de reasentamiento de refugiados de la Iglesia Episcopal, el EMM es una de las nueve agencias asociadas con el Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. para acoger y reasentar refugiados; dirige 31 filiales para el reasentamiento en 26 diócesis, las cuales les brindan asistencia directa a los recién llegados. La Iglesia Episcopal  se ha ocupado de reasentar refugiados desde la década del 30 del pasado siglo. El gobierno federal formalizó el Programa Federal de Reasentamiento de Refugiados en 1980, asociándose con organizaciones religiosas y seculares para proporcionarles ayuda directa a refugiados recién llegados en comunidades de toda la nación. Seis de los asociados del gobierno en las tareas de reasentamiento son [organizaciones] de carácter religioso; el programa, a lo largo de su historia, y en gran medida, ha disfrutado de apoyo bipartidario. Sin embargo, en los últimos dos años las actitudes de los estadounidenses hacia los refugiados han comenzado a pasar de la tranquila aceptación al miedo al otro.

Recientemente, el EMM celebró una conferencia para adiestrar a partidarios de los refugiados como sus promotores. El EMM ofrece también medios para que las congregaciones participen en el reasentamiento de refugiados en sus comunidades. La agencia alienta a los episcopales a sumarse a la Red Episcopal de Política Pública y promueve políticas que protegen los derechos de refugiados y solicitantes de asilo.

El Día Mundial del Refugiado se celebra anualmente el 20 de junio; ese día se reserva para conmemorar la fuerza, el valor y la perseverancia de millones de refugiados. En la actualidad, una población sin precedentes de 65,6 millones de personas se han visto desplazadas forzosamente en todo el mundo. Entre ellas, a 22,5 millones les han concedido estatus de refugiados y menos del 1 por ciento han sido reasentadas. Más de la mitad de todos los refugiados son menores de 18 años. Muchos nacieron en campamentos de refugiados donde el promedio de estada es de 20 años.

-Lynette Wilson es la jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Spanish-language ministry coordinator appointed in Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 3:16pm

[Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina] Bishop Robert Skirving is pleased to announce the appointment of the Rev. Frederick Clarkson as Spanish-language ministry coordinator in the Diocese of East Carolina. The Rev. Clarkson will begin in the position July 15.

Clarkson will be coming back to North Carolina after having spent 4 1/2 years with the Diocese of Texas, serving as vicar to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church of Houston, where he started the Spanish-language service.

The Spanish-language ministry coordinator is a full-time staff position for an Episcopal priest with work principally focused on the support, interconnection and leadership development of existing and emerging Spanish-language congregations and ministries of the Diocese of East Carolina. This new position in the diocese has been created, in part, through the generous funding of the Isabel James Lehto Foundation.

Prior to Houston, Clarkson served in the Diocese of North Carolina as vicar to St. Matthew’s of Salisbury and The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Cooleemee, near Winston-Salem. Clarkson has served on the Hispanic Ministry Board of both Texas and North Carolina, Black Ministry Commission, Board of St. James Seniors, Chaplain to the Houston Chapter of Integrity and the internet radio station CBE (Church Broadcast Entity).

His goal in Eastern North Carolina will be to organize Hispanic ministry and reinvigorate Episcopal Latino communities with economic development programs. Clarkson knows that there must be an economic component to the equation to truly help minister and establish a ministry of sustainability and vibrancy. The long-term goal will be to develop full participation of Hispanic leadership within The Episcopal Church throughout eastern North Carolina.

The Rev. Clarkson will spend his time divided between Diocesan House in Kinston, St. Peter’s in Washington (where he will reside) and other Spanish ministries within the diocese.

Clarkson was born in Bogota, Colombia, to parents who had met while at American University in Washington, D.C. His father worked in Colombian banking and government positions, which led to the family traveling during the Colombian conflicts of the 1980s. Growing up, Clarkson spent time living in Maryland, New York, and finally living with his grandparents in Santa Barbara, California, for his high school years. After high school, he attended St. Andrews University in Scotland followed by a career in banking.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, sounded a call for him to serve in ministry and change his career course. Clarkson enrolled in Virginia Theological Seminary, graduated and took his first post with the Diocese of North Carolina, where he spent 4 1/2 years, before heading to the Diocese of Texas. Frederick loves staying active, reading, swimming and spending time with his two dogs, and he is always happy to see a good play.

The Diocese of East Carolina is excited to welcome The Rev. Clarkson’s experienced world view and approach to ministry.

Anglican Communion announces appointment of new representative to UN

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 3:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The social and public affairs adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury has been appointed as the new Anglican Communion representative to the United Nations in Geneva. Jack Palmer-White has worked at Lambeth Palace since 2012, initially as parliamentary assistant and then as a policy adviser focusing on marriage and family life, before taking up his current role two years ago.

Full article.

Anglican Alliance joins ecumenical statement released for World Refugee Day

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 3:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Alliance has joined a group of 20 Christian organizations in issuing a statement to mark World Refugee Day. The statement celebrates the opportunities for solidarity and learning that come with opening our arms to welcome refugees and calls for more shared responsibility in responding to current large-scale movements of refugees in every region of the world.

Full article.

Collars on the Corner brings prayer, spiritual connection to streets of Milwaukee

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 2:00pm

Clergy members from the Milwaukee area pray with Luria Sampson, center, during a Collars on the Corner session in May at West Center and North 51st streets. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Milwaukee, Wisconsin] Luria Sampson had plans Saturday morning, and they didn’t include prayer – not at first.

Driving east down West Center Street in Milwaukee, he was on a course for his daughter’s house, his thoughts focused on her safety in a city suffering through a surge in shooting deaths. But when he slowed for the stoplight at 51st Street, an unexpected sight gently altered his morning travels.

Sampson, 59, stopped his car, and prayer found its way into his plans.

He turned to park the Pontiac Vibe next to St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, exited the car and, grabbing his cane, walked up to the sidewalk where men dressed in black and wearing white clergy collars were waiting to greet him.

It is called Collars on the Corner, a public ministry that an Episcopal deacon and Roman Catholic deacon launched after a Milwaukee police shooting last August. The killing of a black man during a chase by an on-duty city officer, also black, sparked days of protests and unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood and thrust the city’s stark segregation into the national spotlight.

Although the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee’s congregations are well represented in the city’s surrounding suburbs, there are no Episcopal churches in city neighborhoods with majority black or Latino populations. Despite lacking a structural presence, the diocese’s commitment to a personal presence in such neighborhoods is embodied by the Rev. Kevin Stewart, the diocese’s missioner for community engagement.

Stewart has spent much of the past year growing the ecumenical Collars on the Corner ministry with fellow deacon the Rev. Jim Banach, with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They invite clergy of all denominations to join them outside collecting and responding to prayer requests, and they encourage churches to host the ministry on their own nearby corners.

The intersection at Center and 51st is the unofficial home base for Collars on the Corner. On this Saturday morning in May, the warm sun rose over the sidewalk at the corner where a card table was set up. Taped to the side was a sign that read, “Prayer Requests.” Atop the table, a prayer box invited submissions.

“We’d be happy to pray with you right here and now,” Stewart announced.

“Yes, please do. I could use a good prayer,” Sampson replied.

The men gathered in a huddle as one of them, the Rev. Anthony Luckett of the nondenominational Saint Paul Church, led the prayer. Luckett called on God to bless Sampson and his family and give him strength as he spreads his compassion to those around him.

The prayer lasted little more than a minute. After tearfully offering his thanks and shaking hands, Sampson continued on, leaving the men in white collars to await their next prayer requests.

Praying here has become a routine Stewart repeats every Saturday morning, as his schedule and the weather will allow. He and Banach teamed up last year after discussing their shared desire to get outside and connect with Milwaukee-area residents in new ways.

“My understanding of scripture is Jesus spent more time out on the streets than Jesus did in a building, so we felt that we should go,” Stewart said. “But go where, and do what?”

The Rev. Kevin Stewart, the Diocese of Milwaukee’s missioner for community engagement, talks in May about his work on the Collars on the Corner ministry. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

They settled on this street ministry, offering a handshake or hug and a prayer – and wearing their white collars so their calling and purpose would be immediately discernible to passersby. Banach, who was familiar with St. Catherine’s Catholic Parish, suggested the location even before the police shooting in Sherman Park brought wider attention to the neighborhood.

“I thought to myself, it’s busy. There’s a need. This tends to be a pretty proactive social justice parish. I bet if we ask, they’ll say yes,” Banach said. “Then Sherman Park happened.”

Three weeks later, they set up their first Collars on the Corner in front of St. Catherine’s. They found people were hungry for personal and spiritual connection, Stewart said. “They were hungry to pray, on day one.”

Deacon is force for street-level ministries

Stewart, 60, has a track record of addressing hunger. After being hired by the diocese as missioner in 2011, he founded the Hospitality Center in Racine as an outreach ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The day center, under Stewart’s leadership, became known in the community and the diocese for its success in providing food and services for the homeless.

“Kevin has a gift for meeting people where they are, learning and listening to their needs and then building a community to address these needs,” Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller said in an email to Episcopal News Service.

In 2015, with the Hospitality Center well established in Racine, Stewart stepped down to turn his focus to Milwaukee, where the diocese was looking to create ministries that would respond to the city’s sudden spike in deadly violence. The number of homicides in the city hit 145 that year, the most in two decades, and the number of nonfatal shootings had been on the rise since 2010, the Journal Sentinel reported while noting that the causes were hard to pin down.

“As a diocese, we are committed to making a difference in Milwaukee,” Miller said. “This ministry of building relationships is the beginning.”

Stewart was given the freedom to venture into the community, listen to residents and local leaders and use what he learned to develop new ministries, like Collars on the Corner.

That ministry continued to grow in the fall, but over the winter, Stewart and Banach moved it indoors. They distributed prayer boxes across the Milwaukee area, and Stewart now collects prayer requests weekly from 25 locations, including seven congregations and 12 laundromats, from Cedarburg to Waukesha to Racine. He then sends them out to an expanding prayer chain, by email and on Collars on the Corner’s Facebook page.

“To maintain my sobriety,” reads one prayer request.

Another asks for prayers “for my family’s safety and happiness. I also ask you to pray for my strength to overcome things that bring me down.”

Busy corner is Saturday morning hub of prayer

The collars returned to the corners in the spring, with prayer request stations set up in downtown Waukesha, in Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood and at multiple anti-violence events in Milwaukee. And while Stewart and Banach work to involve more churches, they maintain a regular presence at Center and 51st.

“The beauty of it is we’ve already got some friends in the neighborhood,” Banach said. “They see us out here and they come running.”

The Rev. Anthony Luckett of the nondenominational Saint Paul’s Church prays in May with Darren Haywood on the corner of West Center and North 51st streets in Milwaukee. Haywood, 48, has grown used to seeing the men in collars here Saturdays and asked them to pray to stop the violence plaguing the city. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Some of the foot traffic on this corner is generated by St. Catherine’s Saturday food pantry. Jacqueline Garcia, 46, said she stops by the food pantry once a month, but this was her first time seeing the prayer request station.

Stewart prays with Jacqueline Garcia, 46, who was stopping by a nearby food pantry when she saw the Collars on the Corner. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

She and her friend, Micha Jones, 38, each scribbled their prayers on paper and put them in the box. Then, over the sound of cars cruising by on Center Street and the drone of the lawnmower at St. Catherine’s, they prayed – Jones with Luckett and Garcia with Stewart.

By the time they were done, tears were running down Garcia’s cheeks. Jones had been similarly moved by her prayer, and “I don’t cry for nobody,” she said after regaining her composure.

Jones said she sometimes attends church services, but not regularly. That tenuous connection to a physical church is common among the people served here, but these sidewalk parishioners need not be churchgoers. The goal of Collars on the Corner isn’t to fill the pews.

Stewart recalled welcoming someone on the corner who feared going back to church. The person had been away “too long” and had “done too much wrong.”

“Maybe that person will walk inside a church door again, we don’t know,” Stewart said. “But on that day, the church was out here meeting people where they’re at.

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

Western Massachusetts bishop delivers testimony to legislative committee

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 12:53pm

[Diocese of Western Massachusetts] Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas J. Fisher attended a hearing June 19 held by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary that featured testimony on a range of proposed criminal justice reform measures focused on sentencing and correctional services. The following statement is based on Fisher’s prepared testimony and received the support of bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts, Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris.

Bishops and others from the two Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently had the opportunity to visit Dismas House in Worcester and Dismas Family Farm in Oakham. The house and the farm are named for the Good Thief in the Gospel of Luke. Dismas is one of two criminals crucified next to Jesus. He asks Jesus to remember him when he enters paradise. Dismas accepts personal responsibility for the wrongs he has committed, yet believes that God can save anyone. His last breath is a leap of faith. 

One of us also recently had the opportunity to meet with inmates and conduct the Rite of Confirmation at the Devens federal correctional facility. The men we met recently at Dismas Farm and Devens are like Dismas. Many speak honestly about the impact of drugs and alcohol on their lives, their failures to “get clean” or “stay sober.” Most importantly, they acknowledge that their actions have had consequences for society and for those who love them. Those at the farm, they spend their days tending a harvest that will feed the local community. They have the chance to do good again, to feel connected to the needs of others. We experienced men who own their failure but who believe their lives are meant for something better. We experienced hope.

The men we met at Dismas were imprisoned for crimes related to drugs and alcohol. Addiction is killing us in the Commonwealth. Instead of sending these people to prison, we need to offer treatment. Some must go to prison for their crimes, but a prison system that reinforces shame, strips away dignity and hope – such a system does not do the good we intend.  Prisons are in need of a deep, cleansing ideological shift. We must seek to reconcile the incarcerated person with the community they have damaged. We need to seek restorative justice which emphasizes the role of the whole community in the reintegration of the offender. 

Somehow, we’ve made jail an end in itself. Get sent there and that becomes your story. We’ve forgotten that removal from the community is a consequence – not the last chapter in a flawed human being’s story. Restoration to the community must be the end of incarceration whenever possible.

We must also ask the legislature to consider the staggering inequity of incarceration by race. Many of us have been deeply affected by our reading of The New Jim Crow, or viewing of the documentary “13th.”  We are striving honestly to examine our own Episcopal Church systems to rid them of the sin of racism; we urge you to do the same as you consider reform of our judicial system.  Racial reconciliation is of ultimate concern to us as people of faith. We ask you to be conscious of our nation’s need to own the mass incarceration of young black and brown men.

Our governing bodies have been given power to wield justly and for the good of all people. If we pass the Justice Reinvestment Act, we’ll be able to tell a new story – a story of justice and redemption, a story of second chances and greater safety for our communities. Be assured of our prayers for you and for all leaders in government who strive to respect the dignity of all human beings.

The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

Se aceptan nominaciones para Obispo Coadjutor de la Diócesis of Haití

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 5:36am

[19 de junio, 2017] Se están aceptando nominaciones de candidatos para cl cargo de Obispo Coadjutor de la Diócesis Episcopal de Haití.

El perfil de la Diócesis de Haití está disponible aquí y aquí.

El proceso abierto de nominación para Obispo Coadjutor de Haití continúa hasta el 29 de junio.

Tenga en cuenta:

•  Los candidatos deben hablar con fluidez el francés y el criollo, y ser capaces de entender el inglés.

• Las nominaciones deben ser firmadas por seis miembros laicos y seis clérigos de la diócesis.

• El plazo para la presentación de las nominaciones es el 29 de junio.

• La elección del Obispo Coadjutor para la Diócesis de Haití está programada para el 17 de marzo de 2018.

Para obtener más información, póngase en contacto con el Revdo. Ronald H. Clingenpeel, Consultor de Transiciones rhclingenpeel@yahoo.com.

Applications accepted for Stewardship of Creation grants

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 1:52pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation is accepting applications for grants that focus on local faith-based projects for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the integrity of Creation.

This marks the next cycle of grantmaking by the Episcopal Church Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation, enabled by Resolution A030, Create Task Force On Climate Change, approved at General Convention 2015 and charged with the responsibility to develop a grant process to support local ecologically responsible stewardship of church-related properties and buildings.

Recommendations will be made for grants up to $10,000.

Further information regarding this grant process and how to submit an application is available here.  Deadline for applications is Aug. 20.

Episcopal Church congregations, seminaries, schools, monastic communities, non-profits, dioceses, provinces, etc. are encouraged to develop projects that find and establish connections between eco- and social justice, engaging the local community as partners and participants. The projects should seek to foster cooperation between communities of faith, civic, scientific and educational organizations. Projects should have specific outcomes which create lasting impact, enhance faith formation and social understanding and serve groups and/or regions that are vulnerable and/or underrepresented in the church. Projects including intergenerational engagement, demonstrating innovation and creativity, and promoting churchwide learning, understanding and practical application are welcomed. Projects should not be solely focused on materials, salaries or capital expenses.

The Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation will make recommendations to the Episcopal Church Executive Council for its October 2017 meeting, and final grant decisions will be announced in November with the funds released in December.

Members

Members of the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation are: Bishop Marc Andrus, Co-Chair, Diocese of California; the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, Co-Chair, Diocese of Connecticut; Paul Anton, Diocese of Minnesota; the Rev. Jerry Cappel, Diocese of Kentucky; the Rev. Patrick Funston, Diocese of Kansas; the Rev. Luis Alberto Garcia Correa, Diocese of  Dominican Republic; the Rev. Esther Georges, Diocese of the Virgin Islands; Julia Harris, Diocese of Oklahoma and Liaison of Executive Council; Perry Hodgkins Jones, Diocese of Atlanta; the Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick, Diocese of Delaware; the Rev. Nurya Love Parish, Diocese of Western Michigan; Kelly Phelan, Diocese of Los Angeles; Peter Sergienko, Diocese of Oregon; Dr. Andrew Thompson, Diocese of  East Tennessee; Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Ex Officio; President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, Ex Officio; the Rev. Melanie Mullen, staff liaison.

For more information contact Ann Hercules at ahercules@episcopalchurch.org.