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Updated: 19 min 40 sec ago

Diocese of East Tennessee announces bishop slate

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 12:08pm

[Diocese of East Tennessee] The Standing Committee of the Diocese of East Tennessee April 28 announced a slate of five nominees who will stand for election as the fifth bishop of the Episcopal Church in East Tennessee.

The nominees are:

  • The Rev. Brian Cole – Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Lexington, Kentucky
  • The Rev. Hendree Harrison – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Athens, Tennessee
  • The Rev. Canon Frank Logue – Diocese of Georgia
  • The Rev. Canon Lance Ousley – Diocese of Olympia and St. John’s Episcopal Church, Kirkland, Washington
  • The Rev. Marty Stebbins – St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Wilson, North Carolina

Nominees’ biographical information and answers to a series of questions, can be found here.

The Rev. Jay Mills, president of the Standing Committee, said, “It is my humble honor to be involved in the bishop search as the chair of the Standing Committee. It is truly exciting to be part of the opening of God’s choice for us for our new bishop. We are truly lucky to be a healthy, happy diocese in the midst of that search. It made us an attractive diocese, I suspect, for interested folks.”

“The Search and Nominating Committee has worked hard;” said Chairman Joe Vrba, “we’ve prayed even harder and we’ve shed a few tears along the way. We’ve trusted in the Holy Spirit throughout. And, you know, everything worked out fine. Every one of us feels blessed in having been part of this process.”

As allowed by the constitution and canons of the diocese, additional nominations may be put forward via the petition process for two weeks following the announcement of the slate. The petition window is now open and will close at the end of the day on May 12, 2017.

As the work of the Search and Nominating Committee comes to a close, the work of the Transition Committee is already well underway, with “walkabouts” scheduled to give every person in the Diocese of East Tennessee a chance to get to know the nominees before the special electing convention in July. Additional details will be shared on the bishop search website and on all diocesan communication channels in the coming weeks.

The 5th bishop of the Episcopal Church in East Tennessee will succeed the Rt. Rev. George Dibrell Young, III, who announced his retirement last April. Young has served as bishop since June 2011.

Episcopal Church ready to make history with Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 11:20am

Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop-elect Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, left, will succeed Indianapolis’ 10th bishop, Catherine Waynick, right, who, 20 years ago, became the fourth woman to lead an Episcopal Church diocese. This will be the first time in the Church’s history that a woman has succeeded another woman in the episcopate. Baskerville-Burrows took what she called this “selfie of selfies” April 22 at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Carmel, Indiana, before a celebration of Waynick’s ministry. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows first tried to read the Bible when she was 8 years old.

“I thought that is what I should do because I wanted to go to church so bad and nobody was taking me, so I thought I’ll read the Bible,” she said.

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

Soon to be 11th bishop, Diocese of Indianapolis
Soon to make history
+ 1st female black diocesan bishop
+ 15th female diocesan bishop
+ 6th female diocesan bishop currently active
+ 26th female bishop diocesan or suffragan
+ 44th black bishop in Episcopal Church history
+ 1,100th bishop in Episcopal Church history
Quote: “My call is to be the best bishop I can be for this diocese.”

That tiny Gideon Bible belonged to her maternal grandfather, Joseph McCray, who would die two years later, after instilling in her a lifelong love of cooking, among other legacies.

“They passed on so long ago but I have been thinking about the sacrifices that they made, and they cannot have imagined that life that I have now,” Baskerville-Burrows said about McCray and his wife, Mary Weaver, during an interview with Episcopal News Service.

After a grand liturgy on April 29, Baskerville-Burrows’ life will include being the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

Baskerville-Burrows, who previously served as director of networking for the Diocese of Chicago, will make history that day when Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and more than 40 other bishops call down the Holy Spirit to ordain and consecrate her as the church’s first black female diocesan bishop.

The service will take place just more than 28 years since now-retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris, who also is African-American, became the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Baskerville-Burrows will succeed Indianapolis’ 10th bishop, Catherine Waynick, who 20 years ago became the fourth woman to lead an Episcopal Church diocese. This will be the first time in the Church’s history that a woman has succeeded another woman in an episcopate.

Baskerville-Burrows is the 26th woman elected bishop in the Episcopal Church and will be the 12th female diocesan bishop, as well as the 44th African-American bishop and the 1,100th bishop overall in the Episcopal Church’s history.

The bishop-elect is also an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a federally recognized tribe based on Long Island in New York. Her paternal grandfather was a Shinnecock member who grew up on the tribe’s reservation.

Baskerville-Burrows became a Christian as a young adult and chose to join the Episcopal Church at Trinity Church Wall Street in lower Manhattan. She was baptized there in 1989, the year after she graduated from college.

“There is probably no better thing I could be than to be serving God in this way for a good section of my family,” she told ENS, struggling not to cry. “There is just nothing better. I am going to be thinking about that and their hopes and dreams and the wonder of it all.”

Those folks include her uncle, Clarvis Soanes, who will join her husband, Harrison Burrows, to bring the gifts to the altar during the April 29 service. Soanes also walked Baskerville-Burrows down the aisle at her 2003 wedding in place of her father, who died in 1991.

Meanwhile, despite much media attention, the historic nature of her pending episcopate has not been uppermost in Baskerville-Burrows’ mind during the days leading up to her ordination and consecration.

“I probably downplay it way too much. That’s not the biggest thing in my mind, not daily anyway,” she said, adding that the awareness “comes in spurts,” especially when she meets people who express their excitement.

Then she realizes that some people are responding the same way she did when she heard about Harris becoming the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion. “Every now and again it strikes me that for some women in the church this is now going to be possible because someone is finally doing it,” she said. “That catches me short.”

“At the end of the day, I think the way I keep my sanity about all that is to say that my call is to be the best bishop I can be for this diocese,” she said. “And in doing that I will be the best role model I can be for other young men and women of color or of European descent” who might want to discern if they are similarly called.

Being the best bishop for the diocese in the coming years, Baskerville-Burrows said, means nurturing what she sees as the Episcopal Church’s “particular voice and call” in the state of Indiana.

“We’ve got this Episcopal Church which for many decades has been the progressive, inclusive, all-y’all-come, we-serve-all diocese in the midst of a state that is far more conservative,” she said of the diocese.

“What I hear, and what I have seen over and over again, is this is where people go when they want to be about a gospel message love, hope and transformation.”

While other faith communities use the same language, Baskerville-Burrows said, “we mean them in such broad terms, it stands in stark relief to the alternative on the religious landscape.”

Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop-elect Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows speaks April 21 to the crowd outside the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood after a public procession that was part of the Bishops United Against Gun Violence’s “Unholy Trinity” conference. Baskerville-Burrows helped plan the conference. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Baskerville-Burrows began her time as bishop-elect in Indianapolis visiting congregations on the outer edges of the diocese. She has met many people who are drawn to the Episcopal Church’s expression of Christianity.

“We are providing this broad welcome for people who want to do the Jesus Movement stuff that Michael Curry preaches about,” Baskerville-Burrows said, adding that she wants to help the diocese continue to be clear and bold about articulating that welcome.

“We’ve got a little bubble here that I’d love to expand,” she said of the diocese’s 48 congregations and about 10,000 Episcopalians.

As she prepares for her historic position, Baskerville-Burrows said she has been thinking about and talking to others about how the church can remove the barriers to women and people of color entering leadership roles at all levels of the church. Doing so will eventually lead to bishop elections offering more diverse slates of nominees to dioceses more willing to consider them, she added.

The Diocese of Indianapolis has been trying to do just that, and the effort laid the foundation for the people of the diocese to elect a nominee like her, Baskerville-Burrows said. The track of her own life should be more commonplace, she added.

“I have had really good experiences and good mentors who helped me discern every move I made and I want that to be normative. I don’t want that to be the exception,” she said.

Roots in New York City

Baskerville-Burrows was raised in the housing projects of New York City and educated in the city’s public schools through high school. She has one brother. Her mother, who will be present April 29, still lives in New York City.

The bishop-elect holds a bachelor’s degree (1988) from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she majored in architecture and minored in urban studies. She earned a master’s degree in historic preservation planning from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in 1994 and a master of divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, in 1997.

Ordained by the Diocese of Central New York, she was rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Syracuse, New York, and Episcopal chaplain at Syracuse University from 2004 to 2012. She has also served at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Endicott, New York, and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey, and as director of alumni relations at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

The diocese elected Baskerville-Burrows out of a field of five nominees on the second ballot Oct. 28 at Christ Church Cathedral Indianapolis. At the time, she was director of networking for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, a role she began in 2012. In that role, she led the diocese’s communications, fundraising and community relations, including initiatives against racism and gun violence.

One of the defining experiences of her ministry came when she found herself at Trinity Wall Street near the World Trade Center the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, part of a small group of Episcopalians from across the country meeting with  Bishop Rowan Williams, who would soon be named Archbishop of Canterbury. After the attack, she spent hours with others in a stairwell of Trinity’s office building.

As the tension of the unknown rose in the stairwell, she told Episcopal News Service in 2011, she confronted the prospect of dying that day. She realized that she was standing next to the Rev. James Callaway, who had baptized her. “I thought, here’s where I came into life and I might die here, and if I was going to die, maybe this is OK … I can be reconciled to that,” she told ENS in the 2011 interview below.

About 19 months after that day, Baskerville-Burrows married Harrison Burrows, a native of Crown Haven in the Bahamas.

Burrows was a youth minister in the Bahamas who has studied at Bexley Hall (an Episcopal seminary formerly located in Rochester, New York) and Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Burrows now works in sales.

Their son Timothy Burrows, 6, is a kindergarten student at St. Richard’s Episcopal School in Indianapolis.

Baskerville-Burrows is an accomplished distance runner and triathlete. During her 2016 sabbatical, she attended a running retreat for mothers in Spokane, Washington, and visited Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas to record the recipes of her husband’s great-aunt, who is the island’s bread baker. Baskerville-Burrows is an avid cook and baker who once had a blog called Cookin’ in the ‘Cuse.

The congregation attending the Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop-elect Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows’ ordination and consecration April 26 will receive wine during communion from specially designed chalices. “Hoosier” (ˈhü-zhər) is a longtime nickname for the state of Indiana and its residents. Photo: Debra Kissinger

A weekend of celebration

The April 29 liturgy takes place at Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis. Curry, the church’s first African-American leader, will preside and he will be joined by more than 40 bishops. The service will be webcast here, and the prelude begins at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Curry will visit St. David’s Episcopal Church in tiny Bean Blossom, Indiana, about 50 miles south of Indianapolis on April 30 for a 10:30 a.m. Eucharist. The service will be webcast here. St. David’s was one of at least two Episcopal churches – the other was in suburban Washington, D.C. – that were vandalized on the same night just after the November presidential election.

Baskerville-Burrows will be seated in Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis during an April 30 liturgy that begins at 11 a.m. A block party will follow.

A full schedule of events that begin April 28 is here.

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

Social media updates from the People’s Climate March

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:56pm

We’re following the latest on the People’s Climate March through social media updates by Episcopalians and others who will be there April 29 in Washington, D.C. If you are participating, use the hashtag #CMepiscopal to submit your updates for our coverage. To submit photos and video directly to us, email

embed twitter feed on website

After prayer service for last of four Arkansas executions, activists seek to end death penalty

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 11:52am

Anti-death penalty activists hold a vigil outside the governor’s mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas, on April 20 in this photo shared on Facebook by the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

UPDATE: Arkansas executed death row inmate Kenneth Williams late April 27 after a prayer service hosted by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians in Arkansas are preparing to gather once more for a prayer service on the eve of what is expected to be the final in a series of expedited executions by the state, which activists say could give momentum to efforts to abolish the death penalty.

Arkansas is scheduled April 27 to execute convicted murder Kenneth Williams, 38, the fourth death row inmate to be executed in a week, as the state rushes to carry out the sentences before its stock of one of its lethal injection drugs expires. Before this month, Arkansas had not carried out an execution in nearly 12 years.

As it did on the eves of the previous three executions, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock will hold a brief ecumenical service at 6 p.m. April 27 followed by a candlelight vigil that will culminate in the toll of bells. The service will offer prayers for Williams, for his victims and their families and for the corrections employees who will be carrying out the execution.

“For all of these, and for ourselves, we will pray for hope, for strength and for mercy,” cathedral spokesman Josiah Wheeler told Episcopal News Service.

The Episcopal Church has stood against the death penalty since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, with several General Convention resolutions calling for the death penalty to be abolished, most recently in 2015.

The death penalty still is in effect in 31 states, but the number of executions nationwide has dropped steadily since 1999, from a high of 98 that year to 20 in 2016, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Arkansas has executed 30 inmates since 1976 but none since 2005, until this month.

The state had planned to execute eight inmates in 10 days, starting on Easter Monday, but four of those executions have been halted by court order.

The Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas has been active in efforts to end capital punishment in the state, and Bishop Larry Benfield joined clergy from other denominations on April 12 in a rally at the Capitol to call on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop the executions.

Diocese of Arkansas Bishop Larry Benfield speaks April 12 at an anti-death penalty rally at the state Capitol. Photo: Diocese of Arkansas

“We have believed in the goodness of hard work and respect for neighbor and faith in God. But we are being led astray by a peculiar ethic that states that vengeance is a virtue, when in fact it is not,” Benfield said, according to quotes provided by the diocese. “I can only speak from the Christian tradition, but I can say definitively from my own religious upbringing that vengeance is not a mark of Christian ethics.”

The Rev. Mary Janet “Bean” Murray, a retired deacon, and member of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock, said she and other anti-death penalty activists are disheartened that a fourth execution is expected to be carried out, but they already are looking beyond this week in stepping up their push for changing state law. She is vice president of a group called the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which met this week to discuss its future strategy.

“We will continue to work and work until the death penalty is no longer an issue,” Murray told ENS.

Caroline Stevenson, another Episcopalian from Little Rock, said the recent executions may give people who favored the death penalty a reason to rethink their support.

“I think that we can change some minds with the facts,” said Stevenson, a member of Episcopal Peace Fellowship. “We have to challenge people’s faith and say, this isn’t what Christianity is all about.”

Four states have abolished the death penalty since 2009: New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland. Nebraska’s Legislature passed a law in 2015 eliminating capital punishment, but it was reinstated by popular vote in 2016.

Public opinion has for decades tilted in favor of the death penalty, with a Gallup poll from 2016 showing 60 percent of respondents supporting a death sentence for someone convicted of murder. Support typically decreases when alternatives are suggested. When asked whether they would choose to sentence a murderer to death or to life in prison, 50 percent said they would choose the death penalty in a 2014 Gallup poll.

The fight to abolish the death penalty may remain an uphill battle in pro-death penalty states like Arkansas, but Murray and other Episcopalians see killing of any kind as incompatible with what their Christian faith teaches.

“When we say in our baptismal vows that we’ll respect the dignity of every human being, that includes criminals too,” Murray said.

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


RIP: Nancy Marvel, former Episcopal Relief & Development executive director

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 10:40am

[Episcopal Relief & Development]  A longtime resident of Pelham, New York, Nancy Marvel died on Monday, April 17, 2017, at the age of 85.

Affectionately known as “Nan,” she served as the executive director from 1995 to 1998 for Episcopal Relief & Development, formerly the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief. 

Marvel was hired by the Episcopal Church in 1976 to work under Presiding Bishop John Allin. In 1981, she joined the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief  (the PB Fund) to work on the grants program. Eventually, she was promoted to the director of grants, overseeing its domestic and overseas granting work.

During her tenure, the PB Fund was undergoing a major programmatic and operational shift to expand the focus on disaster response and recovery, and to incorporate sustainable development into its small grants program. Marvel recognized the Church’s growing interest and awareness in addressing challenges such as hunger, poverty, disaster and disease worldwide.

Before Marvel retired to become a national representative and ambassador for the PB Fund, Hurricane Mitch ravaged parts of the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean in late 1998. She led the PB Fund’s initial response in Honduras and other neighboring countries.

Over a four-year period, the community of Faith, Hope and Joy was constructed in Honduras, with 200 houses, a school, a clinic and a church. Microfinance activities and agricultural projects were launched to create economic opportunities and to help spur growth in the devastated region. This integrated approach became a core element of the organization’s disaster relief work as well as the first long-term recovery program in its history.

After retiring from the PB Fund, Marvel actively volunteered with her congregation, Christ the Redeemer Church in Pelham, the Westchester Junior League, The Manor Club and other organizations.

Marvel was a committed and long-serving staff member who contributed significantly and faithfully to the PB Fund, helping to shape and plant seeds for Episcopal Relief & Development’s future efforts.

“On behalf of our staff and board, I express sincere condolences to Nancy’s family, friends and colleagues around the Church,” said Rob Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. “She played a critical role in the evolution of this organization. Her compassion and numerous contributions will remain with us.”

Marvel is preceded in death by her husband, Robert C. Marvel. She is survived by a son, daughter, two stepdaughters, five granddaughters and many other relatives. 

In lieu of flowers, Nancy Marvel’s family has requested that memorial gifts are sent to:

Episcopal Relief & Development
P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield
Virginia 22116-7058

Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 29 at Christ Church, 1415 Pelhamdale Avenue, Pelham, NY.