The Episcopal Church
This parish is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield. Visit the diocesan site for information about our bishop, other church locations and diocesan news.
Episcopal Diocese of Springfield

Episcopal News Service

Syndicate content
The news service of the Episcopal Church
Updated: 1 hour 6 min ago

Churches throughout England gear up for ‘great wave of prayer’

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 2:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches throughout England have responded to a call from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for a “great wave of prayer” in the week leading up to Pentecost Sunday for the re-evangelization of England. Dubbed, Thy Kingdom Come, from the words of the Lord’s Prayer, the week will see parish churches and cathedrals hold 24/7 prayer rotas, open prayer times and special services.

At the end of the week, special “beacon events” will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and at Durham, Coventry, Winchester, and Canterbury Cathedrals; and at the Church of St. Michael le Belfrey, next to York Minster.

In a video message to promote the initiative, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks about the importance of the Lord’s Prayer, saying that it is impossible to overstate or exaggerate its “life-transforming power.”

He says: “It is a prayer that is reassuring enough to be on the lips of the dying, and yet dangerous enough to be banned in cinemas; it is famous enough to be spoken each day by billions in thousands of languages, and yet it is intimate enough to draw us ever closer into friendship with Jesus Christ; it is simple enough to be memorized by small children, and yet profound enough to sustain a lifetime of prayer.”

In the video, Welby says that he wants people to pray for “a renewal of expectancy in the abundancy and the overflowing of Christ in their lives together, so that people right across the country see who Jesus is and are drawn to faith in him.”

He suggested three areas that Christians taking part in the prayer week could pray for: that all Christians find new life in their relationship with Jesus Christ; that all those who they meet and are close to see something of Jesus that draws them towards faith in him; and that the Church is “so full of the life and joy of Christ that it overflows with the reality of the presence of Jesus.”

The initiative has the support of other Christian churches. The general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference in England and Wales, Father Christopher Thomas, told Vatican Radio that he hoped Catholics would join with Anglicans in local prayer events.

“We want to lend our support this and in many ways we are hoping that it will develop as an ecumenical project as a second pole to the work done in Christian unity week in January each year,” he said; saying that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was “a reflection of the unity of the church ad intra – within the denominations; the wave of prayer could be a combined work ad extra – “out into the world of today”.

He urged Catholics to “pray for the proclamation of the Gospel in the world in which we live,” adding: “Society can be very skeptical about religion today, but we know that the truth of the Gospel brings life.”

NY Episcopalians open doors to burned out Serbian congregation

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 2:45pm

[Episcopal Diocese of New York] In a spirit of Christian friendship and unity with its roots deep in the 19th century, the Episcopal Church in New York has stepped forward to ensure that the congregation of the fire-gutted Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava  will have a place to worship each week until they have a new permanent home.

The 10 a.m. service May 8 will be held at Calvary Church on Park Avenue South at 21st St., and the congregation will worship at St. George’s Church, located nearby at 4 Rutherford Place, on May 15

St. Sava’s Cathedral was gutted by fire on May 1.

“It is particularly fitting,” New York Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche said, “that we Episcopalians, of all people, should be blessed once again with the chance to stand by our Serbian Orthodox brothers and sisters and provide them with a roof under which to worship. Our diocese’s relationship with the Orthodox Church, and with St. Sava’s in particular, goes back over 150 years. In 1865, Trinity Episcopal Chapel on West 26th St, which would later become St. Sava’s Cathedral, was the site of the first ever Orthodox liturgy in America. Nearly 80 years later, in 1942, my predecessor, Bishop Manning, oversaw the sale of that same building — the very one that on Sunday was so tragically gutted by fire — to the recently-organized St. Sava’s congregation.”

Calvary and St. George’s Churches, where the Serbian congregation will worship this Sunday and next, together make up the parish of Calvary-St. George’s. Now under the direction of the Rev. Jacob Smith, the parish is particularly known for its connection with the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous, to which its rector from 1925-1952, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Shoemaker, contributed most of its spiritual principles.

“The Parish of Calvary-St. George’s, in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of New York, is honored to open our doors to Fr. Djokan Majstorovic and the people of St. Sava’s,” says Calvary-St. George’s priest-in-charge, the Rev. Jacob Smith.

ACC ‘neither endorsed nor affirmed’ primates’ action, six outgoing members say

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 12:04pm

The six outgoing ACC and Standing Committee members who signed the May 6 statement are Helen Biggin, Church in Wales (back row, left); Joanildo Burity, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (front row, second from right); Bishop Ian T. Douglas, Episcopal Church (back row, right); Bishop Sarah Macneil, Anglican Church of Australia (front row, first from right); Elizabeth Paver, Church of England, outgoing vice-chair (front row, first from left) and Bishop James Tengatenga, Province of Central Africa, outgoing chair (front row, second from right). They posed with the continuing Standing Committee members April 12 on the steps of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The six outgoing members of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee on May 6 released the following statement about action taken on April 18 during the ACC-16 meeting in Lusaka, Zambia.

Walking Together: A Clarification
May 6, 2016

Since the enriching, empowering and constructive meeting of the Anglican
Consultative Council (ACC16) in Lusaka, 8 – 19 April 2016, a number of statements have appeared with respect to ACC16’s engagement with the outcome of the January 2016 Primates’ Gathering and Meeting.

As outgoing members of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Standing Committee, we are writing to clarify our understanding of what transpired at ACC16 with respect to the earlier Primates’ gathering.

ACC16 approved a resolution “Walking Together,” as follows:

The Anglican Consultative Council
1. receives the formal report of the Archbishop of Canterbury to ACC16 on the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting of January 2016; and

2. affirms the commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to walk together; and

3. commits to continue to seek appropriate ways for the Provinces of the Anglican Communion to walk together with each other and with the Primates and the other Instruments of Communion.

In receiving the Archbishop of Canterbury’s formal report of the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting, ACC16 neither endorsed nor affirmed the consequences contained in the Primates’ Communiqué. There was no plenary discussion or decision with respect to the Primates’ Communiqué. From our perspective there did not seem to be a common mind on the issue, other than the clear commitment to avoid further confrontation and division. ACC16 did welcome the call for the Instruments of Communion and the Provinces to continue to walk together as they discern the way forward. No consequences were imposed by the ACC and neither was the ACC asked to do so.

During the meeting there were many opportunities, both formal and informal, to explore the ACC16 theme of ‘Intentional discipleship in a world of differences.” This was done faithfully and respectfully.

As outgoing members of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee, we remain passionate about the ACC’s distinct and independent role as one of the Instruments of Communion. The ACC provides a crucially important space for the sharing of our stories in God’s mission as laity, priests, deacons and bishops from the many and diverse contexts of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. At ACC16 we truly witnessed the stated commitment to walking together in our life as the Body of Christ.

Helen Biggin, The Church in Wales
Prof. Dr .Joanildo Burity, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, The Episcopal Church
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Sarah Macneil, The Anglican Church of Australia
Canon Elizabeth Paver, The Church of England, Outgoing Vice-Chair
The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, The Church of the Province of Central Africa, Outgoing
Chair

Applications accepted for new position: Digital Missioner for Formation

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 10:07am

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Episcopal Church is accepting applications for the position of digital missioner for formation, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff.

In this new full-time position, the digital missioner for formation, will support the ministry of the Team for Formation and Congregational Development with a focus on online formation, social media and event planning facilitation.

More information and application instructions for this position are available here.

Deadline for applying is Friday, May 20.

For more information contact a member of the Episcopal Church Human Resources Team at hrm@episcopalchurch.org.

Episcopal Church Archives unveils new website, special exhibit on 23rd Presiding Bishop John Allin

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 9:17am

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Archives of the Episcopal Church has unveiled a newly-designed and content-rich website here featuring historical items and the rich, important stories of the church.

“The Archives website has been completely reorganized to enable users to locate information more quickly and intuitively,” noted Mark Duffy, Canonical Archivist and Director. “The upgrade enables the Archives to reach inquirers with timely news of its holdings and to publish new educational content from the Church’s historic collections.”

The Archives of the Episcopal Church, located in Austin, Texas, is dedicated to observing and honoring the history of the Episcopal Church.  “In addition, our mission is to support the faithful in fulfilling the Baptismal Covenant,” Duffy added.

New Exhibit
Highlighting the new look of the website is fresh content, with the principal feature as the opening of a major exhibit on the life and work of the 23rd Presiding Bishop, John Maury Allin, available here.

Titled Venture in Ministry, the exhibit weaves historical text and rich media into an exploration of Bishop Allin’s ministry as he navigated the church through arguably its greatest period of institutional change in the 1970s and 1980s.

The exhibit follows a narrative marked by the turbulent shoals of a remarkable series of historical changes. It encompasses a biography of experience lived within the church as it struggled to meet the calls for civil rights, liturgical revision, and women’s ordination.

The Allin episcopate brought into stark reality the church’s cultural dilemma of having to rediscover its unifying ethos in the midst of greater diversity and the dynamics of ecclesial authority in a democratic polity.

“John Allin’s ministry was rooted in a generous understanding of mission in service to others as the central organizing force in the church’s life, and that theme is worth revisiting as we embark on a new examination of our capacity for reconciliation,” observed Duffy. “The simple explanations for how we arrived at today’s church are too easy when one ponders the remarkable compression of time, geography, and opposing ideas in the recent decades.  We can still draw insights from those who passed though the fire of transformational change.”

The exhibit development was made possible by the donation of a large and relatively complete archive of Bishop Allin’s personal papers to the Episcopal Church and a generous financial gift to the Archives from the Allin family foundation.

Updating
Duffy recommended that visitors to the Archives’ website should update their bookmarks and explore the new site. Access to frequently used pages will automatically be redirected to new locations and include such highly used resources such as the Digital Archives.

He added, “Visitors to the Allin microsite may share the site through social media and email options and we encourage you to fully explore the site and provide your reflections with the staff through an online comment form.”

Delaware Bishop Wayne Wright announces plans to retire

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 8:35am

[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Wayne Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware has announced that he intends to retire early in 2017 and has called for the election of his successor.

The diocesan Standing Committee will now begin planning for the election of the next bishop.

Wright wrote in a blog post on April 27 that he has been blessed during his 19 years as bishop. “Seeing so many good things happen is a source of great satisfaction to me,” he wrote. “Today all of our congregations are served by a remarkable and faithful group of clergy. Our Episcopal schools, Memorial House, Camp Arrowhead and our many other ministries are also doing well. Our diocese rests on a sound financial and administrative foundation. There is a genuine sense of unity among the lay leaders, clergy, and staff who do so much to support and guide our diocese.

“With so many things going well I believe that this is the right time for me to move toward retirement and for the diocese to begin planning the election of your next bishop.”

St. John’s Episcopal in Jackson Hole calls James P. Bartz to lead parish

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 2:47pm

[St. John’s Episcopal Church] St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson Hole, WY, is pleased to announce the call of The Reverend James “Jimmy” P. Bartz as our new Rector.

Originally from Houston, TX, his path to the ministry began at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church under the attentive eye of now Bishop Claude Payne. Upon completing a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary and ordination, his path continued as Campus Missioner at the University of Texas, where he was successful in expanding that program. He then served as Associate Rector at All Saint’s Parish in Beverly Hills, CA and most recently as Founder and Lead Minister at Thad’s, an emergent Episcopal Mission Station in Santa Monica, CA.

He describes his liturgical style and practice as “exceedingly diverse” with “a deep love for the traditions of the Book of Common Prayer along with a desire to see those practices translated for relevant use in missional contexts.” His early years of ordination were spent serving in broad church, formal worship at All Saints’ in Austin, TX, and traditional, formal worship at All Saints’ Parish in Beverly Hills, CA. For the past nine years, he has been leading Thad’s, the creative, contemporary worship congregation he planted.

Jimmy is a member of the Gathering of Leaders, a group of outstanding young priests and is Chair of the Board of The Episcopal Evangelism Society. He said, “Through the traditions and liturgies of our church and through innovation in ministry, I hope to communicate to people that they are children, chosen and marked by God’s love, and equip them to share that reality with others.”

In his letter to St. John’s regarding Jimmy, The Rev. Canon John Newton shared, “Jimmy Bartz is a man of prayer and a man in prayer. [He] has a faith that is vulnerable enough to cry and laugh and confident enough to lead and teach.” Bishop Smylie has enthusiastically endorsed this action by the Vestry. Jimmy is a skier, climber, and angler, saying, “The majority of my deep spiritual renewal comes from time in nature mostly surfing, fly-fishing, and mountaineering.” More significant than knowing and enjoying our valley, he loves all that St. John’s Episcopal Church is and can be. He is not only on the cutting edge of ministry but also has worked outside the church with for-profits and non-profits to communicate and teach spiritual disciplines, operating from the position that “you can’t practice God’s love alone.”

We are equally excited to welcome his wonderful wife Cindy, and their two children, 14-year-old son Jas and 10- year-old daughter Jade. While plans are still being made, we anticipate that the Bartz family will move here by mid-July to settle in, and he will conduct his first service soon thereafter.

British MP challenges Church Commissioners on climate change

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 2:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A British parliamentarian has challenged the Church Commissioners’ stance on climate change and urged them to “read the Bible”. David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, told MPs that the parable of the oil lamps and 10 virgins in Matthew 25 supported the “cheap and ready supply of this much-maligned fossil fuel” – even though the oil in question was most likely olive oil.

Fellow-Conservative MP Caroline Spelman, the MP for Meriden in the English Midlands, is a Church Commissioner and has responsibility for answering questions from MPs every six weeks-or-so on the work of the Commissioners.

This morning, David Davies wanted to know the purpose behind the resolution co-filed by the Church Commissioners for debate during this month’s ExxonMobil AGM, which calls on the company to report on the impact of climate change policies on its portfolio and strategy.

Mrs Spelman said that the resolution was filed “so that ExxonMobil’s shareholders can indicate to the company their wish to see better corporate reporting on the long-term risks that the transition to a low-carbon economy presents to Exxon.

“This includes a scenario in which the implementation of the Paris agreement restricts warming to below two degrees Celsius.”

In a supplementary question, Mr Davies said: “Before they are too critical of the oil companies, may I suggest that the Church of England Commissioners read the Bible – Matthew 25, the parable of the oil lamps and the 10 virgins – and remember that it was the five virgins who lived happily ever after and who had a cheap and ready supply of this much-maligned fossil fuel?”

The parable does not specify what type of oil lamps were used, but the most common oil lamps in use during biblical times in the Middle East were olive oil lamps – and olive oil is not a fossil fuel.

Mrs Spelman replied that the two MPs “perhaps do not share the same interpretation of the Bible”. when it comes to belief in climate change as a phenomenon.”

She told MPs that the Commissioners have been “commended with a number of prizes for their . . . ethical investment strategy, which includes taking account of the risk that climate change does pose to investments.”

New Zealand debates ‘way forward’ on same-sex relationships

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 2:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The week-long biennial meeting of the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia gets underway tomorrow (Friday) and amongst the items for debate is the report by the “Way Forward Working Group” on the blessing of same-sex marriages.

The report, which was requested by the last meeting of the General Synod in 2014, proposes new liturgies for the blessing of civil marriages. In the case of New Zealand, this would include same-sex marriages, which have been lawful since 2013.

The working group say that the proposed new rites of blessing are “additional formularies” rather than doctrinal changes: “It is the view of the majority of the group that the proposed liturgies do not represent a departure from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ, and are therefore not prohibited by [the Church’s constitution], however the group also recognises that this will be a crucial matter for debate.”

The motion being debated by the General Synod next week asks members to accept the recommendations in the report and to “endorse in principle, for consideration, the proposed new formularies for use in public worship, and the changes to the canons of the Church set out in the report” but it says that the proposed changes should be forwarded to the dioceses of the church so that they can indicate “their assent or otherwise to the proposed changes” ahead of a further consideration by the next General Synod in 2018.

Two dioceses have already intervened. The Christchurch Diocesan Synod have proposed a motion that states that the General Synod “does not adopt any recommendations without first referring the report to the Synods . . . of this Church for discussion, and resources a significant period of education, discussion and discernment throughout this Church.”

And the Nelson Diocesan Synod have tabled a motion calling for “at least four years of intentional theological reflection, education and discussion across our Church on the substance and impact of the [proposed changes].”

The debate on the Way Forward Group’s report will take place on Monday. Other matters set to tax the mind of the General Synod during the next week include the issues of gender-based violence, child poverty, women’s leadership, the housing crisis and welcoming refugees.

On climate change, the General Synod will debate carbon offsetting and look at the disaster preparation of the Pacific islands.

Church order, ecumenical relationships and liturgical matters also will be discussed, including inter-changeability of Methodist and Anglican clergy, changes to the practice of confirmation, and vocations to the ordained ministry.

‘Building Bridges’ in Baltimore

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 1:43pm

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton stresses social sins of poverty and racism that lead to violence in our cities. He urged those at the community forum to “encounter Christ” in their neighbors. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

[Diocese of Maryland] The chasm separating police and the communities they serve can be bridged, but it will take a determined effort led by people of faith.

That sentiment highlighted a forum organized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. “Building Bridges,” as it was called, brought together a wide range of police, religious and community leaders. The conversation was part of the diocese’s on-going response to the violent uprising that convulsed Baltimore last year after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.

“I’ve never seen it as bad as it is today,” said Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, of the Baltimore City Police Department. “I see a collective collapse of the relationship between the police and the community.”

Baltimore Police Lt. Col. Melvin Russell told a forum that “community churches have become commuter churches.” He urged church members to get more involved with local police. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

Russell, chief of the department’s Community Collaboration Division, brought a decades-long perspective to his statement. He started his career in 1979 and can remember when police officers were seen as an integral part of the communities they patrolled. They were often friends and neighbors, not enemies and outsiders, he said.

The resulting paradigm shift and rupture of the positive relationship between the police and the community is often echoed in the way churches interact with their neighborhoods.

“We’re not community churches anymore. We’re commuter churches,” said Russell, adding that one of his goals is “to bring the churches out of their four walls and back into the community.”

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, challenged the overflow crowd attending the forum to engage with their neighbors, encounter the people in their communities, to pray and to organize.

“If we are not encountering Christ in our communities, then we are falling down on our responsibilities,” he said. “We can’t say we love our neighbors when we don’t even know our neighbors.”

Sutton also bemoaned what he called “the unholy trinity of racism, poverty and violence.” These factors are endemic throughout American society and constitute a social sin for which there must be a reckoning, he said.

“While we may not be participating, we allow a social sin to be done on our behalf,” said Sutton, adding that the country’s relationship with firearms amounts to a form of “idolatry.” “We have worshipped too long at the altar of the gun as the answer to our problems.”

Merrick Moises questions Bishop Sutton and Lt. Col. Russell about his congregation’s relationship with police in northwest Baltimore at a community forum. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

The suffering and destruction caused by firearms is enormous. Sutton said more than 30,000 people are killed each year in America by guns and rifles, with another 80,000 injured.

Though the challenges seem daunting, Sutton and Russell mentioned several programs throughout the city aimed at improving relationships, providing opportunities and helping people cope with some of the stresses brought on by the “unholy trinity.” The diocese is launching a summer scholars program to teach life skills for 30 ninth graders at Morgan State University. The police department is expanding its chaplain program to help officers talk about their struggles in a confidential setting. More than 100 ex-offenders got jobs last year through a new prison-to-work program.

Merrick Moise, a parishioner at the Church of the Holy Nativity in northwest Baltimore, said he would like to have a local police officer attend his church once a month and see the neighborhood in a different setting. This would help improve the relationship between the police and the people they serve.

He also hoped those attending the forum would be inspired to turn the evening’s conversation into action. This desire was one aim of the event, said the Rev. Canon Angela F. Shepherd, commission chairman. She wanted people to be “motivated to go back to their churches to build a bridge with the police in their communities.

When they do, they will be challenged to live out the prayer with which Bishop Sutton ended the meeting: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

And the people responded: “I will, with God’s help.”

Hope Benko to lead Seminary of the Southwest enrollment office

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 9:22am

The Rev. Hope Benko Photo: Seminary of the Southwest

[Seminary of the Southwest press release] Dean and President Cynthia Briggs Kittredge has announced the hire of the Rev. Hope Benko to director of enrollment at Seminary of the Southwest effective June 1, 2016. Hope comes to the seminary from All Saints’ Episcopal School in Fort Worth, Texas, where she has served as upper and middle school chaplain and religion teacher since 2011.

“I am looking forward to welcoming Hope to our campus for this important position. Her deep and broad connections throughout the Episcopal Church, her ministry as chaplain in an ecumenical student body at an Episcopal school and her degree in communication and marketing make her a wonderful fit for our team and our prospective student population at Seminary of the Southwest,” says Kittredge.

A lifelong Episcopalian, Benko has served parishes in the dioceses of Missouri and Western Louisiana. In the Diocese of Fort Worth she has served as priest-in-charge at St. Mary’s in Hillsboro and as deputy to General Convention in 2015.  She’s spent her ordained ministry deeply involved in Christian formation and looks forward to supporting the vital work of forming priests and counselors for the Church in her role as Director of Enrollment Management.  Benko is a graduate of Stephens College, where she studied mass communication and of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary.  Her husband, the Rev. Andrew Benko is finishing his dissertation for a Ph.D. in New Testament, and they have two children, aged 7 and 5.

Anglicans reach out to victims of Fort McMurray wildfire

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 9:08am

Many people in and around Fort McMurray have posted pictures on social media that capture the wildfires that forced 80,000 residents to evacuate. Photo: Instagram/stewartstrength via Anglican Journal

[Anglican Journal] As accounts of chaos and destruction emerge from firestorm-stricken Fort McMurray, Alberta, Anglicans across Canada are responding with help including financial aid, practical assistance and prayers.

“We’ve had offers of prayers and support from across the country,” Bishop Fraser Lawton, of the diocese of Athabasca, said  May 4. Parishes in the nearby towns of Lac la Biche, Athabasca and Boyle were all trying to reach out to evacuees and others affected by the disaster, he said.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) announced May 4 it would provide financial help, in as-yet unspecified amounts, to the dioceses of both Athabasca, in which Fort McMurray falls, and Edmonton, which has been offering assistance. It is also accepting donations toward relief efforts.

“PWRDF will respond through local Anglican channels as the needs become evident in the next few days,” PWRDF said in a prepared statement.

Also Wednesday, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, sent out a call to prayer for the people of the stricken city.

“This is a terrifying time for the residents,” Hiltz said. “I think particularly of how stressful this is for those who are critically ill and those who tend them under these very difficult circumstances.”

May 3, authorities issued a mandatory evacuation order for Fort McMurray after a wildfire that had been burning to the southwest, fanned by growing winds, suddenly began to approach and then engulf the city. As of press time Wednesday, at least 1,600 homes and other buildings were reported to have been destroyed, with more destruction feared as the fire “searched” for more fuel in as-yet-untouched neighbourhoods.

“This fire will look for them,” Fort McMurray fire chief Darby Allen said at a news conference Wednesday, “and it will find them, and it will try to take them.”

As of press time, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported as a result of the fire.

Reached by the Anglican Journal on his cell phone on the road from the stricken city, Compton Vigilance, a parishioner of Fort McMurray’s All Saints Anglican Church, said he heard that, after he’d left, smoke alarms had gone off in his house in the city’s Abasand district. He suspected the fire had consumed it and the entire neighborhood.

“I’m 90% sure that where I live, Abasand, is probably totaled—it’s probably gone,” he said.

“When the adrenaline was flowing yesterday, I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “But this morning…after getting phone calls and texts, it hit us, and with that, we are so thankful that the Lord has given us the opportunity to still be able to serve him and also to help others.

“But it is devastating, very devastating.”

Vigilance said he had been living in the city since 1979.

Several of Fort McMurray’s residential neighborhoods have been devastated by the fire. Photo: Instagram/ben3bennet via Anglican Journal

Fort McMurray’s official population is often given at 60,000, but its unofficial population includes tens of thousands more because of the city’s many temporary residents, Lawton said.Two main highways lead from the city—one to the north and one to the south. Tens of thousands of evacuees are reported to have fled in both directions.

Gas shortages, gridlocked highways and the proximity of the fire itself to the southbound highway—shut down for a few hours on Tuesday when the fire reached it—have all caused extreme stress to evacuees, Lawton said.

The Rev. Dane Neufeld, priest at All Saints, said the speed and power of the wildfire left him speechless.

“Yesterday I was at the church, and went for coffee around 12:30 and came back, and the sky was blue, and then it felt like there was a storm cloud coming overhead,” he said. “I went down to see what was going on, and we saw the smoke coming up over Abasand, and so we watched it for a few minutes, and I guess I figured I should get home. I started biking home, and across the bridge—by the time I got to the bridge, it was raining cinders and the whole horizon was on fire, basically.”

Some panic broke out as people realized the urgency of the situation, he said.

Neufeld said he and his family initially had to flee north, where there are few communities other than mining camps, because the highway south had been closed.

“We have four kids, and we have twin babies, so it wasn’t the most relaxing ride,” he said. “We’re all driving away, and in the rear-view mirror the city is on fire and you are wondering what is going to happen.

“It was crazy.”

Neufeld said he’d heard a number of families in the parish had lost their homes, with others suspecting but still unsure.

“Our home seems to be fine at present, but it’s another hot day with low humidity…so we don’t know,” he said.

As far as he knew, Neufeld says, the city’s two Anglican churches are still standing.

The Rev. Lesley Wheeler-Dame, priest at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Boyle, said she had driven northward toward Fort McMurray on Wednesday morning to bring gas and food to an Anglican family left stranded on the highway, and was struck by the sheer size of the exodus—and by the plain evidence of the inferno.

Fuel shortages left many cars stranded on the highway south of Fort McMurray. Photo: Instagram/mikemackenzie23 via Anglican Journal

“It was heartbreaking to see the line of traffic, and the slow, slow speed at which they were moving, and the ash all over people’s vehicles. That was really sad to see—it broke my heart,” she said. “Noticing the fear on some faces—not knowing where they’re going, for some.”

Some families have been divided by the fire. Wheeler-Dame said she herself was hosting a Lutheran pastor from Fort McMurray, who had fled south while her husband, in the rush to evacuate, had had to flee north of the city.

Many other Anglicans in nearby parishes, she said, are also offering to host evacuees or are otherwise helping with relief efforts.

“What was absolutely remarkable…was how people’s generosity came to the fore” once the disaster hit, Lawton said. Facebook pages to help victims were set up, and many people helped evacuees by driving out to give them extra gas and food, he said.

“My sister was evacuating, and they were among those who ran out of gas partway, and while they were waiting somebody stopped to see if they were OK and gave them water and granola bars,” he said.

The disaster will continue to mean suffering for many people long after the fire is put out, he said.

“People will need, eventually, everything,” he said. “They’re going to have to decide if they’re going back—that’s where their jobs have been, so if they go back, they don’t have a home to go back to and nothing to put in it, so they will need literally everything.”

In addition to housing and pastoral care, some people will likely need help with post-traumatic stress caused by the disaster, he said.

“The only thing we have to [help us] get our heads around this is a war situation, where an entire city is destroyed—that’s the closest thing I can think of,” he said.

Presiding Bishop joins landmark summit on Holy Land peacemaking

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 8:12am

Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (center) introduces Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (left) to His Beatitude Theophilus III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine (right), as the Rev. Robert Edmunds, the Episcopal Church’s Middle East partnership officer, looks on.

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined more than 100 church leaders from the Middle East and the United States at the Carter Center last month for an unprecedented summit focused on seeking a lasting two-state solution for peace in the Holy Land and ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.

“We honor the land that witnessed to the life and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ affirming his call to justice, peacemaking and to the ministry of justice and reconciliation,” the leaders said in a statement at the conclusion of their April 19-20 summit at the Atlanta-based center founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.

Curry described the event as an “unprecedented summit … to look at how we can be a force for good” for Israelis and Palestinians “to find a way forward and to help our governments find a way forward for a just and lasting peace for all of the people of the Holy Land.”

Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Curry were among the Palestinian and American leaders representing all the major Christian churches in the Holy Land and the United States at the two-day summit, titled “Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence.”

Curry said he was particularly struck by the words of the Mayor of Bethlehem Vera Baboun, a Palestinian Christian woman, who is trying “often against incredible odds to help Bethlehem truly be the city where Christ not only was born, but where the presence of Christ and the love of God is really known for all.”

For more than three decades the Carter Center – motivated by its motto of “waging peace, fighting disease, building hope” – has hosted landmark events committed to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. The center also has offices in East Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza.

“We feel this is one of the most important meetings at the Carter Center this year,” said Carter, addressing the conference.

The religious leaders affirmed their belief that a two-state solution “in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in neighborly relations and at peace with each other, must be viable politically, geographically, economically and socially.”

Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has largely controlled East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights in what are collectively identified as the Israeli-occupied territories.

The leaders said in their statement that any two-state solution must be based on the pre-1967 borders and the cessation of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories.

“The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands beyond the 1967 borders and measures and laws that continue to constrain and control the Palestinian population, in contravention of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, must end,” they said. “These actions prevent economic and social development, and constrain the exercise of political rights. We need to focus on bringing a new sense of equality, inclusivity, and mutual respect among all the citizens of the Land regardless of religious affiliation or ethnicity.”

Carter, who as U.S. president helped to broker the Camp David Accords in 1978 that formed a peace partnership between Israel and Egypt and returned control of the Sinai Peninsula, told the leaders that he fully agreed with this approach. “But it will not have any effect unless the churches and members here work on them jointly, enthusiastically and aggressively,” he said.

The Episcopal Church has long supported a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized state of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both.

The Episcopal Church’s most recent stance on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking was taken at General Convention in June 2015. Resolution B013 “reaffirms the vocation of the church as an agent of reconciliation and restorative justice,” and recognizes that “meaningful reconciliation can help to engender sustainable, long-lasting peace and that such reconciliation must incorporate both political action and locally driven grassroots efforts.”

Resolution C018 expresses solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories; affirms the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education, and pastoral care; and affirms the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, nonviolence training, and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians. The resolution also urges Episcopalians to demonstrate their solidarity by making pilgrimage to Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories and learning from fellow Christians in the region.

In Atlanta, the religious leaders also encouraged Christians to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to understand more deeply the history and nature of the conflict.

In addition to official Episcopal Church policy, several dioceses and networks also are engaged in Holy Land partnerships and advocacy, particularly in supporting the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and its more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. These institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities.

The diocese and the institutions also are supported by the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization established in 1985.

The Palestine Israel Network, part of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, has campaigned for more vigorous church policy to end the occupation, but the Episcopal Church has not supported its calls for boycotts and divestment against Israeli companies that profit from the occupation. Instead, the Episcopal Church supports a policy of positive investment.

Dawani addressed the Atlanta conference on the goal of churches in interfaith dialogue. “As a community we seek to act justly and walk humbly with our God. We seek to promote justice for everyone,” he said. “We are not seeking privileges or protection for our own communities. That is a trap which has brought devastation to various religious communities in our region. Everyone loses when one group is privileged. Even the privileged group loses in the end.”

In crafting their policy and adopting their action statement, the leaders said their focus was on “the example and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ on peacemaking [and] the dignity owed to all created in God’s image and kindling the hope that some day there will be a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land.”

Another source of major concern is the number of Christians who have left the Holy Land in search of better opportunities and more secure lives overseas.

“Churches and church-related organizations need to work together proactively to protect the existing and future presence of Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land,” the leaders said. “The current absence of a just political solution affects their presence and causes many of these Palestinian ‘living stones’ (Luke 19:40) to seek dignified life in freedom outside the troubled Holy Land. A just and peaceful solution is imperative and will contribute to protecting the presence and active participation and involvement of the Palestinian ‘living stones’ in the Holy Land and into a peaceful future.”

The full text and list of signatories is available here.

Other Episcopalians who attended the summit and signed the statement include the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, the Episcopal Church’s Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, the presiding bishop’s executive assistant.

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

Meghan Froehlich named missioner for transition ministry

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 2:08pm

The Rev. Meghan Froehlich

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has named the Rev. Meghan Froehlich as missioner for transition ministry, a member of the Presiding Bishop’s staff, following an extensive church-wide search.

Froehlich has served as acting missioner for transition ministry for the Episcopal Church since January 2015.

“During her time as acting missioner, Meghan has been a great support to the Transition Officers as well as clergy and laity in transition in the Episcopal Church,” said Curry. “She is also a master when it comes to talking to computers – that’s a rare combination and we are blessed and grateful that she is going to continue in this work.”

“I am honored to serve on the Presiding Bishop’s staff and to support the work of dioceses, bishops, the board for Transition Ministry, transition ministers, and all those in discernment and transition,” Froehlich said.

Froehlich was recommended to the presiding bishop by a search committee: Judy Stark, Diocese of Southwest Florida; Board of Transition Ministry Chair; Michael Spencer, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of East Michigan and Board of Transition Ministry Vice-Chair; Denise Obando, Transition Minister, Diocese of California; Karen Olson, Missioner for Ministry, Diocese of Minnesota; the Rev. Canon James Pritchett Jr., Canon to the Ordinary and Transition Ministry Officer, Diocese of Western North Carolina; John E. Colón, Episcopal Church Human Resources Director (Ex Officio); the Rev. Canon Michael B. Hunn, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministries Within the Episcopal Church (Ex Officio); Bronwyn Clark Skov, Team Leader, Episcopal Church Formation and Congregational Development and Officer, Youth Ministries (Ex Officio, Committee Facilitator);

“We’re delighted that Meghan has been chosen as the permanent missioner,” Stark said. “She is an experienced, invaluable resource and friend to the transition community. We look forward to working with her to serve and support that community and to develop creative strategies at a time of interesting challenges and great opportunities in the church today.”

As missioner for transition ministry, her duties include overseeing the programmatic, managerial and budgetary responsibilities for the Episcopal Church Office of Transition Ministry, working with clergy, dioceses, transition ministers throughout the church, and laity.  She will also analyze the employment needs and trends in the Episcopal Church in order to plan strategically and offer recommendations for transition ministry programs to enhance the ministry of transition with an emphasis on spiritual health and wellness.

Prior to her service as acting missioner, Froehlich was the interim canon to the ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and has served as the rector or assistant rector of churches in the dioceses of Ohio, Dallas and Western North Carolina. She has also been a chaplain, a faculty member of Fresh Start, a consultant and executive leadership coach.

She holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Divinity School of Duke University and a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Old Dominion University in Virginia.  She was ordained a priest in June 2000 in the Diocese of Western North Carolina.

Froehlich’s office is based in Ohio. She can be reached at mfroehlich@episcopalchurch.org.

 

Bishop laments murder of minister for religious minorities

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 1:58pm

Bishop of Peshawar Humphrey S. Peters pays tribute to Sardar Soran Singh during the funeral prayers in the Gurdwara.
Photo: Frontier News/Diocese of Peshawar

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Pakistani provincial government minister for minority religious affairs has been shot and killed in the northwest of the country.

Sardar Soran Singh was a member of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly; holding one of the seats reserved for religious minorities. In 2013 he was appointed special advisor on minorities affairs to the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pervez Khan Khattak.

The reserved seats in the assembly for religious minorities are not filled by election but by appointment. The next on the list to take Soran Singh’s place, Baldev Kumar, has now been charged with orchestrating the attack. Singh was killed on April 29 when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on his car in his home district of Buner, some 100 miles northeast of Peshawar City.

Chief minister Khattak has vowed to block Kumar’s place in the legislative assembly unless he is acquitted in court. Pakistani media report that he has confessed to the police.

Bishop of Peshawar Humphrey S. Peters was one of a large number of people to pay tribute to Soran Singh and his work building inter-faith harmony. Peters made a personal visit to the Singh family home to pay condolences; and spoke in the Gurdwara at the funeral prayers to pay tribute to Singh and to show solidarity with the Sikh community.

“Today I have lost a very special friend in Soran Singh, and his services for the minorities and for the interfaith harmony will never be forgotten,” Bishop Peters told reporters.

“Sardar Soran Singh was one of those who rise to glory in a blink an eye,” the Diocese of Peshawar said. “Although he was a renowned political worker and promoter of interfaith harmony in the region, he came into the lime light after becoming special advisor on minorities affairs to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khan Khattak in 2013.”

The murder of Soran Singh was marked by the legislative assembly with a resolution agreed by both government and opposition parties calling for his family to receive housing and funding for his children; recognizing that following his death, the family now have no means of sustaining themselves.

Isle of Man bishop votes against same-sex marriage law

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 1:43pm

Bishop of Sodor and Man Robert Paterson

[Anglican Communion News Service] The legislature on the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency located in the Irish Sea between the north-west coast of England and Northern Ireland, has approved a bill to enable same-sex couples to marry on the island. The bishop of Sodor and Man, a member of the island’s parliament, voted against the bill.

The island’s bicameral parliament, the Tynwald, is the oldest in the world. The lower house, the House of Keys, has 25 members; while the upper house, the Legislative Council, has 11 members, including whoever is serving as the island’s bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Robert Paterson described the Bill as a “well-intentioned mistake”, IOM Today reports. “The problem we are faced with as legislators is the human body and the nature of sexuality. Wouldn’t it be convenient if with Royal Assent we could abolish all difference and distinction in sexuality? But we can’t and to pretend otherwise cannot be honest. Talking about equality of status simply confuses things. It’s spin.”

Since 2011, same-sex couples on the Isle of Man were able to enter civil partnerships – a legal status giving them similar inheritance, tax, and pension rights as married couples. The new bill extends civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. Paterson described this move as creating “two duplicate sets of relationships” and warned that “it will be train crash waiting to happen.”

The Isle of Man’s Legislative Council approved the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Amendment) Bill by six votes to three. It will come into effect after it receives Royal Assent.

Virginia Bishop Suffragan Susan Goff made assisting bishop of Liverpool in historic appointment

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 9:43am

Diocese of Virginia Bishop Suffragan Susan Goff. Photo: Shrine Mont Retreat Center

[Diocese of Virginia] A historic moment in the lives of the dioceses of Virginia and Liverpool occurred May 2 at Shrine Mont Retreat Center when Virginia Bishop Suffragan Susan Goff was commissioned by Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia, and Paul Bayes, bishop of Liverpool, as assisting bishop of Liverpool.

Bayes presented the letters commissary to Goff and both Bayes and Johnston prayed over her while the room spontaneously rose to its feet with applause, love and affection. The dioceses of Liverpool and Virginia are companion dioceses, focusing on Jesus and Justice, that together, a bigger church might make a bigger difference in the world. As part of the link, Goff has visited Liverpool and her ministry of teaching and support has been very much welcomed not just by women in the diocese but by all.

“The link with the Diocese of Virginia has been important to us in Liverpool for many years,” said Bayes. “At my installation eighteen months ago it was a privilege to welcome Bishop Shannon Johnston as a guest of honor. Now, with Bishop Susan Goff’s appointment as one of our assisting bishops, we are able to strengthen our bond still further. Bishop Susan is no stranger to Liverpool and we look forward to being enriched by her wisdom as a teacher and pastor of pastors whenever she visits us.”

Among Goff’s first responsibilities in Liverpool, she will be sharing in the ordination of priests with Bayes in June and speaking at the clergy conference in July. Goff will continue to reside in Virginia but will make trips to Liverpool, in addition to using technology, to connect the dioceses and support our ministries. Her appointment deepens our long-standing missional relationship which includes parish to parish links, youth pilgrimages, sabbaticals, joint mission trips, and even a connection between two preschools.

“What I most look forward to and am most excited about in this new relationship is the ways we will teach and learn from each other,” said Goff. “We share many common experiences across our two dioceses but we also have unique experiences in terms of what it means to be the church now in the beginning of the 21st century. And I look forward to what I will learn from Bishop Paul and from the diocese of Liverpool and to the things that I’ll be able to share from our experiences here in Virginia. I anticipate through that both dioceses will grow in our strength and faithfulness.”

This appointment comes with the blessing of the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

 

Ways and resources to observe World Refugee Day on June 20

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 1:49pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] In 2000, the United Nations named June 20 as World Refugee Day, deeming it an annual opportunity to celebrate the resilience and success of the former refugees who bless our communities with their wisdom and irrepressible spirit and to examine the root causes of violence and persecution that force people to flee at an alarming rate.

This year, The Episcopal Church, in partnership with congregations, volunteers and our network of 30 local affiliate offices in 26 states will welcome more than 5,000 refugees to the United States from 32 countries, from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Afghanistan, and Syria.

“With more than 60 million displaced people across the globe, our work to welcome refugees to the United States is more important than ever,” commented Deborah Stein, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries. “To raise awareness and support, Episcopalians across the church are encouraged to find a local World Refugee Day activity or plan one of their own.”

The following are suggestions, ideas and resources to observe World Refugee Day:

  • Join Episcopal Migration Ministries and Episcopal Public Policy Network on May 12 at 7 pm Eastern for a #RefugeesWelcome World Refugee Day planning free webinar: register here.
    • Find a local World Refugee Day event on our interactive events map here.
    • Host a #RefugeesWelcome dinner to support new Americans living in your community; ideas are here.
    • Lift up prayers for refugees in your congregation. Worship materials are here.
    • Start a conversation in your congregation and community about how you can be involved in this life-saving work. World Refugee Day bulletin insert and planning materials found here.
    • Volunteer for this life-saving ministry through one of our local partners. The affiliate network map is here.
    • Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network to learn more about how you can work with local and elected leaders to support refugees; info here.

All resources are here.

For more information, contact Allison Duvall, Manager for Church Relations and Engagement, aduvall@episcopalchurch.org, 212-716-6027.

Prayer for World Refugee Day
Written by #ShareTheJourney pilgrim Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Ministry Director and Contemporary Music Director at Trinity Episcopal Church, The Woodlands, Texas:

Gracious God, we pray for our newest neighbors, that those families who have sought refuge from the ravages of war and violence may find not only shelter and sustenance, but also a loving and supportive community in which to create a new beginning with dignity. Amen.

Church praise for Leicester City Premier League success

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 12:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishop and dean of Leicester have added their voices to a growing international chorus of praise for Leicester City Football Club after their unlikely success in winning this season’s English Premier League title. Victory was confirmed when nearest challengers Tottenham Hotspur failed to beat Chelsea last night; but the team will have to wait until Saturday’s clash with Everton before they can lift the trophy.

Leicester’s victory in clinching the Premier League trophy has come as a surprise to most people in football – including Leicester themselves; and the victory brought television crews from all over the world to the city to record interviews for news and sport programs.

Many have linked the success to the recent discovery of the remains of King Richard III under a city center car park and his subsequent interment in Leicester Cathedral. But the Diocese of Leicester says that “in the end it’s down to exceptional playing by an exceptional team, in a remarkable city.”

Leicester’s new bishop, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Snow, will be enthroned a week after the football club are handed the trophy. He commented: “Just as I arrive, the city takes off!

“This is a superb achievement by the Foxes and I want to add my congratulations to those flooding in from around the world. The impact of this on the city and county is huge and will last for many years to come. They’ve made a lot of people very happy.”

The dean of Leicester, the Very Rev. David Monteith, said: “This is not a fairy tale. It is real and it speaks of the growing confidence of this city. We see again what the church proclaims – a diverse team working in a diverse community with a common purpose can reshape the world. Huge congratulations to the Foxes”

Gongs and plaudits for Church of England’s ethical investment stance

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 12:26pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church Commissioners for England have been ranked joint tenth out of 500 of the world’s largest investment funds and given an AAA rating over their performance in tackling climate change. The list was produced by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) for its 2016 Report on the world top 500 investors, which was published May 2. Together, the 500 funds under review manage a total of $38 trillion assets.

There are only three “new entries” in this year’s top 10 from the 2015 list. Pensionskassernes Administration A/S (PKA) pension fund in Denmark have gone from 12th place to sixth place; and the French-based pension fund Etablissement de retraite additionnelle de la Fonction Publique (ERAFP) moved from 13th place to joint tenth place with the Church Commissioners.

The Church Commissioners are the only fund to have entered this year’s top ten from outside last year’s 500. “The Church Commissioners for England have gone straight to the top, gaining a AAA rating for their awareness and action on climate risk,” the AODP said. “They are very active on the engagement front, driving many of the shareholder resolutions being presented to boards.”

On May 25, shareholders of ExxonMobil will vote on a motion co-sponsored by the Church Commissioners which will force the company to disclose its plans for responding to climate change following the COP21 climate change agreement on limiting the rise of global temperatures to just two degrees Celsius.

The board of ExxonMobil attempted to block the motion but the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that it must be put to shareholders. Since that ruling, institutional investors responsible for some $6 trillion of investment have said that they are backing the Church Commissioners’ move.

Last year shareholders at ExxonMobil’s competitors Shell and BP backed similar motions after the boards of both companies said they supported the Church Commissioners’ call.

A separate C of E fund, the Church of England Pensions Board, is another new entry in the top 500; coming in at 29th place on the list. It has been given an A rating.

In a separate move, the Church Commissioners won two categories at this year’s Portfolio Institutional Awards last week. It took home the prize for the Best Charity / Fund / Trust for the first time since 2013; and also the award for Best Implementation of Responsible Investment for the second year in a row.

“We’re delighted to see the hard work of our whole investment team on responsible investment and climate change recognized,” the Head of Responsible Investment for the Church Commissioners, Edward Mason, said. “Our investments allow us to fund the church’s activities across the country, as well as giving us an opportunity to engage with companies on a range of issues.

“It is good to see that this work resonates with others in the investment community.”

The Church Commissioners for England were established by the British Parliament to support the work and mission of the Church of England; they manage a number of historic assets, including an investment fund of £6.7 billion. In 2014, they distributed £215 million to support the mission and ministry of the Church of England; making them the third largest U.K. charitable giver and the 14th largest globally.