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NGO with Episcopal ties addresses forced displacement in Central America

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 4:45pm

A family of four joins a caravan as it leaves Plaza Salvador del Mundo on Oct. 31, 2018. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – San Salvador, El Salvador] Families with small children, single mothers and their babies, young men and women, adolescents, the elderly, they all gathered on a late October morning at the Plaza Salvador del Mundo here to form a caravan and begin the long walk north through El Salvador, across Guatemala and Mexico, and, for some, eventually, to the U.S. border.

The Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations compiled “A Faithful Response to the Caravan: Five Things to Know.” 

It was the second of three caravans to depart that day from the plaza, where a statue features Jesus Christ, savior of the world, standing atop planet Earth. Some 250 people – many carrying just backpacks and bottled water, some lugging large suitcases that would prove hard to maneuver within blocks of the journey – left in the second caravan; others would join them along the way for the 2,600-plus-mile journey. The caravans leaving El Salvador followed one that departed Honduras earlier in the month.

Carla, 29, and her 4-year-old son, Anderson Roberto, were among the second Salvadoran caravan to leave that day. Carla volunteered her last name, but in interest of safety it’s withheld. A mother of three, she left her 8- and-2-year-old daughters behind with her father; it would be too difficult to travel with three children, she said. She wants to give her son a better life, and to get a job to provide for her family. It was a decision Carla said she has contemplated for five years. As she spoke, Anderson Roberto cried and held tight to her leg.

Carla, 29, and her son Anderson Roberto, 4, were among the 250-some people leaving San Salvador in a caravan on Oct. 31, 2018. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Across Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, more than 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced by violence. Forced displacement – whether or not it is recognized – has become a political issue regionally, and in the United States, where President Donald Trump has called economic migrants and asylum seekers an “assault on our country,” and his administration has deployed 8,000 troops to the border. The president has vowed to deny asylum claims of migrants who attempt to enter the United States illegally, meaning not through a designated point-of-entry.

Already, they’re arriving at the border

Hundreds of Central American migrants arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, on Nov. 14, and more followed on Nov. 15, as city officials scrambled to offer shelter in what could be an extended stay.

The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande is sponsoring a Border Ministries Summit in El Paso, Texas, Nov. 16-18. Episcopal News Service will provide coverage.

“These are not delinquents,” said Celia Medrano, regional program director for Cristosal, a San Salvador-based nongovernment organization with Episcopal ties that receives support from the church. Medrano monitored the caravans’ movement through El Salvador via a WhatsApp group. “They are not bad people, they are people looking for work and fleeing violence.”

As was the case with Jose Antonio, 34, who two years ago lost his job at a supermarket where he’d worked for 15 years. Jose Antonio, who declined to give his last name, his wife, Daisy, 34, and their two children, Maria, 11, who wore a “Frozen” cap – Disney merchandising from the popular film – and Uriel, 4, who wore a “Cars” cap.

The family had been living with Daisy’s parents in Mejicanos, where a ditch controlled by gang members ran behind the house. The family carried enough food for two days, planned to ask for help in Mexico and, perhaps, eventually would join relatives in Los Angeles.

Migrants have been traveling in caravans since the 1990s; the one that left Honduras in early October is one of the biggest in history. The caravans’ size and visibility break with the paradigm of clandestine border crossings sometimes aided by human smugglers.

“The caravans represent a change in that pattern,” said Noah Bullock, executive director of Cristosal and an Episcopal Church-appointed missionary.

Recent data shows that many people lack the social and familial networks and the resources to displace internally, and therefore, see caravans as a viable option, Bullock said.

“What’s changed about immigration is it’s no longer a lone Mexican crossing the border to find a job. It’s Central American children and families showing up at the border applying for asylum or trying to find protection, that’s what’s changed about it,” he said. “So even with these caravans you still don’t have an increase in numbers that even moves the net immigration. Immigration isn’t at 10-year high, it’s at a low. And when you compare that to movements of migrants elsewhere in the world, it’s still really small, so you have a problem in these three countries that’s grave. It needs a solution and it’s totally manageable. If you decide to manage it.”

Cristosal’s Episcopal ties, support

Cristosal began in 2000 as a partnership between Episcopal clergy in the United States and El Salvador. It later became an independent non-governmental organization with a $2 million budget that has grown from three employees in 2010 to more than 60 in three countries thanks to a U.S. International Aid and Development grant, though it still maintains close ties to the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians donate $350,000 to the organization’s annual budget.

Cristosal has offices in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The USAID grant was awarded to increase knowledge about forced displacement caused by violence and to support the development of models to address it, as well as to establish a regional mechanism for tracking and monitoring forced displacement in the Northern Triangle; building capacity in the three Northern Triangle countries for the creation of national protection systems specific to internal displacement, and piloting regional solutions that will improve community-based protection for displaced people.

Many young men and women, families and elderly persons joined the caravan that departed San Salvador, El Salvador, on Oct. 31, 2018. It was the second of three caravans to leave for the north that day. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“What we are so uncomfortable with is the idea that Central Americans are making rational decisions; that families might be assessing their situation at home as so grave that doing crazy things like sending their children unaccompanied or walking to the United States or whatever it would be, is actually a really rational decision.”

Government leaders and officials don’t want to acknowledge that migrants are making a rational because to do so “would raise responsibilities of the state to protect people, to protect human rights; it challenges the traditional immigration narrative that is largely [portrayed as] people coming for jobs and not people fleeing some of the most violent countries in the world.”

For instance, he said, Iraq has a homicide rate of 15 per 100,000 and in El Salvador, even after a reduction in the homicide rate, is still at 60 per 100,000. Since 2014, 7,0000 children have died in El Salvador, said Bullock.

“You are much more likely as a Central American and as a poor Central American to die a violent death than you are living in war zones in other parts of the world, yet so it’s more convenient when immigration is drop-by-drop and clandestine. And now that it’s visible it should be seen as protest,” he said. “The people are protesting, protesting that their national countries don’t provide options for protection and freedom from fear… and protest that when they cross an international border, they find no place on planet Earth where they can pursue legitimate ends in life.”

A global phenomenon

Forced displacement is an international phenomenon affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide, a population larger than that of the United Kingdom.

In El Salvador alone, an estimated 296,000 people are internally displaced, meaning they’ve been forced to flee their homes, but have not yet crossed a border, whereas in Honduras, a conservative estimate puts the number at 190,000. In Guatemala, the number exceeds 242,000.

Of the three Northern Triangle countries, only Honduras has recognized the existence of forced displacement, establishing a national commission to study and document cases. That’s about to change, however. In July, as a result of Cristosal’s work, El Salvador’s Supreme Court gave the government six months to officially recognize forced displacement by violence in the country, design special legislation and policies for the protection and assistance of victims and make victims of displacement a priority in the national budget.

“It’s the governments’ responsibility to protect its citizens. It’s a security issue,” said Elizabeth Ferris, during an Oct. 29 talk at the University of Central America. “There’s a short-term need to address migrants’ needs, and in the long-term a reduction in violence and to recover territory.”

Ferris, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration and a former director of the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, was in El Salvador to provide technical expertise to advance the legislation. Forty countries recognize forced displacement, but only 11 or 12 have strategies to address it, said Ferris.

As early as 2013, individuals and families began showing up at Cristosal’s office seeking assistance, some of them referred by the U.S. Embassy because at the time the Anglican-Episcopal Church of El Salvador resettled refugees through Cristosal’s office.   

“It even took a long time for us to learn the language around displacement. First it was people affected by extortion and gang violence, and there are some who are refugees, and then we learned about internal displacement,” said Bullock.

And then, in 2014, 69,000 unaccompanied minors, mothers and children arrived at the U.S. border, bringing attention to the high number of people forcibly displaced by violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The number on the Southwest border dropped to 59,692 in 2016 and to 41,435 in 2017, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Before the child migrant crisis in 2014 there was no context to advocate or even talk about displacement by violence in Central America, and so when the child migrant crisis happened there was a lot of pressure on the U.S. government to come to the region and find out what could be done,” he said. “That was the first time that violence was linked to migration in a really visible way for the U.S. public.”

By then, Cristosal had two to three years’ practical experience dealing with forced displacement by violence. USAID recognized its work and encouraged Cristosal to expand its presence and develop an adaptive response beyond El Salvador and into Honduras and Guatemala.

Still, it was the support of Episcopal churches and individual Episcopalians that allowed Cristosal to become one of the foremost organizations addressing forced displacement in the Northern Triangle. 

“The important things for Episcopalians to know is that Cristosal’s ability to work on an issue that nobody wanted, before anybody else was willing to fund it, was wholly supported by Episcopalians who believed in us,” said Bullock. “That support allowed us to become a regional leader in developing a response, and that’s something we never want to lose: our Episcopal support base allows us to be independent and take risks and develop response and then move donors to our issues as we scale. That’s what worked for us. And, so we want to keep doing that.”

2014 also marked the 30th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration, which amended the 1951 refugee convention and the 1967 protocol definition of what it means to be a refugee: “persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.”

The Obama administration responded to the unaccompanied minor crisis by increasing security at the border, detention and interdiction by Mexico, of minors and families seeking refuge in the United States. Trump made curbing immigration a centerpiece of his election campaign. Then in the first eight months of 2018, Customs and Border Control agents detained more than 252,000 people – 32,371 unaccompanied minors and 59,113 families at the Southwest border and the administration began separating families. The family separation policy coincided with the first caravan’s arrival, when, of the several hundred members who requested protection, 95 percent were found to have a credible fear of persecution and were referred for a full hearing in the immigration courts, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

On Oct. 22, Trump threatened to cut aid to Central America if countries did not act to stop the flow of migrants.

In advance of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Trump used the caravans as a scare tactic, and his political team produced an ad portraying immigrants as a violent threat. U.S. TV and social networks pulled the ad and denounced it as racist.  Trump’s White House’s reductions to the nation’s refugee resettlement program show an interest in limiting more than just illegal immigration.

The United States was a worldwide leader in refugee resettlement just two years ago, when more than 80,000 refugees were welcomed into the country with help from the nine agencies with federal contracts to do that work, including Episcopal Migration Ministries. That number has dwindled under the Trump administration, which announced Sept. 17 it would reduce resettlement further, to no more than 30,000 a year.

The 1980 Refugee Act guarantees a person’s right to ask for asylum. And it was a civil war and a refugee crisis that has contributed to the current violence in El Salvador.

“When Salvadoran refugees left in the 1980s, three percent were recognized as refugees, forcing Salvadorans who came to the United States to marginal parts of our cities where they became gang members, and then were deported back to their countries of origin, which gives us the basis of the current violence that is driving people out,” said Bullock.

The region has a strategic interest in promoting safety and security in Central America, “because un-stabilized, unprotected people destabilize,” said Bullock.

Civil conflict and ‘transitional justice’

From 1980 to1992, El Salvador suffered a brutal civil war fought between its U.S.-backed, military led-government and a coalition of guerilla groups, organized as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, or FMLN. The war was fueled mostly by the gross inequalities that existed between a small group of wealthy elites who controlled the government and the economy and the majority of the population, which lived in extreme poverty.

The 1992 Peace Accords’ negotiations included the formation of a truth commission to investigate human rights violations that occurred during the civil war. However, a 1993 amnesty law made it impossible to prosecute war crimes and reform the justice system, and police and military forces, leading to weak democratic institutions and persistent impunity and discrimination against victims. People who had political and economic power maintained it after the war ended.

In 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared that the amnesty law could not protect those responsible for the massacre at El Mozote, where government soldiers killed some 800 people, half of them children, in December 1981.

In post-war El Salvador, grassroots human rights and social justice organizations have played a key role in protecting the historical memory and bringing these cases out of the shadows of history. In 2016, Cristosal began using strategic litigation to get justice for victims and aimed at ending the long-standing culture of impunity and is working on both the El Mozote and the 1982 El Calabozo massacres.

“Strategic litigation,” explained David Morales, Cristosal’s director of strategic litigation and El Salvador’s former human rights ombudsman, is a way of providing “transitional justice,” which is a political and social process aimed at applying justice and addressing grave human rights abuses and holding perpetrators of violence accountable.

“Cristosal focuses its legal actions on cases that will have a lot of impact,” said Morales. “Impunity today is linked to impunity in the past … decades of dictatorships, systematic human rights abuses. The state never created a support system for victims.”

–Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

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Dallas bishop’s plan for allowing same-sex marriage involves Missouri bishop’s oversight

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 1:37pm

Dallas Bishop George Sumner, shown here in an image from an online video released after the 79th General Convention, has announced his plans for allowing parishes to use same-sex marriage rites in their churches.

[Episcopal News Service] Three parishes in the Diocese of Dallas have asked to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies under a General Convention compromise with Bishop George Sumner and other conservative diocesan bishops, and Sumner announced this week that Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith will provide pastoral oversight of those three parishes.

The move, as outlined in Resolution B012 approved in July, will allow the parishes to begin offering the church-approved trial-use rites. The resolution requires bishops who disapprove of same-sex marriage because of their theological beliefs to ask fellow bishops to assist.

The rites were first approved for use in 2015, but eight bishops still refused to allow them in their churches leading up to the 79th General Convention. Since passage of B012, the response from those eight has varied dramatically. Virgin Island Bishop Ambrose Gumbs, for example, reversed himself and now will allow the rites, while Albany Bishop William Love announced last weekend he intends to defy General Convention and prohibit the rites.

Sumner, after initially blocking same-sex marriages in his diocese, backed the compromise in July and began working on a plan for implementation with congregations interested in marrying same-sex couples. The three congregations so far, all in the city of Dallas, Texas, are Episcopal Church of the AscensionEpiscopal Church of the Transfiguration and Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle.

“Bishop Smith is a person of humor, intelligence, wisdom, and faith, and I am grateful for his heart to help us in this way. He is also a Texan happy to minister in the Lone Star State,” Sumner said in an online statement posted Nov. 14. “Both he and I share the hope that the three parishes will continue to invite me annually to come to preach, teach, and share in worship.”

The arrangement for another bishop to accept pastoral oversight is similar to the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO, that parishes churchwide may request if they feel at odds theologically with their diocesan bishop. In such cases, the parishes that receive pastoral oversight from an outside bishop remain part of their home diocese.

“All the costs associated with this arrangement will be borne by the [Dallas] diocese,” Sumner said. “The parishes’ obligations and privileges within the Diocese of Dallas continue unchanged.”

The Diocese of Missouri also announced the arrangement on its website.

“I’m very pleased that we’ll be able to offer the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples,” the Rev. Paul Klitzke, rector at Ascension, told Episcopal News Service. “I’m also happy that pastorally we’ll be able to refer to those who’ve been married already as married, which given the current canons of the Diocese of Dallas has been in question.”

Klitzke, however, also hinted at mixed feelings about the plan, which will mark a break with the pastoral oversight previously provided by Sumner. The bishop intends to delegate all sacramental and liturgical oversight of the three parishes to Smith, not just their use of the same-sex marriage rites. Springfield Bishop Dan Martens has taken a similar position on implementation of B012 in his Illinois diocese.

“We wish [Sumner] could still be our bishop,” Klitzke said. He thinks more congregations in the diocese would have asked to use the same-sex marriage rites “if it didn’t mean a change in the relationship with bishop diocesan.”

The Rev. Casey Shobe, rector at Transfiguration, told ENS in August he hoped to have a “significant celebration and renewal of vows” next year for couples who married elsewhere rather than waiting for that opportunity in their Dallas church, and he expects a number of same-same sex couples to get married at the church in the coming year or two.

Shobe wasn’t immediately available by phone Nov. 15 but said in August that a plan for outside pastoral oversight “would result in Transfiguration experiencing a big leap forward on a set of matters that are deeply important to us, which have consistently kept us at odds with our bishop in the past.”

A gay couple at Ascension had been interested in marrying, but tragically, one of the two partners died suddenly this year before their ceremony could occur at the church. Resolution B012 takes effect on Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent. “There was definitely heartbreak over that here,” Klitzke said.

No other gay or lesbian couple has yet requested to be married at Ascension, but that door is now open.

“We felt it was important to take this step without someone in waiting, because intention matters,” Klitzke said. “In order for us to be welcoming to those who might want to be married, we need to be ready.”

Until this year, the eight dioceses blocking same-sex marriage were Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands. Seven of the eight bishops have indicated they intend to implement B012, however reluctantly, though the specific plans differ from diocese to diocese.

Only Love has said explicitly that he will not accept or implement the resolution, potentially setting up a legal showdown with the church and diocesan clergy who are interested in moving forward with same-sex ceremonies in their congregations.

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

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California Episcopalians connect, deepen community amid devasting wildfires

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 11:49am

A man walks through a neighborhood threatened by flames as the Woolsey Fire burns in Malibu, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. Eric Thayer/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service – Los Angeles, California] California Episcopalians –still reeling from the deadliest wildfires in the state’s history—say they are gathering strength and resilience through community connections and an outpouring of love and concern from across the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Ann Sullivan’s northern California home was destroyed in the Camp Fire but on Nov. 14, she was making plans to retrieve computers and sacred items from the relatively untouched St. Nicholas Church in Paradise.

“The parish administrator and I will have office space at St. John’s Church in Chico” as recovery efforts continue, Sullivan told Episcopal News Service in a telephone interview.

She was also trying to connect displaced parishioners with St. John’s members who had opened their homes to fire victims. “Everyone I know who lived in Paradise lost their home,” Sullivan said. The Camp Fire, which began Nov. 8, is considered the deadliest blaze in California history, killing 56 people, destroying more than 130,000 acres of land and 7,600 dwellings. At least 130 people are missing and the death toll is expected to rise.

Meanwhile, St. John’s, some 14 miles away in Chico, has become a hub for recovery activity and is ready to shelter the displaced, if necessary, according to the Rev. Richard Yale, rector.

Yale said he was amazed that St. Nicholas’ Church in Paradise sustained only superficial damage. “It was right there, in the heart of what was burning, and it’s still here.” As for the rest of the city of 26,000: “Paradise is gone. There’s no infrastructure left.

“Most lost their homes. Those who didn’t lose their homes now have homes in an uninhabitable city, so there are all levels of needs here, pastoral needs, financial needs, ongoing needs,” he said.

Similarly, in Southern California, more than a dozen church members and preschool families lost their Malibu area homes in the Woolsey and Hill fires, but St. Aidan’s Church was untouched, according to the Rev. Joyce Stickney, rector.

“I went back on Saturday and there was ash everywhere and smoke but the flames somehow came right up to the edge of our brand-new driveway, but they didn’t jump over.”

She added: “It’s such a state of shock driving on Pacific Coast Highway and everywhere, it’s black and burnt to a crisp. The electrical poles are split in half and falling down.”

While checking on parishioner’s homes, “that’s when you started weeping,” she said. “You’d see a neighborhood and one home is standing and looked like there wasn’t even a fire. The next home is completely burned to the ground.”

The fires broke out Nov. 7 and have consumed an estimated 97,620 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, roughly the size of the city of Denver. More than 435 structures have been destroyed and a third body was discovered Wednesday, Nov. 14, as gusting Santa Ana winds continued to hamper firefighters’ efforts to fight the blaze.

Yet Stickney planned a Nov. 14 community meal and evening prayer service at the Church of the Epiphany in Oak Park “for anyone who wants to come, and to begin assessing what are their needs and what kind of services people can start providing right away,” she said.

“We’re going to find out. Some people have called me directly; others are still scrambling.”

In Oak Park, flames charred landscaping and vegetation around Epiphany Church, located on Churchwood Drive where several homes did not survive the blaze. Neither church buildings nor the congregation’s vineyard suffered damage, according to the Rev. Greg Brown, vicar.

The Very Rev. Canon Michael Bamberger, rector of Ascension Church in Sierra Madre and chair of the Los Angeles diocesan disaster relief task force, said he was making a presentation in the Diocese of Northern California when the Camp Fire erupted.

Bamberger, a member of the Episcopal Relief & Development Partners in Response and Resilience team, said the agency is partnering with both dioceses to coordinate with local congregations to provide emergency support.

In Northern California, a disaster relief team at St. John’s, Chico, is already distributing emergency supplies such as gas, clothing, food and other basic needs.

In Los Angeles, daily coordination calls with bishops, local clergy and key diocesan disaster leaders is underway, he said. The diocese is also paying close attention to pastoral needs and the impact to vulnerable communities.

“Assessment is ongoing as the fires are not full contained yet,” said Lura Steele, program officer for the U.S. Disaster Programs at Episcopal Relief & Development, in a statement on the agency’s website.

“We will continue to work with our local partners to respond to the needs of those affected,” she said.

Local clergy said the support and outpouring of love has been overwhelming and heartwarming.

In addition to ongoing diocesan support, Yale said they had heard from congregations around “our diocese, neighboring dioceses, from across the country. Even St. Paul’s Church in Poughkeepsie, New York, reached out to them.

“A member there had received wonderful pastoral care in a family crisis here 25 years ago … she mobilized her church to raise funds,” he said.

Stickney also felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. People are “still in a state of shock. The outpouring of services, support, resources has been so moving, and that in itself is healing,” she said.

The grim reality of the fires has underscored the importance of family and community, added Sullivan and Stickney.

“At least we got out safely,” said Sullivan who evacuated early with her three children.

“There is an increased sense of community which is really, really good. I think the message here is that material things really are not what’s important. What’s important is community and caring about each other, being in relationship with each other.  It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

A St. Aidan’s preschool family lost everything but is amazingly resilient, Stickney recalled. “The mom told me she went back and looked at her home. She wept. She took pictures. And then she said, ‘I’m ready to build again.’”

And another parishioner, wrote to her via email: “We were escorted by police into Malibu yesterday. We saw our home and community, and put some closure on the losses and began the healing process. We remembered Isaiah 61:3 … about beauty from the ashes. We will all together create a more beautiful Malibu and community spirit.”

To donate to for Northern California disaster relief, please click here.

Or make checks out to EDNC with “Disaster Relief” in the memo line. Mail to:

The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California
350 University Avenue, Suite 280
Sacramento, CA 95825

In Los Angeles, donations may be made to the diocesan Fire and Mudslide Relief Fund may be made online at here. Priority is placed on disbursement of aid to the region’s low-income and otherwise most vulnerable who might not otherwise receive relief amid the disaster.

 

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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Tensions rise in Diocese of Albany over bishop’s rejection of same-sex marriage compromise

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 5:45pm

[Episcopal News Service] Albany Bishop William Love’s refusal to accept a General Convention compromise on same-sex marriage has sent shockwaves through his New York diocese, with his supporters and those who oppose his decision both expressing uncertainty about what will happen next.

“We were not prepared for the level of condemnation and venom in his letter,” said Nadya Lawson, a vestry member at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The Albany congregation is known for supporting the LGBTQ community and has advocated for use of same-sex marriage rites.

Bishop William Love has led the Diocese of Albany for nearly 12 years. Photo: Diocese of Albany

Love called homosexuality “sinful and forbidden” in a pastoral letter that outlined his decision to block the use of those rites in the diocese. The decision makes him the only Episcopal bishop to reject the compromise that is scheduled to take effect Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent, under General Convention’s Resolution B012.

After meeting with diocesan clergy on Nov. 10, Love asked them to read the letter to their congregations the next day, after Sunday worship services. At St. Andrew’s, that task fell to the Rev. Mary White, rector, and afterward, “there were people in tears,” Lawson said.

White did not respond to a request for an interview but said in an email that her congregation “felt anger and frustration” at the letter. “The contents of Bishop Love’s pastoral directive were not unexpected, although we had been hopeful he would find a way, as did the other conservative bishops, to implement B012 in the Diocese of Albany,” White said.

Other congregations were pleased by Love’s decision. Church of the Good Shepherd in Canajoharie was one.

“I thought the letter was bathed in love and God’s holy word,” said the Rev. Virginia Ogden, who has been rector at Good Shepherd for seven years. “It was very compassionate, and it was very factual as to what almighty God says in his Bible.”

Even so, Ogden said, the diocese faces “a thousand scenarios” for what will happen now that its bishop is openly defying a General Convention mandate. She chose not to speculate on the future.

“It’s in God’s hands,” she said. “Sometimes the lord gives us just enough light on the path to see the back of his sandals.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry didn’t speculate either in a statement released Nov. 12, though he affirmed General Convention’s authority and said he and other church leaders are “assessing the implications of the statement and will make determinations about appropriate actions soon.”

A challenge to Love’s directive could lead to disciplinary action under Title IV of the church’s canons, and at least one priest, the Rev. Glen Michaels, has suggested he would fight Love on the issue.

“For better or worse, I see myself as a good person to challenge this,” Michaels told the Living Church. He serves as priest-in-charge at a summer chapel in the Adirondacks but works as a New York assistant attorney general, so challenging Love would not threaten his livelihood. He described Love’s directive as “not enforceable.”

If Love is forced to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies, the bishop warned in his letter that many Episcopalians in his diocese will leave the church, mirroring the “blood bath and opening of the flood gates that have ravaged other dioceses.”

Love, 61 gave no indication that he would try to split the diocese from the Episcopal Church, as some bishops have in past theological disputes over issues of sexuality, but he clearly is aligning himself with the more conservative provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, said Louis Bannister, a lay leader at Cathedral of All Saints in Albany.

“I’m surprised that he’s the one holdout of the dissenting bishops,” Bannister, 42, told ENS. “It does surprise me, except that I also know him well enough that he wants to be a martyr for his cause.”

Bannister, who is gay and a lifelong Episcopalian, said he is proud of the Episcopal Church’s efforts in recent years to include LGBTQ members more fully in the life of the church. The church has “come out on the correct side,” he said, and he sees Love as a troubling exception.

“His assertion that God has removed his blessing from the Episcopal Church because of the church’s stance on this issue, I find that assertion to be repugnant and honestly not at all of God,” Bannister said.

A decade of rapid progress toward marriage equality

The church’s rapid progress in embracing marriage equality in recent years was far from guaranteed when Love took the reins of the Diocese of Albany in February 2007. Less than four years earlier, the 2003 ordination of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson as the church’s first openly gay bishop sparked upheaval in some diocese and congregations.

But the march toward equality accelerated. In 2009, General Convention passed several resolutions seeking to make the church more welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, including by affirming that those Episcopalians may serve as ordained ministers of the church. A separate resolution was approved to begin developing liturgies for blessing same-sex unions.

Those liturgies were approved for use by General Convention in 2012, and a follow-up resolution was passed that year to create a Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which studied the pastoral needs of priests interested in officiating at weddings of same-sex couples in states where such unions were authorized.

Then in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex civil marriage was legal in all 50 states. General Convention had just begun in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the bishops and deputies proceeded to approve the trial use of rites for same-sex marriage ceremonies that had been drafted by the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.

Those rites, however, were not universally welcomed. Three years later, as Episcopalians prepared to gather in Austin, Texas, for the 79th General Convention, the conservative bishops of eight domestic dioceses – Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands – continued to block same-sex couples from marrying in their churches.

Deputies, bishops and visitors packed a meeting room in the Austin Hilton Hotel the afternoon of July 5 to testify on three marriage-related resolutions at the 79th General Convention. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Resolution B012 was a compromise intended to settle the matter for good by allowing those bishops to delegate pastoral oversight for same-sex marriages to fellow bishops, an arrangement similar to the model in the church known as Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight, or DEPO.

Seven of the eight holdout bishops said they would accept and implement the compromise. Love, on the other hand, said little initially.

In September, Love held a meeting with diocesan clergy members to discuss B012. The Diocese of Albany is based in New York’s capital city and includes more than 100 congregations, but most of them are based in less-populated communities from the Canadian border to the northern Catskill Mountains. It is known as a more conservative diocese than the Episcopal Church as a whole, and many of its priests and deacons are supportive of Love’s stance on same-sex marriage.

“I’m sympathetic to the bishop,” the Rev. Matthew Stromberg told ENS, but at the meeting with clergy, he advised Love to accept B012 and move on. “My own feeling was that he should follow the example of the other conservative bishops who’ve decided to try to live with this, if only because I think so many of us are just tired of thinking about it. And I’m afraid of what the consequences are going to be for our diocese.”

Stromberg, 36, serves as rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady, with an average Sunday attendance of about 65. He believes Love is doing what he thinks is right, not out of hatred for the gay community, but “I know it’s hurtful to a lot of folks within our parish and around the diocese.”

Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love celebrates Eucharist at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady, New York, in November 2015. Photo: St. George’s

Tensions between Love and some of the diocese’s more progressive parishes date back years. At least three parishes requested and received DEPO relationships with neighboring dioceses, all in 2012: St. Andrew’s continues to receive pastoral oversight from the Diocese of Central New York, and the Diocese of Vermont provides pastoral oversight for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex and Church of St. Luke, the Beloved Physician, in Saranac Lake. Although granted DEPO, those three churches remain part of the Diocese of Albany under Love’s authority.

Lawson, 51, joined St. Andrew’s shortly after the parish requested DEPO. As a lesbian who is raising her son, Jason, as a single mother, she appreciates her congregation’s advocacy for LGBTQ inclusion and marriage equality.

“I was looking for a place where our family in its uniqueness would feel affirmed, and it was,” Lawson told ENS.

She was serving as senior warden in 2015 when the congregation approved and sent a letter to Love asking him to allow same-sex couples to marry at St. Andrew’s using General Convention’s newly approved trial-use rites. The parish’s letter, foreshadowing General Convention’s B012 compromise three years later, argued that DEPO would allow Bishop Skip Adams, who was head of the Diocese of Central New York at the time, to handle pastoral oversight of those marriages instead of Love.

Love refused, Lawson said.

“St. Andrews has been trying to find ways to be in unity with the diocese for a long time,” Lawson said. Love’s obstruction has dismayed several same-sex couples who would have gotten married at St. Andrew’s. Some have gotten civil marriages outside the church. Others have left the church in frustration. She knows at least one gay couple at St. Andrew’s who still want to get married in the church.

“Being able to have their marriage blessed by a priest is important to them, and it can’t happen here,” she said.

Members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York, pose for a Facebook photo promoting it as a congregation that “welcomes ALL for worship, fellowship and service.”

‘Deck is stacked’ against same-sex marriage in Albany

Bannister moved to Albany about 10 years ago from Vermont and was shocked by how conservative his new diocese was by comparison.

When he was searching for a congregation, a helpful woman at one church warned him that his homosexuality might not be fully welcomed at some congregations, so she guided him to others that would be a better fit. He ended up at Cathedral of All Saints.

“The cathedral congregation is absolutely wonderful,” he said. “It would not have it become my spiritual home were it not a wonderful congregation.”

After General Convention passed the trial-use liturgies in 2015, Bannister formed a closed Facebook group called Voices in the Diocese of Albany to “harness the energy” on the issue. The group organized a strategy session, which the bishop caught wind of and attended, unannounced, with members of his staff.

The bishop spoke with the group for three hours, Bannister said, and both sides expressed their feeling it had been a positive and honest conversation. Then a week later, Love issued a letter saying he would not allow the trial-use rites for same-sex marriages in the Diocese of Albany.

“We were all sort of blindsided,” Bannister said, “because we thought we were all just paid lip service.”

This year, after Love met in September with diocesan clergy to get their views on B012, the topic came up at a meeting of the cathedral chapter, of which Bannister is a member. Bannister recalls the Very Rev. Leander Harding, the cathedral’s dean, telling the chapter that Love’s position on same-sex marriage was backed by a majority of priests and deacons.

“That may be true,” Bannister told Harding. “The clergy deck is stacked in this diocese, and [Love] has never asked the laity how they feel.”

Love first revealed his final decision on B012 at another meeting of diocesan clergy, a retreat last week at the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich, New York.  The retreat ran from Nov. 7 to 10, and on the final morning, Saturday, he gathered everyone together for his announcement.

“I got to tell you, he got a standing ovation from his clergy, probably over 100 people in the room,” Ogden, 69, told ENS. Some of the more progressive clergy members simply didn’t come to hear Love speak, she said, and others walked out in protest when he announced his decision.

At her church, services are typically small, about 20 people. Good Shepherd is an aging congregation – “I tease that my youth group starts at age 45” – and same-sex marriage isn’t a big issue for parishioners there. Love’s decision, though, was received warmly when she read his letter to them.

“I don’t think they were surprised at all. We know him, and we stand with him,” she said. “We stand with Jesus.”

Stromberg was ordained by Love and personally thinks highly of the bishop and of his faith. He described his congregation at St. George’s as traditional and Anglo-Catholic. Services almost exclusively follow Rite I. A Rite II service was offered once, and few people attended.

Though liturgically traditional, Stromberg’s parishioners are more socially progressive.

“I’d say nearly everyone here at St. George’s was pretty disappointed by the bishop’s decision to not comply with the resolution,” he said. “I was hoping there would be some way of moving on, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.”

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

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Anglican Church of Australia to research domestic violence in Anglican-affiliated families

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 3:55pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Australia “has role to play in promoting healthy, respectful relationships,” it said as it announced a research project on domestic violence. The research will examine “the nature and prevalence of family violence in Anglican-affiliated families” in a project designed to help the church to tackle domestic violence. Beginning next year, the three-stage project will include surveys and interviews with Anglicans within and outside the church, with clergy and church leaders, and a sample of the broader population.

Read the full article here.

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Georgia bishop announces retirement plans, calls for a successor

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 1:33pm

[Diocese of Georgia] Bishop Scott Benhase announced plans to call for the election of his successor during the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. He told the convention of ongoing, significant health setbacks that leave him unable to keep up with the demanding schedule needed to oversee the 70 Episcopal congregations in central and south Georgia.

The election for the next bishop of the Diocese of Georgia will take place in Statesboro, on Nov. 15-16, 2019. The consecration of the 11th bishop of Georgia will be on May 30, 2020. The diocese’ Standing Committee will oversee the discernment and election process.

Benhase came to the Diocese of Georgia in 2009 after serving parishes in East Cleveland, Ohio; Charlottesville, Virginia; Durham, North Carolina; and, Washington, D.C.

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Anglican mission agency Mothers’ Union admitted to Community of the Cross of Nails

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 4:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The work of the Mothers’ Union in reconciliation and peace-building has been recognized by the Community of the Cross of Nails. The group is part of the work of Coventry Cathedral’s international reconciliation ministry team. Membership of the community is given to churches, peace-building centers and educational and training organizations in recognition of their reconciliation work. The Community of the Cross of Nails, which has more than 200 members, is inspired by Coventry’s story of destruction, rebuilding and renewal.

Read the full article here.

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New Zealand church leaders reject Sydney proposal catering to opponents of same-sex marriage

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 4:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A proposal by the archbishop of Sydney for an overlapping Anglican diocese or province to cater for Anglicans in New Zealand opposed to the blessing of same-sex marriage has been rejected by the leaders of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. In May, the General Synod in New Zealand passed a “compromise” resolution on the blessing of same-sex civil marriages in a move that was designed to allow both theological conservatives and those campaigning for change to stay in the same church. But a number of Anglicans have responded to the vote by saying that they were seeking to leave the Church as a result of the decision.

Read the full article here.

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Maryland diocese brings recovery into the open

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 11:28am

Bishop Chilton Knudsen came to Maryland in 2015 to lead the Diocese of Maryland in its ministry of recovery and support for those in addiction. Photo: Diocese of Maryland

[Episcopal News Service] For the Diocese of Maryland, the road toward recovery has been marked by deep, soul-searching conversations and policy changes as well as a willingness to name and confront the challenges of addiction.

A fatal accident in late 2014 caused by a bishop triggered intense scrutiny from the public and from within the diocese. It also initiated a churchwide re-evaluation of alcohol and addiction policies.

The Diocese of Maryland has spent the past four years in recovery, asking difficult questions: What is our relationship with alcohol? How can we have honest and open conversations about addiction? How do we identify those struggling with addiction and support them in seeking help? What systemic changes need to be made within the system?

And most of all, they asked the question over and over: What can we do to seek healing for all involved?

Two days after Christmas in 2014, Heather Cook, then Maryland’s suffragan bishop, struck and killed cyclist Tom Palermo, a 41-year-old father of two. Cook’s blood alcohol level was .22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit for driving in Maryland. Both the justice and ecclesiastical systems responded: Cook is currently in prison, serving a sentence for vehicular manslaughter. She resigned her position with the diocese and was deposed, so she can no longer function as an ordained person within the Episcopal Church.

While the action has been adjudicated, the work of recovery is ongoing.

“We’re still in the healing process,” says the Rev. Cristina Paglinauan, associate rector for community engagement at Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore. “The conversations are still needed. It’s the type of thing that’s going to take a long time. We are healing, but there is still work to be done.”

A month after the accident, Church of the Redeemer held its first Recovery Eucharist, a service built around the program promoted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step-recovery groups. That service is now an annual offering.

The congregation hosts 14 different recovery groups, and a dedicated Recovery Eucharist felt like a next step to invite the “‘basement groups’ into the main sanctuary in the context of worship and prayer,” says Paglinauan. “We felt it was really needed for us to gather and pray.”

The Rev. Anjel Scarborough was serving at Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick when the accident occurred. Like Church of the Redeemer, the congregation offered a Recovery Eucharist shortly after the accident and has continued its role as a leader within the rural community about ways to support recovery. In 2014, St. Peter’s offered the only AA meeting in town; Scarborough says that three years later, other churches had joined the efforts, and a 12-step meeting is now offered every day of the week within a five-mile radius.

This past Labor Day, the town held a community-wide event to pray for victims of addiction.

The congregation made other changes too. They decided that all church functions held on church grounds would be alcohol-free. The Recovery Eucharist became a monthly offering on Sunday evenings, and over the years, some members of the recovering community became involved in other activities at Grace.

“We have shifted into the long-term cultural work,” says Scarborough. “What does it mean to be in long-term recovery? How do we make space for people who are dealing with addiction? …What obligation as a worshiping community do we have to make sure all are welcome? And if we say all are welcome, what changes are we willing to make so that is a reality?”

Shortly after the accident, the Episcopal Church convened a task force to examine the issues of alcohol and drug abuse, and the 2015 General Convention passed three resolutions, including policies about serving alcohol in church functions. The Diocese of Maryland further strengthened those policies and has been proactive about implementation.

“I am a much stronger advocate for the implementation of our policies,” says the Rev. Scott Slater, canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of Maryland. “It’s like how an ex-smoker can become obnoxious about smoking policies. I make sure that if a group is not adhering to our alcohol policy, I speak up. That’s happened even at events sponsored by the wider church.”

Slater offers some simple, no-cost ways to adhere to both the letter and spirit of the policy, from providing alcohol-free zones at the diocese’s conference center to placing alcoholic beverages at the far end of a room and soda, water and fruit juices in more accessible locations. The diocese also has collected resources and developed a page on its website.

For Slater, the issue is personal on many levels. A recovering alcoholic himself, he knows intimately the struggle with addiction. Cook called him from the scene of the accident, and he took her to the police station. And he lives two blocks from the family of the victim and regularly sees Palermo’s widow walking her children to school.

“We are healing,” Slater says. “The wound is covered up by a scar, but the scar will always be there. It will never go away. And it’s important that it doesn’t. This is a scar that will remind us to never do that again, to never fail Heather or the Palermos by not seeing the signs or intervening earlier.”

While Slater and others were in the diocese when the accident occurred, Bishop Chilton Knudsen, resigned eighth bishop of Maine, came to Maryland several months later, in part to help lead the healing process. Knudsen has been a public voice for the ministry of recovery and support for those in addiction. She recently celebrated 30 years of sobriety. Knudsen regularly visits Cook in prison: “Heather is my sister in Christ and my sister in recovery.”

Knudsen gauges the diocese’s recovery on a number of factors, including how and when people talk about Cook. For a while, the discussion focused on blame, with anger directed at Cook as well as the diocese and the larger church.

“When I first came to Maryland, people were so obsessed with Heather that they could hardly talk about anything else. Now the conversation is broader, part of a bigger look at the system,” says Knudsen. “People have come to say, ‘Yeah, there was a mix-up at every level. Fingers could be pointed in lots of directions. It’s not fair to make Heather the sole scapegoat in this.’ There is responsibility to be shared—and action to be taken—throughout our systems.”

In tangible ways, that has meant a number of changes to build and encourage an atmosphere of health. The diocese has held a series of clergy gatherings, with a particular focus on how to tell the truth to one another, how to ask for and extend forgiveness, and how to monitor the quality of discourse.

Knudsen says there’s intentional work in living into the vision of the diocese set by Bishop Eugene Sutton: “The Diocese of Maryland is a community of love.”

“That means asking the question in clergy gatherings, staff meetings and visitations: What is a community of love? What does it look like? How do we know it when we see it?” she says. “At the last clergy day, we had a couple of painful episodes where people were deeply disrespectful to each other, and this galvanized several groups to say, we have to do better.

We need to focus on the quality of our public discourse. We want to make a witness of careful and deep listening.”

The entire diocesan staff underwent training for Narcan, a medication used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. Now, many parishes are also taking the training and learning how to be first responders, says Knudsen.

Another indication of this healing work: Knudsen says she knows of seven clergy who have entered into recovery.

“Our trust with each other has grown,” Knudsen says. “We’re able to admit that this impacted us. We were a mess, and we needed to take a deep look, not just put up a smokescreen. We have come to realize that this wasn’t about one suffragan bishop and the worst thing she has ever done in her life, but a whole climate that fosters denial and blaming rather than compassion and proactive outreach.”

For Scarborough, this period of recovery has helped shed light on addiction.

“Having come out of a family with a number of extended family who have addictions to drugs and alcohol, I know that any of us can fall down that rabbit hole, given the right set of circumstances,” says Scarborough, who now serves as priest-in-charge at St. Peter’s in Ellicott City. “Addiction is part of the human condition, and we must be aware that we all have the capacity for addiction. We must ask ourselves, ‘Where have we substituted something for God?’”

While she believes the diocese and many individuals have come a long way in the healing process, Scarborough acknowledges that challenges continue.

“I keep praying that some time we won’t hear jokes about Whiskey-palians or the one about where two or three Episcopalians are gathered, there’s a fifth,” she says. “If those jokes could die in my lifetime, then we’ve done good work. I’d like to be known for the love of Jesus, you know? For people to say: Episcopalians, they show the love of Jesus.”

-Richelle Thompson is deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church committed to inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists.

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Southern California Episcopalians respond to wildfires

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 10:21am

Fire damage to grounds of Epiphany Church, Oak Park, California. Photo: Courtesy Susan Anderson.

[Diocese of Los Angeles] At least 11 homes of Southern California Episcopalians have been lost in the raging Woolsey and Hill brush fires that displaced some 200,000 residents and burned more than 83,000 acres with flames racing to the driveways and parking lots of parish properties in Malibu, Oak Park and Thousand Oaks but sparing church buildings.

Ten homes of parishioners of St. Aidan’s Church in Malibu, and one home of members of Epiphany Church, Oak Park, were destroyed, according to reports from leaders of the local congregations.

Pastoral and practical response continues in a united effort of clergy and laity in the region, joined by Bishop John Harvey Taylor, Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce and Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy, together with the diocesan disaster relief task force, chaired by the Very Rev. Michael Bamberger, rector of Ascension Church, Sierra Madre, and dean of diocesan Deanery 5.

Contributions to the diocesan Fire and Mudslide Relief Fund may be made online here. Priority is placed on disbursement of aid to the region’s low-income and otherwise most vulnerable who might not otherwise receive relief amid the disaster.

As prayers encouraged by the bishops and clergy ascended across the diocese, firefighters doused the property Thousand Oaks’ St. Patrick’s Church on Friday, Nov. 9, protecting it from devastation, reported the Rev. George Daisa, rector, who had the evening before been a leader in the city hall prayer vigil responding to the Nov. 8 shooting deaths of 13 at the nearby Borderline Bar and Grill. Sunday services were conducted in the church.

In Oak Park, flames charred landscaping and vegetation around Epiphany Church, located on Churchwood Drive where several homes did not survive the blaze. Neither church buildings nor the congregation’s vineyard suffered damage, said the Rev. Greg Brown, vicar. Parishioners were able to visit the church and gather for services.

In Malibu, the Rev. Joyce Stickney, vicar of St. Aidan’s Church there, is mobilizing support for profoundly affected parishioners, and also called the sparing of the church buildings and adjacent clergy residence a true miracle. She expressed gratitude for the members of the Malibu Muslim community who have called hourly with offers of food, housing and other support for St. Aidan’s parishioners.

Stickney added that that Aidan, a seventh-century bishop on this island of Lindesfarne in the North Sea, has been considered a protector against wildfires, his name meaning “fire” in Gaelic.

Due to mandatory evacuation orders still in effect, services were not held at the newly remodeled Malibu church on Nov. 11 but are expected to resume on Nov. 18, Stickney said, with a dedication of the renovated sanctuary set for Nov. 25.

In neighboring communities including Pacific Palisades, parishioners and clergy had “go bags” packed and ready for evacuation on a moment’s notice.

The Woolsey fire follows nearly one year after other devastating firestorms in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and the disastrous Montecito mudslide last January. The recent blaze burned concurrently with the Camp Fire in the northern California town of Paradise, where at least 29 persons died, 200 went missing, and 6,700 structures were destroyed.

The diocese will continue to monitor and report on congregational and diocesan responses to the fire disaster.

– Bob Williams is canon for common life in the Diocese of Los Angeles and a former director of Episcopal News Service.

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Albany bishop rejects General Convention compromise on gay marriage, refuses to allow rites

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 5:13pm

Members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York, pose in October for a Facebook photo promoting it as a congregation that “welcomes ALL for worship, fellowship and service.” The parish, however, and any others in the Diocese of Albany interested in offering same-sex marriage ceremonies will not be allowed under the directive issued by Bishop William Love.

[Episcopal News Service] Albany Bishop William Love, in a Nov. 10 pastoral letter to his diocese, forcefully condemned the Episcopal Church’s adoption of same-sex marriage rites, vowed to reject a General Convention resolution intended to offer the rites in all dioceses and suggested Episcopalians in his diocese would leave the church if his directive were overturned.

Using Biblical citations from Leviticus to Romans to support his belief that sexual intimacy between two men or two women was never God’s plan, Love’s eight-page letter labeled homosexuality “sinful and forbidden,” and cast the long-simmering Episcopal debate over same-sex marriage as a kind of existential crisis for the church, which he argues has been “hijacked” by a powerful, secular “Gay Rights Agenda.”

Bishop William Love has led the Diocese of Albany for 12 years. Photo: Diocese of Albany

“There is no doubt the Episcopal Church and now the Diocese of Albany are in the midst of a huge storm that can rip us apart if we are not careful. That is exactly what Satan wants. We don’t have to play his game,” Love said. “If we focus on what divides us, we will be destroyed. If we focus on what unites us – our Lord Jesus Christ – He will get us through to the other side.”

Resolution B012, when it was approved by the 79th General Convention in July, was seen as a compromise between conservative bishops like Love and advocates for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the church. It passed with broad support in both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.

It wasn’t immediately clear what steps church leaders might take in response to Love’s directive, which specifically forbids diocesan clergy from using the trial rites supported by B012. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement Nov. 12 saying all clergy are required to “act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the church.”

“I have read the recent statement from Bishop Bill Love of the Diocese of Albany and am aware of the deep hurt on all sides of the issues it addresses,” Curry said. “I have been, and will continue to be, in conversation with Bishop Love about this matter. Along with other leaders in the Episcopal Church, I am assessing the implications of the statement and will make determinations about appropriate actions soon.’

Episcopal News Service was unable Nov. 12 to reach clergy in the diocese to speak about Love’s letter on the record, and a diocesan representative said the bishop wasn’t immediately available to answer a reporter’s questions by phone.

Despite the impasse in Albany, the Episcopal Church has made steady progress toward marriage equality in recent years, said the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies.

“We recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the marriages of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Jennings said in a written statement. “And we know that there are Christians who have been drawn further into fidelity and service to the world by living in committed same-sex partnerships and marriages based on holy love and the gift of seeing Christ in one another. When we celebrate these marriages, the entire church is blessed by the love and fidelity of these faithful couples.”

Love’s decision already has generated backlash in Albany and churchwide among supporters of same-sex marriage.

“Parishioners at St. Andrews, Albany, burned the bishop’s letter while it was being read at church,” parishioner John White said in a Facebook post. “How did your congregation ‘celebrate’?”

The Rev. Susan Russell, a priest from the Diocese of Los Angeles who has advocated for years in favor of greater LGBTQ inclusion in the Episcopal Church, said Love exceeded his canonical authority, and she expects the church to hold him accountable.

“In a moment when we’re being led by a presiding bishop who prophetically proclaims on a worldwide stage that if it’s not about love it’s not about God, we have a bishop named Love who is drawing lines in the sand, who is explicitly excluding people from God’s blessing,” Russell, senior associate rector at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, told ENS by phone.

Leading up to General Convention this year, Albany was one of eight dioceses that refused to offer trial rites to same-sex couples wishing to marry in their own churches, because the bishops held to theologically conservative interpretations of scripture, church canons and the Book of Common Prayer. With B012, General Convention intended to let those bishops opt out personally, without blocking the rites. The solution was to ask another bishop to provide pastoral oversight for the marrying couples.

B012 takes effect Dec. 2, the first Sunday of Advent, and in most of the eight dioceses, the bishops, though reluctantly, and have made plans for implementing it. Love, however, objected to B012 when it was approved and repeated his objections in his Nov. 10 letter. He said he raised those concerns in a recent meeting with Curry, warning the resolution’s mandate would do “tremendous damage” to the church and his diocese.

Love’s letter begins by citing his authority as bishop, which the Book of Common Prayer says includes a call “to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” and to “boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ.” It concludes by affirming his “respect for the authority of General Convention as an institutional body” but pledging his “ultimate loyalty” to God.

His letter enumerates seven reasons for his rejection of B012, starting with biblical teachings that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“The fact that some in today’s sexually confused society (to include 5 of the 9 U.S. Supreme Court Justices in 2015) may have broadened their understanding of marriage to be more inclusive, allowing for same-sex marriages, doesn’t mean that God … has changed His mind or His purpose or intent for marriage.”

Albany remains the exception to church’s support for marriage equality

The reference to the Supreme Court invokes the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex civil marriage in all 50 states. It already had been legal by law in New York since 2011.

However, tensions in the Episcopal Church over homosexuality stem back even further. Those tensions flared up in 2003 with the ordination of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson as the church’s first openly gay bishop, and after several years of theological disagreements, some bishops, priests and lay Episcopalians left the church, causing protracted legal battles in some places over diocesan property.

Separate efforts to welcome same-sex couples more fully into the life of the church took a major step forward in 2015 when General Convention created and authorized two trial marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

“For more than 40 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed, studied and discerned and, in doing so, we have seen the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of LGBTQ people,” Jennings said in her written statement, calling General Convention “our highest temporal authority.”

Despite their earlier objections, the bishops of the dioceses of Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee and the Virgin Islands have signaled they are satisfied by the compromise reached in B012. Implementation may vary from diocese to diocese.

“I think we’ve come out of this with something that lets everyone stay true to their conscience,” Dallas Bishop George Sumner told the Dallas Morning News in July.

Like Love, Florida Bishop Samuel Howard opposed the comprise resolution, but he sent a message to his diocese on Aug. 3 saying he would implement it. If a parish wishes to conduct a same-sex wedding, Howard said he will ask a fellow bishop to step in.

“Please know that I am committed to honoring Resolution B012, as passed by the General Convention, even though my own theological position and pastoral teaching continues to be rooted in traditional Gospel understandings as set forth in our Book of Common Prayer,” Howard said. “My prayer is that both ‘sides’ of this issue will come to see the other not as a ‘side’ at all, but rather as fellow members of the Body of Christ, seeking in good faith to follow the Gospel.”

Love, however, has offered no such conciliation. “We’re in the midst of a major schism,” Love told the Albany Times-Union in a Sept. 1 story, and in a Sept. 7 letter to the diocese he said he was still considering the resolution’s meaning and collecting input from diocesan clergy before deciding how to respond and “how it will be dealt with in the Diocese of Albany.”

The diocese is based in New York’s capital city, though most of its 130 congregations are in less-populated communities between the Canadian border and Catskill Mountains. By Nov. 11, Love had made his decision, and it echoed off the walls of those churches. Parish clergy were instructed by Love to read the letter to their congregations after Sunday worship.

“B012 turns upside down over 2000 years of church teaching regarding the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and is in direct contradiction of the Episcopal Church’s ‘official teaching’ on marriage,” Love said.

Love’s letter also frames his objection to same-sex marriage by arguing at length that it is rooted in a faith-based opposition to homosexuality, and to premarital sex of any kind.

Allowing gay couples to marry does “a great disservice and injustice to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ, by leading them to believe that God gives his blessing to the sharing of sexual intimacy within a same-sex relationship, when in fact He has reserved the gift of sexual intimacy for men and women within the confines of marriage between a man and woman.” He continues by accusing the church of encouraging Episcopalians with “same-sex attractions” to sin by acting on those impulses.

Love implicates the Episcopal Church in that sin and suggests it will hasten the church’s demise.

“Not only does the same-sex couple come under God’s judgement and condemnation, but it also brings God’s judgement and condemnation against The Episcopal Church,” he said. “Recent statistics show that The Episcopal Church is spiraling downward. I can’t help but believe that God has removed His blessing from this Church. Unless something changes, The Episcopal Church is going to die.”

Bishop raises alarm over widening church schism

Implementing B012 also would require Love to violate his vows of ordination, he said, adding that others in his diocese are just as adamant in opposing same-sex marriage.

“There are many in the Diocese of Albany who have made it clear that they will not stand for such false teaching or actions and will leave – thus the blood bath and opening of the flood gates that have ravaged other dioceses will come to Albany if B012 is enacted in this diocese,” he said in his letter.

Love’s final justification for rejecting B012 expands the decision’s scope by invoking the diocese’s positive relations with the Anglican Communion, which also has grappled in recent years with divisions between its provinces, one of which is the Episcopal Church, over homosexuality.

Some in the Episcopal Church are willing to take what they see as a “prophetic” stance, Love said, even if others in the Anglican Communion don’t “embrace this ‘new thing’ that they believe God is doing.” Love calls this the devil’s deception.

“Satan is having a heyday … by deceiving the leadership of the church into creating ways for our gay and lesbian brothers and sister to embrace their sexual desires rather than to repent and seek God’s love and healing grace,” he said.

Love concluded his letter with a lengthy passage that mines a range of viewpoints on Christian outreach to people “who are struggling with same-sex attractions” while making clear he views homosexuality as a sin that requires repentance.

Curry, in his statement Nov. 12, was clear about the Episcopal Church’s official understanding of the issue.

“We are committed to the principle of full and equal access to, and inclusion in, the sacraments for all of the baptized children of God, including our LGBTQ siblings,” Curry said. “We also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of the Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage.

“It should be noted that the canons of the Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact.”

Russell, the California priest, said several fellow advocates for marriage equality and priests in the Diocese of Albany contacted her to inform her of Love’s decision. It greatly saddened her, she said.

Russell called Love “a complete outlier” among bishops on this issue, but that doesn’t take away the sting felt by gay and lesbian couples in his diocese.

“My heart goes out to the LGBTQ people in the Diocese of Albany specifically, but also to those in the wider church and community who will hear this again as another indication of how deeply homophobia runs in the veins, in the world and the church, and how much we have to do to eradicate it,” she said. “And I do think it’s up to the whole church to stand together in love and compassion.”

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

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Declaración del Obispo Presidente acerca de la Carta Pastoral y la Directiva Pastoral del obispo Love del 10 de noviembre

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 4:39pm

12 de noviembre de 2018

El Obispo Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal Michael Curry ha emitido la siguiente declaración:

He leído el reciente comunicado del obispo Bill Love de la diócesis de Albany y soy consciente del profundo dolor que existe desde todas las perspectivas de los asuntos que aborda. Al respecto, he estado y continuaré manteniendo un diálogo con el obispo Love sobre este tema. Junto con otros líderes de la Iglesia Episcopal, me encuentro evaluando las implicaciones de dicho comunicado y tomaré pronto las determinaciones que correspondan a las acciones apropiadas.

Nosotros estamos comprometidos con el principio de un acceso pleno e igualitario, además de la inclusión en todos los sacramentos para todos aquellos hijos de Dios bautizados, incluyendo a nuestros hermanos LGBTQ. Tal como nos lo recuerda San Pablo en Gálatas 3: “por la fe en Cristo Jesús todos ustedes son hijos de Dios, ya que, al unirse a Cristo en el bautismo, han quedado revestidos de Cristo. Ya no importa el ser judío o griego, esclavo o libre, hombre o mujer; porque unidos a Cristo Jesús, todos ustedes son uno solo”.

Como miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo (1 Corintios 12), también estamos comprometidos a respetar la conciencia de aquellos que poseen opiniones que discrepan de las políticas oficiales de la Iglesia Episcopal con respecto al sacramento del matrimonio. Es preciso señalar que los cánones de la Iglesia Episcopal les otorgan autoridad a todos los miembros del clero para rehusarse a oficiar una ceremonia de matrimonio por razones de conciencia, y la Resolución B012 de la 79.ª Convención General no cambia este hecho.

En todo lo que nos concierne a aquellos de nosotros que hemos hecho los votos de obedecer la doctrina, la disciplina y la adoración en la Iglesia Episcopal, debemos actuar de tal manera que nuestras acciones sean un reflejo y preserven el discernimiento y las decisiones de la Convención General de la Iglesia.

Pido que todos en la Iglesia oremos en estos momentos mientras seguimos adelante.

Reverendísimo Michael Curry
Primado y Obispo Presidente

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Fijian priest elected archbishop of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 3:52pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Rev. Fereimi Cama, vicar of St. Peter’s in Lautoka on the Fijian island of Viti Levu, has been elected bishop of Polynesia. When he is consecrated and installed, he will also become one of the three archbishops and primates of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The election was announced Nov. 12 by the church’s two existing primates, Archbishop Don Tamihere and Archbishop Philip Richardson, who have responsibility for the church’s Maori and Pakeha tikangas, or cultural streams.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal student interviews Presiding Bishop for Georgia radio service

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 12:06pm

Rebekah Glover interviews Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for the Georgia Radio Reading Service. Photo: Andrew Payne/Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was in Atlanta Nov. 7-9 for the National Association of Episcopal Schools biannual conference. Curry served as celebrant and preacher at the conference, but took time out of his busy schedule to meet with 15-year-old Rebekah Glover at Atlanta’s Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.

The enterprising sophomore wrote Curry in late October, requesting an interview for the Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS), where she volunteers. GaRRS provides broadcasts to those who are visually-impaired or have difficulty with the printed word

Rebekah told Curry in her warm missive—sent to Curry’s public email address—that she was raised in a non-denominational faith, that her mother is from North Carolina (Curry has longtime ties to North Carolina), and that she enjoys visiting her 88-year-old grandmother. “I often read the Word and sing hymns—it brings so much joy to Grandma!” she wrote.

“Bishop, I know you’re an extremely busy man, but I’m asking, should you ever come to the Atlanta, Ga., area, Sir, please allow me to interview you. I volunteer my services at GaRRS—Georgia Radio Reading Services. I would love for this audience to hear from you!”

And to Rebekah’s surprise, the trailblazing bishop, who impressed millions last May 19 with his rousing royal wedding sermon on the power of love, quickly agreed to come. They met for an interview on the Holy Innocents’ campus Thursday, Nov. 8, and then Curry took part in an All School Eucharistic Convocation.

“You don’t really expect to be a 15-year-old and have a person as big as Michael Curry respond to you,” noted Rebekah, who added that Curry had been an inspiration to her long before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.

“I love his contagious energy when he speaks, and his love for Jesus of Nazareth. And when I hear his powerful messages, it makes my spirit leap.”

Rebekah’s mother arranged to have a GaRRS producer record the interview, and, Glover, who plans to major in film and TV production in college, prepared questions for Curry about the Jesus Movement, the bishop’s experience with people with disabilities, and his new book “The Power of Love.”

“I was so happy to converse one-on-one with him.”

GaRRS,  where Rebekah volunteers as a reader, has a mission “to improve the quality of life for every Georgian who is blind, visually-impaired, or has difficulty with the printed word,” according to the organization’s website. The nonprofit offers an expansive library and streams hundreds of programs in its broadcasts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patrons access the service through special radios, an online webstream, telephone, or a mobile app.

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, one of the nation’s largest Episcopal schools, has 1,360 students enrolled in grades PK3-12.

Peggy J. Shaw is a Georgia-based freelance journalist.

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American Cathedral in Paris honors ‘Great War’ soldiers, rededicates battle memorial

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 11:41am

A veteran attends a memorial service at the American Cathedral in Paris on Nov. 11. Photo: Angie Kremer

[Episcopal News Service] On Nov.11 at 11 a.m., the worship service at the American Cathedral in Paris paused so parishioners could listen to the peals of church bells sound across the City of Lights, just as they rang 100 years ago to signal the Armistice and the end of Word War I.

As the United States observes Veterans Day today, around the world and especially throughout Europe, special events—including visits by dozens of heads of state—have been held to mark the centennial anniversary of the end of the Great War. The American Cathedral, part of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, commemorated the occasion with two special events.

The convocation’s bishop-elect, the Rev. Mark D.W. Edington, preached at the memorial service on Sunday. And on Nov. 10, the cathedral rededicated the Battle Memorial Cloister, the first monument ever erected for the American casualties of World War I, according to historian and parishioner Ellen Hampton.

In a video about the cloister, Hampton shared that shortly after the war ended, families began asking to erect plaques in honor of their loved ones, but the priest and vestry opted for another, all-inclusive memorial, and raised funds for the Battle Memorial Cloister. The memorial honors the 116,000 American casualties of World War I, as well as civilian units that supported France before the United States officially entered the conflict in 1917.

The cloister is lined with plaques commemorating the fallen and features the insignia of the American armed forces, as well as scenes from major battles.

Ironically, little room was left in the cloister for plaques for the dead in World War II. When the cloister was designed, there was no thought of it needing to be bigger; World War I was considered then to be the war to end all wars, Hampton explained.

Parishioners Charles Truehead and Ann Dushane, along with the Very Rev. Lucinda Laird, the cathedral’s dean, have led the arrangements for the commemoration events. The rededication on Nov. 10 featured World War I poetry and special music.

At the close of the service, attendees placed poppies on a wreath of remembrance, a tradition with its origins in the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

“Something our bishop-elect wrote recently might help put this in context,” said Truehead. “He wrote that a church is a community of memory…Here is an example of memory with a capital M, where we are coming together to remember the dead and the people who came before us at the cathedral for something that mattered for them and was cataclysmic to the world.”

For the American Cathedral, participating in this type of commemoration is part of its duty, Truehead said, both as a worshiping community and as a cathedral committed to opening its doors to the broader community. This dedication to community has been a hallmark of the church throughout its history. The Rev. Jason Leo, now canon for transitions and congregational vitality for the Diocese of Southern Ohio, grew up at the American Cathedral, when his father Jim served as dean.

“Every year on the anniversary of D-Day, there were celebrations and commemorations throughout the city,” Leo said. “The cathedral was a hub for all of this. I was 16 years and remember sitting in a pew behind a U.S. president during a service and thinking that this was a pretty big deal. But certainly, the most moving experience was to look out into that enormous worship space and see one veteran in kneeling in silence: the memories of friends, immeasurable sacrifice, and the blessing of freedom, all being offered to God in prayer.”

During the service, Truehead shared the story of one of the Americans who volunteered to fight in the foreign war: a young poet, Alan Seeger, who died on July 4, 1916. His name might sound familiar. The American Library in Paris was created, in part, to honor Seeger’s history, and his way with words became a family tradition, carried on by his nephew, folk singer Pete Seeger, Truehead said.

The service included one of Seeger’s poems, “I have a rendezvous with death.” In the poem, Seeger contrasts the life he could have led, “Pillowed in silk and scented down … Where hushed awakenings are dear…” with the one that he chose in the fight for freedom, “At midnight in some flaming town,/ When Spring trips north again this year, / And I to my pledged word am true.”

– Richelle Thompson is deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement.

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Westminster Abbey hosts Christians and Jews to remember Kristallnacht

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 1:47pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Congregations from several London synagogues joined Christians at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 8 for a Service of Solemn Remembrance and Hope on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The pogrom was carried out by the Nazis throughout Germany and Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. It saw synagogues across the country destroyed and many Jewish shops and business premises vandalized, and homes of Jews were burnt down.

Read the full article here.

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Bishops offer ‘Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting’

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 5:01pm

[Bishops United Against Gun Violence] In response to the mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, Bishops United Against Gun Violence today released “Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting”  to commemorate the dead, comfort their loved ones, and honor survivors and first responders. “[W]e do so,” the bishops wrote, “with the reminder that one does not pray in lieu of summoning political courage, but in preparation for doing so.”

Bishops United is a group of more than 80 Episcopal bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.

Much of what can be said in the wake of such appalling carnage has been said,” the bishops wrote. “It was said after the mass shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and it was said after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the two devastating events that brought Bishops United Against Gun Violence into being. And it was said most recently after the anti-Semitic massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, just 12 days ago. Mass shootings occur so frequently in our country that there are people who have survived more than one.

“While the phrase “thoughts and prayers” might have become devalued by elected leaders who believe speaking these words discharges their duty in the wake of a massacre, we nonetheless believe that we are called to pray for the dead, those who mourn them and those who respond to the scene of mass shootings.”

Litany in the Wake of a Mass Shooting is available online at: http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/litany-in-the-wake-of-a-mass-shooting/

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Lilly grants support Episcopal entities, priests in various ways

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 3:29pm

The Rev. Jane Patterson teaches during a class offered by the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church has an important partner as it responds to shifts in the religious landscape. In 2018, the Lilly Endowment Inc., a private philanthropic foundation based in Indianapolis, awarded nearly $4.5 million in grants to launch or strengthen programs that help pastoral leaders thrive in their ministry with congregations. And these grants are only the latest in a long history of support from the religion division of the foundation, whose mission is to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.

The endowment’s “willingness to pay attention to what is going on in pastoral leadership is helping us not only identify where the needs might be … but encourages organizations to experiment and find out what works,” said Scott Bader-Saye, acting dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest, located in Austin, Texas. “Lilly is doing a really fantastic job of priming these experiments in the context of mainline churches that are trying to figure out what the church might look like and what the world’s needs might look like in the future.”

The lion’s share of the grants to Episcopal entities came from an initiative at the Lilly Endowment called Thriving in Ministry. At the core of the initiative is a belief that strong, spiritually healthy pastoral leaders are integral to building and sustaining strong and healthy congregations. Thriving in Ministry grants support programs that are helping clergy develop mentoring relationships and peer groups, especially during times of transition or for those serving in particular contexts, said Judith Cebula, communications director of the Lilly Endowment. In 2018, the endowment made 78 Thriving in Ministry grants to religious organizations around the country, totaling nearly $70 million.

At Seminary of the Southwest, a grant of nearly $1 million will support bi-vocational priests and deacons – clergy who work primarily in secular jobs and who may or may not be paid for their ministry in local churches.

Typically, “bi-vocational priests do not receive the same level and amount of formation as those who attend a three-year residential seminary,” said Bader-Saye. With the support of the grant, the seminary’s Iona Collaborative will create cohort groups for bi-vocational clergy to pursue different tracks of continuing education, including preaching and spiritual formation and clinical pastoral education. Individuals will also have mentors during the program.

A theme of peer-to-peer learning and the importance of mentoring will undergird new work at the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Building upon the seminary’s expertise in training of trainers, the seminary will use its nearly $1 million Lilly grant to develop mutual mentoring groups for clergy serving in rural communities, Latino/Hispanic ministry, historically African-American congregations, and those in nontraditional educational programs.

“I hope what we will create is a new network of people in each of these areas to get to know each other and depend upon each other,” said the Rt. Rev. Neil Alexander, dean of the School of Theology. “We want to explore together the question of how to adapt and change our current models of mentoring and formation that speak to the needs of the church, now and in the future.”

Alexander believes the cohort groups will create a symbiosis that can bear tremendous fruit.

“When you bring the wisdom of the current leaders and the wisdom of future leaders into the same room, the learning works both ways. The people who are being trained often have ideas that push the trainers. … It’s amazing what enrichment can come from that,” he said. “I’m a great believer that whether it’s the church or the larger society, when there are problems to be addressed, you have to invest in leadership.”

Virginia Theological Seminary is exploring how to strengthen leaders through three Lilly grants awarded in 2017 and 2018, totaling $2.75 million. The grants support two new initiatives: Baptized for Life and a Thriving in Ministry mentoring program, as well as a continuation of the project Deep Calls to Deep, which seeks to improve preaching through peer learning groups.

The seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, received $1.5 million from the Lilly Endowment for Baptized for Life: An Episcopal Discipleship Initiative. The focus of this program is on encouraging lay involvement and ownership in congregations. The program will work with 20 congregations that reflect the diversity of the Episcopal Church and develop formation resources that help individuals of all ages live into their baptismal vocation.

A nearly $1 million Thriving in Ministry grant will help priests who are at various transition points in their ministry, such as moving into church planting or female clergy who become senior rectors.

“Ministry can often be isolating,” said the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of VTS. “If you’re going to succeed, you need strategies outside the congregation to help. A primary one is training of mentors and peers because we know that our most effective learning comes from one another.”

As part of its ministry to “seed the field with the type of leaders the church needs,” the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina will embody the principle of team learning and collaboration in its new initiative, Reimagining Curacies, said the Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman, bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. Funded by a nearly $1 million grant, the program will create cohorts of three nearly ordained clergy who will serve as a team in three different contexts: rural, urban and multicultural. The cohorts will meet regularly with senior clergy, mentors and lay leaders.

At the end of three years, these new ordinands “will have been part of the leadership of three different faith communities, which will leave them better prepared for whatever the Holy Spirit is calling them to do next,” said Rodman. The hope is that “this sense of collegiality, partnering, and cross-pollination becomes integrated and embedded into their understanding of what church leadership looks like, so wherever they go, they are going to cultivate that model of leadership and are equipped to build this type of team,” he said.

While these large grants focus on institutional and structural change, the Lilly Endowment also awards grants to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry on local levels. These include the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program, which began in 1998, first in Indiana and then nationwide.

The Rev. Laurie Brock took in this view of the Grant Tetons while riding Maverick during a sabbatical trip.

The program provides “an opportunity for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for drinking again from God’s life-giving waters, for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.”

A number of Episcopal congregations and their clergy have received these grants, including the Episcopal Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Lexington, Kentucky, and its rector, the Rev. Laurie Brock. A 2017 grant included money for Brock to attend a course on women and the Bible at St. George’s College in Jerusalem and spend a week riding horses in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

“I was surprised at how vocationally exhausted I was, and being able to get away for sabbatical time allowed me not only to be physically away from the congregation, but spiritually and mentally away so I could refresh, rest and recharge,” said Brock. “My time in Israel was especially renewing, as I was able to be a student again with familiar biblical accounts of women who were matriarchs, apostles and prophets. Standing in the place they stood, listening to the sounds they may have heard, and breathing the air that held them renewed not only my priestly vocation but also my faith.”

The grant funded supply clergy for the congregation during Brock’s sabbatical, as well as a conference, Women in the Bible, that gave the congregation a parallel encounter to their priest’s.

“Being able to share our experiences as priest and congregation during sabbatical time and looking to how God is calling us to be disciples together as we begin this next portion of our journey has allowed us to weave the wisdom we both gained from sabbatical into our mutual story and be excited about what comes next,” Brock said.

The Rev. Tim Schenck and the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts, also received a renewal grant in 2017. The question the grant application asks – What makes your soul sing? – is one “that often gets shoved aside while on the hamster wheel of parish ministry,” said Schenck. “And yet, as clergy, it’s vitally important to be in touch with that which inspires and delights our souls.”

Schenck focused his sabbatical on a theme of faith and coffee, traveling to coffee farms in Central America and to an Eastern Orthodox monastery in Pennsylvania where monks roast and market their own coffee. Although the grant doesn’t encourage participants to finish their sabbaticals with a product, Schenck wrote a book out of his experiences, titled “Holy Grounds: The Surprising Connection Between Coffee and Faith – From Dancing Goats to Satan’s Drink” (Fortress Press) that will be out in early spring of 2019.

After the sabbatical, “I remembered that I really do love the people I serve at St. John’s in Hingham,” Schenck said. “I mean, I’ve always been aware of this, but that old adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’? Yup. Breaks are important as they offer perspective. … I expected personal renewal, but I didn’t expect this sense of renewal of love for my congregation. That both surprised and delighted me.”

Learn more about the Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program.

– Richelle Thompson is deputy director and managing editor of Forward Movement.

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Slate of candidates announced for 10th bishop of Maine

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 12:33pm

[Diocese of Maine] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine has announced a slate of five candidates for the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Maine who will stand for election Saturday, Feb. 9. The new bishop will succeed Bishop Stephen T. Lane, who is retiring in June after eleven years of service.

The candidates in alphabetical order are:

  • Rev. Kenneth Brannon, Rector, St. Thomas, Sun Valley, Idaho
  • Rev. Thomas Brown, Rector, Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester, Massachusetts
  • Rev. Anne Mallonee, Executive Vice President & Chief Ecclesiastical Officer, Church Pension Group, New York City
  • Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett, Washington
  • Rev. Janet Waggoner, Canon to the Ordinary & Transition Ministry Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas

The announcement culminates a prayerful and thoughtful process over the past several months conducted by the Discernment Committee, chaired by The Rev. John Balicki, rector of St. Mark’s Church – Waterville. Rev. Balicki commented, “the Discernment Committee was pleased with the wide interest expressed from around the country in being the next Bishop of Maine. We spent nearly five months reviewing materials, interviewing candidates via teleconferencing, and eventually meeting some in person which led us to the slate of candidates we are pleased to present. We have significant diversity in age, gender and geography and we hope that everyone in the state of Maine will enjoy getting to know these candidates as well as we have.”

The Standing Committee received and approved the proposed slate by unanimous vote. In making the announcement, the Rev. Maria Hoecker, Rector of St. Columba’s Church – Boothbay Harbor and Chair of the Standing Committee wants the diocese to know that “together, we are walking as followers of Jesus. During this time of transition, and always, we are working in the spirit of transparency and collaboration, with trust and affection, as we go about our planning and prayers.”

Background on the slate of nominees, including a video, bio, resume and answers to questions posed in the discernment process, can be found on the Bishop Quest web site: http://bishopquest.episcopalmaine.org/.

The Standing Committee also announced nominations by petition may be filed until Nov. 15. Information on this process – by which candidates may be added to the slate upon successful completion of background checks and other requirements – can be found on the Bishop quest website.

A special convention for the election is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9 (snow date: Feb. 23) at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The Standing Committee will then then obtain canonical consents of the majority the dioceses of the Episcopal Church, following which the new bishop will be ordained and consecrated at the Cathedral of St. Luke in Portland Saturday, June 22. The officiant will be Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry.

Members of the diocese will also have the opportunity to meet the candidates face to face in attending “walkabout” presentations by the nominees. Organized by the Transition Committee, the meetings will be held in three locations across the diocese Jan. 18 in Augusta, Jan. 19 in Bangor and Jan. 20 in Portland.  The walkabouts will be live-streamed for those unable to attend in person.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maine includes 59 congregations, 18 summer chapels and other ministries across the state. It was founded in 1820.

For more information, please visit http://bishopquest.episcopalmaine.org/

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London churches stage violence summit as youth crime soars

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 4:49pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] London’s two Anglican dioceses are bringing together a panel of experts “to explore what a church response could be to the serious youth violence which impacts communities and parishes across London.”

Sponsored by the bishops of London, whose diocese mainly covers north of the River Thames, and Southwark, whose diocese mainly covers south of the River, the summit will “focus on gaining a wider understanding of the issues across London, listening and learning from participants and the experience of on the ground organizations,” the Diocese of Southwark said.

Read the full article here.

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