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Trinity Church Wall Street acquires Church Divinity School of the Pacific

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 1:06pm

Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s Berkeley, California, campus fills an entire block and is a mix of buildings from two centuries. Photo: CDSP

[Episcopal News Service] Church Divinity School of the Pacific, or CDSP, and Trinity Church Wall Street announced March 4 that the New York parish has acquired the Berkeley, California-based seminary.

The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, CDSP president and dean, told Episcopal News Service in an interview that the deal will put the school on a solid financial footing and position it for growth. CDSP and its assets now belong to Trinity, he said, and the value of those assets “will be a fund, among other resources they have, that supports the program at the school and operation.

“It’ll be starting point of the kinds of funds we need to, say, augment faculty or to provide scholarship funding for students,” he said. “This becomes part of their assets that are poured back into the mission of the school.”

Trinity sees CDSP as part of its strategy “to present and offer the curriculum that will bring new leaders into the world that can gather communities and resource them in a way that we have not been able to do currently,” the Rev. William Lupfer, Trinity’s rector, told ENS in an interview.

Ultimately, Trinity and CDSP hope to more faculty and an expanded curriculum will train clergy and laity for a changing church, especially in the areas of leadership development, formation and community organizing. Making theological education more affordable is also a goal, church and seminary officials say. Both organizations hope to expand their current relationships across the Anglican Communion.

“It’s going strengthen and enhance our programing,” the Rev. Ruth Meyers, the school’s academic dean, told ENS. “Trinity has this history of not only doing work in leadership development but [building] relations around the Anglican Communion, and I think that’s really going enhance the work we’re doing at CDSP.”

The Rev. William Lupfer, Trinity Church Wall Street’s rector, left, and the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, Church Divinity School of the Pacific president and dean, announced the acquisition to CDSP students,. faculty and staff on March. 4. Photo: Canticle Communications

Trinity Wall Street also includes the church in Lower Manhattan, nearby St. Paul’s Chapel and the Trinity Retreat Center in West Cornwall, Connecticut, as well as partnerships that involve housing for the elderly, the homeless and people with disabilities, among others. The parish also has a $6 billion portfolio that includes major real estate holdings, primarily in New York where it is both a developer and a landlord.

The church’s vestry is now the seminary’s governing body. “But our vestry will not manage CDSP,” Lupfer said. “We will have staff members supporting the folks who are currently managing CDSP.”

The Association of Theological Schools, the accrediting agency for all Episcopal Church-tied seminaries, has agreed to continue to accredit CDSP under the new governance structure. That means CDSP can continue to grant degrees. “CDSP is not going away,” Meyers said.

Lupfer, Richardson and others involved in the discussions, which went on for close to 18 months and led to the agreement, told ENS that that Trinity and CDSP expect to maintain the seminary’s current management, faculty and staff at the school for the near future. The current curriculum also will be maintained in the near term, they said.

Lupfer and Richardson announced the agreement March 4 in CDSP’s chapel to students, faculty and staff. That gathering began two days of meetings and question-and-answer sessions with Lupfer, Richardson, faculty and CDSP and Trinity senior staff.

Quoting the spiritual that says, “I got a home up in that kingdom, ain’t that good news,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in an emailed statement that the agreement “is not simply a matter of institutional rearrangement.”

“That would be news. But this is more than news. This is good news in the biblical meaning of that phrase. For this is about a creative relationship that will enable the seminary to train and form leaders for a church daring to be more than merely an institution,” Curry said. “This is about forming leaders for a Jesus movement committed to living, proclaiming and witnessing to his way and message of unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial liberating love. That movement changed lives and the world in the first century, and it can do it again in the 21st century. This new relationship helps to form leaders for that. And that is truly good news!”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, also praised the agreement.

“I’ve just returned from serving as St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry at CDSP, where I met students and faculty with the fresh energy and ideas we need in the 21st century church,” she said in a statement emailed to ENS. “This new alliance between CDSP and Trinity Church Wall Street is a visionary and innovative way to pair that energy with resources and partnerships that span the globe, all in the service of the gospel. Our church needs just the kind of leaders that this partnership will provide.”

The campus of Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, is just north of the University of California, Berkeley. Photo: Church Divinity School of the Pacific

CDSP, founded in 1893, is one of 10 seminaries with ties to The Episcopal Church. It is not the first of those schools to change their ways of being in order to survive the economic challenges facing all small graduate schools, and seminaries in particular. In 2012, Bexley Seabury Seminary was formed through a federation of two Episcopal seminaries, Bexley Hall Seminary in Columbus, Ohio and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.

In 2017, Episcopal Divinity School announced it would be closing its Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus and entering an affiliation agreement with Union Theological Seminary in New York. The new entity is called Episcopal Divinity School at Union. Earlier this year, EDS at Union said it had begun a long-term lease for its remaining Cambridge property with The Church in Cambridge. The move was the latest in a process that began in March 2008 when the seminary sought to secure its financial future by entering a partnership with Lesley University, in which Lesley bought seven of the 13 buildings EDS owned on its eight-acre campus.

Request of advice led to agreement

Trinity and CDSP did not set out to strike an acquisition deal. “It started by accident, frankly,” Richardson said. He and then-trustees chair Don White had turned to Trinity for advice when the school was considering how it might capitalize on its parking lot, one of the few nominally empty spaces in the neighborhood just north of the University of California, Berkeley.

“We seemed to have started at an inspirational moment,” Richardson said. “They knew we weren’t there to get into their pocketbook. We just really had some things we needed to do and knew they had the expertise.”

Richardson said the seminary would base any potential development on the goals of adding value to the neighborhood, providing income for the school and driving mission.

“It’s got to meet all three, or it’s not serving the school’s long-term history and needs,” he said he told Lupfer and others.

The rector replied that he and Trinity take an even broader, more holistic approach to such questions. The conversation eventually left the parking lot behind as its scope widened.

Trinity, Lupfer said, has always looked at land “as an economic opportunity that needs to be activated” for broader, missional uses. Thus, the parking lot conversation evolved into a recognition that Trinity has cash and CDSP has “all this intellectual power and it’s aligned in the ways in which we are interested in,” Lupfer said, including leadership development, formation and community organizing.

The Church Divinity School of the Pacific campus sits on what is known as Holy Hill, which has views of San Franciso Bay. Photo: Google Maps

The “inspirational” part of the agreement was striking to CDSP alumnus and trustee, the Rev. Brendan Barnicle. A stock analyst and investment banker who had seen “lots of deals over the years” before he went to seminary, Barnicle said that as he watched “the dialogue and the way this was being done, maybe not surprisingly, I’d never seen  a deal where the Holy Spirit was so apparent because there was so much new and creative about this.”

Barnicle, of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon, added that “if we expect parishioners to think about how they steward their resources then we, as the church, need to be a model, and I think that is what CDSP is doing by entering into this relationship.”

The faculty soon became part of the conversations about a possible deal. “This is different from some of the other seminary drama that we have had in the last few years in that the faculty are really on board,” Meyers said.

A member of the faculty sat on the CDPS board and joined in the deliberations. Input from those representatives has been “welcomed and well received by other member of the board,” Meyers said. The faculty had been “listened to and attended to” during the conversations and negotiations, she added.

Kathleen Moore, a CDSP senior whom the student body elected as ombudsperson for this academic year, told ENS she was “pretty excited when I heard about it and I am still pretty excited.” Moore represented students’ interests on the Board of Trustees and elsewhere, and she said she told her trustee colleagues that the deal is an instance of CDSP “putting into practice what it teaches and preaches” about adaptive change.

Barnicle acknowledged, “it’s risky to make a change like this and to potentially give up some of the control and authority and what not; yet as we think about the church going forward, being willing to take those kinds of risks are some of the things I think that we called to do.”

Moore said she has learned at CDSP “to look at those unknowns with an open mind, an excited mind and we have a scriptural basis for this kind of thing to go forward not knowing exactly what’s going to happen but having trust.”

The details of the new arrangement will be worked out, Richardson said, “as we stumble over ourselves and learn from our mistakes and then pick up a start again.

“I think the church knows as whole that we need innovation in theological education and in the church, period. Innovation, when it’s true, is often disruptive. All of that will be part of the story moving forward.”

Lupfer agreed. “Being iterative and being open to the future and to learning together and experimenting is a critical part of today’s world,” he said. “We would not want to be with someone who had the illusion of certainty of the future.”

Trinity Church Wall Street is in the midst of a two-year rejuvenation project, the first in decades. The updates are intended to enhance the overall worship experience, make spaces accessible and welcoming, upgrade technology and infrastructure and address deferred maintenance. Photo: Trinity Church Wall Street via Facebook

One of those unknowns is how alumni and other donors will react to the news. Will they think they no longer have to give because of Trinity’s wealth? “What we hope is that people will see this as a strengthening of the seminary and still be able to give to the focused programming of CDSP,” Meyers said, explaining that focus might also apply to scholarship fund and faculty chair endowments. “There’s still going to be continuing need. We are one tiny part of the Trinity budget.”

The agreement also represents a significant change in each organization’s culture. Combine one to the oldest institutions in The Episcopal Church with a seminary to the West created to serve the West and there will be “amazing contrasts,” Richardson said, including a big staff at Trinity and a “small, scrappy school that has a fraction of that.” Yet, both Richardson and Lupfer said their institutions are geared toward the missional work of the church in the world.

And, Lupfer said, Trinity is not aiming to compete with the other Episcopal Church-connected seminaries.

“We see this as additive for everyone,” Lupfer said, who spoke to ENS right after meeting with the dean of another seminary and assuring him of Trinity’s ongoing contributions to that school’s capital campaign and annual fund drive.

“If there’s any bulking up at CDSP, which of course we would expect, that would probably happen with international students or students who would not go to a residential seminary without financial aid,” he said. “We don’t see ourselves competing for students with other the other seminaries. And we see ourselves cooperating with the other seminaries around curriculum areas that we’re interested in.”

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

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Cathleen Bascom is consecrated as 10th bishop of Kansas

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 12:34pm

[Diocese of Kansas] The Rt. Rev. Cathleen Chittenden Bascom was ordained and consecrated as the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas on March 2 at Grace Cathedral in Topeka in a service marked with history, as she became the first woman bishop in the diocese’s 160-year history. The 1,112th bishop of the Episcopal Church, she also was the first diocesan bishop ever to be elected from a slate of candidates who all were women.

Kansas Bishop Cathleen Chittenden Bascom at her consecration March 2. Photo: Thad Allton

Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, was the preacher. Bascom most recently had served for 17 years in Iowa.

The service also included her seating in the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, that is symbolic of the bishop’s office.

Music included bagpipers, a folk band and a choir made up of singers from eight churches in the diocese and surrounding areas.

The consecration service can be viewed on the diocesan YouTube channel.

Bascom was elected 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas on Oct. 19, 2018, on the second ballot. Prior to the election she was assistant professor of religion at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, and also served as supply priest and team coach at Trinity, Emmetsburg. Before that she had served as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Des Moines, Iowa, for 13 years.

Her election was a homecoming of sorts for Bascom, having served eight years in the diocese, leading campus ministry at Kansas State University in Manhattan from 1993 to 2001.

She received a Master of Divinity degree from Seabury-Western Seminary in 1990. She also holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in preaching from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, a Master of Arts degree in Modern Literature from Exeter University in England, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and environment from Iowa State University.

She is married to Tim Bascom, a writer and professor. They have two sons, Conrad, 25, and Luke, 21.

The ninth bishop of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Dean E. Wolfe, resigned in January 2017 to become rector of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York. Since then, the Council of Trustees, acting in its capacity as the Standing Committee, has been the diocese’s Ecclesiastical Authority. The Rt. Rev. Michael Milliken, now retired as Western Kansas diocesan bishop, served as assisting bishop in the Diocese of Kansas for most of the time between diocesan bishops there.

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas has more than 10,000 baptized members in 44 congregations. The diocese covers the eastern 40 percent of the state of Kansas, extending as far west as Abilene and Wichita. It also includes the cities of Topeka, Lawrence and Manhattan and the entire Kansas City metropolitan area on the Kansas side of the state line.

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South Dakota announces two-person bishop slate

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 11:16am

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of South Dakota announced on March 4 that two priests have been nominated to become the diocese’s 11th bishop.

They are:

Their biographies and personal statements are available on the Diocese of South Dakota website here.

Severe weather across the state last week delayed a planned announcement of the slate until March 4 and also delayed the opening of the window for petition candidates. Petitioners now have until 5 p.m. March 8. Information about that process is here.

An opportunity to meet the candidates is scheduled for the week of April 1-5. The electing convention will be held in Pierre, South Dakota, on May 4. The consecration and ordination of the new bishop is set for Nov. 2.

The person elected will succeed Bishop John Tarrrant, who announced in October 2017 that he would retire in 2019. Tarrant has been diocesan bishop since February 2010.

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Bishop of Liberia to be installed as archbishop of Church of the Province of West Africa

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 12:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of the Province of West Africa will have a new primate on March 3 when Archbishop Jonathan Hart, currently Bishop of Liberia and Archbishop of the internal province of West Africa, is installed as archbishop of the entire West Africa province.

The Church of the Province of West Africa has two internal provinces: Ghana, covering the dioceses in that country; and West Africa, covering dioceses in The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cameron. Hart will succeed Archbishop Daniel Sarfo as leader of the province.

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of New York bishops and spouses will be at Lambeth2020 despite same-sex spouse exclusion

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 11:49am

The bishops of the Diocese of New York issued the following statement March 1 concerning their plans about the 2020 Lambeth Conference from which the Achbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has decided to exclude same-sex spouses of bishops invited to the gathering.

March 1, 2019

To Our Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Diocese of New York,

Many of you will have learned by now that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has invited all active bishops in the communion, including gay bishops, to attend the 2020 Lambeth Conference. That is a positive development, since that was not true of the last Lambeth in 2008, when Bishop Gene Robinson was pointedly not invited to attend and participate. However, we are alarmed that at the same time he has said that spouses of bishops who are in same-sex marriages will not be invited. As of this writing that ruling affects a single bishop and spouse in the Anglican Church of Canada, and a single bishop and spouse in the Episcopal Church – Mary Glasspool and her spouse Becki Sander of our own diocese (though note that the bishop-elect of Maine is in a same-sex marriage, and when he becomes the bishop, this will apply to his spouse as well).

In two weeks the House of Bishops will hold our spring meeting in North Carolina, and we expect this matter to occupy some of our time. However, as so many of you have contacted us to know the response we will make from this diocese, we are writing this letter now to inform you of our thinking, understanding that we have not yet been in conversation with the full community of our fellow bishops.

Though this has only recently become public, we have actually been wrestling with this for some time. Archbishop Welby wrote a letter to Bishop Glasspool, and copied Bishop Dietsche, in early December, and the three of us have been in conversation on this matter for the time since. We have considered not attending, in protest over this extraordinary action. But in the end we have concluded that we cannot in conscience remove the voice of the Diocese of New York from the larger conversations at Lambeth regarding sexuality and the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the full sacramental life of the church. We certainly do not want to exclude the unique witness of Bishop Mary and her ministry from those debates and deliberations. So, not without mixed feelings, we the bishops of New York will be attending the Lambeth Conference.

From the start, it has been the conviction of the spouses of Bishops Andy and Allen that they would fully and unambiguously support Becki, their sister and friend. They too look forward to being in conversation with the fuller community of bishops’ spouses, but at this time it is the intention of Becki Sander to accompany Bishop Mary to England, though she will not be permitted to participate in the Lambeth conversations and activities. Margaret Dietsche and Clara Mun are also planning to go to England, to stand with Becki.

So much of our dismay over the Archbishop’s decision is that we are so blessed by the inclusion of members of the LGBTQ community in the full sacramental life of this diocese, including ordination and access to marriage for same-sex couples. We are graced by the lives and witness of the countless gay and lesbian priests, deacons and laypersons who have enhanced and magnified our common life by the depth of their faith, by their courage, and by the self-offering of their lives to the service to God and God’s children. We will be taking to Lambeth the lives and stories of the LGBTQ people of our diocese. We will be taking the hard histories and the holy graces of people who have asked only to receive from their church the dignity and love which they have received from their God. We will bear witness to the struggle and the triumph, and we will give voice at Lambeth to the voiceless many who will not be there. We will carry to Lambeth the spirit raised this year on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall in this our own diocese, and the celebration of World Pride Week. We go to Lambeth so that you will be at Lambeth.

We ask your prayers for the Archbishop of Canterbury, for our two hundred congregations and us your bishops, for the worldwide community of bishops preparing to gather at Lambeth, for those who love us and for those who do not, for the LGBTQ community in the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New York, and for the gay and lesbian Christians across our communion who do not yet enjoy the fullest possibilities and promise of the church. May the Holy Spirit come to Lambeth, that the prayer of Our Lord Jesus that “all may be one, as the father and I are one” may be realized in our day. With every good wish, we remain

The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche
Bishop of New York

The Right Reverend Allen K Shin
Bishop Suffragan of New York

The Right Reverend Mary D Glasspool
Bishop Assistant of New York

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Episcopal bishops bring church’s calls for gun reform to congressional visits on Capitol Hill

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 5:47pm

Jack Cobb of the Office of Government Relations leads a group of bishops that include retired Connecticut Bishop Suffragan Jim Curry, Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe and Washington Assisting Bishop Chilton Knudsen. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] It was the best of days and the worst of days for eight Episcopal bishops to be on Capitol Hill pressing lawmakers to pass new gun safety measures.

Much of the oxygen in the nation’s capital on Feb. 27 was being sucked up by the daylong testimony of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, his face on TVs all over Capitol Hill as he called his old boss a racist, a conman and a cheat. But beyond the day’s top political story, an unrelated House vote provided a timely backdrop for the bishops’ advocacy.

The bill, known as H.R. 8, would expand background checks for gun purchases, one of the reforms that Bishops United Against Gun Violence points to as a common-sense measure with widespread support despite the well-funded opposition of gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.

“Silence on this is complicity,” Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas told Episcopal News Service during a break in the day’s schedule of meetings with lawmakers and their staffs. “If we’re silent, other people can frame the discourse.”

Bishops United is a network of about 80 Episcopal bishops that formed in the wake of the 2012 massacre of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Douglas, one of the conveners, still carries with him the memory of that horrific day and its grim aftermath – part of the personal narrative he shares on Capitol Hill to help frame the discourse – though the tragically long list of mass shootings since Sandy Hook supplies the bishops with ample additional examples when calling for legislative action.

The bishops’ day kicked off at 9 a.m. with a closed-door presentation on the pending legislation by Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, in a conference room at the United Methodist Building across the street from the Capitol.

Rep @BobbyScott to members of Bishops United: Thank you for what you do. It’s important. Thank you for telling us about the people you represent. #BishopsOnTheHill #EpiscopalAdvocacy pic.twitter.com/iaiGA8nqAV

— The Cross Lobby (@TheCrossLobby) February 27, 2019

After Scott left, The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, which has offices in the building, provided the bishops’ with detailed guidance for an effective day on Capitol Hill. “We want to be here for you, and we want to support the tremendous work that you’re already doing,” said Office of Government Relations Director Rebecca Blachly, whose staff coordinated the congressional meetings and, in most cases, accompanied the bishops from office to office.

Washington Bishop Mariann Budde sat in on the introductory sessions, though she would not be participating in the day’s rounds. She and Douglas were joined by six other bishops. Vermont Bishop Tom Ely had not yet arrived, having scheduled his own Capitol Hill visits with Vermont’s congressional delegation.

Jack Cobb of the Office of Government Relations coaches the bishops on their upcoming visits with congressional offices during an introductory session Feb. 27 held at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Jack Cobb, who tracks domestic policy issues for the Office of Government Relations, highlighted H.R. 8 but also drew the bishops’ attention to H.R. 1112, which seeks to extend the background check waiting period and close what has been called the “Charleston loophole,” exploited by Dylann Roof to purchase the guns used in the killing of seven people in 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Cobb noted that legislation is particularly important to Rep. Jim Clyburn, whom the bishops were scheduled to meet with in the afternoon. Clyburn is the House majority whip and a Democrat from South Carolina whose father was a preacher.

The 2015 massacre “could have been his church,” Cobb said. “It’s his backyard, and it’s his bill.”

What else should the bishops know? The lines into congressional office buildings are often long, so arrive early, Cobb said. At the same time, “members of Congress will often be late.” Many of the meetings would be with lawmakers’ staffs, who will take notes and summarize the meeting in memos to be read later by their bosses.

Try to reference any local connections individual bishops have with the lawmakers, Cobb said. Although Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano wasn’t part of these meetings, the bishops should acknowledge Provenzano’s support while meeting with Rep. Peter King, the Long Island Republican, who was a co-sponsor on H.R. 8.

For King and other Republicans who broke with their party to support the legislation, “this is a thank you meeting,” Cobb said. “We want them to know they are supported.”

To cap their meetings, the bishops were encouraged to provide the lawmakers’ offices with printed materials about Bishops’ United and The Episcopal Church’s positions on gun violence.

Making the rounds on Capitol Hill

The Episcopal Church’s advocacy for stricter regulations dates back more than four decades, with General Convention regularly passing resolutions supporting various gun control measures, most recently a resolution last year calling on the federal government to study gun violence as a public health issue.

A 1976 resolution took a general stance supporting legislation “aimed at controlling the sale and use of hand guns.” A followup resolution in 1991 specifically backed the Brady Bill, which was passed and became law in 1993, establishing waiting periods and background checks for handgun purchases.

The Brady Bill and a temporary assault weapons ban in 1994 would be the last significant gun control measures to clear Congress.

H.R. 8 was scheduled Feb. 27 for an afternoon vote and likely approval in the House, where Democrats hold the majority, boosting the spirits of the bishops as they prepared to begin their rounds, though Cobbs tempered their optimism.

“In the Senate is where it will have trouble,” Cobb said, explaining that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had “zero incentive” to put the Senate’s companion bill, 42, on the agenda for debate.

Office of Government Relations Director Rebecca Blachly, left, leads a group of former diocesan bishops: Bishop Joe Doss of New Jersey, Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark and Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

After a brief prayer by Douglas, the bishops split into two groups and headed to their respective appointments. Blachly, walking past the Supreme Court toward the House office buildings, led a group that included three former diocesan bishops, Bishop Mark Beckwith of Newark, Bishop Joe Doss of New Jersey and Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada. Cobb headed in the opposite direction to the Russell Senate Office Building followed by Douglas, Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, retired Bishop Suffragan Jim Curry of Connecticut and Bishop Chilton Knudsen, mere days into her new role as assisting bishop in the Diocese of Washington.

ENS was not granted access inside any of the meetings at lawmakers’ offices but was able to follow Cobb’s group and interview the bishops throughout the morning as they traveled around Capitol Hill, stopping at three Senate offices.

Duncan-Probe admitted early on that she had not expected to take the lead in any of the day’s meetings, given that she is one of the newer members of Bishops United, but she accepted that lead role during her group’s first stop, at the offices of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who also is running for president.

Their meeting was scheduled for 10:45 a.m., but Gillibrand’s representatives were running late because of a meeting at the Capitol. They arrived at 11:13 a.m. and ushered the bishops down the hall and into a meeting room, where Duncan-Probe prepared to kick things off.

The door closed. Time from greeting to end of meeting: 21 minutes.

Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe prepares to lead her group’s discussion Feb. 27 with staff members of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“Excellent job,” Curry said to Duncan-Probe afterward, as the group shuffled along to their next appointment.

“I was talking fast because I was nervous,” Duncan-Probe said, but also because she wanted to thoroughly summarize the bishops’ position. “I was trying to figure out the sound bite I wanted her to take back to Kirsten. … We’re a voting bloc.”

Duncan-Probe elaborated later that her diocese is “struggling with the diversity of this issue.” Episcopalians in Central New York include hunters, military veterans and others who are comfortable around guns, as well as liberal-minded Episcopalians who may never have even held a gun, much less shot one.

“Across the diocese there’s a commitment to having a safe society and a just society,” Duncan-Probe said, even if individuals don’t always agree on the particular approaches.

Jack Cobb and the bishops watch the Michael Cohen testimony on TV as they wait for their next meeting Feb. 27 in the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Cobb led the group to a basement corridor so they could pass underground into the Hart Senate Office Building.

“Our other meeting has” – he looked at his watch – “started. So we need to keep moving.”

The bishops had hoped to meet in person with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island and a fellow Episcopalian, but he was tied up in a committee meeting. As Cobb’s group waited in Whitehouse’s office, they glanced at a TV that was tuned to CNN and the Cohen hearing.

At 11:42 a.m., Whitehouse’s legal counsel Ches Garrison arrived and invited the bishops into a meeting room. Curry took the lead this time. Afterward, they all posed for a group photo.

Meeting duration: 31 minutes.

“We’re dealing with allies,” Curry told ENS on the way out. Trying to persuade a senator or representative to change a “no” vote to a “yes” is important, but Curry said it also is necessary to support those already fighting for reform. “We weren’t saying anything new, and yet we’re received with a sense of gratitude, that we are doing this work.”

The Bishops United group poses for a photo with Ches Garrison, legal counsel for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, after their meeting Feb. 27. From left are Jack Cobb of the Office of Government Relations, retired Connecticut Bishop Suffragan Jim Curry, Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, Garrison, Washington Assisting Bishop Chilton Knudsen and Douglas’ wife, Kristin Harris. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Bishops embrace anti-violence mission, impossible to ignore

Their last stop before lunch was the office of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut.

“Oh, great. Time for me to go to work,” Douglas said. He took the lead when a woman with Murphy’s staff greeted them and led them to a meeting room.

As they met, the Cohen testimony continued on the TV near the office’s entrance, this one tuned to MSNBC. Nearby, a map of Connecticut features tiny pins placed across the state, put there by the many people who have come to visit the senator’s office. Four individuals entered the office and placed an additional pin on Sandy Hook. They were from Newtown Action Alliance and had come for their own meeting.

The Bishops United group chats Feb. 27 with the Rev. Michele Morgan, rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, who was visiting Sen. Chris Murphy’s office as part of a group from Newtown Action Alliance. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

When the bishops wrapped up – 24 minutes – they greeted the Newtown group like old friends. One of them was the Rev. Michele Moran, of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, who is politically active on gun violence issues in Washington. Another was Eric Milgram, whose daughter was a first-grader at Sandy Hook at the time of the massacre and survived.

“Are you pounding the pavement?” Newtown Action Alliance Chairwoman Po Murray asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Douglas replied.

At lunch back at the United Methodist Building, Douglas told ENS he always begins conversations on these issues by saying he never intended it to be part of his agenda when he became bishop, but it became unavoidable after Dec. 12, 2012. St. John’s Episcopal Church next to Sandy Hook Elementary School became a site for community grieving after the massacre, and on a more personal level, Douglas felt the impact of the rampage directly during a service for Ben Wheeler, one of the young victims whose family attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown.

“I made a commitment to his parents, that this would be part of my vocation and my ministry as long as I’m bishop,” Douglas said.

He thinks Murphy feels the same, but in the role of a lawmaker instead of a religious leader. Murphy was the congressman representing Newtown at the time of the shooting, and now as senator, he is the lead sponsor of the Senate bill seeking to expand background checks.

After lunch, most of the bishops left for the Capitol to meet with Clyburn, the majority whip. Ely, after sharing a meal with his fellow bishops, parted ways to see his home-state senator, Patrick Leahy, a Democrat. But when Ely arrived in Leahy’s office, the office TV was tuned not to the Cohen hearing but to Leahy’s floor speech in the Senate on climate change. Was Leahy unavailable to meet in person?

Moments later, Leahy senior adviser Kevin McDonald arrived and reassured Ely that the senator was waiting to meet the bishop over in the Capitol. “This is [Leahy’s] biggest meeting of the day,” McDonald said.

Meanwhile, as the House debated the background check bill, Douglas and Knudsen made their way to the lawn on the east side of the Capitol, where celebratory gatherings were planned for the bill’s expected passage. The Newtown Action Alliance representatives met them there.

Bishops United would spend much of Feb. 28 meeting with Newtown Action Alliance and other partners in the fight against gun violence as the bishops plot the network’s future path. Their week culminates March 1 with a noon prayer service that will be streamed live on Facebook.

On Feb. 27, news broke around 4 p.m. that H.R. 8 cleared the House by a vote of 240-190, and lawmakers began pouring out of the Capitol for photo-ops, some in front of the Capitol’s steps and others on the lawn. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined a crowd of bill supporters and posed for photos with them standing next to Rep. Lucy McBath, a freshman Democrat from Georgia whose son was shot and killed in 2012. (The House would pass Clyburn’s “Charleston loophole” bill the next day.)

Douglas, Knudsen and the group from Newtown Action Alliance gravitated to a nearby spot on the Capitol steps where members of the Connecticut congressional delegation, including Murphy, had gathered to herald the House vote.

.@ctbishopian speaks with his state’s senators @SenBlumenthal and @ChrisMurphyCT in the wake of the House passing #HR8 on universal background checks. #BishopsOnTheHill #EpiscopalAdvocacy pic.twitter.com/ViCHlItxOx

— The Cross Lobby (@TheCrossLobby) February 27, 2019

Murphy vowed to work toward passage in the Senate as well while acknowledging that progress on gun reform has long been an uphill battle.

“This is an advertisement for why elections matter,” the senator said. “This is an advertisement for why persistent political action matters. Big social change doesn’t happen overnight. You hit obstacles. You fail before you succeed.”

– 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 and Roman Catholic archbishops of Dublin appeal for return of The Crusader’s head

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 11:40am

[Anglican Communion News Service] An ecumenical appeal for the return of the mummified head of an 800-year-old body known as “The Crusader” has been made by the Anglican and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Dublin. The head was stolen during a raid on the crypt of St Michan’s Church in Dublin at the weekend. The crypt, a popular tourist attraction, contained other mummified remains, including the 400-year-old remains of a nun, which were also vandalised in the attack. Since news of the attack first broke earlier this week, it has emerged that the intruders also broke into the family vault of William Rowan Hamilton, the 19th century mathematician whose studies paved the way for quantum theory and stole another skull.

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Mothers’ Union: one of Anglican Communion’s greatest gifts to worldwide church – Welby

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 11:40am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has praised the “unique and extraordinary” work of the Mothers’ Union, as he commissioned the international Anglican mission agency’s new Worldwide President, Sheran Harper, during a service in London’s Southwark Cathedral February 26. Sheran Harper from Guyana, the former provincial president of the Mothers’ Union in the Province of the West Indies, is the first worldwide president to be elected from outside the United Kingdom.

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