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Episcopalians again help flood-ravaged Maryland town recover

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 3:38pm

Volunteers at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, help unload donated water as part of the church’s effort to help its neighbors in the aftermath of May 29’s devastating flash flood. Photo: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians in Ellicott City, Maryland, were cleaning up their homes and businesses on May 29, while helping their neighbors do the same and offering them shelter after torrential rain two days before sent a destructive flash flood through the town’s downtown.

“The sun rose on a terrible scene in Old Ellicott City and our surrounding community,” the Rev. Anjel Scarborough, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, wrote to the parish on Trinity Sunday, the morning after the storm.

“As we walked through the West End, we saw nothing but mud and water being pumped out of basements. Rows of homes with their basements completely gutted and foundations washed away — no longer habitable by any means.

“St. Peter’s responded by showing up for our neighbors. Thanks to generous donations from the wider community, hot food, bottled water, hot coffee, sandwiches, phone chargers, and even a grill for cooking hamburgers and hot dogs arrived! Sara Beth [Dukes, a church neighbor] arrived to offer trauma release acupuncture for those who wanted it. We listened, we offered shoulders to cry on, and we distributed tools and equipment to help our neighbors.”

In fact, at about 9:15 p.m. on May 27, just hours after the flood, St. Peter’s let it be known via Facebook that its doors were open to anyone needing shelter. The church, which sits above the downtown, has since been open from morning until evening with hot food, toiletries (including diapers and feminine hygiene products), bottled water, work gloves, heavy-duty contractor bags, cleaning supplies, shovels and wheelbarrows, according to its Facebook page. Some of the supplies were donated by a local hardware store.

St. Peter’s is using its Facebook page to post recovery information. For instance, it shared details about a company offering to help business owners recover data from sodden computer hard drives.

“Once again, our St. Peter’s family is called upon to show the boundless, unquenchable love of Christ to our community in a time of need,” Scarborough wrote.

The other Episcopal church in town, St. John’s, took on a “quite a bit of water,” according to its Facebook page, but a group of parishioners helped prevent extensive damage. Residents of the west end of Ellicott City’s Main Street need industrial fans, water pumps, shovels and wheelbarrows, a Facebook post said. People who can offer those supplies are being directed to St. Peter’s.

Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton went to Ellicott City on Memorial Day to offer his encouragement and to assess the needs.

Locations around Ellicott City and Catonsville received between 5.36 inches and 10.38 inches of rain on Sunday, said Kyle Pallozzi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Baltimore-Washington forecast office. The heavy rain sent the Hudson and Tiber tributaries over their banks, with the water coursing down Main Street. Muddy water tore through downtown for two hours in the late afternoon. It pushed cars into store windows, forced restaurant customers to seek safety in the second stories of some buildings and sent others fleeing for higher ground.

Eddison Hermond

One person, Eddison Hermond, 39, apparently died trying to rescue a person caught in the flood. The off-duty National Guardsman came out of a restaurant to help pet food store owner Kate Bowman who had escaped with her cat from the window of her shop and was in water above her waist. She told police that Hermond was swept away by the water. His body was found May 29 in Patapsco River downstream from Ellicott City.

The Diocese of Maryland shared on its Facebook page this post from a local businessperson showing downtown Ellicott City during the flooding.

The flood came just weeks after local officials reported that the former mill town was on its way to being fully recovered from similar destruction in July 2016. About two weeks ago, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state and Howard County had been awarded more than $1 million by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for projects aimed at reducing the flood risk in the areas surrounding Main Street.

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

Refugee cultures to take center stage in festival at National Cathedral led by grassroots group

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 2:14pm

[Episcopal News Service] An upcoming outdoor festival on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral will celebrate refugees and their contributions to American culture, cuisine and communities.

The One Journey Festival, to be held June 2, is the most prominent product yet of an initiative that has grown out of the work of a small group of Episcopalians at a congregation in Virginia who were concerned about the increasingly negative depictions of the refugees coming to this country.

“We want people to know that refugees are simply people who were born in the wrong time of history and the wrong place of history, through no fault of their own,” said Wendy Chan, one of the founders of One Journey. Refugees have something to contribute to American society, she said, and “we should welcome them as our global brothers and sisters.”

Chan, a member of St. George’s Episcopal Church of Arlington, Virginia, was a teenager when she and her family came to the United States to escape political turmoil in her native China. Fellow parishioner Norma Kacen is the granddaughter of Italian immigrants who often faced prejudice as they struggled to assimilate.

Washington National Cathedral will host the One Journey Festival on June 2. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Chan and Kacen were the driving force behind Northern Virginia Friends of Refugees, a ministry of St. George’s that has grown into a national interfaith network of 650 members and has received support from more than 130 faith communities, organizations, agencies and businesses that want to stand with refugees. Together, they are inviting the public to join them in a daylong festival in Washington, D.C.

From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 2, One Journey will feature food, fashion, music art and dance provided by refugees and immigrants, including chef Jose Andres  and actor Ger Duany. Attendees will be able to connect with refugees oversees through an audio-video “portal.” Children can learn about refugee cultures in the “Next Gen” tent, while a “Take Action” booth will provide ways for adults to add their voices in support of refugees.

“It’s so important for members of our communities, members of our faith communities [to be] standing up and speaking with a loud voice that we are a welcoming people,” said Allison Duvall, manager for church relations and engagement with Episcopal Migration Ministries, which is a sponsor of One Journey Festival.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of nine independent agencies with federal contracts to resettle refugees on behalf of the State Department. The resettlement program aims to assist vulnerable populations around the world, especially those fleeing war and violence.

More than 65 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, and the United States traditionally has been the most welcoming nation in the world for refugees. That welcome has diminished, however, since President Donald Trump vowed in 2017 to reduce refugee resettlement totals and block entrance from certain countries altogether.

While President Barack Obama increased refugee resettlement to 85,000 in 2016, the number has plummeted since then, with the United States on track to resettle only 20,000 refugees this year.

“This is a challenging moment for the people who do this kind of work and the people we serve,” Duvall said. Her agency, which just two years ago was working with 30 affiliate agencies in the boundaries of 26 Episcopal dioceses, is now down to just 14 affiliates in 12 dioceses.

“The scale of need and the diminished response is kind of out of balance, and that’s another reason why these festivals and celebrations of what refugees bring to our community are so important,” she said. “They make us stronger. They make us better.”

The plight of Syrian refugees fleeing to Greece to escape their war-torn homeland is what first caught the attention of Chan and Kacen, particularly the image circulated worldwide of a 3-year-old Syrian boy lying dead on a beach in 2015 after the boat carrying his fleeing family sank.

The image “absolutely shocked us,” Kacen said. “That was, I want to say, the breaking point. It was, have we come to this?”

In April 2016, the Diocese of Virginia invited Duvall to lead a workshop about refugee resettlement efforts and how to support them. Chan and Kacen attended, and the experience further inspired them to form Northern Virginia Friends of Refugees.

One of the group’s first efforts was to organize a three-session educational forum about refugees in summer 2016. It was held at St. George’s, and people of all faith were invited. Nearly 200 people attended, which signaled to the organizers that the issue was resonating.

The Rev. Nadeem Khokhar, associate pastor of Floris United Methodist Church and a native of Pakistan, speaks March 18, 2017, at the “Raise Your Voice” event hosted by St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: St. George’s

As their efforts gained momentum, they felt a greater sense of urgency amid the growing anti-immigrant rhetoric from Trump and his supporters. A “Raise Your Voice” workshop was held in March 2017 to promote political advocacy in support of refugees, and the Friends of Refugees group also worked to arrange job mentoring for refugees, enrichment activities for their children and welcoming atmospheres at local medical facilities.

The One Journey Festival builds on that work while seeking to reach a broader audience. It started as a simple idea, for a day showcasing refugees, and it has grown into something much bigger, thanks partly to Washington National Cathedral’s willingness to host the event.

“Our Gospel calling is clear: Jesus said when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger or clothe the naked, we are doing it for God,” cathedral spokesman Kevin Eckstrom said in an email. “Refugees and migrants are the ‘least of these’ in our time, and the Cathedral is thrilled to try and help tell the real stories of real people. Whatever the White House says, these people are not ‘animals.’ Each migrant and refugee is a beloved child of God, and they need our help.”

About 30 people have been working on the festival over the past nine months. Chan and Kacen hope the idea can be replicated in other parts of the country by dioceses and congregations interested in showing their support for refugees.

Kacen said the ultimate goal is to present “an alternate vision of refugees,” a positive vision that focuses on the refugees’ own stories.

“The media dialogue about people who come to these shores has been so negative,” she said, but their lives exemplify extraordinary resilience. “They are by and large good people trying to do what any of us would do.”

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

Diocese of Chile selects bishops who will serve if it becomes independent Anglican province

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 1:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The College of Bishops of the Anglican Church of South America has ratified the election of two priests who will serve as diocesan bishops if the proposed Anglican Church of Chile goes ahead. Currently, the Iglesia Anglicana de Chile is a diocese of the Anglican Church of South America. But it has been moving towards becoming an independent Anglican Province – the 40th in the Anglican Communion.

Read the full article here.

In new coalition of religious leaders and scientists, Episcopal bishops of Massachusetts declare climate change is an emergency

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 10:47am

A group photo of faith leaders held a press conference on May 23 to announce a joint appeal on climate action. Photo: Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts

[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Alan Gates of The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and Bishop Doug Fisher of The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts joined Cardinal Sean O’Malley of The Archdiocese of Boston and other local faith leaders and scientists on May 23 for the release of a joint appeal for action on climate change.

More than 500 leaders from religious and scientific communities in Massachusetts have endorsed the joint appeal, which declares that “Climate change is an ecological and moral emergency that impacts all other aspects of our shared lives and requires us to work together to protect our common home.”

The statement declares that “All of us… must do our utmost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to protect our communities from the catastrophic impacts of climate change. We especially call upon our political representatives to address the climate crisis with the boldness and urgency it requires, with substantive and immediate action.”

The release of the Faith and Science Joint Appeal for Climate Action is a significant first step in an extraordinary, even unprecedented alliance between religion and science.  Initiated by Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who reached out to O’Malley, this emerging coalition of faith leaders and scientists intends to give a robust push to the effort to preserve a livable planet.

As I wrote in a February blog post after attending the first meeting of religious leaders and scientists, which was held at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Boston, “Such a partnership has enormous potential in this perilous time. In fact, such a partnership may be not just desirable, but even essential. Given the massive disruption of our global climate that is now underway, we need to hear from scientists, who have made it abundantly clear that continuing to burn fossil fuels will lead in a very short time to climate catastrophe.  We also need to hear from spiritual and religious leaders, who can give us the inspiration, motivation, and moral courage to change course and to create a more just and life-sustaining society.”

The joint appeal was released on the third anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, the landmark encyclical written by Pope Francis. Laudato Si is addressed to “every person living on this planet” and calls for our urgent response to “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”

Fisher commented that, “As followers of Jesus, we seek to build a society that is marked by mercy, justice, and hope. The only way to love God and our neighbor is to preserve the conditions that allow life on Earth to flourish, which begins with a habitable climate. Our emerging coalition of faith and science illuminates a basic truth: climate disruption is not only a scientific issue, but also a deeply spiritual and moral issue.”

Gates pointed out that “This coalition is a strong rebuttal of three all-too-commonly-held fallacies: that faith and science do not align (they do!); that climate change is a partisan political issue (it is not!); and that we have plenty of time to figure out solutions to this crisis (we don’t!).  I am grateful for the opportunity to move beyond these misjudgments and get on with the work that our stewardship of God’s Creation demands.”

Another religious leader who attended the May 23 press conference stepped forward to offer a few impromptu, impassioned remarks.  The Rev. Jim Antal, who leads the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ (and who, with Fisher, oversees my ecumenical appointment as missioner for creation care) pointed out that religious communities have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to raising awareness about the urgency of stabilizing our planetary climate.  How often do we preach about climate change?  How often do we give our congregations opportunities to learn climate science and to discuss the issue from a religious and spiritual perspective?  He cited the latest research from the Yale Program on Climate Communication (“Climate Change and the American Mind: March 2018”), which shows that although 70 percent of Americans understand that climate change is real and largely caused by human activities, 65 percent of Americans never talk about it.  And only 13 percent consider climate change to be a religious issue.

Now that the joint appeal has been issued, members of our emerging coalition of faith and science will meet this week [May 30] to discuss next steps.  I view this initiative as strong encouragement to Episcopal congregations to learn about climate science, to engage in conversations about climate change as a moral and spiritual concern, and to take effective action.  In order to protect “our common home” and to break our dependence on fossil fuels, Americans need both head and heart. Facts and reason alone will not motivate us to change course; we also need stories, prayer, and ceremonies, the power of imagination and a vision of hope.  Together with scientists, we can speak with one voice about the sacredness of God’s Creation and the moral imperative to protect it.

– The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas serves as Missioner for Creation Care, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ.  She maintains a Website: RevivingCreation.org.

Church of England uses Amazon’s Alexa to connect with the faithful

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 1:56pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] In a groundbreaking project, the Church of England recently revealed its new Amazon Alexa “skill” which brings the Church of England into people’s homes. Bishop Stephen Croft, who sits on the House of Lords’ Artificial Intelligence committee, explained that the Alexa skill is the most recent addition to a history of reaching people from their own contexts.

Read the full article here.

Evangelical Anglican-led youth mission group Soul Survivor to close

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 1:51pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Soul Survivor charity, which runs youth discipleship and worship events throughout England, will close after its 2019 events, the trustees announced today. Soul Survivor began in 1993 when Mike Pilavachi was released by St. Andrews Church in Chorleywood with 11 others to plant a new youth-focused Anglican church, Soul Survivor Watford, which now meets in two neighboring warehouses in an industrial estate in north Watford, Hertfordshire. The Soul Survivor events were organized by the church and grew into an ecumenical charity reaching thousands of young people every year.

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop co-leads service, candlelight public witness to the White House

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 1:06pm

The Rev. Jim Wallis, second from left, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry lead fellow clergy in a vigil titled “Reclaiming the Integrity of Faith During Political and Moral Crisis” as they process to the White House. Bishop Carroll Baltimore of the Global Alliance and Interfaith Network is on the far left. Curry is flanked by Sharon Jones, his executive coordinator, and the Rev. Michael Hunn, his canon for ministry within the Episcopal Church. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] Love your neighbor, the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like, your black neighbor, your white neighbor, your Latino neighbor, your Muslim neighbor, your Christian neighbor, your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor. That was the message Presiding Bishop Michael Curry took to a standing-room-only crowd that overflowed onto the steps at National City Christian Church and into the Lutheran church across the street here on May 24.

“We are not a partisan group, we are not a left-wing group, we are not a right-wing group, we are a Jesus Movement,” Curry said to rousing, sustained applause from those gathered to reclaim Jesus. “And we came together, Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, we came together, Republicans, Independents and Democrats, we came together, liberal and conservative, and whatever is in the middle, we came together because what binds us together is Jesus of Nazareth and his way …

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and stewardship of creation, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry belt out the Lord’s Prayer in front of the White House on May 24. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“This is not a protest march, this is a procession of Christian people. This is what they did on Pentecost. This is a Pentecostal moment and we are committed to following the way of Jesus,” service.

During the 90-minute church service that preceded a candlelight procession to the White House, one by one speakers addressed issues ranging from the rise of white nationalism to mistreatment of and violence against women, to LGBTQ inclusion to immigration reform, the spreading of falsehoods and the normalization of lying and moves toward autocratic leadership.

“The Reclaiming Jesus declaration says that we believe there are two things are at stake: the soul of the nation and the integrity of our faith,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who co-led the service and the procession alongside Curry. “Why do we say that? Because we love our country and we love our churches even more. We see people bringing politics into faith. Tonight we are bringing faith into politics.

“And there’s a big difference. … The early Christians did everything they did in the name of Jesus, not in the name of their churches or organizations.

“This is not tonight about Donald Trump, it’s about Jesus Christ.”

The service and procession of public witness were part of “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis,” an ecumenical Christian elders’ initiative launched in March to “reclaim Jesus” from those believed to be using Christian theology for political gain.

Following the service, more than a thousand people gathered outside National City Christian Church to process in public witness to the White House. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

In total, more than a thousand people processed in public witness by candlelight from National City Christian Church to the White House, where they reassembled across the street in Lafayette Square Park and sang “This Little Light of Mine” before crossing the street to stand on the sidewalk directly in front of the White House.

The White House is illuminated on May 24 as more than 1,000 Christian witnesses hold a candlelight vigil outside President Donald J. Trump’s residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. as part of “Reclaim Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.” Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The events in Washington followed last weekend’s royal wedding, where Curry delivered a sermon on the power of love at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, garnering him international attention.

Since the wedding, Curry has become an international sensation, appearing on everything from the BBC to TMZ , with stories about him in The New Yorker, Esquire and Vanity Fair and a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”

During a May 25 event at the National Press Club, Wallis said God used a royal wedding to get people to start talking about Jesus, before turning the podium over to the presiding bishop.

“The truth is I suspect what began to happen last night, and has been building and is just beginning, is maybe we are helping – no, maybe the spirit is helping the church to re-center itself and its voice on Jesus,” said Curry.

“Maybe the spirit is helping us to reclaim Christianity, not as ideology, not as anybody’s political party. Jesus can’t be bought. But to re-center Christianity and have it named and heard and understood as grounded in the teachings of Jesus, who said blessed are the poor, blessed are the poor in spirit, the Jesus who taught us love God and love your neighbor, the Jesus of the parable of the Good Samaritan … to re-center ourselves on this Jesus.

“And as that happens, not in high lofty terms, as that happens to the average Christian, the average person sitting in churches, Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, I dare say they become the movement that actually can move forward.”

Since its release, other Christian leaders have requested to sign on to the statement, and more than 2 million people worldwide have accessed it. The elders conceived of it as a tool for discipleship intended to move people to the streets in their own communities.

In an interview with Episcopal News Service on May 25 following the press club event, Curry encouraged Episcopalians to study and reflect on the Reclaim Jesus declaration and study materials.

“It’s a document worth studying, it’s grounded in scripture, it’s based in theology, it’s an attempt to articulate some of the core Christian beliefs that have to do with our values and our values having their origin in the teachings and spirit of Jesus,” he said.

Adult formation, Bible studies and other groups can use the document and the study guide to come to areas of agreement and disagreement and to reflect on them.

“This is not the word from on high, but it can be used to help people identify what are the core Christian beliefs that actually matter in my life, and how do I live them out following the teachings of Jesus,” he said. “And then what action steps will I take, what actions steps will we take to be witnesses to this way of following Jesus in our lives.

“And so, my hope is that our folk will take it and study it and reflect on it, pray on it and then decide what are we going to do about it?”

Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, of Virginia, foreground, and Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne, of Alabama, both Episcopalians, attend a May 24 Morning Prayer led by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright,
the Episcopal Church’s bishop suffragan for armed services and federal ministries, is in the background. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The previous day began at the U.S. Capitol, where Curry led a packed room in a bipartisan Morning Prayer, organized by the Office of Government Relations and co-hosted by Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne, of Alabama, and Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, of Virginia, both Episcopalians.

Today, at least 38 of the 535 citizens serving in Congress identify as Episcopalians: 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats. In November 2017, Episcopal News Service interviewed several Episcopalians who serve in Congress to report on the range of ways faith influences lawmakers’ public service.

Nine senators and representatives attended Morning Prayer. Afterward, the presiding bishop met with lawmakers from both parties to highlight the church’s advocacy and to share its perspective on civil discourse.

“Our advocacy begins with our values as Episcopalians – values of caring for the most vulnerable among us and respecting the dignity of every human being, including those we disagree with” said Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations. “There is tremendous diversity within the Episcopal Church, and that is one of our strengths: despite these differences, we still worship together. At our best, we strive to connect despite profound political differences..”

In meetings with members of Congress, the presiding bishop spoke about the need to come together in diversity on issues relating to immigration, poverty and criminal justice reform.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry leads a bipartisan group of congressmen and their staffs in Morning Prayer at the Capitol on May 24. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“We think it’s imperative that we use our influence as a church to encourage our lawmakers to develop more just and human policies and that happens in and through relationships,” she said. “At the Office of Government Relations, we share the perspective and positions of the Church and seek to find ways to work together. We work hard to build and maintain honest relationships based in dialogue and respect.”

The Office of Government Relations – housed on Capitol Hill – carries out the church’s nonpartisan, values-based agenda. Every three years, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention meets to conduct church-related business and to discuss and pass legislation ranging from revisions to the Book of Common Prayer to resolutions supporting criminal justice and immigration reform. Episcopalians can join the Episcopal Public Policy Network to become involved in this work.

Churches and religious communities have a constitutional right to petition the government. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause does not prohibit churches from meeting with, educating or advocating to elected officials with the aim of creating laws in line with the churches’ values. Throughout U.S. history, religious communities have engaged politically on issues of the era: from abolition to civil rights movements to immigration reform.

Reclaiming Jesus is just one ecumenical campaign joined by the Episcopal Church. Others include Pray Fast Act and the Poor People’s Campaign.

More information about the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is available here. For more information about or to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network, click here.

-Lynette Wilson is managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

Diocese of Virginia takes ‘extraordinary step’ of ending search for bishop suffragan

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 11:05am
Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon S. Johnston issued the following letter to the diocese on May 24, announcing an end to the search for a suffragan bishop.

Dear Diocesan Family,

I am writing to let you know that the Executive Board and I, with the knowledge and consent of the Standing Committee, have made the decision to end the ongoing search toward the election of a second bishop suffragan. This action is effective immediately.

Diocese of Virginia Bishop Shannon T. Johnston listens as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry answers a question during a May 30, 2017, news conference at Roslyn Conference Center in suburban Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

We have taken this extraordinary step for two fundamental reasons. First, over the past few months, serious questions have been brought forward by members of the diocesan staff having to do with the leadership and the culture among diocesan staff. As Bishop I must take full responsibility for this situation. Utmost in my priorities will be to ensure that all of us function well together. The crucial point as we face this reality is that this is not the time to introduce a new bishop into the diocesan system. Rather, it is much preferable to bring in the help we need to address the difficulties and identify ways that the staff as a culture and system can be become fully functional again. To this end, it is my hope to engage the services of the Lombard-Mennonite Peace Center, the leading church organizational consultant group in the country, to work with us. I have been in touch with the Presiding Bishop’s office about our situation and the possibilities to address it, and we have been advised that they are in full agreement with our decision. I am confident we will succeed in the tasks before us because our staff is a talented group and each person is deeply committed to the Church, to this Diocese and to building up the Kingdom of God.

Secondly, now reaching age 60 with 30 years of service in the Episcopal Church (eleven years as a bishop in Virginia), I have begun to look more seriously about retiring earlier than I had originally planned. I am acutely aware that my wife Ellen is several years my senior and we want to be able to enjoy an active retirement together. At this point in our marriage, it is important to consider how we take care of ourselves. Of course, there is a great deal of research and consultation to do to determine readiness for retirement, all requiring much prayerful consideration. In looking at my options, I am no longer as certain as before that I can promise working another five years with a new suffragan as I had said I would be able to do.

I am most grateful for the hard and faithful work of our Search/Nominating Team, headed by Diane Miller, with whom I have discussed the present quandary. Now, it seems clear enough to me that with so much to consider, the wiser course may well be to let these concerns work their way through and then we will be able to reach the better decision for diocesan leadership. I believe that the decision reached by our Executive Board and Standing Committee reflects not only great discretion but also takes the long view, which can often be a very difficult thing to do. For my part, I remain absolutely confident in the stability and abilities of this diocese to take a step back for a better perspective when needed, and I ask for your continued prayers as we do the work we are called to do.

Faithfully yours,

 

The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
XIII Bishop of Virginia

Diocese of Litoral Ecuador announces search for its third bishop

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 5:48pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Litoral Ecuador] The Episcopal Diocese of Litoral Ecuador has started a process of systematic search and nomination for a new bishop.

We have undertaken the task assigned to us with faith, prayer, partnership and teamwork as well as the grave responsibility of a transparent process. It gives us the confidence to present a profile of a bishop for the Litoral Diocese to our brothers and sisters all over the world where we the Episcopalians profess the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ in the fellowship of the Anglican Communion.

This text presents our first steps in the pastoral life, the spiritual development of a community that always expresses its unity, solidarity, generosity and readiness for service of our brothers and sisters, laypeople, bishops, priests and deacons, towards the people of God, to whom we love in the Lord.

Thus, we cordially welcome to those who receive this profile for the search of a new diocesan bishop, always remembering the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

May God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless and save us. Amen.

Video: Presiding Bishop speaks from DC about bipartisan Morning Prayer, ‘Reclaiming Jesus’

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 5:34pm

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is in Washington, D.C., May 24. In this video he talks about leading bipartisan Morning Prayer on Capitol Hill and the movement to “Reclaim Jesus.”

Bishop of London Sarah Mullally becomes most senior female bishop in House of Lords

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 3:47pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of London Sarah Mullally was introduced May 24 as a member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, becoming the most senior female bishop in the House of Lords. From its earliest days as an advisory council to monarchs, the House of Lords has included Church of England bishops among its membership. Today, 26 bishops are members.

Read the full article here.

Hawaii Episcopalians displaced by volcano as congregation organizes relief efforts

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:40pm

Lava is seen spewing from fissures in the Puna District of Hawaii Island, east of the Kilauea volcano. The eruptions and lava flows have displaced 2,000 residents since they began May 3. Photo: Hawaii County Civil Defense

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians in Hawaii have thrown their support behind volcano relief efforts this month as lava, ash and toxic gas from eruptions of Kilauea continue to destroy homes, prompt evacuations and disrupt life in the Puna District of what is known as the Big Island.

The evacuations have displaced about 2,000 people in the island’s southeast corner, including some members of Church of the Holy Apostles in Hilo, which is about a half-hour north of the evacuation zone. Of the six Episcopal congregations on Hawaii’s Big Island, Holy Apostles is closest to the volcano and its line of active fissures.

The Diocese of Hawaii, based in Honolulu on Oahu, has been in regular contact with the Rev. Katlin McCallister, the priest-in-charge at Holy Apostles, as her congregation tends to members affected by the volcano and donates money and supplies to the broader disaster response. The church has pinned a list to the top of its Facebook page detailing the many ways Episcopalians can lend a hand.

Despite the scale of the disaster and the continued threat it poses, McCallister has been encouraged by how people across the community have banded together, especially the interfaith coalition that includes Holy Apostles.

“The way that the faith groups have been able to rise to the occasion and work together is … the kingdom Christ is calling us toward, the unified body,” McCallister told Episcopal News Service. “It’s truly inspiring, and I really think it’s a testament to what we can do. We are stronger together.”

Holy Apostles, with an annual Sunday attendance of about 120, draws members from across a large geographic area, and several members have been directly affected by the disaster. One family lost its home and farm to the lava flows. About five other member families have had to flee the evacuation zone. The spokeswoman for the mayor’s office also is a Holy Apostles member and has been working tirelessly since the eruptions started May 3, McCallister said.

May 23 evening #HVO #Kilauea update #Kilauea: Lava & ground cracking continue in East Rift Zone. New ocean entry N of MacKenzie State Park, 2 total. Frequent small ash emissions at summit. Small summit earthquakes continue (largest M3.5). https://t.co/7sDZqcOJ5s #KilaueaErupts pic.twitter.com/ii7eWB2ohP

— USGS Volcanoes

Presiding Bishop, ecumenical religious leaders descend on Washington, D.C., to ‘reclaim Jesus’

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 3:43pm

Tourists gather in front of the White House in November. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry travels this week to Washington, D.C., for a series of events as part of the “Reclaiming Jesus” initiative, including meetings with lawmakers on Capital Hill, a Morning Prayer service and a candlelight procession to the White House. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Jim Wallis of the Christian social justice organization Sojourners will co-lead a May 24 service at National City Christian Church followed by a candlelight procession to the White House.

The events in Washington, D.C., are part of “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis,”  an ecumenical Christian elders’ initiative launched in March to “reclaim Jesus” from those believed to be using Christian theology for political gain.

“We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches,” said the 23 original signers of the statement. “We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.”

It’s the church’s role to change the world through the love and life of Christ. When political leadership undermines that role, “faith leaders must stand up and speak out,” they said, invoking the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the church is the conscience of the state, not its master or servant.”

The contemporary Christian religious leaders believe the United States is in a political, moral and theological crisis. They are concerned with the resurgence of white nationalism, racism and xenophobia; misogyny; attacks on immigrants, refugees and the poor; the distortion of facts and consistent lying by the nation’s highest leaders; and moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule.

Since its release, other Christian leaders have requested to sign on to the statement. At the same time, Curry’s own profile has risen dramatically since he was chosen to preach May 19 at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. His sermon continues to generate praise this week as Curry turns his attention to Reclaiming Jesus.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain, May 19. Photo: Reuters

“This weekend I spoke about the way of love. As elders, we view bringing the Reclaiming Jesus declaration to the public square as a tangible example of how to live out that way of love,” Curry said in a news release on Sojourners’ website. “We are Christian leaders bearing moral witness to the teachings of our faith in the public square. As citizens we want our government to reflect our values. As a Bishop I believe we should follow the teachings of Jesus – who taught us to love God and love our neighbor.”

The May 24 service begins at 7 p.m. Curry and Wallis will address “faith in a time of crisis,” prayers and declarations will be offered, and the Howard University Gospel Choir will perform. It’s no coincidence that church leaders planned their trip to Washington to coincide with Pentecost, a time when early Christians took their faith to the streets and the public square.

For the presiding bishop, however, the visit to Washington is more than a public witness. Curry will begin the day by offering Morning Prayer at the U.S. Capitol for members of Congress and their staffs. This is a continuation of the monthly Morning Prayer services organized by the Episcopal Church Office of Government Affairs and led by Episcopal bishops and clergy for more than a year. Following Morning Prayer, Curry is scheduled to meet with lawmakers from both parties and with Republican leaders to share the church’s values and look for points of agreement on issues ranging from refugee resettlement to higher education and criminal justice reform.

The Episcopal Church maintains an official presence in the capital; its Office of Government Relations – housed on Capitol Hill – carries out the church’s nonpartisan, values-based agenda. Every three years the Episcopal Church’s General Convention meets to conduct church-related business and to discuss and pass legislation ranging from revisions to the Book of Common Prayer to resolutions supporting criminal justice and immigration reform. Episcopalians can join the Episcopal Public Policy Network to become involved in this work.

Churches and religious communities have a constitutional right to petition the government. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause does not prohibit churches from meeting with, educating or advocating to elected officials with the aim of creating laws in line with the churches’ values. Throughout U.S. history, religious communities have engaged politically on issues of the era: from abolition to civil rights movements to immigration reform.

Incidentally, the United States has a long history of political leaders from the Anglican tradition, starting with President George Washington and many members of first Congress in 1789. The Episcopal Church’s prominence on Capitol Hill has been eclipsed by other denominations as the country has diversified over more than two centuries, though dozens of members of Congress still identify as Episcopalians or Anglicans.

Today, at least 38 of the 535 citizens serving in Congress identify as Episcopalians; 22 Republican, 16 Democrats.

In November 2017, Episcopal News Service interviewed several Episcopalians who serve in Congress to report on the range of ways faith influences lawmakers’ public service.

Reclaiming Jesus is just one ecumenical campaign joined by the Episcopal Church. Others include Pray Fast Act and the Poor People’s Campaign.

More information about the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is available here. For more information about or to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network, click here.

-Lynette Wilson is managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.  

Sermon de l’Évêque Primat Curry lors du mariage royal

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 2:31pm

Owen Humphreys/REUTERS

Michael Curry, Évêque Primat de l’Église épiscopale, a prononcé un sermon lors du mariage royal du Prince Harry et de Meghan Markle. Le mariage du Prince Henry Charles Albert David de Galles – membre de la famille royale d’Angleterre et sixième dans le rang de succession au trône – et Rachel Meghan Markle, actrice américaine, a fait les gros titres du monde entier.

La vidéo est disponible ici.

Voici le texte du sermon de l’Évêque Primat :

« La force de l’amour » — Sermon
de Monseigneur Michael B. Curry
pour le mariage de
SAR le Prince Henry de Galles & Mme Meghan Markle
le samedi 19 mai 2018

Et maintenant, au nom de notre Dieu aimant, libérateur et source de vie, du Père, du Fils et du Saint-Esprit. Amen.

Tiré du Chant de Salomon, dans la Bible :

Mets-moi comme un sceau sur ton cœur,
comme un sceau sur ton bras,
car fort comme la mort est amour,
inflexible comme enfer est jalousie,
ses flammes sont des flammes ardentes,
un coup de foudre sacré.
Les grandes eaux ne pourraient éteindre l’amour
et les fleuves ne le submergeraient pas.

Cantique des Cantiques 8:6-7

Le regretté Martin Luther King a dit un jour et je cite :

« Il nous faut découvrir la force de l’amour, la force rédemptrice de l’amour. Et lorsque nous l’aurons découvert, nous serons capables de faire de ce vieux monde un nouveau monde. L’amour est la seule voie. »

Il y a de la force dans l’amour. Ne la sous-estimez pas. Ne versez pas dans la sensiblerie. Il y a de la force, de la force dans l’amour. SI vous ne me croyez pas, pensez au moment où vous êtes pour la première fois tombé amoureux. Le monde entier semblait centré sur vous et votre bien-aimé. Oh, il y a de la force, de la force dans l’amour. Non seulement sous ses formes romantiques mais sous toutes ses formes, toutes les formes de l’amour. Il y a un certain sens, lorsque vous êtes aimé et que vous le savez, lorsque vous comptez pour quelqu’un et que vous le savez, lorsque vous aimez et que vous le montrez, on se sent vraiment bien. On sent quelque chose de juste. Et il y a une raison à cela.

La raison a à voir avec la source. Nous avons été créés par la force de l’amour. Et nos vies étaient destinées et sont destinées à être vécues dans cet amour. Voilà pourquoi nous sommes ici. En fin de compte, la source de l’amour est Dieu lui-même. La source de toutes nos vies.

Il y a un vieux poème médiéval qui dit :

« Où se trouve le véritable amour, Dieu lui-même est là ».

1 Jean dans le Nouveau Testament le dit de cette manière :

« Mes bien-aimés, aimons-nous les uns les autres,
car l’amour vient de Dieu,
et quiconque aime est né de Dieu
qui n’aime pas ne connaît pas Dieu
puisque Dieu est amour » (1Jean 4:4-8)

Il y a de la force dans l’amour.
Il y a de la force dans l’amour pour aider et guérir quand rien d’autre ne le peut.
Il y a de la force dans l’amour pour relever et libérer quand rien d’autre ne le peut.
Il y a de la force dans l’amour pour nous montrer la voie de la vie.

« Mets-moi comme un sceau sur ton cœur
Un sceau sur ton bras,
Car fort comme la mort est amour »

Mais l’amour ne concerne pas seulement un jeune couple.
La force de l’amour est démontrée par le fait que nous sommes tous ici.
Deux jeunes gens sont tombés amoureux et nous sommes tous venus !
Mais ce n’est pas seulement pour et au sujet du jeune couple que nous nous réjouissons. C’est plus que cela.

Un avocat a une fois demandé à Jésus de Nazareth de résumer l’essence des enseignements de Moïse. Et il a consulté et s’est replongé dans les écritures hébraïques du Deutéronome et du Lévitique où Jésus a dit :

Tu aimeras le Seigneur ton Dieu de tout ton cœur, de toute ton âme,
de toute ta pensée et de toute ta force.
C’est là le premier et le grand commandement.
Le second est lui aussi important.
Tu aimeras ton prochain comme toi-même.

Puis, dans la version de Matthieu, il a ajouté :

De ces deux commandements, l’amour de Dieu et l’amour de ton prochain, dépendent toute la Loi et les prophètes.

Tout ce que Moïse a écrit, tout dans les saints prophètes, tout dans les Écritures, tout ce que Dieu a essayé de dire au monde !

Aime Dieu !

Aime ton prochain.

Et pendant que tu y es, aime-toi.

Un jour quelqu’un a dit que Jésus a commencé le mouvement le plus révolutionnaire de toute l’histoire de l’humanité. Un mouvement fondé sur l’amour inconditionnel de Dieu pour le monde. Un mouvement qui oblige les peuples à vivre cet amour. Et ce faisant, à changer non seulement leur vie mais la vie même du monde.

Je parle là d’une force.
Une véritable force.
La force de changer le monde.

Et si vous ne me croyez pas, eh bien, il y a de vieux esclaves du Sud américain antebellum qui ont expliqué la force dynamique de l’amour et pourquoi il a la force de transformer. Ils l’ont expliqué de cette façon – ils chantaient des spirituals, alors même qu’ils étaient en captivité. Un de ces spirituals dit :

« Il y a du baume en Galaad »

Un baume guérisseur, quelque chose qui peut rectifier les torts –

« Il y a du baume en Galaad
Pour rétablir les blessés
Il y a du baume en Galaad
Pour guérir l’âme malade du péché »

Et l’une des strophes explique en réalité pourquoi :

« Si tu ne peux pas prêcher comme Pierre,
Et si tu ne peux pas prier comme Paul,
Raconte l’amour de Jésus,
Comment il est mort pour nous sauver tous »

Oh, Il y a du baume en Galaad !

Cette voie de l’amour est la voie de la vie ! Ils l’avaient compris !

Il est mort pour nous sauver tous ! Il n’est pas mort pour en tirer quoi que ce soit !
Jésus n’a pas obtenu un doctorat honorifique pour sa mort !
Il n’en a absolument rien retiré !
Il a donné sa vie, il a sacrifié sa vie pour le bien d’autrui, pour le bien de l’autre, pour le bien du monde, pour nous !

C’est cela l’amour.
L’amour n’est pas égoïste et égocentrique.
L’amour peut être sacrificiel.
Et ce faisant, il devient rédempteur.

Et cet amour altruiste, sacrificiel, rédempteur change les vies.
Et il peut changer ce monde.

Si vous ne me croyez pas, arrêtez-vous un instant pour réfléchir ou imaginer.
Réfléchissez et imaginez.
Réfléchissez et imaginez un monde où l’amour est la seule voie.

Imaginez nos foyers et nos familles où l’amour est la seule voie.
Imaginez les quartiers et les communautés où l’amour est la seule voie.
Imaginez nos gouvernements et nos nations où l’amour est la seule voie.
Imaginez les entreprises et le commerce où l’amour est la seule voie.
Imaginez ce vieux monde fatigué où l’amour est la seule voie.

Si l’amour est la voie altruiste, sacrificielle, rédemptrice.
Si l’amour est la seule voie, plus aucun enfant au monde n’ira au lit le ventre vide.
Si l’amour est la seule voie, nous laisserons la justice couler comme un fleuve majestueux et la droiture comme un ruisseau intarissable.
Si l’amour est la seule voie, la pauvreté sera reléguée au passé.
Si l’amour est la seule voie, la terre deviendra un sanctuaire.
Si l’amour est la seule voie, nous déposerons nos épées et nos boucliers sur la berge pour ne plus étudier la guerre.
Si l’amour est la seule voie, il y aura une abondance d’espace. Une abondance d’espace. Pour tous les enfants de Dieu.

Et si l’amour est la seule voie, nous nous traiterons les uns les autres – comme si nous étions en fait une famille.
Si l’amour est la seule voie, nous savons que Dieu est la source de nous tous et que nous sommes frères et sœurs. Les enfants de Dieu.

Mes frères et sœurs, c’est un nouveau paradis, une nouvelle terre, un nouveau monde.

Une nouvelle famille humaine.

Et laissez-moi vous dire une chose, le vieux Salomon avait raison dans l’Ancien Testament, c’est du feu.

Teilhard de Chardin – et sur ces paroles, je vais m’asseoir, il nous faut tous vous marier.

Le Jésuite français Teilhard de Chardin était sans conteste l’un des plus grands penseurs, des plus grands esprits du 20ème siècle. Un prêtre catholique jésuite, un scientifique, un savant, un mystique. Dans l’un de ses écrits il a dit, fort de son expérience scientifique et son expérience théologique. Dans certains de ses écrits il a dit, comme d’autres l’ont fait, que la découverte, l’invention ou la maîtrise du feu était l’une des plus grandes découvertes scientifiques et technologiques de toute l’histoire de l’humanité.

Le feu a dans une large mesure rendu possible la civilisation humaine.

Le feu nous a permis de cuire les aliments et d’introduire l’hygiène dans la cuisine, ce qui a réduit en son temps la propagation des maladies.

Le feu nous a permis de chauffer et de réchauffer les environnements et a par là même rendu possible la migration humaine à travers le monde, même dans les climats plus froids.

Le feu a rendu cela possible – il n’y aurait pas d’Âge de Bronze sans le feu. Pas d’Âge de Fer sans le feu. Pas de révolution industrielle sans le feu.

Les progrès de la science et de la technologie dépendent en grande partie de l’aptitude et de la capacité humaines de maîtriser le feu et de l’utiliser pour le bien de l’être humain.

Quelqu’un est-il venu en voiture ici aujourd’hui ? En automobile ?

Hochez la tête si c’est le cas, je suppose, je sais qu’il y avait des calèches.

Pour ceux d’entre nous qui sommes venus en voiture, le feu, le feu contrôlé, maîtrisé, a rendu cela possible.

Je sais que la Bible dit, et je le crois, que Jésus a marché sur l’eau mais je dois vous le dire, je n’ai pas traversé l’Océan atlantique à pied pour venir ici !

Le feu contrôlé dans cet avion est ce qui m’a amené ici !

Le feu est ce qui nous permet de communiquer par texto, Tweet, courriel, Instagram et Facebook et d’être socialement dysfonctionnels les uns avec les autres !

Le feu a rendu tout cela possible !

Et de Chardin a dit que le feu était l’une des plus grandes découvertes de toute l’histoire de l’humanité.

Puis il a ajouté que si jamais l’humanité arrivait à nouveau à maîtriser l’énergie du feu, si jamais l’humanité saisissait l’énergie de l’amour, ce serait la seconde fois de l’histoire que nous découvririons le feu.

Martin Luther King avait raison.
Il nous faut découvrir l’amour.
La force rédemptrice de l’amour.
Et si nous y parvenons, nous ferons de ce vieux monde un nouveau monde.

Mon frère, ma sœur,
Que Dieu vous aime, que Dieu vous bénisse.
Et que Dieu nous garde tous
dans ces mains toutes-puissantes d’amour.

Christians around the world gather in prayer on final weekend of Thy Kingdom Come

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 11:05am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The third annual ecumenical global wave of prayer for evangelism, Thy Kingdom Come, has come to an end with thousands of Christians around the world gathering for prayer and worship in “beacon events. The Thy Kingdom Come movement began with a simple invitation to prayer from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the clergy of the Church of England but grew into a global ecumenical movement.

Read the full article here.

Archbishop welcomes ceasefire agreement as South Sudan peace talks continue

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 11:04am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican archbishop of South Sudan has led five days of mediated peace talks between the warring parties in South Sudan. The talks reached agreement on three of the 11 demands made by opposition groups, including a recommitment to the cessation of hostilities. Talks on the remaining eight unresolved issues will now continue under the leadership of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, who was only installed as Primate of the Anglican Church of South Sudan last month, led the talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa alongside a number of other South Sudanese religious leaders.

Read the full article here.

Sermón del Obispo Presidente Michael Curry en la Boda Real

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 4:40am

Owen Humphreys/ REUTERS

El Obispo Presidente y Primado de la Iglesia Episcopal Michael Curry predicó en la boda real del Príncipe Harry y Meghan Markle. Los titulares mundiales anunciaron la boda del 19 de mayo del príncipe Henry Charles Albert David de Gales, miembro de la familia real inglesa y sexto en línea para el trono, y Rachel Meghan Markle, una actriz estadounidense.

El video está disponible aquí (original en inglés)

A continuación les presentamos el texto del sermón del Obispo Presidente:

“El poder del amor” – Un sermón por el Reverendísimo Michael B. Curry
para

El matrimonio de
SAR el Príncipe Henry de Gales y la Sra. Meghan Markle
Sábado 19 de mayo de 2018

Y ahora en nombre de nuestro Dios amoroso, liberador y vivificante, Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo. Amén.

Del Cantar de los Cantares, en la Biblia:

Ponme como un sello sobre tu corazón,
como una marca sobre tu brazo;
Porque fuerte es como la muerte el amor;
pasión feroz como la tumba.
Sus brasas son brasas de fuego,
fuerte llama.
Las muchas aguas no podrán apagar el amor,
ni lo ahogarán los ríos.

El Cantar de los Cantares 8:6-7

El difunto Dr. Martin Luther King una vez dijo, y lo cito:

“Debemos descubrir el poder del amor, el poder redentor del amor. Y cuando descubrimos, seremos capaces de hacer de este viejo mundo un nuevo mundo. El amor es el único camino”.

Hay poder en el amor. No lo subestimen. Ni siquiera lo vean demasiado sentimental. Hay poder, poder en el amor. Si no me creen, piensen en un momento en el que se enamoraron por primera vez. El mundo entero parecía girar a su alrededor y de su amada. Oh, hay poder, poder en el amor. No sólo en sus tipos románticos, sino en cualquier tipo, en cualquier forma, de amor. Hay un cierto sentido, en el que cuando eres amado, y lo sabes, cuando le importas a alguien y lo sabes, cuando amas y lo muestras, en realidad se siente bien. Hay algo correcto al respecto. Y hay una razón para eso.

El motivo tiene que ver con la fuente. Fuimos creados por un poder de amor. Y nuestras vidas fueron creadas con esa intención, y están destinadas a ser vividas en ese amor. Es por eso que estamos aquí. En última instancia, la fuente del amor es Dios mismo. La fuente de todas nuestras vidas.

Como lo dice un viejo poema medieval:
“Donde se encuentra el verdadero amor, Dios mismo está allí”.

1era de Juan en el Nuevo Testamento lo dice de esta manera.

“Amados, amémonos unos a otros;
Porque el amor es de Dios;
Todo aquel que ama, es nacido de Dios y conoce a Dios
El que no ama, no ha conocido a Dios;
porque Dios es amor.” (1era de Juan 4:7-8)

Hay poder en el amor.
Hay poder en el amor para ayudar y sanar cuando nada más puede hacerlo.
Hay poder en el amor para levantar y liberar cuando nada más lo hará.
Hay poder en el amor para mostrarnos la forma de vivir.

“Ponme como un sello sobre tu corazón
Un sello en tu brazo ”

Porque fuerte es como la muerte el amor;

Pero el amor no se trata sólo de una pareja joven.
Ahora el poder del amor se demuestra por el hecho de que todos estamos aquí.
Dos jóvenes se enamoraron, ¡y todos nos presentamos!
Pero no es solo por y para una pareja joven con quienes nos regocijamos.
Es más que eso.

A Jesús de Nazaret en una ocasión le pidió un abogado que resumiera la esencia de las enseñanzas de Moisés. Y él leyó nuevamente, y volvió a las escrituras hebreas de Deuteronomio y Levítico, y Jesús dijo:

Amarás al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón, con toda tu alma, con toda tu mente y con todas tus fuerzas.
Este es el primer y gran mandamiento.
Y el segundo es como eso.
Amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo.

Y luego en la versión de Mateo, agregó, él dijo:

En estos dos, el amor de Dios y el amor al prójimo, se sostiene toda la ley, todos los profetas.

¡Todo lo que Moisés escribió, todo en los santos profetas, todo en las Escrituras, todo lo que Dios ha estado tratando de decirle al mundo!

¡Amen a Dios!
Amen a tus vecinos
Y mientras lo hacen, ámense ustedes mismos.

Alguien dijo una vez que Jesús comenzó el movimiento más revolucionario en toda la historia de la humanidad. Un movimiento basado en el amor incondicional de Dios por el mundo. Y un movimiento que manda a las personas a vivir ese amor. Y al hacerlo, cambiar no solo sus vidas, sino la vida misma del mundo.

Estoy hablando de un súper poder.
Poder real.
Poder para cambiar el mundo.

Y si no me creen, bueno, hubo unos esclavos en el Sur de la Antigüedad de los Estados Unidos, que explicaron el poder dinámico del amor y por qué tiene el poder de transformar. Lo explicaron de esta manera: cantaron una [canción] espiritual, incluso en medio de su cautiverio. Es una que dice:

“Hay un bálsamo en Galaad”

Un bálsamo curativo, algo que puede hacer las cosas bien –

“Hay un bálsamo en Galaad
Para que los heridos sean sanados
Hay un bálsamo en Galaad
Para sanar al alma enferma de pecado”.

Y una de las estrofas en realidad explica el porqué – dijeron:

“Si no puedes predicar como Pedro,
Y no puedes orar como Pablo
Tú habla del amor de Jesús,
Cómo murió para salvarnos a todos”.

¡Oh, ese es el bálsamo en Galaad!
¡Esta forma de amor, es la forma de vida! ¡Ellos lo entendieron!

¡Murió para salvarnos a todos! ¡No murió porque fuera a sacar nada de eso!
¡Jesús no recibió un doctorado honorario por morir!
¡No estaba sacando nada de eso!
Renunció a su vida, sacrificó su vida por el bien de los demás, por el bien del otro, por el bienestar del mundo, ¡por nosotros!

Eso es lo que es el amor.
El amor no es egoísta y egocéntrico.
El amor puede ser sacrificatorio.
Y al hacerlo, se vuelve redentor.

Y esa forma de amor desinteresado, sacrificado y redentor, cambia vidas.
Y puede cambiar este mundo.

Si no me creen, sólo detenganse a pensar, o imaginen.
Piensen, e imaginense.
Bueno, piensen e imaginense un mundo donde el amor es el camino.

Imaginen nuestros hogares y familias cuando el amor es el camino.
Imaginen vecindarios y comunidades cuando el amor es el camino.
Imaginen a nuestros gobiernos y naciones cuando el amor es el camino.
Imaginen los negocios y el comercio cuando el amor es el camino.
Imaginen este viejo mundo cansado cuando el amor es el camino.

Cuando el amor es el camino, desinteresado, sacrificado, redentor.
Cuando el amor es el camino, ningún niño volvería a la cama con hambre en este mundo nunca más.
Cuando el amor es el camino, dejaremos que la justicia ruede como una corriente poderosa y la justicia como un arroyo que fluye constantemente.
Cuando el amor es el camino, la pobreza se convertiría en historia.
Cuando el amor es el camino, la tierra será un santuario.
Cuando el amor es el camino, descansaremos nuestras espadas y escudos a la orilla del río y no estudiaremos la guerra jamás.

Cuando el amor es el camino, hay mucho espacio bueno. Mucho espacio bueno. Para todos los hijos de Dios.
Y cuando el amor es el camino, en realidad nos tratamos unos a otros, bueno, como si fuéramos realmente familia.
Cuando el amor es el camino, sabemos que Dios es la fuente de todos nosotros, y somos hermanos y hermanas. Hijos de Dios.

Mis hermanos y hermanas, ese es un cielo nuevo, una tierra nueva, un mundo nuevo.
Una nueva familia humana.

Y déjame decirte algo, el viejo Salomón tenía razón en el Antiguo Testamento, eso es fuego.

Teilhard de Chardin, y con esto, me sentaré, tenemos que casarlos.

El jesuita francés Teilhard de Chardin fue posiblemente una de las grandes mentes, grandes espíritus del siglo XX. Un jesuita, un sacerdote católico romano, un científico, un erudito, un místico. En algunos de sus escritos, dijo, desde su formación científica, así como desde su formación teológica. En algunos de sus escritos dijo, como otros lo hicieron, que el descubrimiento, la invención o el uso del fuego fue uno de los grandes descubrimientos científicos y tecnológicos de toda la historia de la humanidad.

El fuego hizo posible en gran medida la civilización humana.

El fuego hizo posible cocinar alimentos y proporcionar maneras sanas de comer, lo que redujo la propagación de la enfermedad en su momento.

El fuego hizo posible calentar y tibiar ambientes y, por lo tanto, hizo posible la migración humana en todo el mundo, incluso hacia climas más fríos.

El fuego lo hizo posible; no hubo Edad de Bronce sin fuego. No hubo Edad de Hierro sin fuego. No hubo revolución industrial sin fuego.

Los avances de la ciencia y la tecnología dependen en gran medida de la habilidad y capacidad humana de tomar el fuego y usarlo para el bien humano.

¿Alguien vino aquí en un carro hoy? ¿En un automóvil?
Asientan con sus cabezas si lo hicieron, estoy adivinando, sé que había algunos carruajes.
Para aquellos de nosotros que vinieron en autos, fuego y el fuego controlado y encapsulado lo hicieron posible.

Sé que la Biblia dice, y lo creo, que Jesús caminó sobre el agua, pero tengo que decirte que no crucé el océano Atlántico caminando para llegar hasta aquí.

¡El fuego controlado en ese avión me trajo aquí!

¡El fuego nos permite enviar mensajes de texto, enviar tweets y correos electrónicos y usar Instagram y Facebook, ¡y socialmente ser disfuncionales unos con otros!

¡El fuego hace todo eso posible!

Y de Chardin dijo que el fuego fue uno de los mayores descubrimientos en toda la historia de la humanidad.

Y luego continuó diciendo que si la humanidad alguna vez llegara a dominar la energía del fuego nuevamente, si la humanidad alguna vez captura la energía del amor, será la segunda vez en la historia que descubrimos el fuego.

El Dr. King tenía razón.
Debemos descubrir el amor.
El poder redentor del amor.
Y cuando lo hagamos, haremos de este viejo mundo un mundo nuevo.

Mi hermano, mi hermana,
Dios te ama, Dios te bendiga.
Y que Dios nos sostenga a todos,
en esas manos Todopoderosas de amor.

RIP: Bishop George Edward Councell of Diocese of New Jersey

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 4:13pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev.George Edward Councell, the 11th bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey, died May 21 hours after being transferred to hospice care, the diocese announced. He was 68.

Councell served 10 years as bishop before retiring in 2013, five years after doctors diagnosed Parkinson’s disease.

“I wanted to become a bishop to get closer to God, but with so many people here to look after, I thought, wow, I’ll really have to get closer to God to do this,” he said with a laugh in a 2013 interview with the The Times of Trenton. “But I feel that I have.”

Councell died at about 6 p.m. May 21 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton.

“Family and friends were with him. I had an opportunity to say prayers and anoint him, and said commendatory prayers with the family,” Bishop Chip Stokes said in a brief message to the diocese announcing Councell’s death. “Please pray for Ruth, their daughters Martha and Sarah, and hold the Councell family in your prayers.

“May his soul and the souls of all the departed through the mercy of God rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Councell, who received his Master of Divinity degree from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was ordained as a priest in 1975 in the Diocese of Los Angeles and went on to serve as vicar of St. George’s Church in Riverside, California; canon to the ordinary of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, and rector of Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest Illinois, according an obituary by Planet Princeton.

He also was a supporter of greater inclusion of gay Episcopalians in the life of the church.

“It was very dear to me to keep everyone at the table, the Lord’s table, and not needlessly build these boundaries among one another,” he told The Times of Trenton in 2013. “The church isn’t the totally safe place I want it to be for gays and lesbians, but I think we’ve made it a safer place for them, and a place where they can come, and be seen as people who want the same things as all of us: to have a healthy, happy, strong, supportive family.”

Anglican Church of Melanesia launches Decade of Evangelism and Renewal

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:44pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Members of the Anglican Church of Melanesia should “arise and shine for Jesus Christ,” the Province said this week as it launched a decade-long focus on evangelism and renewal. The campaign was launched on Pentecost Sunday with a special service at St Barnabas Cathedral, in Honiara, in which Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon preached. On the eve of the service, the province held an open-air evangelistic crusade in the car park of Honiara City Council.

Read the full article here.

Emergency appeal launched by overwhelmed Anglican hospital in Gaza City

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:39pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Diocese in Jerusalem has launched an emergency appeal for funds to support its al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. The Anglican-run hospital has been overwhelmed by the number of casualties sustained during protests across the Gaza strip this month.

“Our Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza had been literally working around the clock to serve the wounded from the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip ever since the United States formally opened its Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14,” Archbishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and Primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, said.

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visited the hospital in March during a Lenten pilgrimage to the Holy Land. You can read about his visit to the hospital here and about his pilgrimage here.

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