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Cristóbal León Lozano consecrated as bishop of Litoral Ecuador

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 3:02pm

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians and invited guests from across Ecuador and The Episcopal Church gathered March 30 at the Philanthropic Society in Guayaquil to welcome and celebrate the ordination and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Cristóbal León Lozano as the Diocese of Litoral Ecuador’s third bishop.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, led the ceremony as chief consecrator. Installation followed on March 31 at the Cathedral Church of Christ the King [Cristo Rey] in Guayaquil.

Elected on Aug. 4, León succeeds the Rt. Rev. Alfredo Morante España, who served the diocese for 23 years.

Assisting the presiding bishop as co-consecrators were Morante; the Rt. Rev. Daniel Gutiérrez, bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. Andy Dietsche, bishop of New York, the Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales, bishop of Puerto Rico, the Rt. Rev. Julio Holguin, retired bishop of the Dominican Republic, and the Rt. Rev. Wilfredo Ramos-Orench.

A reception to meet and greet Morante and Curry was held following the ceremony.

León was ordained priest on March 22, 1998 and was the archdeacon of Manabí before becoming bishop. He is married to Chila, and they have three children: Rocío, Jaime and Shirley.

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Illinois congregation’s modest gift helps 3,617 families eliminate $4 million in medical debt

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 2:35pm

The Rev. Beth Maynard, rector of Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in Champaign, Illinois, holds a sign promoting the congregation’s donation to RIP Medical Debt. She and other church leaders pose with Springfield Bishop Dan Martins, right of Maynard. Photo: Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] Last year, parishioners at Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church in Champaign, Illinois, took stock of the results of a centennial capital campaign. They had a good problem on their hands: Building renovations, funded. Local charities, supported. And they still had a $15,000 surplus.

That $15,000 may not seem like a lot, but with the help of a New York-based charity called RIP Medical Debt, Emmanuel Memorial leveraged the surplus to help wipe away unpaid doctors’ bills for 3,617 cash-strapped households across the Diocese of Springfield.

Total debt forgiven: $4 million.

“The forgiveness of debt is a Gospel thing. It’s throughout the Old Testament. It’s throughout the New Testament,” the Rev. Beth Maynard, Emmanuel Memorial’s rector, said in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service. “This is the season of Lent. We are, all of us, people who have been forgiven by God and whose debts have been forgiven by Christ on the cross.”

This Lent, forgiveness — sealed in bright yellow envelopes — also is arriving in thousands of mailboxes across central and southern Illinois. RIP Medical Debt began sending the envelopes last week to notify recipients that medical bills have been eliminated thanks to Emmanuel Memorial’s intervention.

RIP Medical Debt uses the money it raises from donors like Emmanuel Memorial to purchase bundled financial portfolios of medical debt, which it then eliminates. The organization’s website describes debt forgiveness as “a collective message of care from and for the communities we serve.”

News outlets in central Illinois have asked anyone receiving one of the envelopes to come forward and share their stories, Maynard said. The church doesn’t have any of the recipients’ names because their identities are shielded by medical privacy protections, but Maynard, too, would love to learn more about the lives affected by the debt forgiveness.

Families struggling under the weight of medical debt “might be facing a crippling situation,” she said, even if they aren’t the typical recipients of the congregation’s typical outreach efforts, which include a sack lunch ministry for homeless people.

“It gave us an opportunity to impact a lot of people who might not necessarily come to our door … or might not necessarily be involved with one of the social service organizations that we partner with,” Maynard said.

She wasn’t able to say how the congregation first learned about RIP Medical Debt, but the seeds of this outreach were planted a hundred years ago, when the church was built from a design by Ralph Adams Cram, the renowned Episcopal church architect who died in 1942. Cram churches are more common in the Northeast than the Midwest, Maynard said, so the congregation, with about 200 member households, takes special pride in its historic building. Therefore, they had no problem raising $150,000 for a capital campaign in 2017 and 2018 to celebrate the church’s centennial.

Most of that money went toward minor building repairs and new signs, and the congregation set aside some of the proceeds for the local charities C-U at Home, a homelessness ministry, and Empty Tomb, which connects volunteers with families in need.

With the remaining $15,000, RIP Medical Debt initially estimated that the congregation could help forgive about $1 million in debt, Maynard said. The charity, by negotiating down the price of the debt, estimates that it usually can forgive about $100 in debt for every dollar donated. Think of it as the altruistic cousin of a debt collection agency, tearing up IOUs instead of asking for payment.

On a large scale, eliminating medical debt could have a profound effect on the lives of millions of American families. A recent report in the American Journal of Public Health found that medical expenses were a factor in nearly 60 percent of bankruptcy filings, and RIP Medical Debt estimates more than 43 million Americans have a total of about $75 billion in past-due medical debt. Another report, out April 2, indicates Americans borrowed $88 billion last year to pay for health care.

Emmanuel Memorial’s Mission Leadership Team voted in January to work with RIP Medical Debt to spend the money remaining from the congregation’s capital campaign to eliminate medical bills for households in Champaign County.

The charity quickly identified 201 individual debt accounts in the county and still had plenty of money left over, so the congregation expanded its geographic target to include the whole Diocese of Springfield. By the time Emmanuel Memorial’s donation was exhausted, RIP Medical Debt had purchased $4 million worth of medical debt, and it prepared to fill its bright yellow envelopes with the good news.

RIP Medical Debt sends notices to the people it helps in bright yellow envelopes like these. Photo: Beth Maynard

Credit agencies were notified that the 3,617 families’ debt had been cleared, and according to RIP Medical Debt, debt forgiveness does not increase the recipients’ taxes or result in any other adverse consequences. There are no strings attached, nothing expected in return.

“I applaud Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church for their dedication in realizing this important campaign,” RIP co-founder Jerry Ashton said in a church news release. “We feel incredibly privileged to work with any faith-based organization committed to relieving the burden of un-payable medical debt in its community.”

Springfield Bishop Dan Martins was at Emmanuel Memorial on March 31 on a previously scheduled visit, and he, too, praised the congregation’s work for residents across the diocese.

“I am overjoyed with the news of Emmanuel’s exemplary stewardship of the resources entrusted to them,” Martins said in the church’s news release. “The knowledge of the concrete impact this will have on families in central and southern Illinois is a sign of the abundant goodness of the God whom we worship.”

Even small donations go a long way, Maynard told ENS, and she encouraged other congregations to consider partnering with RIP Medical Debt.

“You can make a tremendous impact with a very small donation,” she said. “It’s a terrific way to make a difference.”

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

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Anglican Church in Indian Ocean calls for Chagossians’ right of return to Diego Garcia

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 4:10pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Standing Committee of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean has expressed its solidarity with the Chagossian people in their fight to return to their island homelands. The UK government retained controls of islands in the Chagos Archipelago when it granted Mauritius independence in 1968.

Read the full article here.

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Seattle cathedral provides sanctuary for Mexican man seeking deportation protection

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 3:59pm

Jaime Rubio Sulficio and Keiko Maruyama speak at a news conference March 29 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. Rubio is staying at the cathedral to avoid deportation to his native Mexico. Photo: Magaly Smith/One America

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal cathedral in Seattle began last week providing sanctuary for a Mexican man who faces deportation and fears he will be separated from his wife and 6-year-old son, both American citizens.

Immigrant advocates introduced Jaime Rubio Sulficio to the public at a March 29 news conference hosted by St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, where he now is living. Two days later, he and his family were welcomed warmly by the congregation at the cathedral’s Sunday services.

“The church gave them a standing ovation of over a minute yesterday as a sign of encouragement and support,” the Very Rev. Steven Thomason, St. Mark’s dean, told Episcopal News Service in an April 1 interview. “It took great courage for them to become public in all of this, but they’re convinced that it’s the right thing to do. And this church is convinced it’s the right thing to do.”

Rubio, 37, supports his family with his construction business and has been active in the Seattle community. At the news conference, he described teaching Latin dance and volunteering with the United Way of King County and Rebuilding Together Seattle. He also alluded to the uncertain future facing an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“I am so grateful for the support of the community,” he said with his wife, Keiko Maruyama, standing by his side. “This is not just about me and my family. This is about the more than 11 million people facing injustice in the United States trying to find a humane solution for their immigration status.”

St. Mark’s noted in a news release that nearly 50 people are seeking sanctuary with U.S. congregations; it’s unclear how many are Episcopal churches. Churches are considered “sensitive locations” that traditionally are not targeted for immigration enforcement. In one case, at St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, the congregation has for nearly two years provided refuge for a Guatemalan woman ordered to return home.

St. Mark’s is part of an interreligious network of Seattle region congregations that have pledged to support immigrants. The cathedral also sees itself as part of the larger cause. With roots in the 1980s sanctuary movement that offered refuge to Central Americans fleeing war, the new sanctuary movement has been growing in recent years in response to rising animosity toward immigrants and the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration.

Most recently, President Donald Trump has threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border to all migration in response to what he says is Mexico’s failure to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. On March 30, the U.S. government cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the three Central American countries from which most migrants are fleeing.

Episcopal congregations churchwide have voiced support for immigrants facing deportation, in some cases offering them physical sanctuary, and The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has backed those efforts. The latest resolution, from 2018, called on congregations to “become places of welcome, refuge, healing, and other forms of material and pastoral support for those targeted for deportation due to immigration status or some perceived status of difference.” The resolution defined “sanctuary” broadly, not just as physical protection from deportation.

In Seattle, the ecumenical Church Council of Greater Seattle enlisted 150 congregations in a network called For Such a Time as This to be advocates for immigrants. Since 2016, it has trained volunteers to provide pastoral care after immigration raids, and network volunteers accompany immigrants to legal hearings and provide hospitality to those seeking asylum in the U.S.

“Faith communities are called to alleviate suffering and remove fear and confront unjust policies, so we are very straightforward in executing our mission as people of faith,” Michael Ramos, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, told ENS. St. Mark’s was one of 11 member congregations that additionally pledged to become places of sanctuary, including by sheltering immigrants if the congregations have the capacity to do so.

Another Seattle church, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, was the first to offer physical sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant facing deportation. Jose Robles, a 43-year-old painter from Mexico, has been living at Gethsemane for nine months while his request for a visa is being reviewed.

“Sanctuary is not an easy thing for families or an individual to go through, because no one wants to be even temporarily out of their home or unable to work or support their families,” Ramos said. Congregations, too, need to spend ample time in discernment before deciding “consciously, fully and actively” whether to open that door, he said.

At St. Mark’s, the congregation’s discernment on sanctuary culminated in 2016 with a unanimous vestry vote in favor of preparing the congregation for it, if and when requested.

In its “Statement of Commitment and Action,” which covers a range of justice and peace issues, the congregation committed to “advocate for immigrants and their families, and we will block, interfere, and obstruct the mass deportations of immigrants who are members of our communities.”

The statement was approved before President Donald Trump took office in 2017, though Thomason, the cathedral’s dean, identified a greater sense of urgency now – based not on the number of deportations, which the latest data shows hasn’t spiked under Trump, but rather on concerns that increasingly toxic rhetoric is being aimed at immigrants and influencing government policies.

“We absolutely are outraged by the current policies and actions of our government that is separating families,” Thomason said. Such an approach to immigration is “immoral,” he said, “and runs against all of this nation’s values and certainly is counter to our [baptismal] covenantal value of respecting the dignity of every human being.”

He wasn’t sure St. Mark’s ever would need to provide such sanctuary, but then Ramos’ group presented Rubio’s case.

Rubio entered the United States illegally more than a dozen years ago and returned to Mexico in 2010 to visit his sick mother. He was later caught by federal authorities while trying to re-enter, said Ramos. Until recently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, had granted Rubio a stay of deportation, allowing him to remain in the country without legalizing his residency status, but authorities withdrew that protection late last year and gave him 120 days to leave.

“I am not unsympathetic to the emotional and financial hardships associated with this case,” ICE acting Seattle field office director Bryan Wilcox said in a Seattle Times story, but Wilcox saw no “urgent humanitarian” reason to allow Rubio to continue living in the United States.

Details on what motivated ICE to end Rubio’s stay of deportation weren’t readily available. In general, a Trump administration policy change shifted immigration authorities away from prioritizing deportation of certain categories of undocumented immigrants, such as criminals.

“Since President Trump’s 2017 executive order that largely removed prosecutorial discretion, we have seen an increase in deportations of immigrants who are not a threat to their communities and in fact are critical members of their communities and have families and longstanding ties to their employers and faith groups,” Lacy Broemel, a policy adviser with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, said in an email responding generally to the policy that has resulted in cases like Rubio’s.

“This policy has had a real and painful effect on family units and individuals. A solution is to advance comprehensive immigration reform so these individuals have a chance to come forward and earn a pathway to citizenship,” Broemel said.

Rubio’s departure deadline expired March 28. Instead of leaving the country, he moved into the cathedral.

“He was not a member of our congregation, but he is now a member of our family,” said the Rev. Nancy Ross, canon for cathedral relations. Ross criticized “arbitrary” immigration enforcement that targets someone like Rubio.

“We’re standing our ground as the church that follows Jesus Christ and that stands with the oppressed and opens our doors for the vulnerable,” she told ENS, “and we feel it a moral obligation for keeping families together.”

Rubio, at the news conference, described the joy he felt seeing his son in a kindergarten performance. Those tender moments will be out of reach for him now at the cathedral, but he will still be able to receive visits from his wife and son.

“My family are hopeful for a positive solution,” he said, “and we are going to continue fighting to get a legal remedy so we can stay together as a family.”

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

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Refusal to invite bishops’ same-sex spouses to Lambeth 2020 draws ire in Britain

Tue, 04/02/2019 - 3:49pm

The congregation, made up mostly of bishops and their spouses, gathered for Eucharist on July 17, 2008, under what was known as “The Big Top” tent at the University of Kent. Photo: Scott Gunn/Anglican Communion News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s decision to exclude the same-sex spouses of bishops invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference has drawn concern in the British Parliament and from students at the university where the bulk of the events will be held.

Both The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council and House of Bishops, as well as a number of dioceses, have gone on record objecting to the decision announced Feb. 15 in an Anglican Communion News Service blog by Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon.

Idowu-Fearon wrote that Welby had invited “every active bishop” to the periodic gathering of the Anglican Communion’s bishops set for July 23-Aug. 2, 2020. That decision represents a change from the previous Lambeth Conference. In 2008, then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams refused to invite Bishop Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly gay and partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion.

However, Idowu-Fearon said in his blog post that “it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference.” He said the Anglican Communion defines marriage as “the lifelong union of a man and a woman,” as codified in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Some spouses enjoy the day on July 22, 2008, during the last Lambeth Conference, with Canterbury Cathedral in the background. Photo: Scott Gunn/Anglican Communion News Service

As noted in the 2004 Windsor Report (page 61 here), the decisions of Lambeth Conferences do not carry the force of canonical law in part because there is no single set of canons applicable across the entire communion. The report, issued in the wake of Robinson’s ordination and consecration, said that Lambeth resolutions “have moral authority across the Communion,” and consequently, provinces “should not proceed with controversial developments in the face of teaching to the contrary from all the bishops gathered together in Lambeth Conferences.”

The Lambeth Conference, which happens roughly every 10 years, has its roots in a controversy over the teachings of John William Colenso, the bishop of Natal in Southern Africa, and those who thought he was advocating polygamy and defying other accepted theological teaching. Then-Archbishop of Canterbury Charles Longley invited all 144 of the communion’s bishops to the first conference in 1867, but only 76 attended, in part because some felt the gathering would only increase confusion about the controversy, according to an 1889 book.

Then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams leads bishops in a retreat July 18, 2008, as the Lambeth Conference began in Canterbury Cathedral. Photo: Chris Tumilty/Anglican Communion News Service

The 2020 conference is due to begin with two days of “spiritual retreat” on July 23 and 24, with bishops and spouses gathering separately. An opening Eucharist is set for July 26 at Canterbury Cathedral. The conference website says that, from July 27 to Aug. 1, participants “will work through a daily program which includes Bible studies based on 1 Peter, special guests and keynote speakers, seminars, plenary sessions and discussions.”

Spouses have typically participated in a parallel program. However, in 2020, there will be a joint program for the first time. Spouses of bishops will attend combined sessions “at key points in the overall program,” according to information here. There will also be separate sessions on the specific responsibilities of the ministry for bishops and spouses, according to the Lambeth website. The conference’s website features a photo of Welby and his wife, Caroline. The page was changed to add a link to Idowu-Fearon’s blog. It read, “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is sending personal invitations to every eligible bishop and spouse (excluding same-sex spouses) and is looking forward immensely to hosting them.” The landing page now refers to Welby’s invitations to “every eligible bishop and spouse.”

A question in Parliament

Ben Bradshaw, a Labour Party member from Exeter, raised a point of order in Parliament on March 14, asking for a statement from Second Church Estates Commissioner Dame Caroline Spelman “on the outrageous decision by the Church of England to issue the official invitation to next year’s Lambeth Conference and explicitly forbid the same-sex spouses of bishops from attending, when the heterosexual spouses of bishops have been warmly invited.”

Bradshaw said the exclusion of same-sex spouses is “a totally unacceptable position for our established state church to adopt, and this house needs to tell the church we have had enough of it.”

Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative Party member who is lord president of the Privy Council and leader of the House of Commons, replied that she was “not aware of that situation” and was grateful to Bradshaw for raising it. She invited him to write to her so that she could raise the question with Spelman.

The @churchofengland decision to explicitly ban the same sex spouses of Anglican Bishops from next year’s Lambeth Conference, when heterosexual spouses are warmly invited, is totally unacceptable behaviour for an established Church which still enjoys the privileges of such. pic.twitter.com/PnxYyr7zU5

— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) March 14, 2019

Bradshaw was not accurate in his statement that the Church of England issues the invitations for the gathering. The invitations come directly from the archbishop of Canterbury who has a number of communion-wide roles beyond his duties at Canterbury.

Bradshaw had been vocal about Welby’s decision before raising his question in Parliament.

When I first saw this I thought it must be a spoof. The invitation to next year’s @churchofengland #Lambethconference to “address hurts & concerns” specifically stating that the same sex spouses of Bishops are not welcome. Ashamed of my Church. @churchstate pic.twitter.com/W6hj4YlcIZ

— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) February 26, 2019

Conference venue responds to questions, criticism

The University of Kent, a public university, said in mid-March that it had agreed in August 2018 to allow the Lambeth Conference in 2020 to convene on its campus on a hill above the main part of Canterbury. It has done so since 1978. The gathering tends to happen roughly every 10 years. The last meeting took place in 2008.

The university said, in what appears to be a letter written to someone who inquired about the decision, that it had learned of Welby’s decision via Idowu-Fearon’s blog post.

However, the letter goes on to say that the Lambeth Conference is relying on an exemption for religious organizations, which is part of the British Equality Act of 2010. “While we would not apply such a prohibition to any event that we are running directly, we have to respect clients’ rights provided they are lawful and justifiable should they wish to exercise a legal right which is open to them,” the university’s letter said.

“The Big Top” was pitched on the University of Kent campus and was the site of most of the session for the last Lambeth Conference, which ran July 16-Aug. 4, 2008. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

An article in the local newspaper quoted one student calling the university’s response “spineless” and another who accused the school of putting the chance to make money above its values. The conference costs £4,950 (about $6,450) per person, which includes accommodation, meals at the venue and all travel during the conference itself. The price doesn’t include flights to or from the United Kingdom.

The conference is run by an organization related to the Anglican Communion Office known as the Lambeth Conference Co. Phil George, the chief executive officer, told the Anglican Consultative Council’s Standing Committee last September that “progress continues to be positive and financially we are on track.” Soon after the 2008 gathering, it was reported that the event, which cost £5 million (roughly $9.9 million in 2008), was £1.2 million (or about $2.4 million in 2008) in debt. The Telegraph said that organizers had to ask the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to cover the deficit.

The Student Union at the University of Kent said March 21 that it is “deeply disappointed” in the school’s decision to contract with conference organizers. “This is not a value that we expect to see on campus, and we are committed to championing inclusivity in all events,” the group said in a statement. The students said outside events held at the university ought to “respect the diversity of both students and staff, the values of the University, Kent Union and the environment that they want to utilize.” The statement said the group would be in contact with conference organizers, “where our efforts need to be focused, urging them to change their stance.”

Five days later, David Warren, chair of the University Council, said that the school had received “a large number of concerns.” He reported that council members decided that the university “shall ensure that accommodation will be available on campus for those spouses affected by this decision who wish to be in Canterbury with their partners during the conference period.”

Warren said he and Karen Cox, University of Kent vice-chancellor and president, would try to meet with the Lambeth Conference organizers and Welby “to bring council’s concerns to their attention and discuss the issues.”

The British organization OneBodyOneFaith said in mid-February that its members and supporters were hoping to offer accommodation for same-sex spouses. “We will do everything we can to ensure that they are there in Canterbury next year,” said Tracey Byrne, OneBodyOneFaith chief executive.

Byrne and the Rev. Peter Leonard have also written to Welby, Idowu-Fearon and others to express their concern. “We trust that you will continue to reflect on the harm which has been done by this decision and the way in which it has communicated, and like us will be open to the possibilities of transforming that hurt and harm, even at this stage, by courageous words and compassionate action,” they said. “We intend to do just that, starting with our commitment to host those un-invited spouses so they can experience the warm and generous welcome which we believe characterizes the Church of England at its grass roots. This seems to us to be the very least the gospel demands of us.”

The Anglican Consultative Council is due to discuss the conference on May 4, the last formal business day of its April 28-May 5 meeting in Hong Kong.

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

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Merged Episcopal congregations in California are first to take name of church’s only African American deaconess

Mon, 04/01/2019 - 5:02pm

Deaconess Anna E.B. Alexander is shown with a group of her students in front of the Good Shepherd School, which she founded in Pennick, Georgia. Photo: Diocese of Georgia

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church now has its first congregation named after an African American woman.

St. George’s in Antioch, California, and St. Alban’s, Brentwood, both in the Diocese of California, officially merged March 24. The combined congregations are now known as St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church.

The seasonal game known as Lent Madness gets some of the credit for the California Episcopalians’ choice of Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander as their patron. Forward Movement’s version of March Madness features saints “competing” in brackets for the Golden Halo. St. Anna “won” the 2018 halo, six months before General Convention reaffirmed her sainthood last July.

“We were so inspired by Anna’s story of the pouring out of her life for the sake of those formerly enslaved; despite having little resources she managed over time to build a school as well as a church to help people succeed through literacy,” the Rev. Jill Honodel, the congregation’s long-term supply priest, said in a Diocese of California press release.

Educational segregation exists their neighborhood, according to Honodel. For example, she said, the majority of African American boys struggle to pass their math classes through high school. “We are inspired by St. Anna to do our part so that as many people as possible have a chance to succeed and the opportunity for a good future,” Honodel said.

Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander was born in 1865 to recently freed slaves and died in 1947. She ministered in rural Georgia, focusing on the education of poor black children. Photo: Diocese of Georgia

Alexander’s faith and her championing of literacy and education exemplifies “what I feel is true Christianity,” said Michelle Price, the new senior warden of St. Anna’s.

“I took away from Lent Madness her being a saint as something I could emulate in my own life,” Price said in the release. “Some of the saints do things that are so huge and so dynamic and here’s this humble, small woman in Pennick, that just quietly changed people’s lives one student at a time.”

Alexander brought new life to children who otherwise would have been left behind, Price said. “Hopefully our church will model the same through our resource center by hosting literacy programs, after-school programs and math programs,” she added.

Alexander, the first black female deaconess in The Episcopal Church, ministered in Georgia’s Glynn and McIntosh counties, concentrating on the education of poor blacks. She helped establish Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and its parochial school in Pennick, just west of the Atlantic coast. She also established and helped run the St. Cyprian’s School at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Darien.

In 1907 during the Convention for Colored Episcopalians, Bishop C.K. Nelson set Alexander aside as a deaconess. He wrote in his diary for May 3 of that year, “Admitted as Deaconess Anna E. B. Alexander, a devout, godly and respected colored woman, to serve as teacher and helper in the Mission of the Good Shepherd, Pennick, Ga.”

She would be the only African American to serve as an Episcopal deaconess. The Episcopal Church recognized deaconesses from 1889 until 1970, when General Convention eliminated the order and included women in its canons governing deacons. (An interactive timeline of women’s ordination in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is here.)

Alexander was born in 1865 to recently emancipated slaves on St. Simons Island, Georgia. She died in 1947 and is buried in front of the original two-story Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry celebrates the legacy and ministry of Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander during a visit to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Pennick, Georgia. Walter Holmes, left, a former student of St. Anna, and current senior warden of Good Shepard, greets Celestine Alexander Cartwright, right, also a former student of the saint. Photo: Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Walter Holmes, senior warden for Good Shepherd, told Episcopal News Service that as a student of St. Anna’s, he “got to experience firsthand her love, her dedication to people and the impact she had on so many people right here in South Georgia

“So now, it’s a beautiful testimony to see her legacy reach the other side of the country — and even internationally with her as a saint now. She would probably be embarrassed by all the attention, though truthfully, that’s just who she was.”

St. Anna taught Zora Nobles’ father and two of her uncles. “When I was very young, my dad would talk about her and how she in fact was instrumental in guiding he and his siblings to always strive to do the very best of the best—and to also get an education and encourage them to go to college,” she said in an interview last year.

The deaconess was always discussed in their home, she said. “All of the good work that she had performed, how she was just diligent and passionate, and how she was so driven to do what she was doing to help children to read, to understand science, to understand the world outside of Pennick, Georgia,” Nobles said.

Georgia Episcopalians worked for more than 20 years to have Alexander recognized by the church. In 1998, Bishop Henry Louttit Jr. named her a Saint of Georgia with a feast day of Sept. 24. In 2011 and 2014, the diocese passed resolutions calling on the General Convention to include her on the church’s calendar. General Convention began the process of doing so in 2012. The 2018 meeting of General Convention added Alexander to the church’s calendar of saints via Resolution A065 when it approved a revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” for trial use. Her feast day is Sept. 24 (found beginning on page 490 here).

The newly named congregation of St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church gathers March 24 outside the Antioch, California, church in San Francisco’s East Bay area. Photo: Emma Marie Chiang/Diocese of California

The new St. Anna’s has parishioners from Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Korea, Mexico, Canada, Holland, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Bermuda and Ghana, among others. “It was good to come to church this morning and to see a saint of the church that looks like me,” parishioner Betty Smith said when she saw the saint’s photo on the front cover of the March 24 order of service, according to the press release. “I’m really thankful that God has given this to me in my time.”

St. George’s and St. Alban’s were both hard hit by the 2008 real estate crash, according to the release.  In 2018, they decided to not only share space in Antioch but also to share governance. On Sept. 30, the two mission churches voted unanimously to petition the diocese to merge and form a new mission congregation. There is potential for a future church plant in Brentwood on a nine-acre property owned by the Diocese of California, the release said. California Bishop Marc Andrus was at the Antioch church March 24 to make the merger official.

St. Anna Alexander’s Episcopal Church sports a new sign after becoming a new mission congregation of the Diocese of California. Photo: Diocese of California

Honodel said the California Episcopalians hope to honor St. Anna’s name throughout the years through their connection to the people of Pennick, Georgia, who knew her personally; and they hope to strengthen that bond between Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Georgia and the new mission church in San Francisco’s East Bay area.

Few Episcopal Church congregations are named for women

Among The Episcopal Church’s 6,712 congregations, just under 400 are named for women, with just five named for a woman of color, St. Monica. She was born in North Africa to Berber parents in about 331 and was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. The Episcopal Church’s calendar honors St. Monica on May 4 and St. Augustine on August 28.

There are about 42 congregations named for St. Augustine that are not explicitly named for St. Augustine of Canterbury who, in 596, led a group of 40 monks to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Each new archbishop of Canterbury kisses the Gospel book said to have been brought to England by Augustine, swearing to observe the customs of Canterbury Cathedral. Augustine of Canterbury is commemorated on May 28.

Some 200 Episcopal Church congregations are named for Mary, Jesus’ mother, or Mary Magdalene. There are about 50 congregations named for the saint who was Mary’s mother, variously spelled as Ann, Anne or Anna.

At least two congregations are named for women who are not officially considered saints. Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, New York, was named to honor Queen Wilhelmina Karoline of Brandenburg-Anspach, Queen of George II of England. The church’s website notes that the choice is evidence of “the strong loyalist convictions of the original congregation.” Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, is a memorial to Edward Albert Palmer who heroically lost his life while saving that of his sister, Daphne Palmer Neville.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter. Christopher Sikkema, Episcopal Church coordinator for digital evangelism, contributed to this report.

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Anglican-Jewish Commission holds latest round of talks in Manchester, England

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 3:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Senior Anglican and Jewish leaders met this week for the latest meeting of the Anglican-Jewish Commission. The Commission is the vehicle for the official dialogue between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The annual meetings usually alternate between Lambeth Palace and Jerusalem; but this week’s meeting took place in Manchester, England. “There is a strong Jewish population here and there is a vibrant Anglican Diocese”, the Anglican Co-Chair of the Commission, Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said.

Read the entire article here.

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La promesa de cuidar de la creación despega en toda la Iglesia 1.000 promesas solicitadas para el Día de la Tierra, 22 de abril.

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 3:05pm

[29 de marzo, 2019] Los episcopales y amigos preocupados por toda la creación de Dios se unen al Obispo Presidente Michael Curry en el compromiso de actuar para proteger y renovar el mundo de Dios y todos los que lo consideran su hogar. El objetivo es reunir al menos 1,000 promesas con compromisos personales concretos para el Día de la Tierra, el 22 de abril.

Edificando a partir de la declaración de la Visión Episcopal para el Cuidado de la Creación, desarrollada por la Oficina del Obispo Presidente y el Consejo Asesor sobre la Mayordomía de la creación para la 79ª Convención General, esta promesa,  y la Guía de Reflexión, que la acompaña, son una manera tangible y práctica de demostrar amor por el mundo de Dios.

Como señaló el Obispo Curry, “muchos de nosotros estamos listos para comprometernos y ayudar a cuidar de la creación de Dios. Como dijo la Biblia: Dios amó tanto al mundo que dio a su único Hijo. Eso significa el mundo real: todos nosotros y todo. Y esta es una manera en la que podemos participar para ayudar a cuidar de la creación de Dios. Esto es querido y cercano a mi corazón y al corazón de Dios”.

“Esperamos que la gente entienda que esto es más que agregar su firma a una petición”, dijo la Reverenda Melanie Mullen, directora de cuidado de la reconciliación, la justicia y la creación. “Ore con la promesa y la Guía de Reflexión durante la Cuaresma. Piense en lo que ama de la creación de Dios, dónde su corazón se rompe por la injusticia ambiental y cómo le gustaría simplificar su vida: consuma menos, comparta más. Luego, para el lunes de Pascua, Día de la Tierra, celebremos nuestro compromiso compartido”.

Las diócesis de todas partes están aceptando el compromiso. En su ordenación y consagración del 2 de marzo, como Obispa de la Diócesis Episcopal de Kansas, la Reverendísima Cathleen Chittenden Bascom y el Obispo Presidente Michael Curry animaron a la congregación a tomar la promesa de cuidar de la creación.

Los tres elementos principales tanto de la visión como de la promesa: amar, liberar y dar vida, surgen directamente del llamado a vivir como la rama episcopal del Movimiento de Jesús y como personas que viven el Camino del Amor:

Anhelamos crecer en una relación amorosa, liberadora y vivificante con la creación de
Dios. En este momento urgente, nos comprometemos a proteger y renovar esta buena
Tierra y a todos los que la llaman su hogar. Juntos, nos comprometemos a acciones
específicas, confiando en que podemos hacer más como un cuerpo que lo que podría
cualquier persona sola.

AMAR: Compartiremos nuestras historias de amor y preocupación por la Tierra y nos
vincularemos con otros que se preocupan de proteger la red sagrada de la vida.

LIBERAR: Nos uniremos a los más vulnerables a los efectos nocivos de la degradación
ambiental y el cambio climático: mujeres, niños, pobres y comunidades de color,
refugiados, migrantes.

DAR VIDA: Cambiaremos nuestros hábitos y elecciones para vivir de manera más
sencilla, humilde y gentilmente en la Tierra.

La Guía de Reflexión que se acompaña se creó en colaboración con la Diócesis Episcopal de California e incluye meditaciones, oraciones, pasajes de la Escritura y de acción relacionados con cada elemento de la promesa. La misma diócesis está lanzando una oportunidad relacionada con el cuidado de la creación: un rastreador de carbono que ayuda a individuos, congregaciones y a diócesis a evaluar y reducir el uso de energía y el impacto climático. Descubra más sobre el rastreador y otros recursos en https://www.diocal.org/climate

“Este no es un nuevo plan de estudios que usted necesita para atascarse en una Cuaresma ya atareada”, dijo Amy Cook, directora del grupo de trabajo de formación en la fe de la Diócesis Episcopal de California. “Para muchos de nosotros, la Cuaresma es naturalmente un momento para la reflexión y la simplicidad. Esperamos que la promesa y el proceso de reflexión conduzcan al pueblo a un profundo discernimiento y compromiso con la nueva vida en esta Pascua y más allá”.

Obtenga más información sobre el ministerio de Cuidado de la Creación en La Iglesia Episcopal enwww.episcopalchurch.org/creation.

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RIP: Diane M. Porter, former church-wide staff executive

Fri, 03/29/2019 - 2:37pm

[Episcopal News Service] A memorial service will be held May 25 for Diane M. Porter, who served on the church-wide staff of The Episcopal Church from 1988 until 1997.

Porter died March 21. The service is set for 11 a.m. at Grace Church inBrooklyn Heights, New York.

She held a number of positions in government before joining the church-wide staff in January 1988, serving as deputy for public ministries. Porter became senior executive for program in September 1992 and served in that capacity until March 1997.

Then-Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning said at the time that Porter would continue to represent The Episcopal Church on the board of the National Council of Churches and on the Seminary Consortium on Urban Pastoral Education as a link to the Office of the Presiding Bishop. He also expressed his gratitude for Porter’s leadership and said he hoped that she would “continue to labor in the vineyard with the same concern and commitment to justice.”

During her time at the Episcopal Church Center, Porter also served as the head of the Office of Advocacy, Witness, and Justice Ministries and was the staff member assigned to the Commission on Racism. In 1991, a racism audit was conducted during the second day of the 70th meeting of General Convention, which found that the church was not paying adequate attention to the problem of racism — at least in the eyes of those surveyed.

“I call it an institutional CAT scan that we can use to see where we are at this particular point in the church,” she said at the time. The question format, said Porter, was intended to elicit the personal experiences and attitudes of the bishops and deputies toward racism. Combatting institutional racism requires personal intervention, she added. “We have a lot of perceptions,” Porter said, “but we don’t have actual facts.”

While the methodology of the audit was criticized by some, the results were “gratifying,” Porter said. The outcome “portends an openness to change and a willingness to engage this issue seriously.” It also shows “that the church is ready to get on with being an inclusive community,” she said.

Porter continued to advocate for the church to confront its racism, saying in 1994 that “every day there’s reason to hope.” Anti-racism work “goes in fits and starts, but it keeps going,” she said.

Porter also served as the first lay canon to the ordinary to the bishop of Long Island, when the Rt. Rev. Orris G. Walker held the see. Her volunteer activities on behalf of the diocese included: Executive and Standing Committees, Archdeaconry of Brooklyn, Standing Committee, trustee of the Estate of the Diocese of Long Island, Mercer School, Episcopal Charities, chair of the Select Commission on Diocesan Structure, Provincial Synod and General Convention, chair of the Mercer Scholarship Fund, and member of the Cathedral Chapter, according to the Union of Black Episcopalians, which honored here in 2018 with the Mattie Hopkins Honor Award. She also was the chairperson of the Interfaith Medical Center Foundation in Brooklyn, New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Draft agenda for the Anglican Consultative Council – ACC-17 – in Hong Kong published

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 2:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The seventeenth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council – ACC-17 – begins in a month in Hong Kong. The ACC, one of four Instruments of the Anglican Communion, includes archbishops, bishops, priests, and laity from the 40 autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion. The draft agenda for the meeting has just been published. ACC members will be asked to approve the agenda as their first item of business.

Read the entire article here.

Editor’s note: The Episcopal Church’s three ACC members for this meeting are Oklahoma Bishop Edward J. Konieczny, the Rev. Michael Barlowe (the executive officer of General Convention) and Rosalie Ballentine of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands.

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Church of Canada publishes list of bishops nominated as next Primate and Archbishop

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 1:58pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada has nominated five of its number for the election of a new primate and archbishop. The current Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, will retire on July 16 at the end of the province’s triennial General Synod meeting, after serving as leader of the Church since 2007. His successor will be elected by deacon- priest- and lay-members of the General Synod on July 13. The new archbishop will be officially installed on July 16.

Read the entire article here.

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Se anuncian las fechas de la Convención General 2021: del 30 de junio al 9 de julio en Baltimore, Maryland

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 1:02pm

[28 de marzo de 2019] Tras una decisión del Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Planificación y Arreglos, la Oficina de la Convención General anunció las diez fechas legislativas para la 80.ª Convención General de La Iglesia Episcopal: del 30 de junio al viernes 9 de julio de 2021.

La Convención General 2021 se llevará a cabo en el Centro de Convenciones de Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, (Diócesis Episcopal de Maryland).

Durante los próximos años, la Oficina de la Convención General proporcionará información, materiales, artículos educativos y otras características sobre la Convención General, la Diócesis Episcopal de Maryland y Baltimore, MD.

“El Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Planificación y Arreglos y la Oficina de la Convención General ya están trabajando arduamente para planificar y mejorar nuestra reunión en Baltimore para la 80ª Convención General”, señaló el Reverendo Canónigo Dr. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo y presidente de comité. “Edificando sobre la base de las innovaciones exitosas en Austin, y guiado por las evaluaciones que recibimos, el Comité está entusiasmado con nuestra reunión en 2021”.

La Convención General de La Iglesia Episcopal, el órgano de gobierno bicameral de la Iglesia, se celebra cada tres años. Está compuesto por la Cámara de los Obispos, con la participación de más de 200 obispos activos y retirados, y la Cámara de los Diputados, con miembros del clero y laicos elegidos de las 109 diócesis y tres áreas regionales de la Iglesia, que cuentan con más de 800 miembros.

Para obtener más información, comuníquese con la oficina de la Convención GeneralGCoffice@episcopalchurch.org.

Los miembros del Comité Permanente Conjunto sobre Planificación y Arreglos están aquí.

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Episcopalians join with others to help neighbors on two South Dakota reservations

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 5:47pm

Members of the South Dakota National Guard help distribute water on the Pine Ridge Reservation March 25 after flooding damaged a main waterline in Oglala County that left more than 8,000 residents without water. Photo: South Dakota National Guard via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians on two South Dakota Indian reservations are helping marshal slim community resources so that their neighbors can cope with recent massive flooding.

“These are devasting floods. Some of them are equal to 100-year floods for us and it simply has to do with snow and then melt with rain and then a massive blizzard of heavy spring snow, which is very wet, as opposed to our normal [winter] drier snow. There’s just no place for the water to go on frozen ground,” the Rev. Lauren Stanley, superintending presbyter of the western portion of The Episcopal Church’s mission on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, told Episcopal News Service March 26 in a telephone interview. “We’re all trying to pull together to help each other and that’s the best part.”

The Rev. Edward Hunt, Stanley’s neighbor to the west on the Pine Ridge Reservation, told ENS March 26 that while flooding on the Pine Ridge has garnered national and international attention, “we don’t have nearly as bad a situation as she does.” The further east one goes from the Pine Ridge, “that’s where the real problems lie,” he said.

Still, Hunt and Stanley, who is reluctantly confined to her home to recuperate from Achilles tendon surgery, are coordinating aid to residents on each reservation.

The day before he talked to ENS, Hunt helped a family that attends St. Julia’s Episcopal Church in Porcupine, South Dakota, buy gas for their car and gas for their neighbors’ vehicles. He also helped the family buy food for their seven or eight neighbors. The family will “go door to door and just ration it out – that’s what they do.”

Using money from his discretionary fund, Hunt has been buying food for people and gas for their cars “so they can at least eat and take care of their communities.”

Hunt officiated at a burial service in the town of Pine Ridge just before he telephoned ENS.  “People are generally very calm. They’re not panicked. They’re sorry that this has happened to their neighbors, but there isn’t a sense of unease or desperation,” he said.

Saying “forgive my disrespect in this context,” Hunt explained that “they don’t have a whole lot to lose so they’re not really panicked about losing anything because isn’t much there.”

According to some accounts, 97% of the population lives far below the U.S. federal poverty line.

Because of that poverty, Pine Ridge always lives on the edge; just one more thing can start what Hunt called “a domino effect.”

“For example, we are probably going to be looking at an uptick in wakes and funerals in the next couple of weeks because folks are not going to be able to get to chemotherapy, to dialysis; they’re going to run out of insulin, they’re going to run out of food,” he said.

That lack of access is due to roads being covered with water or washed out and impassable. The same is true on the Rosebud Reservation.

Meanwhile, access to potable water has become a problem.

Stanley also has been organizing food for volunteers who are filling sandbags to keep the waters at bay. She said the manager of the local Buche Food, a grocery store, agreed to donate water and Gatorade when she and the Rosebud Episcopal Mission bought bread, cold cuts, cheese and chips. Stanley and another Episcopalian set up a sandwich-making assembly line at her house in Mission, South Dakota, and volunteers delivered the simple lunches to the sandbagging areas.

People are also going to need propane, which they use for heating and cooking. Helping them is “a little bit of a complicated thing and a lot of money,” especially if the floodwater damaged their tank equipment, Stanley said. The Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West) already has a program to help people who have trouble paying for propane and Stanley will use the relationship with the local supplier, Country Pride Co-op, which was recently bought CHS Inc., to help the 10 flood-stricken people she and the co-op know of so far. “That’s going to run somewhere between $1,400 and $2,400” for the gas itself and any replacement equipment.

The five-year-old program typically buys about $13,000-$14,000 worth of propane for elders and families every year, she said, in addition to the mission’s project to supply firewood to folks in need.

“And the firewood program at the moment is shut down because there’s no dry wood,” Stanley added.

She’s also trying to coordinate local volunteers who want to help. “We’ve had a lot of people with ties to the Episcopal Church who ask what they can do and I kind of try to deploy [them] and then get the word out” about what kind of help is needed where, she said.

For instance, Whitney Jones, a local rancher who also is a school social worker, has been filling and transporting sandbags on his flatbed truck. He is the grandson of Bishop Harold Jones, a Lakota man who was a bishop suffragan in South Dakota and the first American Indian to be elevated to the office of bishop by any Christian denomination.

His effort is part of a major sandbagging effort by all sorts of people on both reservations.

Stanley has been publicizing the needs of the Rosebud Reservation and the work that Episcopalians are already doing. “We’re getting a good response and that’s the power of social media as always,” she said.

Hunt said he, too, has had inquiries from Episcopalians around the church about how they can help. His first response is “do not send clothing or food or stuff like that; send a check, send it to the Diocese of South Dakota, contribute to Episcopal Relief and Development.” Or, he said, give it to the discretionary funds of priests who minister on reservations “so that we on the ground who are best able to assess the needs of the people can most effectively respond.”

In addition to real-time assessment of needs, both Hunt and Stanley said that being able to spend money locally helps the hard-hit region.

Episcopal Relief & Development said March 27 that it is helping the Diocese of South Dakota provide emergency supplies such as gas cards, groceries, and propane to those impacted by the flooding, which has exacerbated long-standing issues. “Many churches in this area have strong community relationships and connections to local businesses, allowing them to meet the needs of their neighbors rapidly by increasing the scale of existing ministries when disaster strikes,” the organization’s statement said.

“Being on a reservation and being a reservation missionary priest is crisis ministry, so we deal with crisis all the time,” Hunt said. “Yes, the flooding was bad, and the snow was bad, and the cold was bad but, to be honest, it’s bad all the time.”

He hopes people won’t send a check and then think they are done helping. “I want them to keep the people on the reservation – not only in South Dakota, but North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, wherever – in  their prayers all the time because there are crises here which do not have to do with the weather.

“That’s what I really need help with. I need some kind of support. We all do. We need not just the injection shot of relief and then, pull the needle out, we’re done. We need like a constant [prayer] presence here, which would help a great deal.”

Things could get worse before they get better, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week.

“Episcopal Relief & Development continues to be in contact with our partners, not only in South Dakota, but throughout the affected regions, as they determine the needs of their communities,” Tamara Pummer, program officer for the organization, said in the March 27 update. “The disaster is ongoing, and these supplies are just the beginning. Traditional spring flood season is still a month away, so we are preparing for whatever needs may come.”

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

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Senior ecumenical panel to discuss Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 10:08am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The five Christian denominations closely associated with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) are taking part in a private consultation and public events this week to discuss how to take the document further. The JDDJ was originally agreed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999. The significant ecumenical text has been described as resolving the doctrinal dispute at the heart of the Reformation; and has since been adopted or affirmed by the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Methodist Council and the Anglican Consultative Council.

Read the entire article here.

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Retired archbishop Martín Barahona, who survived assassination attempt, dies of cancer

Wed, 03/27/2019 - 10:06am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A former archbishop of the Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America – the Anglican Church in the Central America Region (IARCA), Bishop Martín Barahona, has died of cancer. He had been the Anglican bishop of El Salvador. As the country was preparing to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador, Óscar Romero, in March 2010, an unidentified man shot at his car. Barahona was not injured, but his driver, Francis Martínez, was hit in the stomach and arm. Barahona died on march 23 at La Divina Providencia Hospital in San Salvador, at the age of 76. He had cancer.

Read the entire article here.

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Anglican, Episcopal advocacy for women and girls extends beyond UNCSW

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 4:38pm

Participants at the March 11 opening meeting of the 63rd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women observed a moment of silence for those who lost their lives the day before in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Photo: Evan Schneider/UN

[Episcopal News Service – New York] As interesting as the official United Nations Commission on the Status of Women events can be, often it’s the off-site events that generate more fascinating insights and discussions – if not the realization that things aren’t always as they seem.

“U.N. agencies and member states do a good job of presenting the data they’d like you to receive. … Those stats can be manipulated,” said Sam Hynes, a UNCSW delegate from South Dakota. “Things can sound good, but once you know the real story, things sound different, and that’s where our advocacy comes in.”

The 63rd session of the UNCSW met March 11-22 and focused on social protection systems, access to public services, and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Some 9,000 women and men – including Anglicans and Episcopalians – representing all regions worldwide attended the annual event held at U.N. headquarters in midtown Manhattan, making the UNCSW one of the largest gatherings promoting women’s rights and interests in the world.

“This 63rd session of UNCSW might seem like only a two-week event, but it actually builds on the hard work and action of previous generations of Anglicans and Episcopalians striving for gender equality and empowerment for women and girls,” said Lynnaia Main, who represents The Episcopal Church at the United Nations and coordinates and leads the Episcopal delegation.

“The wisdom and training of our forerunners – including former directors of the Office of Women’s Ministries and Anglican Women’s Empowerment – is essential to the intergenerational dialogue and institutional knowledge of our participants,” she said. “The networking and knowledge sharing from year to year helps us build relationships of support to sustain us for the long haul. We really need that, since the U.N. Secretary General estimates that it will be a 217-year marathon to achieve gender equality. So, whether or not one participates formally in any given session of UNCSW, we are all able to be part of the historical dialogue and change needed to empower women and girls and aim for gender justice.”

Off-site, or side events addressed everything from building safe and empowering digital spaces for women and girls to a global perspective on sexual harassment in the workplace to closing the gender pay gap to economic empowerment to effective responses to modern-day slavery and human trafficking, including sex trafficking.

For instance, Hynes said, when sex workers were given the microphone during an off-site panel about sex work, a discussion about decriminalization led to insights concerning decreases in violence, lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases and fewer incidences of sex trafficking.

“Decriminalization of sex work and getting them [sex workers] involved can have a positive influence on [eliminating] sex trafficking,” said Hynes, who volunteered while in graduate school with a nongovernmental organization advocating for sex workers in Vietnam.

Decriminalization, she added, keeps sex work on the surface and “can decrease rates of STDs and HIV and eliminate violence,” whereas criminalization can lead to increases in violence against women.

Delegates learned that New Zealand is the only country to have totally decriminalized sex work; in Sweden, it’s the johns, or men who buy sex, who are punished, which has had the negative consequence of driving sex work underground; and in places like the Netherlands, where women sell themselves in Amsterdam’s red light district, women, especially those who come from Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Africa, can feel like men have put a price on them just as the women in the windows are priced.

Established in 1946, the UNCSW is the primary intergovernmental agency dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Although The Episcopal Church has had a presence at the UNCSW since 2000, it has sent a delegation to official UNCSW proceedings only since 2014, when it gained consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

On March 17, Anglican and Episcopal delegates gathered at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for evensong. For a list of Episcopal delegates and staff representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry click here, and click here for the Anglican Communion delegation. A closing Eucharist was held March 22 in The Episcopal Church’s Chapel of Christ the Lord.

The 63rd UNCSW precedes the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which laid out an agenda for women’s empowerment; it was adopted in September 1995 during the Fourth World Conference on Women.

The worldwide tilt toward conservative, nationalistic governments and the backlash to the #MeToo movement loomed large during this year’s conference, with delegates, including Episcopalians, expressing fear that a fifth world conference and a potential revision of the Beijing Declaration could chip away at some of the gains women have made over the past 25 years.

Still, there’s a long way to go, as Cynthia Wilson D’Alimonte, who represented the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe as its first-ever UNCSW delegate, learned. D’Alimonte was drawn to panels and discussions about the challenges widowed women face in the developing world where their choices and rights are still limited, marriage is sometimes forced, and property ownership laws, in some cases, still don’t apply to women.

“Their destiny is not in their hands all by decree of country and culture,” she said.

During the 63rd UNCSW, there was some debate over the definition of “family” as it was presented in the draft of the agreed conclusions, which is the final document produced by the conference.

Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the family has been described as the fundamental unit of society; however, that doesn’t always have a positive connotation.

“When very male-dominated, patriarchal societies think about the family, they think about it as a private space as opposed to a public space,” said Chiseche Mibenge, who represented the Diocese of California and who teaches human rights at Stanford University.

“And the private spaces, they swear a social worker, a police officer, a court of law will not enter into. When, in general, we talk about the right to privacy, it’s a very male-centric … do not enter my house, government, and we know that women and children can be extremely vulnerable in their homes,” she said. “When I ask my students in the classroom when is the first time you experienced gender discrimination, they say, ‘in my house.’”

For Dana Jean, a delegate from the Diocese of Dallas who directs outreach ministry for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in McKinney, Texas, the UNCSW got her thinking about how she can better engage members of her church in advocacy. Her church, a Jubilee Ministry, she said, is strong in outreach and service, but advocacy offers room for growth.

Michele Roberts, a first-time Episcopal delegate from Delaware and Washington, D.C., and a long-time fighter of environmental racism, hoped to use the language around the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals in her advocacy at the local, state and federal levels.

On the eve of the UNCSW’s close, a still-energized Hynes said she could have kept going.

“All the women who represent NGOs and their passion for advocacy … I feel like I could do it forever. It’s been invigorating in a way I’ve not felt in a while,” she said.

Even before returning home to South Dakota, Hynes already had reached out to the priest at her church in Pierre and members of the local chapter of an international women’s empowerment organization she belongs to about what actions can be taken to combat sex trafficking around big events like Sturgis, a massive annual motorcycle rally held in her state, and annual hunting seasons.

As members of the church, she’s asking the question, “What can we do?”

To that end, Hynes and others are supported by official policy.

The Episcopal Church has a long history of addressing both labor and sex trafficking; during the 79th General Convention last July in Austin, Texas, the church recommitted its support for the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

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

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Episcopal pilgrimage focuses on West Virginia city, seen as opioid epidemic’s epicenter of recovery

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 11:26am

About 150 people in October attend the free weekly dinner at Trinity Episcopal Church in Huntington, West Virginia, which was hit hard in recent years by the opioid epidemic. Photo: Trinity Episcopal Church, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] Just about any way you measure the opioid epidemic in America, it’s meant bad news in recent years for Huntington, West Virginia.

An estimated 130 people a day die from opioid overdoses in the United States, reflecting a dramatic rise in addictions to prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. No state has been hit as hard as West Virginia, with the highest per capita overdose rate in the country.

And in a state filled with bleak statistics and grim stories, Huntington has been called “the epicenter of America’s opioid epidemic.” The city of about 50,000 on the Ohio River drew national headlines in 2016 for a cluster of at least 20 nonfatal overdoses in a 53-hour period, and in 2017, Huntington and its surrounding Cabell County logged 1,831 nonfatal overdoses and 183 deaths. Officials estimated about 10,000 people in the county were addicted to drugs out of a population just under 100,000.

But as several dozen people arrive in Huntington this week on a pilgrimage organized by The Episcopal Church’s Province III, they expect to find a city now credited with becoming the epicenter of recovery, thanks to partnerships between government agencies, health care organizations and church leaders, all following the lead of one prominent Episcopalian, Mayor Stephen Williams.

Williams, in a phone interview, described Huntington as a “city of solutions,” the most notable being the quick response teams on standby to respond to every overdose call. Clergy members across faiths and denominations have been trained as members of the teams, along with police, paramedics and addiction recovery counselors.

“Opioid addiction is a disease,” Williams said. “We need to first and foremost seek to save lives, transform lives.” In the process, he said, the whole community is transformed for the better.

The Opioid Response Task Force of Province III has been planning its pilgrimage to Huntington at a time when The Episcopal Church is calling on all dioceses and congregations to respond to the opioid epidemic. The 79th General Convention passed a resolution in July urging Episcopalians to partner with those in their communities on the front lines of the crisis and to help create resources for education, prevention and pastoral care.

“We have to get the church in a leadership role,” said West Virginia Bishop Mike Klusmeyer, who looked forward to joining Huntington’s three Episcopal congregations in welcoming the Province III task force’s group starting March 25.

“Huntington, West Virginia, seems to have caught the attention of many people and many organizations in what [city leaders] are doing to combat that crisis,” Klusmeyer said. One important role The Episcopal Church can play is to spread a message of compassion and hope as people suffering from addition work to rebuild their lives, “that they’re not just drug addicts, but that they’re human beings.”

More than 30 people from five states signed signed up to participate in the pilgrimage, a two-day visit that includes stops at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Trinity Episcopal Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

The pilgrimage’s “encounters” include presentations by Williams and representatives from the West Virginia Council of Churches, the Provider Response Organization for Addiction Care & Treatment, or PROACT, and Lily’s Place, which offers medical assistance to infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“I pray that we will listen and learn from God’s people doing God’s work in Huntington,” said the Rev. Dina van Klavern, a priest from Maryland who co-chairs the province’s task forces and chairs the churchwide task force on the opioid epidemic. “I pray that we will be open to learn from the compassionate community response of so many faithful folks in Huntington, and learn new ways to stand in solidarity with people who struggle with substance use, their family, friends and community members.”

St. John’s, which is hosting several of the sessions, has its own examples of community outreach. St. John’s House is the congregation’s after-school ministry to children living in a nearby low-income housing complex. It long predated the opioid epidemic, but as overdoses began occurring with greater frequency in and around the complex, the congregation found a greater sense of purpose in its work, said the Rev. Lisa Graves, rector at St. John’s.

“It’s a safe place for the children to go after school,” Graves said. About 30 to 40 children attend St. John’s House on an average weekday afternoon, receiving homework help, as well as snacks and activities.

Her congregation also supports Gabriel Project, which helps young families navigate the basics of raising children; providing parenting guidance and supplies, such as diapers and formula. St. John’s also began looking for ways to support foster parents after an incident two years ago when a despondent 12-year-old foster child broke into the church and set a fire on the altar.

“We started to look at her life and her experiences in the foster care system,” Graves said. That system has been profoundly affected by the opioid crisis, she said, and “sometimes, our best thing to do is support the ministries that others are doing.”

Trinity Episcopal Church is host to two weekly ministries that serve Huntington residents living on the margins of society, including those suffering from opioid addiction. Every Wednesday evening, volunteers serve a free dinner at the church, and more than a hundred people share fellowship over food.

And on Saturday mornings, breakfast is served in Trinity’s parking lot, which transforms into a kind of social service fair. Under tents, volunteers distribute food, shoes, toiletries, toilet paper and various other items. Once a month, Marshal Health, a local health care provider, sets up a booth to offer basic medical services for free.

These ministries are ecumenical, not solely the work of Trinity Episcopal Church. And organizers don’t see their outreach as exclusively addressing the opioid epidemic, but “we’re right in the middle of it,” said Larry Clark, Trinity’s junior warden and a driving force behind both ministries.

The Saturday breakfast, in particular, “allows us to minister to a lot of the people who are in rehab,” Clark said. It began 16 years ago as a street ministry on the riverfront organized by a couple of motorcycle clubs. “What we started doing was just giving away coffee and donuts out of the back of a pickup truck, and it just kept growing and growing and growing.”

The ministry naturally began serving more people suffering from addiction as the opioid epidemic worsened over the past decade. Clark and others in Huntington face no shortage of tragic stories.

“When you roll up your sleeves and get into the epidemic, you’re not going to succeed all the time,” Clark said. “I buried a lot of people, and some of them were friends. Some of them were lifelong friends, and it’s not a pretty picture.”

Williams, the mayor, gets credit from many corners for rallying the community to work toward a solution. In September 2014, he issued a call to prayer in a letter to all congregations in Huntington.

“I think that sort of sparked an energy, at least in the faith communities,” said Graves, the St. John’s rector. Her congregation began praying every Sunday for the addicted, the first responders and the city.

“You can’t arrest your way out of this,” Williams said.

His faith has played a big part in his response to the opioid epidemic. Faith brings hope, both for the people suffering and those who working to alleviate that suffering, and he feels called by his faith to lead on this issue.

“I know that what we’re doing is setting an example of how a community can come together,” he said.

Clark, too, said he is guided by his faith, which has taught him to serve those suffering from addiction without judging them. His motto: “To be there if and when you need us. That’s all we can do.”

And after several bleak years in Huntington, 2018 brought some good news for a change. Cabell County reported nonfatal overdoses were down by 40 percent from 2017. And while the opioid epidemic still claims too many victims, participants in The Episcopal Church pilgrimage next week also will hear plenty of success stories, of people turning their lives around.

“The ones that are success stories are really a wonderful thing to have,” Clark said. “You know what they were, and they know what they were. You were involved with them at that time, and now they are productive people. And it’s very important that we help them and support them in every way to get back into society.”

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

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The Episcopal Church in Vermont announces slate of candidates for 11th bishop diocesan

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 11:12am

From left to right are the Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, the Rev. Hillary D. Raining, and The Very Rev. Hilary B. Smith. Photo: Maurice L. Harris/The Episcopal Church in Vermont

[Diocese of Vermont] The Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church in Vermont has announced a slate of three candidates for the 11th bishop of the diocese. The candidates will stand for election on Saturday, May 18, 2019. The new bishop will succeed the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, who is retiring from the position of bishop diocesan in September after 18 years. The candidates are (in alphabetical order):

• The Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Transition Priest, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Speedway, Ind.
• The Rev. Dr. Hillary D. Raining, Rector, St. Christopher’s Church, Gladwyne, Pa.
• The Very Rev. Dr. Hilary B. Smith, Dean, Central Richmond Region, Diocese of Virginia

The Standing Committee received and approved the slate of candidates by unanimous vote in a closed-door session Saturday. The approval of the list marks the culmination of a process that began nearly 15 months ago at which time the Standing Committee appointed a Bishop Discernment & Nominating Committee to lead the process of discerning and proposing candidates for bishop.

Maggie Thompson, chair of the Bishop Discernment & Nominating Committee and member of Christ Church, Montpelier, commented, “Our committee met every other Saturday for a year. We took time to get to know each other and build trust and rapport. Collectively, we brought many skills, insights and wisdom to the process, along with buoyancy and humor. Our chaplain, the Rev. Carole Wageman, was an integral presence, always centering our work in listening for God’s call as we entered into mutual discernment with our applicants. We came to know and love these three finalists and have the utmost confidence that they represent the characteristics the people of The Episcopal Church in Vermont are seeking, as we heard in our 38 listening sessions in parishes around the state. We are grateful for the support and affirmation of the Standing Committee. The Holy Spirit has swirled among us throughout this lengthy, prayerful, and joyous process.”

The Rev. Rick Swanson, president of the Standing Committee and rector of St. John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church, Stowe, commended, “The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in Vermont is deeply grateful for the ministry of the Bishop Discernment and Nominating Committee for their commitment to listening to the Spirit through the churches and institutions of the diocese, the candidates and nominees, and their own hearts. They have faithfully offered to the Church in Vermont three individuals who are faithful servants of Our Lord, and any one of them will lead the diocese to embrace the love of God in Jesus Christ and share God’s abundant grace throughout the state of Vermont and the world. We are blessed by their ministry and excited about the future.”

Brett Murphy, member of the Standing Committee and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Northfield, concurred adding, “The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in Vermont is excited to present this slate of three candidates for the 11th Bishop of Vermont. We thank the Bishop Discernment and Nominating Committee for their exhaustive work in considering a diverse pool of applicants and their sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit to bring these excellent candidates to the Church.”

Detailed information on the individual candidates can be found on the Bishop Search website at.

Candidates for bishop may still be added to the final slate through a process of “nomination by petition,” the details of which are stated on the Bishop Search website. Nominations by petition may be filed until at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on March 29, 2019.

A special convention for the election of the 11th bishop of The Episcopal Church in Vermont is scheduled for Saturday, May 18, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington. A service of ordination and consecration is scheduled for Saturday, September 28, at the Ira Allen Chapel on the campus of the University of Vermont, Burlington.

The Episcopal Church in Vermont encompasses 45 congregations across the Green Mountain State.

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