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Episcopal bishops close meeting in Alaska with letter urging ‘prayerful listening’ on race, environment, poverty

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 8:47pm

Episcopal bishops gather in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, on Sept. 23 as part of a day of “prayerful listening” to Alaskan Natives’ stories and of blessing the land. In Fairbanks they displayed this banner from a footbridge as they rallied in support of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Neva Rae Fox/Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops approved a letter to the church on Sept. 26 invoking the bishops’ experiences in Alaska listening to the stories of the state’s indigenous people, and they called on Episcopalians to join them in working toward environmental and racial justice.

The letter was the capstone of the bishops’ six-day fall meeting, held in Fairbanks but incorporating a weekend of travel far beyond this small city. Across Alaska’s vast Interior, groups of bishops visited Native communities that are struggling to preserve the subsistence way of life they have followed for thousands of years.

The threats to that way of life are many, though Native residents specifically voiced concerns to the bishops about climate change and the impact of the resource-extraction industry.

“The bishops of the Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the Earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness,” the message. Alluding to Ephesians 2:19,  the message continues, “The residents of Interior Alaska whom we met not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.”

The bishops approved the letter in a unanimous voice vote after making several changes to the wording of various passages in the initial draft. The letter is due to be released when it is translated into Spanish.

The message includes a call to Episcopalians in all dioceses and congregations to join the bishops in “prayerful listening” in their own communities for the connections between racism, economic disparity and environmental injustice.

“God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed,” the bishops said in the letter. “It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the Earth itself will be healed.”

The Episcopal bishops discuss changes to a draft letter to the church on racism, environmental injustice and poverty before voting to approve it Sept. 26 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The House of Bishops meeting kicked off Sept. 21 at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center with a welcome from two Native elders, Will Mayo and Steve Ginnis. Mayo is a past president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. Ginnis is the executive director of the Fairbanks Native Association.

Sessions on Sept. 22 focused on Native culture, including a conversation with Poldine Carlo, a founder of the Fairbanks Native Association. Gwich’in activists spoke about their efforts to raise awareness of the effects of climate change on Native village life. They also asked for continued support in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. The refuge is a major caribou birthing ground and is considered sacred by the Alaskan Natives who hunt the caribou when the herds migrate south.

The bishops spent the third day of their meeting seeking out the stories of village residents across the sparsely populated region north of Fairbanks. Bishops and their spouses broke into eight groups to board small charter planes to Alakaket, Arctic Village, Beaver, Eagle, Fort Yukon, Huslia, Tanana and Venetie. A ninth group drove to a former gold mining site, and other bishops remained in Fairbanks for a procession along the Chena River.

“What does listening the Earth and its people mean?” the bishops ask in their letter to the church. “For us bishops, it meant getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.”

What they heard were stories of longer summers and shorter winters, of melting permafrost affecting the rivers they fish, of the difficulty of getting food to supplement what they harvest in the wild, and of their concern for the future of the caribou birthing grounds.

A group of Episcopal bishops join with residents of Venetie, Alaska, to bless the river that runs next to the village on Sept. 23. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Each of those trips on Sept. 23 culminated in the bishops blessing the land, water and people in the 2 p.m. hour. And the next day, the 120 bishops and about 80 spouses gathered in Nenana with members of the local Native community and Episcopal congregation for a festive potlatch dinner, complete with singing, dancing and gifts for the bishops.

The Episcopal Church was once the only Christian denomination with a presence in the Alaskan Interior, and most of the people the bishops met there on their journeys were Episcopalians. The church also has been active for years on the issues of justice for indigenous people and environmental justice, including the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke of this history of Episcopal Church activism and the church’s historic ties to Alaskan Native communities in a video summarizing the House of Bishops meeting on Sept. 26.

“While we were here we met the people, who are Episcopalians, who are faithful, devout people for whom those lands are sacred, and our resolutions and our support and work in Washington to protect that land so that it will not be violated by oil drilling is a sacred trust,” Curry said.

Bishops close out fall meeting

The bishops also unanimously approved a resolution Sept. 26 offering support for the dioceses on the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean islands that were hit hard by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as those affected by wildfires in the West.

“We are grieving with you and want to stand with you in the rebuilding of your communities,” the bishops said. “Our House of Bishops is sadly diminished by the absence of those bishops who could not attend this meeting due to these storms.”

That resolution, too, cited the environmental factors behind such devastation and “the relationship between human consumption patterns and global climate change.”

“We acknowledge that we all have a role to play in reducing the impact of our actions that result in the destruction of islands and coastal areas due to more frequent and severe storms,” the bishops said. “We pledge to take such appropriate actions in our dioceses to educate ourselves and our people about climate change, and to advocate policies and actions to reduce the harmful environmental impacts that have been a factor in the recent storms.”

And the bishops heard a detailed update on the talks between the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church on entering into full communion.

Bishop Frank Brookhart of the Episcopal Diocese of Montana said the Methodists were expected to vote in 2020, followed by a vote of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2021. Until then, he encouraged Episcopal bishops and congregations to begin developing relationships with their Methodist counterparts.

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

New minister general for Third Order of Society of Saint Francis

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 7:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Rev. John Hebenton, the vicar of Gate Pa, Tauranga, in New Zealand’s North Island’s Bay of Plenty, has been elected as the new minister general of the Third Order of St Francis. Hebenton, who has spent most of his 30-year ordained ministry working with youth organisations, becomes the “functional head” and “servant” of the international Anglican Franciscan movement, which brings together “men and women, clergy or lay, who are called to a lifelong discipline and vow”. He succeeds the Rev. Ken Norian from the US-based Episcopal Church.

Read the entire article here.

Growing church leads to double-ordination in United Arab Emirates

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 2:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A double-ordination has taken place in the United Arab Emirates to serve the growing church in the country. The UAE Minister of State for Tolerance, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, attended the service as a special guest, as did the British Consul General to Dubai, Paul Fox.

Read the entire article here.

Alaska Native villages struggling to preserve way of life offer warm welcome to Episcopal bishops

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 8:05pm

Episcopal bishops and residents of Venetie, Alaska, gather Sept. 23 at the bank of the Chandalar River to bless the water, land and people. Venetie was one of eight villages in the Alaska Interior visited by different groups of bishops, who are attending the fall House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] Sunrise in Fairbanks was 7:40 a.m. on Sept. 23, but Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime had an unnegotiable command for his fellow bishops: Don’t be late.

They weren’t. Beating the sun by 10 minutes, they boarded the bus for the airport at 7:30 a.m. sharp, bringing with them their rochets and chimeres, their boxes of food to give to the villagers they were to meet and their personal expectations for what awaited them in Alaska’s northern Interior.

Bishop Prince Singh of the Diocese of Rochester in New York was in good spirits on the bus. Some of his thoughts turned to his previous missionary work in the poor southern region of India. His group of bishops was headed this day for Arctic Village, where families of Native Alaskans on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge still survive largely on hunting and fishing.

At the airport office of Northern Alaska Tour Company and Arctic Air, Bishop Greg Brewer of the Diocese of Central Florida took his turn as the bishops placed their travel bags on a scale to be weighed: a five-pound backpack here, a 10-pound duffel there.

Precise weight measurements are crucial in small planes like these, an experience that reminded Brewer of traveling about a decade ago on similar flights in Uganda to visit a partner diocese there. Now Brewer was one of six bishops flying to the village of Allakaket on Day 3 of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops meeting.

An emphasis on creation care and racial justice at this fall’s House of Bishops meeting made Alaska the perfect laboratory, Lattime told Episcopal News Service earlier in the week. And in the Alaskan lab, the central catalyst for the bishops’ reactions was this day of travel, including eight trips to Interior villages. A ninth group drove to a former gold mining site, and other bishops remained in Fairbanks for a procession along the Chena River.

In the 2 p.m. hour, the bishops at all 10 locations were to bless the land, water and people. Episcopalians across the Alaska diocese had been asked to participate at the same time in their local congregations.

“The idea of having, all across the state of Alaska, this blessing at 2 o’clock is powerful,” Lattime had told the bishops a day earlier as they discussed ways environmental justice is interwoven with the plight of indigenous people, especially those suffering the effects of climate change.

But what can a delegation of bishops do for the residents of a struggling Alaska Native village? Lattime assured the bishops they bring gifts of faith.

“You are bishops of the church. You are the symbols of the unity of the church. You connect these people with your people,” Lattime said. “You have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and you bring the ability to connect people in prayer and offer your blessing.”

The bishops carried those words of encouragement with them to the airport the next morning. Bishop Mariann Budde of the Diocese of Washington studied a map of Alaska as she prepared to leave for Huslia. She said she hoped the bishops’ visit would be worthwhile for the village residents, and that she would be able to open herself fully to hearing their stories.

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Diocese of Pittsburgh had packed a tangible offering: A bottle of water taken form the Conemaugh River, which flooded Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. He planned to dump the water into the Yukon River as a symbol of recovery as his group offered blessings in Eagle, which suffered its own devastating flood in 2009.

The sun was now illuminating the edges of the gray clouds. Pilots flying into the Interior pay close attention to a condition they call “having weather.”

“We don’t really have weather in Venetie,” means the clouds have lifted enough to allow takeoff and landing there.

Guest services representative Katie Tasky stood on a bench and gave the bishops a final rundown of what to expect on the twin-engine Piper Navajo Chieftain planes, which had enough room for a pilot and nine passengers.

“Window and aisle seat, everyone gets one,” she said.

Another employee called for the first group of Episcopal travelers: “Arctic Village!” The bishops and spouses boarded their plane and were in the air by 9:05 a.m.

Pilot Bill Thompson takes Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas’ bag before leaving on a flight to Venetie, Alaska, on Sept. 23. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Bill Thompson, the pilot for the group heading to Venetie, offered his co-pilot seat to any interested passenger. Retired Bishop Neff Powell of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia volunteered.

“Hop in and do that important preflight checklist for me,” Thompson joked.

With six bishops, two spouses and a reporter buckled and wearing their headsets, Thompson maneuvered the plane behind the others in line at the start of the runway, an unusually busy day for Arctic Air. “You guys have certainly cleared out our ramp today,” Thompson said.

Two planes were ahead. Then one. At 9:40 a.m., with the Venetie flight cleared for takeoff, the plane buzzed down the runway and began soaring over Fairbanks, charting a path north.

‘A wonderful, wonderful way of life’

The bishops were welcomed warmly in Alaska even before boarding flights to the Interior. Elders and leaders of local Native organizations addressed the House of Bishops on Sept. 22 at sessions that focused on Native culture and environmental threats to a way of life that has been followed here for thousands of years.

Poldine Carlo, a founder of the Fairbanks Native Association, shares stories of growing up in the Interior with bishops gathered in Fairbanks on Sept. 22. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“We didn’t get rich, but we had a good life,” Poldine Carlo, 96, said as she detailed some of that life for the bishops at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Convention Center.

Carlo is best known as one of the founders of the Fairbanks Native Association, a support group created in the 1960s at a time when Alaska Natives faced open discrimination. But what resonated most with the bishops were her stories of living off the land in and around Nulato, where she grew up.

As she spoke of her tribe’s fish camp, of animal tracking with her family, there was an audible ache of nostalgia in her voice – knowing part of that way is forever gone, and what’s left of it also may someday disappear.

“It was such a wonderful, wonderful way of life,” Carlo said. “To think, at the time I was home, I never ever thought there would be an end to that.”

Hunting, fishing and trapping continue in the Interior, but Native communities that pride themselves on their subsistence lifestyle find it increasingly difficult to provide for themselves in the old ways.

“Alaska is probably one of the last places on Earth where native people are still rooted to the land. We live off the fruits of the good Earth,” said the Rev. Shirley Lee, executive director of the Tanana Chiefs Conference’s Housing First program and a priest at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Fairbanks.

For every food there is a season, she said: from moose to caribou, fish to berries. “And when we move away from those seasonal practices and rely on the local grocery store,” Lee said, “it deadens our spirit.”

The changing environment is one factor in that cultural decline.

“Right now the changes we’re seeing in our climate, we have to address it. … It’s very noticeable up here,” Bernadette Demientieff of the conservationist Gwich’in Steering Committee told the bishops. “Our elders and our leaders are at a point where they’re taking it up on their own because no one else is listening.”

The Episcopal Church has long joined in that activism, and its Episcopal Public Policy Network has specifically supported the efforts of Demientieff and other Gwich’in activists in their fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from proposals to allow oil drilling there. The north coast of Alaska, part of which the refuge encompasses, is a major caribou birthing ground and considered sacred land by Alaska Natives who hunt the caribou when the herd migrates deeper into the Interior.

“This issue really is symbolic of how we are going to treat our remaining intact ecosystems on the planet,” Princess Johnson told the bishops. Johnson was part of an Episcopal Church delegation that traveled to Paris during the United Nations’ 2015 climate change talks, and she is a leader in the grassroots group Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition.

“You cannot really separate environment from social justice issues. We really need to be mindful of that,” Johnson said. “I really honestly believe we’re all here on this planet for a reason right now and are being spiritually called upon to act.”

The Rev. Shirley Lee addresses the House of Bishops on Sept. 22 in Fairbanks. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The Alaska Natives thanked the bishops for traveling to Alaska and listening to their concerns. Lee asked the bishops, as they prepared to travel across the Interior, not to see that vast landscape as barren, undeveloped property.

“Look at that and remember there is a history behind every inch of land that you are traversing,” she said, “that history of the Native people here, and how your blessing will help further the preservation of our culture.”

Village welcomes visiting bishops

Thompson, the Arctic Air pilot on the flight to Venetie, was not at first fully aware of the nature of his cargo. Bishops on an Interior expedition were something novel.

Realizing his passengers were flying over unfamiliar terrain, Thompson, 47, gladly played the tour guide. A 26-year veteran of the Alaskan skies, he pointed out the Fort Knox gold mine, which still operates just north of Fairbanks. He described how the Tanana and Yukon rivers, carrying glacial silt, had created wide flood plains over thousands of years. He identified the snow-dusted peaks below as the White Mountains, a jagged range that was dwarfed to the south by the Alaskan Range, its towering Denali hidden in the clouds this morning.

“We have the Fort Yukon weather,” Thompson radioed back to the control tower.

He began dropping the plane to 4,000 feet to fly below the thick layer of clouds hovering above that village. The Yukon River appeared below. The arbitrary dotted line of the Arctic Circle receded behind them. A moose was spotted wading in a marsh on the edge of a lake.

The village of Venetie, Alaska, is seen from above. The dirt strip in the center of the village is the former runway. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

As they approached Venetie, Thompson circled the plane over the village and the Chandalar River so he could point out the old dirt runway in the center of the village and the large school building. About 200 people are estimated to live in Venetie, most of them in small log homes built on dirt and gravel roads stretching out from the village’s center.

Mildred Killbear, center left, and Eunice Williams greet the bishops after their landing in Venetie on Sept. 23. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

After landing on the gravel surface of the newer runway just before 11 a.m., Thompson taxied to the spot where a group of villagers in pickup trucks and on all-terrain vehicles were waiting to greet the bishops with a round of handshakes and hugs.

Mildred Killbear and Eunice Williams escorted the visitors to the center of the village, a few minutes away by pickup truck.

Killbear, 68, was born in Fort Yukon and lived in Arctic Village as a child before moving with her parents to Venetie. “I’ve lived here all my life,” she said.

Williams, at 80, is one of 20 village elders whose pictures hang in a display case inside the school building. “We’re still living in the old cultural way. We still depend on the subsistence lifestyle,” she said.

Of the 20 elders honored in the display, she is among the few still alive.

Eunice Williams and the Rev. Margo Simple show the bishops Venetie’s school. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

At the school, they met the Rev. Margo Simple, the Episcopal priest in Venetie who also works as a community health aide. Simple gave the bishops and spouses a tour of the building, as she and other village residents thanked them for coming.

“Pray for us and the land and the animals,” Williams said.

Myra Thumma was preparing a caribou meat feast for the bishops at Venetie’s community hall, a short walk from the school. The group made its way over to the small, one-room building, where residents greeted them with conversations about the hall’s wood-burning stove, about the villagers’ families and about the many ways of eating salmon, from burgers to salads. The bishops presented gifts of food – a large box filled with eggs, fruit, Nutrigrain bars and other items that otherwise would command high prices at the village store.

“This is the first time we’ve had so many bishops in one building,” Eddie Frank said. He, too, thanked them for coming.

Frank, 67, is a formal tribal administrator who now works on the village’s roads. “We don’t call them roads, we call them trails,” he corrected. He also is known for his skills at trapping wolf, mink, lynx, marten, fox and any other animal popular for its skin and fur.

Milder, shorter winters have made trapping more difficult, Frank said. Dog sledding and other winter travel depend on adequate snow cover, and he thinks the animals are more easily scared away by humans’ scent in the warmer air.

“The weather has really changed,” Frank said.

Myra Thumma points out the caribou meal that was prepared for the visiting bishops at the Venetie community hall. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Thumma also worries about the effects of climate change. It has affected caribou migration patterns, she said.

She attended college in the southeast Alaska city of Sitka, and she met her husband in Fairbanks, but eventually she had to get back to her home village.

“I can’t live in the city,” Thumma said. Venetie is “the only life I know. This is part of me.”

By 1:45 p.m., Simple had led the bishops to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church for the afternoon’s liturgy. A wood stove warmed the inside of the log church as a handful of villagers gathered in the pews for the short service.

Afterward, the bishops in their rochets and chimeres processed out the front door following a 9-year-old girl who held high a wooden cross. They made their way down to the river, a young boy sprinting ahead of them.

Under gray skies and the hazy afternoon sun, the bishops offered their blessings and thanks, for the river and land, for the moose and caribou, for the boats moored on the riverbank, for the village elders and leaders. They offered prayers for young people suffering from addiction, another threat to the village’s way of life.

When it was over, the visitors and their hosts gathered for group photos, a family of worshipers bound by faith.

To Nenana for a potlatch

A day later, members of that faith family filled the community hall in Nenana, Alaska, nearly to capacity.

Nenana is a village a 55-mile drive southwest of Fairbanks. The Episcopal Church was once the only Christian denomination with a presence in the Interior, and its history in Nenana dates to 1905 and the mission church of St. Mark’s.

On Sept. 24, after splitting up in the morning to attend Sunday worship services in Fairbanks, North Pole and Nenana, the bishops joined together again in Nenana to attend the afternoon potlatch prepared by the St. Mark’s congregation and the village’s Native community.

A potlatch is a Native Alaskan ceremonial meal featuring traditional food, drumming and dancing. This was a meal to leave no one hungry: moose meat, moose soup, garden salad, pasta salad, potato salad, fry bread, rolls, tea and desert. Helping after helping was served up and down the long rows of bishops and residents who were seated in front of the makeshift paper tablecloth placed on the floor at their feet.

The bishops, their spouses and residents of the Nenana area prepare for a potlatch feast Sept. 24. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

As the dinner wound down, several bishops and Native leaders spoke to the crowd, expressing mutual gratitude for the experience of this “good-time” potlatch.

“I’m extremely blessed tonight to see the bishops in Alaska,” said Bessie Titus, a longtime Alaska deputy of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention. It’s a great honor, she said, “to us as a diocese, to us as a Native community.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offered Nenana the blessing of the Episcopal Church and received a roar of approval with his heartfelt “thank you,” which he repeated over and over.

Lattime called himself “probably the most blessed in this place” because his family of bishops was getting a chance to meet the family of Alaskans that has adopted him.

The Rev. Trimble Gilbert speaks at the Nenana potlatch. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“This is what the love of Christ is all about,” he said. “This is what becoming the body of Christ is all about.”

The Rev. Trimble Gilbert, an Arctic Village priest and prominent Gwich’in community leader, echoed others in marveling at the hundreds of people who had gathered for the day’s potlatch.

“In Nenana, we honor you,” he said, before explaining that the potlatch represents his tribe’s values, its commitment to taking care of each other. Like the hunting traditions that provided moose for the meal, the potlatch follows the ways of their ancestors.

“We honor them for us to be here,” he said.

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

John Dwyer joins Church Divinity School of the Pacific as chief operating officer

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:52pm

[Church Divinity School of the Pacific] The Rev. John F. Dwyer, an Episcopal priest and lawyer with a background in insurance and finance, has been named chief operating officer of Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

The Rev. John F. Dwyer was appointed chief operating officer of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Photo: Church Divinity School of the Pacific

 The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president, announced the appointment today.

“John brings a rare combination of gifts and experiences to CDSP,” Richardson said. “That includes a deep commitment to the Episcopal Church, a passion for welcoming people and populations that may feel alienated from the church, and substantial expertise in administrative and financial matters acquired as both a lawyer and a priest. I am pleased to welcome him to CDSP.”

Dwyer is in his seventh year as rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, in Roseville, Minnesota. He is treasurer of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN), where he also serves as a member of the Standing Committee, chair of the joint finance and audit committee and president of the disciplinary board. He is a liturgical practicum instructor in ECMN’s School for Formation and has previously served as a trustee and a member of ECMN’s personnel committee.

He will begin work on October 30.

“I am delighted to be joining CDSP’s leadership team at this time of such change in the wider church and in the new and inventive ways her leaders are formed in furtherance of Jesus’ message and mission to the world,” Dwyer said. “I am energized and excited to work with the dedicated individuals striving to secure CDSP’s future through sustainable, responsible, and imaginative uses of the assets and resources of the seminary.” 

CDSP, a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, recently welcomed an incoming residential class of 19 students to campus. The seminary’s low-residency program, founded in 2014, currently comprises 36 students. In 2016, the seminary revised its curriculum to focus on the core Christian concepts of mission, discipleship and evangelism. CDSP also requires Master of Divinity students to receive training in community organizing.

Prior to being called to Minnesota, Dwyer served faith communities in Washington, D. C. and Maryland. He earned his Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2007. Before attending seminary, Dwyer practiced law in New York City for 18 years, focusing in the corporate insurance and finance areas. He received his Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law in Jamaica, NY, and earned a B.A. from Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Dwyer will arrive in Berkeley with his husband, Ben Riggs, artistic director of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, and their 4-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Lincoln. From 2002-2007, Riggs was an adjunct faculty member at the Iliff School of Theology, where he directed the Iliff Choir.

Six Episcopal bishops pen letter to senators urging opposition to GOP health care bill

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:08pm

Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, speaking here Sept. 22 at the House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of six bishops to sign a letter to senators urging opposition to an Affordable Care Act repeal bill. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] Six Episcopal bishops have written a letter to 10 U.S. senators, urging them to vote against the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health care law also known as Obamacare.

The letter, dated Sept. 24, comes as the House of Bishops holds its fall meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime is one of the bishops who signed the letter to senators. One of its recipients is U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska whose vote was seen as crucial for passage of the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill, though on Sept. 25 the bill seemed headed for failure.

“We urge you, Senators, in the spirit of fairness and proper process, to stand up against a bill that would cause such disruption and chaos to healthcare for millions of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us,” the bishops say in their letter. “As Christians and as faith leaders in our respective states, we ask that you stand firm on the democratic process that serves us all. Access to such healthcare is crucial to maintaining the social safety net that allows our communities to flourish.”

Joining Lattime in signing the letter are Bishop Kirk Smith of the Diocese of Arizona, Bishop Stephen Lane of the Diocese of Maine, Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of the Diocese of Ohio, Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of the Diocese of Southern Ohio and Bishop Michael Klusmeyer of the Diocese of West Virginia.

The letter is addressed to Murkowski; Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Angus King, I-Maine; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said he intended to bring the bill to the floor for a vote this week, but those hopes have all but slipped away. After McCain and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, came out earlier against the bill, Collins announced Sept. 25 she, too, would vote against it, seeming to indicate it does not have the 50 votes needed to pass.

The bishops’ letter cites an estimated cut of $23 billion in federal health care spending over nine years in the bishops’ five states. It also singles out part of the legislation that would reverse an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, potentially affecting lower-income Americans.

“Our Baptismal Covenant calls us to respect the dignity of every human being,” the bishops say. “It is our responsibility to challenge you, our elected leaders, to work toward justice and equality for the welfare of all people, not only those who can afford health insurance.”

The Episcopal Church has long advocated for policies that support helping Americans access affordable and comprehensive health care based on a long series of General Convention resolutions. Its Episcopal Public Policy Network released a policy alert on Sept. 20 called on Episcopalians to contact their representatives and ask them to oppose the new legislation.

“The Graham-Cassidy bill lacks the benefits of informed public hearings with experts and thoughtful bipartisan compromises, and does not address the concerns highlighted in earlier ACA repeal efforts,” EPPN’s alert said.

The bill, named after Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, is the latest in a series of Republican attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, which he signed into law in 2010 after its passed Congress with no Republican support.

Murkowski, who was one of three senators to vote against an earlier Obamacare repeal bill in July, hasn’t said yet how she will vote. Republican leaders have added incentives to the new bill targeting Alaska, including a provision that would exempt Native Alaskans from losing Medicaid coverage when the program is rolled back.

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

Prayer book glossary to assist modern-day ordinands

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Book of Common Prayer was written in “a tongue understanded of the people,” but language evolves. What the common person understood in 1549 is not always as understood today. So the Prayer Book Society (PBS), a campaign group that “encourages rediscovery and use of the majesty and spiritual depth of the Book of Common Prayer at the heart of the Church of England’s worship”, has produced a helpful guide to some of the words used in the iconic service book.

Read the entire article here.

Church provides driver mentoring for refugees

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:13pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An Anglican church in Sydney is giving local refugees experience in driving on Australia’s roads. The scheme, run by the Chester Hill Church west of Sydney, enables people who drove around their former homes to get used to the different road conditions in the country.

Read the entire article here.

Royal boost for Maltese cathedral appeal

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:07pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The multi-million-pound appeal to restore Malta’s Anglican cathedral will receive a boost next week when the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, pays a visit. St Paul’s Cathedral in Valletta was built in 1844 at the request of Queen Adelaide, the wife of Britain’s King William IV. It is one of three pro-cathedrals for the Church of England’s diocese in Europe – the others being in Gibraltar and Brussels.

Read the entire article here.

Episcopal bishops gather in Alaska with focus on indigenous culture, environmental justice

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 4:09pm

Bishops at the House of Bishops meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, pose Sept. 22 behind a large sign pledging support for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The sign will be displayed from a bridge in Fairbanks on Sept. 23 during one of several events and trips planned on the themes of creation care and environmental justice. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Fairbanks, Alaska] The bishops of the Episcopal Church are gathered in this small city in the center of Alaska’s northern wilderness for their six-day House of Bishops meeting and to immerse themselves in local examples of creation care and racial reconciliation.

There’s no better place than Alaska to discuss themes of environmental and racial justice, Diocese of Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime told Episcopal News Service on Sept. 21 at the midpoint of the meeting’s first day.

“Alaska is your lab,” Lattime said. “This is the laboratory to experience that and see that.”

Two Native elders, Will Mayo and Steve Ginnis, joined Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in welcoming bishops as they kicked off the first morning at Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Convention Center. Mayo is a past president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. Ginnis is the executive director of the Fairbanks Native Association.

The meeting will feature discussions of how Alaska’s changing culture is having an impact on the environment and on indigenous peoples’ ways of life, and the bishops will travel over the weekend to visit villages and congregations to hear their first-hand stories.

“Being here in Alaska and listening to and learning from the people of Alaska … helps the word become flesh for us,” Curry told ENS on Sept. 22 after presentations on Native Alaskan culture and natural resources like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“For the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Gwich’in people, protecting land that is sacred to them from development and oil drilling is not just an abstract idea,” Curry continued. “People’s sacred laws and spiritual lives are at stake. And being here we are experiencing that.”

As the bishops take in as much Alaska experience as they can from Sept. 21 to 26, the sheer scale of the state can be daunting.

Alaska, at two and a half times the size of Texas, makes up a sixth of the United States’ geographic mass. At the same time, it has fewer than 1 million residents, half of whom live in just one city, Anchorage. Most of the state, then, is a mix of relatively untouched wilderness and tiny Native villages that have struggled to maintain their traditions of living off the land.

The Chena River is seen passing below the hills just west of Fairbanks, a city of about 32,000 people in Alaska’s Interior region. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

It’s a state “so vast and unpeopled that if anyone could figure out how to steal Italy, Alaska would be a place to hide it,” the writer John McPhee once said. He described Fairbanks as “the de facto capital of the terrain that is called the Interior … the pivot from which travelers fan out to the north.”

The daunting task of ministering to Episcopalians across such an immense diocese was driven home on the House of Bishops’ first day with a showing of a film produced by the Episcopal Church about Bishop William Gordon, who led the Diocese of Alaska from 1948 to 1974.

Gordon learned to fly so he could pilot his small plane across the state to visit congregations, earning him the nickname the “flying bishop.” The bishops viewed the film about Gordon at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, where Gordon’s plane hangs near the entrance.

During his long tenure leading the Diocese of Alaska, Bishop William Gordon flew around the diocese in this plane, which now is on display at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center in Fairbanks. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

This is the first House of Bishops meeting hosted by the Diocese of Alaska, Lattime said. About 115 bishops are attending, some accompanied by spouses. Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Curry’s predecessor, is joining them in Fairbanks in her new role as assisting bishop in the Diocese of San Diego.

On Sept. 23, small groups of the bishops and spouses will split up and fan out to the north to visit the villages of Alakaket, Beaver, Eagle, Fort Yukon, Huslia, Tanana, Venetie and Arctic Village. The latter is on the southern edge of the far northern Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Protecting the federal refuge from oil drilling has been a priority of both conservationists and indigenous rights activists in Alaska. The Episcopal Church has joined in that activism.

Then on Sept. 24, the bishops will split into three groups, this time traveling to three different Episcopal churches in the Fairbanks area to attend Sunday worship services. The bishops will reconvene as one group that night for a potlatch at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Nenana.

A potlatch is a native Alaskan ceremonial meal and event that typically features traditional food, drumming and dancing.

“It’s really the essential form of hospitality,” Lattime said. “Everybody is welcome. Everybody leaves full, and not just in the sense of food.”

The bishops hope to bring together the themes of protecting God’s creation and respecting the dignity of all human beings in sessions Sept. 25 that will identify “ways to take the Alaska Experience home to diocese.”

The House of Bishops meeting concludes Sept. 26 with a business session, Eucharist and closing dinner.

Hurricanes in the Caribbean and on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. have dampened turnout slightly, with three Texas bishops and two Florida bishops remaining in their storm-ravaged dioceses after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

In addition, Bishop Rafael Morales of Puerto Rico canceled plans to attend the meeting after Hurricane Maria struck, knocking out power everywhere on the island. Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic also was expected to skip the meeting.

During Eucharist on Sept. 21, Curry offered prayers for the people in those dioceses, as well as the victims of a major earthquake that struck Mexico this week.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry presides at Eucharist in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Sept. 21, the opening day of the House of Bishops meeting. Behind him is Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, and seated to his side is Bishop Todd Ousley of the Office of Pastoral Development. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The bishops also took a moment at the service to welcome the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley as the new bishop for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development. Ousley delivered the service’s sermon, calling the bishops “fellow tax collectors and sinners” like the ones Jesus invited to his table.

“In an act of untamed and generous hospitality, we’ve been invited to break bread with Jesus and one another,” Ousley said, preaching on the them of hospitality. “A ministry of episcopal hospitality is a work of justice as well as generosity.”

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

To Boil or Not? Lobster fundraisers raise ethical questions

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 3:59pm

[Episcopal News Service] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for vegan bake sales instead of lobster boil fundraisers, but some Episcopalians are finding the request a bit tough to swallow.

Melissa Mary Wilson, coordinator for the Christian outreach division of PETA, called for an end to the popular fundraisers in a  late August letter to Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Noting that Sept. 25 is National Lobster Day, Wilson said at least 17 Episcopal churches from Maine to Maryland to Mississippi, “collectively kill more than 10,000 lobsters annually.”

While Francine Sabisch, parish administrator at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Swansboro, North Carolina, generally supports PETA, she disagrees with the effort.

A Maine native, she said lobster boils are “part of life, part of the culture” there and elsewhere, and not just for churches, but also for many local municipalities and other groups.

The church’s annual Lobsterfest took place on Sept. 16, raising about $7,300. The proceeds will go to local agencies and most probably for flood relief for those impacted by recent hurricanes.

“In previous years, we’ve helped Backpack Buddies, and two different women’s shelters. Every year, we help out the literacy council,” Sabisch said.

The funds raised have also benefited worker-retraining programs, hospice centers, boys and girls clubs, wounded warrior projects, animal rescue organizations and helped to purchase new band equipment for local high schools, she added.

St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Churc in Swansboro, North Carolina, uses the proceeds of its annual Lobsterfest to benefit local community groups. Photo: St. Peter’s

The lobsters typically weigh about 1.5 pounds; the church sells them for $18 to $21, depending on current market price and whether they are cooked or uncooked, she said. This year the church sold about 700, and has set a goal to sell 1,000 next year.

“Everyone is very conscientious,” Sabisch said. “Everyone who is involved in handling God’s creatures. We will do everything as humanely as possible.”

LAMBS, or “Least Among My Brothers and Sisters,” is PETA’s Christian education division. Its name was “inspired by the verse in Matthew 25:40 in which Jesus tells his followers that whenever you show kindness to those in most need, it’s as if you’re doing that kindness as unto Jesus himself,” said Ben Williamson, PETA’s senior international media director, in an email to Episcopal News Service.

“With so few legal protections, lobsters and other animals are truly ‘the least’ among us— and in dire need of our compassion and mercy,” Williamson said.

PETA believes one popular method of cooking — boiling the lobsters — is cruel. “Most of us grew up believing that killing lobsters and other animals for food is what must be done, but if we contemplate it, all killing requires conquering, violence and separating ourselves from the rest of creation,” PETA wrote to the presiding bishop. “God designed humans to be caretakers, not killers.”

Curry was unavailable for comment, but Episcopal Church spokeswoman Neva Rae Fox said: “PETA has presented an interesting point but local congregations are the decision-makers for their events.”

Williamson said LAMBS researchers compiled a list from an Internet search of church lobster events, many of which state the number of lobsters involved at each event. “The list accounts for at least 10,800 lobsters at 17 churches,” he said. “There are likely at least another 1,000 from five churches who gave vague responses.”

He added: “We would encourage anyone and everyone to reflect on their own attitudes about causing unnecessary suffering, and move towards a plant-based diet for their health, for the sake of the environmen, and because it’s the right thing to do.”

PETA specifically cited St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, North Carolina. According to the church website, the church has sold more than 65,000 lobsters since the fundraisers began in 1978. Yearly, the effort has raised as much as $20,000 to benefit the local community.

PETA’s invitation raises important ethical questions, not only for Episcopalians, but all Christians, to wrestle with the way faith informs their daily lives and decisions, according to the Rev. John Porter-Acee, a priest in the Diocese of East Carolina.

“It is our call as Christians to try to reduce suffering in the world,” said Porter-Acee, a former environmental educator. “Every choice we make is a choice to pursue our faith in one way or another, and to think about investments and fundraisers and food choices as opportunities to decrease the amount of suffering in the world and to support entities that have that goal as well.”

But the issue is a complicated one. “If you’re going to do a fundraiser and encourage people to contribute and support it as a suffering-free fundraiser, perhaps one year instead of everybody buying lobster, they buy sweet potatoes,” Porter-Acee said. “But I don’t think we’ll raise $20,000 to benefit the community.”

Additionally, sweet potatoes — and other vegetables for that matter — are grown and tended by migrant workers who are not treated very well, “so there is a lot of suffering around vegetables, too.”

John McAteer, an ethics faculty member of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego’s School for Ministry, said that Episcopalians generally consider vegetarianism a matter of personal conscience, “but it is not something theologians and ethicists have come to consensus about.”

The issue PETA raises about lobster boil fundraisers essentially involves such questions as whether or not it is possible to “torture” a lobster “or whether they are below the level of sentience that gives them that sort of ethical status. In other words, is it unethical to eat lobsters?”

While lobsters seem to react when placed into pots of boiling water and try to crawl out, “their brains aren’t developed enough to know what a pot is or understand that they need to crawl out,” he said. The question of whether crustaceans feel pain has been the subject of much research.

“PETA is against eating any animal, so I don’t think it is really about lobsters for them,” McAteer said. “If we stopped having lobster boils, they would come at us for having barbecues next.”

The organization has asked U.S. Roman Catholic bishops to end the practice of Lenten fish fries. It has also called Christians to a “ham-free” Easter.

“Ethically speaking, there is a much better case for eating lobster than for eating pork, beef or even chicken,” McAteer said. “Unless you’re a full-on vegetarian, then I don’t think a lobster boil should cause you any ethical problem.”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.


Celebrations of 130 years of the Mothers’ Union in Ireland

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 1:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The international Anglican mission agency Mothers’ Union has been present in Ireland for 130 years, and this week the anniversary was celebrated at a special service in Christ Church in Strabane. More than 400 people – mainly women – were present at the Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union Festival service.

Read the entire article here.

Preparing for Primates 2017: Province of South East Asia Archbishop Moon Hing

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:15pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Moon Hing, primate of the Province of South East Asia, looks ahead to the 2017 Primates Meeting.

Prayers for the Primates’ Meeting October 2017: Paul Kwong

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The next Primates’ Meeting in October will be my fifth one as primate of Hong Kong. Each of the previous ones was unique. Some had designated themes and concerns. The last one was different. The concerns and challenges of respective provinces were submitted beforehand. The meetings are likened to a family gathering where the siblings are gathered together to discuss family business with having Archbishop of Canterbury, like the elder brother to serve as convener and chair.  Even though, at times, there were heated arguments and debates over some issues, what underpinned them was a deep love and concern for the Communion, our Anglican family.

For me, the best part of these Meetings is the time spent together in worship, prayers, reflections and the washing of each other’s feet. It demonstrates that we are one in Christ, committed in walking together, being for each other and for the whole Communion.

Thus, I look forward to attending the next meeting. As in 2016, primates have been asked to submit their provinces’ concerns and challenges to the meeting and we will prioritize and set the agenda together. And I look forward to praying and worshiping together with my fellow primates. In particular, I am excited to meet the new ones. I am equally excited to renew and strengthen my friendship with the existing ones too. There is a saying in the West, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other is gold.”

I look forward to meeting both the “silver” and the “gold” Primates in October.

Archbishop Paul Kwong is the primate of Hong Kong and chair of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Episcopal Church bishops challenge Trump, Congress on DACA in NYTimes ad

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 7:00pm

[Episcopal News Service] Some 125 Episcopal Church bishops signed a full-page ad that ran Sept. 21 in the New York Times, imploring President Donald Trump and member of Congress not to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program known as DACA.

“To do so would endanger the lives of thousands of young people and their families and run contrary to the faith and moral traditions of our country,” wrote 122 bishops, along with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, 26th Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and 25th Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold. “It is unfair to threaten the well-being of young people who arrived in our country as children through no choice of their own.”

The Rev. Michael Witt, executive director of Rural & Migrant Ministries, brought the idea to the Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, bishop of the Diocese of Long Island. His diocese is among, if not, the most diverse in the church, in part because Queens, New York is the most diverse county in nation.

“The prayer book is in 13 different languages in our diocese,” Provenzano told Episcopal News Service. “This is in defense of the people in our pews and in our neighborhoods.”

Starting with Witt and Provenzano, then adding three other bishops, they organized the declaration and after Curry agreed, they sent an email through their list serve to all bishops with a deadline to sign on. It’s unclear the reason some bishops didn’t sign the statement, but if it wasn’t about avoiding controversy, it could have been as simple as not noticing the email in time to make the deadline.

“I heard from bishops up until Tuesday morning, and it was submitted to the New York Times Tuesday (Sept. 19) afternoon,” said Denise Fillion, Long Island’s diocesan communications director. Fillion helped with the final edits on the ad.

The bishops said ending DACA without a similar replacement program would force so-called “Dreamers” to “face the future in this country with little access to education and employment, and ultimately, could very well lead to sending them to countries where they did not grow up, have few support structures, may not even speak the language and may be vulnerable to violence and persecution.”

“Any of these scenarios, we believe, is cruel,” the bishops wrote.

The administration announced Sept. 5 that it would phase out the DACA policy, giving Congress six months to act legislatively to save the program that allowed qualifying undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country.

President Barack Obama instituted DACA in June 2012 by executive action, giving so-called “Dreamers” the ability to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work permits.

Naysayers might call this is another example of Episcopalians entering into politics too much, said Provenzano. It’s not about politics, although this public stance has “significant implications,” he said.

“At times, the teaching and preaching of the gospel can look like it’s making a political statement when it’s really about following the teachings of Jesus. This is what bishops are supposed to do. This is nuts and bolts,” Provenzano said. “It’s not a debatable issue. The kind of protectionism being promulgated in this country is contrary to the gospel.”

The Episcopal Church’s presiding officers, Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, issued a statement after the Trump administration’s announcement, vowing to work for immigration reform and to support Dreamers.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, as well as its Episcopal Public Policy Network, has long been engaged in advocacy for “a humane and proportional immigration system,” based on the General Convention’s stance on the issues involved. The office has a collection of resources for advocacy and action on immigration policy, as well as information on current policies and proposed legislation.

“In recent years, our congregations throughout the United States have witnessed firsthand the benefits that the young ‘Dreamers’ have brought to our community programs and life,” the bishops wrote. “We have been inspired by, and gained much from, their American spirit. We urge you to enact permanent, meaningful legislation that will protect ‘Dreamers’ and enable these young people to remain a part of our country — which is also theirs.”

The complete text of the ad is here.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service, as well as a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York.


This New York priest is on a mission to help children trapped in sex trafficking at hotels

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 3:39pm

Parishioner and volunteer Nathalie Abejero and the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector of Church of the Incarnation in New York, tell a hotel desk clerk at New York Marriott Marquis about the Saving Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.) Project, asking that staff  use soaps labeled with a toll-free help hotline for sex-trafficking victims. Photo: Amy Sowder

[Episcopal News Service] She strode through midtown Manhattan with purpose, her black tote bag held close as she dropped a dollar into the jangling coffee can of a street person stationed on a corner.

Weaving around the city sidewalks in her flowered pencil skirt, black flats and black tank with a clerical collar, the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser had four destinations on her list that evening —upscale hotels, where she hopes her efforts make a dent in revealing the horrific secret right under everyone’s noses.

Child sex trafficking happens at pretty much every hotel, whether it’s glitzy or seedy, Dannhauser and survivors say. The average age a child is forced into prostitution is 13. Human trafficking, for labor or sex, is the second-leading crime in the world, including the United States, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). And one in three children is solicited for sex within 48 hours of running away or becoming homeless.

A mother of a daughter who’s almost 9, Dannhauser wants every hotel employee to be trained to recognize the signs and know what to do about it. She wants the children, usually girls, forced by threats, violence and drugs to have sex with countless men behind the hotel room doors, to find a soap in the hotel bathroom with a sticker on the wrapper providing a toll-free hotline to call for help.

“We’re ‘soaping up’ Midtown,” Dannhauser said as she led the way to the next hotel, carrying three bags that each contained 100 hotel-sized, labeled soaps and folders full of information. “I’ve talked to hotel staff who said they did see something ‘off’ and didn’t know what to do.”

The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector of Church of the Incarnation in New York, asks an employee at Fairfield Inn & Suites in New York whether he’s had training to spot and report sex-trafficking victims. She’s leading a committee at her church, as well as a diocesan task force, to help the victims escape and to spread awareness of the problem, which is rampant in the travel and tourism industry nationwide. Photo: Amy Sowder

The associate rector of Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue brought along parishioner Nathalie Abejero, also a mother, for the hotel visits. They, along with the rest of her parish’s anti-trafficking committee of seven to 10 people, have visited close to 40 hotels in the past year.

“It’s so widespread. It could be anyone: the nicest, sweetest neighbor of yours who you’d never guess,” Abejero said as she waited in the lobby of New York Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square.

“It’s so sick,” Abejero said a moment before the pair approached the hotel’s check-in clerks.

Dannhauser is the chairperson on the Diocese of New York’s Task Force Against Human Trafficking. She was recently selected as a New York Nonprofit Media 40 Under 40 Rising Stars  honoree for her work to combat human trafficking.

Why motels are ideal targets

The majority of trafficking happens at hotels and motels, according to Polaris Project, a Washington D.C.-based organization dedicated to eradicating modern slavery globally.

Unlike other venues, hotels and motels allow traffickers some anonymity. Traffickers can pay for rooms in cash and change locations easily, which makes it easier to avoid detection than using an apartment, car or legitimate business front, all of which are traceable back to the owners.

The biggest problem is lack of awareness. Hotel staff and guests don’t realize that trafficking is happening, or how to recognize the signs. Even if they do sense that a situation is suspicious, they may not know how to report it or whether it’s worth reporting at all.

There are two clear ways to draw the line between prostitution and sex trafficking. If a person under 18 is involved in commercial sex, he or she is being trafficked. Also, anyone over 18 with a pimp is being trafficked.

“Trafficking is lack of choice. Slavery is lack of choice,” Dannhauser said. “Obviously, with children, it pulls your heartstrings more.”

Volunteer Nathalie Abejero tells a hotel check-in clerk at New York Marriott Marquis about the Saving Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.) Project, asking that staff place into the housekeeping carts the special soaps labeled with a toll-free help hotline for sex-trafficking victims. Photo: Amy Sowder

Online shopping for underage sex

Traffickers also use the internet. Children are more expensive, and are most often purchased in the adult or dating sections of classified advertising websites, such as Backpage.com, which sells everything from boats to Beanie Babies. It is second in popularity only to Craigslist. When the woman’s face isn’t photographed, it’s often a girl younger than 18. A recent U.S. Senate report said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states that 73 percent of all child trafficking reports it receives involve Backpage.

Using a defense of freedom of expression from government censorship and being “merely a host of content created by others and therefore immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act,” the site has been embroiled in legal battles, from criminal charges against its founders and CEO, to politicians’ efforts to modify the federal law.

Between 2010 and 2015, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported an 846 percent increase in suspected child sex trafficking, much of it online.

A priest’s calling for advocacy

Dannhauser’s work is needed now more than ever.

A former bankruptcy attorney, Dannahauser has no personal connection to this horrifying criminal epidemic, but during her contemplative prayer practice while in seminary she felt a call from God to pursue this mission.

She was resistant at first, but she felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to consider this cause.

“It’s all about using the voice we have for the voiceless,” Dannhauser said. “Churches are good about service, but I don’t know that we always get the advocacy piece. I find this so energizing.”

After Dannhauser’s committee worked on contacting hotels in the metropolitan area for almost a year, the group joined forces with the S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) Project in the summer of 2017.

Volunteers stick labels onto hotel-sized soaps at the S.O.A.P. labeling party in July at Church of the Incarnation in New York. They’re working to spread awareness of child sex trafficking in hotels, and help the victims get out. Photo: Church of the Incarnation

In July, the committee had a S.O.A.P. labeling party, where they stuck 2,000 labels onto the soaps that provide a toll-free help hotline for victims to call. They deliver those soaps to the hotels along with a packet of other information, including a missing children’s page, a warning signs list and a hotline mousepad.

A survivor’s tale

Anneke Lucas participated in the New York church’s labeling party and told her story as well .

Raised in Belgium, Lucas’ parents sold her to an exclusive sex trafficking ring for wealthy politicians when she was 6, according to a “Real Women Real Stories” video on the Living Resistance website. For more than five years, she was raped and tortured. At puberty, she was in danger of being murdered, but she got out just in time.

Today, Lucas is a mother and leader of an organization that brings yoga to prisons. Lucas, along with Dannhauser and other leaders advocating for trafficking victims, are pushing for legislation to be passed to protect children.

Anneke Lucas, a child trafficking survivor who is now a mother and leader of a group that brings yoga into prisons, told her story at the S.O.A.P. labeling party at Church of the Incarnation in New York. Photo: Church of the Incarnation

Connecticut passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation — the first of its kind in the United States — requiring hotels and motels to post signs in a visible place spelling out what trafficking is. The notice must also contain information on how to get help by contacting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.

The law also requires all hotel and motel staff in the state to receive training on how to recognize victims and activities commonly associated with human trafficking.

“A law like this could help children who are trafficked in New York,” Lucas said in the video. A tiny hotel soap with a red label could be a trapped child’s saving grace. “I would have found a way to call the hotline, had I seen a notice,” she said.

The S.O.A.P. Project

Founded by Theresa Flores in Ohio, the S.O.A.P. Project is specifically focused on educating and increasing public awareness of the prevalence of human trafficking, in order to help trafficked survivors heal and also to prevent more teens from being victimized this way in the United States. Eighty percent of trafficked victims are women, and half are children, she said.

S.O.A.P. representatives travel all over the United States to hold outreach workshops during large public events. The nonprofit organization partners with local groups to distribute millions of bars of soap wrapped with a red band that gives the National Human Trafficking Hotline number — 1 (888) 3737-888 — and resources to high-risk motels and hotels.

Based in Ohio, the nonprofit S.O.A.P. Project helps local volunteer groups label soaps with a toll-free help hotline and trains the volunteers to contact hotels and spread awareness of child sex trafficking in the United States. Photo: Amy Sowder

Trained volunteers such as Dannhauser and Abejero offer the soap free-of-charge to hotels and motels along with training to be able to identify and report sex trafficking when they see it in their establishments.

An author and advocate, Flores, 52, is also a survivor of child sex trafficking.

She came from a good Roman Catholic home with two parents and no abuse. She was taught to be abstinent until marriage. But when she was 15, a boy in school drugged her and raped her, and his cousins took photos. The boy threatened to post the photos all over school, at her church and at her father’s office if she didn’t “work” to get each photo back.

Flores was so ashamed of what had happened to her, she didn’t tell anyone. She found herself being called in the middle of the night and driven to mansions where she was forced to have sex with old men. They didn’t know her name or even ask, except for one man, who seemed to not know she was underage. Her pimp rebuked him, saying “she has no name.”

She remembers being kidnapped, drugged and beaten, taken far away to Detroit and pulled out of the car by her hair to an open hotel where 20 men waited for her. She was 16 by then, in a sea of men, auctioned off to highest bidder, over and over until she passed out.

“Nobody knew this was going on to a kid like me,” Flores said in her TEDx Talk.

Her story is an example of how a child from any background, race or socio-economic status can become trapped in sex trafficking. These days, most people find prostitutes online, not by looking for streetwalkers, Flores said.

“It’s basically fear,” Flores told Episcopal News Service. “These women are terrified and are being beaten and are threatened by the pimp, who is the trafficker. They tell you they know where your family is and get you addicted to drugs. They all use these tactics.”

In these disgusting, deplorable situations, it’s almost guaranteed a trafficking victim will reach for the hotel room’s bar of soap. “That darkest moment is in those hotels, but they all go into the bathroom to clean up afterwards,” she said.

That’s how the idea hatched to use soap as the way to reach the trafficked victims. If hotel managers don’t agree to place a labeled soap in each hotel room bathroom, volunteers suggest that they keep the soaps on the housekeeping carts for cleaning employees to place in the bathroom when they notice the signs.

The signs include some obvious clues and some more subtle ones:

• Man checking in with a much-younger female.
• Young woman who looks a bit zonked out or bruised.
• Young woman who has no identification proof.
• Hotel room is paid for in cash.
• Hotel room is purchased by the hour or by the day repeatedly, or for extended stays longer than usual.
• Several men are seen coming and going from one room.
• Many more towels are requested than is typical.
• Someone stands guard by the room door or is acting distrustful around security.

If you suspect sex trafficking, call the police, FBI or the National Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or Text: HELP to BeFree (233733). For more information, visit www.soapproject.org, www.traffickfree.com and www.ecpatusa.org.

Flores has given out close to a million soaps since she founded the organization more than six years ago.

She targets her hotel efforts during big events. The Super Bowl, Nascar races, Republican and Democratic conventions, the Indianpolis 500, entertainment awards shows, Kentucky Derby and Detroit Auto Show are a few. When there’s likely to be a flood of people into town for a short time, especially when it’s mostly men, the demand will rise.

So, the supply follows.

Typically, in Detroit, there are 200 ads of women for sale on Backpage.com, Flores said. But the female ads spike to 500 to 600 during the Detroit Auto Show.

Advocacy within The Episcopal Church

Dannhauser wants to encourage this kind of advocacy work throughout the Episcopal Church at large as well.

The priest got the Episcopal Public Policy Network to send an action alert about any related legislation going through U.S. Congress so that more Episcopalians could get involved. The Episcopal network created its own human trafficking page chock full of helpful information, from advocacy updates from U.S. Congress and ongoing efforts by local Episcopal churches to ways to contact local elected officials and resources provided by the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion.

Dannhauser was also critical in helping the passage of a series of resolutions at the Diocese of New York’s annual convention in November. The resolutions encourage the diocese to prioritize those hotels, travel agencies and airlines that have signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct for traveling for church-related business. They also urge—±± all parishes and individual Episcopalians to make those same choices in their business and personal travel.

“And if we used a hotel or airline that hadn’t signed onto this code, then we’d try to sign them up; we have a letter for this and you can chat with the general manager about this,” Dannhauser said. “Anybody can do that kind of thing.”

The Code, as it’s commonly called, was developed by End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), a nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, New York, and part of ECPAT International. It’s the only voluntary set of business principles travel and tour companies can implement to prevent child sex tourism and trafficking of children.

Those who sign The Code agree to establish a policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children; train employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases; include a clause in contracts stating a zero-tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children; provide information to travelers; and report annually on related activities.

Several large travel suppliers have signed The Code, including Hampton Hotels, Hilton Worldwide and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, according to Business Travel News.

But while the heads of these hotel companies agree to this code, the training and education doesn’t always trickle down to every hotel location. That’s where efforts like Dannhauser’s committee comes into play.

Dannhauser is excited that the diocese’s sign-up letter is accessible to anyone in the Episcopal Church, so congregations can have it and educate their own hotels and travel agencies. The letter is downloadable here.

She’s pressing to place a set of resolutions calling for the church to support the ECPAT code — similar to the New York diocesan resolutions — on the agenda at General Convention in the summer of 2018.

“I also plan to have the toolkit ready at that time: The one for parishes to use to do their own hotel outreach with hotels in their communities,” Dannhauser said.

How hotel staff respond

On this particular August evening, Dannhauser’s and Abejero’s second stop was at the 49-story, marbled, modern New York Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square.

The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector of Church of the Incarnation in New York, and parishioner and volunteer Nathalie Abejero head to the hotel check-in desks at New York Marriott Marquis to spread awareness of training available to spot and report child sex trafficking, which is common in all kinds of hotels. Photo: Amy Sowder

Manager-on-duty Tony Herasme and two clerks at the hotel’s front desk were friendly and willing to discuss sex trafficking when the two women showed up unannounced. Hotel employees undergo sex trafficking training with a video every six months, they said.

“It’s something we’re actively on the lookout for,” Herasme said.

Sometimes the volunteers can’t even get a manager to come out to speak to them; it’s hard to tell whether it’s because the manager is busy or just not interested. Most desk clerks and managers said they are aware of the problem and several of them had training by video. Others admitted they didn’t know what to do when they suspected something was awry.

They all took the soaps.

“It was a better response than I expected,” Abejero said.

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service, and a writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York.

Editor’s note: Combatting human trafficking will be on the agenda during the Oct. 2-6 meetings of the moderators and primates (leaders) of the Anglican Communion’s 39 provinces. Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, primate of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, explains why here.

Preparing for Primates 2017 – Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 2:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, primate of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, looks ahead to the Oct. 2-6 Primates Meeting and explains tackling human trafficking must be on the agenda.

Prayers for the Primates’ Meeting October 2017

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 2:30pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, offers his prayer for next month’s Oct. 2-6 Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury.

Please pray…

Pray that we have patience with one another in continuing conversations about same sex marriage.

Pray for perseverance in our commitment to honor the Calls to Action from Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission. These calls revealed the horrible suffering endured by Indigenous People through the Residential Schools System established to enforce a colonialist policy of assimilation.

Pray for God’s continuing guidance as we work together in supporting the emergence of a truly Indigenous Church.

Pray for our commitment to eradicating the crime of human trafficking.

Pray for our Church’s response to the Communion Wide Call to a Season of Intentional Discipleship.

Pray for the Primates that at our gathering we have a heart not only for the unity of the Church but for the peace of the world. Pray that we be humbled and graced to be a prophetic voice speaking into the suffering of the poor, the enslaved, and those forced to flee from their homelands.

Retired Indianapolis bishop nominated for Eastern Michigan provisional bishop role

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 3:47pm


[Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan] The standing committee of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan has nominated the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, retired bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis, as candidate for bishop provisional to be voted on at their 23rd diocesan convention from Oct. 20 to 21.

Eastern Michigan’s former bishop, the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, concluded his ministry in the diocese in June after accepting a call from the presiding bishop to serve on his staff as bishop for pastoral development.

In a letter to the diocese, the standing committee articulated its reasons for calling for a bishop provisional rather than calling for a search for a bishop diocesan, saying, “In most cases, a bishop departs their diocese through retirement. This allows the diocese to have some lead time to go through the search process, nominate a slate of candidates and vote to elect their next bishop before the exiting bishop departs. Because our bishop left for another position and not for retirement, we did not have that time. We do have the time and space to faithfully consider the issues and opportunities confronting our diocese – these are not limited to budget realities, decreasing and emerging populations, and cultural trends away from church-attendance and religious life. Like a congregation engaging an interim pastor, we hope, with a provisional bishop as a companion, to faithfully engage the entire diocese in this exciting conversation to discover where God is leading us in our life and ministry as the Episcopal Church in Eastern Michigan.”

If elected at October’s diocesan convention, Waynick would begin her tenure with Eastern Michigan immediately serving on a part-time basis, performing all episcopal functions including ordinations and confirmations, as well as other traditional duties of a bishop including staff supervision, visitations, and more. Waynick would work closely with the standing committee as they begin to work with the people of the diocese to study their mission and ministry and to move forward into the next phase of diocesan episcopal authority.

Waynick served as the 10th bishop of Indianapolis for 20 years before her retirement in 2017. She began her ministry in the Diocese of Michigan serving churches in Bloomfield Hills and Pontiac before being elected bishop in 1997. Beyond her ministry in Indianapolis, Waynick served on several General Convention legislative committees, on the abundance committee of the Church Pension Fund and on the task force to revise Title IV (Disciplinary Canons). She continues to serve as president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops and as a governor of the Anglican Centre in Rome. Waynick has been married for 49 years to Larry, and they have two grown children, Elizabeth of Irvine, California, and Steve of Canton, Michigan. 

The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan is made up of 43 congregations throughout the eastern half of the lower peninsula, north of Detroit and Lansing.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby excited by prospect of “extraordinary” Primates’ Meeting

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 1:09pm


[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury has been speaking of his excitement at the prospect of next month’s Primates’ Meeting. Justin Welby has invited primates and moderators from around the Anglican Communion to Canterbury for the Oct. 2-6 meeting.

The gathering gives Anglican leaders an opportunity to discuss major issues within their provinces, broader topics affecting the whole Communion and more general global matters.

“I am greatly looking forward to the primates meeting,” the archbishop told ACNS. “It’s an extraordinary feeling to have the leaders of all the provinces gathering together to pray, to encourage one another, to weep with one another, to celebrate with one another.”

The final agenda will be agreed by the primates themselves at the beginning of the meeting. But it is expected to include sessions on mission and evangelism; reconciliation and peace-building; climate change and environment; and migration and human trafficking.

This is the first time that the primates have met since their meeting and gathering in January 2016. In a video for ACNS, Welby described that as “one of the most memorable weeks of my life”, saying that it had been “demanding and extraordinary.”

The key thing that had emerged, he said, was the unanimous vote from those present to “walk together” even though that might be at a slight distance. A task group, set up after the last primates’ gathering to examine a range of issues including the restoration of relationships and the rebuilding of trust within the Communion, will present a preliminary report to next month’s meeting. (Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is part of the eight-member group.)

Welby spoke of there being an “energy in the room” when issues such as evangelism, the environment, war and peace and refugees had been discussed in 2016. He said he’d emerged from one meeting saying “this is why the Communion’ exists.”

Sixteen new primates have taken office since the last meeting. One of them, Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo, will be representing the newly-created province of Sudan. Welby the presence of the new primates was particularly exciting. “There will be a whole lot of fresh energy and fresh excitement – and, no doubt, some tough questions … I think that’s going to be fabulous.”

Primates are the senior archbishops and presiding bishops elected or appointed to lead each of the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion.

A small number of primates have indicated that they won’t be attending, for a variety of reasons.

“We will miss those who are not there,” Welby said, “miss them very much.”

The archbishop urged the Communion around the world to pray for the meeting – that the primates would be caught by the Spirit, would find unity in Christ and be able to walk onwards together.