Episcopal News Service

Subscribe to Episcopal News Service feed
The official news service of the Episcopal Church.
Updated: 39 min 7 sec ago

Webinar to discuss Churches’ global birth registration campaign

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 3:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The World Council of Churches will hold a webinar – or online seminar – next Nov. 20, World Children’s Day, to discuss the global campaign for birth registration. The participants will include the director for mission in the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Canon John Kafwanka, who will explain the consequences he faced as somebody whose birth, in Zambia, wasn’t registered. Every year, 51 million children worldwide are not registered. Without birth certificates, children become vulnerable to sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour, forced conscription, illegal detention and child marriage, officials say.

Read the entire article here.

Fijian churches unite to ‘Break the Silence’ on violence against women

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 2:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches across Fiji will observe “Break the Silence Sunday” this weekend, in what is described as “their most visible effort to halt the epidemic of violence against women in Pacific Island nations.” Research conducted by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre suggests that 64 percent of Fijian women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical or sexual abuse meted out by their husbands or partners. Church leaders say they want to break “the culture of silence and shame” on gender-based violence.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican archbishop calls for prayer, dialogue amid political upheaval in Zimbabwe

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 2:15pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Church leaders from Zimbabwe, central Africa and Europe have been commenting on the ongoing political situation in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe remains under house arrest.

In a pastoral letter Nov. 16, Archbishop of Central Africa Albert Chama echoed the call for prayer and dialogue that was issued a dat earlier by the Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe. “This sad situation needs more than a political solution. It also needs all people of faith to pray and all citizens to engage in dialogue for the sake of peace and stability in Zimbabwe,” said Chama, who is also the chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa.

Read the full article here.

Ahead of General Convention, Episcopalians consider Church Pension Fund’s service to a changing church

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:09am

[Episcopal News Service] As the Church Pension Fund rounds its 100th anniversary year and enters a second century, many Episcopalians are considering how its ministry might need to change to serve a changing church.

If the church’s “traditional” clergy employment model was a priest – always male until 1977 – employed full time with regular salary increases, who rarely interrupted his service and who rarely worked in the church after retirement, then only 58 percent of clergy now fit into that model, according to recent Pension Fund research. Sixty-one percent of those priests are male, 33 percent are female.

A growing number of clergy typically work part-time for multiple church employers over the course of their service. They often have some employment outside the church. Many clergy have their ministerial service interrupted for many different reasons. Their compensation does not necessarily increase over time.

Many clerics continue to work after their retirement. In fact, 58 percent of retired clergy younger than 72 still serve in some capacity and 95 percent of retired vocational deacons do the same, giving many congregations clergy services they otherwise could not afford.

The benefits landscape for Episcopal employees, lay and ordained, is also influenced by the continuing debate in the United States about the future of the Affordable Care Act and the disruption that the ensuing uncertainty has created in the insurance markets.

“The reality of the church is that there are fewer people and, more than that, less money,” the Rev. Winnie Varghese, the Diocese of New York deputy who chairs the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, recently told Episcopal News Service. The result, Varghese said, is a growing and more permanent class of part-time clergy and lay church workers.

The committee is one group considering the question, in Varghese’s words, whether the church has the structures it needs for the church as it is today, rather than the one it was 25 or even 10 years ago.

Some changes already are set for next year when the Church Pension Fund plans to enact the biggest revisions to the fund’s benefits in the past 60-some years. Two important aspects of the clergy plan will not change in this round of revisions. The plan will remain a defined-benefit one and the mandatory assessment a cleric’s employer pays to will remain at 18 percent.

Mary Kate Wold, Pension Fund chief executive officer and president, said earlier this year that the revisions, expected to go into effect Jan. 1, are needed to “create more-modern plans that address the realities of a changing Episcopal Church, while ensuring that each pension plan remains financially sustainable.”

Canon I.8 of the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons (page 41 here) authorizes the Church Pension Fund to provide retirement, health and life insurance benefits to the church’s clergy and lay employees. (The Pension Fund is one of five companies that make up CPG).

Source: Church Pension Group Annual Report for 2016. Graphic: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Staff members have spent more than three years traveling the church to listen to more than 1,500 Episcopalians discuss how the Pension Fund ought to react to the changing church. As CPG was listening to the church and discussing possible revisions, General Convention in 2015, via Resolution A177, approved the effort. In Resolution A181, it also told CPG to study compensation and the cost of benefits for clergy and lay employees in the dioceses of Province IX, the Diocese of Haiti, the Episcopal Church in Cuba, and with its covenant partners.

Staffers are winding down a tour of the church’s dioceses, both explaining the changes and, at times, tweaking them based on responses during those sessions.

General Convention committee is studying the Pension Fund

Meanwhile, House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings has charged the State of the Church Committee to focus part of its triennial study on the Pension Fund, as well as on the church’s multicultural ministries and justice and advocacy ministries.

Jennings told ENS that she chose those three aspects of the life of the church based on the concerns she has heard raised in her conversations with deputies and other leaders, and as she travels around the church.

In July, the committee offered Episcopalians the chance to take two surveys, one about the Church Pension Fund and the other about social justice ministries. Nearly 1,200 people completed the Pension Fund survey.

The survey itself stirred some concern, according to Varghese. Some people contacted her worried that “somehow we were changing the pension plan or proposing changes to it.”

“I had to write back quickly and say it’s a survey just to understand our church and to hear from people who are really engaged in the life of the church but who don’t come to convention,” she said. “It’s simply a survey. This group had no authority, or delusion, of changing the pension plan and would never think to.”

Instead, Varghese said, the committee wanted to hear what people thought about the pension plan, “including some mandates we have in front of us that conflict with one another.”

For instance, she said, the General Convention is concerned about parity for certain benefits between clergy and lay employees. But many clergy face years of debt for the education required to work in a church that does not pay for seminary education, she added. Paying off that debt sometimes influences priests’ employment decisions and their sense of financial security. Add to that the aforementioned changing financial and demographic circumstances.

So, Varghese asked, hypothetically, does equity required raising all employees to the current benefit levels or does it mean reducing benefits for some in order to increase the level for others? And, who bears what pain of each of those choices?

Based on questions and concerns raised in the responses to the July survey, the committee sent a set of questions to the Church Pension Fund. Wold told ENS in written replies to questions emailed to her that she worked with staffers and the Pension Fund’s board of trustees to respond. What Wold called a “very collaborative process” included videoconferences with the subcommittee working on the issue and follow-up questions from the subcommittee that eventually resulted in the fund’s 19-page response.

When the Pension Fund sent its report to the State of the Church committee late last month, it also released it to the entire church. The responses are part of the data that the State of the Church committee is using to write its report. Normally such information requested by the committees charged with work in between General Convention is not released to the church ahead of the so-called Blue Book collection of official reports.

Jennings told ENS that it is “a bit confusing” that the Pension Fund chose to release its responses without any context ahead of the committee’s Blue Book report. However, the State of the Church committee is completing its report and it is due to do posted here early next year.

“We believe our clients and others would appreciate having the information contained in the report,” Wold wrote to ENS. She and her colleagues realized that many of the questions raised by the subcommittee might be asked elsewhere in the church, she added. The subcommittee’s work “helped us create a document that tells the story of the Church Pension Group well. It is a report we are proud to share with anyone who wants to take the time to read it.”

A question of relationship and authority

One of the more interesting parts of the Pension Fund’s response involves its answer to the committee’s question of how it sees its relationship to the church. While noting the authority outlined in Canon I.8, the report describes the relationship as “transactional” with the fund providing services to the church, which is described as a “client.” The fund says that it has “no legal or governance relationship” with the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the name under which the Episcopal Church in incorporated).

The Pension Fund suggests that the church can influence that relationship by the fact that General Convention elects 24 of the fund’s 25 trustees and can amend Canon I.8 to increase its services to the church. The most recent amendments came in 2009 when the convention told the Pension Fund to establish a mandatory lay pension plan and the Denominational Health Plan.

The canonical relationship between the DFMS and the Church Pension Fund “is a subject about which reasonable people can disagree,” Jennings told ENS. The leaders of both organizations have had “thoughtful conversations about those issues and how General Convention might direct the Pension Fund to address contemporary realities and justice issues in the Episcopal Church, including the needs of part-time and non-stipendiary clergy and lay employees,” she added.

Varghese said that questions about “the authority of General Convention with regard to everything and anything in the work of the Pension Fund” come up in many conversations at every one of the triennial gatherings. Part of those conversations involve whether the Pension Fund ought to have the same questions and concerns, and whether responding to them could make the pension fund more, or less, effective and financially sustainable.

“The more that we can clarify that and be in the agreement, the better of the church,” Varghese said of the debates.

The committee, she noted, cannot make any changes on its own. That authority rests with the General Convention and CPG.

“As much as anyone I trust the great decisions about things I don’t understand to the people that are authorized to make them. I am happy that there are people who know a lot more than I do about a lot of things,” she added. “But some of these philosophical decisions, we collectively have to make and they are absolutely in resistance and often very different language and a different understanding of humanity and compassion than the culture around us and that’s really hard, and not just on the issue of pension.”

“I hope that this work is understood,” Varghese said. “We are not people external to the system but we need to be mature enough to face the decisions that we’re making and to hold ourselves responsible for them.”

More information about the State of the Church committee’s work is available here.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Southwest Florida’s first bishop to ordain women passes away

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 10:47am

[Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida] The Rt. Rev. Rogers Sanders Harris, whose call to Southwest Florida came at a critical time for the diocese, died Nov. 15, in South Carolina. His predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Emerson Paul Haynes, had served a 13-year episcopate and died while in office in 1988, which left the diocese without a bishop.

The Rt. Rev. Rogers Sanders Harris, 1930-2017

“He just came at a very difficult time,” said the Rt. Rev. Barry Howe, the current assisting bishop of the diocese and, during Harris’ time, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter. “He took a very difficult situation and made the best of it he could.”

Howe recalled that when Harris arrived, the issues of women’s ordination were left unresolved, and formal plans to elect a bishop coadjutor (a bishop with the right of succession) were never completed. The standing committee instead became the ecclesiastical authority and several retired bishops assisted during that period, but were never actual administrators. Important decisions were just deferred.

Harris was invested as diocesan Sept. 9, 1989, at the cathedral. Joan Kline served on the search committee for Harris and attended general conventions with him and his wife, Anne. She recalled having a good relationship with them. “I thought that he was the kind of bishop that went by the book,” reflected Kline, who said that the previous bishop, Emerson Paul Haynes, was in some ways more hands-off. “That didn’t always make him popular with the clergy,” Kline said.

It was during Harris’ tenure that the diocese first ordained female priests. When the diocese was in the selection period for bishop, Kline recalled that the issue of the ordination of women was central, as Southwest Florida was one of seven outlier dioceses in the Episcopal Church that were not ordaining women, and the previous bishop, Haynes, had not ordained women.

The decision to go forward with women’s ordination came fairly quickly, as it had been clear from the time of the election that Harris would be supportive of the idea. To resolve the issue and many other simmering problems, he arranged a meeting, recalled Howe. “He called together all the clergy who were not happy, and that was not hard.”

Harris ended up sending Sharon Lewis to seminary; other female priests in the diocese, such as the Rev. Tonya Vonnegut Beck, were licensed. The first woman he ordained was the Rev. Carol Schwenke, who was then a deacon at Holy Innocents in Valrico. Schwenke said she was at first a bit intimidated by him, thinking he was strict and standoffish, but that was just because she says she didn’t understand his personality. Later on, every time she saw the Harrises, she would get a hug from them both. “I remember that he went by the book,” said Schwenke, who said that she believed he thought of himself more an interim bishop, one who would “bring the diocese up with the rest of the church.”

“I always felt deeply encouraged by the friendship and understanding of the life of the Diocese of Southwest Florida and our relationship as colleagues in the House of Bishops,” said the current bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida, the Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith. “I was pleased for his relationship with the diocese, and pray for his grand entrance into heaven.”

In his first convention address to the diocese Oct. 13, 1989, Harris reminded the gathering that Jesus Christ was head of the church. “We are here to do his will, to serve his mission. So I come to be the leader of this diocese, not the head of it.”

South Carolina native

A native of South Carolina, Harris was born Feb. 22, 1930, in Anderson, the son of Wilmot Louis and Sarah Elizabeth (Sanders) Harris. After receiving his bachelor’s degree at the University of the South in 1952, he married Anne Stewart March 28, 1953. He served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954 as 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. “He came across as being no-nonsense,” said Howe. “He had been a marine in Korea.”

After his service, he received his Master of Divinity from the University of the South in 1957, was made deacon August 6, 1957 and priest April 5, 1958, under the Rt. Rev. Clarence Alfred Cole of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. In his parish work, he first served as vicar of both Grace Episcopal Church in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Batesburg. He served for 10 years as rector of the Church of Good Shepherd in Greer from 1959 to 1969 and was later rector of St. Christopher’s in Spartanburg from 1969 to 1985. He was consecrated bishop in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina March 9, 1985, by the Most Rev. John Maury Allin and the Rt. Revs. William Arthur Beckham and Alex Dockery Dickson. There, he served as suffragan bishop from 1985 to 1989.

“Rogers was loved for his deeply pastoral ministry and strong leadership,” said the Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. “We will all miss his faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and his thoughtful presence.”

In the wider church, he served as vice president of Province IV of The Episcopal Church from 1991 to 1994 and president from 1994 to 97. He was a member of the presiding bishop’s Council of Advice from 1994 to 1997. He served as a trustee of the University of the South in Sewanee and president of the Bishop Gray Inn in Davenport, Florida, from 1989 to 1997. He received his Doctor of Ministry from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1977, as well as an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1986. His thesis was The Commitment of Confirmation.

“He was just a wonderful soul,” said Karen Patterson, who served as secretary of the nominating committee before the election of Harris. “He was a wonderful person to work with.” Patterson appreciated that he served as personal chaplain to the Episcopal Church women, who then had a non-voting representative on diocesan council. She said that during the time after Haynes left the diocese, many issues had not been addressed, as there was no bishop. He had a bit of a formal, businesslike approach to his office, what Patterson assumed was a remnant of his time in the military.

“Our diocese needed that at the time,” said Patterson. They also served together in Province IV. Patterson said that outside of the diocese, people called him Rogers, which was unheard of within the diocese, even with clergy. “He was much more relaxed at synod.”

Smith also observed that relaxed nature. “Rogers, being the third bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida, he called me ‘five’ with a twinkle in his eyes,” said Smith.

“He played everything in the key of C major,” said the Rev. Canon Michael P. Durning, who first came to know Harris while he was curate at St. John’s in Naples, and served as chair of the finance committee. He recalled that Harris, who he described as “uncluttered and uncomplicated,” addressed the issue of diocesan apportionment. He came at the calculation from both a theological perspective, as well as his personal stories of his farming ancestors in rural South Carolina. “The larger congregations had a larger responsibility than the smaller congregations,” said Durning.

“I think of him often,” said Sandra Poling, assistant to Harris, who recalled his quiet nature and “innate honesty” in all he did. “He would give a job and expect it get done. He was not one to stand behind you and direct you.” She recalled him as a prayerful man, fully aware of everything going on around him. When problems came, he “dealt with it.”

“He provided a steady hand that was needed and appreciated,” said the Rev. Ed Henley, who believes that putting the diocese on a sound administrative footing was a critical accomplishment. “His personality was not such that you ended up with a lot of stories, but that was perfectly fine.”

The issues and discussions of worship styles were not of great importance in his role as bishop. “He didn’t make a whole lot of fuss about liturgy,” said Howe, who worked across the street from diocesan offices, which were then in St. Petersburg, across from the cathedral. “We just kind of became good friends.” He recalled that in his personal demeanor, he was reserved. “He was a very soft-spoken guy, and thought a lot before he spoke.”

His wife, Anne Harris, survives him. The family notified Smith by text that “Amazing Grace” was playing in the hospital room when he died.

Becas episcopales para la evangelización disponibles para esfuerzos locales y regionales

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 5:42am

El proceso de solicitud ya está abierto para el nuevo programa de Becas Episcopales para la Evangelización diseñado para financiar esfuerzos de evangelización local y regional en la Iglesia Episcopal.

“Este programa alentará a toda nuestra Iglesia a compartir recursos, catalizar la imaginación y, en última instancia, cultivar una red de evangelizadores que puedan aprender unos de otros y conectarse unos con otros”, explicó la Reverenda Canóniga Susan Brown Snook, Presidente tanto del Comité Episcopal de Becas para la Evangelización como del Comité del Consejo Ejecutivo de Misión y Ministerio Local.

El programa de Becas Episcopales para la Evangelización es coordinado por el Comité Local de Misión y Ministerio en colaboración con el Equipo de Iniciativas de Evangelismo de la Iglesia Episcopal.

“La evangelización no es una práctica atemorizante que sólo practican los ‘otros’ cristianos”, dijo la reverenda canóniga Stephanie Spellers, canóniga del Obispo Presidente para el Evangelismo, la Reconciliación y el Cuidado de la Creación y miembro del comité de becas. “El evangelismo es el corazón de la vida cristiana, y esperamos que este programa prenda la llama y conecte a los episcopales que están creando formas únicas, auténticamente episcopales de buscar, nombrar y celebrar la presencia amorosa de Jesús en todas partes”.

El Comité buscará propuestas enfocadas en varios objetivos
• Crear y difundir recursos que equipen a los episcopales y las iglesias para convertirse en evangelistas y narradores de historias en la vida diaria.
• Crear oportunidades para las personas que no forman parte de una comunidad de fe para que construyan sus propias relaciones amorosas, liberadoras y dadoras de vida con Dios en Cristo.
• Apuntar a un impacto duradero y amplio.
• Emplear innovación y creatividad.
• Promover el aprendizaje, la comprensión y la aplicación práctica en toda la iglesia.

Las instituciones episcopales (parroquias, diócesis, provincias, escuelas, seminarios, comunidades monásticas, organizaciones episcopales y otras entidades episcopales afiliadas) son elegibles para recibir estos fondos. Las asociaciones colaborativas regionales con entidades no episcopales son bienvenidas y alentadas, pero una entidad episcopal debe servir como líder del proyecto, ser gerente activo y agente informante. Aquellos asociados con un seminario o programa de formación son alentados a explorar la posibilidad de conseguir fondos a través de la Sociedad de Evangelismo Episcopal en www.ees1862.org.

Hay becas disponibles de hasta 2.000 dólares para una congregación individual y de hasta 8.000 dólares para las colaboraciones entre varias iglesias, diócesis y regionales. También se espera que los grupos que reciben financiamiento realicen una contribución financiera significativa para el proyecto.

El Comité de Becas revisará las propuestas y hará recomendaciones al Consejo Ejecutivo en la reunión de enero de 2018. La distribución se realizará dentro de las cuatro semanas posteriores a la notificación y la finalización de los formularios necesarios.

La aplicación, los criterios y la información adicional están disponibles aquí.

La fecha límite para presentar solicitudes es el 15 de diciembre a las 8:00 de la noche hora del este [de Estados Unidos].

Para obtener más información, póngase en contacto con Kayla Massey en kmassey@episcopalchurch.org o 212.716.6022.

Anglican commission begins work to develop global safeguarding procedures

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 2:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An international commission established to make the Churches of the Anglican Communion safe places for children, young people and vulnerable adults has begun its work. The Anglican Communion’s Safe Church Commission was established by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting last year in Lusaka, in one of four resolutions on safeguarding.

Read the entire article here.

Call for protected freedom of speech after Australians vote ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 2:09pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Australia’s Parliament has begun the process of legalizing same-sex marriage after a resounding “yes” to the proposal in a plebiscite. Just under 80 percent of eligible voters participated in the voluntary postal vote, with 61.6 percent voting in favor. Within hours of the result being declared, legislators began the process of considering a private members bill tabled by Sen. Dean Smith. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he wants the bill to become law by Christmas.

Read the entire article here.

Between a crisis and a ‘kairos’: Zimbabwean church leaders call for national dialogue

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 2:03pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An ecumenical group of Christian leaders in Zimbabwe have said that the country is “between a crisis and a kairos” (opportunity) and have called for a national dialogue. The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, chaired by the Anglican bishop of Central Zimbabwe, Ishmael Mukuwanda, brings together the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe. In a statement released to ACNS Nov. 15, the group says that many Zimbabweans are “confused and anxious about what has transpired and continues to unfold in our nation.”

Read the entire article here.

Religious, community and school leaders train to tackle Burundi’s biggest killer

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 11:55am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Four-hundred people representing the faith, community and education sectors in Burundi have been trained to combat malaria, the main cause of death in the country. So far in 2017, more than six million cases of malaria have been registered; and more than 2,600 people have died. The training took place in Bururi and Mwaro districts – two of the four worst-hit areas of the country.

Read the entire article here.

Editors’ note: Episcopal Relief & Development partners with the Anglican Church of Burundi on other health-integrated programs, dealing with issues such as HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence.

Nashotah House announces passing of the Rev. Rick Hartley

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 8:57am

[Nashotah House Theological Seminary — Nashotah, Wisconsin] It is with great sadness that Nashotah House Theological Seminary announces the unexpected passing of the Rev. Richard (Rick) S. Hartley, associate dean for student services, affiliate professor of ascetical and pastoral theology and a Nashotah House alumnus.

The Rev. Richard (Rick) S. Hartley

Hartley began his ministry in his early twenties after serving five years with an itinerant drama ministry. He devoted time to continuing his education during his entire 20 years of ministry. He received his Master of Sacred Theology, Ascetical Theology, from Nashotah House in 2015 and his Doctorate of Ministry with an emphasis in leadership and spiritual formation in 2009. In addition, he had studied and earned degrees at several other schools, including St Paul Theological College, Sanctus Theological Institute and Andersonville (Baptist) Theological Seminary. Originally ordained a Baptist, he was approbated into the Congregational Way in 2006, but finally came home to Anglicanism in 2013. Hartley was a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

He had published articles in the International Congregational Journal and served on the Theological Commission of the International Congregational Fellowship, giving lectures in the United States, Bulgaria and England. He also developed a lay school for ministry during his time with the Congregationalists. Hartley leaves behind his wife, Karla, and three children.

Services will be held on Nov. 18, at the First Congregational Church in Mukwonago, with visitation from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., followed by the funeral service at 1 p.m.

Founded in 1842, Nashotah House is a seminary serving the Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion and other ecumenical partners.

Jamaica and Cayman Islands launch season of intentional discipleship

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 2:49pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, in the province of the West Indies, have launched a season of intentional discipleship, following the call of last year’s Anglican Consultative Council. About 1,500 clergy and laity gathered at the Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville, Jamaica, Nov. 12, to hear Bishop Howard Gregory explain the importance of discipleship.

Get the entire article here.

Church of England publishes guidance for schools on homophobic, bi-phobic, transphobic bullying

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 2:46pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England has today published revised guidance to help its 4,700 schools tackle homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. The Church said that the guidance will help prevent children in its schools “having their self-worth diminished or their ability to achieve impeded by being bullied because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.” It is an updated version of 2014 guidance, Valuing All God’s Children, which tackled homophobic behavior. The update covers a wider range of negative behaviors, and incorporates the relevant legal and inspection frameworks and reflects the Church’s vision for education, whose four elements of wisdom, hope, community and dignity form the theological basis of the guidance.

Get the entire article here.

Input, comments invited for Episcopal Church 2019-2021 triennium preliminary draft budget

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 2:30pm

[The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Episcopalians across the church are invited to review and provide input and comments on the preliminary draft of the 2019-2021 triennium budget.

“In the current and prior triennia, the budgets were built to reflect the Five Marks of Mission,” Tess Judge, Executive Council member and chair of Finance for Mission Committee, stated in the overview letter.  “The 2019-2021 budget is based on The Jesus Movement with Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation & Justice, and Environmental Stewardship as priorities.”

Judge added, “One of the advantages of The Jesus Movement budget is that it reflects how the staff is organized, by department, rather than spread across Five Marks and other areas as in the past. So lines of communication, reporting, collaboration, and budget creation are clearer.  In the changeover to The Jesus Movement, some sections of the budget were moved, so that it may be hard to make direct comparisons between costs in areas in prior budgets to projected costs in the coming triennium. And comparing percentages can be inaccurate.”

Following comments and suggestions, the preliminary draft budget will be prepared for approval by the Episcopal Church Executive Council at its January 2018 meeting. From there, Executive Council will present the draft budget to Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) in February, which will then prepare a final budget for approval at General Convention next summer.

• The preliminary draft budget is available here. 
• Input and comments can be submitted here.
• Deadline for providing comments is January 10, 2018.

Highlights
A narrative located here provides overview information about the preliminary draft budget document.

Here are a few highlights:
• The first two pages summarize projected income, $128,429,734, and projected expenses, $132,921,145, resulting in a deficit of $4,491,411.

Among the highlights on the Income page (1):
• Line 2 – Diocesan Commitments (Assessments required beginning January 1, 2019) In the current triennium commitments asked dropped from 18 to 15 percent with a $150,000 exemption for each diocese. The Line 2 2016-2018 figure is the expected actual commitment (not an assumed full commitment). The 2019-2021 budget shows a gross number, the full 15 percent with $140,000 exemption projected assessment from all dioceses. The red box below is an allowance for those dioceses which might be granted waivers from paying the full amount by Executive Council in the Assessment Review process.

• Line 3 – Income from Unrestricted Assets & Outside Trusts – these two lines represent a 5 percent draw from investments.

• Line 3 – Annual Appeal Campaign – $500,000 from the Development Department’s new Annual Fund solicitation to fund ministries in the operating budget.  Of this $88,000, will cover the costs of annual campaigns.

• Line 4b – Racial Reconciliation – $2 million dollars was set aside from short term reserves in the current triennium.  Since this was a brand new program, it took over a year to get up to speed, so the full $2 million will not be spent.  The 2019-2021 budget carries over $1 million for this work.

Among the highlights in the Expenses page (2):
• The Expense Categories for the 2019-2021 budget include:  Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation & Justice, Creation Care, Ministry of the Presiding Bishop to Church and World, Mission Within the Episcopal Church, Mission Beyond the Episcopal Church, Mission Governance, and Mission Finance, Legal & Operations.   They do not perfectly correspond with the Five Marks budget categories.

• Staff – all staff lines include a 3 percent raise each year and estimate 9 percent increases in health insurance costs.  The Presiding Bishop has expressed his satisfaction with the staff in place and asks that there be no new hires in the 2019-2021 budget.

• House of Deputies, Line 298 – Staff Costs include $900,000 for salary and benefits for the President of the House of Deputies to be sure funds are available should the salary be voted by General Convention.

General Convention
The Episcopal Church 79th General Convention will be held Thursday, July 5 to Friday, July 13, 2018 at The Austin Convention Center, Austin, Texas (Diocese of Texas).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years to consider the legislative business of the church.  General Convention is the bicameral governing body of the Church, comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members. Between Conventions, the General Convention continues to work through its committees and commissions.  The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church carries out the programs and policies adopted by General Convention.

Diocese of Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith announces retirement

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 1:00pm

[Episcopal Diocese of Arizona] The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, fifth bishop of the Diocese of Arizona, has announced his retirement.

In a letter sent to all clergy and congregations in the diocese, Bishop Smith said the announcement was with “mixed emotions.” He explained, “By the time I retire I will be almost 68 years old. It is time for the diocese to move on to a new mission with younger leadership. It is also time for me to enjoy some new adventures before I get too old to do so!”

Bishop Smith does not plan to sit idly in retirement. His first journey will be a one-semester visiting professorship at General Theological Seminary in New York for the fall of 2019.

The transition process will take approximately 18 months before a new bishop is consecrated. The Standing Committee and a Search Committee, designated by the diocesan Constitution and Canons (body of laws and regulations), will lead the process. At the Diocesan Convention on October 19-20, 2018, an election will be held to choose Bishop Smith’s successor, with the next bishop being consecrated as the Sixth Bishop of Arizona on March 9, 2019.

Bishop Smith promised that he would not be “a lame duck” because there is still much work to do, which will include “a time of sharing memories and celebrating our work together.”

Peace-building project launched to reduce tensions between Kipsigis and Maasai in Kenya

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:44am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Kenya responded to recurring violence between Kipsigis and Maasai people in the Trans Mara district by launching a peace-building project to bring the two sides together. In July, the province’s social ministry arm, Anglican Development Services (ADS-Kenya), invited representatives of national and county governments to share ideas on the root causes of the violence among the two communities, and to discuss how to engage in sustainable peace-building.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Alliance releases resources for observing Freedom Sunday in December

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:32am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches throughout the Anglican Communion are expected to observe Freedom Sunday on or near Dec. 2 as part of increased efforts to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery. The Anglican Alliance has produced a resource pack, in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese, to help churches plan services and other events around Freedom Sunday, which this year falls on the UN’s International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The resource pack includes stories, information, prayers and a sermon outline.

Read the full article here.

Episcopalians bring faith perspectives to Congress on both sides of political aisle

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:00pm

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations counts 40 Episcopal members of the current Congress. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Washington, D.C.] One is the great-great-grandson of an Episcopal bishop. One grew up across the street from Virginia Theological Seminary. One made his first visit to the nation’s capital as a young chorister singing at Washington National Cathedral.

They all have at least one thing in common, in addition to their Episcopal faith: They now are among the 535 citizens serving as senators and representatives in Congress.

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

“Being raised in the Episcopal Church, which is such an outwardly looking, active-faith community … we tend to be called to try and make a difference,” Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, told Episcopal News Service in an interview at his Capitol Hill office. “And there’s no other reason to run for public office than to want to make a difference.”

ENS interviewed several Episcopalians who serve in Congress to report on the range of ways faith influences lawmakers’ public service. For some, that faith is expressed openly at weekly prayer breakfasts and occasionally in policy speeches. Such public expressions of faith, though, often are tempered by the lawmakers’ awareness of the United States’ constitutional protections regarding religious freedom.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks during an interview at his Capitol Hill office. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

“How do you apply your faith in your political life without imposing your faith on other people? That’s a challenge. That’s a dilemma,” Sen. Angus King of Maine said while speaking with ENS in his office. “My faith is important to me. I use it as a guide in my decision making, but I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to tell other people what their beliefs should be. And that’s a constant tension.”

The Episcopal Church also has a presence in Washington through its Office of Government Relations, which monitors legislation, coordinates with partner agencies and denominations, develops relationships with lawmakers and encourages Episcopalians’ activism through its Episcopal Public Policy Network.

That work focuses on areas the church has identified as “being an integral part of Christian calling and witness,” Office of Government Relations Director Rebecca Blachly said in an emailed statement.

“Given the impact of the federal government on issues such as homelessness, poverty, healthcare, as well as in the international context and for our Anglican Communion partners, we undertake important public witness for the most vulnerable,” Blachly said.

King is a longtime independent who caucuses with Democrats in Congress. When talking faith on Capitol Hill, he believes in humility.

“There always has to be a little shred of doubt in your faith,” King said, adding it is no accident that the Nicene Creed begins with the words “we believe” rather than “we know.”

He spent his childhood in Alexandria, Virginia and lived for several years in the shadow of Virginia Theological Seminary. His mother was a lay leader in the Diocese of Virginia. His father served on the vestry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. As an adult, his law and business career took him to Maine, where he was first elected governor in 1994. He held that office for eight years and was elected U.S. senator in 2012.

He now regularly attends St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, Maine, and once described himself to Maine Magazine as “the guy who sits in the back.”

“I don’t know how I got into that habit,” King told ENS. He cautioned against reading into that habit any spiritual significance.

If you were to categorize the church-going persona of Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, it might be The Guy Who Wears a Coat and Tie.

Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, spoke with ENS at the Capitol after speaking on the floor of the House. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

He typically attends Sunday worship at St. James Episcopal Church when he is home in Fairhope, Alabama, and when he is in Washington on a Sunday morning you’re likely to find him at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square across from the White House. But in January, on the Sunday after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he chose a smaller church by the Capitol because he thought it wouldn’t be as crowded.

“I went to this church in a coat and tie, and I got there and I looked around – I was the only person there with a coat and tie,” Byrne said in an interview at the Capitol. “This one gentleman came over across the room and sat right next to me, and he said, ‘Everybody’s trying to figure out who you are.’

“And when I told him, they couldn’t have been nicer. … I’ve sort of found that the good thing about being in the Episcopal Church, I can kind of light in any Episcopal Church, some are conservative, some are liberal, some are high church, some are low church, and you kind of get that same warm, welcoming feeling.”

Episcopalians, a diverse delegation

The Episcopalians in Congress defy any uniform categorization. They’re just as likely to be Republican as Democrat, and they come from all corners of the country. Texas’ 5th District is represented by an Episcopalian, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Republican. In Oregon’s 5th District, Rep. Kurt Schrader is an Episcopalian and a Democrat.

Most of these senators and representatives are white men, though there also are several women, including a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat representing Florida’s 24th district. Some Episcopalians, like King, Barr and Byrne, have only been in Congress a few years. Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat and an Episcopalian, has represented her Rochester-area district since 1981.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations counts 40 Episcopal members of the current Congress. Roman Catholics represent the largest group of lawmakers, with 168, followed by Baptists at 72, according to Pew Research Center analysis.

Faith on the Hill: The religious composition of the 115th Congress https://t.co/VMpuNwGcL3 pic.twitter.com/LrSK9KO6kk

— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) January 8, 2017

Lawmakers may take their oath with a hand on the Bible, but they are sworn to uphold the Constitution. Each senator and representative brings a personal perspective on how – or whether – faith beliefs should influence public policy.

Byrne said he feels guided by “the sort of Anglican approach to understanding truth and what’s right and what’s wrong” – the “three-legged stool” of scripture, church traditions and individual reason or discernment.

“I’ve found that’s served me well thought my life, before coming to Congress and in Congress,” Byrne said. “Scripture, tradition and reason are a big part of the way I approach things because that’s how I was brought up.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Washington, also credited her faith and the Episcopal Church with shaping her commitment to community service, “whether it was when I was a vestry member, a PTA mom, a Stephen Minister or serving in Congress.”

DelBene wasn’t available for a Capitol Hill interview but said in an emailed statement for this story that her public life is partly rooted in faith principles.

“I’ve always fought for those who need a helping hand because our communities are stronger when no one is left behind,” DelBene said. “Those driving principles continue to serve me in my current role in Congress and I’ll keep looking for ways to work across the aisle to ensure everyone can succeed.”

Barr credits his faith with introducing him to Washington, D.C., about 30 years ago. He was in sixth grade when he performed at National Cathedral with the choir from his church.

That experience played only an indirect role in calling him to public service, but Barr feels directly influenced by his “thinking church,” which he says encourages an open mind.

“It’s a church that teaches the love and compassion and grace of Christ, but it’s also a church that is willing to take on the difficult task of discerning scripture and thinking through it,” he said. “That allows for people of a lot of different perspectives to be welcome in the Episcopal Church.”

That wide spectrum includes some lawmakers who downplay the active role of faith in political life.

“It’s not something that I affirmatively think about,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, said in an interview with ENS in his office. He sees faith as part of his DNA rather than something to wear on his sleeve. “It’s not like, what should my faith principles say about this? It’s much more embedded than that.”

Limits on religion in politics

Whitehouse, whose ancestor, the Rt. Rev. Henry John Whitehouse, was a bishop of the Diocese of Illinois in the 19th century, attended Episcopal church services growing up and went to St. Paul’s School, an Episcopal college prep school in Concord, New Hampshire. He is still an Episcopalian but now prefers worshipping at Central Congregational Church in Providence, Rhode Island, when back in his district.

He also is wary of politicians injecting faith into the work of government, and that was part of his message in 2014 when he spoke at a lobby day event held by the Secular Coalition of America, an atheist group.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, met with ENS in his Capitol Hill office. Photo: Episcopal News Service

“People of faith can recognize and respect the views of people who do not have faith,” Whitehouse told ENS. “They are as welcome and important a part of the American experiment as people who hold divergent faiths. … They, too, are all God’s children.”

Whitehouse sees “a natural corrective” to religious overreach in Congress, because legislation that crosses that line will face a tougher time garnering enough support for passage. There are fewer checks on federal judges once they are seated, Whitehouse said. As a member of the Senate Judicial Committee, he thinks it is fair to ask court nominees about their faith to ensure it won’t eclipse the law in deciding cases.

The issue came up this fall in questioning of Trevor McFadden, a Trump nominee to a federal district court post. McFadden is a member of an Anglican congregation in Falls Church, Virginia, that formed after members of the Falls Church left congregation during a theological dispute, including over Whitehouse riled some conservative critics by asking McFadden whether he, despite his church’s beliefs, would uphold the Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage. McFadden responded he would.

“He answered well, and I voted for him,” Whitehouse told ENS.

Byrne has sought to defend religious freedoms, too, but from the opposite side of the gay marriage issue. He was a co-sponsor of a bill in 2015 called the First Amendment Defense Act that would bar “discriminatory action” against people, such as business owners, who follow religious convictions that gay marriage is wrong. The bill never made it out of committee.

“For us to tell somebody you can’t act out your faith in the way you conduct your business, I think that’s antithetical to the First Amendment,” Byrne said.

Such a stance may be in line with many of Byrne’s constituents, though it puts him at odds with the Episcopal Church, which just last month spoke out on the side of a gay couple who were denied a wedding cake by a Colorado cake shop. That legal case is now before the Supreme Court.

The Episcopal Church regularly takes values-based public stances on public issues, including through the Office of Government Relations’ advocacy in Washington.

“All of our advocacy is based on General Convention resolutions and thus reflects the will of the Church,” Blachly said, while stressing that her office takes a nonpartisan approach.

“We know that Episcopalians in the pews also have a diversity of political opinions, and we realize it is possible to have different views on the best way to achieve a more just and compassionate world,” she said. “Bipartisanship, as well as respectful listening and dialogue, is central to all of our engagement as we build relationships with members of Congress, the administration and federal departments and agencies.”

Sometimes Episcopalians in Congress are closely aligned with their church on certain issues, as Whitehouse is on climate change. That and ocean quality are important in his coastal state, while the Episcopal Church has promoted environmental stewardship for decades. The House of Bishops also made environmental justice one of the themes of its September meeting in Alaska.

“God has made nature pretty resilient if she’s only given a chance and the oceans are perhaps the most spectacularly resilient of all,” he said. “But they’ve got to be given that chance.”

Differing on issues, united by faith

On some issues, however, the church may find itself in the middle of a partisan divide. The Trump administration’s pursuit of greater restrictions on refugee resettlement sparked opposition this year from the Episcopal Church, whose Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of nine organizations that facilitate that resettlement on behalf of the State Department.

A policy alert issued in October by the Office of Government Relations warned of “devastating consequences for refugees” who are barred from entering the United States.

Republicans have generally been more supportive of the president’s refugee policies. Both Byrne and Barr spoke in favor of the refugee resettlement program while citing national security as a legitimate reason to tighten the process, at least temporarily.

Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, speaks about his faith as an Episcopalian in his office in Washington. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Such a policy position doesn’t necessarily contradict the church, Barr said.

“We may come at the issue of refugees or immigrants differently and we may have some disagreements,” Barr said, “but I think all of us in Congress who are Episcopalians, we believe that this country is a nation of immigrants. … We believe in the duty and the obligation of our country to offer refuge and asylum to the politically and religiously oppressed.”

Faith also can provide common ground, a bridge across the partisan divide. King regularly attends the Senate’s weekly interfaith prayer breakfast, “the only bipartisan event around here.” Only senators are invited, and 20 or more typically attend any given Wednesday morning in a room at the Capitol.

“It’s my favorite hour of the week,” King said. The event is a chance to get to know his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, as real people rather than political opponents, and he frequently learns something new about them.

Byrne, too, sees faith as “a force for unity” and often attends House prayer group meetings that draw members of both parties.

His religion became an issue in the 2016 election, when a Republican rival who is Baptist tried to argue Byrne, as an Episcopalian, wasn’t conservative enough for his Alabama district. That line of attack didn’t gain much traction, Byrne said.

“I’m not going to back down from the fact I came to Christ through the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church continues to feed me day to day, week to week, month to month,” he told ENS. “And the other people of faith in my district, particularly those that know me, respect me for that.”

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

Pages