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10 candidates in running to be Bishop of Polynesia

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 11:31am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A former Olympic sprinter is among 10 candidates in the running to be the next Bishop of Polynesia. The holder of the diocesan post will also become one of three primates and archbishops of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The slate of candidates include two women, a cathedral dean, three senior educators, a vicar-general and three bishops. An electoral college will convene in Suva on oct. 26 and 27 to conduct the vote.

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of London launching School of Pioneers to train lay church planters

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 11:29am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new School of Pioneers is opening in the Diocese of London to provide non-residential training for lay leaders in creating new congregations. The initiative is being run jointly by the Diocese’s Centre for Church Planting and Growth and the Anglican mission agency Church Mission Society. The new venture will “identify and train new pioneer leaders to birth ‘new churches, for new people in new places’ across London,” a spokesperson for the diocese said in a statement.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopalians assess damage from Hurricane Michael’s destructive tear through Southeast

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 6:10pm

A man walks past buildings damaged by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida, on Oct. 11. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians, congregations and dioceses across the Southeast again are assessing the damage and praying for the best after another powerful hurricane wreaked havoc on the communities in its path.

Last month it was Hurricane Florence, which hit coastal North Carolina hard and also brought wind, rain and flooding to parts of South Carolina and Virginia and cities farther inland. On Oct. 10, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Panama City, Florida, as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the mainland United States. At least two people are dead as Michael left buildings in ruin, blocked roads and power outages affecting hundreds of thousands.

Michael weakened Oct. 11 to a tropical storm as it made its way across the Carolinas, dropping more rain on regions already struggling to bounce back from Florence. The latest storm is moving rapidly northeast and expected to head out to sea by early Oct. 12.

Episcopal Relief & Development, the agency that works at the churchwide level to help coordinate disaster response, began holding conference calls with dioceses before the storm hit, and that outreach continues as local leaders assess the needs of their communities.

“Our partners are just beginning to assess the impact of Hurricane Michael,” Katie Mears, senior director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program, said in a press release. “We will continue to support church partners to serve and care for affected communities in the weeks and months ahead.”

Michael intensified surprisingly fast into a Category 4 hurricane before hitting land, forcing residents and church leaders to expedite their preparations and evacuations.

In the Diocese of Florida, Christ Church in Monticello shared photos on its Facebook page of volunteers boarding up the church’s windows on Oct. 9. “Hope everyone remains safe as Michael approaches,” the post said.

Farther west along the Florida Panhandle, in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, the Rev. Thomas Dwyer was bracing for the worst.

“I hope this finds you all busily completing your preparations,” he told his Port St. Joe congregation in an Oct. 9 post on the St. James’ Episcopal Church’s Facebook page.  “Since we will likely lose power, I wanted to get this out early. Please, if you are staying in the area, make sure that wherever you are is safe, and stay indoors.”

Dwyer told Episcopal News Service by email on Oct. 11 that he fled the city before the hurricane. He heard from someone who made it to the church afterward that the church was damaged but survived the hurricane.

“Lots of shingles blown off and a chain-link fence down, but sounds like structurally it is OK,” he said. “I will hopefully get back Saturday and then I’ll know more.”

The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast posted hurricane preparation info prominently on its website well before Hurricane Michael arrived, and Bishop Russell Kendrick issued a statement Oct. 9 offering prayers and support to the members of his diocese, which includes the western Panhandle and southern Alabama. He followed up Oct. 11 with a video message.

Kendrick and other diocesan leaders gathered for a morning staff meeting Oct. 11 to share updates on the storm’s aftermath and plan their next steps. Communication has been difficult in some areas, so information was still flowing in from various congregations.

“We do know that there has been damage to several of our church buildings,” Kendrick said. He didn’t have details but identified the churches with confirmed damage as Holy Nativity Episcopal Church and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Panama City, Grace Episcopal Church in Panama City Beach and St. James’ in Port St. Joe.

A similar assessment was underway in the Diocese of Georgia, which encompasses the southern half of the state. The diocese had been tracking congregations through an alert system, and by Oct. 11 more than 100 messages had come in, according to Katie Willoughby, the diocese’s canon for administration.

Bainbridge, Georgia, was one of the communities in the diocese reporting the most damage, Willoughby told ENS by phone. Thomasville, Albany and Americus also were hit hard, but most of the damage reported so far was downed trees. Church buildings seemed intact.

“Generally, we came through well, however we have some significant tree damage,” she said. Several parishioners also reported trees falling onto their homes.

Information is only trickling in about the congregations in the Panama City, Florida, the small Gulf Coast city that was in the direct line of the storm. News reports from that region paint an alarming picture.

A 300-bed hospital in Panama City was forced to evacuate Oct. 11 after the hurricane turned parts of the complex into tatters. The storm wiped out the roofs of hi-rise condos, knocked down trees, tossed boats around like toys and left the city looking like a “complete war zone,” according to one Facebook user who posted video of the destruction.

The Rev. Steve Bates, who fled Panama City before the storm with his wife, posted a forlorn update Oct. 11 on the Facebook page of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, where Bates is rector.

“My heart is broken for our community. In just a few hours, all of our lives were changed,” Bates said. “But what remains the same is the loving, caring, and giving of those who call Panama City home.”

He wasn’t sure if his own home sustained damage in the storm, nor could he say anything about the condition of the church, but he hoped for updates soon. “The work ahead is daunting. but I know beyond any doubt that we are stronger than this storm,” he said. “God love you.”

West of Panama City, services at Christ the King Episcopal Church in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, were canceled Oct. 10 afternoon, but the congregation posted an update on Facebook the next day saying the church had weathered the storm well. “No damage to the buildings, no trees down and power is on,” the post said. “Prayers continue for those to the east of us.”

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

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Matthew Shepard to be interred at Washington National Cathedral after public service

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 2:28pm

Matthew Shepard was active in his Episcopal congregation in Casper, Wyoming. Photo courtesy of Washington National Cathedral.

[Episcopal News Service] Twenty years after the brutal murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard sparked national outrage, his ashes will be interred at Washington National Cathedral following a public service of remembrance.

The Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance for Matthew Shepard on Oct. 26 will be led by Washington Bishop Marian Budde and retired New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop who knowns the Shepard family. Until now, Shepard’s parents had not settled on a final resting place for Shepard’s remains out of concern the site would be vandalized. As they approached 20 years since their son’s death, Robinson helped the family make arrangements at National Cathedral.

The tragedy of Shepard’s death is still a call to the nation to reject bigotry and “instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, dean of the cathedral, said in a news release. “The Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place.”

Shepard, 21, was a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie when a passerby found him beaten and tied to a fence in October 1998. He died later at a hospital. The crime ignited an outcry against the prevalence of anti-gay violence.

His 1998 funeral was held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper, Wyoming, the congregation where he had served as an acolyte. Shepard also had attended the Canterbury Club while at college.

“Matt loved the Episcopal Church and felt welcomed by his church in Wyoming,” his mother, Judy Shepard, said in a cathedral news release. “For the past 20 years, we have shared Matt’s story with the world. It’s reassuring to know he now will rest in a sacred spot where folks can come to reflect on creating a safer, kinder world.”

About 200 people are interred at National Cathedral, including President Woodrow Wilson and Hellen Keller. Shepard’s internment will be a private ceremony, but the service of remembrance will be open to the public and could draw a capacity crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 people, cathedral’s chief communications officer, Kevin Eckstrom, told Episcopal News Service.

The site may become something of a pilgrimage stop within the LGBTQ community, Eckstrom said. And Budde, quoted in the New York Times, underscored that the Episcopal Church is striving to offer a message of welcome to all people.

“A lot has changed [since Shepard’s killing], but not everything has changed,” Budde told the Times. “It felt really important for us to say that we believe LGBTQ people are beloved children of God, not in spite of their identities but because of who they area – who God created them to be.”

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

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‘Activate’ citizens to claim human rights, and governments to ensure them, say Cristosal leaders

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 11:45am

Noah Bullock, right, executive director of Cristosal, speaks to an audience at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, about refugees and human rights. Listening are David Morales, center, Cristosal director of strategic litigation, and the Rev. Mike Angell, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri. Photo: Sid Hastings/WUSTL Photos (reprint with permission)

[Episcopal News Service – St. Louis, Missouri] A human-rights group in El Salvador founded by Episcopal clergy is using the courts to force the government there to live up to its responsibility to protect hundreds of thousands of citizens internally displaced by rampant violence, criminal and otherwise.

And when such refugees from violence come to the United States, this country also has a responsibility to give them safe haven, said Noah Bullock, the executive director of Cristosal, in a symposium on a faith-informed response to immigration and violence on Oct. 8 at Washington University in St. Louis.

“No person can be denied a place on planet Earth where they can be free of persecution,” said Bullock, speaking at the university’s John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, named after U.S. Sen. John Danforth, a Missouri Republican and Episcopal priest.

Contrary to popular opinion, Bullock said, the typical immigrant crossing the southern border of the United States is no longer a Mexican looking for work, but someone from the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala fleeing gang violence. Cristosal, which has offices in all three countries, operates safe houses there for their protection. However, the ultimate solution is not for private groups to replace the government in this guardian role, Bullock said. Rather, groups like Cristosal achieve long-term structural reforms by “activating” victims to claim their rights, and the state to do its duty. The 1951 Refugee Convention of the United Nations, Bullock said, spells out this duty for whatever country harbors people fleeing persecution.

Bullock described one successful execution of its activation strategy. Cristosal sued the Salvadoran government on behalf of six families forced out of their homes by gang violence, contending that an indifferent government had violated their constitutional rights. In July, the country’s Supreme Court sided with the families, ordering the government to recognize the problem of forced displacement after years of denial, prevent it from happening and aid victims.

David Morales, who directs Cristosal’s strategic litigation team, told the audience of 75 at Washington University of another attempt to hold the powerful of El Salvador accountable for wrongdoing through the courts. Cristosal is privately prosecuting the perpetrators of the El Mozote massacre, in which U.S.-trained government soldiers killed more than 1,000 civilians—more than half of them children—in 1981, the second year of the country’s 12-year civil war. Morales began investigating the massacre during the conflict when he worked in the human rights office of the Catholic diocese of San Salvador, the nation’s capital. (Morales also sought justice for the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a defender of the poor scheduled to be canonized as a Catholic saint on Oct. 14).

The El Mozote case came to a halt when the civil war ended in 1992 with an amnesty agreement that shielded war criminals from prosecution. However, the country’s Supreme Court struck down the amnesty as unconstitutional in 2016. That decision allowed Morales to pick up where he left off years earlier.

Morales said the naked use of violence against civilians during the war has persisted into the present as the Salvadoran police and military take an “iron fist” approach toward gang violence “without investments in policies to prevent crime.” In the process, young people merely suspected of gang membership face imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial execution.

Bullock added that it’s important to prosecute decades-old war crimes because “when there is no truth, when there is no justice, there is a continuation of the norm.”

“We think we can challenge the assumption of impunity, the assumption of the powerful that they can do what they like to the weak without any consequences,” Bullock said about the court case. “It’s something we chip away at.”

Other than urging the United States to protect refugees from the Northern Triangle, Bullock and Morales did not address controversial U.S. immigration policies on family separation, temporary protected status or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Bullock more broadly stressed the importance of the United States, however imperfect, of upholding human rights.

“It means a lot to the world when the United States says that human rights matter,” said Bullock. “There’s leverage, then, for organizations like ourselves to advocate.”

“But when the United States abrogates a leadership role, there’s less pressure to leverage those changes,” he said. He noted a resurgence of authoritarianism across the globe and “even in our own country,” which emboldens human-rights violators. Case in point: “In Nicaragua, the regime has killed more than 400 protesters in the last few months and kicked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights out of the country with no concern for [international] consequences.”

Bullock also disputed President Donald Trump’s characterization of El Salvador and other developing nations as “shithole countries,” saying that the president ignores U.S. policies that have shaped those countries for the worse over the years. For example, the bullets used by the government soldiers in the El Mozote massacre were made in an army munitions plant in Independence, Missouri, Bullock said.

“We can’t see ourselves in isolation from the conditions that are there,” he said.

A panel of three St. Louis faith-based activists at the symposium related the work of Cristosal in Central America to their own missions. “Faith is personal, but not private—faith has to go public,” said the Rev. Travis Winckler, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church. His congregation, said Winckler, is trying to live out those words by bridging the divide between a predominantly African-American neighborhood immediately to the north that has experienced “the historical residue of racism” and a more affluent, integrated neighborhood next door.

To the Rev. Dietra Wise-Baker, who was active in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of Michael Brown, the “iron fist” wielded by the Salvadoran army and police “sounds like the same story, the same song that has happened here, with police in riot gear.”

“How do they understand who we are in their service to us?” said Wise-Baker. “There’s so much resonance between our people and the people of El Salvador.” She added that she had not previously viewed the oppression of African-Americans through a human-rights lens.

Wise-Baker, a community organizer with a group called Metropolitan Congregations United, is on the same page with Cristosal, though, when it comes to using the judicial system. In August, her group filed a lawsuit against a local school district along with Missouri educational agencies in federal court for allegedly providing substandard education to homeless children, in violation of federal law. “This is a form of trying to get accountability from the state,” she said.

The panelists also commented on false characterizations or narratives repeated about those deprived of human rights, such as the misconception that undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border are mostly job seekers, or, as Trump has said, “criminals and rapists.”

“I’d hate to think about actually repeating what people say against us,” said Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis.

Neiss said a false narrative undergirded a common argument that would-be immigrants should come here legally like previous generations of newcomers.

“We’ve had a history of Jews illegally entering this country,” she said. “In my childhood, so many of the stories we heard were about how people heroically falsified papers, stole papers, did whatever they needed to do to survive.”

-Robert Lowes, an independent journalist and poet, is a member of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

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Episcopalians join prayers, protests against death penalty as Tennessee execution looms

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 4:44pm

[Episcopal News Service] Executions resumed in Tennessee this year after a nearly decadelong hiatus, and Episcopalians who minister to death row inmates and those who advocate against the death penalty are responding with prayers and protests.

The first execution in the state since 2009 was carried out in August with the lethal-injection death of Billy Irick for the 1985 rape and killing of a 7-year-old girl. A second inmate, Edmund Zagorski, is due to be put to death on Oct. 11 for a double murder committed in 1983. An anti-death penalty group has organized a demonstration for the evening of Zagorski’s execution outside the Riverbend prison in Nashville where male death row inmates are held.

Alvaro Manrique Barrenechea, a parishioner at Nashville’s Christ Church Cathedral, expects to participate. He joined a similar demonstration before Irick’s execution on Aug. 9 after spending a year and a half meeting monthly with Irick through a death row visitation ministry led by Christ Church Cathedral.

“He was definitely very excited when I visited,” Barrenechea said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. Irick didn’t have any relatives come see him, so Barrenechea often was Irick’s only contact with the outside world. That is one reason Barrenechea felt called to this ministry. “I can’t imagine the thought process of thinking there’s nobody in the entire world that’s thinking about you.”

Episcopalians also are called to such ministries by the Episcopal Church’s longtime opposition to the death penalty, as reaffirmed several times at General Convention since 1958. The 79th General Convention, meeting in July in Austin, Texas, added to that list a new resolution that calls for all death row inmates’ sentences to be reduced and enlists bishops in states where the death penalty is legal to take up greater advocacy.

“There’s considerable confusion about what might be the Christian response” to capital punishment, the Very Rev. Timothy Kimbrough, dean of Christ Church Cathedral said in an interview. “The Episcopal Church has been very clear for decades about its opposition to the death penalty. That’s one of the reasons I’m grateful to be a part of a community like this.”

Christ Church’s death row visitation ministry has been carried out by a team of up to 30 lay volunteers. Each is assigned to one of the 60 inmates awaiting execution.

Kimbrough wrote a letter to his congregation before Irick’s execution, saying such a time “tests the Divine’s resolve to forgive, hallow, and bless.”

While acknowledging the horror of Irick’s crime, Kimbrough wrote, “to murder the murderer … will neither restrain the savage impulse of another criminal nor model for society the respect that life itself would otherwise demand.”

Kimbrough also sent a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, asking him to convert the sentence to life in prison. Receipt of that letter was acknowledged, Kimbrough said, but Haslam did not act to stop Irick’s execution.

Edmund Zagorski

Haslam also declined on Oct. 5 to offer clemency to Zagorski despite new objections to Tennessee’s lethal injection drugs in the wake of Irick’s execution. Some experts have suggested the first drug in a three-drug cocktail failed to render Irick unconscious before the other two drugs subjected him to excruciating pain and finally killed him.

Zagorski cited the threat of “torture” in requesting death by electrocution instead, but that request was denied by the state.

When asked about the execution drug controversy, Kimbrough called it something of a spiritual “red herring.”

A Christian “who would see the death penalty dismantled would not stand for any method of execution that somehow would be deemed constitutional,” he said. “Every method of execution might be seen to a Christian as cruel and unusual. How we can look at the cross and don’t imagine that to be true, I don’t know.”

The Rev. Bob Davidson, national chair of Episcopal Peace Fellowship who submitted the anti-death penalty resolution at General Convention, argued in an email to ENS that economic disparities in the judicial system also support reducing Zagorski’s sentence to life in prison.

“Those who cannot afford adequate representation or resources” often are unable to defend against “the ultimate act of society playing God by putting someone to death,” Davidson said.  “Every life has worth and value, regardless of our human actions.”

Zagorski is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. Oct. 11. The state Department of Correction said in its latest update that he had refused to receive a final meal.

The death penalty still is in effect in 31 states, but the number of executions nationwide has dropped steadily since 1999, from a high of 98 that year to 20 in 2016, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

A rapid series of executions in Arkansas in April 2017, brought the issue of capital punishment back into the national spotlight. At the time, Episcopalians and other advocates hoped the attention would add momentum to the push for abolition.

Public opinion has for decades tilted in favor of the death penalty, with a Gallup poll from 2017 showing 55 percent of respondents supporting a death sentence for someone convicted of murder. Support has been on the decline since the mid-1990s, however, and polls show fewer people favor the death penalty when alternatives are suggested.

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

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Anglican Province of Hong Kong marks 20th anniversary

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 6:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Guests from around the world have joined local Anglicans for a series of events to mark the 20th anniversary of the Anglican Province of Hong Kong – the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui. Thousands gathered for a colorful celebration of the Eucharist at the vast AsiaWorld-Expo centre on Saturday (6 October). Among them were dignitaries from mainland China, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, Ireland, the UK and the United States.

Bishop of Texas Andrew Doyle delivered a message of message of congratulations on behalf of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Doyle, president of the Compass Rose Society, spoke of the “amazing” work and generosity of the province, describing it as a model of virtue for the Anglican Communion.

Read the full article here.

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More than 2000 gather in South Africa for Anglicans Ablaze

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 5:53pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than 2,000 Anglicans from Southern Africa and around the world were in Durban, South Africa, last week for Anglicans Ablaze, an international conference within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The biennial event, which ran from Oct. 3 to 6, is a renewal platform meant to set Anglicans “ablaze with God’s love and power in order to build up the church and to serve God in the world.”

Read the full article here.

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Diocese of Nevada announces postponement of bishop election

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 2:08pm

“Dear People of the Diocese of Nevada,

Our bishop search process this year was challenging in several respects. One is that there were an unprecedented number of bishop searches in process, resulting in a limited applicant pool. Another is that decisions had to be made under time constraints that did not allow the Standing Committee to engage in the depth of deliberation really needed.

Since announcing the slate of candidates, more information has been brought to our attention that calls our decisions into question. We have, after much soul searching, unanimously concluded that it is in the best interest of the Diocese to postpone the election of our 11th Bishop until next year following another search under more propitious circumstances.

We are grateful to the Search Committee for their faithful work and regret any frustration they may feel that we are not proceeding to an election now. The decision to delay is in no way a reflection on the Search Committee, but rather is what we deem to be for the good of the Diocese. Likewise, we are grateful to the candidates on the 2018 slate. Our decision does not preclude them from applying again and participating in the 2019 search process.

Bishop Dan will still retire as planned in December, but Canon Catherine will remain through the search process to insure the smooth ongoing operation of the diocesan office. We plan to call a Provisional (interim) Bishop to provide episcopal oversight during the transition, just as Bishop Jerry Lamb served in our previous search process. Bishop Dan assures us there are some well-qualified retired bishops who would be a good fit for Nevada in this time of transition.

The Diocesan Convention will still take place in Elko, beginning with a reception on the evening of November 29, with our business conducted on November 30 and a closing banquet that evening. Obviously, the agenda will change. The new agenda will be posted online and distributed to delegates as soon as possible.

We hope for your trust and patience in this process. We too are eager to get the decision made but it is most important that we take our time to get it right.”

Sincerely,

The Reverend Bonnie Polley
President of the Standing Committee

Southwest Mission District Clergy Representative
Christ Church, Las Vegas”

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Canadian Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops unite in child development campaign

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 5:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Roman Catholic bishop and his Anglican counterpart in Canada’s New Brunswick province have been inspired by an official international ecumenical mission partnership to create a joint project to address development needs of children living in poverty. Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Harris and Anglican Bishop David Edwards have signed a joint declaration to launch a child development program. The project, “Dads & Tots,” will work with single fathers from the Waterloo Village and South End neighborhoods of Saint John, a port city.

Read the full article here.

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Regional Anglican interfaith network for Europe and Americas launched

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 5:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson has chaired the inaugural meeting of the Network of Inter Faith European and North American Concerns meeting. The network is one of the new regional networks being established as part of the new global Anglican Inter Faith Commission that was launched at the Primates’ Meeting last October, and which met for the first time earlier this year in Cairo.

Read the full article here.

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Episcopal Church’s parochial report numbers fuel discussion of decline and rebirth

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 5:21pm

The congregation at Calvary Episcopal Church in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh listens to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during Eucharist on Feb 5, 2017. Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell, right, sat in the pews for the sermon. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The 12 apostles, the 40 days of fasting, the five loaves and two fish. Some key numbers are peppered throughout the Gospels, but no one would mistake attending church on Sunday for a math lesson.

And yet, for every Episcopal congregation, there is a count.

Actually, several counts, including total number of active members, average pledge and the endlessly fluctuating “average Sunday attendance.” That data gets wrapped into the annual parochial reports that each congregation files with the Episcopal Church, and the cumulative data is released once a year as one benchmark for church vitality.

For several years that benchmark has pointed to a denomination in decline, with church attendance and membership trending downward in all corners of the Episcopal Church. When the latest churchwide data summary was released in August, the response was a familiar mix of hand-wringing, naysaying and soul-searching about the future of the Episcopal Church.

“Facing more Episcopal Church decline” was The Living Church’s blunt headline on an analysis of the latest numbers by the Rev. David Goodhew, director of ministerial practice at Durham University’s Cranmer Hall in Durham, England.

“The church deserves congratulation for the detail, accuracy, and especially candor it shows in sharing its data,” Goodhew wrote. “Beyond that, it has to be said that the news is bad.”

How bad? Over five years, the number of active baptized members in the church’s domestic dioceses has dropped 10 percent to 1.7 million. Sunday attendance is down 13 percent. There are 175 fewer parishes and missions reporting parochial data than in 2013. The 10-year trend is even more sobering, particularly in dioceses hit by sharp membership drops due to splits over doctrinal disagreements, including Forth Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin and South Carolina. The one bright spot churchwide is that the average pledge has been increasing each year.

Such data generates a fair amount of discussion within the church each year. On Aug. 30, Kevin Miller, an Episcopalian from Massachusetts, raised the issue in the Episcopal Evangelists group on Facebook.

“What can we do to buck this trend? Lord help us!” Miller said while sharing The Living Church’s story.

Responses ranged from the hopeful to the practical. Stop promoting “gimmicks” like Ashes to Go, some said. Others suggested looking beyond the walls of the church for evangelism opportunities rather than obsessing about filling the pews.

The Rev. Chris Arnold, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, issued a back-to-basics call. “The church will shrink until it rediscovers its primary purpose, which is to be a community of pilgrim disciples, supporting one another in the art and craft of prayer,” he said.

The Episcopal Church, of course, is not the only mainline Protestant denomination suffering from decline. Only 36 percent of Americans identified as Protestant in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released in May, down from 50 percent in 2003. Overall, Christians declined from 83 percent to 72 percent of Americans over the same period, while those who claim no religion have doubled.

Nor is decline in worship attendance an exclusively Episcopal concern. Weekly attendance at religious services of all faiths dropped from 39 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study. In a separate Pew survey released in August, 37 percent of Americans who don’t attend religious services frequently said the reason was they practice their faith in other ways. An additional 23 percent said they simply haven’t found a place of worship that they like.

Seen in this broader context, the Episcopal Church is not alone in facing the “challenge of understanding broad social changes” that are affecting American Christian churches, said the Rev. Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention, whose staff collects the parochial report data.

Declining membership and attendance numbers represent one snapshot of the Episcopal Church, and much can be learned from that data, Barlowe said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of that,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong.”

Barlowe also doesn’t think those numbers tell the full story of the church’s good work. The Episcopal Church, like other denominations, still emphasizes measurements and funding models established hundreds of years ago, when the Christian church was a more central institution in American society, he said. Today’s church is engaged in ministries that expand its spiritual footprint in ways the parochial reports may miss, such as food pantries or Bible studies in coffee shops.

“We need to grow in every way,” he said.

Church planting “is crock pot work, not microwave work,” the Rev. Michael Michie, staff officer for church planting infrastructure, said in July at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

An important way to grow is by starting new congregations, argues the Rev. Michael Michie, the Episcopal Church’s staff officer for church planting infrastructure. The Episcopal Church has approved more than $8 million to start new congregations and regional ministries from 2013 through 2021. Michie works closely with recipients of those grants to ensure they get the backing they need.

Even the 86 new ministries planted from 2012 to 2017 likely wasn’t aggressive enough, Michie said in a blog post about the parochial report data.

“Just imagine how [the Episcopal Church] would change if we set this as a priority,” he wrote. “It would change the way we look for leaders, educate and train clergy, allocate resources and run dioceses. Decline makes us want to circle the wagons. I’m calling for the church to head ’em up and move ’em out! More than ever, we need pioneers, not settlers.”

New churches also should be planted in the right places, reaching congregations where they live, and with entrepreneurial leaders, Michie wrote.

He also threw out a target of more than 900 new church plants, based on a statistical analysis of what might be required to reverse the Episcopal Church’s decline. Michie, in an interview with Episcopal News Service, said he cited that figure “just to communicate the hill that is ahead of us to climb,” but he also thinks an aggressive approach to church planting would redefine how the Episcopal Church operates.

“The way that would impact and change our church would be terrific. It would supercharge our existing churches,” he said. “If they’re doing this and innovating in this way, we can too.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, during his first three years leading the Episcopal Church, has been active in pushing for initiatives that will expand the church’s reach in new ways. He often talks of the church being part of the larger Jesus Movement and recently unveiled the Way of Love, a rule of life to help Episcopalians live into the calling of that movement.

Curry also has led a series of large revivals that serve as the cornerstone of his emphasis on evangelism, seeking to reach new people outside the church with Jesus’ message of love. Racial reconciliation is another top priority of the church under Curry, as detailed in the Becoming Beloved Community framework that was launched last year.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry begins an impassioned sermon before a packed audience at a revival held on July 7 at Austin’s Palmer Center. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

Despite such activity at the churchwide level and the dozens of new church plants, many existing congregations still may not be meeting the spiritual needs of all their parishioners, particularly newer ones.

“We are an old denomination, age-wise, so I think I have a feeling that would be part of what is behind the decline,” the Rev. Jay Sidebotham told Episcopal News Service.

Sidebotham, who serves part time as associate rector at St. James’ Parish in Wilmington, North Carolina, has studied the dynamics at play in congregation vitality through his work leading RenewalWorks, a ministry of Forward Movement. RenewalWorks released a study in January that found more than half of Episcopal congregations can be classified as “restless,” meaning parishioners are hungry for spiritual growth but may not receive the support they are looking for from clergy or church leaders.

They remain active, for now, but “don’t actually expect that much to happen in their own spiritual experience,” Sidebotham said.

For the past five years, RenewalWorks has helped more than 200 Episcopal congregations focus more intently on the spiritual life of their parishioners. Curry’s talk of evangelism and discipleship has helped lead the way, Sidebotham said, and RenewalWorks’ report suggested four catalysts for supporting Episcopalians on their spiritual journeys:

  • Engagement with scripture,
  • The transforming power of the Eucharist,
  • A deeper prayer life, and
  • The heart of the congregation’s leader.

“A focus on discipleship is just critical,” Sidebotham said. “That’s job one and that’s what we’re all about.”

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

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Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries looks to raise up new leadership

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 3:42pm

The Rev. Bao Moua, the first Hmong woman ordained in the Episcopal Church, center, presided over the Oct. 1 closing Eucharist of the triennial Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries National Consultation. She was assisted by the Rev. Polly Shigaki, a deacon at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, on the right. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Honolulu] When the Rev. Bao Moua, the first Hmong woman ordained in the Episcopal Church, presided over the closing Eucharist at the triennial Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries National Consultation, it was a big deal.

“One of my motivations is to encourage young women to go into ministry,” Moua said following the service in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

In the Asian-cultural context, which she explained is still deeply rooted in patriarchy, women often struggle to hear the call, let alone follow it. By example, said Moua, who serves as a priest associate at Holy Apostles Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, she intends to show young women that they, too, can serve in both ordained and lay leadership roles in the church: “to find the balance in our culture and ourselves to stand alongside men.”

Throughout the EAM consultation, women occupied larger leadership roles, both serving behind the altar and moderating the three panel discussions and leading workshops.

It’s not easy to find Asian women priests, said the Rev. Yein Esther Kim, parish associate at St. Athanasius Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, who despite coming from a family of priests – her father is the Most Rev. Paul Geun-Sang Kim, Anglican bishop of the Diocese of Seoul, and former archbishop of the Province of Korea – didn’t always see herself as a priest. She was inspired in 2001 when South Korea began ordaining women and by the examples of the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, an African-American priest who was elected the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion, and the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Registration for the Sept. 27-Oct. 1 consultation held at the Ala Moana Hotel topped 267 participants representing Asians from the United States, Canada, England, South Korea and the Philippines and including 40 American and Canadian teenagers.

The Rev. Winfred Vergara, the Episcopal Church’s Asiamerica missioner and the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries National Consultation’s co-dean, preaches at the closing Eucharist on Oct. 1. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“We assembled a cast of great plenary speakers and workshop leaders. We wove the tapestry of a program that combined academic and experiential learning,” said the Rev. Winfred Vergara, the Episcopal Church’s Asiamerica missioner and the consultation’s co-dean, during the Oct. 1 closing Eucharist.

“Our theme: ‘Piko – Celebrate Christ, Community and Creation’ was aptly captured by the youth who performed last night. They said, ‘We came from different places and myriad cultures and many of us met each other for the first time, but now we are friends.’ That is what Christianity is all about … real relationships.”

There are some 22 million Asians in the United States, and Asians are its fastest-growing racial group. California has the largest Asian population, 6.8 million; in Hawaii, Asians are the majority at 57.1 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

Seven consultations make up the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries Council: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander. The council operates in partnership with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Asiamerica Ministries.

Asian American or “Asiamerican” describes Asian immigrants in the United States as well as Asian Americans born in the United States – Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Laotian, Hmong, Burmese), and South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan). It also describes the relationship of Asians in the United States with Asian Episcopalians and Asian Anglicans in the global community. Close to two-thirds of the world population identifies as Asian.

The strong youth presence made the consultation one of the best ever, said Bayani Rico, EAM Council president and the consultation’s co-dean. The younger generation speaks to “the pan-Asian experience,” and EAM may add an additional convocation for those Asians who don’t identify with a single ethnicity.

The Episcopal-Asiamerican church is an immigrant church that in reality speaks one language, said Yunjeong Soel, EAM’s digital media consultant. Oftentimes, the second and third generations don’t “speak the language of the mother country” and wonder how they can serve Asian-American ministries. And, realistically, she said, “bilingual services are hard to maintain.” Soel, who was born in South Korea and earned a Master of Divinity from Episcopal Divinity School, also favors adding a broader convocation.

Many people, she said, “identify as interracial. … They don’t know if they are in the Korean or Japanese convocation.”

Lake Randall, 15, of Vancouver, British Columbia, center, and Asupa Mila, 15, of San Francisco, left, were among 40 youth from the United States and Canada in attendance at the triennial Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries National Consultation in Honolulu. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

For Asupa Mila, 15, of San Francisco and Lake Randall, 15, of Vancouver, British Columbia, identity doesn’t really matter so much, they said. What they found in serving alongside one another in service to the community made them come together as friends.

Asian identity is something Asiamerican Episcopalians are grappling with on both the east and west coasts. In New York, the Episcopal Asian Supper Table, EAST, invites all people of Asian ancestry to come together, to build “a united community by sharing stories, developing spiritually, and lifting up our membership as leaders in the Episcopal Diocese of New York,” according to the diocese’s website. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, the Asian ministries group is called the Gathering.

The Most Rev. Moses Nag Jun Yoo, primate of Korea, preached on Sept. 30 at a service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the first Korean mission in the Episcopal Church, in Honolulu. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Nationally, there’s a push among the EAM leadership to train new leaders in evangelism, church planting and church revitalization. To that end, during the consultation’s opening Eucharist held at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, the EAM network introduced the ANDREWS program and its first group of 70 mentors.

ANDREWS, an acronym for Asiamerica Network of Disciples, Revivalists, Evangelists, Witnesses and Servant Leaders, is a mentoring program of the Asiamerica Ministries Office in partnership with Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Council and the Thriving in Ministry project of Virginia Theological Seminary.

ANDREWS’ goal is to develop a network of well-trained mentors and disciple-makers from among the EAM ethnic convocations. “Rice and Sing,” an anthology of diverse, Asian-cultural hymns and spiritual songs, is in development, as are in-person training and a virtual classroom.

“Vision and dreams are the language of the Holy Spirit,” said Vergara in his closing sermon. “If we don’t dream, how can our dreams come true?”

EAM convocations will meet separately in 2019 and come together again as a national consultation in 2021. The consultation last met in Seoul, South Korea, in 2015.

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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Former Episcopal bishop seeks reduced prison sentence in drunken-driving manslaughter case

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 11:17am

[Episcopal News Service] A former Episcopal bishop who is serving a prison sentence in Maryland for hitting and killing a bicyclist while texting and driving drunk has asked for sentence reduction that could let her walk free next month.

Heather Cook, formerly Episcopal Diocese of Maryland bishop suffragan, was convicted of fatally striking a bicyclist Thomas Palermo on Dec. 27, 2014, in suburban Baltimore. Palermo, a 41-year-old software engineer at Johns Hopkins Hospital who also built custom bike frames. He was married and the father of two young children.

Cook pleaded guilty in September 2015 to automobile manslaughter and three other criminal charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

She now has asked the judge in the case to change how she serves that sentence, allowing the prison time for two of the charges to be served concurrently rather than consecutively, the Baltimore Sun reports.  That could knock two years off her time in prison, and when combined with credits for participation in prison programs, her new release date could be moved up to Nov. 5, according to the Sun. Otherwise, she would become eligible for release next August.

This isn’t the first time Cook has sought release from prison.

The Maryland Parole Commission denied her May 2017 request for parole after a hearing at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, where Cook, 61, has been serving her sentence since October 2015. In May of this year, she was denied her request to serve the rest of her sentence on home detention.

She also asked in July to participate in a daytime work release program.

“Each of Cook’s attempts to reduce her sentence traumatizes my sister and her family anew,” Alisa Rock, Palermo’s sister-in-law, told the Sun. “It’s maddening … This trauma will affect them all for the rest of their lives, and it’s only appropriate that Heather Cook serve out her original sentence, not only for killing Tom, but for leaving him there, for abdicating responsibility for what she did.”

In the aftermath of Cook’s crime, the Episcopal Church began to take a deeper look at the way it handles impairment. The recent 79th General Convention passed three resolutions that speak to issues surrounding leadership impairment due to alcohol and substance misuse and behavioral addictions.

The resolutions take effect Jan. 1. One of the resolutions calls for mandatory training on alcohol, substance misuse and other forms of addiction for those in the ordination process and for all priests and deacons.

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Episcopal leaders, congregations offer pastoral responses in wake of Kavanaugh hearings

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 1:34pm

[Episcopal News Service] With Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court potentially on track for a final vote in the Senate as soon as this weekend, some Episcopal leaders are adding their voices to the ecumenical response to Kavanaugh’s hearings and the sexual assault allegations against the judge.

The National Council of Churches, of which the Episcopal Church is a member, issued a statement Oct. 3 calling on President Donald Trump to withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination because of his testimony during the hearings and his judicial record.

“Judge Kavanaugh exhibited extreme partisan bias and disrespect towards certain members of the committee and thereby demonstrated that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character essential for a member of the highest court in our nation,” the Council of Churches said.

The statement referred to testimony Sept. 27 in which Kavanaugh vehemently denied allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who had testified earlier in the day that Kavanaugh had pinned her down and tried to remove her clothes at a house party when he was 17 and she was 15. Kavanaugh, now 53, called this and other allegations “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” by Democrats.

The Council of Churches also raised concerns about “several misstatements and some outright falsehoods” in Kavanaugh’s testimony. “Moreover, Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive judicial and political record is troubling with regard to issues of voting rights, racial and gender justice, health care, the rights of people with disabilities, and environmental protections.”

Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde issued her own statement about the hearings on Oct. 2, highlighting the regrettable prevalence of sexual assault and offering pastoral support for victims.

“Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony last week opened another floodgate of memories for women and men who have experienced sexual trauma,” Budde said. “Many now feel emboldened to tell of their experiences, and thank God for that. Others do not because they know it’s not safe.”

Budde also referred to the Episcopal Church’s efforts to atone for its past failures to protect victims of harassment, exploitation and abuse, including those within the church. The church’s efforts have coincided with the rise of the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with their own stories of harassment, assault and sexual misconduct, including by prominent men.

The House of Bishops held a “Liturgy of Listening” in Austin, Texas, on July 4 during the 79th General Convention to share stories from victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by someone in the church, chosen from 40 stories submitted in response to the bishops’ request for reflections.

“Added to their trauma was shame,” Budde said this week, “for they were both violated and left to feel somehow at fault for what had happened to them.”

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Posted by Episcopal Diocese of Washington on Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Kavanaugh, a federal Court of Appeals judge, had appeared headed for easy confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate, with supporters describing him as one of the most qualified nominees to be picked for the nation’s highest court. The allegations made by Blasey Ford threw the confirmation into question, with two more women coming forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when he was young. Kavanaugh denied all the allegations.

Republicans need to be nearly unified in the Senate to approve Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. After pressure from Democrats and one key Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Senate Republicans asked for a supplementary FBI investigation into the allegations against the judge. The report from that investigation was completed and submitted to the Senate on Oct. 4, setting up a procedural vote on Oct. 5. A final vote could come in a matter of days.

It wasn’t yet clear what evidence, if any, the FBI may have found. “We’ve seen no additional corroborating information,” Flake told reporters Oct. 4.

“I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” Budde said. “I also believe that Judge Kavanaugh, like anyone who stands accused, deserves a fair process in response to such allegations. Regardless of whether Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment is ultimately confirmed, I am certain that the country will look back on these past weeks as a watershed moment. We will long remember the time when survivors like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and others inspired by her bravery resolved to speak of their abuse and hold the perpetrators of sexual violence accountable.”

Delaware Bishop Kevin Brown also released a statement Oct. 3 offering support for victims of sexual assault.

“All of this very public conversation has heightened our awareness around sexual assault and it has led us into a time of much needed and long overdue debate and conversation about sexual assault in our country,” Brown said. “For many of us, the conversation is about someone else, but for many of us, this is not an abstraction. This is a reality. The percentage of Americans touched by sexual assault is stunningly high.”

Some Episcopal congregations have responded to this heightened awareness by planning worship and other outreach to offer comfort for victims and those who support them.

All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia, scheduled a Service of Lament and Remembrance at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 to “offer a shared space for those who have been particularly affected in a personal way by the events of the last week in Washington during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing,” the Rev. Simon Mainwaring, rector, said in an online announcement.

“We recognize that these are pain-filled memories that we are seeking to tend to, yet we believe that as a community that knows how to love one another well we can draw strength from one another,” Mainwaring said.

A worship service to be held at held at All Saints' Episcopal Church on Thursday is a response to last week’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings involving Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. https://t.co/rmGF5f3Z6i

— Atlanta News (@AtlNewsNow) October 3, 2018

Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is preparing a video response for sexual assault survivors, with the message, “Our doors are open.” The congregation hopes to release the video in the next day or two.

Last week, the hearings also sparked a more pointed response from hundreds of female Episcopal clergy members, who objected to quotes in a Sept. 17 New York Times story by former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, expressing sympathy for Kavanaugh.

“I just feel so terribly sorry for Kavanaugh and what he’s going through,” Danforth, a Missouri Republican, told the Times. “Here’s a man who’s had just a marvelous reputation as a human being and now it’s just being trashed. I felt the same way about Clarence.” Danforth was a senator during the 1991 confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, who faced sexual harassment allegations from law professor Anita Hill.

“No one, not least a priest of the church, should publicly shame, blame or question the motives of women who step forward to report instances of sexual abuse,” the letter to the New York Times says. It was submitted by a Missouri priest with 327 additional names attached.

“Those in ordained ministry are called to display Christ’s love for both accuser and accused, fulfilling the baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being.”

Danforth shot back in an email to Episcopal News Service, saying the letter’s characterizations “bear no resemblance to anything I have ever said or thought. … I believe that both the accused and the accuser should be heard.”

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

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Anglican Church of Southern Africa adopts provincial safeguarding measures

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 5:40pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba has announced new safeguarding measures designed to make churches in South Africa safer. The new measures will require those seeking ordination to obtain a police clearance certificate; and they include a new national email contact point for reporting allegations of abuse. The move follows a number of allegations made this year of abuse by priests.

Read the full article here.

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Anglican leaders pay tribute following death of Coptic bishop

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 5:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop Metropolitan Bishoy from the Coptic Orthodox Church, the co-chair of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission, has died. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby led tributes from Anglican leaders, saying that he was “saddened” to hear of the death of “a faithful servant of God.” Welby added, “it was a privilege to meet him in Cairo and London.”

Read the full article here.

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Celebran en Honolulu Consulta Nacional del Ministerio Asioamericano

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 8:25am

De izquierda a derecha, el Rdo. Winfred Vergara, misionero asioamericano de la Iglesia Episcopal; el Rvdmo. Allen K. Shin, Obispo sufragáneo de la Diócesis de Nueva York; el Rdo. Randolph Albano, vicario de la iglesia episcopal de San Pablo en Honolulu y Rosa Galanto, miembro de San Pablo, posan para una autofoto, el 27 de septiembre, antes de la eucaristía de apertura de la Consulta Nacional del Ministerio Asioamericano. La consulta se extendió hasta el 1 de octubre. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Honolulu] La diáspora asiática no se define fácilmente; “Asia” puede significar cualquier cosa desde chino a surcoreano, de filipino a indio. Cada etnia tiene su propia y rica identidad cultural, y muchas tienen diversos dialectos y culturas dentro de esa identidad.

Como se hizo evidente en la eucaristía de apertura de la Consulta Nacional del Ministerio Episcopal Asioamericano, del 27 al 1 de octubre, muchas de esas culturas e identidades están presentes en las iglesias episcopales y anglicanas.

“Hay casi 300 personas que vienen aquí provenientes de varias comunidades asiáticas, no sólo de Estados Unidos, sino que tenemos representantes de Vancouver [Columbia Británica] que se sienten inspirados por la labor del Ministerio Asioamericano Episcopal”, dijo el Rdo. Winfred Vergara, el misionero asioamericano de la Iglesia Episcopal y codirector de la consulta. “Hemos formado un ACAM, Ministerio Anglicano Asiocanadiense y hay representantes de la Iglesia de Inglaterra que también quieren tener una organización semejante en Inglaterra. Luego, me siento realmente esperanzado y entusiasta acerca de esto.

El Rdo. Winfred Vergara, misionero asioamericano de la Iglesia Episcopal, y codirector de la Consulta Nacional del Ministerio Episcopal Asioamericano, se dirige a la multitud que abarrota la iglesia catedral de San Andrés en Honolulu. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

“Nuestro tema es ‘Piko,’ la palabra hawaiana para ‘ombligo’, que representa nuestra mutua interconexión: Cristo, la creación y la comunidad”, dijo Vergara. En un sentido literal, agregó, piko  describe la creencia de que “la creación comenzó desde el centro de la tierra y se abrió camino en todas direcciones”.

La matrícula llegó a 267 participantes que representaban a asiáticos de Estados Unidos, Canadá, Inglaterra, Corea del Sur y las Filipinas. Durante la eucaristía de apertura, la Oración de los Fieles se ofreció en nueve idiomas —mandarín, tagalo, japonés, coreano, hindi, karénico, tongano, hmong e inglés—, una representación de las diversas etnias presentes.

El obispo primado Michael Curry predicó  a una nutrida congregación en la eucaristía de apertura el 27 de septiembre en la iglesia catedral de San Andrés [Cathedral Church of St. Andrew]. El Rvdmo. Allen K. Shin, obispo sufragáneo de la Diócesis de Nueva York, presidió el oficio. La ofrenda se destinó a la Iglesia Episcopal de las Filipinas para ayudar a las personas afectadas por el tifón Mangkhut, una gigantesca tormenta que azotó la isla de Luzón con lluvias torrenciales y vientos de hasta 265 kilómetros por hora el 15 de septiembre de 2018 con el saldo de más de 100 muertos y cientos de miles de personas desplazadas de sus hogares.

“Yo creo realmente que lo que ustedes están haciendo, que este ministerio… —la reunión de la comunidad asiomericana dondequiera que ustedes se encuentren, congregarse como parte de la manera episcopal-anglicana de ser cristianos—  que esta reunión tiene más significación que simplemente venir a una reunión de la Iglesia”, dijo el Obispo Primado durante su sermón en la eucaristía de apertura.

“Estamos en el negocio… de la auténtica evangelización. Esto no es sectarismo; la verdadera evangelización no consiste en hacer a una Iglesia más grande. La  verdadera evangelización consiste en hacer un mundo mejor. La verdadera evangelización tiene que ver con lo que nuestros antepasados esclavos decían cuando solían cantar, ‘hay espacio de sobra, espacio de sobra, espacio de sobra en el reino perfecto’.

El obispo primado Michael Curry predica el 27 de septiembre en la eucaristía de apertura de la Consulta Nacional del Ministerio Asioamericano Episcopal en Honolulu. Foto de Christopher Sikkema

“Espacio de sobra para todos los hijos de Dios. La verdadera evangelización consiste en cambiar este mundo de la pesadilla que tan a menudo es por el sueño que Dios previó desde el momento en que dijo que todas las cosas fueran en el principio”, dijo Curry.

Curry se refirió a la boda real de junio, donde él predicó acerca del amor de Jesús por el mundo, y cómo el amor de dos personas reunió a un público de 2.000 millones para ser testigos de ese amor.

Durante el oficio, presentaron al programa ANDREWS y su primer grupo de mentores.

ANDREWS, una sigla en inglés de Red Asiomericana de Discípulos,  Avivadores, Evangelistas, Testigos y Líderes Siervos, es un programa de mentoría de la Oficina del Ministerio Asioamericano en asociación con  el Consejo Episcopal del Ministerio Asioamericano y el proyecto Progresando en el Ministerio [Thriving in Ministry] del Seminario Teológico de Virginia.

El objetivo de ANDREWS es desarrollar una red de mentores y hacedores de discípulos bien capacitados entre las convocaciones étnicas del EAM —china, japonesa, coreana, filipina, surasiática e isleña del Pacífico. Rice and Sing [Arroz y cántico], una antología de diversos himnos y cánticos espirituales de cultura asiática, está en proceso de desarrollo, así como [cursos] de formación presencial y virtual.

“Tenemos grandes planes para el programa de mentoría. Queremos desarrollar 70 episcopales bien entrenados para llevar a cabo evangelización y fundación de iglesias” y avivamiento de iglesias, dijo Vergara —temas que se exploraron a través de las lentes del Movimiento de Jesús y el Camino del Amor el 28 de septiembre durante la sesión plenaria de apertura.

La Rda. Stephanie Spellers, canóniga del Obispo Primado para la evangelización, la reconciliación y la mayordomía de la creación, habló acerca de su trayectoria para recuperar el cristianismo, una senda que la llevó a la filosofía religiosa oriental antes de volver al cristianismo y recobrar a Jesús, algo que la Iglesia Episcopal está haciendo ahora, dijo ella.

Mientras crecía, ella no quería tener mucha relación con Jesucristo, dijo Spellers. “El cristianismo era exclusivo y estaba repleto de doctrinas, reglas y rígidos sistemas de creencia, y Jesús era una especie de rey y juez que señoreaba sobre todo eso”, expresó Spellers. No había ninguna otra manera de presentarlo.

La Rda. Stephanie Spellers, canóniga del Obispo Primado para la evangelización, la reconciliación y la mayordomía de la creación, habla durante la sesión plenaria del 28 de septiembre acerca de su propia trayectoria para recobrar el cristianismo. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Luego, ella terminó estudiando en el departamento religioso de la Universidad de Wake Forest en Carolina del Norte, una escuela de los bautistas del Sur. Sus estudios la iniciaron en una senda espiritual diferente, centrada en la práctica y en una manera de ser y de vivir. Finalmente, luego de haber profundizado en las tradiciones orientales, ella volvió al cristianismo, cuando una monja budista de San Francisco le dijo que recobrara el cristianismo.

“Es como lo que estamos haciendo en la Iglesia Episcopal ahora mismo”, dijo Spellers. “Estamos recobrando el cristianismo no como un rígido sistema de creencias, una serie de doctrinas y de qué hacer y qué no hacer; estamos ciertamente recobrando el cristianismo como una comunidad que enaltece a todo el mundo, no sólo a unos cuantos, pero creo que lo que estamos haciendo especialmente hoy es recobrar la manera de ser cristiano como seguidores de Jesús en un camino, en una senda. Y esa es la interpretación …que tengo de lo que es el Movimiento de Jesús.

“Y en realidad, el Movimiento de Jesús es simplemente la comunidad de personas que dice, ‘estoy siguiendo a Jesús, estoy siguiendo su senda, estoy siguiendo su camino’. Él nos ha mostrado un camino —un camino de amor— y quiero que ese sea mi camino. Quiero cambiar. Quiero ver cambiada mi vida, y quiero ser parte de cambiar este mundo por ese camino”.

La consulta incluye dos días de talleres, que se transmiten en directo y pueden verse a solicitud aquí.

Los temas de los talleres incluyen asuntos relativos a soberanía hawaiana, identidad y reconciliación, vivir en una comunidad restaurada a través de la danza hawaiana, tráfico antihumano (misión para ponerle fin a la esclavitud moderna), evangelización en la nueva comunidad y hacia la paz en la comunidad. Los dos temas adicionales de las sesiones plenarias son Convertirse en la Amada Comunidad y el cuidado de la tierra y de toda la creación. La consulta concluyo el 1 de octubre cuando Vergara predicó en la eucaristía de clausura.

– Lynette Wilson es reportera y jefa de redacción de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

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Epiphany Church in Los Angeles seeks support in national preservation funds competition

Tue, 10/02/2018 - 6:40pm

United Farm Workers founder César Chávez preaches at Church of the Epiphany, Los Angeles, in the 1960s. Epiphany hosted early meetings of UFW, and Chavez was a frequent visitor there. Photo: Courtesy of Church of the Epiphany

[Episcopal News Service] Church of the Epiphany in Los Angeles, the oldest continuously occupied Episcopal church in the city and a cradle of the 1960s Chicano movement, has an opportunity to raise up to $150,000 for restoration work and needs Episcopalians and others to cast votes in its favor.

Epiphany is one of 20 historic sites nationwide selected as finalists in a grant competition that launched Sept. 24, and it is the only Episcopal site in the running. Produced jointly by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street America and American Express and backed by National Geographic, the 2018 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets program will provide a total of $1.6 million in preservation funding to the projects that receive the most votes from the public.

Anyone can vote online up to once a day through Oct. 26. Each person may cast up to five votes per day; all of them may go to the same organization, so a participant may give all five daily votes to Church of the Epiphany. To participate, click here. Voters will need to create an account; there is no charge.

Church of the Epiphany, Los Angeles, is pictured in 1913, soon after its new building, designed by Arthur Benton, was completed. The original church, designed by Ernest Coxhead – visible at left – became the parish hall. Photo: Courtesy of Church of the Epiphany

Church of the Epiphany was founded in 1888 in what was then a middle-class white neighborhood of Los Angeles. English architect Ernest Coxhead designed the original Romanesque Revival church. In 1913, when the congregation outgrew the original building, architect Arthur Benton designed a new church in a mixture of styles that included Gothic Revival, Mission Revival and Romanesque Revival. The existing church was converted to the parish hall and incorporated into the new building. Although Epiphany is considered one of the city’s historic treasures, its buildings need extensive repair after more than a century of constant use.

Epiphany’s neighborhood gradually changed in the 1950s and ’60s from white to Latino immigrants, and under the leadership of the Rev. John Luce, the church began to welcome its new neighbors. Epiphany became a Latino cultural center, where Mexican food, dance and religious practices were welcomed even as they were discouraged in schools and society.

Luce, an East Coast-bred white priest, took on the cause of Chicano rights as his own as soon as he arrived at the church. “Father John Luce was our patron saint,” said Moctezuma Esparza, a community activist and filmmaker, quoted in an April 2018 story by Los Angeles public television station KCET. “He offered us his church, his basement for us to meet and to hang out. He took us on the march from Delano to Sacramento.”

In the 1960s Epiphany was the birthplace of La Raza, a newspaper for the Chicano movement; Luce provided space in the parish basement and bankrolled early issues.

Epiphany also served as an early meeting place for the Brown Berets, a Chicano student activist group whose leaders trained at the Social Action Training center founded at the church by Luce.

Church of the Epiphany celebrates its patronal festival on Jan. 6, 2013. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

United Farm Workers founders César Chávez and Dolores Huerta were frequent visitors to the church, which hosted some of the union’s early meetings and was for some years its Los Angeles headquarters. Epiphany was also a planning base for the 1968 East L.A. student walkouts and Chicano Moratorium, events that helped build Latino political and social influence in Los Angeles. Luce and his parishioners also were leaders in the establishment of the United Neighborhoods Organization, a community advocacy group. Church member and longtime Latina activist Lydia Lopez became its president.

The church continues to be a center for activism on behalf of immigrants, workers and LGBTQ people, as well as a vital hub of direct services in its Lincoln Heights neighborhood. It was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2005. The Epiphany Conservation Trust was established soon after to raise funds to preserve the church and maintain its ministry. The potential $150,000 from the Partners in Preservation Fund would be an enormous boost, according to Epiphany’s current vicar, the Rev. Tom Carey.

Dolores Huerta, center, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, was guest of honor at an Epiphany Conservation Trust gala in 2017. The church hosted many of the union’s early meetings and was for a time its Los Angeles headquarters. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

“If we succeed, we’ll use the grant funds to rehabilitate the church’s basement, where much of the Chicano movement was organized,” said Carey. “The renovated space will house our health care and legal clinic programs, our People’s History Project and community meetings. The grant will also bolster a capital campaign already underway to not only preserve our history, but to keep Epiphany on the vanguard of redefining how the church as an institution can fuel social justice advocacy, service provision and cultural and artistic expression.”

–Janet Kawamoto is editor of The Episcopal News, publication of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

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