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‘Heartbroken’ bishops back South Sudan peace move

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 1:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican leaders in Africa are sponsoring a church-led initiative to end the conflict in South Sudan. The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa has invited South Sudanese church leaders to Zambia next month to press for the guns to be silenced.

Full article.

Teaching bishops to be bishops

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 10:35am

One of the goals of the College for Bishops is to connect new bishops. Diocese of Spokane Bishop Gretchen Rehberg (ordained March 18), left, and Diocese of Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe (ordained Dec. 3) and Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows (ordained April 29) share conversation after lunch on June 14. They were at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia, for the 2017 session of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] How do you learn to be a bishop? For most of the Episcopal Church’s life, new bishops learned on the job with little or no outside help.

It’s only in the last 24 years that the church has had a formal process for such learning. That process, run by the College for Bishops, is about to undergo a major transition.

Bishop F. Clayton Matthews, who leads the college in his role as the head of the presiding bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development, will retire June 30. He served in that role since 1998.

Matthews led the formation of the College for Bishops’ three-year program for new bishops, known as Living Our Vows, in 2004. The college also provides continuing education offerings for all bishops. Living Our Vows was developed after a multi-year study of bishops’ needs. The resulting program is designed to help bishops grow spiritually, vocationally and in “their capacity to provide the kind of leadership that the Church needs for the mission of Jesus to which we are called,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said.

The College for Bishops will leave the pastoral development office with Matthews when he retires. He will report to Curry and direct the college’s formation mission for another two years on a part-time basis.

Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley succeeds Matthews as head of the pastoral development office on July 5. That office will continue to support the House of Bishops and the presiding bishop with pastoral care of bishops, their families and diocesan systems; and mediation in Title IV disciplinary matters.

The College for Bishops has been part of the Office of Pastoral Development until now. However, its status within the governance structure of the Episcopal Church changed in 2010. The House of Bishops unanimously voted to incorporate it as a separate nonprofit entity. Matthews explained that the college is now owned by the House of Bishops. It has a $6 million endowment, according to Matthews.

All of the changes come as the Task Force on the Episcopacy considers the election, appointment, roles and responsibilities of the church’s bishops. General Convention asked in 2015 for the study. It also charged the task force with proposing to the 2018 convention a new process for discernment, nomination, formation, search, election and transition of bishops.

Some members of the Task Force on the Episcopacy are challenging the ownership of the college and the fact that it reports directly to the presiding bishop.

Participants in the 2017 session of Living Our Vows, the College for Bishops’ three-year formation program for new bishops, discuss (via teleconference) author Donna Hicks’ research about the role of dignity in conflict resolution. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Living Our Vows – sometimes known around the church as “Baby Bishop School” – consists mainly of an annual one-week “residency” meeting. Some of the classes offered during the week are geared to whether a participant is a first-, second- or third-year bishop. They run the gamut from canon law to leadership training to dealing with the media. Bishops debrief each other on incidents that have occurred in their dioceses, offering them as a chance for all to learn.

A so-called “Hats and Sticks” session teaches bishops what to do with their miter and crozier, and when to do it. There is a session on the liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer at which only a bishop presides: confirmation and ordinations.

Bishops listen June 14 as Mary Kostel, special counsel to the presiding bishop for property litigation and discipline, explains the Episcopal Church’s clergy discipline canon, known as Title IV. The session was part of Living Our Vows, the College for Bishops’ three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Building community is another goal of Living Our Vows. Beginning with a gathering of new bishops and their spouses each January, the college connects bishops elected around the same time. Some so-called “classes” are large – the 2017 one has 12 – while some are small, such as the Class of 2015 with four. Twenty-five bishops participated in the 2017 session, held June 12-16 at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia.

“You realize that you’re not alone,” said the Rt. Rev. Gretchen Rehberg, who became the bishop of Spokane in mid-March. The program, she said, is beginning to teach her to whom to turn for help in doing what she called “a singular job.”

Puerto Rico Bishop-elect Rafael Morales Maldonado said his first session of Living Our Vows comes at a “providential” time. He will be ordained as a bishop on July 22.

The Class of 2017 also includes bishops and bishops-elect from Central New York, Indianapolis, Northern Indiana, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Spokane and Western North Carolina, as well as the church’s federal ministries bishop and three from Toronto in the Anglican Church of Canada. That diversity is “a treasure for me,” Morales said.

“In many cases, their experiences are similar but in different contexts,” he said.

Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutierrez, center left, shares a smile with Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor-Elect John Taylor, center right, during the June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows. Presenter Matthew Sheep (striped shirt), Central Gulf Coast Bishop Russell Kendrick (light blue shirt back to camera), Eastern Oregon Bishop Patrick Bell and Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries Carl Wright were also part of the group. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Quebec Bishop Bruce Myers, in the Class of 2016, represents a growing trend for the college: welcoming bishops from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. There are currently four Canadian bishops participating. And the session at Roslyn was the last for El Salvador Bishop David Alvarado from the Anglican Province of Central America.

Myers said the college is giving him “some intentional formation around what becoming a bishop and serving in the order of bishops is all about.” That work happens with the Canadian bishops in the program (there is no such training in Canada), as well as Episcopal Church bishops.

“In a way, this is a great leveling place and we find the common ground of our episcopal ministry,” he said.

Living Our Vows pairs new bishops with a “peer coach” bishop. Myers’ is Bishop Steve Lane of Maine, whose diocese forms a common border with Quebec.

The Canadian bishops might, he said, bring to the college “a glimpse of a church that’s similar in many ways, shares a common territory and common context in many ways, but is dealing with those realities, perhaps, in slightly different ways simply because of our circumstances,” he said

For example, the abusive legacy of the residential school system obligates Myers’ church to find ways to “walk together with indigenous Anglican and indigenous Canadians outside the church in meaningful and appropriate ways.” That work might be an example to the Episcopal Church bishops, he said.

Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Alan Gates speaks to Bishop F. Clayton Matthews, right, and retired Bishop Suffragan Terry Dance of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Huron, during a June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Massachusetts Bishop Alan Gates, who finished Living Our Vows with the recent session, said the college is valuable in two ways. First is the content. “There is no training track for bishops in advance of election because our polity, our theology, suggests that we don’t know in advance who will be called to be a bishop,” he said.

Second, he said, “it would be hard to overstate the importance” of the creating support networks, he said, noting that many bishops work alone in their dioceses without bishop suffragans or assistants.

“It’s widely misconstrued as a kind of exclusive attitude that bishops would feel the need for more time together,” he said. “But, for me, that’s not what’s driving it. It really is a yearning for that kind of support, knowing and being known by others who face the particular challenges of this.”

Collegiality in the House of Bishops is one of the college’s goals. In an interview with Episcopal News Service (available here), Matthews said the atmosphere in the house when he began his work was “toxic” and one of “total distrust.” This stemmed mainly from the wider church’s debate about the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, he said.

“We had to create an atmosphere where there was more respect within the house for the context in which bishops worked,” he said.

The presiding bishop said the plan is working. “I have seen it in the 17 years that I have been a bishop,” he said. “I have seen real development and real growth in our capacity to be a community of bishops and spouses that is real and genuine.”

“I’ve seen the impact of that in the house in terms of our increased capacity to be able to navigate complex and sometimes difficult terrain in decision-making as a community and still maintain relationships that bind us together,” he said.

The college helps bishops be “more deeply faithful and effective in the performance of our duties and in the living out of our episcopal ministry,” the presiding bishop said.

A bishop’s work and ministry are different from that of a priest, Curry said, recalling that an older bishop told him that when he first became a bishop he was really changing careers.

The college faces a great challenge in forming bishops who can help lead the Episcopal Church into becoming a branch of the Jesus Movement, he said. The coming question is how to train bishops so they can provide spiritual leadership to the church so it can “bear witness to a way of being Christians that actually looks something like Jesus of Nazareth?”

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle, a member of the college’s board of directors, sets up the June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The presiding bishop chairs the college’s board of directors and nominates its members. Of the 19 current members, 14 are male bishops, four are lay people and one is a priest. The priest and one of the lay members are bishops’ wives.

In the next two years, Matthews said, he hopes he is “not having to spend all of my energy defending the right of the college to exist.”

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, a task force member, said he and others are not concerned about the existence of the college, but about its governance. If all orders of the church elect bishops, then the board of the entity charged with forming bishops ought to better represent all those orders.

Hall said that making the college a separate entity worries some on the task force because the curriculum and the logistics of the programs were developed when the college was part of the church. That intellectual property left the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the name under which church is incorporated) when the college separately incorporated, Hall contended.

He sees nothing nefarious in the college’s effort.

“I think that the desire to make it a [nonprofit entity] was a desire to protect it financially, and nobody really thought through the implications of that in terms of the legal issues or the governance issues or accountability to the whole church.”

However, the move points to an attitude that Hall called “episcopal exceptionalism.”

“The culture of bishops in my working life has become much more distinct from the culture of the rest of the church,” he said.

This has happened in the same years that the church has moved to an understanding of baptism as being the “fundamental commissioning of ministry.”

“The culture of the episcopacy has gone in exactly the opposite direction,” said Hall, who was ordained in 1977. An insular formation process contributes to that trajectory, he added.

A bishop’s job is getting harder, Hall said, and he believes they need “all the professional education and support that they can get. That’s not the issue. The issue is we all have a stake in the education and wellness of bishops.”

The task force is due to make its proposals to General Convention via a “Blue Book” report sometime early next year. The suggestions will be debated during the July 5-13, 2018, meeting in Austin, Texas.

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

Q&A: Bishop F. Clayton Matthews on helping shape the House of Bishops

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 10:34am

Bishop Clay Matthews and Betsy Jutras, College for Bishops administrative assistant and events coordinator, set up a projector for a June 14 session of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] When Bishop F. Clayton “Clay” Matthews retires from the Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development on June 30, he will leave having made an indelible mark on the House of Bishops.

Matthews began that work in 1998. During that time, he refined and reshaped many of the office’s ministries. The office supports the bishops and the presiding bishop with episcopal formation and development; pastoral care of bishops, their families and diocesan systems; and mediation in Title IV disciplinary matters.

High on the list of duties is the College for Bishops, which provides a three-year cycle of training for new bishops, known as Living Our Vows, as well as continuing education for longer-serving bishops. He will continue in his role as the college’s managing director for the next two years. The transition will, he told Episcopal News Service, help the college choose a new leader who will report directly to the presiding bishop.

Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley will leave his diocesan post to succeed Matthews as head of the Office of Pastoral Development. He begins work on July 5.

During the 2017 session of Living Our Vows, Matthews spoke to ENS about his ministry.

What was the greatest challenge you faced in June 1998 when you began in the Office of Pastoral Development?

The greatest challenge was living into the breadth of the office while also honoring the hard work of responding to misconduct issues. Misconduct had dominated the last few years of Harold Hopkins’ tenure. Hoppy was having to do everything himself with the election processes, and the College for Bishops was having trouble getting participants into the program. [Presiding Bishop] Frank Griswold wanted to create a pool of consultants for election processes. That would free up time to address the lack of vision and resources for the [five-year-old] College for Bishops. Without consultants, they were canceling more programs than they were actually having, and it was totally supported by outside funding. The general church [budget] was not paying any of it.

Bishop F. Clayton Matthews

Age: 70
Home: New Bern, North Carolina
Education: Hampton Sydney College, B.A.; Virginia Theological Seminary. M. Div. and D.D
Ordained ministry: 1973 ordained priest; 1985 became canon to the ordinary in Diocese of Virginia; 1993 ordained bishop suffragan in Virginia; 1998 hired as bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development.

What were yours and the presiding bishop’s goals for this office when you began? How have those changed, if they have?

The goals were, one, to represent the next generation of bishops in the house because at that time I was young. The second was to create trained leaders who could extend the work of the office beyond the individual holding the office. The work is bigger than the person holding the office. The work of those cohorts was as consultants, teachers, therapists for interventions, advisors in Title IV disciplinary matters. None of those groups existed.

You have spent nearly 20 years doing this work. How have the issues that bishops face changed?

To answer that I have to say a little bit about what happened before 1998. Obviously, the General Convention in 1991 in Phoenix, there was a meltdown within the House of Bishops and there was a toxic environment and an atmosphere of total distrust. It was in response to that, partly, that in 1993 the college had its first embryonic days because it was just absolutely necessary. Then in 1994 the Church created its first uniform disciplinary canons. There was also the Lambeth Conference that took place in 1998 [during which] this Church felt betrayed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. That was the scene in which I came into.

In 1998, we knew we had to deal with the toxic environment. We had to create an atmosphere where there was more respect within the house for the context in which bishops worked. And the college had to change its focus so that more bishops would participate, and so that it was not just for new bishops but for all bishops. So we expanded the program. So we were offering programs such as “the bishop as pastor” or “the bishop as public person” so that any bishop could come to them, not just brand-new bishops. We still do this today.

In 2002 and 2003, we were in a period of bishops creating constitutional crises to challenge the Church. We had sessions of bishops [meeting] outside of the House of Bishops. We had to create Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight [for Episcopalians who felt their bishops’ stances on some issues meant they could not be their pastors]. And it was also when the college finished a three-year research project with the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] on what bishops needed coming into this office.

By the time we get to 2008, we’re into property issues; we’re into abandonment of communion by bishops. And we’re into a total reorganization of the College for Bishops to meet the needs of the Church. 2009 was the first time the General Convention supported the work of the College for Bishops. It’s also the convention when [many people on the church-wide staff] lost their jobs, so it was a huge matter.

By 2013, the atmosphere in the house was much less toxic. Many of the detractors had left the house and formed new churches. It was also the creation of the new Title IV [clergy disciplinary] canons and I became the intake officer for the Church [the person designated to receive reports of offenses by bishops]. The work there was overwhelming, just overwhelming because there was no governor on who could make a complaint and what a complaint consisted of. By then, the College for Bishops is robust; it’s in full bloom and functioning quite well with a board. We became incorporated in 2011 by unanimous vote of the House [of Bishops].

Now, 2017, it’s time for the next generation and hence to Todd [Ousley]. It’s time for the job description for the bishop of the Office of Pastoral Development to be examined and changed, which it has been. It’s time for college to see what it has in terms of its offerings to this Church and to the [Anglican] Communion. It’s a time of exploration.

What do you see on the horizon for bishops? What new issues are bubbling up?

Bishops are going to have to deal with increased expectations with fewer resources. That is going to be a huge issue. They’re going to be asked to have expertise in areas that are not part of their history. An example of that is support for small congregations. Most bishops do not come from small congregations.

And challenge is continued clarity of our corporate – and I don’t mean institutional, I mean whole body – responsibilities, care for one another, the haves and the have-nots.

There will also be challenges to our polity.

Bishop Clay Matthews, right, listens to Diocese of Massachusetts Bishop Alan Gates during a June 14 Bible study that was part of Living Our Vows, the college’s three-year formation program for new bishops. Retired Bishop Suffragan Terry Dance of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Huron, listens as well. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

There seems to be a sense that the members of the House of Bishops are more connected to each other, and that there is less tension in the house. From your perspective, is that the case and, if so, to what do you attribute that change?

There’s greater respect for the context in which bishops work, which informs our theology. Beforehand, there was little appreciation for the diversity of this Church and therefore little opportunity to understand the theology that grounded some decisions made by bishops based on their contexts, on where they worked and lived. [The House of Bishops] was more a theoretical debate society rather than a sense of understanding ministry on the ground.

The biggest disrupter was in 2003 when the House of Bishops gave its consent to the election of Gene Robinson [the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion]. It really tore at the fabric of the house. We had a group of bishops that got up and left. We had bishops who did not give consent but who stayed in the house. They are widely respected but who felt, because of their decision, ostracized. Within that [atmosphere] you had bishops who might have felt one way theologically but had to act another way because of the context in which they were exercising their ministry.

It was a very difficult period in 2003, 2004, 2005. It was all focused on the bishops giving consent. The deputies could go home and [for the bishops] it wasn’t quite the same. The bishops had to respond to the reaction of the people of their diocese. Of course, it was on both sides; every diocese, it was on both sides.

Today, there’s a greater sense of respect within the house for each other and for what they are having to address at home.

What would you like the wider church to know about the work and ministry of bishops?

I’d like for them to know or have the opportunity to experience the faithful, prayerful, respect each one has for their call. It goes so much deeper than how they’re seen in the trappings of the office; the faithful Christian trying to be the best bishop they can be for the church, rather than the role.

The problem, of course, with that is everybody’s had an experience with the role and they project that experience onto whoever holds the office. That’s one of the things that people who come [to the College for Bishops] to teach and have an experience like this, they can’t stop talking about what a pleasure it is to be able to hear how the bishops handle the content of what we’re trying to do. It’s hard to see when you’ve got somebody up there in these fine vestments that are all kingly and royal. It’s one thing to look at it from the outside; it’s another thing to live it.

What advice have you given your successor, Bishop Todd Ousley?

Trust his own instincts. Make what I did his own and get rid of the things that he doesn’t think are helpful. Accept the support that others will offer him. Be collaborative. Don’t get caught up in the bureaucracy. For example, when I first came into the office there was consideration of me being the chaplain to the Church Center [staff]. I said no. I have only been to one Executive Council meeting when asked. Don’t get caught up in the bureaucracy of the Church so you can do ministry. Be there when they need you, when they want you, but otherwise, you’ve got plenty to do.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

Diocese of San Joaquin notified of successful canonical consent process

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 12:04pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry and the registrar of General Convention, the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, have notified the Diocese of San Joaquin that Bishop David Rice has received the required consents, from both bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church, to become bishop diocesan. 

Bishop David Rice. Photo: Diocese of San Joaquin via Facebook

Under Canon III.11.3 (b), standing committees must “testify that we know of no impediment” which would cause them not to support a bishop-elect from being a bishop. Bishops exercising jurisdiction (essentially, bishops diocesan), either consent or do not. In each case, a majority is required for a bishop-elect to become bishop.

Since 2014, Bishop Rice has served as bishop with provisional charge and authority for the Diocese of San Joaquin (Canon III.13.1). Previously, he served as assistant bishop of San Joaquin and bishop in the Diocese of Waiapu in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia.

Bishop Rice was elected bishop diocesan of San Joaquin on March 4 and will be seated as bishop diocesan on Nov. 16; Presiding Bishop Curry will officiate at the service.

Previous ENS coverage: San Joaquin poised to take unusual step in bishop election

Director of next Lambeth Conference appointed

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:56am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion has announced the appointment of a chief executive officer for the 2020 Lambeth Conference, Phil George, currently executive director of the New Wine network of churches in the UK.

George has worked for New Wine for 14 years, following a 26-year career in corporate banking. He will take up his new post in September.

Full article.

Archbishop of Canterbury reacts to independent report on bishop misconduct

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:54am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Justin Welby has said an independent report into sexual misconduct by a disgraced Church of England bishop makes for “harrowing reading.” The Archbishop commissioned the report – “An Abuse of Faith” – after Bishop Peter Ball was convicted in 2015 of misconduct in public office and indecent assaults against teenagers and young men. Ball is a former bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester.

Full article.

Standing with Standing Rock taught Episcopalians about solidarity

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:30am

Some of the more than 3,000 pounds of flour, salvaged from the Oceti Sakowin Camp of water protectors near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, sits in the Rev. John Floberg’s Bismarck garage, awaiting a new home. Photo: John Floberg

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. John Floberg has more than 3,000 pounds of flour in his garage. Depending on your point of view, the bags symbolize either the Episcopal Church’s mission and ministry or the law of unintended consequences, or both.

Floberg, priest-in-charge of Episcopal congregations on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, salvaged the flour when the Oceti Sakowin Camp of water protectors near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was disbanded. It’s what is left after he and others distributed hundreds of bags to area food banks.

The Episcopal Church began standing with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in mid-2016 to support its struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Church supported the tribe’s claims of tribal sovereignty and the desire to protect its drinking water and culturally important lands.

Even for a church steeped in justice and reconciliation work, Episcopalians learned some lessons and were reminded of their calling to social justice work that is broad, deep and coordinated. The lessons can put the Church in good stead the next time it gets involved in advocacy on any scale.

Some lessons were theological; others were logistical. Some were both.

Episcopalians learned about the lengths to which they are called to reconcile with all peoples. They learned about listening and discerning before acting. The Church learned that standing in solidarity can come with unexpected costs.

“For us as a Church, what we are learning is what we already know; it’s just being affirmed for us, which is when we want to partner with communities whose health and livelihoods are being threatened, we really need listen to what it is they want and not presume that we know best,” said Heidi Kim, Episcopal Church’s staff officer for racial reconciliation.

The Rev. Bradley S. Hauff, Episcopal Church missioner for indigenous ministries, suggests Standing Rock reminded Episcopalians that “issues of justice, whether it’s political, economic, environmental, racially based injustice, must be priorities to our Church because it is what we do as followers of Christ.”

Local Episcopalians and, at times, Episcopalians from elsewhere, ministered to the locals and newcomers who joined the protest. The gathering drew members of close to 300 tribes in an unprecedented show of unity that resurrected the indigenous rights movement in the United States. Upwards of 6,000 to 10,000 people, indigenous and non-indigenous, were gathered along the river.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, left, superintending presbyter of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West), and the Rev. John Floberg, priest-in-charge of the Standing Rock Episcopal Mission on the North Dakota side, shortly after the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Photo: Paul Lebens-Englund

The pipeline crosses under Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River that flows along the eastern edge of Standing Rock. The tribe has water, treaty fishing and hunting rights in the lake. Sioux leaders repeatedly warned an oil spill would damage the reservation’s water supply and said the pipeline posed a threat to sacred sites and treaty rights.

The company that built the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe and better than transporting oil by truck or railcar. Oil began flowing through the entire 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline on June 1. The line will carry up to 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota – through South Dakota and Iowa – to Illinois, where it will be shipped to refineries.

Hauff said Episcopalians have learned they are called to such advocacy work “regardless of the outcome, regardless of whether we’re successful.” The tribe has not yet achieved its objective of getting permitting authorities to abide by its treaty rights and renegotiate a route to take the pipeline away from its drinking water.

“But, that doesn’t matter. We do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Hauff said. “We’re called to try. Whether we succeed or not is out of our hands. But we have to try and keep on trying to correct the flaws of the world, or at least point them out.”

Standing Rock’s story continues to unfold. On June 14, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg said the Corps needs to reconsider those issues. Whether Dakota Access must cease pipeline operations in the meantime is a separate question, which he has yet to consider.

‘Reputation’ and racism

When local resistance to the pipeline’s route began in April 2016, Floberg and other Episcopalians began discerning the Church’s place in the budding water-protection movement. They organized to help the tribe protect its sovereign rights and its drinking water.

Floberg, who has ministered with and to reservation residents for more than 20 years, repeatedly asked all Episcopalians to stand with the tribe. He urged them to avoid the other agendas that swirled over the Missouri River.

His behind-the-headlines work, along with a September visit by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Executive Council’s support, changed the Church’s reputation on Standing Rock.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks Sept. 24 at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“It is widely known that the Episcopal Church stepped in. It’s widely known that the Episcopal Church laid it out there and put its own life, its own reputation, out there alongside the tribe and all its members,” Floberg said.

Early on pipeline and law enforcement officials developed a disinformation campaign to discredit the protesters. They used “a lot of very provocative language,” Floberg said, referring to “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component.” The Intercept website recently reported that the pipeline company hired TigerSwan, a security firm founded by retired military special forces members, to lead that effort.

“Even when we were being discredited, even when the arrests rose into the hundreds, even 700, the Episcopal Church did not abandon its commitment and its public statements,” Floberg said. “That was critical.”

Some water protectors’ goals and tactics did not coincide with those of the Standing Rock Sioux, but, Floberg said, he knew the core was a peaceful movement. “I also knew the state of North Dakota was using tactics that were escalating the whole thing, and now there is evidence out there in public,” he said of TigerSwan’s report involvement.

The Rev. Lauren Stanley, supervising presbyter on the neighboring Rosebud Reservation in northwestern South Dakota, said the Church had been making “a huge difference with relations between whites and natives.” But, she said, “Standing Rock brought out the worst of the racism,” she said. It was hard to find allies among the non-native population in the Dakotas.

Floberg belongs to a fledgling ecumenical clergy group that seeks to address the persistent racism.

More than 500 interfaith witnesses march north along Highway 1806 Nov. 3 to the Backwater Bridge where they formed a Niobrara Circle of Life. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“To be able to stand up for native rights, which nobody pays attention to in this country at all, galvanized this Church to say, ‘Yes, this is a baptismal covenant moment,’” Stanley said. “Are we going to respect the dignity of every single human being, are we going to work for justice and peace, or aren’t we?”

Standing with Standing Rock turned out to be risky to the Episcopal Church’s reputation, even among its own members. “We learned that some people in the Church – and this is probably not a new learning for the Episcopal Church at all – can’t tolerate the Church taking a position that is contrary to their personal one,” Floberg said. “So, we lost some people in the Episcopal Church in North Dakota based on this. I know that we lost some in Minot, we lost some in Bismarck.”

Advocacy through action, not just words

Yet, that involvement impressed others. People who aren’t churchgoers, especially indigenous people, were not used to seeing Christians in solidarity with native people. For Episcopalians to stand with Standing Rock activists who were not only not Episcopalian, but not Christian, “meant the world to people who are involved in these battles,” Hauff said.

For the Rev. Brandon Mauai, a deacon on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and one of the organizers of the Episcopal Church’s response, the emerging solidarity between the Church and indigenous people held a powerful lesson.

“Not only did we stand with the people of Standing Rock and all native nations, but also, we were able to stand amongst them as a Church and to tell them we, the Episcopal Church and many other denominations, have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery,” Mauai said.

The Episcopal Church in 2009 renounced the document issued in 1493 that purported to give Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and convert the people they encountered. During an interfaith gathering of more than 500 clergy on Standing Rock on Nov. 3, ministers burned a copy of the document near the Oceti Sakowin Camp’s scared fire.

Religious leaders representing Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists and others read their faith’s repudiations of the Doctrine of Discovery. Then they gave a copy of the 15th century document that gave Christian explorers the right to claim the lands they discovered to elders in Oceti Sakowin Camp and asked them to burn it. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“General Convention can pass resolution after resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and that is all fine and dandy, but not every native person is an Episcopalian,” Mauai said. “To be in their presence and symbolically burn this piece of paper and tell them that we don’t believe in this document and that we are here for you, it meant a lot.”

As a native person and as an Episcopal deacon, Mauai said, the ashes of that document symbolized the beginning of something that has needed to happen.

“It is our duty to go out there and make it known, and act in such a way that we’re compassionate and wanting to reconcile for anything that our ancestors of the previous churches might have done,” he said.

Listening before acting

The Church’s stand with Standing Rock gave Episcopalians a way to “put their Baptismal Covenant vows into action in a way that is desperately needed in this country,” Stanley contends.

Yet, it was important for Episcopalians to not assume they knew exactly how to act out those vows on Standing Rock. They needed to listen to what the people there needed from the Church and, Hauff said, what they did not need.

They need to learn that “not all indigenous people are of the same mind on all issues” and many are politically and theologically conservative, he said.

Carmen Goodhouse, a full-blood Hunkpapa Lakota and a third-generation Episcopalian, speaks with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during a listening time Sept. 24 at Oceti Sakowin Camp. South Dakota Bishop John Tarrant is beside Curry. The Rev. John Floberg, behind Curry, arranged the session. Floberg is supervising priest of the Episcopal churches on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock Reservation. Former Executive Council member the Rev. Brandon Mauai, left of Floberg, also welcomed Curry to the camp. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Many tribal members recognized the economic benefit that would flow during the pipeline’s construction and its management, he and Kim said. They were not universally opposed to fossil fuels or to oil pipelines.

All the Sioux Nation wanted, Kim said, was to protect its drinking water the way people in Bismarck did. They objected to the pipeline coming too close to the capital city’s water supply, and the Corps change the route.

Some environmental activists used the pipeline to protest any use of fossil fuels, Hauff said. That made for conflicting agendas and tactics, some enacted by people who indulged in what Kim called a self-congratulatory attitude about being activists “on the reservation.”

The Episcopal Church was just one of many groups that got involved with Standing Rock. “We had no control over what all the other groups did, but we had control over ourselves and I think we did well,” Hauff said.

Kim said that Floberg’s leadership on Standing Rock epitomized the Church’s role and can be a guide to future advocacy.

“One of the things I liked about how John [Floberg] organized the clergy and lay folks coming to Standing Rock was that it was just prayer – prayer and peaceful demonstration,” Kim said of the Nov. 3 gathering. Some clergy from other denominations traveled north to Bismarck later that day, determined to get arrested to show their commitment. Floberg consistently counseled against such demonstrations.

Oceti Sakowin camp spreads out in late January along land near where the Missouri River meets the Cannonball River. North Dakota Highway 1806 run across the top of the photo. Photo: Oceti Sakowin via Facebook

Ministry of presence in practical form

Along with advocacy and solidarity, the Church had a nitty-gritty and practical ministry of presence.

St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, one of the churches Floberg serves, offered an inside place to meet. Its kitchen and working Wi-Fi were bonuses. The Episcopal Church flag flew in Oceti Sakowin Camp. The area it marked was known as a welcoming place.

To anticipate where they were needed, Floberg and others watched what was happening and listened to what was being said, including on social media. They soon realized the camp needed portable toilets and dumpsters. Episcopalians told the rest of the Church that they wanted to help the tribe pay for them. People donated money.

Episcopalians could not anticipate other needs so clearly. Floberg said ministry on Standing Rock “would have always been behind the eight ball” had it not been for people who contributed money and trusted in its wise use.

Episcopalians donated $116,369.29 to the Stand with Standing Rock effort, according to Floberg. The money covered things such as Christmas dinner at St. James, various kinds of support in the camps and housing costs. Anticipating future needs, Episcopalians bought a cargo trailer, a dump trailer and a skid-steer loader.

When the authorities decided to close the camps, they turned to Episcopalians for help. Floberg saw the Church’s first task: “We’ve got to get people out of this without harm.” He enlisted people with pickup trucks and vans.

Then, there was all the material left behind. A December blizzard had collapsed and buried tents and other flimsy structures – debris that the tribe did not want spring floods to sweep into the river.

Plus, Floberg said, “everybody that came to the camp seemed to need to bring a bag of macaroni or a bag of flour.” Moreover, people sent material goods that were not needed. The donations were an unintended consequence of constant media coverage. Some, Kim said, came with what she called a “colonial model” assumption that the reservation was so poor that residents would appreciate the donations.

Before and after the closing, Floberg helped salvage and distribute of more than 7,000 pounds of rice, beans and macaroni, as well as much of the flour, to area food banks. The remaining flour is now in his garage, awaiting a home.

Gilbert Summers, left, and Isaiah Floberg collected usable food at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in February so it wouldn’t get washed away in spring flooding. Photo: John Floberg

Now what?

“What we know in the Church is that now when the camps are empty and the pipeline is going through, now is when we are truly called to walk in solidarity with the community whose water is being threatened,” Kim said. “Just because the cameras have gone away, doesn’t mean the ministry has gone away. Now that the cameras have gone away the ministry can begin in earnest.”

That lesson was one the Church began to learn as Episcopalians responded to the aftermath of the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Kim said.

Mni Wiconi, Water is Life, has been the motto of the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline whose route now passes a half mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“What we’re recognizing is that we need to take a step back from all the hyperbole,” she said. “You can’t really engage in a conversation around discernment, collaboration and true partnership when all of that is going on.”

While the Episcopal Church continues to minister with and to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, Episcopalians elsewhere can use the example in their own communities.

“Find out whose territory you are living in. Don’t make the big claim about Standing Rock unless you’re willing to put forth the effort locally,” Floberg said. “What’s true about Standing Rock’s relationship with the federal government, what’s true about Standing Rock’s issues and problems, it’s true all over Indian Country. It’s not that the federal government is dealing differently with Standing Rock than they are with some other tribal entity elsewhere.”

Hauff said there is an even larger lesson for the Church. Its staying power – and its most effective ministry – needs to be rooted in a discipline to “not jump into every cause célèbre that may happen in the world,” he said.

“We’re not in there to get the headlines and the attention. We are always about doing what is right, regardless of whether there is any attention paid to it at all,” Hauff said. “It’s not about photo ops; it’s not about getting the lead story on the evening news. If we do, that’s great but … that’s not the end-all of it.”

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

Episcopal Migration Ministries hosts World Refugee Day interfaith conversation

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 3:54pm

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, left, Rabbi Victor Urecki, of B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston, West Virginia, center, and Hani Hamwi, of Islamic Relief USA, during a June 20 interfaith panel discussion for World Refugee Day.  Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Judaism, like all religious traditions, calls Rabbi Victor Urecki to welcome the stranger, the refugee. In the Torah, God tells the Jews no less than 36 times to “love the strangers in their midst,” reminding them they were once strangers in Egypt, he said.

Still, it’s not Urecki’s Jewish faith that drives him to welcome and to assist refugees arriving in Charleston, West Virginia. “As a Jew, I feel I’m called to be there for refugees because the refugee story is very personal for Jews,” said Urecki, a West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry adviser. “It’s my people’s story. The image of every refugee should be an image imprinted on every Jew’s heart.”

Urecki spoke on a six-person panel during a June 20 interfaith conversation and prayer for World Refugee Day hosted by Episcopal Migration Ministries at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. An iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan, followed the panel conversation. (The holy month of Ramadan, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad, began May 26 and ends June 24.)

EMM encouraged congregations across the country to host similar interfaith conversations, and the June 20 panel was recorded on video for future use, said moderator Allison Duvall, EMM’s manager for church relations and engagement.

The refugee narrative is encoded in Jews’ spiritual DNA. They were forced to flee pogroms in Europe, withstood anti-Semitism and hatred across the globe and endured centuries of war and bloodshed. “We’ve been swept up as bystanders and brutalized as victims. We’ve been killed in our homelands … because of who we were, what we believed and what we practiced,” said Urecki, an immigrant whose grandparents and father were refugees.

Refugees are forced to flee because of who they are, what they believe and their religious practices, as another panelist confirmed. Anastasia Orlova is an asylum seeker from Russia. She arrived in the United States last October with her wife. Russia’s intolerance of LGBT people meant the couple kept few close friends, and Orlova would tell acquaintances she had a husband. She didn’t realize how depressed she was until she left Russia.

“When you are scared or ashamed of yourself, you live in inner isolation,” Orlova said. In the United States, Orlova and her wife can be married legally, practice their beliefs and speak up for themselves. “Here in the U.S. we finally feel protected.”

Refugees on the panel acknowledged that though they feel secure and free to be themselves in the United States, the country’s polarized politics and overarching economic and security fears are worrisome. The Trump administration has sought to suspend and reduce the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program; as a result, EMM was forced to reduce its resettlement work.

“Maybe the stakes now are so high and the fear is so deep and the walls are so thick that the only way we can heal the soul of a nation is for a wider-than-ever circle of allies to gather around to stand with refugee and resettlement agencies,” said the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation. Spellers represented the Episcopal Church on the panel.

In Charleston, for example, West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry operates, “in the heart of Trump country,” said Urecki. But if anything gives him hope, it’s that the people, even those who fear for their security and the economy, are open to conversation. “If you can get your foot in the door and have a conversation, you can win,” he said.

West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry became an EMM affiliate in December.

As the Episcopal Church’s refugee resettlement agency, EMM is one of nine agencies partnered with the U.S. State Department to welcome and resettle refugees; it operates 31 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, providing direct assistance to recent arrivals. The Episcopal Church has worked to resettle refugees since the 1930s. The federal government formalized the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in 1980, partnering with religious and secular organizations to provide direct assistance to newly arrived refugees in communities nationwide. Six of the government’s resettlement partners are faith-based; the program has historically, for the most part, enjoyed bipartisan support. Over the last two years, however, Americans’ attitudes toward refugees have begun to shift from quiet acceptance to fear of the other.

Recently, EMM held a conference to train refugee supporters as advocates. EMM also offers ways for congregations to engage in refugee resettlement in their communities. The agency encourages Episcopalians to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network and advocate for policies that protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

World Refugee Day is held annually on June 20; the day is set aside to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. An unprecedented 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide. Among them 22.5 million have received refugee status and less than 1 percent will be resettled. Over half of all refugees are younger than 18 years old. Many were born in refugee camps where the average stay is 20 years.

-Lynette Wilson is managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.

Auckland Cathedral reaches out to Shia Muslim communities during Ramadan

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 1:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Auckland, New Zealand’s Holy Trinity Cathedral and the city’s Shia Islamic community have been praised for coming together for a Ramadan fast-breaking meal. New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission Race Relations Adviser Rakesh Naidoo and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff congratulated the two communities for their mutual gesture of goodwill.

Full article.

Episcopal Migration Ministries organise un dialogue interconfessionnel pour la Journée mondiale des réfugiés

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 5:13am

La révérende Stephanie Spellers, chanoine auprès de l’Évêque Primat pour l’évangélisation, la réconciliation et la création, à gauche, le rabbin Victor Urecki, de la Synagogue B’nai Jacob de Charleston (État de Virginie Occidentale), au centre, et Hani Hamwi, d’Islamic Relief USA, lors d’un panel de discussion interconfessionnel le 20 juin pour la Journée mondiale des réfugiés. Photo : Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Le judaïsme, comme toutes les traditions religieuses, appelle – dit le rabbin Victor Urecki – à accueillir l’étranger, le réfugié. Dans la Torah, Dieu dit aux juifs pas moins de 36 fois d’« aimer les étrangers en leur sein », leur rappelant qu’ils étaient jadis des étrangers en Égypte, a-t-il déclaré.

Et pourtant, ce n’est pas la foi juive qui conduit Victor Urecki à accueillir et aider les réfugiés qui arrivent à Charleston (État de Virginie Occidentale). « En tant que juif, je me sens appelé à être là pour les réfugiés car l’histoire des réfugiés touche de près les juifs », explique Victor Urecki, conseiller de West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry . « C’est l’histoire de mon peuple. L’image de chaque réfugié devrait être imprimée dans le coeur de chaque juif ».

Victor Urecki est intervenu dans le cadre d’un panel de six personnes lors d’un dialogue et prière interconfessionnels, organisé le 20 juin par Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) à l’Episcopal Church Center à New York.  Un iftar, le repas que font les musulmans après le coucher du soleil pendant le Ramadan, a suivi le dialogue. (Le mois sacré du Ramadan, observé par les musulmans dans le monde entier comme un mois de jeûne pour commémorer la première révélation du Coran au prophète Mahomet, a commencé le 26 mai et se termine le 24 juin).

EMM a encouragé les congrégations à travers le pays à organiser des dialogues interconfessionnels semblables et le panel du 20 juin a été enregistré en vidéo pour une utilisation future, a déclaré l’animatrice Allison Duvall, responsable d’EMM pour les relations de l’église et l’engagement.

L’histoire des réfugiés fait partie de l’ADN spirituelle des juifs. Ils ont été contraints de fuir les pogroms en Europe, ont été confrontés à l’antisémitisme et à la haine partout dans le monde et ont enduré des siècles de guerre et de carnage. « Nous avons été injustement pris en tant que spectateurs et brutalisés en tant que victimes. Nous avons été tués dans nos pays… en raison de qui nous étions, de ce en quoi nous croyions et ce que nous pratiquions », a déclaré Victor Urecki, immigré dont les grand-parents et le père étaient des réfugiés.

Les réfugiés sont contraints de fuir en raison de qui ils sont, de leurs croyances et de leurs pratiques religieuses, comme l’a confirmé un autre membre du panel. Anastasia Orlova est demandeur d’asile en provenance de Russie. Elle est arrivée aux États-Unis en octobre dernier avec son épouse. Du fait de l’intolérance de la Russie vis-à-vis des personnes LGBT, le couple n’avait que quelques amis proches et Anastasia Orlova disait à ses connaissances qu’elle avait un mari. Elle ne se rendait pas compte à quel point elle était déprimée jusqu’à ce qu’elle quitte la Russie.

« Lorsque vous avez peur ou que vous avez honte de vous-même, vous vivez dans un isolement intérieur », explique Anastasia Orlova. Aux États-Unis, Anastasia Orlova et son épouse ont le droit d’être mariées légalement, de pratiquer leurs croyances et elles peuvent s’exprimer en leur propre nom. « Ici aux États-Unis, nous nous sentons finalement protégées ».

Les réfugiés qui participaient au panel ont reconnu que, bien qu’ils se sentent en sécurité et libres d’être eux-mêmes aux États-Unis, la politique partisane du pays et les craintes économiques et en matière de sécurité dominantes sont inquiétantes. L’administration Trump a cherché à suspendre et réduire le Programme américain de réinstallation des réfugiés ; en conséquence, EMM a été contraint de réduire ses actions de réinstallation.

« Il se peut que les enjeux soient maintenant si élevés, les craintes si profondes et les murs si épais que la seule manière de guérir l’âme d’une nation soit dans le rassemblement d’un cercle d’alliés plus vaste que jamais pour soutenir les réfugiés et les organismes de réinstallation », déclare Stephanie Spellers, chanoine auprès de l’Évêque Primat pour l’évangélisation, la réconciliation et la création. Stephanie Spellers représentait l’Église épiscopale au sein du panel.

À Charleston, par exemple, West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry exerce ses activités « au cœur du fief Trump », explique Victor Urecki. Mais si quelque chose lui donne de l’espoir, c’est que les gens, même ceux qui craignent pour leur sécurité et l’économie, sont ouverts au dialogue. « Si vous arrivez à passer la porte et à engager un dialogue, vous pouvez réussir », poursuit-il.

West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry est devenu affilié d’EMM en décembre. En tant qu’organisme de réinstallation des réfugiés de l’Église épiscopale, EMM est l’un des neuf organismes qui travaillent en partenariat avec le Département d’État des États-Unis pour accueillir et réinstaller les réfugiés. Au travers de ses 31 organismes de réinstallation affiliés dans 26 diocèses, EMM apporte une aide directe aux réfugiés récemment arrivés. L’Église épiscopale œuvre à la réinstallation des réfugiés depuis les années 1930. Le gouvernement fédéral a officialisé le Programme américain de réinstallation des réfugiés en 1980, en établissant des partenariats avec des organisations religieuses et laïques pour apporter une aide directe aux réfugiés nouvellement arrivés au niveau du pays tout entier. Six partenaires du gouvernement pour la réinstallation sont confessionnels ; le programme a dans l’ensemble bénéficié d’un large soutien bipartisan. Toutefois, au cours des deux dernières années, l’attitude des Américains à l’égard des réfugiés a commencé à changer et à passer d’une acceptation sans protestation à un sentiment de peur.

Récemment, EMM a organisé une conférence pour former les défenseurs des droits des réfugiés. EMM propose également aux congrégations des moyens pour participer à la réinstallation des réfugiés dans leur communauté. L’organisme encourage les épiscopaliens à rejoindre le réseau Episcopal Public Policy Network et à défendre les politiques qui protègent les droits des réfugiés et des demandeurs d’asile.

La Journée mondiale des réfugiés se tient chaque année le 20 juin, la journée sert à commémorer la force, le courage et la persévérance des millions de réfugiés. Un chiffre sans précédent de 65,6 millions de personnes ont été déplacées par la force dans le monde entier. Parmi elles, 22,5 millions ont reçu le statut de réfugié et moins de 1 % fera l’objet d’une réinstallation. Plus de la moitié de tous les réfugiés ont moins de 18 ans. La plupart sont nés dans des camps de réfugiés où le séjour moyen est de 20 ans.

– Lynette Wilson est rédactrice en chef de l’Episcopal News Service.

Spanish-language ministry coordinator appointed in Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:16pm

[Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina] Bishop Robert Skirving is pleased to announce the appointment of the Rev. Frederick Clarkson as Spanish-language ministry coordinator in the Diocese of East Carolina. The Rev. Clarkson will begin in the position July 15.

Clarkson will be coming back to North Carolina after having spent 4 1/2 years with the Diocese of Texas, serving as vicar to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church of Houston, where he started the Spanish-language service.

The Spanish-language ministry coordinator is a full-time staff position for an Episcopal priest with work principally focused on the support, interconnection and leadership development of existing and emerging Spanish-language congregations and ministries of the Diocese of East Carolina. This new position in the diocese has been created, in part, through the generous funding of the Isabel James Lehto Foundation.

Prior to Houston, Clarkson served in the Diocese of North Carolina as vicar to St. Matthew’s of Salisbury and The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Cooleemee, near Winston-Salem. Clarkson has served on the Hispanic Ministry Board of both Texas and North Carolina, Black Ministry Commission, Board of St. James Seniors, Chaplain to the Houston Chapter of Integrity and the internet radio station CBE (Church Broadcast Entity).

His goal in Eastern North Carolina will be to organize Hispanic ministry and reinvigorate Episcopal Latino communities with economic development programs. Clarkson knows that there must be an economic component to the equation to truly help minister and establish a ministry of sustainability and vibrancy. The long-term goal will be to develop full participation of Hispanic leadership within The Episcopal Church throughout eastern North Carolina.

The Rev. Clarkson will spend his time divided between Diocesan House in Kinston, St. Peter’s in Washington (where he will reside) and other Spanish ministries within the diocese.

Clarkson was born in Bogota, Colombia, to parents who had met while at American University in Washington, D.C. His father worked in Colombian banking and government positions, which led to the family traveling during the Colombian conflicts of the 1980s. Growing up, Clarkson spent time living in Maryland, New York, and finally living with his grandparents in Santa Barbara, California, for his high school years. After high school, he attended St. Andrews University in Scotland followed by a career in banking.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, sounded a call for him to serve in ministry and change his career course. Clarkson enrolled in Virginia Theological Seminary, graduated and took his first post with the Diocese of North Carolina, where he spent 4 1/2 years, before heading to the Diocese of Texas. Frederick loves staying active, reading, swimming and spending time with his two dogs, and he is always happy to see a good play.

The Diocese of East Carolina is excited to welcome The Rev. Clarkson’s experienced world view and approach to ministry.

Anglican Communion announces appointment of new representative to UN

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The social and public affairs adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury has been appointed as the new Anglican Communion representative to the United Nations in Geneva. Jack Palmer-White has worked at Lambeth Palace since 2012, initially as parliamentary assistant and then as a policy adviser focusing on marriage and family life, before taking up his current role two years ago.

Full article.

Anglican Alliance joins ecumenical statement released for World Refugee Day

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Alliance has joined a group of 20 Christian organizations in issuing a statement to mark World Refugee Day. The statement celebrates the opportunities for solidarity and learning that come with opening our arms to welcome refugees and calls for more shared responsibility in responding to current large-scale movements of refugees in every region of the world.

Full article.

Collars on the Corner brings prayer, spiritual connection to streets of Milwaukee

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 3:00pm

Clergy members from the Milwaukee area pray with Luria Sampson, center, during a Collars on the Corner session in May at West Center and North 51st streets. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Milwaukee, Wisconsin] Luria Sampson had plans Saturday morning, and they didn’t include prayer – not at first.

Driving east down West Center Street in Milwaukee, he was on a course for his daughter’s house, his thoughts focused on her safety in a city suffering through a surge in shooting deaths. But when he slowed for the stoplight at 51st Street, an unexpected sight gently altered his morning travels.

Sampson, 59, stopped his car, and prayer found its way into his plans.

He turned to park the Pontiac Vibe next to St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, exited the car and, grabbing his cane, walked up to the sidewalk where men dressed in black and wearing white clergy collars were waiting to greet him.

It is called Collars on the Corner, a public ministry that an Episcopal deacon and Roman Catholic deacon launched after a Milwaukee police shooting last August. The killing of a black man during a chase by an on-duty city officer, also black, sparked days of protests and unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood and thrust the city’s stark segregation into the national spotlight.

Although the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee’s congregations are well represented in the city’s surrounding suburbs, there are no Episcopal churches in city neighborhoods with majority black or Latino populations. Despite lacking a structural presence, the diocese’s commitment to a personal presence in such neighborhoods is embodied by the Rev. Kevin Stewart, the diocese’s missioner for community engagement.

Stewart has spent much of the past year growing the ecumenical Collars on the Corner ministry with fellow deacon the Rev. Jim Banach, with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They invite clergy of all denominations to join them outside collecting and responding to prayer requests, and they encourage churches to host the ministry on their own nearby corners.

The intersection at Center and 51st is the unofficial home base for Collars on the Corner. On this Saturday morning in May, the warm sun rose over the sidewalk at the corner where a card table was set up. Taped to the side was a sign that read, “Prayer Requests.” Atop the table, a prayer box invited submissions.

“We’d be happy to pray with you right here and now,” Stewart announced.

“Yes, please do. I could use a good prayer,” Sampson replied.

The men gathered in a huddle as one of them, the Rev. Anthony Luckett of the nondenominational Saint Paul Church, led the prayer. Luckett called on God to bless Sampson and his family and give him strength as he spreads his compassion to those around him.

The prayer lasted little more than a minute. After tearfully offering his thanks and shaking hands, Sampson continued on, leaving the men in white collars to await their next prayer requests.

Praying here has become a routine Stewart repeats every Saturday morning, as his schedule and the weather will allow. He and Banach teamed up last year after discussing their shared desire to get outside and connect with Milwaukee-area residents in new ways.

“My understanding of scripture is Jesus spent more time out on the streets than Jesus did in a building, so we felt that we should go,” Stewart said. “But go where, and do what?”

The Rev. Kevin Stewart, the Diocese of Milwaukee’s missioner for community engagement, talks in May about his work on the Collars on the Corner ministry. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

They settled on this street ministry, offering a handshake or hug and a prayer – and wearing their white collars so their calling and purpose would be immediately discernible to passersby. Banach, who was familiar with St. Catherine’s Catholic Parish, suggested the location even before the police shooting in Sherman Park brought wider attention to the neighborhood.

“I thought to myself, it’s busy. There’s a need. This tends to be a pretty proactive social justice parish. I bet if we ask, they’ll say yes,” Banach said. “Then Sherman Park happened.”

Three weeks later, they set up their first Collars on the Corner in front of St. Catherine’s. They found people were hungry for personal and spiritual connection, Stewart said. “They were hungry to pray, on day one.”

Deacon is force for street-level ministries

Stewart, 60, has a track record of addressing hunger. After being hired by the diocese as missioner in 2011, he founded the Hospitality Center in Racine as an outreach ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. The day center, under Stewart’s leadership, became known in the community and the diocese for its success in providing food and services for the homeless.

“Kevin has a gift for meeting people where they are, learning and listening to their needs and then building a community to address these needs,” Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller said in an email to Episcopal News Service.

In 2015, with the Hospitality Center well established in Racine, Stewart stepped down to turn his focus to Milwaukee, where the diocese was looking to create ministries that would respond to the city’s sudden spike in deadly violence. The number of homicides in the city hit 145 that year, the most in two decades, and the number of nonfatal shootings had been on the rise since 2010, the Journal Sentinel reported while noting that the causes were hard to pin down.

“As a diocese, we are committed to making a difference in Milwaukee,” Miller said. “This ministry of building relationships is the beginning.”

Stewart was given the freedom to venture into the community, listen to residents and local leaders and use what he learned to develop new ministries, like Collars on the Corner.

That ministry continued to grow in the fall, but over the winter, Stewart and Banach moved it indoors. They distributed prayer boxes across the Milwaukee area, and Stewart now collects prayer requests weekly from 25 locations, including seven congregations and 12 laundromats, from Cedarburg to Waukesha to Racine. He then sends them out to an expanding prayer chain, by email and on Collars on the Corner’s Facebook page.

“To maintain my sobriety,” reads one prayer request.

Another asks for prayers “for my family’s safety and happiness. I also ask you to pray for my strength to overcome things that bring me down.”

Busy corner is Saturday morning hub of prayer

The collars returned to the corners in the spring, with prayer request stations set up in downtown Waukesha, in Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood and at multiple anti-violence events in Milwaukee. And while Stewart and Banach work to involve more churches, they maintain a regular presence at Center and 51st.

“The beauty of it is we’ve already got some friends in the neighborhood,” Banach said. “They see us out here and they come running.”

The Rev. Anthony Luckett of the nondenominational Saint Paul’s Church prays in May with Darren Haywood on the corner of West Center and North 51st streets in Milwaukee. Haywood, 48, has grown used to seeing the men in collars here Saturdays and asked them to pray to stop the violence plaguing the city. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Some of the foot traffic on this corner is generated by St. Catherine’s Saturday food pantry. Jacqueline Garcia, 46, said she stops by the food pantry once a month, but this was her first time seeing the prayer request station.

Stewart prays with Jacqueline Garcia, 46, who was stopping by a nearby food pantry when she saw the Collars on the Corner. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

She and her friend, Micha Jones, 38, each scribbled their prayers on paper and put them in the box. Then, over the sound of cars cruising by on Center Street and the drone of the lawnmower at St. Catherine’s, they prayed – Jones with Luckett and Garcia with Stewart.

By the time they were done, tears were running down Garcia’s cheeks. Jones had been similarly moved by her prayer, and “I don’t cry for nobody,” she said after regaining her composure.

Jones said she sometimes attends church services, but not regularly. That tenuous connection to a physical church is common among the people served here, but these sidewalk parishioners need not be churchgoers. The goal of Collars on the Corner isn’t to fill the pews.

Stewart recalled welcoming someone on the corner who feared going back to church. The person had been away “too long” and had “done too much wrong.”

“Maybe that person will walk inside a church door again, we don’t know,” Stewart said. “But on that day, the church was out here meeting people where they’re at.

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

Bishop Fisher delivers testimony to Massachusetts legislative committee

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 1:53pm

[Diocese of Western Massachusetts] Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas J. Fisher attended a hearing June 19 held by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary that featured testimony on a range of proposed criminal justice reform measures focused on sentencing and correctional services. The following statement is based on Fisher’s prepared testimony and received the support of bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts, Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris.

Bishops and others from the two Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently had the opportunity to visit Dismas House in Worcester and Dismas Family Farm in Oakham. The house and the farm are named for the Good Thief in the Gospel of Luke. Dismas is one of two criminals crucified next to Jesus. He asks Jesus to remember him when he enters paradise. Dismas accepts personal responsibility for the wrongs he has committed, yet believes that God can save anyone. His last breath is a leap of faith. 

One of us also recently had the opportunity to meet with inmates and conduct the Rite of Confirmation at the Devens federal correctional facility. The men we met recently at Dismas Farm and Devens are like Dismas. Many speak honestly about the impact of drugs and alcohol on their lives, their failures to “get clean” or “stay sober.” Most importantly, they acknowledge that their actions have had consequences for society and for those who love them. Those at the farm, they spend their days tending a harvest that will feed the local community. They have the chance to do good again, to feel connected to the needs of others. We experienced men who own their failure but who believe their lives are meant for something better. We experienced hope.

The men we met at Dismas were imprisoned for crimes related to drugs and alcohol. Addiction is killing us in the Commonwealth. Instead of sending these people to prison, we need to offer treatment. Some must go to prison for their crimes, but a prison system that reinforces shame, strips away dignity and hope – such a system does not do the good we intend.  Prisons are in need of a deep, cleansing ideological shift. We must seek to reconcile the incarcerated person with the community they have damaged. We need to seek restorative justice which emphasizes the role of the whole community in the reintegration of the offender. 

Somehow, we’ve made jail an end in itself. Get sent there and that becomes your story. We’ve forgotten that removal from the community is a consequence – not the last chapter in a flawed human being’s story. Restoration to the community must be the end of incarceration whenever possible.

We must also ask the legislature to consider the staggering inequity of incarceration by race. Many of us have been deeply affected by our reading of The New Jim Crow, or viewing of the documentary “13th.”  We are striving honestly to examine our own Episcopal Church systems to rid them of the sin of racism; we urge you to do the same as you consider reform of our judicial system.  Racial reconciliation is of ultimate concern to us as people of faith. We ask you to be conscious of our nation’s need to own the mass incarceration of young black and brown men.

Our governing bodies have been given power to wield justly and for the good of all people. If we pass the Justice Reinvestment Act, we’ll be able to tell a new story – a story of justice and redemption, a story of second chances and greater safety for our communities. Be assured of our prayers for you and for all leaders in government who strive to respect the dignity of all human beings.

Europe bishop represents Anglicans, Episcopalians at launch of Interfaith Rainforest Initiative in Norway

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 2:09pm

[Episcopal News Service] Religious and indigenous leaders from across the globe launched an unprecedented initiative June 19 in Oslo, Norway, aimed at bringing “moral attention and spiritual commitment” to bear on global efforts to end deforestation and protect tropical rainforests—forests that are fundamental to human life, the planet’s health and reducing the emissions fueling climate change.

“The Norwegian government has made major investments in protecting the rainforest, but this is the first attempt to bring together religious leaders, scientists and indigenous peoples,” the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, said from Oslo in a telephone interview with Episcopal News Service.

Whalon helped organize the conference and was scheduled to speak during a June 19 dinner. Indigenous people from across Africa, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Indonesia have joined Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Daoist and Buddhist religious leaders for the June 19-21 launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative aimed at framing rainforest protection in moral terms.

The conference is meant to “change minds and hearts and get people working together,” said Whalon. The urgency is clear, he added, from the stories shared by indigenous people living in the rainforest and from satellite images.

“Rainforest destruction is not just tearing down all the trees and turning into soy fields. It’s literally ethnic cleansing,” said Whalon. There’s a real moral and spiritual imperative to protecting the rainforest. Conference organizers made sure to give indigenous peoples a chance to share their stories from the front lines, and what they have to say will “curl your hair,” he said.

Palm oil plantations; cattle, soy and other crop production, and illegal mining and logging operations are destroying tropical rainforests in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia at high rates. Rainforests are home to indigenous people; provide food, water and income to 1.6 billion people; contain most of the planet’s land-borne biodiversity; help regulate rainfall and temperature globally, regionally and locally, and store billions of tons of carbon, which is essential for curbing global warming.

“The world’s rainforests are a stunning example of the life-sustaining beauty of the planet; they are spectacular, vital to life and at grave risk. This meeting represents a tremendously important first step forward for faith communities, who must join First Peoples and commit to rainforests’ health and restoration,” said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest based in New Jersey and the executive director of GreenFaith, in a press release.

Religious and indigenous leaders from 21 countries will have discussions with forest advocates, climate scientists and human rights experts to develop goals and actions, along with milestones to mark their progress. They expect to follow up with an action plan and a global interfaith rainforest summit in 2018. The group was convened by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, Rainforest Foundation Norway and the United Nations Development Program in cooperation with the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, GreenFaith, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Religions for Peace, REIL Network and the World Council of Churches.

The rainforest initiative is linked to a surge of grassroots action over the last few years in which environmental, climate and indigenous rights issues are being embraced as spiritual imperatives that strike a chord with multiple faiths and traditions. Other leaders of Evangelical Christian and Muslim organizations, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, have stressed the shared human responsibility to protect the planet.

“Tropical rainforests occupy a sacred place in many faiths, religions and spiritual traditions,” said Mary Evelyn Tucker, director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, in a press release. “Indeed, spiritual reverence for nature and all life can be found across the world’s religions, including among indigenous peoples and other residents of the world’s tropical rainforests. Given what we are hearing from religious and indigenous leaders worldwide, we believe we can create a global movement around this shared vision.”

Whalon became involved in the conference’s planning because of previous involvement in roundtable discussions related to the environment and communicating the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and human ecology. He was invited into the roundtable discussions following the December 2015 U.N. climate negotiations in France, when he and American Cathedral in Paris Dean Lucinda Laird organized several events for conference attendees.

‘Cathedral of the Confederacy’ reckons with its history and charts future

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 2:06pm

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, has historically been known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Photo: Courtesy of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

[Episcopal News Service – Richmond, Virginia] Looking around the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church here nothing suggests an altered space. Enough plaques, stained-glass windows, wall sconces and other adornments remain that the sanctuary is anything but bare. Its columns, deep-red pew cushions and the Tiffany Last Supper mosaic above the altar offer much for the eye to behold. And although St. Paul’s has long been known as the Cathedral of the Confederacy, the space feels cozier than a cathedral. The ceiling and walls hug close. When congregants huddle near the altar for a ceramic-cup and rustic-bread communion at the 9 a.m. service, it feels as right as the church’s later, more staid liturgy.

But when Linda Armstrong, who chairs St. Paul’s History and Reconciliation Initiative, pointed to the three spots where plaques used to be – two in the sanctuary and one in the narthex – on a Saturday in late April, the emptiness left by a Confederate past becomes apparent; each a blank spot amidst the visual richness, awaiting its fate.

St. Paul’s Rector the Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, left, with Barbara Holley, a member of the History and Reconciliation Initiative’s steering committee and its Memorials Working Group. Photo: Heather Beasley Doyle

The History and Reconciliation Initiative germinated in the wake of shooter Dylann Roof’s racially motivated attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. On a Sunday soon after the June 17, 2015, massacre, the Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, St. Paul’s rector, asked in a sermon, “What if in this, the last summer of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, we begin a conversation here at St. Paul’s about the Confederate symbols in our worship space?”

That question could not have come from just any pulpit. And coming from where Adams-Riley stood, in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Confederacy, it made waves. “I thought it was very important that it be done with a tone of seriousness and invitation, to invite our people to lean into this moment in a discerning way,” said Adams-Riley. “It quickly became clear to me that there was some anxiety.”

Richmond was the capitol of the Confederacy during the American Civil War; Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, worshipped at St. Paul’s during the war. Davis was a member of the church. Their pews still bear plaques attesting to their affiliation with the church, and stained-glass windows dedicated to them allow light into the sanctuary. In the 1890s, when it became popular to memorialize family members with sanctuary wall plaques, several sprung up in St. Paul’s honoring Confederate soldiers, some decorated with Confederate battle flags. Additional battle flags had been embroidered into the kneelers by the altar.

Adams-Riley’s question called for parishioners to pay attention. Small and spread out, the battle flags were hidden in plain sight; many people had never even noticed them. “I’d been here for 45 years and had never read the plaques,” said St. Paul’s member Lee Switz, who chairs the History and Reconciliation Initiative’s Memorial Working Group.

A plaque honoring Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, is one of the items St. Paul’s removed from its walls. Photo: Courtesy of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Now those Confederate battle flags are gone, removed after a November 2015 vestry vote, a decision that followed several tabled discussions on the topic. At the same time, the vestry also voted only to keep Confederate-related memorials without the battle flag, including plaques paid for by the families of congregants who fought in the Civil War. Moreover, the governing body established the History and Reconciliation Initiative, appointing vestry member Armstrong as chair. She has since spearheaded the parish’s deep dive into its history and its relationship with race since its 1845 founding. The History and Reconciliation Initiative has laid out a four-year plan to be completed in 2020, when the church marks its 175th anniversary.

In parsing out what to leave in the sanctuary and what to remove, “we have really considered those families,” said Armstrong. In looking at a plaque, she remembered that “this was a human being who was loved by his family; it’s the humanity of it.” By contrast, the battle flag communicates “I believe this is right, and I’m willing to kill you for it, too.” Some flags simply unscrewed from the plaques to which they were affixed. The removed items remain in a vault at the church until their fate, whether becoming part of an exhibit somewhere in the church or a traveling educational display, is determined.

In establishing the History and Reconciliation Initiative, St. Paul’s committed to push its parish conversation beyond the Confederate flag, beyond “Confederate iconography” to what Confederate symbols fundamentally evoke: a national history with thick scars around race. They would look at these scars and at their own part in staunchly defending an economic system based on the subjugation of African-Americans. In fact, the parish took its efforts a step beyond, to racial reconciliation, an attempt to figure out the church’s role in perpetuating racism, recognizing that role, and moving forward with those insights in a way that heals and repairs. “It’s doing some interior work so that we can move out into the world in ways that would not have been possible without that,” Adams-Riley said. “Isn’t that [also] true on an individual level?” And while Adams-Riley’s June 2015 sermon triggered anxiety, “It was also clear to me that there was great excitement and hope – and possibility,” he said.

St. Paul’s began by hosting two “Prayerful Conversations” in the summer of 2015, and hired an outside consultant to facilitate the events. Of the parish’s 300-400 active members (on average, 200 show up for Sunday services), 100 turned out for those initial events. Adams-Riley and Armstrong agree that hiring a consultant played a crucial role in setting a relaxed tone that invited people to share deeply. The discussions were frank, sometimes emotional, and condoned conversations about race at St. Paul’s. From there, “we didn’t talk about it officially for a couple of months, because it was just too hot,” Associate Rector the Rev. Molly Bosscher said.

Christopher Graham, left, with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Associate Rector the Rev. Molly Bosscher. Graham chairs the History Working Group of St. Paul’s History and Reconciliation Initiative. Photo: Heather Beasley Doyle

Bosscher underscored the interpersonal complexities of a process that aims to give St. Paul’s a new reputation: the Cathedral of Reconciliation. “You understand the enormity of the work, right?” she asked. “It’s changing our very flavor as a church. You could not stop this process now if you tried. It’s too far in bloom.”

As messy as St. Paul’s reconciliation work has sometimes been, the 60-member History and Reconciliation Initiative lends it a framework, a timeline and concrete goals. While Armstrong stressed that the goals are not set in stone, they offer a structure that participants value and respect. “It’s a four-year process, but we do have some deadlines,” said Memorial Working Group chair Lee Switz, “and that gives it a sense of urgency.”

Along with the Memorial Working Group, two more working groups are nestled under the initiative: the History Working Group and the Music & Liturgy Working Group. With the History Working Group’s research as a foundation, the Memorial Working Group and the Music & Liturgy Working Group will determine St. Paul’s visible, audible reconciliation pieces. Revisions are planned to the church’s walking tour brochure, and its 175th anniversary book will be reimagined from the 150th anniversary predecessor.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry will visit next March. Prayerful Conversations remain ongoing and the church will hold a special service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. And in some way, whether by stopping at stations of reconciliation along Richmond’s Slave Trail or with a different ritual, History and Reconciliation Initiative members plan to commemorate African-American slaves in the city that had the second-largest slave market in the United States.

In the meantime, as chair of the Initiative’s History Working Group, Christopher Graham has helped St. Paul’s to discover how racial ideas throughout the church’s history have determined how parishioners live their lives and faith. Originally 20 to 25 members, the History Working Group now has a core of seven active researchers. A historian by profession, Graham gave working group members guidance on what to look for as they research. “And that’s been a remarkable success,” he said.

The group is uncovering the church’s relationship era by era, in five chunks of about 40 years, starting in 1844. They have scoured U.S. Census data, diocesan records, vestry records and private journals. They delve into Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com. And then there are secondary sources, including “Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia” by J. Douglas Smith, which Graham recently read.

Cross-referencing the records from First African Baptist Church and St. Paul’s with census data, the History Working Group has confirmed that from its founding until the Emancipation, most St. Paul’s members “were engaged with slavery or in the slavery economy,” Graham said. This was not surprising. More illuminating has been learning St. Paul’s attitude toward race between the Emancipation and today. While its membership remains overwhelmingly white, in 2017 St. Paul’s is a “liberal” church with longstanding outreach projects and ties to social justice initiatives throughout Richmond, a city that initiative leaders described as more conservative than their church. St. Paul’s members “have always done what they thought was the Christian thing to do,” Armstrong said, “even if they thought it was segregation.”

And for a long time, it was. “At the turn of the 20th century, Episcopalians and other white people were arguing that black people were evolutionarily behind whites,” Graham said. For generations after emancipation, St. Paul’s members participated in a government that enforced Jim Crow and segregation. This mindset continued, Graham suspects, until the early days of the civil rights movement, “and it’s more complicated than ‘we hate them.’ ”

As St. Paul’s “whole story” emerges, the damage done by upholding the racial status quo is clear, Graham said. “So what does it mean? What are we doing about it?” he asked. He was working on a narrative of his working group’s findings.

That narrative will feed the other working groups’ efforts. The Music & Liturgy Working Group has met twice. They began by asking why St. Paul’s needs reconciliation music and liturgy. The answer became, “We’re finding things at St. Paul’s that we need to mourn, and (in) the Episcopal Church music and liturgy is how we do that,” said Music & Liturgy Working Group chair Pam James, quoting fellow group member Michelle Walker.

In the fall, James’s group will introduce a new collect, with the idea of adding one for each church season. The largest task ahead of them is sifting through the history group’s narrative to find lyrics for a piece of music. St. Paul’s will commission music to allow St. Paul’s to mourn its past. “Yet we are also cognizant of the fact that we’re going to send it out into the world for other churches to [use] for their own mourning,” said James.

Things weren’t as immediately clear for the Memorial Working Group. “One of the first meetings was a free-for-all,” recounts Switz. “Everybody was talking past each other, but there were some strong emotions in the room.” The Memorial Working Group is charged with “seeking a physical or living/legacy expression of acknowledgment, commemoration, and reconciliation,” according to a History and Reconciliation Initiative flier. Initially, that mission got lost in the tumult, Switz said.

She considered how to proceed in keeping with the yearlong theme of “Be Reconciled,” landing on the church’s congregation-wide read, “The Book of Forgiving,” by retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “Let’s all tell our story,” Switz said at the next meeting. The half-dozen working group members did just that for two hours, she said, opening the path to more discussion. They’re currently working on “a very concise statement” on what “visceral, spiritual message” a 21st century St. Paul’s wants to convey through its history and reconciliation memorial.

Deep into research and reflection, parishioners seem patient with the process as it unfolds. “They’re taking their time, they have not rushed the process, and that’s been notable,” said Carl Stauffer, an associate professor at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Stouffer has visited St. Paul’s twice since December, guiding parishioners in reflection and workshop, and preaching. “There’s been a tremendous amount of effort in having the congregation buy into the process,” he added.

When St. Paul’s clergy and initiative leaders talk, consensus around one point quickly reveals itself. “I don’t think we’re finished. I think we’re still working on reconciling with each other,” Armstrong said. “If we sincerely want reconciliation, if we’re serious about it, it should be a different church [in 2020],” she said.

Beyond the process, beyond the memorial, the music and the liturgy, some at St. Paul’s wonder when reconciliation will conclude. “So how long will this process go, and how will we evaluate what the process achieved?” wondered St. Paul’s member Michelle Whitehurst-Cook. While she wants the History and Reconciliation Initiative’s efforts to remain ongoing, “I think there are lots of ways to continue [the work] and also to measure what we’ve achieved.” Whitehurst-Cook points to possibilities for measuring the initiative’s impact, from changes in outreach and church participation to gauging the number of sermons on social justice or talking with small groups.

And Memorial Working Group member Barbara Holley offered a caveat as St. Paul’s moves forward. “It’s more than a black-white issue,” she said. “I don’t want to just hear from somebody, ‘I’m sorry.’ That would just make me mad. I want to know that by your actions.” Racial reconciliation wasn’t on Holley’s mind when she joined St. Paul’s, but being a part of the History and Reconciliation Initiative has catalyzed an internal shift. “I do believe it’s changing me, in just bringing more awareness to the divisiveness of racism,” she said.

Holley’s sentiment represents another thread at St. Paul’s: Participants agree that as they target a communal paradigm shift, working with the initiative has already affected them personally. “For this to mean anything, it has to be personal,” said Adams-Riley.

“I’m a Southerner, and I still am, in all the good and the bad,” said Armstrong. “(Notwithstanding) the brutality of slavery, I love Southern culture.” Nonetheless, she’s had “almost a transfiguration” regarding race. She recognizes it more, continues to learn and is increasingly dedicated to reconciliation, group to group, within herself and with God.

However reconciliation unfolds at St. Paul’s, Stauffer credits the church with courage and vision. “What they’re doing is setting a national precedent for how faith communities can work through racial reconciliation,” Stauffer said.

That this racial reconciliation has sprouted in the unlikeliest of places, in the Cathedral of the Confederacy, is never lost on Adams-Riley. Nor is the reality that that his forebears included slave owners and Confederate soldiers. “People who knew me growing up never would have expected that I would have been a part of this (kind of reconciliation),” he said.

Yet he is. And he’s certain that it is important work with a connection beyond anyone’s intellectual grasp. “It becomes about how we live our lives today, about the spirit doing deep soul work that leaves us living differently,” he said. “I say lead on, spirit, lead on.”

— Heather Beasley Doyle is a freelance journalist based in Massachusetts.

WCC deputy chief speaks on ‘tragic reality’ of violence against children at Geneva event

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The World Council of Churches deputy General Secretary Isabel Apawo Phiri has told a Geneva-based event that churches and organizations working together can prevent and address “tragic reality” of violence against children.

As part of a World Vision campaign called “It takes a World to End Violence against Children” speakers included children who told their stories.

Full article.

Anglican Overseas Aid joins Australian government’s humanitarian response

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican Overseas Aid has been selected to be one of the aid agencies involved in the Australian Humanitarian Partnership, set up by the Australian government with the aim of responding rapidly to global crises. The partnership has a particular focus on Pacific preparedness and resilience work.

Full article.

Old Christ Church restoration project highlights local mission work in Vermont

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:01pm

[Diocese of Vermont] When asked to describe the Old Christ Church in Bethel, Vermont, two parishioners recently wrote, “just pulling in the driveway you get the sense that this is no ordinary building.” Built in 1823, the historic structure lacks electricity, heat and plumbing, which certainly contributes to its uniqueness. But there is something more, an indescribable energy that attracts people to the maple-lined drive off Route 12 for worship and respite.

Now the building that has been a source of spiritual restoration for so many is being prepped for a restoration of its own.

Planning is underway for a series of projects aimed at securing the foundation and repairing the steps, windows and clapboards. The members of neighboring Christ Episcopal Church, stewards of Old Christ Church, look forward to implementing the updates so that the historic building can continue to accommodate seasonal worship, weddings, funerals, special services, concerts, book discussions and community events.

The restoration, however, comes at a steep cost for the small congregation, which has embraced a model of ministry that relies on volunteer clergy, musicians and lay preachers and has no paid personnel. To date, Christ Episcopal Church has set aside $28,000 and won a $7,000 grant from the State of Vermont Division of Historic Preservation. Additionally, the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont has approved a $21,000 diocesan loan. While this only begins to cover the estimated expense of $56,000 to $109,000, church members remain hopeful that a combination of fundraising and competitive bids will enable them to bring their plans to fruition.

“At Christ Church Bethel, we continue to grow in faith and in our impact on the wider community,” said Nancy Wuttke, senior warden. And she gives numerous examples to back her claim.

“Our liturgical minister was recently ordained as transitional deacon. … Our Local Ministry Support Team has also received five new members, two of whom are called to pursue a path to ordination and service to our parish as priests, one of whom is called to pursue a path to ordination and service to our parish as deacon, one of whom is called to serve as preacher liaison and one of whom is called to serve as community liaison.”

With a view to ongoing formation, Christ Episcopal Church has recently launched an Education for Ministry study group. Such high levels of spiritual engagement serve to strengthen the ties between Christ Episcopal Church, the Old Christ Church building and the Bethel community.

For example, on the fourth Tuesday of each month, Christ Episcopal Church hosts the Bethel Bold Ideas Group—an interfaith discussion group started by the Rev. Shelie Richardson and other members of the Bethel community—that is well attended by parishioners and community members alike.

The church and community partners co-host the Community Meal, a popular local program that supports the Bethel Food Shelf, sources food from local farms, features great music and builds community.

“To date we have hosted six free and festive community events,” Wuttke said, “using the Wedding Feast at Cana to inspire our preparations: tablecloths, candles, live music, a sacramental feast … feeding about 150 people per event, whoever walks in the door, regardless of economic circumstance, and generating an average of $1,400 per event in free will donations, 100 percent of which goes to the Bethel Food Shelf.

“In addition, we provide free Winter Shares of vegetables for Food Shelf clients who meet with other community members to cook together, eat together and leave quarts of healthy, locally sourced food in the Food Shelf freezers. Many of our parishioners are active at the Food Shelf, as volunteers, and on the board.”

After a brief visit with the stewards of Old Christ Church it becomes clear: The energy that draws people here shows no signs of decreasing, which is why maintaining the building has become such a priority. As support for the restoration project grows, so does the Jesus Movement in Bethel, Vermont.

To learn more about the restoration of Old Christ Church, please send an email to nwuttke@gmail.com.

— Maurice Harris is communications minister for the Diocese of Vermont.