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Diocese of Rio Grande announces three-candidate slate for next bishop

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 10:48am

[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande announced March 19 a slate of three candidates for bishop.

“The people of our diocese have prayed diligently and faithfully for God to send us good candidates,” Kathleen Pittman, president of the Standing Committee, said in a press release. “Our prayers have been answered,” she said.

The electing convention will be May 5, at the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, New Mexico. After the bishop-elect receives the canonically required consent of a majority of the Episcopal Church’s diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will ordain and consecrate the new bishop Nov. 3.

The candidates are:
• The Rev. Lucinda Ashby, canon to the ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Idaho;
• The Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn, canon to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; and
• The Rev. Simon Charles Justice, rector, Church of the Good Samaritan, Corvallis, Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.

The Standing Committee also announces the petition process by which names may be added to the slate opened on March 19. The petition process closes at 4 p.m. (MDT) April 2. Details are available here.

Bishop Michael L. Vono has announced his intention to retire in late fall 2018. His successor will be the 10th bishop of the diocese.

Members of the diocese will have opportunities to meet the candidates at “Walk-About” events to be held in each of the four deaneries from April 16-21. The 58 congregations of the Diocese of the Rio Grande comprise the state of New Mexico and the portion of Texas west of the Pecos River known as the Big Bend region. The 154,000 square miles of the diocese make it the second-largest geographical diocese, after Alaska, in the Episcopal Church.

The candidates’ full resumes are available here.

New Zealand Anglicans plan climate change protest at Petroleum Conference

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 3:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans from the Diocese of Wellington are planning a series of protests against what is billed as “New Zealand’s premier oil and gas event.” The Petroleum Conference will take place March 26 to 28, when “large numbers of delegates from across New Zealand and around the world come together to celebrate our petroleum industry,” conference organizers say.

Read the full article here.

Two children killed in machete attack on Anglican school in Nigeria

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 3:02pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Two kindergarten children have died after being attacked March 12 by a man wielding a machete at an Anglican school in Nigeria. A suspect was arrested March 14 in the attack at St. John’s Anglican Primary School in Agodo, Ogun State.

Read the full article here.

Episcopales se congregan para un Día de Lamentación en medio de llamadas a tomar medidas contra la violencia armada

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 9:51am

Estudiantes de la escuela de la iglesia de La Gracia participan en una manifestación frente a esa escuela de Nueva York el 14 de marzo, como parte de un día nacional de actividades dirigidas por estudiantes en que llaman a tomar medidas contra la violencia armada. Las flores son en memoria de un asistente escolar muerto a tiros cerca de la escuela el año pasado. Foto de Art Chang/NYC.

[Episcopal News Service] Un grupo de episcopales se congregó en Springfield, Massachusetts, frente a las oficinas centrales de Smith & Wesson Corp. para manifestarse detrás de pancartas de protesta en que pedían que los fabricantes de armas “dejaran de vender fusiles de asalto”. Episcopales en Trento, Nueva Jersey, participaron en un “Día de Lamentación” de 12 horas por la violencia armada, y estudiantes de las escuelas episcopales desde Nueva York hasta la Florida salieron de clases para tomar parte en un llamado nacional a la acción.

Manifestaciones lideradas por estudiantes en todo el país y las docenas de eventos separados en catedrales e iglesias episcopales coincidieron el 14 de marzo para conmemorar un mes de la masacre en la escuela secundaria de Parkland, Florida. Aunque organizados independientemente, la variedad de eventos —que los jóvenes organizadores anunciaron como un Día de Paro Nacional— sirvió para resaltar el común empeño para que se tomen medidas políticas que aborden lo que parece un persistente brote de masacres con armas de fuego en EE.UU.

“Esta es la única nación desarrollada del mundo que tiene un problema de muertes por armas de fuego en la medida en que nosotros lo tenemos”, dijo el obispo de Nueva Jersey Chip Stokes  en su sermón de la eucaristía que se celebró en la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Trenton. “Aquellos de nosotros que nos oponemos, debemos enfrentarnos al problema y denunciarlo en el nombre del Señor”.

Episcopales participan con un grupo interreligioso de manifestantes frente a las instalaciones de la Smith & Wesson en Springfield, Massachusetts, el 14 de marzo. Foto de Victoria Ix/Diócesis de Massachusetts Occidental.

Tales llamados han ido aumentando desde que 17 estudiantes y educadores fueron muertos a tiros el 14 de febrero en la escuela secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Un antiguo alumno de la escuela de 19 años ha sido acusado de la masacre.

La serie de eventos episcopales el 14 de marzo, coordinados por Obispos Unidos Contra la Violencia Armada, incluyó oficios, oraciones, dobles de campanas y, en algunos casos, formas más directas de promoción social.

Un centenar o más de manifestantes, dirigidos por jóvenes y líderes interreligiosos, entre ellos los obispos de las diócesis de Massachusetts y Massachusetts Occidental, estuvieron durante una hora frente a las instalaciones de Smith & Wesson en Springfield con pancartas de protesta, una de las cuales decía “Protejan a los niños, no a las armas”.

Smith & Wesson fabricó los fusiles que se usaron en las masacres de Parkland, en Aurora, Colorado y en San Bernardino, California.

Al final de la hora, los líderes estudiantiles entregaron tres demandas a los guardias en el centro de visitantes de Smith & Wesson. Esperan tener una reunión con líderes de la compañía en el transcurso de los próximos 30 días. Ellos le piden al fabricante que deje de vender armas de uso militar a la población civil y que creen un fondo de compensación comunitario para ayudar a cubrir los costos relacionados con la violencia armada.

Tales eventos compartieron la publicidad con la salida general de las aulas y las manifestaciones encabezadas por estudiantes contra la violencia armada. En la escuela afincada en la iglesia episcopal de La Gracia [Grace] en Nueva York, los estudiantes de 4º. a 12º. grados se unieron de manos alrededor de la escuela, y pusieron flores en memoria de un asistente escolar que fue muerto a tiros cerca de ese plantel el 1 de noviembre del año pasado.

Estudiantes en la Academia Episcopal de la Santa Trinidad [Holy Trinity], en Melbourne, Florida se reunieron por la mañana junto al asta de bandera de la escuela para orar por las víctimas de la violencia armada y firmar una pancarta de apoyo para la escuela secundaria Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Una manifestación estudiantil también tuvo lugar en la escuela Palmer Trinity de Miami, Florida.

Los eventos en catedrales e iglesias episcopales fueron desde reuniones de reflexión silentes a actividades de todo el día en que resaltaba el llamado a tomar medidas. He aquí algunos ejemplos:

Doble de campanas: La iglesia episcopal de San Pablo [St. Paul’s] en Grinnell, Iowa; la iglesia de La Gracia [Grace] en Sheldon, Vermont y la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Portland, Oregón, estuvieron entre las iglesias cuyas campanas doblaron 17 veces, un doble por cada una de las víctimas de Parkland.

Oficios de lamentaciones: Estos oficios, alentados por Obispos Unidos, han tenido lugar en numerosas diócesis a lo largo del día, tanto en catedrales como en congregaciones individuales. Obispos Unidos Contra la Violencia Armada ha publicado información acerca de algunos de estos oficios. Entre los participantes se incluyen la catedral de Santiago Apóstol [St. James] en Chicago; la iglesia catedral de San Pablo [St. Paul] en Des Moines, Iowa; la catedral de San Lucas [St. Luke’s] en Portland, Maine; la catedral de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Sacramento, California; la iglesia catedral de Cristo [Christ] en Springfield, Massachusetts y la catedral de Todos los Santos [All Saints’] en Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Día de Lamentación: El Día de Oración, Lamentación, Ayuno y Silencio de la Diócesis de Nueva Jersey comenzó a las 6:30 A.M. en la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad [Trinity] en Trenton y duró hasta las 6:30 P.M.. El oficio incluyó lectura de los nombres de fallecidos por armas de fuego. La Diócesis de Vermont comenzó a las 9:00 A.M. en la iglesia catedral de San Pablo [St. Paul] en Burlington, con un programa lleno de actividades, entre ellas música y lecturas, así como oraciones públicas que se ofrecían a cada hora en punto.

El programa de la Diócesis de Connecticut incluyó eucaristía a las 12:00 meridiano en la iglesia catedral de Cristo [Christ] en Hartford seguida por un almuerzo donde líderes de la comunidad iban a dirigir diálogos sobre la violencia armada. Estaba programada una vigilia para las 7 P.M.

– La Rda. Mary Frances Schjonberg es jefa de redacción interina de Episcopal News Service. David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él en dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Lambeth Conference 2020 theme unveiled

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 2:25pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The theme for the Lambeth Conference in 2020 is to be “God’s Church for God’s World: walking, listening and witnessing together.” Details have been announced on a new webpage which went live March 15. A more detailed website is being designed and will go live later this year.

Read the entire article here.

Memphis church’s reconciliation project reveals untold story of slave-trading operation next door

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 1:36pm

The historical marker in Memphis, Tennessee, for Nathan Bedford Forrest references only “his business enterprises” without identifying him as a slave trader who operated a slave mart on property next to Calvary Episcopal Church. Photo: Robyn Banks/Calvary Episcopal Church

[Episcopal News Service] A previously little-known piece of history just outside the doors of Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, is being brought to light as the church prepares to dedicate a historical marker at the pre-Civil War site of the Forrest Slave Mart.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slave trader who served as a Confederate lieutenant general during the Civil War and later was an early member of the Ku Klux Klan. Photo: Library of Congress, via Wikipedia

An existing historical marker on Calvary’s block notes that it once was the home of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a nineteenth-century businessman and Confederate general, but the marker fails to convey the more disturbing context: Forrest was a slave trader, and from 1854 to 1860 he operated a slave mart on property that the church now owns and uses as a parking lot.

The Rev. Scott Walter, rector at Calvary, called it “chilling” to think of the inhumanity that once occurred every day on land located just beyond the church wall behind him when he stands at the pulpit every Sunday. But the effort to research the full history of that block has been infused with a spirit of reconciliation as much as an interest in revealing ugly truths.

“We don’t want it to be a divisive thing but a truth that can be told that can lead to some healing,” Walters said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

The new historical marker, to be dedicated April 4 as Memphis marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in the city, is the product of a research project led by history professor Timothy Huebner, who is a member of Calvary Episcopal Church.

“It’s not that the existing marker isn’t factually accurate. … It just leaves out a lot,” Huebner told ENS. “And so that’s what we’re trying to do. We are trying to tell some of what has been left out that has to do with the history of that site.”

An organization called Lynching Sites Project Memphis,  whose mission is to accurately tell the history of racial violence in and around the city, first drew attention to the existing historical marker in 2015. Organizers held a prayer service calling for the sign to be changed to make clear that Forrest’s “business enterprises” were the selling of humans.

At the same time, the Episcopal Church has made racial reconciliation one of its three priorities during the current triennium. Some dioceses already had taken up their own efforts to confront hard truths about their complicity with slavery, segregation and lynchings. Notable examples include the Diocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Tennessee, which encompasses the central third of the state but not Memphis.

In 2016, Huebner and others at Calvary Episcopal Church formed a group to learn more about the church’s block and surrounding properties. Their inquiries initially focused on blighted buildings and ways the congregation could help improve the neighborhood, but Huebner’s preliminary research soon gravitated toward Forrest’s historical activities on the block.

A Memphis city director from the 1850s shows an ad for the slave mart run by Forrest and a business partner.

“We did not know at that point that he operated the slave mart at that actual site,” Huebner said. “We didn’t learn that until later.”

He uncovered those surprising details in newspaper advertisements and city directories from the 1850s. It also became obvious that the Tennessee Historical Commission would have looked through the same records and, therefore, been well aware of the Forrest slave mart when it drafted the text for its historical marker on the block, dedicated in 1955.

Huebner, who teaches at Rhodes College, chose to make Forrest the subject of his historical methods course in fall 2017. His 15 students researched Forrest’s life, as well as the history of that city block, and they determined that thousands of enslaved men, women and children were sold at the slave mart Forrest operated there.

The students also found that Forrest, one of at least eight slave traders in Memphis during the 1850s, was engaged in importing slaves from from Africa, which had been outlawed by the U.S. in 1808.

The slave mart operated by Nathan Bedford Forrest was located on a property now being used by Calvary Episcopal Church for a parking lot. The church will dedicate a new historical marker on April 4 telling the fuller story of the Forrest’s use of the property. Photo: Robyn Banks/Calvary Episcopal Church

The church was built in 1843, meaning the slave trading and Christian ministry were conducted nearly side by side for several years. No evidence has been found, however, that Forrest was a member or benefactor of the church.

His legacy in Memphis generated additional debate last year when a City Council vote led to the removal of a statue of Forrest from a city park in December. State legislators now are considering legislation that would punish local officials for such actions. Scrutiny of Confederate monuments intensified nationwide in August after a white supremacist rally in support of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in deadly violence there.

In Memphis, Huebner’s students drafted the text on the new historical marker about Forrest. A group of local scholars vetted their research. The marker itself was paid for by the National Parks Service. The students also have identified dozens of the slaves who were sold at the slave mart, and some of those names will be read during the dedication ceremony.

“That’s been poignant to me, realizing the names of real people and real lives and families are behind these statistics,” Walters said.

The dedication is part of a full slate of events on April 4 in Memphis, where the National Civil Rights Museum is leading commemorations marking 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed at the Lorraine Motel, about a mile from Calvary Episcopal Church.

Calvary’s ceremony is described as a “Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation,” and it will be led by Walters and the Rev. Dorothy Wells, the rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church in nearby Germantown, Tennessee, and a 1982 graduate of Rhodes College who worshiped at Calvary when she was a student.

Wells, in an email to ENS while she finishes up a pilgrimage in Israel, said she was as surprised as anyone that a slave mart once operated nearby “as well-heeled worshippers came and went past it, week after week, apparently never questioning the trading of human lives for the proverbial few pieces of silver.”

Wells, who is black, also wonders if some of her own ancestors might have among those sold by Forrest.

“While it has been hard to process, I cannot dwell on that past – but only on the hope that the future holds,” she said. “I still believe that reconciliation is possible – but only if we as a nation are committed to truth-telling.”

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

Video: Anglican Communion, Mothers’ Union reflect on goals of the UN Commission on the Status of Women

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 4:17pm

[Anglican Communion Newes Service] Some of the women from the Anglican Communion and Mothers’ Union delegations to the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women reflect on their hopes for the gathering.

Oceania primates pledge united action on climate change, gender-based violence

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 4:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican primates in the Oceania region have committed themselves “to take concrete action, to be champions and advocates, and to support each other” in the fight against climate change and gender-based violence. The church leaders made the commitments in a communiqué following their recent regional meeting in Fiji.

Read the full article here.

Bishop appeals for prayer after attacks on Muslims lead to state of emergency

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 4:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The senior Anglican bishop in Sri Lanka has spoken out against an outbreak of violence targeting the Muslim communities in Amapara and Digana in the central district of Kandy. At least two people were killed and 232 homes destroyed in riots sparked by the death of a Sinhala Buddhist man.

Read the full article here.

Episcopalians gather for Day of Lamentation amid calls for action against gun violence

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 12:07pm

Students at Grace Church School participate in a demonstration outside the school in New York on March 14 as part of a nationwide day of student-led activities calling for action against gun violence. The flowers are in memory of a school aide who was shot and killed near the school last year. Photo: Art Chang, Chang.NYC

[Episcopal News Service] Dozens of Episcopal cathedrals and churches across the country are marking a Day of Lamentation on March 14 for victims of gun violence by offering services, prayers, the tolling of bells and a demonstration at a gun manufacturer one month after the deadly shooting at a Florida high school.

The Episcopal events, coordinated by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, coincide with separate student-led plans for widespread classroom walk-outs and demonstrations that call for political action to address the seemingly relentless outbreak of mass shootings in the U.S

The student demonstrations and Episcopal services were organized in the aftermath of the massacre Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The gunman, a 19-year-old former student, is accused of killing 17 students and adults.

“This is the only nation in the world that has a gun death problem at the rate we do,” New Jersey Bishop Chip Stokes said in his sermon at Eucharist held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Trenton. “Those of us who oppose it need to get in the face of the problem and cry out in the name of the Lord.”

Episcopal school students are among those participating in the day’s demonstrations. Students in grades 4 through 12 at Grace Church School in New York linked hands to surround the school, and they placed flowers in memory of a school aide who was shot and killed near the school last year.

#marchforourlives starts by remembering beloved member of @GCSchoolNYC gunned down in front on the school on Nov 1 2017. #remember pic.twitter.com/EEJX8swa3Z

— Art Chang (@achangnyc) March 14, 2018

Students at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Florida, gathered in the morning at the school’s flagpole to pray for gun violence victims and sign a banner of support for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A student demonstration also was held at Palmer Trinity School in Miami, Florida.

Our students joined thousands of other kids around the nation today to protest gun violence in #NationalWalkOutDay, a movement sparked after the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. pic.twitter.com/R1h2XAlgFS

— Palmer Trinity (@palmertrinity) March 14, 2018

The events at Episcopal cathedrals and churches range from gatherings for silent reflection to full-day activities underscoring the call to action. Episcopal News Service will update its coverage of those events throughout the day. Here are some examples:

Peaceful vigil: In collaboration with interfaith partners and grassroots organizers, Episcopal Church youth and bishops will stand peacefully from 3 to 4 p.m. outside the gates of Smith and Wesson in Springfield, Massachusetts. Speakers will include Episcopal youth along with the bishops of the two Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts. Smith and Wesson made the guns used in the mass shootings in Parkland, Florida; Aurora, Colorado, and San Bernardino, California.

Bell tolls: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Grinnell, Iowa, and Grace Church in Sheldon, Vermont, are among the churches that will hold simple gatherings featuring 17 tolls of bells, one for each of the Parkland victims.

Services of Lamentation: These services, encouraged by Bishops United, have been scheduled in numerous dioceses throughout the day, both at cathedrals and in individual congregations. Bishops United Against Gun Violence has posted information about some of the services. Participants include Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, North Carolina; St. James Cathedral in Chicago; Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Des Moines, Iowa; Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland, Maine; Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, California; Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield, Massachusetts, and All Saints Cathedral in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Day of Lamentation: The Diocese of New Jersey’s Day of Prayer, Lamentation, Fasting and Silence began at 6:30 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Trenton and will last until 6:30 p.m. The Diocese of Vermont began at 9 a.m. at Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington with a full schedule of activities, including music and readings, as well as public prayers offered each hour on the hour.

This was my opening reflection for our Day of Lamentation at @EpiscopalVT Cathedral Church of Saint Paul, Burlington. Snow and ice on the roads, but still people are gathering throughout the day for prayer and contemplation. #EndGunViolence #EnoughIsEnough #prayerandpolicy https://t.co/GbzBw20GOd

— Thomas Ely (@BishopVT10) March 14, 2018

The Diocese of Connecticut’s activities kick off at noon with Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford followed by a lunch where community leaders will lead conversations about gun violence. A vigil is schedule for 7 p.m.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is interim managing editor of the Episcopal News Service. David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

From the ENS Archives: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle on the power of storytelling

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 2:53pm

Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote more than 60 books ranging from children’s stories to theological reflection, died Sept. 6, 2007, in Litchfield, Connecticut, at 88. She was 88. She is shown here two years earlier. Photo: Square Fish Books

[Episcopal News Service] The March 9 release of Ava DuVernay’s movie version of the classic — and controversial — children’s book “A Wrinkle in Time” has brought a new awareness of author Madeleine L’Engle who was a world-renowned lay Episcopal playwright, poet and author of fiction and non-fiction books.

L’Engle, who wrote more than 60 books ranging from children’s stories to theological reflection, died Sept. 6, 2007, in Litchfield, Connecticut. She was 88. In its obituary of L’Engle, the New York Times reported that “A Wrinkle in Time” was then in its 69th printing and had sold eight million copies. Those figures are sure to increase with the release of the movie.

“A Wrinkle in Time” won the Newberry Award in 1963. L’Engle traveled widely from her home base in New York, leading retreats, lecturing at writers’ conferences and addressing church and student groups abroad. In 1965 she became a volunteer librarian at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. She later served for many years as writer-in-residence at the cathedral.

“A Wrinkle in time” director Ava Marie DuVernay speaks with Storm Reid, who plays Meg Murry, between scenes. Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

L’Engle’s work expressed her Christian theology and has been compared to C. S. Lewis. “A Wrinkle in Time” rankled some conservative Christians and the book ranks 90th on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most-banned/challenged books of the early 2000’s. Critics said the book combined Christian themes and the occult, and they disputed L’Engle’s contention that science and religion can coexist.

There are echoes of the Gospel of John and 1 Corinthians in the book. After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg Murry, her brother and her friend to space in order to find him. Three mysterious astral travelers known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which lead the children on a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.

In 1995, L’Engle spoke with Episcopal News Service about the power of storytelling and her theology.

‘Story Is Where We Look for Truth’ An Interview with Madeleine L’Engle
Episcopal News Service
January 19, 1995
By Neil M. Alexander

Neil M. Alexander was vice-president and editorial director of the United Methodist Publishing House when he interviewed L’Engle. He is now president and publisher emeritus. He is not to be confused with Bishop J. Neil Alexander, the current vice president and dean of the School of Theology at Sewanee The University of the South.

What are you seeking to discover and share through your writing?

I wrote my first story when I was five, because I wanted to know why my father was coughing his lungs out from mustard gas he was exposed to in the First World War. Why is it that people hurt each other? Why don’t people love each other? I learned quickly that a story is the best place to explore these unanswerable questions. Facts are limited; they don’t carry us very far. Story is where we look for truth.

Which questions do you find yourself asking over and over again?

All the big ones. The questions that adolescents ask — and that we should never stop asking. Unless we continually bring questions to our faith, it will become sterile and cold. And so we ask: Why did God create the universe? Is there a purpose to it? Why did God take the incredible risk of making creatures with free will? And this leads us to ponder why, if God is good, do terrible things happen? Of course, there are no simple answers. If you have people with free will, they are going to make mistakes, and our actions do have consequences.

Is too much emphasis given to the importance of individual freedom? Would it be better if our communities provided more narrow boundaries?

I remember many years ago being in Russia with my husband. After a concert we were walking back to our hotel late at night, with no fear whatsoever, through tunnels beneath Red Square. When we came up on the other side of the square, I turned to my husband and said, “The price for this sense of security is too high.” With freedom there also comes risk, but it is worth it.

Ava DuVernay’s movie version of the classic children’s book “A Wrinkle in Time” was released March 9 and has renewed interest in the book and its author. It has also prompted a host of other books related to the story and the movie. Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

Where do you find the resources to sustain your search, to help you struggle with the ambiguity of being human?

Reading the Bible has always been a part of my daily life. My parents were Bible-reading people, and I grew up reading the Bible as a great storybook, which indeed it is. It is remarkably comforting to me that of all the protagonists in scriptural stories, not one is qualified to do what God is asking. In a sense we are all unqualified. If you were going to start a great nation, would you pick a hundred-year-old man and a woman past menopause? That’s the kind of thing God does.

I also read in the area of quantum mechanics and particle physics, because these are disciplines where people are dealing with the nature of being. These writers describe a universe in which everything is totally interrelated, where nothing happens in isolation. They have discovered that nothing can be studied objectively — because to look at something is to change it and be changed by it. I find such discussions helpful in framing theological responses to questions about the nature of the universe.

You have an incredible ability to draw upon your memory, to discern truth from events in your own life. How might others be helped to develop this capacity?

One thing that is helpful is keeping an honest and unpublishable journal. What you write down you tend not to forget. I’ve been keeping journals since I was eight. It is a way of having a say in the telling of our own stories. The act of writing it down helps set it in our memory. For storytellers, memory is very important because we can’t write a story without drawing on our own experience.

How does that apply to our spiritual pilgrimage as Christians? Do you think the faith community has developed a good memory to draw upon?

I don’t. I think we have forgotten far too much. I am concerned, for example, that we take Jesus’ parables out of context. We treat them as isolated illustrations in and of themselves, but they make much more sense if you know when they were given in the course of Jesus’ ministry and to whom he was speaking.

I don’t believe you can be a Christian in isolation from the support and collective memory of the believing community. My church is very important to me, and so is the group of women I meet with every Monday for study and prayer. We are in this life together, not alone.

Some time back there were reports about folks speculating that you are a “new age” thinker. What was that all about?

I haven’t the faintest idea. I once asked someone what led people to say I was promoting “new age” concepts. The response was, “You mention the rainbow, and that’s a sign of new age thinking.” I said, “Hey, wait a minute. The rainbow is the sign of God’s covenant with his people. Don’t hand our symbols over to those promoting ‘new age’ spirituality. Don’t let faddish groups take away what God has given us.”

“A Wrinkle in Time,” whose original book jacket is show here, was rejected 26 times before it was published and won the Newberry Award in 1963. Photo: Wikipedia

I was sent a newspaper clipping that cited my book “A Wrinkle in Time” as one of the 10 most censored books in the United States. When it first appeared in 1962, it was hailed by many as a Christian work. In the intervening years not one word of that book has changed. So, what has happened to cause people to want it banned?

What do you think happened?

I think there are some people who are terribly afraid… afraid that they cannot control or manipulate God, that God might love people they don’t love, that God’s love is too all-embracing, and that we don’t have to earn it. All we have to do is say we are sorry, and God throws a big party.

That is frightening to some people. They seem to feel that they can’t be happy in heaven unless hell is heavily populated. I don’t really understand that.

Do you worry that an overemphasis on unconditional grace might lead to giving license for the self-centered pursuit of personal comfort without accountability?

Unconditional grace is not the same as permissiveness, though I think it gets confused with that sometimes. We are creatures who sin. I don’t think that makes God angry. On the contrary, I think that makes God incredibly sad.

I think we hurt God by our sinning and by manipulating the idea of unconditional grace into something that makes it easier for us to go on sinning. Grace does not give us permission to be destructive people. God’s grace ought to give us the courage to try to give pleasure to God.

At night when I read my evening prayers, I ask myself, “What have I done that would have hurt God today?” and “What have I done to give pleasure to God?”

How do your books help people experience God’s grace and grow in faithfulness?

I have had many letters from people who say that the loving God revealed in my books has changed their lives. They tell me that they have discovered that they no longer have to be afraid of God.

“The Summer of the Great Grandmother” is about my mother’s 90th and last summer. I was very angry about what was happening to her. I wrote about walking down the dirt road in front of the house shouting, “God, don’t do this to my mother. You take her!”

I have received letters from readers who said, “I didn’t know I was allowed to be angry.” Well, of course we are allowed to be angry, but we are also called not to stay stuck in our anger.

In “The Irrational Season” you say that male and female will not be completely reconciled until Christ returns. Yet in “Two Part Invention” you describe the extraordinary harmony of your own marriage. We seem to be in a time of struggle over male and female roles and relationships. What are your current thoughts about this subject?

There is a lot of antagonism in the world between male and female. I think we are paying much too much attention to gender conflict. What I hear people asking is: Does God really love me? Will I continue as who I am after death? Will God continue to help me grow? Why is there so much pain? Why, if God is good, do we do so many wrong things? I wish the church would address itself to that.

We see violence, deprivation, suffering and hatefulness close to home and across the world. As you survey what is happening, how do you dare to be hopeful?

I am hopeful because I don’t think God is going to fail with creation. I think somehow or other love is going to come through. Christ is with us.

After my husband died, I lived several years with my two granddaughters who were in college. They questioned things, and sometimes we didn’t agree, but at least we were all struggling to find truth.

Because we are human and finite, and God is divine and infinite, we can never totally comprehend the living, wondrous God whom we adore. So, there are always unanswered questions as God pushes us along and helps us grow in love. But my granddaughters and the other young people I meet are willing to ask and struggle with the important questions. That gives me hope.

Lead the leaders of the world, presiding bishop tells Episcopalians and Anglicans at UN women’s meeting

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 1:56pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stands with Lay Assistant Nadyne Duverseau, left, Montana Bishop for Native American Ministries Carol Gallagher and the Rev. Carey Connors of Fredericksburg, Virginia, amidst the congregation that celebrated the opening Eucharist on March 12 for the UNCSW gathering. The youth are participating in the session, and they wrote the prayers for the service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal and Anglican women attending the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women have some gospel work to do.

That was Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s message to a packed Eucharist on March 12 in the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, a few blocks from the UN. The service, held on the opening day of the session that lasts until March 23, was celebrated in thanksgiving for the gathering of women who have come from all over the world.

The 17 Episcopal delegates, who represent Curry at the gathering, are from places such as Venezuela and Puerto Rico, and from Tennessee to Washington state. They are diverse in age, culture, geography, race and experience. They are gathering with 20 women from 16 Anglican Communion provinces; the Mothers’ Union sent seven women from five provinces.

The Rev. Carey Connors does a quick rehearsal of the Prayers of the People with members of the Episcopal Youth in Global Community group of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia, before opening Eucharist on March 12 for the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The youth are participating in the session, and they wrote the prayers for the service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“You have come here this week in the midst of what is the nightmare of our world,” Curry said during his sermon. “You have come to the seat of the nations of the earth to encourage our leaders and to show them how to end the nightmare and realize the dream for all of us.”

It is “Gospel work” to help reconfigure the nightmare of the world into the dream that God intends for us, he said. It is work that began with Mary, “Jesus’ mama,” the presiding bishop said, “so, follow her footsteps.”

The theme of this meeting centers on the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

“Go, go do your work, don’t get weary,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry tells the people gathered March 12 in the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, a few blocks from the United Nations building, for the opening UNCSW Eucharist. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Representatives of member states, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations from all regions of the world, including the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, are attending. ECOSOC stands for the UN’s Economic and Social Council. Curry submitted a statement to the UNCSW, based on General Convention. Episcopal delegates look to that statement and its priorities in shaping their advocacy as they share their own stories, reflections and concerns that further the cause. http://undocs.org/E/CN.6/2018/NGO/109

In his statement, the presiding bishop said many rural women and girls are leaders in their communities and that “evolving social norms, expanding human rights and increasing numbers of women working outside the home have enhanced their opportunities.” Their leadership is based on their knowledge of their land, environment, community and culture,” he wrote. However, they still face “challenges, inequalities and beliefs that impede them from further empowering themselves.”

Curry’s statement called on the UN community and civil society to remedy this situation by:

Prioritizing resources and programs for marginalized groups of rural women and girls, extending access to basic resources and services to rural areas, addressing environmental concerns and extend land rights, and promoting gender equality education and practices and eradicate gender-based violence.

Seventeen Episcopal delegates, who represent Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the UNCSW session, will work with members of the Episcopal Church-wide staff to advocate for rural women during the March 12-23 gathering. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Many other submissions from around the world are here. Many, but not all, of the faith-based organizations’ statements, including Curry’s and that of the Anglican Consultative Council, can be directly accessed here.

All delegates will settle on a final version of “agreed conclusions” (now in draft form here) by the end of the session or soon thereafter. If approved, the UN General Assembly expects member states to bring those priorities home to implement them in the following years.

Mothers’ Union member Ekua Swanzy of Ghana, right, Shelia Golden of Canada, Felicia Yeboah Asuamah of Ghana and Mothers’ Union Chief Executive Bev Julien sing “In Christ There is No East or West” at the opening UNCSW Eucharist on March 12 at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, a few blocks from the UN. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Bev Julien, chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, said recently that that organization’s attendance at the meeting “is important as we represent the voices of more than 4 million globally.”

“Isolation and loneliness are challenges in both global north and south, and the issues of women’s economic empowerment are even more acute in rural than urban communities.” The Mothers’ Union delegates “have direct experience of the issues and will be advocating nationally to urge these to be addressed.”

At the end of his rousing sermon, Curry called on the delegations to advocate for God’s dream. “My dear sisters, we believe that God has something better in store for this world,” he said. “It is your job this week to help the leaders of the nations find out what it is and make this world better. So, go, go do your work, don’t get weary.”

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

Korean church leaders support dialogue by world leaders to avoid military conflict

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 5:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The ecumenical body representing churches in Korea – including the Anglican Church in Korea – have welcomed news that the North Korea has agreed to cease missile tests, pending a meeting between the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The chair of the reconciliation and reunification committee of the National Council of Churches of Korea, the Rev. Haekjib Ra, said that the ecumenical body remains convinced that dialogue is the only way to resolve military conflict on the Korean peninsula peacefully.

Read the full article here.

Fueron anunciados los miembros de la Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes a la Convención General Episcopal

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:21pm

Ya fueron anunciados los 16 miembros de la delegación de la Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes a la 79.ª Convención General.

La 79.ª Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal tendrá lugar del jueves 5 de julio al viernes 13 de julio en el Austin Convention Center,  en Austin, Texas (Diócesis de Texas).

La Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes en la Convención General fue establecida inicialmente en 1982 gracias a una resolución. A los miembros de la Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes se les permite puesto y voz de acuerdo a las reglas de la Cámara de los Diputados y participarán en las audiencias de las comisiones y los debates en el recinto.

“Desde la convención de 1997 en adelante, la Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes ha gozado del privilegio de tener puesto y voz en la Cámara de los Diputados”, dijo la presidenta de la Cámara de los Diputados Gay Clark Jennings. “Nuestros debates y deliberaciones legislativas se han animado y enriquecido por estos impresionantes jóvenes y esperamos con ansias darles la bienvenida a la Cámara a los participantes de este año. Me siento especialmente agradecida con el vicepresidente de la Cámara de los Diputados Byron Rushing y con la diputada Ariana González Bonillas, de Arizona, por su labor al ayudarnos a seleccionar a los jóvenes que estarán con nosotros en Austin”.

“Los miembros de la Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes participarán en la orientación y entrenamiento de la Convención General del 5 al 8 de abril en Austin. Esto asegurará que estén listos para la Convención General cuando lleguen a Texas el 2 de julio”, señaló Clark Stov, directora de los Ministerios de Formación, Jóvenes y Jóvenes Adultos. “Estos jóvenes participarán en todos los aspectos de la Convención General desde las reuniones de los comités hasta las deliberaciones legislativas en el recinto de la Cámara de los Diputados, donde tendrán puesto y voz”.

Los siguientes jóvenes servirán como la Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes en la Convención General 2018:

Provincia I
• Georgia Atkinson, Iglesia Episcopal en New Hampshire
• James-Paul Forbes, Iglesia Episcopal en Connecticut

Provincia II
• Anthony Baldeosingh, Diócesis de Long Island
• Wentao Zhao, Diócesis de Long Island

Provincia III
• Alexander Ward, Diócesis de West Virginia
• Andrew K. Kasule, Diócesis de Washington

Provincia IV
• Justin Mullis, Diócesis de Carolina del Norte
• Helena Upshaw, Iglesia Episcopal en Carolina del Sur

Provincia V
• Claire Parish, Diócesis de Michigan Occidental
• Alexander Koponen, Diócesis de Indianapolis

Provincia VI
• Emily Jetton, Diócesis de Iowa
• Luisa Van Oss, Iglesia Episcopal en Minnesota

Provincia VII
• Michaela Wilkins, Diócesis de Texas
• Cecelia Riddle, Diócesis de Kansas

Provincia VIII
• Ángela Cainguitan, Diócesis de Hawaii
• María González, Diócesis de Olympia

Provincia IX Actualmente está discerniendo a los candidatos.

Los Mentores Adultos para la Presencia Oficial de los Jóvenes serán:
• Cookie Cantwell, Diócesis de Alta Carolina del Sur, Provincia IV
• Rdo. Randy Callender, Diócesis de Maryland, Provincia III
• Karen Schlabach, Diócesis de Kansas, Provincia VII
• Rdo. Israel Portilla Gómez, Diócesis de Colombia, Provincia IX
• Rdo. Vincent Black, Diócesis de Ohio, Provincia V, servirá como capellán.

Junto con Skov estarán Wendy Johnson, funcionaria de Formación Digital y Eventos y Valerie Harris, asociada del departamento de Formación, ambas son parte del personal de la Iglesia Episcopal.

El Departamento de Formación recibió 107 solicitudes de jóvenes en las diócesis de toda la Iglesia Episcopal. Las solicitudes fueron revisadas por un comité que incluyó al vicepresidente de la Cámara de los Diputados Byron Rushing de Massachusetts y a la diputada Ariana González Bonillas de Arizona, miembros de la Red del Consejo de Liderazgo del Ministerio de los Jóvenes y personal del departamento de Formación.

Para más información, favor comunicarse con Skov en bskov@episcopalchurch.org.

La Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal se celebra cada tres años para deliberar los asuntos legislativos de la Iglesia. La Convención General es el organismo bicameral que gobierna la Iglesia, compuesta de la Cámara de los Obispos, con más de 200 obispos activos y jubilados, y la Cámara de los Diputados, con más de 800 diputados clérigos y laicos electos, provenientes de las 109 diócesis y tres zonas regionales de la Iglesia. Entre convenciones, la Convención General continúa funcionando a través de sus comités y comisiones. El Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal lleva a cabo los programas y políticas adoptados por la Convención General.

Episcopalians, Anglicans to join push for rural women’s empowerment at United Nations

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 4:20pm

The 2017 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women included 45 member states plus accredited nongovernmental organizations such as the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Photo: UNCSW

[Episcopal News Service] Women and girls in remote, rural pockets of the world will stand in the forefront of the minds of Episcopal delegates heading to a two-week session at the United Nations in one of the most populous cities in the United States — New York.

The 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is taking place March 12-23. For 2018, the theme zeroes in on the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

“This is the second-largest UN event in New York City every year. It’s all very dramatic and exciting,” Lynnaia Main, Episcopal Church representative to the United Nations, told Episcopal News Service. The largest event is the United Nations General Assembly, held in September.

Why rural women and girls?

Virtually every gender and development indicator with available data reveals that, globally, rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women, according to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ report for the 62nd commission, based on a 2016 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in rural areas around the globe is clearly linked to all other goals and targets, including ending poverty in all its forms, eradicating hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture, achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all and taking action to combat climate change,” Guterres wrote.

Studies have long shown how inequality between women and men creates a domino effect of suffering for everyone worldwide, and the inherent challenges of rural life only compound the problem. For instance, just 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school, while every additional year of primary school increases girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent, a global UNCSW report shows. More education also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence.

Of the many solutions that Sadiya Butros Tia Dent would like to bring back home to Sudan, the first would be practical ways to improve the education and training of girls and women. Tia Dent was selected by the first archbishop and primate of the Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Ezekiel Kondo, to represent the new Anglican province created in 2017 at UNCSW.

She wants to establish a center for internet technology, but also for basic reading and writing skills. Tia Dent spoke to ENS soon after she arrived to the Episcopal Church Office in Manhattan to rest and meet others before the two-week session. “Especially in a country like Sudan, they don’t even know their rights. To know, we need to be equipped,” said Tia Dent, who has a master’s degree in human rights.

Also, on average, women comprise about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and if these women had the same access to resources as men do, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, raising total agricultural output in these countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, the report shows. This would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by around 12 to 17 percent.

How the Episcopal Church fits in

“Sometimes what comes out of this is we’re more aware of the gaps on the church side,” Main told ENS. “We also encourage our delegates to think, be proactive and accountable to their communities back home to share this with others.”

Improving the lives of women and girls worldwide is a tenet of the baptismal covenant, says Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in a written statement, based on General Convention resolutions and submitted to the commission. Episcopal delegates shape their advocacy from that statement and its priorities, sharing their own stories, reflections and concerns that further the cause.

The church’s mission and work through rural congregations and networks, including many indigenous communities, are to “provide rural women and girls with spiritual care, socio-economic development, ministries to farmers, migrant workers and women, domestic poverty and asset-based community development programs and international development programs through Episcopal Relief & Development,” Curry wrote.

Yet basic resources and services in rural areas can be difficult to access, costly, insufficient or nonexistent, Curry said. Those inadequate infrastructure systems harm almost every aspect of life, from access to water, sanitation, stable and nutritious food to quality medical care, education, social protection and family support services.

A commission to act

But this is not a conference to simply discuss problems, participants say. It’s about planning action. Curry’s statement establishes four priorities for member states, United Nations entities and civil society:

  • Prioritize resources and programs for marginalized groups of rural women and girls,
  • extend access to basic resources and services to rural areas,
  • address environmental concerns and extend land rights,
  • and promote gender equality education and practices and eradicate gender-based violence.

The 45 UNCSW member states, with input from accredited nongovernmental organizations including the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, plan to hash out a final draft of agreed conclusions by the end of the session or soon thereafter, Main said. The final agreement goes to the United Nations. If approved, the General Assembly expects member states to bring those priorities home to implement them in the following years.

“It furthers the cause by taking action, and the member states are responsible for that. If you don’t have agreed conclusions, nothing can happen,” Rachel Chardon, administrative officer for the Anglican Communion’s Office at the United Nations General Program, told ENS.

There’s official follow-up, too.

Since 2006, the commission has reviewed how the agreed-upon conclusions from some previous session were implemented, and this year, the commission is looking at the 47th UNCSW session to see how member states have implemented those priorities.

The priority theme in 2003 was “participation and access of women to the media, and information and communication technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.”

Episcopalians participate in several ways

The 17 Episcopal delegates, hailing from places such as Venezuela and Puerto Rico to Tennessee and Washington state, are diverse in age, culture, geography, race and experience. These delegates will be able to attend the official UNCSW proceedings at the United Nations, including joint advocacy with the group, Ecumenical Women.

“We’re there to show that the Episcopal Church is present and that we care. And, to share what the church thinks needs to happen,” Main said. “We track how they work out the outcome document through our own lens and comment on it as it develops. We’re not the main players at the table, but we’re an active part of the process.”

Other Episcopalians attend parallel events and UNCSW activities. One block from the United Nations, the Episcopal Church Center will hold several worship services and events throughout the two-week period for Episcopalians and others to attend and network. Episcopal churches will host events as well.

Episcopal participation in this UN effort aligns with the “leave no one behind” and “reach the furthest behind first” principles of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, which the church affirmed in 2016.

Advocating for gender equality and empowerment was commended at the 2015 General Convention, and that includes transgender individuals, as well as women, Curry wrote in the statement. This work involves a lot of education.

“This requires correcting present social, political and economic inequalities and identifying root causes such as traditional understandings of gender roles, socialization of women and girls to believe that they are ‘less than,’ passivity, religious beliefs, sexism, machismo and patriarchy,” he said.

“New values must be communicated through culturally contextualized gender equality education that includes men and boys, and demonstrates that gender equality benefits all people.”

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com.

Jubilee minister is immigrants’ devoted ally for 30 years, helping more than 1,000 become citizens

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 1:10pm

Linda Barber advises Charlie Whitney on his application to bring his fiancee to the United States from the Philippines. He was accompanied on his visit to Trinity Episcopal Church in Aurora, Illinois, by his grandparents. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Aurora, Illinois] Linda Barber is not an immigration lawyer, but she knows one if you need one. She’s not a priest or a deacon and doesn’t prefer calling herself a minister either, though Jubilee minister is her official title at Trinity Episcopal Church in this city west of Chicago.

What Barber has become over more than 30 years of service is an improbable immigration law expert and the humble one-woman team behind Trinity Amnesty Center, a ministry that has provided a guiding hand to more than 1,000 newly minted U.S. citizens and helped an untold number of other immigrants and their families with everything from paperwork to preparing for their naturalization tests.

“If you need your fingerprints, I can do them right now,” Barber, 75, said from behind her desk at the church office.

With federal immigration policy a hot-button issue and with the Trump administration calling for greater restrictions, the heated political rhetoric in Washington, D.C., hasn’t filtered down to Barber’s cramped but inviting 10-by-12 office. A depiction of Africa in wood and an animal carving from Macedonia, gifts from two of Barber’s past clients, rest on a shelf next to a card that reads “Thou Shalt Not Hassle.”

In Barber’s office, the only judgement you are likely to face is on the merits of your immigration case. Either you have a case, or you don’t. And if you do, Barber is your devoted ally through every step of the process.

“Welcome the stranger” is how Barber describes the Christian purpose behind Trinity Amnesty Center.

And this: “Jesus was an immigrant,” she said. “I wonder if he had a visa to cross countries. I don’t think so.”

Linda Barber has been helping people with their immigration paperwork for more than 30 years, providing a guiding hand to at least 1,084 newly minted U.S. citizens. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Immigration assistance is just one of the ministries Trinity Episcopal Church offers as a Jubilee Center of the Episcopal Church since 1987. Trinity recently received a $750 Jubilee Ministries grant as a show of support for those efforts, which include a weekly soup kitchen meal, opportunities for court-ordered community service and a work program for individuals with developmental disabilities.

That level of activity may surprise anyone who only visits Trinity on Sunday morning, when the average attendance at worship services barely tops 30 people, mostly skewing older, according to Barber. She is a lifelong member of the congregation who was baptized at the church.

“We do a lot, for the small group that we have,” she said.

Pinned to a bulletin board above Barber’s desk is a certificate of appreciation awarded her by the Diocese of Chicago in recognition of her immigration assistance. The certificate is from 1988, when Barber was still relatively new to this work. She jokingly curses the church’s former rector for being absent one day in 1987, leaving Barber, as parish administrator at the time, to answer a knock at the door from the immigrant who would become her first client.

It was a Canadian woman who hadn’t realized she wasn’t a U.S. citizen until she needed to verify her status in applying to a college in Chicago. Or was it that the woman was about to get married? Barber struggled to summon a precise memory of that first case, but its legacy is clear. Now 31 years later, Barber gladly opens the door of the church offices to welcome anyone looking for help with their immigration status or a relative’s case.

Aurora is Illinois’ second-largest city at about 200,000 residents, about 50,000 of them foreign born, mostly from Latin America and Asia. Its downtown suffered an economic decline toward the end of the last century, but there are signs of growth again, said the Rev. Denzil Luckritz, Trinity’s rector since 2015. The Jubilee Center has had a hand in that rebound, Luckritz said, thanks in large part to Barber’s work.

“She’s made a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

Linda Barber reviews Charlie Whitney’s Form I-129F in her office at Trinity Episcopal Church in Aurora, Illinois. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

On the day Episcopal News Service visited Barber’s office, she had a 10 a.m. appointment with Charlie Whitney, a 30-year-old from the nearby city of Ottawa, Illinois, who was applying to bring his fiancée to the United States from the Philippines.

“What have you got for me? Do you have the form?” Barber asked Whitney.

“I do,” he said, handing her a stack of paperwork bound neatly together. This was a Form I-129F, a “petition for alien fiancée,” and it dutifully provided information about how Whitney met 28-year-old Rhea Tago while vacationing in the Philippines in 2017, how they fell in love and kept in constant long-distance communication and how he returned to the country and proposed to her in January.

Barber typically scans a form like this for potential red flags that she thinks immigration authorities, looking to identify marriage fraud, will use as reasons for denying legal residency. Whitney’s documentation was thorough, including screenshots of some of his love-struck Facebook Messenger conversations with Tago.

“I’m impressed. You have done your homework,” Barber said.

She told him his next step is to be patient. She also advised that money orders and cashiers’ checks are processed faster than personal checks. Whitney asked if security concerns have slowed down the process, but Barber said she wasn’t aware of any that would affect this petition.

If all goes smoothly, Tago might be able to join Whitney in a matter of months, Barber said. The priest at Whitney’s Roman Catholic parish already had agreed to marry the couple within three months of Tago’s arrival, as required by immigration law.

“If we’ve got the rest of our lives together, what’s another couple months, if needed?” Whitney said. He gave Barber a $20 bill as a donation for her help.

Church’s ministry dates back to Reagan-era amnesty program

Barber is a part-time paid employee of the church and typically works Wednesdays and Thursdays. Some weeks no one stops by needing immigration help. Other times her clients visit after learning about her services while attending the free lunches she helps organize on Thursdays. She also gets referrals, as was the case with Whitney.

His grandmother had struck up a conversation with Barber while the two women were working together on floral arrangements for an Aurora flower shop on Valentine’s Day. Add part-time florist to her resume.

She’s also a bass drum player in a local steel drum band and officiates at swim and diving meets, activities that got her out of the house 25 years ago after her daughter left home for college. Her work with the Trinity Amnesty Center did the same.

The term “amnesty” may be a political lightning rod in 2018, but the ministry’s roots date back to the Reagan era, when passage of the bipartisan Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 created an amnesty program for millions of immigrants. That initially drove some of Barber’s first clients to seek her help with their paperwork. She responded by learning everything she could about immigration law and is still visibly energized by the work.

“I’ve met so many people from all over the world, and from some countries I didn’t even know existed,” she said.

Barber still regularly attends classes offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, office in Chicago, to stay up to date on the latest changes in the law. Back in Aurora, she maintains a modest library of immigration resources in her office.

One cabinet in the corner is stocked with brochures on civics lessons for the naturalization test. She also has flash cards if clients want to practice. Lined up on a shelf behind her are copies of “Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants.” And if she needs to verify a detail, she’ll either pull up the Department of Homeland Security website on her computer or grab a green binder with “USCIS” written on its spine and flip through page after page of forms, fee schedules and instructions.

Barber says she knows more about immigration law than some lawyers – less a boast than a statement of fact – but if she’s unable to answer a client’s questions or thinks legal assistance is necessary, she hands the case off to an Aurora attorney, Patrick Kinnally, who has worked with Trinity Amnesty Center nearly from the start.

“She’s committed to trying to help people,” Kinnally told ENS by phone. “The community and Trinity are lucky to have her doing what she does.”

Linda Barber is Jubilee minister at Trinity Episcopal Church in Aurora, Illinois, where she is the one-woman team behind the Trinity Amnesty Center and helps host free lunches weekly at the church. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Most of the cases Barber sees involve Form N-400 (application for U.S. citizenship) or Form I-130 (green card application for the direct relative of a U.S. citizen or legal resident). She has attended more than her share of citizenship ceremonies, and a quick check of her computer records shows at least 1,084 people are U.S. citizens today thanks partly to Trinity Amnesty Center.

Some stories stick with her, like the man with Down’s syndrome whom she taught to write “I want to be a U.S. citizen” over and over. She accompanied him on his trip to Chicago for his naturalization interview and remembers him pointing to the Statue of Liberty in a picture on the wall.

“It still chokes me up,” she said.

He is now a citizen. Another client asked Barber to help bring her parents to the U.S. When the parents became citizens, Barber helped them apply to bring their other children. And when one of those children got married, Barber was invited to the wedding.

“They’re good, good people,” Barber said, and despite sometimes having to wait a dozen or more years, they’re “doing it the right way.”

Her “right way” evokes a federal process, one that ensures immigrants maintain legal status. The wrong way, whatever it may be, has no corresponding form in the green binder.

Immigrants face threat of greater restrictions under Trump

The process of bringing family members to the United States has been criticized by President Donald Trump as “chain migration,” which he hopes to end. Does Barber see anything wrong with immigrants bringing their whole families to the U.S.?

Barber paused at the question, then admitted she hadn’t really thought about the prudence of the policy.

Another legal path to citizenship is known as the diversity visa lottery, which encourages immigration from certain countries underrepresented among the 1 million or so people who legally move to the U.S. each year. That too has been targeted by Trump: “We need to get rid of the lottery program as soon as possible,” he said in November.

Goran Petkoski, a native of Macedonia, came to the U.S. in 2002 with a diversity visa. His English is precise despite his lingering accent, and his enthusiasm for America was obvious during a visit to Barber’s office.

“It’s not just that you can accomplish all of your dreams, a better life. I learned the fact that we have the best education,” said Petkoski, who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Northern Illinois University in 2016 and now is training to be a grocery store manager.

Macedonia natives Goran Petkoski, center, and his mother, Spasija Petkoska, meet with Linda Barber to ask for her help applying for U.S. citizenship for Spasija Petkoska. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Petkoski, 41, became a U.S. citizen in 2007 and later applied to bring his mother, Spasija Petkoska, to this country with him. She moved here in 2012 and now sat in the chair across from Barber’s desk, her hands folded in her lap. Her grasp of English was minimal, but Petkoska, 61, has been a permanent resident of the U.S. for more than five years, making her eligible to apply for citizenship.

“Why do you want to become an American citizen?” Barber asked.

Petkoska’s son translated for her. “She wants to be a citizen because she lives here, and she respects everything that the country does for her,” he said.

Barber outlined what to expect: At her citizenship interview, Petkoska will need to explain in at least simple terms what it means to be a U.S. citizen. But before then, she will need to get two passport-style photos, and she will need money, because the government charges $725 for the application alone. During their next visit, Barber will help them fill out Form N-400.

“I’ve helped a lot of people from Macedonia,” she said before sending mother and son on their way.

Barber has not had much experience with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which was created under President Barack Obama to offer protection for immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally when they were children. DACA protections now are in limbo after Trump revoked the program.

As for adults who came to the United States illegally, Barber withholds condemnation. They simply aren’t the clients she typically assists at Trinity Amnesty Center. Under current law, no amount of paperwork is likely to help.

“There’s no way they can become legal at this point,” she said.

That doesn’t prevent Barber from engaging in some wishful thinking. One of the regulars at the Thursday soup kitchen meal is a man named Miguel who has been in this country illegally for years. Every week, after he finishes his free lunch, he sticks around to help wash dishes.

“I want to adopt you,” Barber sometimes tells Miguel, “so you can become legal.”

Form N-600: “An adopted child may also acquire U.S. citizenship through his or her adoptive U.S. citizen parent.” A valid path to citizenship, but not for someone 18 or older.

Wishful thinking.

Wishes and paperwork aside, Barber also feels called to look after Miguel and any other immigrants who enter the doors at Trinity Episcopal Church.

“They know they’re all safe here. I’m not going to call the feds on them,” she said. “This is a church. We want you to be safe here.”

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

Hong Kong prepares to welcome thousands of young people for international Taize pilgrimage

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 12:07pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Thousands of young adults from around the world will gather in Hong Kong in August for a five-day Taize Pilgrimage of Trust and Reconciliation. The Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (HKSKH) – the Anglican Church in Honk Kong – has joined with the Catholic Church and the Hong Kong Christian Council to invite Taize to stage the significant international gathering in Hong Kong City. Some brothers from the France-based Taize Community arrived in Hong Kong last month and will stay in the Chinese autonomous territory to help plan for the international event. They have taken part in local services and welcomed to a provincial meeting of HKSKH Clergy.

Read the entire article here.

Sydney Archbishop welcomes New South Wales modern slavery bill

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 12:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Draft legislation to make it easier for police and prosecution authorities to crack down on modern slavery in New South Wales has been welcomed by  Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies. The archbishop was in the public gallery of the New South Wales Legislative Council March 8 as MLC Paul Green introduced his modern slavery bill. Davies said that the bill “deserves the wholehearted support of the Parliament and the people of NSW.”

Read the entire article here.

Primate of Brazil calls for women and men to fight together for gender equality

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 4:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church in Brazil, Francisco de Assis da Silva, has called on men and women in the church to work together in the fight for gender equality. Francisco, who leads the Diocese of South-Western Brazil in addition to his role as primate of the province, said in an open letter that “We live in a time of setbacks sponsored by those who hold power in the Brazilian state. Violence against women has widened. The exclusion of social rights has become systematic against the most vulnerable segments of society and, of course, women are the biggest victims.”

Read the entire article here.

House of Bishops pledges advocacy to end gun violence, sexual violence

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 8:39pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops said March 7 its members will support two major social movements, one to end gun violence and the other to end sexual harassment, violence and gender bias.

The bishops said they “wholeheartedly support and join” young people who survived the deadly Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in their call for an end to gun violence.

In the other statement, they said they knew the “church has fallen short of our responsibility to listen and respond” to “the reality of sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and the cultural stronghold of gender bias and inequity.” The bishops “invite the church to a deeper examination of what God intends for our relationships,” including at the July meeting of General Convention.

Both statements were “accepted” during their annual spring retreat, according to press releases issued by the church’s Office of Public Affairs. The bishops are gathered March 6-9 at Camp Allen, an Episcopal camp and conference center in Navasota, Texas.

Bishops say students are ‘choosing life’

In their statement on the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, the bishops noted that “at this critical moment young people of our nation are inviting us to turn away from the nightmare of gun violence to the dream of choosing life,” the bishops said

The statement endorses the goals of the student organizers of the March for Our Lives, scheduled for March 24 in Washington, D.C. Companion marches are planned in many U.S. cities and towns, and many Episcopal bishops have voiced their support for those marches. The bishops’ statement reiterated that support.

They also pledged to observe “a day of Lament and Action” on March 14, one month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which killed 17 students and adults.

The bishops said that, while they stand in support of the students’ efforts “we acknowledge that black and brown youth have continuously challenged our country to address the gun violence that they and their communities are experiencing,” the bishops said. “We repent that, as bishops, we have failed to heed their call.”

Some commentators have observed that the media and the public in general have appeared to be more sympathetic to the calls to end gun violence that have come from predominantly white communities. Others have expressed concern about potential racial bias among teachers who might be armed, as President Donald Trump and others have proposed.

The bishops said they “recommit to working for safe gun legislation as our church has called for in multiple General Convention resolutions.”

The Episcopal Church bishops acted a day after receiving a letter from Episcopalians Philip and April Schentrup, the parents of 16-year-old Carmen Schentrup, who was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The Schentrups attend St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in nearby Coral Springs, Florida, where their daughter was a youth group leader. Southeast Florida Bishop Peter Eaton shared the letter with the bishops.

“In our attempt to heal from despair and grief, we are compelled to try and make the world a better place for our two remaining children and for all children,” the parents told the bishops, imploring them “as leaders of Christ’s church, to address the issue of gun violence head-on.

“We ask that you make this a priority for the church and to leave little ambiguity as to ‘what would Jesus do.’ The scourge of gun violence on this nation, especially with military assault rifles, is a problem of our own creation and counter to God’s desire for peace and love. As a nation we can solve this problem, and as leaders of the church in our country, we ask that you help lead the way. In Christ’s name, we beg you to take action.”

They also asked the bishops to “to come with us to stand up for the lives of children and for the ministry of Christ’s church” during the March 24 events.

“One can only imagine the example of leadership and solidarity that such a showing could make on our fractured and divided country,” the Schentrups wrote.

Responding to the #MeToo movement

In their statement on sexual harassment and violence, the bishops note that this is the first time the House of Bishops has met as a body since the #MeToo movement began last fall.

“Many of us have experienced sexual harassment and perhaps sexual violence,” they wrote. “Bishops who are women know the ‘me-too’ experience. Some bishops who are men know it as well. We live with different experiences of the cultural endowment of power.”

The house pledged to continue what it called “our own work of reconciliation within our branch of God’s church, honoring what we have learned and accomplished, as well as acknowledging the distance we still must travel.”

They said that the work “will take courage.

“As many women and men bravely come forward to speak the truth of their experience, courageous men and women will listen, where appropriate repent, and take an active role in repairing the brokenness, working to change the culture of our church.”

The statement also announced what the bishops called a “listening process in an open meeting at General Convention to hear more fully the stories of those who have been victims of sexual harassment and violence in the church.” That session will be July 4 from 5:15 to 7 p.m. in the House of Bishops convention meeting space.

The bishops’ plan follows a Jan. 22 letter from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, calling on Episcopalians to spend Lent and beyond examining how the church has handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. The letter also said that they wanted General Convention to discuss these issues because they “want to hear the voice of the wider church as we determine how to proceed in both atoning for the church’s past and shaping a more just future.”

Jennings later announced that she would appoint and chair a special House of Deputies committee on resolutions regarding sexual harassment and exploitation. The committee will have five subcommittees to draft resolutions on inclusive theology and language; disparities in pay, hiring, leave and pensions; changes to the Title IV disciplinary process and training; truth and reconciliation; and systemic social justice beyond the church. The committee appointments were announced a week ago.

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

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