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Archbishop of Canterbury speaks in House of Lords about London attack

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 1:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Speaking in Britain’s upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, about the attack in Westminster on Wednesday, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid tribute to victims and first responders, speaking of the “deep values” in British society. An attacker drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed to death a police officer before being shot and killed by police.

Full article.

Water: Common good or commodity?

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 12:19pm

[Episcopal News Service] The demand for water is expected to increase 55 percent by 2030 and at the same time global water resources may only meet 60 percent of the world’s needs.

“Africa, India, the Middle East and Australia already are in crisis,” said Maude Barlow, a former United Nations senior advisor on water, and an author, political activist and policy critic. Some say “the solution to the water crisis is to commodify water,” she added, during a March 23 session on “Waters: Commons or Commodity” during Water Justice,  a global conference taking place at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City and webcast worldwide March 22-24.

The Rev. Brandon Mauai, a deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, talked about the Episcopal Church’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as it and its allies fought against the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo: is Leo Sorel/Trinity Wall Street

The conference aims to offer actionable guidance for individuals, congregations and the larger faith community surrounding the need for water justice initiatives in areas of access, droughts, pollution, rising tides and flooding. Water Justice is the 46th annual conference organized by the Trinity Institute, past conferences have addressed racial justice and economic inequality.

If the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater system on Earth, “were pumped as mercilessly as ground water, they would be dry in 80 years,” Barlow warned. Russia’s Aral Sea, once the fourth-largest freshwater lake in the world, is now e.  Half the waters in China, a water-rich country, have disappeared. Sao Paulo, the second largest city in the world, is drought-stricken because rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest has decreased vapor clouds that used to carry water to central and south Brazil.

All of this, Barlow said, is happening as corporations, governments and the World Bank, contemplate a global waters market, where water futures can be sold like oil and gas.

“Is it [water] a human right, a public trust or a private asset?” asked Barlow.

“We have to fiercely protect it everywhere as a commons,” she said. “Water shouldn’t be put into the market. That doesn’t mean the private sector doesn’t have a role. But the central question is who owns water itself, and who has access to it and who does not, and in places around the world now this is a life or death situation.”

The United Nations says water is a human right, and Barlow was instrumental in moving the intergovernmental organization to make that determination. On July 28, 2010, the U.N. General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that access to both are “essential to the realization of all human rights.” The resolution passed with 122 nations in favor, zero against and 41 abstentions, including the United States and Canada. (Both the U.S. and Canada have since adopted the resolution.)

Still, saying water is a human right doesn’t mean it’s protected or that everyone has access to it. As examples, Barlow mentioned Detroit and Baltimore, two cities that have turned off residents’ taps.

In Detroit, a financially strapped, hollowed-out inner city, residents’ water rates tripled and many poor people couldn’t afford to pay their water bills; in Baltimore, city officials maintained it was necessary to have a system in which everyone paid pays “their fair share.”

As Christiana Zenner Peppard, a professor at Fordham University a theologian and freshwater expert, pointed out in her response to Barlow’s talk, a human being can survive less than 7 days without water.

“Water is not replaceable by any other thing; it is the baseline for human, ecological and the planetary system,” she said. “You cannot talk about water and justice as two separate things.”

In terms of religious values and water ethics, “it’s foundational to life and understood as finite,” and at least from the Christian point of view, access to water is caring for “the least of these.”

The Roman Catholic Church, she said, has been an advocate for water as a human right since the early aughts; in his encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis said that water shouldn’t be commodified.

The world’s water crisis manifests in many ways, from rising waters, to drought, to waters polluted by toxins, to the proximity of a drinking water source. Following, Barlow’s talk and Peppard’s response, Trinity’s audience heard from three storytellers living on the frontlines of three different water crises.

Three years after the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, residents continue to rely on bottled water for their drinking and hygienic needs, said Nakiya Wakes, an activist and spokesperson for Flint Rising, a coalition of community organizations preparing Flint residents for the long-haul.

In April 2014, under the leadership of an emergency manager and to save $5 million, the city’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron via Detroit’s municipal water system to the Flint River, a more corrosive source. At the same time, the emergency manager, seeking to save $100 a day, ordered that the water not be treated with a chemical to prevent lead from leaching out of the city’s aging pipes into the water running through them and destined for residents. The state had, mistakenly, told Flint officials that federal guidelines did not require the chemical treatment, according to the New York Times.

Almost immediately following the switch, residents began to complain about the water’s color, taste and smell, and the skin irritation caused by bathing in it, yet government officials maintained the water’s safety. It wasn’t until January 2016 that a federal state of emergency was declared and residents were told to use only bottled or filtered water for drinking or bathing.

While still drinking tap water, Wakes miscarried twins, she said, and both her son and her daughter have elevated lead levels in their bodies; her daughter’s hair began falling out, her son has had behavioral problems, and both children had rashes on their bodies.

“We have been lied to for too long and we don’t trust our government,” she said. “Three years later we are drinking bottled water … we don’t have access to clean water in the United States of America. They call Michigan “Pure Michigan” and we are being pure poisoned.”

The Rev. Brandon Mauai, a deacon in the Diocese of North Dakota and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation talked about the Episcopal Church’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as it and its allies fought against the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The 1,134-mile pipeline was originally routed near Bismarck, North Dakota, but changed after residents expressed concern an accident would contaminate the city’s drinking water. Instead, the pipeline crosses under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a reservoir that provides water for the Standing Rock reservation and others downstream.

In September 2016 federal officials stopped construction of the pipeline on lands bordering or under Lake Oahe belonging to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for permitting on public lands and waterways. In December, President Barack Obama blocked construction on the disputed segment of the pipeline.

In one of his first actions following his inauguration, President Donald Trump instructed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the pipeline’s environmental review to speed up the process. On Feb. 8, the Corps gave permission to the company developing the pipeline to continue construction.

Oil is expected to flow through the North Dakota Access Pipeline by this weekend, said Mauai, following the morning session in a conversation with Episcopal News Service.

“That really deflated us on Standing Rock,” said Mauai “But I’m hoping this [conference] will raise awareness across the world because it’s not only happening at Standing Rock, there are other places where this is happening, in Navajoland and other reservations in the United States. And I’m hoping that Standing Rock made an impression, that people are going to say ‘Okay, this is huge because it’s a threat to the tribe’s water source and those around it.’”

Even if the oil is flowing through the pipeline, though, the story isn’t over, said Mauai.

“We will continue to speak to whomever will hear us. The church will continue to take an active role, we were active in the cleanup … we’ll go forward whatever the tribe needs from us as a church we’ll be there to assist however we can,” he said.

Thousands of Episcopalians joined others in support of the Sioux Nation, most recently during March 10 Native Nations Rise demonstration and rally in Washington, D.C.

Archbishop Winston Halapua, one of three primates of the Anglican Church in Polynesia and Aotearoa New Zealand, responsible for New Zealand-based Samoan, Tongan, Indo-Fijian, and Fijian congregations, talked about his childhood and growing up in Tonga, where his life was in sync with the tide cycle.

Sea-level rise continues to claim whole islands in the Pacific, where the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is establishing a “clear resilience strategy” to strengthen its response to future natural disasters in the Pacific islands.

“Water is a reflection of God; you and I don’t live without water,” said Halapua.

–  Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service. 

Episcopal Church Memes uses Facebook popularity to mix laughs, evangelism

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:05pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Art Bass is a trial lawyer and Episcopal deacon in Cleveland, Tennessee. He also happens to be the mastermind behind one of the most popular Episcopal-themed pages on Facebook – a page he maintained mostly in anonymity until he was confronted with his growing online popularity at a diocesan workshop.

One of the speakers at the workshop was advising congregations to use social media to reach parishioners and the community. One of the examples cited as effective outreach on Facebook was the widely popular humor page Episcopal Church Memes.

Bass listened quietly. After the presentation, he went up and introduced himself to the speakers.

That’s me, he told them. I post those funny photos and captions.

The Rev. Art Bass is a deacon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. Photo: Art Bass, via Facebook

“That was the first time I ever told anyone in my diocese that I was doing this,” Bass, 66, said in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service. “I don’t hide the fact that I do this page, but I don’t make a big deal about it either, because it’s not about me.”

Instead, Bass sees Episcopal Church Memes as his humble Christian ministry, spreading the good news and promoting the Episcopal Church, one impact-typeface headline at a time. At nearly 70,000 followers, the message and the humor is clearly connecting with his page’s audience.

Bass, a lifelong Episcopalian, takes his faith seriously but also thinks a bit of humor goes a long way when evangelizing. He’s been known to sprinkle one-liners into his sermons – “Every good homilist does” – because, he said, often that is what worshipers will remember days later. And he’s convinced Jesus had a sense of humor.

Take Matthew 19:24, the Gospel passage about how a camel trying to get through the eye of a needle would find that squeeze easy, compared to a rich man’s efforts to get into heaven.

“That’s humor, that’s hyperbole,” Bass said. “I’m sure some of the people who heard Jesus tell that parable probably chuckled.”

Jump ahead a couple millennia, and Jesus’ biblical one-liner might be told (or retold) as a meme. For those unfamiliar with this social media phenomenon, a meme is incredibly easy to produce: Take a popular stock image, like Grumpy Cat or The Most Interesting Man in the World, and use an online meme generator to add a snarky caption or witty joke. Then post away.

But it’s much harder to make a meme funny, harder still to make a funny meme go viral. Bass’ successful formula on Episcopal Church Memes could be seen at work in his March 21 post featuring Grumpy Cat. In this image, the perpetually downcast Siamese has found his way into a church or cathedral. Bass’ caption in big bold letters reads: “Holy Eucharist to be followed by a special meeting of the vestry? Heaven and hell on the same day.”

As of March 23, that image had been shared from the Episcopal Church Memes page more than 350 times and generated plenty of approving comments, like St. George Pinckney’s quip, “For God so loved the world, that he didn’t send a committee.”

Original meme: The Most Interesting Cat in the World

The best memes can feel both timeless and ephemeral, like a high-protein snack for the funny bone, but the first one Bass ever created served a very specific ecclesiastical purpose in his role as deacon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee.

It was early fall 2012, and St. Luke’s was preparing for its annual Blessing of the Animals. Bass was thinking of ways to get more people to come to the church with their pets. He also had been following a popular Facebook page that offered a steady stream of funny Catholic memes.

Combining the two, a social media marketing plan was born.

Bass started with the iconic image of the gray-bearded Dos Equis pitchman known as the Most Interesting Man in the World, who says in ads, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis.”

In Bass’ variation, a cat took the place of the Most Interesting Man. His caption put these words in the Most Interesting Cat’s mouth: “I don’t always allow priests to bless me. But when I do, it’s Father Joel Huffstetler at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.”

It was a big hit when he shared it on his personal Facebook page. “I got a lot of comments from people,” Bass said. “They came back and said, ‘Do you have more of these?’”

He didn’t yet, but if Catholic memes could promote the Catholic faith, Bass thought, why not Episcopal memes to promote the Episcopal faith?

Since then, he has produced or shared thousands of memes and cartoons for his Facebook audience, averaging 20 to 25 images a week. He typically updates the feed just on weekdays, with a couple memes to start the day, another couple in the afternoon or evening and a cartoon in the middle.

Some are meant to educate people about theological concepts, like transubstantiation, which got the “Princess Bride” treatment in a Feb. 11 meme.

Others aim to leave them laughing in the pews, like this Jeff Foxworthy meme that has been shared nearly 1,400 times since March 12: “If you think Nicodemus is a patch to quit smoking, you might need to stop sleeping through the sermon.”

Bass couldn’t identify a favorite, though one that sticks out in his mind featured Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson.

Watson: “I say, Holmes, as an Anglican, how do you explain Eucharistic real presence?”

Holmes: “That, my dear Watson, must always remain a divine mystery.”

That generated a lively theological discussion in the responses. “I would answer with Summa Theologica Tertia Pars 73-77,” commenter Thomas Knight offered.

Bass usually takes weekends off from posting – but not from thinking up funny captions. That’s the tough part, given how many images he’s already created.

“That’s a lot to do, without repeating,” Bass said. “To come up with something that’s new and novel gets harder all the time.”

A meme from April 13 features Rod Serling and a reworking of Serling’s “Twilight Zone” opening.

“Imagine a church that seeks to serve Christ in all persons and respects the dignity of every human being. You have just entered the Episcopal Zone.”

Bass was happy with that one, which has been shared 2,300 times, though he said some people commented that the clever reference to the old TV show might be lost on anyone under age 50.

Sometimes he also shares images submitted by his followers, giving them credit. Generally, political memes are off limits. And he’s dabbled in other social media, but Facebook is where he spends most of his time and has found his biggest audience. Bass encourages followers to share his images wherever they wish.

Popularity rises, even after a hijacking

If you’re working in the digital sphere, part of your success is defined by what the industry calls metrics, so take a quick look at the numbers.

At the time of this story, Episcopal Church Memes stood at 68,843 likes. To put that in perspective, the Episcopal Church’s Facebook page is approaching 162,000 likes, while Episcopal News Service clocks in at a modest 11,500.

There are dozens of Facebook pages devoted to Catholic memes but only one tops Bass’ Episcopal meme page in popularity. It’s this one, with a staggering 300,000 likes. If you giggle at jokes about meatless Fridays in Lent, you may already be a Catholic Memes follower.

Bass said he keeps in touch with the administrators of that and other Christian meme pages, such as United Methodist Memes (43,000 likes), many of which started after his page.

“Some of what I put out there really could apply to any Christian meme page,” he said, particularly posts about the Gospel, though other posts appeal directly to Episcopalians.

One other number of note is 2,000 – the number of photos his timeline is quickly approaching. But that isn’t the whole story. In 2015, he had to start from scratch after his page got hijacked by a Facebook phishing scam.

“The next thing I knew someone had added themselves as administrator, closed me out as an administrator and took over the page,” he said. “I couldn’t get back into it.”

He contacted Facebook, which helped him shut down the page. All the images were gone, as were the page’s 35,000 followers.

“After having put all that work into it for several years and then just to have it all vanish overnight, it was depressing,” Bass said.

Bass still had a personal Facebook page and an “Arthur Bass, Attorney at Law” page. A third, “Deacon Art Bass,” is devoted to more straightforward Episcopal matters, but he took about a month and a half off from Episcopal memes. When he bowed to meme fans’ requests and started a new Episcopal Church Memes, it quickly gained back and even doubled his old audience.

That audience is so large now that he sometimes gets inquiries from companies interested in buying his page, because the tens of thousands of followers would make it a valuable marketing outlet, but he always turns down the offers.

He has never spent money on the page and never makes any money from it. The only marketing that interests him here is of a higher order.

“We’re trying to promote the church and the Gospel,” Bass said. “We’re doing it through humor.”

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


International Anglican students gather in Philippines

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than forty students from Japan, Korea and the Philippines have taken part in an international learning program at Trinity University of Asia in Quezon City in the Philippines organized by CUAC – the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion, a world-wide network of Anglican colleges and universities.

Full article.

Primate of Anglican Church of Canada leads tributes to former archbishop of Toronto

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has described the former Archbishop of Toronto,Terence Edward Finlay, who has died at the age of 79, as “one of the Canadian Church’s most widely and highly respected leaders.”

Full article.

WCC offers condolences in wake of Great Britain attack

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:16pm

[World Council of Churches] As Great Britain continued to cope with grief and trauma in the wake of the country’s deadliest terror attack in 12 years, World Council of Churches’ general secretary, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, offered sympathy for those who lost loved ones from Great Britain and other countries.

“I speak for the whole fellowship of Christian churches around the world when I say that we unconditionally condemn this criminal act of terror, whatever the motivation behind it have been, and we stand in solidarity with you in these difficult and trying circumstances,” he wrote.

Tveit urged WCC member churches and all people in Great Britain and elsewhere to stay strong in their faith in God and also in their commitment to God’s love, which embraces all, and God’s reign, which holds out hope for a just and inclusive society, one of compassion and reconciliation. “It is sorely needed now,” Tveit wrote.

The aspiration of an inclusive society is tested by such events as this attack, he continued. “Yet it was St. Bede who summoned a vision not only of individual Christians healing the wounds of their neighbors but also of a whole compassionate community—a cradle of redemptive love—leading the way to reconciliation through practicing the values of the reign of God.”


Church leaders offer prayers after deadly attack in Westminster

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Canterbury and leaders of the Church of England have offered prayers for those affected by the attack in Westminster on March 22 that left four people dead and many injured. The attacker mowed down pedestrians with his car on Westminster Bridge then rushed at the gates in front of the Houses of Parliament, stabbing a plain-clothes policeman before he was shot and killed by armed officers.

Full article.

Anglican, Episcopal women gather at UNCSW’s annual look at women’s status

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 3:43pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings listen as Lynnaia Main, Episcopal Church representative to the United Nations, poses a question submitted by a participant during a March 21 session in the Episcopal Church Center’s Chapel of Christ the Lord. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings told women from across the Episcopal Church and throughout the Anglican Communion gathered for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women that their advocacy is God’s work.

The women are in New York for the 61st session of the UNCSW March 13-­­­­­­­24.

The UNCSW promotes women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields, and makes recommendations on urgent problems regarding women’s rights. The conference has convened annually or biannually since 1946; it reached a turning point in Beijing in 1995 when it adopted a global policy framework for gender equality and the empowerment of women that identified 12 areas of critical concern.

Curry in his sermon during a March 21 Eucharist at the Episcopal Church Center said the UNCSW does more than “raise consciousness and awareness” about the issues facing women.

Participants also aim, he said, “to encourage the powers that be in the world to enact legislation, to engage policy, to change in ways that promote true human equality as God intended from the beginning, to promote ways to emancipate women that they might in turn emancipate their children and not only their children but their communities and their nations.”

“When they [women] get free the whole world gets free,” he said.

“This is about the survival of the human race. Your work of advocacy, of encouragement, of gentle nudging, or a little arm twisting, this work is nothing less than the work of God,” Curry said during his sermon.

Curry encouraged the UNCSW participants not to lose heart when the work is hard but to, instead, remember Esther, the biblical hero who saved her people. “Even when you don’t know it, there is a God and there is a Spirit moving through the corridors of power wherever Esther rises up,” he said.

Lupe Ayllon Ruiz, Diocese of Central Florida, holding microphone, talks about her experience at the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings listen. Angela Smith, Diocese of Western Kansas, left is translating. Both women are part of the Episcopal Church’s delegation at the session. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

Curry and Jennings, who presided at the Eucharist, held an hour-long session with the delegates later the same day.

The issue of refugees and immigrants came up more than once during the afternoon session with Curry and Jennings. One question specifically dealt with the Episcopal Church’s response to people, especially children, fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle formed by El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in Central America. Some of them have wound up in U.S. detention facilities.

“These are our neighbors. Their human rights are being violated at home, in migration and then in our communities,” Jennings replied.

“We worship a child who fled violence in his own country,” she said. “And so, that is at the heart of our story of Christian faith and discipleship, and at the heart of our discipleship is the call to welcome our neighbor.”

Warning that her answer might sound political, she said, “Building a wall will not make us great again.” Welcoming “everyone who comes to us fleeing violence and degradation; that’s what makes us great, not only as Christians but as citizens,” Jennings said.

Many Episcopal congregations and dioceses are trying to “protect members of the congregations and of their communities to ensure that inappropriate deportation doesn’t take place.” The issues are “heavy on everyone’s hearts and minds, and people are looking for creative ways” to respond, she said, urging the women to bring home to their leadership colleagues their insights and ideas from conversations at the UNCSW meetings.

One woman said she had just learned about gender-sensitive or gender-responsive budgeting, a tool for evaluating how budgeting choices contribute to the achievement of gender equality goals. She asked Curry and Jennings whether the Episcopal Church was looking at its financial commitments through that lens.

“The first thing I am going to do is go to Program, Budget and Finance and ask ‘Have you heard phrase gender-sensitive budgeting?’” Jennings said to applause. “And if not, would you please put a few people on to finding out what this is and how it impacts our budget development?”

She noted that Barbara Miles, a laywoman, chairs Program, Budget and Finance, the committee responsible for proposing a triennial budget to each meeting of General Convention.

The theme for the 61st annual UNCSW is women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. The “review theme” for the conference is “challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, which was the title of the “agreed conclusions” of the UNCSW 58th session. Those goals are now known as the Sustainable Development Goals. A major focus will continue to be the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Each session issues an “agreed conclusions” document. Delegates lobby for changes to the draft version for this session issued last month. The negotiators have been urging delegates to come up with practical suggestions of ideas that will work on the ground. The final agreement goes to the United Nations. If approved, the General Assembly expects member states to implement it.

Representatives of member states, U.N. entities, and U.N. Economic and Social Council accredited non-governmental organizations were invited to attend the session. The Episcopal Church is one of a number of those accredited non-governmental organizations, or so-called “civil society” organizations, engaged in advocacy and activist work, represented at the United Nations.

Curry submitted an official statement to the session on behalf of the Episcopal Church. It highlights three priority areas to improve women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work: promote women’s and girls’ access to education and gender equality education for all; expand socio-economic benefits that support women’s contributions at work; and, prioritize resources and programs for marginalized groups of women and girls.

The statement and its priorities are the foundation by which delegates advocate, and share their own stories, reflections and concerns.

UNCSW participants listen March 21 in the Episcopal Church Center’s Chapel of Christ the Lord as Anglican Women’s Empowerment Chair Christina Hing from the Diocese of New York asks about responding to the “politics of the moment.” The session featured Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

Twenty Episcopal delegates and one Episcopal provincial representative to the Anglican Communion delegation represented the Episcopal Church’s positions.

The Episcopal UNCSW delegation consists of: Jennifer Allen, Diocese of Kansas; Delores Alleyne, Diocese of Connecticut; Dr. Damaris De Jesús Carrasquillo, Diocese of Puerto Rico; Dr. Elayne Gallagher, Diocese of Colorado; Katherine Gould, Diocese of Southeast Florida; Pragedes Coromoto Jimenez de Salazar, Diocese of Venezuela; the Rev. Yein Esther Kim, Diocese of Los Angeles; Kirsten Lee, Diocese of Kansas; the Rev. Irene E. Maliaman, Diocese of Hawaii; Emma Palmer, Diocese of Oklahoma; Karma Quick-Panwala, Diocese of California; Thomasina Rogers, Diocese of Washington; Rebecca Rosen, Diocese of Michigan; Dr. Lupe Ayllon Ruiz, Diocese of Central Florida; Charlene Rusnak, Diocese of Virginia; Angela Smith, Diocese of Western Kansas; and Sandra Squires, Diocese of Nebraska.

The Episcopal Church staff members in the delegation are Lynnaia Main, Episcopal Church representative to the United Nations; Rachel McDaniel, Julia Chester Emery United Thank Offering intern; and the Rev. Glenda McQueen, staff officer for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Erin Morey of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is the Episcopal Church’s provincial representative on the Anglican Communion delegation. There are 23 women from 17 countries in the latter group.

The Episcopal Church Center, located just a block from the United Nations building, is serving as a home base for Episcopal and Anglican women. Among the events was an opening Eucharist March 13 and a March 15 speech by Fereshteh Forough, founder and chief executive officer of Code to Inspire. There will be a closing Eucharist on March 24. In addition to these events at the Episcopal Church Center, Episcopalians have organized many UNCSW parallel events and worship opportunities throughout New York City, at the Church Center for the United Nations, and at churches in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

The United Nations Press Centre’s coverage of the 61st session is here.

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

Appeal launched for restoration of Malta landmark

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 2:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An appeal has been launched for the restoration of St. Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Malta. Towering 200 feet over the seaward approach to Valletta, St. Paul’s is a vital part of Malta’s rich cultural heritage. It pays homage to St. Paul, who was shipwrecked there in about AD 60 and brought Christianity to Malta.

Full article.

Anglican secretary general briefs Bishops of Pakistan during retreat in England

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 2:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has told the Church of Pakistan it has something to offer to the Communion because of its experience of being a minority church in a Muslim Country. The eight Bishops of Pakistan, during a three-day retreat in England, were questioning how their Church and the Anglican Communion could cooperate.

Full article.

Saint Augustine’s president, with deep ties to university’s past, looks to future

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 12:53pm

Everett Ward became the 11th president of Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April 2015. Photo: Saint Augustine’s University

[Episcopal News Service] Generations of Everett Ward’s family preceded him in graduating from Saint Augustine’s University, a historically black college in Raleigh, North Carolina, so he was no stranger to the campus in 2014 when he took over as interim president.

He was named to that role permanently in April 2015, becoming the school’s 11th president.

Q&A: Everett Ward

Age: 58

Home: Raleigh, North Carolina

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Saint Augustine’s; master’s degree, North Carolina State University; doctorate, North Carolina A&T State University

Job: President of Saint Augustine’s University

Family: He married his college sweetheart after graduating from Saint Augustine’s in 1982. Cassandra Lloyd Ward, a longtime educator and civic leader, died in 2011 of breast cancer. “When I walk this campus every day, her spirit walks with me, because we held hands and walked this campus together for four years,” Ward said.

Before that, his professional experience included serving as executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party and as the director of a state Department of Transportation program focused on transportation curriculum, research and student development at historically black colleges and universities.

Saint Augustine’s was created in 1867 by the Episcopal Church and opened its doors the following January; one of many schools that formed in the wake of the Civil War to educate black students barred by segregation from attending white institutions.

About 100 such schools are still open today, accepting students of all races and interests. Dozens of presidents of historically black colleges and universities, including Ward, traveled to Washington, D.C., at the end of February to meet with elected officials and make their case for increased federal funding to support the schools’ mission. During their visit, President Donald Trump signed an executive order moving an executive branch initiative on historically black colleges from the Department of Education into the White House, signaling the removal of a bureaucratic barrier.

Your ties to Saint Augustine’s university go far back, even back to your birth.

That is correct. My father attended Saint Augustine’s and all my relatives for several generations. And I was born here on the campus at St. Agnes Hospital, which was operated by the university as the only African-American teaching hospital between here and Atlanta, Georgia. On Nov. 6, 1958, I was honored to be born in a building that a great uncle of mine helped construct when he was a student here.

Were you raised as an Episcopalian?

No, I was raised as a Presbyterian and I am still a Presbyterian, but was educated both in Catholic schools and public schools, as well as the Episcopal school here at St. Augustine’s. So, church-affiliated education was not new to me or my sister.

Was your family particularly religious growing up?

My family’s faith was very strong, and faith was a central part of our upbringing as a family. My parents were very active at Davie Street Presbyterian Church, which is our home church and has been the church of our ancestors for several generations.

Has Saint Augustine’s connection with the Episcopal Church set it apart in any ways from other historically black colleges or other American colleges in general?

For many years, even from our founding, Saint Augustine’s was focused primarily on male students going into the priesthood. Therefore Saint Augustine’s had earned a reputation as the preeminent institution that produced African-American male graduates who would leave Saint Augustine’s and move on to seminary and become Episcopal priests. And women students were dedicated to becoming educators and teachers. So, we have long had a strong reputation of producing men and women who, at that period of time, were focused in education and service to the church. But that has evolved over the year as more opportunities have become available to young people, so now we have graduates in a host of professions throughout the world.

In Saint Augustine’s mission statement, it says the school prepares students “academically, socially and spiritually.” Do you see those three goals as equal priorities, and how does Saint Augustine provide spiritual preparation?

We have a strong religious studies program and we continue to have spirituality as a focus in our activities on the campus. Our freshmen, for example, attend chapel. We open all our events with prayer and close with prayer. Our university chaplain, who’s also chair of our religious studies program, is very active with student life on the campus. We as an institution take great pride in our affiliation with the church and the importance of spirituality for our students as well.

Pew Research Center reported last month less than 9 percent of black students attended a historically black college in 2015, down from 17 percent in 1980.  Over the same period, historically black colleges and universities have become more racially diverse, enrolling more students who aren’t black, from 13 to 17 percent. Do you see that the role of institutions like your own and other historically black colleges has changed for this generation?

We certainly have a much more diverse society in America now. We have students of Latino descent, Asian descent – we have a very diverse student body. But I do think that the relevancy of any intellectual community has got to be that you grow and advance with the changing society, because we’re producing the leaders of society here at St. Augustine’s and subsequently you have to embrace diversity.

You were part of a group of presidents of historically black colleges and universities to visit the White House recently and even meet with President Trump.

At his request, we were invited for a brief meeting over in the Oval Office, but the primary meeting took place under the leadership of U.S. Senator Tim Scott (South Carolina) and North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker.

What are your thoughts on those meetings and experience?

I thought clearly that there was strong articulation with regard to support of historically black colleges and universities and the enormous contributions that our institutions contribute to American society. It was, in all of those settings, a central theme. There was an appreciation from this administration that historically black colleges would be a part of the continuous growth of American society and beyond. I think now, with the signing of the executive order by the president, we now have to wait and see how those priorities that were articulated with regard to historically black colleges are represented in the budget that will be presented, and passed by both the House and the Senate.

(Editor’s note: After this interview was conducted, President Trump on March 16 released a budget proposal that, Inside Higher Ed reports, maintains funding for historically black colleges and universities but reduces spending on programs that support many students of those schools, such as work-study programs and a grant program for low-income students.)

There also was some backlash to the meeting. Students at Howard University protested their president’s participation, and Morehouse College President John Wilson Jr. put out a statement calling the meetings “troubling.” Do you share some of the concerns?

Well, I think anytime you can assemble together and have dialog about the future of the institutions that you manage on a day-to-day basis, it’s always productive. I think at this point, as I said earlier, we’re waiting to see what the budgetary priorities will reflect. So, we’re looking forward to that.

There also was criticism of comments Education Secretary Betty DeVos made that historically black colleges were “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” rather than formed out of necessity because of segregation. Did you have any reaction to those comments?

No. I think sometimes not understanding history and not understanding the context for which these universities were founded, people can make sometimes misleading statements. So, I didn’t have any comment on that at all.

Racial reconciliation has been a prominent issue in the Episcopal Church in recent years as it faces its own historical complicity with slavery and racism. Do you see Saint Augustine’s playing a role in the church’s reconciliation efforts?

Oh, yes, we are as a university in full support of the presiding bishop’s priority around racial reconciliation and the Jesus Movement. And we are amenable in a way that Saint Augustine’s University can be a part of serving as a catalyst or platform where dialog can take place and intellectual exchange can happen to advance stronger race relations in the nation. We are in full support of that, and I commend the church for its efforts to have an open dialog about the future.

Saint Augustine’s is turning 150 years old. Any thoughts on what the university will look like in another 150 years?

Another 150 years, we see a very active academic and intellectual community with innovative programs. You know, everything is moving to distance learning now. We see expanding, of course, distance learning and adding graduate programs. We certainly see an expansion on our original founding with regard to religious studies, making sure that we continue to introduce young scholars who are interested in the Episcopal Church to prepare themselves here and then move on to seminary. And Saint Augustine’s is currently in a food desert, so building on the legacy of St. Agnes Hospital we see ourselves as a health catalyst to provide training and opportunities around health disparities and issues regarding health as well.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and condensed.

Chaplaincy in UAE marks Christ Church’s 15th anniversary with road trip

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] To celebrate 15 years since the consecration of Christ Church in Jebel Ali, to the southwest of Dubai, the Rev. Tim Heaney and chaplaincy staff made a 150-mile round trip, visiting several other Anglican churches.

Heaney is responsible for a chaplaincy that covers six of the seven Emirates in the United Arab Emirates. (Abu Dhabi in the south is a separate Chaplaincy).

Full article.

Anglican leaders in Ireland react to death of Irish politician Martin McGuinness

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:51pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican leaders of the Church in Ireland have issued statements on the death of Martin McGuinness, the ex-IRA leader-turned-politician who has died aged 66. McGuinness worked at the heart of the power-sharing government following the 1998 peace settlement.

Full article.

Anglican Church in Canada challenges senator’s comments on residential schools

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:48pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Canada has sent a strongly worded open letter, expressing dismay over a Conservative senator’s recent defense of the Indian Residential Schools system. Earlier this month, Sen. Lynn Beyak criticized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for letting the negative aspects of the schools system overshadow the “good deeds” of “well-intentioned” teachers.

Full article.

St. Jame’s in Austin informs, empowers Hispanic community

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 12:55pm

[Diocese of Texas] Lawyer Jim Harrington doesn’t mince words as he assists a family comprised of legal and undocumented immigrants in filling out power of attorney and caregiver affidavits.

“These forms need to be clear and correct, or they’ll find any reason to separate you from your children,” said Harrington, founder Proyecto Santiago, a community outreach program that meets at St. James’ Episcopal Church to inform families on issues facing the Hispanic community.

These communities must find some way to live and exist in a post-election, Donald Trump presidency. President Trump’s hardline campaign promises on immigration have come to fruition in the form of illegal and documented immigrants alike finding their lives thrown into upheaval by ICE, or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency

The effects of this agency’s work are being felt all around Austin. The Austin American-Statesman reported on Feb. 22 that federal documents obtained by the newspaper revealed U.S. immigration agents arrest a higher number of people in Austin without prior criminal convictions than in any other region of the country. This news preceded the results of a national operation in the city where more than 51 people were arrested in an ICE operation known as Cross Check. Among the 51 arrested, only 23 possessed criminal convictions or violent offenses.

Harrington’s mission in the area has always centered on helping those whose rights are being infringed upon. He began the Texas Civil Rights Project in 1990 and has worked as a human rights lawyer for more than 40 years. He’s now using that experience to educate and inform the Hispanic community of St James, having formed Proyecto Santiago almost a year ago. The goal was to inform bilingual and Spanish-speaking members of the congregation alike on consumer information, how to interact with the police and government agencies, and addressing community problems.

This particular meeting on March 4 was to assist with filling out legal documents for family members, such as special power of attorney forms, but also having personal information organized and a plan in motion for when detainment is imminent.

The room was filled with about 30 members of the Hispanic congregation—making up about seven families—each a mix of those who spoke English were undocumented, or legal citizens of the United States. A low hum of anxiety and fear hovered over the community hall for the three-hour meeting, but Harrington finds hope in the response and turnout.

“There’s a lot of worry about what’s going to happen in the future,” Harrington said. “Still, nobody tonight was afraid to ask questions. I asked everyone where they were from, and the response was forthcoming.”

The community views the church as a safe place, which is something that the church as a whole has done well with to this point, according to Harrington. He thinks the key to helping protect and inform the Hispanic community around Austin is to organize the congregation as a whole, but also to ask questions and be empathic towards the plight of our immigrant neighbors.

When asked what those who wish to help can do, Harrington thinks the key is understanding. “In this immigration story, we talk about what happens north of the border. We never talk about the story from the border down and the violence and suffering that drives people to the United States.”

For Harrington, helping is as simple as showing that you care. “What we did today is easy to replicate, and left these people feeling empowered to help others. They wouldn’t have gotten that feeling from just going to a lawyer. Now, these same people tell me ‘I’m going to bring more people next time.’”

For more information on Proyecto Santiago, visit StJamesAustin.Org.

— Paulette Martin is the Diocese of Texas’ Hispanic communications specialist. 

Anglican Church of Australia makes twin track Easter appeal

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 5:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Board of Mission, which is the national mission agency of the Anglican Church of Australia, has called on Anglicans to support partners in Jerusalem and Australia to give the gifts of health and education this Easter.

Full article.

Australian primate issues statement on Royal Commission

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 11:19am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier, has issued a statement as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse begins its final hearing with the Anglican Church in Sydney.

Full article.

Former Burundi Archbishop Ntahoturi to head Anglican Centre in Rome

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 11:18am

Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, left, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Photo: Lambeth Palace

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Governors of the Anglican Centre in Rome have announced the appointment of Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Burundi from 2005 until 2016 as the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre.He succeeds Archbishop David Moxon who retires in June.

He succeeds Archbishop David Moxon who retires in June.

Born in 1948, Ntahoturi grew up in a small village in Matana, Southern Burundi, the son of a poor farming family.  After training at Bishop Tucker Theological College in Mukono, Uganda, he was ordained in 1973. He came to England to further his theological training at Ridley Hall and St John’s in Cambridge, where he is now an honorary fellow, and then at Lincoln College, Oxford. After his studies, he returned to  Burundi where he joined the civil service,  becoming chief of staff to President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza.  After the overthrowing of Bagaza in 1987 in a military coup, he was jailed from 1987 to 1990. In 1992, he became provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Burundi until 1997.
when he was consecrated bishop of Matana Diocese. He became archbishop primate of the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi in 2005.

Ntahoturi has served as chair of the Council of Anglican provinces in Africa from 2011-2016, and as a member of the Anglican Consultative Council Standing Committee from ACC  9-ACC 11 (1993-2012).

He has extensive ecumenical experience, having served as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches since 1998, and co-moderator of the Permanent Committee on Collaboration and Consensus which brings together representatives of the Orthodox, Anglicans and Reformed Churches. He has also served on the Executive Committee of ACT (Action of Churches Together) International and participated in the creation of the new ACT Alliance which is the ecumenical branch of the WCC for Relief and Development.

Ntahoturi has been active in seeking peace in war-torn Burundi and the great Lakes region of Africa, and has represented the protestant churches of Burundi during the peace and reconciliation negotiations in Tanzania, which were instrumental in bringing peace to Burundi.  He is vice chair of the Burundi Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Chair of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) as well as being a serving bishop in Burundi.Archbishop Ntahouri already speaks French, English, Kirundi and Swahili and is looking forward to learning Italian!   He will take over from Archbishop Moxon in September 2017.

He speaks French, English, Kirundi and Swahili. He will take over from Moxon in September.

“I am personally delighted that Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi has agreed to take up the joint post of Archbishop’s Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome,” Welby said. “The appointment of a former Primate to this post for the second time running demonstrates the importance I attach to developing the increasingly close relationship between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. Archbishop Bernard has played an immensely valuable role in the life of the Anglican Communion for many years both as a bishop and more recently as a Primate.  He also brings extensive ecumenical experience in Burundi, in the Anglican Communion and in the life of the World Council of Churches.  I wish him every blessing in his new role.”

Ntahoturi said he is “honored delighted to be chosen for this role, and am looking forward to continuing the work of the dedicated men who have held this post before me.”

“I would like to strengthen those areas, especially in peace building, where the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church can work together for a common witness so that the world may believe and God glorified.”

Bishop Stephen Platten, chair of the Anglican Centre, said Ntahoturi “brings wide ecumenical and international experience and as an Anglican Primate in a predominantly Roman Catholic country. He follows directors from Eurasia, the Americas and Australasia and so broadens the base of the Centre in completing our continental spread. It is excellent that, like his predecessor, he is a former primate and serving archbishop.”

Bishop of Newcastle in Australia announces resignation

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 11:16am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson of the Diocese of Newcastle, in Australia, has announced his resignation. Bishop Thompson served the diocese for three years and has been a strong advocate for survivors of child abuse during his tenure.

Full article.

Closing the loop on racial reconciliation

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 1:22pm

[Episcopal News Service] He felt attacked, and says so, specifically choosing the word to convey his strength of emotion. Yes, he felt personally attacked. But A.W. “Buster” Lewis also felt that R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia–his parish–“as I knew it, was being attacked and that we needed to do something about it.”

Lewis’s feelings first welled up in the summer of 2015, when the vestry of R.E. Lee Memorial decided to explore the idea of changing its name of 114 years. The decision came in the wake of the June 2015 shooting at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left three wounded and nine dead. Quick on the heels of the shooting, the Episcopal Church passed a resolution at its 78th General Convention urging “…all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions, to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag.”

A drawing of R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia.

Confederate flags were not the issue in question at R. E. Lee, a reasonably large parish of 465 members in a small town of some 7,200 residents. Lexington is home to Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are buried there, and the Appalachian Trail wends its way north just a few miles away. This university town’s rural surroundings and deep historical roots blend into its own ecosystem—one that feeds R.E. Lee.

“[Our parish is] a rather diverse community on the conservative-liberal spectrum,” says the Rev. Tom Crittenden, rector of R.E. Lee Memorial.

In that diverse setting, with the Charleston massacre looming large in the country’s conscience, a parishioner had written a letter to the vestry about the church’s name. The parishioner “just wanted to go on record that the name was not helpful to the mission of the church, and asked the vestry to consider changing the name,” says Crittenden. Given “the context of those killings and the Confederate memorabilia,” Crittenden says, “when [the vestry] received the letter, there was a general awareness that the name was on some level problematic.’’ With that awareness and with the letter as a catalyst, a discussion of its name opened up among R.E. Lee Memorial’s 465 members.

That same summer, just 138 miles to the east at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, the Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley spoke from the pulpit about the Confederate symbols in his church, long known as “the Cathedral of the Confederacy.” During the Civil War, Richmond was the capitol of the Confederate States of America. Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, worshipped at St. Paul’s and Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, was a member.

When Adams-Riley preached 11 days after the Charleston shooting, he spoke about the church’s visible, tactile links to the Confederacy. St. Paul’s vestry member Linda Armstrong remembers hearing that “it’s time for us to look at what message that sends to others.” The rector also spoke on “hate, white supremacy and white privilege,” she says. “It did make people think—people go to church and don’t really look around.”

With that, Adams-Riley had set St. Paul’s on its own path to discerning how the parish’s past and its adornments square up with its current identity and values.

A Sunday morning worship service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Gail Goldsmith

From Washington National Cathedral to the Diocese of Maryland, discussions linking history with the national conversation about race have sprung up across the Episcopal Church. Still, those conversations often feel stilted, defensive, too shallow or well-meaning—and consequently, miss the point.

For racial reconciliation efforts to hit their stride, the conversations must transcend the dynamics of a typical daily exchange.  Meaningful racial reconciliation means digging deep on an emotional level, says Heidi Kim, the Episcopal Church’s staff officer for racial reconciliation.

“Part of why we cannot have open and vulnerable conversations about racism is because there has been so much shame and blame around racism,” Kim says. People of color are shamed for who they are, while white people are blamed for racism. “We have to do better [than that],” she says.

Lewis didn’t feel good about the conversation at R.E. Lee Memorial from the get-go. “The vestry, in my point of view, mishandled the whole issue,” he says. The governing body decided to consider the name change when many parishioners were out of town for summer vacation, and Lewis felt a lack of transparency starting with those first meetings.

Moreover, “I felt that the members for generations really, literally, had lived with this name almost as a source of pride,” he says. Since joining the church in 1972, Lewis says he had only heard one person question the name until the issue surfaced in 2015.

Crittenden describes a different experience. “I came here nine years ago and the name of the church was a topic of random conversation,” he says. The rector points out that his church was founded in 1840, more than a generation before the Civil War. Originally founded as Latimer Parish, it became Grace Episcopal Church in 1842. Robert E. Lee worshipped there after the war, while president of Washington College (today’s Washington and Lee University). The church became R.E. Lee Memorial in 1903, 33 years after the Confederate general’s death. “The church was not founded in honor of Lee,” Crittenden says.

The parish considered its name for four months with various activities, including town hall-style forums, small group discussions and a congregational survey. A deep divide quickly emerged between members who saw the name as “anachronistic” and out of sync with the parish’s mission, and those for whom the name expresses a “deeper history of the church within the community and Lee’s role at the church,” Crittenden explains.

When the issue came to a vote in November 2015, the vestry decided that the name change needed a supermajority to pass. It failed by one vote. The congregation has yet to recover.

This kind of outcome wouldn’t surprise Kim. “There’s no magic bullet” for success with racial reconciliation, she says—the process hinges on how people approach the work, and each other. Talking about race, even in a veiled way, requires a willingness to value everyone as the expert on their own life experience, rather than elevating a select few as experts, she says. From start to finish, “being in right relationship has to be more important than being right,” Kim adds.

A similar sentiment guides Don Edwards, founder of Justice and Sustainability Associates, a for-profit management consulting firm that facilitates “just and sustainable agreements around land use.” With years of land-use experience under its belt, JSA accepted its first racial reconciliation project about 10 years ago. As well as navigating the intersection of land and race, they have also worked with a handful of churches, including St. Paul’s. “Contextually, this is an area that is expanding,” Edwards says. “The Episcopal Church in the South is a particular portal” for such discussions about race.

Relics of the past, whether a name, plaques or needlepoint kneelers, ignited the conversations at both parishes. And through them, long-dead congregants live on, as they do through their descendants, some of whom attend the same churches that their families did generations ago.

“There is an element that we want to introduce that makes it as safe as possible for people to talk about their [ancestors] without having to take ownership of the choices their relations made,” Edwards says. In practice, this means understanding the range of views in a congregation, organizing small group discussions, fostering mutual respect, training facilitators and keeping a watchful eye on participants during emotional discussions

Adams-Riley credits Edwards with cultivating “a sense of welcoming one another and a sense of people being invited to share from the heart; a sense of honoring one another” at St. Paul’s. About 100 people attended the parish’s two prayerful conversations in August 2015.

Armstrong remembers well the conversations she attended as a member of St. Paul’s. When congregants had settled into groups of eight to 10 people, someone said that African-Americans find the Confederate battle flag offensive. “I don’t know that that had ever been spoken in a group, and I think people heard it,” she says.

With Edwards’s task completed, St. Paul’s moved forward. Confederate flag images inside the church were removed. Other items connected to the Confederacy remained—and their meaning is currently being reframed. And the History and Reconciliation Initiative formed. Armstrong chairs the group, which includes a history working group, another on liturgy and music and a third known as the memorial working group.

Working with a four-year plan, the history working group has dug into church archives and found other ways to understand St. Paul’s history. Once that process has wrapped up, the music and liturgy working group will figure out how those elements lend themselves to racial reconciliation.

Ultimately, the group aims to memorialize its past, keeping in mind “that part of our history is oppressive and it’s brutal,” Armstrong says. In the meantime, the congregation’s “prayerful conversations” continue, in the form of potluck discussions.  At the next potluck, in April, congregants will watch and discuss the documentary “Traces of the Trade.” The film’s director and producer, Katrina Brown, will be on hand for the event.

“We want to tell a whole and honest history [of St. Paul’s],” says the Rev. Melanie Mullen, Episcopal Church director of reconciliation, justice and creation care. Until March 1, Mullen worked as downtown missioner at St. Paul’s.

That desire holds the congregation together, Armstrong says. The process hasn’t been seamless, or easy. “It’s complicated…just the chatter was emotional for people,” she adds. While not everyone has gotten involved, most of the parish’s 450 active members have. “People have a sense, really, of being energized by this,” says Adams-Riley.

Armstrong expounds upon this sentiment. Although the word reconciliation implies an external reckoning or an apology, she expects an internal shift. The parish’s truth-seeking process “should transform not just who we’re seen as, but who we really are,” she says. As parishioners transform, they hope that St. Paul’s reputation as the “Cathedral of the Confederacy,” too, will metamorphose into the “Cathedral of Reconciliation.”

And, although, racial reconciliation is a ministry of the Episcopal Church, “Not everyone will feel called to this ministry,” Kim says, “and that’s okay.” She discourages congregations considering racial reconciliation just because “it’s the right thing to do,” or the ministry du jour.

About 10 people who favored the name change at R.E. Lee Memorial, including two families with children, left in the wake of the vote according to parishioner Lacey Lynch. Lynch also rooted for the name change but wasn’t surprised when it didn’t pass. For now, Lynch and her family have stayed. With the vote behind them, though, fewer parishioners participate in church life. While the post-vote exodus was small, the tone of parish life feels dramatically different.  Lynch points to an “underlying tension; it’s hard to describe it.”

Like Lynch, Lewis has stuck with his parish, despite feeling attacked.  He thinks—and hopes—that the name change question has been put firmly behind them. For her part, Lynch articulates a different wish.  “I hope that there can be further discussion on [the name change],” she says, “because I don’t see it as politically correct, I see it as addressing what the history of the Confederacy means.”

R.E. Lee Memorial did not hire a consultant when considering its name, but the parish has done so to help in healing its resulting rifts.“I think the discussion and then the vote was a wake-up call,” Crittenden says.  “It revealed differences in the congregation that “mirror[ed] the divisions that were in our country in the last election.”

Guided by the consulting firm, the parish is “discerning how we more fully move to unity as a congregation, as a church family, and focus on our call to serve,” Crittenden explains.  The process, Lewis says, is going well. Nothing is more important to the R.E. Lee community right now than seeing it through, Crittenden says.

Advocates articulate solid reasons for choosing the path of racial reconciliation, from repentance to creating a more just world. Edwards, the consultant, an Episcopalian who grew up attending a black Episcopal church, adds another: With dwindling attendance at Episcopal churches, “you should think about the fact that where demand decreases, supply contracts.” A racially reconciled church opens its doors to a broader spectrum of humanity and is less likely to die out.

When you see any white Episcopal church, you have to ask, “What black church spun off from this church?” Edwards says. Reuniting predominantly white churches with black churches founded by white Episcopalians just makes sense, he says—and can only happen when congregants actually talk about race and their past. That reunion, “the closing of the loop,” as Edwards calls it; “there’s a kind of elegance to that and that motivates me because these people all share a religion, they all share a belief in God—one God.”

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