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Living nativity scene offers roadside evangelism in Central Pennsylvania

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 9:31am


[Episcopal News Service] Take a centuries-old tradition. Find a church with a big front lawn on a busy street. Get a priest who is also a carpenter. Recruit volunteers – lots of volunteers. Get your friends to donate costumes. Figure out who has farm animals. Get the bishop to deliver some hay.

Put it all together, and it’s the living nativity scene at St. Andrew’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that was staged Dec. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m.

If the estimated 300 people who drove past the scene, and those who took advantage of the chance to get a photo with St. Nicholas, learned something about Jesus and the nativity and realized that “the heart of the season is open to them,” then the effort was a success, Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan told Episcopal News Service.

If those folks make the connection that what she called this “creative and novel” effort came to them via the Episcopal Church, “that’s bonus to me.”

The living nativity was the December edition of Scanlan’s “Bishop Out of the Box” series, or BOTB, an effort to show Episcopalians how they experiment with new kinds of evangelism by thinking outside the box.

The Rev. Nelson K. Baliira, St. Andrew’s rector, said in an interview the morning after the event that he hoped the living nativity scene showed that “the Episcopal Church is a living church” in which “we are not telling our own story, we are telling the story of Jesus.” It is a story, he said, that must be told to the world over and over again.

The effort was part of Scanlan’s ongoing invitation to local Episcopalians to live out the Gospel in new and creative ways and encourage them to collaborate across parish lines. “This is a project that has taken people from the cathedral. It’s involved farmers from across the diocese,” she said. “It’s involved people from four or five different parishes who have agreed to come together to be shepherds and angels.”

The living nativity scene also attracted the attention and work of some young people “who don’t necessarily go to church all the time,” Scanlan said. Some of them took turns portraying Mary and Joseph so no one has to be outside for a long time in the winter night.

Altogether, about 40 people volunteered to make the event happen, according to the Rev. Dan Morrow, canon for congregational life and mission idea, who had suggested the living nativity. He explained that St. Andrew’s, with that big front lawn and 30,000 cars driving past each day, was a great location for something he’d been wanting to do for years.

To publicize the nativity scene, the diocese rented a large, orange digital highway construction warning sign and parked it on the side of the street by the church’s sign, with the message, “Live nativity here 5-7 December 19.”

Baliira, a bi-vocational priest who grew up in Uganda, put his skills as a carpenter to work to build the creche with the help of Steve Guszick, a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg and the husband of Alexis Guszick, diocesan canon for communications. Morrow gave Baliira a photo of a creche and, the carpenter priest told ENS, “I knew exactly what I needed to do” to get it built.

He joined together wood pallets from a local roofing company for the floor and built the back and sides with plywood and two-by-fours. The roofing material came from Home Depot, Baliira said.

The Rev. Nelson K. Baliira, rector of St. Andrew’s in the Valley, was building the manger for the living nativity scene Dec. 17 when Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan drove up in her pickup truck to deliver the needed hay. Photo courtesy of Nelson K. Baliira

“We put everything together in four hours” on a drizzly Dec. 15, he said. Scanlan delivered the hay in her pickup truck on Dec. 17 while Baliira was building the manger.

The evening of Dec. 19, between 70 and 80 cars, each filled with adults and children, drove up the church’s quarter-mile long driveway to view the tableau. Some got out of their cars to pet the goats and donkeys, and one dog, and to talk to the participants.

Then they drove on to where the driveway forks and saw a sign inviting them to stop at the church for cookies, hot cocoa and a visit with St. Nicholas and Scanlan. Ryan Tobin, a young man who is the junior warden of St. Stephen’s in Harrisburg, played St. Nicholas. “He’s an experienced St. Nicholas,” Scanlan said. “He’s done this before.”

Tobin was vested as the bishop that St. Nicholas was, rather than the Santa Claus that his life inspired. The point was to show that Nicholas and Scanlan are “part of that same big family,” Morrow said. A history of the St. Nicholas-Santa Claus connection, written by the St. Nicholas Center, was available.

Along with his traditional gift of gold (chocolate) coins, St. Nicholas handed out candy canes that young people at the diocesan fall youth retreat had decorated to look like croziers.

The organizers also distributed an invitation “to reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ at Christmas,” Morrow said.

Baliira, who had seen living nativity scenes in his native Uganda, said the one on St. Andrew’s front lawn seemed alive with the presence of God.

“We were away from the malls,” he said with a chuckle. “We were in our little village of St. Andrew’s” with animals and people out in the quiet night air.

“The noise was the noise of the donkeys and the other animals” that reflected “the natural beauty in which the Lord Jesus came to visit us and be part of us.”

Part of a bigger plan

BTOB began in September with an agape love feast in Riverfront Park along the Susquehanna River that runs through Harrisburg. Scanlan said participants asked passersby if they needed prayers and, if so, invited them to pray with them.

“A lot of churches in this day and age have a lot to be anxious about: numbers, dwindling finances, the building, clergy shortages,” Morrow said. “One of the things we found is that, given all those things to worry about, given all the anxiety, sometimes what suffers is creativity and imagination.

“So, the basic idea of Bishop Out of the Box is to go to these different communities and help them do something that’s out of the box, something that’s imaginative, something that gets them out of the church building and into the community. We try to do them in ways that are easy to implement and are easily replicable.”

Scanlan said their travels are part of her vow to live the sermons she’s been preaching around the diocese this year. She speaks about Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s call to the Way of Love. She said she echoes his sense that God calls people “not just to the places where we’re comfortable but to go to places that sometimes make us uncomfortable and that are challenging for us, because God often needs us there even more.

“So, in standing up in the pulpit and telling people to do this, I’m also trying to model it for them; kind of walk the walk and say, ‘well, I’m going to do this, even if it makes me uncomfortable as well. We can walk together in this.’”

Also in September, BOTB did a prayer walk through the Bloomsburg Fair. When diocesan convention convened in Williamsport in October, BOTB staged a walk through the downtown “to warm up the city to us being there,” she said. Participants went to the emergency room and the bus station to pray with people.

The day before Thanksgiving, BOTB was at the Central Market in Lancaster, asking shoppers what they were thankful for and what gives them hope.

In January, BOTB will be in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. The area is predominantly African-American, with refugees and immigrants living there as well. People will be invited to help paint and color in an outline of King on a giant canvas and use a big blackboard to answer the question “What is your dream?”

The monthly travels have become popular, Scanlan and Morrow say. “People are kind waiting for us to come to them, and when we get there we’re inviting them to come along and they’re proud and happy to be part of it,” she said.

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

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Diocese of Ohio couple in national spotlight for outreach to Haitian asylum seeker

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 5:05pm

[Episcopal News Service] Two Episcopalians, a husband and wife from Ohio, are receiving national recognition for their outreach to a Haitian man who recently was released from federal detention after spending more than two years behind bars waiting for a decision on his request for asylum.

Not only was Ansly Damus released while his legal case proceeds, but he has been welcomed into the Cleveland Heights home of the couple who championed his cause, Melody Hart and Gary Benjamin. Living with the couple was one of two court-approved conditions of his release, the other being that he wear a monitoring bracelet on his ankle.

Benjamin’s and Hart’s nearly yearlong support for Damus and for his efforts to win release were detailed by the Washington Post in a 3,000-word feature story that appeared as the centerpiece on the cover of the newspaper’s Dec. 17 print edition. It also can be found online here.

The latest from @elisaslow: A Haitian asylum seeker had spent two years in U.S. detention until an Ohio couple tried to do something about it https://t.co/9HJUCRrUrr

— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 17, 2018

“There is no question that Mr. Damus’ access to a just process was entirely the result of Melody and Gary’s relentless advocacy on his behalf,” Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr. said in a written statement to Episcopal News Service. “They are a model of what is means when we vow in our Baptismal Covenant to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.’

“It is not only Ansly Damus who has benefited from their faithfulness, but each of us. They have held us and our justice system accountable for his treatment.”

Hollingsworth’s office and the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C., offered logistical support for Benjamin and Hart, who are members of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland. An Office of Government Relations staff member also helped transmit letters from Damus to his family back in Haiti.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has frequently passed resolutions in support of immigrants, including those seeking asylum. A resolution from 2015 specifically called for “an immediate release of detained asylum seekers.”

The Post story notes the Ohio couple first heard about Damus’ case from a friend who is involved in immigrant justice issues. Hart told the Post she remembers saying simply, “We’ll do whatever we can.” That turned out to be quite a lot.

Damus, 42, was an ethics professor in Haiti whose criticism of a local politician with suspected ties to gangs resulted in threats of violence to him and his family. He chose to flee, at first to Brazil, and in 2016 he presented himself to American authorities on the Mexico border and asked for asylum, following procedures outlined by U.S. immigration law.

Federal authorities took him to a detention center in Ohio and continued to hold him, saying they considered him a flight risk. Hart and Benjamin, in addition to visiting Damus and sending Damus dozens of supportive letters, rallied others in their congregation and social circles to show he had a community willing to welcome him with open arms.

They brought 32 of those supporters with them by bus for Damus’ recent hearing in a federal courtroom in Michigan, which prompted the federal judge to remark that it was clear Damus had “a community that cared about him,” according to the Post’s report.

We are here in Ann Arbor at federal court fighting for our Haitian asylum seeker’s immediate release from Geauga County Jail. Ansly has been in a windowless cell for more than 2 years. pic.twitter.com/8IsBHNVGZl

— ACLU of Ohio (@acluohio) November 28, 2018

“I hope this shows that people in this country care about what’s happening to him,” Hart said in the Post story. “He has to believe that he’s come to the right place.”

The judge chose to delay a ruling that day on Damus’ prolonged detention, but federal authorities decided to offer a deal for Damus’ release rather than wait for a ruling, the Post reported.

Now Benjamin and Hart are Damus’ official sponsors, allowing him to live with them as he and his lawyer continue to pursue a victory on his asylum request.

“Today I am so happy,” he said on the day of his release, as Hart and Benjamin prepared to drive him home.

A Haitian asylum seeker had spent two years in U.S. detention until an Ohio couple tried to do something about it https://t.co/Wzq616hYAt pic.twitter.com/jKxuXleY9n

— Global Cleveland (@GlobalCleveland) December 18, 2018

The plight of asylum seekers has become a hot-button political issue in the United States, with the Trump administration seeking to limit the number of such immigrants allowed into the country. On Dec. 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would require asylum seekers at the Mexican border to wait in Mexico while their claims are under review. It wasn’t immediately clear if such a policy would apply to a case like Damus’.

“Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a news release that provides no specifics on how widespread such cases are.

The release notes that the U.S. is dealing with a backlog of more than 786,000 pending asylum claims.

President Donald Trump also was criticized last fall for using and amplifying language that demonized a migrant caravan from Central America in the runup to the congressional midterm elections. Trump’s claims that asylum seekers were invading the United States were widely seen as a misleading tactic intended to drive conservative voters to the polls – a tactic he immediately dropped after the election.

The Office of Government Relations has called on Episcopalians to raise their voices on such issues based on General Convention’s resolutions on immigration policy.

“Most of the individuals in the caravan are asylum seekers and are fleeing dangerous and unstable conditions,” the Office of Government Relations said in an October fact sheet on the Central American migrants. “The U.S. has a responsibility to respond to those seeking asylum in a humanitarian way that complies with international law. Deterring asylum seekers or turning them back is unlawful and inhumane.”

The fact sheet also says detention is “not the solution.”

“Compassion – not brutality – will help people fleeing violence now and prevent others from needing to flee,” the office said. “When someone fears for their life or the lives of their family members, cruel tactics like detention or family separation will not work. We should respond in an orderly, sensible and compassionate manner to these families.”

Damus also was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that contested the Trump administration’s detention policies. A judge ruled in July that detainees like Damus could not continue to be held arbitrarily after clearing certain hurdles in the asylum process, and the government must conduct case-by-case reviews to determine if “humanitarian parole” is warranted, according to an NPR report.

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

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Diocese of Jerusalem’s Princess Basma rehabilitation center secures international accreditation

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 12:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Diocese of Jerusalem’s rehabilitation center for children with disabilities has secured its second consecutive audit from the Joint Commission International Accreditation. The Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre, on the Mount of Olives, provides a structured program of holistic care for Palestinian children from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In December 2015 it received its first three-year accreditation, becoming the first – and to date, the only – Palestinian rehabilitation center to receive such international accreditation. It has now completed its second audit, gaining accreditation for the next three years.

Read the full article here.

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Nigerian bishop abducted from home by gunmen

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 11:48am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Ahoada Clement Ekpeye has been abducted from his home in Nigeria’s Rivers State by unknown gunmen. The assailants stormed the Bishop’s Court residence in the Ahoada East local government area around on Dec. 18. Deputy Superintendent Nnamdi Omoni of Rivers State Police said that officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad were leading the investigation and search for Bishop Clement.

Read the full article here.

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Nombran al Obispo Primado creador de noticias religiosas del año

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 11:00am

“Las copresentadoras del Today Show Hoda Kotb, a la izquierda, y Savannah Guthrie escuchan el 1 de noviembre al obispo primado Michael Curry hablar acerca del poder del amor. Fue una de las muchas entrevistas de prensa que Curry concedió este año. Foto de The Today Show.

[Episcopal News Service] La Iglesia Episcopal ha oído al obispo primado Michael Curry anunciar el mensaje del incondicional amor de Dios desde que fuera electo en julio de 2015. En mayo, su mensaje se hizo global y viral cuando predicó en la boda real del príncipe Harry y Meghan Markle, y ahora eso le ha ganado el título de “creador de noticias religiosas del año”.

La Asociación de Noticias de Religión dijo que el sermón de Curry había “realzado su imagen como una voz religiosa progresista”.

Eso podría entenderse. La imagen de Curry, más allá de la Iglesia Episcopal, comenzó a despegar en el momento en que se anunció su participación en la boda del 19 de mayo. Abundaron los artículos que intentaban responder a la pregunta “¿quién es Michael Curry?

Luego, él subió al ambón de la capilla de San Jorge [St. Georges], y comenzó a predicar. Según las estadísticas de los medios de prensa, 29,2 millones de personas en Estados Unidos y 18 millones en el Reino Unido vieron la boda. Y luego estuvo Twitter, donde 3,4 millones de usuarios de esa red social enviaron mensajes acerca de la boda real. Enviaron 40.000 mensajes por minuto durante el sermón de Curry, más que los 27.000 por minuto [que enviaron] durante la declaración de Harry y Meghan como marido y mujer.

Ese día, “el obispo Michael Curry” fue un “tema popular” de primera línea en Google, con una puntuación de 100 en una escala de 0 a 100 para las búsquedas diarias, y “episcopal” estuvo en el tope de las búsquedas en el [diccionario] Merriam-Webster.

La peregrinación a El Paso arroja una ‘luz de verdad’ sobre la crisis humanitaria de los migrantes en la frontera

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:55am

El Rdo. Paul Moore, a la derecha, que preside el ministerio de la frontera de la Diócesis de Río Grande, interpreta para el Rdo. Héctor Trejo, a la izquierda, que atiende tres iglesias anglicanas en Ciudad Juárez, México, la cual está del otro lado de la frontera de El Paso, Texas. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] El Servicio de Inmigración y Aduana de EE.UU. entrega semanalmente dos mil personas a la hospitalidad de la Casa de la Anunciación [Annunciation House] aquí en El Paso.

Muchas de ellas son familias que han esperado su turno del otro lado de la frontera y solicitan asilo. Si la Casa de la Anunciación tuviera espacio para 2.500, serían 2.500, dijo su fundador y director, Rubén García.

Los asilados reciben alimento, cama, útiles de aseo,  un paquete de atención, acceso a una ducha y ayuda para ponerse en contacto con parientes a fin de preparar su viaje. En el transcurso de 48 horas, los instalan en autobuses o aviones para que se reúnan con miembros de sus familias en otras partes de Estados Unidos.

“La gran mayoría de la gente tiene a alguien”, dijo García.

En su mayoría, vienen de El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras; pero algunos vienen de Nicaragua, Brasil, Cuba, Venezuela, incluso hasta de la India. Algunos huyen de la violencia, algunos vienen en busca de oportunidades económicas, otros escapan de la persecución, religiosa o de otro tipo.

Unas 30 personas en representación de grandes congregaciones episcopales urbanas y suburbanas, se reunieron en Texas Sudoccidental para lo que llamaron una “Peregrinación  a El Paso”. Aquí se ven reunidos en Ciudad Juárez, junto al muro fronterizo que separa México de Estados Unidos. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

El 13 de diciembre, unas 30 personas en representación de grandes congregaciones episcopales, urbanas y suburbanas, se reunieron en Texas Sudoccidental para lo que llamaron una “Peregrinación a El Paso”. El Rdo. Gary Jones, rector de la iglesia de San Esteban [St. Stephen’s] en Richmond, Virginia, inició la peregrinación motivado por el deseo de contrarrestar una opinión que denigra a los solicitantes de asilo como narcotraficantes y violadores, cuando de hecho huyen para salvar sus vidas y en busca de medios de subsistencia.

La primera escala de la peregrinación fue la Casa de la Anunciación, donde los participantes escucharon un informe de García, que ha trabajado en la frontera durante 40 años presenciando y respondiendo a diferentes oleadas de migrantes y refugiados a lo largo de ese tiempo.

“El fenómeno de los refugiados no es un problema de El Paso, es un problema de EE.UU.”, dijo García.

“Ahora mismo, debido a la  aplicación de [la política migratoria de] EE.UU., estamos presenciando cambios que hacen la vida miserable”, afirmó. “La frontera se ha convertido en un lugar muy complicado”.

Cuando Casa de la Anunciación comenzó su ministerio hace 40 años, servía fundamentalmente a hombres que venían a Estados Unidos para el trabajo estacional, regresaban a casa para estar con sus familias y luego volvían a trabajar. En 1996, cuando el último cambio legislativo en la ley de inmigración hizo imposible entrar y salir, los hombres ya no podían regresar a sus hogares y en lugar de eso se quedaron.

“Una vez que toman la decisión de quedarse, pierden a la familia”, explicó García.

Un letrero a lo largo de la cerca fronteriza frene a la iglesia anglicana de San José en el lado de México, dice: “No somos delincuentes ni ilegales, somos obreros internacionales”. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Con el cambio de la ley migratoria de mediados de los años 90, la población indocumentada aumentó de 6 millones a 12 millones para 2004, ya que los hombres procuraban la reunificación familiar y las mujeres y los niños empezaron a llegar. En la actualidad, hay 11 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en Estados Unidos, algunos de los cuales han estado viviendo clandestinamente de 20 a 30 años, dijo él.

A su llegada, los migrantes y solicitantes de asilo deben presentarles sus casos a agentes en los puntos de entrada designados o saltar muros y cruzar ríos para presentarles sus casos una vez arrestados a los agentes del Servicio de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de EE.UU. o CBP (por su sigla en inglés), explicó García.

Hace un par de semanas, unos solicitantes de asilo estaban durmiendo en el puente para no perder su lugar en la cola, ya que sólo dejan entrar a 20 personas a un tiempo. Luego, en un esfuerzo por despejar el puente, el CBP comenzó a dar números que escribían con marcadores indelebles en los brazos de los solicitantes de asilo para controlar su lugar en la cola, dijo él.

De allí, los envían a los albergues de Ciudad Juárez, justo del otro lado de la frontera, para que esperen su turno.

Miguel Escobar, director ejecutivo de la Escuela de Teología Episcopal del Seminario Teológico  Unido, saluda a niños de la municipalidad de Rancho Anapra en las afueras de Ciudad Juárez. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Los peregrinos episcopales llegaron a El Paso en el preciso momento en que daban la noticia de la muerte de una niña guatemalteca de 7 años en internamiento administrativo de la Patrulla Fronteriza de EE.UU., al día siguiente de que ella, su padre y otros 161 migrantes se entregaran a los agentes luego de ingresar ilegalmente en Nuevo México. Las circunstancias de la muerte de la niña  siguen sujetas a investigación.

Para los peregrinos, sin embargo, era un patente recordatorio del peligroso viaje que enfrentan los migrantes y solicitantes de asilo, así como del anticuado sistema de inmigración de EE.UU. y de la respuesta del gobierno de Trump a la actual crisis humanitaria en la frontera sudoccidental. El gobierno ha enviado al menos 8.000 soldados a la frontera en un intento de detener la entrada. No obstante, los migrantes siguen llegando en caravanas.

“Quería ver con mis propios ojos lo que estaba pasando”, dijo el Ven. Juan Sandoval, arcediano de la Diócesis de Atlanta, un mexicoamericano de tercera generación que creció en Phoenix.

“Parecería que en lugar de soldados, deberían enviarse gente de iglesia y cooperantes, personas que pudieran ayudar”, afirmó.

El Muy Rdo. Nathan LeRud, deán de la catedral episcopal de La Trinidad en Portland, Oregón, de pie por el lado de Ciudad Juárez junto al muro que separa México y Estados Unidos en la frontera de El Paso, Texas. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

Es ahí donde intervienen las iglesias. En su mayoría, la hospitalidad proviene de las iglesias de El Paso, a la vanguardia de las cuales está la Iglesia Católica Romana y la Casa de la Anunciación. Algunos solicitantes de asilo reciben asistencia jurídica de organizaciones como el Centro de Defensa del Inmigrante “Las América” [Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center] la segunda escala en el trayecto de los peregrinos.

Allí, Cristina García, que ofrece asesoría legal, explicó la complejidad de la reunificación familiar, la cual puede tomar de 20 a 30 años, dependiendo de las cuotas de EE.UU. y del país de origen, y la dificultad en ganar casos de asilo. Su agencia, dijo ella, ganó seis casos de asilo en seis años y, en un triunfo importante, siete en lo que va de año.

La crisis actual, explicó ella “es deshumanizante en todos los aspectos e ignora el derecho humanitario al acceso”. Ella dijo también que El Paso, Atlanta y el estado de Arizona son los lugares más difíciles para obtener asilo, y en el Paso, como en el resto de Estados Unidos, los jueces toman decisiones arbitrarias caso por caso.

De allí [los peregrinos] siguieron a la iglesia de San Cristóbal [St. Christopher’s], una de las cinco iglesias episcopales de El Paso y la más cercana a la frontera, que dirige el Rdo. J. J. Bernal. El Rdo. Paul Moore, que preside el Ministerio Fronterizo de la Diócesis de Río Grande, proporcionó un panorama de la situación actual en lo que se refiere a Centro América, hablando acerca del fracaso de la economía de goteo, la política exterior de EE.UU. como se ha relacionado históricamente con Centroamérica, la deportación de los miembros de las pandillas, los problemas de seguridad a través del Triángulo Norte, [y] los cárteles de las drogas, asociados a la violencia y al apetito de Estados Unidos por las drogas.

A través del Triángulo Norte de América Central, una región que incluye El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras, más de 700.000 personas han sido desplazadas por la violencia. Sin embargo, se trata de un fenómeno global que afecta ahora a una cifra récord de 68,5 millones de personas en todo el mundo.

La peregrinación siguió a una Cumbre de Ministerios de la Frontera organizada por Moore y que se tuvo lugar aquí en noviembre.

El 14 de diciembre, los peregrinos salieron para Ciudad Juárez, algunos en automóviles y otros valiéndose de accesos peatonales a lo largo de los tres puentes que conectan las dos ciudades. En Juárez, el Rdo. Héctor Trejo, que llegó hace seis meses de Chihuahua, la capital del estado de Chihuahua, los llevó en autobús a dos de las tres parroquias anglicanas.

San José, está localizada junto a la frontera en Rancho Anapra, un poblado pobre en el lado noroeste de la ciudad, un área dedicada anteriormente a la cría de ganado donde se establecieron ocupantes ilegales y que los cárteles de la droga han infiltrado.

“Debido a que aquí la gente no tiene derechos de propiedad, se convirtió en un lugar para elementos delincuenciales”, dijo Trejo. “Hay casas de seguridad, y es un centro del movimiento de narcotraficantes y tratantes de personas.

“El reto aquí es grande”, añadió, diciendo que los miembros de la comunidad acuden a él por consejo sobre cómo franquear el muro [fronterizo] porque temen por sus vidas.

De derecha a izquierda,  la Muy Rda. Kelly Brown Douglas, decana de la Escuela de Teología Episcopal del Seminario de Teología Unido; Miguel Escobar, director ejecutivo de la Escuela de Teología Episcopal, y la Rda. Winnie Varghese, directora de justicia y reconciliación en la iglesia de La Trinidad [Trinity] de Wall Street, cruzan el Puente Internacional Paso del Norte hacia El Paso, Texas. Foto de Lynette Wilson/ENS.

A diferencia de la Iglesia Católica Romana, la Diócesis Anglicana del Norte de México no cuenta con un ministerio establecido para servir a los migrantes; era algo en que los episcopales buscaban participar y algo que Trejo abordó. La realidad es tal, dijo él, que los voluntarios deben ser adecuadamente adiestrados para tratar con personas que han estado viajando por semanas y a veces por meses, personas que no se han bañado ni se han cepillado los dientes en mucho tiempo, y que han huido de situaciones traumáticas, violentas y abusivas y han encontrado lo mismo a lo largo de su viaje. No obstante, él está buscando compañeros para el ministerio y para crear una red de intervinientes a lo largo de la frontera.

Fue algo de lo que Bernal, el rector de San Cristóbal en el Paso, se ha hecho eco. La Iglesia Episcopal, dijo él, necesita articular y establecer una visión para su ministerio en la frontera.

“La Iglesia Episcopal es una voz para los que no tienen voz”, afirmó. “Aquellos de nosotros aquí en la frontera nos sentimos aislados. Necesitamos más voces activas y más recursos humanos”.

A través de su Ministerio Fronterizo, la Diócesis de Río Grande busca expandir su ministerio, dijo Moore.

Y eso, explicó él, debe asumir la forma de un ministerio en la base dirigido por los que están en el terreno mediante asociaciones basadas en el respeto mutuo, no en el patriarcado.

El último día de la peregrinación del 13 al 15 de diciembre, dos autos repletos de peregrinos partieron para Tornillo, Texas, el sitio de un campamento que se abrió para albergar a 360 menores no acompañados y que ahora alberga a 2.700. Ellos no pudieron llegar al campamento pues, tal como los agentes de la Patrulla Fronteriza les dijeron, se trata de una propiedad privada, pero lograron acercarse lo más posible y se reunieron en una cerca para orar por los niños retenidos allí: por su seguridad, por sus  afligidos padres y por su futuro.

“Me alegro realmente de que fuéramos al campamento —no lo llamaré albergue, no es un albergue—, es un campo de concentración para niños”, dijo el [Muy] Rdo. Stephen Carlsen, deán y rector de la iglesia catedral de Cristo en Indianápolis. “Sentí que necesitaba presenciar lo que estaban haciendo en nuestro nombre como estadounidenses.

“No puedo imaginar lo que sería si la frontera de EE.UU. es tu última esperanza… la manera en que las personas son [mal]tratadas y deshumanizadas. Si esta es su última esperanza, ¿de qué deben ellos huir?”

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

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California bishops issue call to assist Central American refugees

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:45am

[Episcopal Public Policy Network of California] In recent days, over 6,000 migrants have gathered at the California-Mexico border fence seeking appointments with American immigration officials to petition for asylum. With wait times projected to last for months, many are forced to live in shelters where food is scarce, and privacy is non-existent, and some become sick.

When large numbers of people cross borders to flee persecution, war, and disaster, they are considered refugees in the world’s eyes, and many nations build refugee camps or absorb migrating people, helping families to resettle and educate the children. Presently, U.S. immigration officials admit 40-100 asylum seekers into California each day, recognizing the credible fear of danger and death if migrants return to their home nations. These young families tell stories of death threats and kidnapping threats to them and their children.

As Christians during the season of Advent, we recognize the ancient echo of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, when Mary and Joseph hid the infant Jesus from the murderous Herod. We also recognize our obligation to help the oppressed and the homeless. We urge our fellow Episcopalians to appeal to government officials to speed up the processing of asylum seekers and to provide adequate shelters and legal assistance in the U.S. for recent immigrants.

We also encourage our fellow Episcopalians to work locally to provide shelter, legal aid, material support, and advocacy for asylum seekers. One way to help is to donate to organizations such as Al Otro Lado, which connects immigrants with medical and legal services, and San Diego Rapid Response Network, which provides temporary shelter and travel assistance to asylum seekers.

Let’s work together to create a more compassionate immigration system and to alleviate the suffering of our neighbors.

Episcopal Public Policy Network of California Signed in Cooperation,

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop, Diocese of California
The Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop, Diocese of Northern California
The Rt. Rev. John Taylor, Bishop, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop, Diocese of El Camino Real
The Rt. Rev. David Rice, Bishop, The Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Assisting Bishop, The Diocese of San Diego

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Episcopal delegation heralds progress in addressing climate change at COP24 in Poland

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 12:31pm

COP24 President Michał Kurtyka speaks at a briefing Dec. 13 in Katowice, Poland. Photo: Episcopal Church , via Facebook.

[Episcopal News Service] A delegation of Episcopalians who represented Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at this month’s United Nations climate conference in Poland is heralding the conference members’ agreement on next steps toward reining in global warming – and the successful resolution of a key impasse over word choice.

The Episcopal delegation “bore witness to significant developments in international climate change policy,” the delegation’s leader, California Bishop Marc Andrus, said this week in a written statement about the conclusion of COP24, known officially as the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Nearly 200 countries met from Dec. 2 to 14 in Katowice, Poland, with the goal of developing a framework for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to keep global warming under the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius that scientists predict is necessary to prevent a spiraling catastrophe of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and related weather extremes.

In 2016, the Episcopal Church was granted U.N. observer status, which allows members of the delegation to brief U.N. representatives on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention climate resolutions and to attend related meetings. At COP24, the delegation promoted a more ambitious goal of keeping global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Andrus said most member nations “acknowledged the need to ramp up ambitions for reducing carbon emissions, while also attending to a ‘just transition’ for the most heavily impacted countries who are also the most under-resourced for adaption.”

COP24 President Michał Kurtyka called the successful negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement “a great achievement.”

“Our common efforts didn’t consist solely of producing texts or defending national interests,” Kurtyka said in an online statement. “We were conscious of our responsibility to people and commitment for the fate of Earth, which is our home and the home of future generations who will come after us.”

Andrus was joined for both weeks of COP24 by Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations, and Andrus’ wife, Sheila Andrus, an ecological entomologist representing the Diocese of California.

The rest of the delegation was split between the conference’s two weeks, with the first week including the Rev. Lester Mackenzie of Laguna Beach, California; Alan Yarborough, Office of Government Relations communications officer, and the Rev. Melanie Mullen, the Episcopal Church’s director of reconciliation, evangelism and creation care. For the second week, they handed off to Andrew Thompson, an environmental ethicist at Sewanee: The University of the South, and Jack Cobb, the Office of Government Relations domestic and environmental policy adviser.

“Our delegation, through our meetings with negotiators, our presentations and our side events, worked tirelessly to bring our church’s own unique voice to COP24,” Andrus said. They also participated in panel discussions, conferred with ecumenical partners and joined worship and prayer services.

#COP24 Day 10: The Presiding Bishop's delegation hosted a "Spirit of Apollo 8" event, attended side events and gathered for a final dinner. Thank you to Bishop Marc and Sheila Andrus for their leadership of this COP24 team. Dziękuję, kochamy Cię! #EpiscopalClimate #EpiscopalUN. pic.twitter.com/b0WrLdC8CO

— Episcopal UN (@EpiscopalUN) December 13, 2018

One of the highlights of the delegation’s second week at COP24 was a statement it drafted to join a chorus of support among partner delegations for a climate science report by the International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. Most COP24 member parties had sought to “welcome” the IPCC report, but that wording raised objections from the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

That response “was far from adequate to forward the climate action needed now,” Andrus said. He wrote an initial draft of an Episcopal delegation statement, and he and his team spent five hours revising it until it was ready to present to the U.S. delegation on Dec. 11.

The statement referenced resolutions passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention and invoked some of the consequences of climate change already being experienced across the church, from rising sea levels to wildfires.

“It was a clear stand based on the Episcopal Church’s policy and actions to say that words matter and that the science-based goals of a global climate agreement, which can avert the worst climate impacts, also matter,” Andrus said.

In the end, COP24 member parties adopted language that “appreciated and expressed gratitude” for the IPCC report while urging all parties to make use of its findings.

“What I hope Episcopalians will know from our small, singular experience in Katowice is that their voices matter,” Andrus said, and he encouraged anyone interested in these issues to follow the Episcopal Public Policy Network. “Advocacy is the way we express our faith in action.”

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

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Anglican Church in Japan celebrates two decades of women’s ordination

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 4:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Japan has celebrated 20 years of women’s ordination to the priesthood with an overnight retreat and celebratory Eucharist. The retreat, at the Anglican Community of Nazareth in Tokyo, was led by the Rev. Ajuko Ueda, a priest and theologian, before the Eucharist at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Tokyo. Archbishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu joined several bishops in the congregation for the service, which was presided over by the Rev. Atsuko Fumoto, the province’s most recently ordained female priest.

Read the full article here.

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Church of England’s first female bishop chosen for diocesan bishop role

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 4:07pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The first woman to be consecrated to the office of bishop in the Church of England, Libby Lane, is to become a diocesan bishop. Currently the suffragan bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester – a role she has held since 2015 – Lane has been chosen as the next bishop of Derby. The bishop made history when she was consecrated in York Minster in January 2015. She will take up her new role after Easter 2019.

Read the full article here.

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Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Christmas message 2018

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 1:04pm

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] “Love came down at Christmas, because God so loved the world, that he gave,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry said in his Christmas Message 2018.

The video of the presiding bishop’s message, recorded at Bryant Park in New York, is here.

 

The text of the presiding bishop’s message follows:

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Christmas Message 2018

In the Third Chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus says at one point, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

For years, I’ve often thought that that passage only referred to Jesus giving his life as a sacrifice on the cross. And to be sure, that is part of what it means. But some years ago I was reading a commentary by Raymond Brown, on the Gospel of John, and Professor Brown said that that passage not only speaks of Jesus willingly giving his life on the cross, but it actually speaks of Christmas, of God giving his very self, his very son to the world, not for anything God could get out of it, but for the good and the welfare and the well-being of the world. Of us.

Someone once said, in a Christmas poem, “Love came down at Christmas.”  That’s what love is.  To give, and not to count the cost.  To give, not for what one can get, but for what the other can receive. That’s what love is. God so loved the world, that he gave.

I realized recently how powerful that passage really is, when I saw an old poster from 1938.  A poster produced by the Episcopal Church at that time, to encourage Episcopalians and other Christians, and other people of faith and good will, to do whatever they could to help Jewish refugees fleeing tyranny in Europe.  To help people from all over Europe seeking refuge in America, this land of freedom. The poster depicts Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus.  They’re fleeing persecution in Palestine, as Matthew’s Gospel says. And the poster depicting Mary, Joseph, and Jesus says in the tag line, “In the name of these refugees, help all refugees.”

God so loved the world, that he gave, even to the point of risking his own son.  And in the name of those refugees, in the name of that Jesus, help all refugees, all people who suffer, anyone who’s alone, everyone who is in need.  That’s what love does.

Love came down at Christmas, because God so loved the world, that he gave.

In those days, a decree went out from the Emperor Augustus, that all the world should be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem because he was a descendent from the House of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged, and who was expecting a child. While they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son, and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Meanwhile, in that region, there were shepherds, living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then the angel of the Lord stood above them. And the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were terrified. The angel said unto them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people. To you is born this day, in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign.  You will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly, there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all people on earth.”

Have a blessed Christmas. Have a merry Christmas. Have a joyful Christmas.

God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

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Mensaje navideño 2018 del obispo primado Curry

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 12:22pm

“El amor descendió en Navidad porque Dios amó tanto al mundo que dio” el obispo presidente y primado de la Iglesia Episcopal Michael Curry dijo en su mensaje navideño 2018.

El video del Obispo Primado se encuentra aquí.

El texto del mensaje del Obispo Primado a continuación:

 Mensaje navideño de 2018 del obispo primado Michel Curry  

En el tercer capítulo del evangelio de Juan, Jesús dice “porque de tal manera amó Dios al mundo, que ha dado a su hijo unigénito, para que todo aquel que en Él cree, no se pierda, más tenga vida eterna.”

Por muchos años, a menudo he pensado que este pasaje solo se refiere a como Jesús sacrificó su vida en la cruz. Y ciertamente eso es parte de su significado. Pero hace unos años estaba leyendo el comentario de Raymond Brown en el evangelio de Juan y el profesor Brown dijo que ese pasaje no solo habla de Jesús y la entrega voluntaria de su vida en la cruz pero que en realidad habla de los cristianos, de como Dios da su mismo ser, su propio hijo al mundo, no a cambio de lo que Él pudiese recibir sino por el bien y el bienestar del mundo. De nosotros.

Alguien dijo en un poema cristiano “El amor descendió en Navidad”. Eso es lo que es el amor. Dar sin pensar en el costo. Dar no por lo que uno puede conseguir, pero por lo que el otro puede recibir. Eso es lo que es el amor. Dios ama tanto al mundo que ha dado.

Me di cuenta recientemente lo poderoso del mensaje en ese pasaje, cuando vi un viejo póster de 1938. Un póster producido por la Iglesia Episcopal en ese tiempo para incentivar a los episcopales y a otros cristianos y a personas de fe y buena voluntad a hacer lo que podían para ayudar a los refugiados judíos que huían de la tiranía en Europa. Para que ayudaran a las personas de toda Europa que buscaban refugio en América, esta tierra de la libertad. El póster muestra a María, José y el niño Jesús huyendo de la persecución en Palestina, como narra el evangelio de Mateo. El póster que muestra a María, José y a Jesús dice en su mensaje: “En nombre de estos refugiados, ayuda a todos los refugiados”.

Dios ama tanto al mundo que dio, aun al punto de arriesgar a su propio hijo. Y en el nombre de esos refugiados, en el nombre de Jesús, de todas las personas que sufren, de todos los que están solos, todos los necesitados. Eso es lo que el hace el amor.

El amor descendió en la Navidad porque Dios ama tanto al mundo, que dio.

Por aquel tiempo, el emperador Augusto ordenó que se hiciera un censo de todo el mundo. Este primer censo fue hecho siendo Quirinio gobernador de Siria. Todos tenían que ir a inscribirse a su propio pueblo. Por esto, José salió del pueblo de Nazaret, de la región de Galilea, y se fue a Belén, en Judea, donde había nacido el rey David, porque José era descendiente de David. Fue allá a inscribirse, junto con María, su esposa, que se encontraba encinta. Y sucedió que mientras estaban en Belén, le llegó a María el tiempo de dar a luz. Y allí nació su hijo primogénito, y lo envolvió en pañales y lo acostó en el establo, porque no había alojamiento para ellos en el mesón.

Cerca de Belén había unos pastores que pasaban la noche en el campo cuidando sus ovejas. De pronto se les apareció un ángel del Señor, y la gloria del Señor brilló alrededor de ellos; y tuvieron mucho miedo. Pero el ángel les dijo: “No tengan miedo, porque les traigo una buena noticia, que será motivo de gran alegría para todos: Hoy les ha nacido en el pueblo de David un salvador, que es el Mesías, el Señor. Como señal, encontrarán ustedes al niño envuelto en pañales y acostado en un establo”.

En aquel momento aparecieron, junto al ángel, muchos otros ángeles del cielo, que alababan a Dios y decían:
“¡Gloria a Dios en las alturas!
¡Y paz en la tierra entre todos los hombres que gozan de su favor!”

Que tengan una Navidad bendecida. Que tengan una Navidad feliz. Que tengan una Navidad gozosa.

Dios los ama, Dios los bendice y que Dios los mantenga en sus todopoderosas manos de amor.

El reverendísimo Michael B. Curry
Obispo Presidente y Primado
de la Iglesia Episcopal

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Anglican clinic’s collapse in Gaza prompts call for emergency donations in support of diocese

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 5:22pm

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem released this photo of the ruins of the Anglican diocese’s surgical outpatient clinic at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

[Episcopal News Service] A building collapse at a Gaza clinic run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem http://www.j-diocese.org/ has the Anglican diocese’s supporters around the world scrambling to raise money for repairs at a time when Palestinian relief efforts have been hindered by cuts in humanitarian aid.

The building that collapsed Dec. 6 was a surgical outpatient clinic at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Steel beams, roof decking, plaster ceiling and surrounding walls caved into the room and then collapsed into the basement below, a dramatic implosion that was partly caught on video.

The 120-year-old building apparently was empty that afternoon at the time of the collapse, and no one was injured.

“If the facility had been occupied during that time, there might have been fatalities,” the Diocese of Jerusalem said, according to Anglican Communion News Service. The report said “environmental stress” was partly to blame.

Jerusalem Archbishop Suheil Dawani has launched an appeal for donations to rebuild the clinic, which is just one building on the hospital’s campus. Up to 500 patients a month typically use the clinic, and they have been directed to other parts of the hospital for treatment.

Al Ahli Arab Hospital has been ministering as a Christian witness in Gaza City since 1882. The institution was founded by the Church of England’s Church Mission Society and was later run as a medical mission by the Southern Baptist Conference from 1954 to 1982. It then returned to the Anglican Church. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

An engineer and construction team have surveyed the damage and recommended about $150,000 in reconstruction work, the diocese said.

“Their findings provided useful insights about the deficiencies of the bar joists in the clinic that were manufactured between 1900 and the late 1950s, and still being used well after 1960,” the diocese said. “These were the chief culprits behind the catastrophic failure of the building – but so were the infrequent renovations, the latest occurring in 1993.”

The Episcopal Church has supported and remained closely engaged with the Anglican diocese’s work in Israel and the Palestinian territories for many years. The diocese is among the recipients of grants from the Episcopal Church’s Good Friday Offering, which collected a record $414,310 in 2017 to support ministries in the Middle East.

The Al Ahli Arab Hospital is one ministry that benefits from that money, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry personally visited the hospital in March during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during Holy Week.

“The number of Christians in Gaza are decreasing dramatically, but the witness to the way of Jesus is as strong as ever because at Al Ahli Arab Hospital healing happens – Muslim, Christian, anyone who needs it, healing happens,” Curry told Episcopal News Service after visiting the hospital. “And that is the way of Jesus. That is what love looks like. That is what the sacrifice on the cross was about.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry hands a toddler back to her mother in March while visiting a session for mothers and their young children at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. Jerusalem Archbishop Suheil Dawani is at right. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

In November, Curry joined leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops raising concerns about the Trump administration’s apparent decision to end further humanitarian assistance to hospitals in East Jerusalem, including the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Princess Basma Rehabilitation Center.

“These hospitals provide life-saving and, in some cases, unique forms of health care not available otherwise to Palestinians,” the religious leaders said in a joint statement.

The statement did not address conditions at the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, but the situation there is dire, said John Lent, executive director of American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, or AFEDJ.

“All of Gaza is on a timeline that requires urgent intervention, politically, socially, economically. It’s really a completely unsustainable situation that the Gazans are living in, and Ahli’s right in the middle of it,” Lent said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

Electricity in Gaza is intermittent at best, sewer systems have failed and running water is no longer available in most homes, Lent said. The Gaza Strip is governed by the Palestinians but largely cut off from the outside world by an Israeli blockade. It also is home to Palestinian refugee camps. This year, the U.S. announced it was ending its aid to the United Nation program that supports those Palestinian refugees.

The Ahli hospital is the only nongovernmental, charitable hospital ready to treat them and all Gaza residents, Lent said. “Ahli is a very special place, given the people that it serves,” he said. “In some neighborhoods, it looks as though they’re stone age.”

The hospital has struggled just to keep its doors open, Lent said, and maintaining deteriorating buildings only adds to that burden. “When I visit, I can tell you that everything at Ahli is simple, spare, clean and efficient, but very old.”

AFEDJ, an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit, is the recommend partner organization for Americans interested in supporting the work of the Diocese of Jerusalem, which is spread over five countries – Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The organization has launched its own appeal to raise additional money to support the Diocese of Jerusalem and the hospital in Gaza. Donations can be made at afedj.org/give.

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

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Bishops from New Zealand and Polynesia issue joint protest on West Papua abuses

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 4:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishops from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have expressed their “deep disappointment” at what they say is the continued suppression of the first people of West Papua. The political status of West Papua is disputed. The bishops issued a statement calling for the Indonesian authorities to “halt all state-sanctioned abuse and violation of human rights.” In their statement, they express their “deep disappointment” at the continued suppression of the first people of West Papua, and call on governments within their jurisdiction – New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga Samoa, American Samoa and the Cook Islands – to take a four-fold course of action.

Read the entire article here.

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Presiding Bishop named religious newsmaker of the year

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 2:35pm

“Today Show” co-hosts Hoda Kotb, left, and Savannah Guthrie listen Nov. 1 as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry talks about the power of love. It was one of many media interviews Curry gave this year. Photo: “The Today Show”

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church has heard Presiding Bishop Michael Curry herald the message of God’s unconditional love ever since he was elected in July 2015. In May, his message went global and viral when he preached at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and now it has earned him the title of “religious newsmaker of the year.”

The Religion News Association said that Curry’s sermon had “raised his profile as a progressive religious voice.”

That could be an understatement. Curry’s profile beyond the Episcopal Church began to take off the moment his part in the May 19 wedding was announced. Stories attempting to answer the question “who is Michael Curry” abounded.

Then he stepped to the ambo at St. George’s Chapel and began to preach. According to media statisticians, 29.2 million people in the United States and 18 million in the United Kingdom viewed the wedding. And then there was Twitter, where 3.4 million social media users tweeted about the royal wedding. They tweeted 40,000 times a minute during Curry’s sermon, more than the 27,000 tweets per minute during the declaration of Harry and Meghan as husband and wife.

That day “Bishop Michael Curry” was a top “trending topic” on Google with a score of 100 on a scale of 0-100 for daily searches, and “episcopal’ was the top lookup on Merriam Webster.

El Paso pilgrimage shines a ‘light of truth’ on migrant humanitarian crisis at the border

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 11:42am

The Rev. Paul Moore, who chairs the Rio Grande Diocese’s Borderland Ministries, interprets for the Rev. Hector Trejo, who serves three Anglican churches in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – El Paso, Texas] Two thousand people are released weekly by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into the hospitality of Annunciation House here in El Paso.

Many of them are families who have waited their turn to cross the border and request asylum. If Annunciation House had space for 2,500, it would be 2,500, said its founder and director, Ruben Garcia.

The asylees receive food, a bed, a shower, toiletries, a care package and help contacting relatives to arrange travel. Within 48 hours they are placed on buses or airplanes to reunite with family members in other parts of the United States.

“The vast majority of people have someone,” Garcia said.

Mostly, they come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but some come from Nicaragua, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, even as far as India. Some are fleeing violence, some come for economic opportunities, others are fleeing religious and other forms of persecution.

Some 30 people representing large urban and suburban Episcopal congregations gathered in Southwest Texas for what they called an “El Paso Pilgrimage.” Here they gather on the Ciudad Juárez side of the border wall separating Mexico and the United States. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

On Dec. 13, some 30 people representing large urban and suburban Episcopal congregations gathered in Southwest Texas for what they called an “El Paso Pilgrimage.” The Rev. Gary Jones, rector of St. Stephen’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, initiated the pilgrimage out of a desire to counter a narrative that vilifies asylum seekers as drug dealers and rapists, when in fact they are fleeing for their lives and their livelihoods.

The pilgrimage’s first stop was Annunciation House, where participants heard a briefing from Garcia, who has worked on the border for 40 years, witnessing and responding to various migrant and refugee surges over the years.

“The phenomenon of refugees is not an El Paso problem, it’s a U.S. problem,” said Garcia.

“Right now, because of [U.S.] enforcement, we are seeing changes that make life miserable,” he said “The border has become a very complicated place.”

When Annunciation House began its ministry 40 years ago, it was primarily serving men who would come to the United States for seasonal work, return home to be with families and later return for work. In 1996, when the last legislative change in immigration law made it impossible to come and go, the men could no longer go home and instead stayed.

“Once they make the decision to stay, they lose family,” Garcia said.

Writing along the border fence outside San Jose Anglican Church on the Mexico side of the border reads, “We are not delinquents or illegals, we are international workers.” Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

With the mid-1990s change in immigration law, the undocumented population rose from 6 million to 12 million by 2004, as men sought family reunification and women and children began arriving. Today, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States; some have been living in hiding for 20 to 30 years, he said.

Upon arrival, migrants and asylum seekers are faced with pleading their cases to agents at designated points of entry or climbing over walls and crossing rivers to plead their case upon apprehension by agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, Garcia explained.

A couple of weeks ago asylum seekers were sleeping on the bridge so as not to lose their place in line, as typically 20 people are allowed to enter at a time. Then, in an effort to clear the bridge, CBP began issuing numbers, written in magic marker on asylum seekers’ arms to keep track of their place in line, he said.

From there, they are sent to shelters in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border, to wait their turn.

Miguel Escobar, executive director of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, greets children from the Rancho Anapra municipality outside the center of Ciudad Juárez. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal pilgrims arrived in El Paso just as news broke of the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl in U.S. Border Patrol custody a day after she, her father and 161 other migrants surrendered to agents after crossing illegally into New Mexico. The circumstances of the girl’s death are still under investigation.

For the pilgrims, though, it was a stark reminder of the perilous journey migrants and asylum seekers face, and the outdated U.S. immigration system and the Trump administration’s response to the current humanitarian crisis on the Southwestern border. The government has sent at least 8,000 troops to the border in an attempt to deter crossings. Still, migrants continue to arrive in caravans.

“I wanted to see with my own eyes what’s going on,” said the Ven. Juan Sandoval, an archdeacon in the Diocese of Atlanta and a third-generation Mexican-American who grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.

“It just seemed instead of the military, you should be sending churches and aid workers, people who can help,” he said.

The Very Rev. Nathan LeRud, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, stands on the Ciudad Juárez side of the wall separating Mexico and the United States at the border in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

That’s where the churches come in. Mostly, hospitality comes from El Paso churches, with the Roman Catholic Church and Annunciation House leading the way. Some asylum seekers receive legal assistance from organizations like the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, the second stop on the pilgrims’ journey.

There, Christina Garcia, who provides legal consultation, explained the complexity of family reunification, which can take 20 or 30 years depending on U.S. quotas and the country of origin, and the difficulty in winning asylum cases. Her agency, she said, won six asylum cases in six years, and, in a major win, seven so far this year.

The current crisis, she said, “is dehumanizing in every aspect and ignores the humanitarian right to access.” She also said El Paso; Atlanta, Georgia, and that state of Arizona are the most difficult places to gain asylum, and here, as in the rest of the United States, judges make arbitrary determinations case-by-case.

From there, they went to St. Christopher’s Church, one of five El Paso Episcopal churches and the one closest to the border, led by the Rev. J.J. Bernal. The Rev. Paul Moore, who chairs the Rio Grande Diocese’s Borderland Ministries, gave an overview of the current situation as it relates to Central America, talking about the failure of trickle-down economics, U.S. foreign policy as it has historically related to Central America, deportation of gang members, security issues across the Northern Triangle, drug cartels, associated violence and the United States’ appetite for drugs.

Across Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region that includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, more than 700,000 people have been displaced by violence. However, it’s a global phenomenon now affecting a record 68.5 million people worldwide.

The pilgrimage followed on a Border Ministries Summit organized by Moore and held here in November.

On Dec. 14, the pilgrims departed for Ciudad Juárez, some crossing by car and others using pedestrian access along two of the three bridges connecting the two cities. In Juárez, the Rev. Hector Trejo, who arrived six months ago from Chihuahua, the capital of the state of Chihuahua, took them by bus to two of his three Anglican parishes.

San Jose, or St. Joseph’s, is located along the border in Rancho Anapra, an informal, impoverished settlement on the city’s northwest side, previously a cattle ranching area that squatters settled and that drug cartels have infiltrated.

“Because the people here don’t have property rights it became a place for the criminal element,” said Trejo. “There are safe houses, and it’s a movement center for drug traffickers and people smugglers.

“The challenge here is great,” he added, saying community members come to him asking him for advice on how to get over the wall because they fear for their lives.

The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, right; Miguel Escobar, executive director of Episcopal Divinity School, and the Rev. Winnie Varghese, director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, cross The Paso del Norte International Bridge into El Paso, Texas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Diocese of Northern Mexico doesn’t have an established ministry serving migrants; it was one thing the Episcopalians were looking to get involved in and something Trejo addressed. The reality is such, he said, that volunteers need to be trained properly to deal with people who’ve been traveling for weeks and sometimes months, people who haven’t bathed or brushed their teeth in a long time, and who have fled traumatic, violent, abusive situations and encountered the same along their journey. Still, he’s looking for partners in ministry and to build a network of responders along the border.

It was something Bernal, the rector of St. Christopher’s in El Paso, echoed. The Episcopal Church, he said, needs to articulate and establish a vision for its ministry at the border.

“The Episcopal Church is a voice for the voiceless,” he said. “Those of us here at the border feel isolated. We need more active voices and human resources.”

Through its Borderland Ministries, the Rio Grande Diocese is looking to expand its ministry, said Moore.

And that, he said, must take the form of grassroots ministry led by those on the ground through partnerships based in mutual respect, not patriarchy.

On the last day of the Dec. 13-15 pilgrimage, two carloads of pilgrims departed for Tornillo, Texas, the site of a camp that opened to house 360 unaccompanied minors and now houses 2,700. They didn’t quite reach the camp, as Border Patrol agents told them it is private property, but they got as close as possible and gathered at a fence to pray for the children in custody there: for their safety, their grieved parents and their futures.

“I’m really glad we went to the camp – I won’t call it a shelter, it’s not a shelter – it’s a concentration camp for children,” said the Rev. Stephen Carlsen, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana. “I felt I needed to witness what is being done in our names as Americans.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like if the U.S. border is your last hope … how people are [mis] treated and dehumanized. If this is their last hope, what must they be fleeing?”

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

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Episcopal Church eyes investing in gun manufacturers to press for greater gun safety

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 4:50pm

Episcopalians join a interfaith group of demonstrators outside a Smith & Wesson facility in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 14. Photo: Victoria Ix/Diocese of Western Massachusetts

[Episcopal News Service] Shareholder advocacy is nothing new for the Episcopal Church. With an investment portfolio worth about $400 million, the church has long used some of those investments used to influence companies based on Christian principles and General Convention resolutions that set church policies and priorities.

What’s new is one of the investment tactics the church plans to implement in the new year to address gun violence.

General Convention passed a resolution in July that calls on Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to research investing in gun manufacturers to give the church a new voice in how those companies do business. The goal: “to minimize lethal and criminal uses of their products.”

“We’ve never purposely gone out and bought [shares in] what we’d consider a bad actor in order to press the company to change behavior,” said Brian Grieves, the outgoing chair of the committee, which oversees the church’s shareholder advocacy.

The resolution, B007, was proposed by Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher, a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, who will take over for Grieves as committee chair in January. Fisher’s diocese is home to the headquarters of Smith & Wesson in Springfield, and in March he participated in a rally outside the gun manufacturer led by high school students in the wake of a deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Fisher acknowledged a “sense of frustration” among anti-gun violence advocates in response to Congress’ inaction. “The federal government is doing nothing about the public health crisis of gun violence,” he said. “So where can the church engage this big issue?”

Shareholder advocacy already has produced results on the issue, such as the decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods in February to stop selling assault rifles at its Field & Stream stores and to stop selling any guns to customers under 21. The Episcopal Church, as a shareholder, was involved in the effort to pressure the chain based on the Sandy Hook Principles, named after the school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 students and six educators were gunned down six years ago, on Dec. 14, 2012.

The Dick’s shareholder effort was aided by a coalition called Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, or ICCR, an organization to which the Episcopal Church belongs that helps religious organizations pool their shareholder power. The group has recently worked with other of its members to do what General Convention urged: buy stock in a gun manufacturing company to influence corporate behavior. Eleven Roman Catholics organizations invested in Sturm, Ruger & Co. and in May were able to pass a shareholder resolution requiring the company to produce a report documenting how it is mitigating the harmful effects of its products.

Fisher said the Episcopal Church intends to take its cue from ICCR and base its advocacy with gun manufacturers on principles developed by an anti-gun violence campaign called Do Not Stand Idly By.

Such efforts aren’t opposed to gun ownership or the Second Amendment, Fisher said. “We’re really taking the approach of, why can’t gun companies act like car companies? Car companies are already trying to make their cards safer. … That’s good business practice. Why can’t gun companies go down the same path?”

That’s a worthwhile case to make to those companies, said the Rev. Rosalind Hughes, a Cleveland-area priest who has been vocal and active in the fight against gun violence, but she isn’t sure investments are the best way to make that case.

“My personal feeling is that I would prefer that we were not investing in the manufacture of guns in the first place,” said Hughes, rector at Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, Ohio. She favors stepping up lobbying efforts to pass stricter background checks, an end to gun-show loopholes and other reform measures. Bishops United Against Gun Violence has backed such measures as well.

“The fact that we’re talking about this on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting doesn’t escape my notice,” Hughes told Episcopal News Service. “And the idea that the best that we can do is to invest in the manufacture of more guns in order to influence the landscape of guns in this country that doesn’t sit well with me.”

Grieves, who will remain on the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility after stepping down as chair, describes actively investing in such companies as just one of the alternatives available to the church as it pursues a range of policy goals.

“One size does not fit all,” he said. “It’s a strategic decision, and we’re going to have to look at how we arrive at those particular positions.”

Even if this approach gets results on gun safety, it may not be the best approach toward one of the church’s other priorities, which include climate change, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, indigenous people’s rights, corporate board diversity and ending human trafficking.

The church already owns shares in Caterpillar and Motorola, for example, and for years has been pressing those two companies to address human rights concerns related to their contracts with Israel in the occupied territories.

“The purpose is to engage in dialogue and try to get the company to move toward making a change in its behavior,” Grieves said.

General Convention, however, stopped short of approving a blanket divestment in Israel, which some critics of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories have called for. Instead, bishops and deputies passed a resolution that calls on Executive Council to establish a “human rights screen” to determine the criteria that would justify divesting from specific companies based on their track records on human rights.

The church also maintains so-called no-buy lists against investing in tobacco companies, for-profit prison companies and companies that earn more than a specific percentage of their business as military contractors.

Fisher noted that affirmative investing is another approach the Episcopal Church takes, such as its support for companies doing good work in the Palestinian territories. The Bank of Palestine is one example.

On climate change, the church seeks out investments aligned with its interest in caring for God’s creation. Fisher’s diocese took the additional step in 2015 divesting from companies that profit from fossil fuels.

It’s one thing to divest from oil to invest that money in alternative fuels, Fisher said, but that approach doesn’t work well in addressing gun violence. “What would you invest in that would impact the public health crisis of gun violence?”

By investing in gun manufacturers, then, the church and its partners may be able to persuade those companies take steps that will reduce the number of gun deaths. One example would be to adopt technology like fingerprint recognition, familiar to any iPhone user, that would lock guns for everyone except the owner.

“Even if you don’t get shareholder resolutions passed, if you stay with it long enough … people start to take notice,” Fisher said. “It’s not something that gets ignored. It gets addressed.”

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

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Archbishop of Canterbury calls for UK-based international Joint Reconciliation Unit

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 3:44pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called on the British government to establish a Joint reconciliation Unit to work in conflict zones around the globe. The archbishop made his call during a debate he led in the House of Lords on reconciliation.

Read the full article here.

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Archbishop of Burundi leads march against gender-based violence

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 1:29pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican primate of Burundi, Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, has led hundreds of people on a march through Makamba in a protest against gender-based violence. The march took place during the annual, international 16 Days of Activism, which concluded on Dec. 10 – international Human Rights Day.

Read the full article here.

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Christian, Jewish leaders in Britain speak against anti-Semitism, persecution of Christians

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 1:26pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has joined other Christian and Jewish leaders to speak out against the rise of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom and the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world. The religious leaders, co-presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews, co-signed a letter to The Times newspaper on Dec. 13.

Read the full article here.

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