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Episcopal food ministries help neighbors give thanks more than a month after deadly Northern California wildfires

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 3:42pm

Volunteers Alicia Wu and Emily Liu, high school sophomores from Los Altos, California, spend Nov. 18 planting organic fava bean seeds in the burned-over vineyards owned by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church member Charles Johnston of Helena View Johnston Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. The October fires killed more than 40 people and destroyed about 245,000 acres in Northern California. Photo: Charles Johnston

[Episcopal News Service] Emma Green was scrolling through her Facebook news feed about 9:30 p.m. in early October when she first learned about the Northern California fires in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties. Throughout that harrowing first night, she and her fellow volunteers connected about 2,000 people requesting help to those asking how to help.

Green is poised to provide efficient aid like few people are — all because she’s the Community Meal Program coordinator at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, a town in Solano County. With fewer than 100 members, her church is small, but that community program is mighty.

“Because we feed the homeless on a regular basis, we already have that network of contacts in place. If a caterer makes food, with one text we can have that in 20 minutes,” Green told the Episcopal News Service. “Our network for our little meal program was what kicked in that first night, that first 24 hours,” Green said. “I was so proud of our little church.”

You’d think Thanksgiving, a holiday to celebrate God’s gifts of abundance, might be hard this year for these fire victims and volunteers. When it comes to food and drink, many Episcopalians in the fire-ravaged area lost so much, yet they gained community support they never expected. Not to minimize the traumatic disaster that took more than 40 lives and ravaged 245,000 acres, but the galvanizing of volunteers and donations since then has touched the hearts of many.

Green’s church will have a Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 24, for its regularly scheduled Friday night hot meal for the needy. On Nov. 21, the regular Tuesday soup night, they had pumpkin cream soup with stuffing and pumpkin pie.

At St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Calistoga, there was an interfaith Community Thanksgiving Service with drinks and dessert two nights before Thanksgiving, to hear about people’s experiences through this ordeal. The Rev. Susan Napoliello, deacon at St. Luke’s, also attended a Thanksgiving feast the Saturday before the holiday, hosted by Napa Interfaith Council.

Episcopalians joined members of other faith communities for an early Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 18 sponsored by the Napa Interfaith Council. Photo: the Rev. Susan Napoliello

Whether they’re victims, volunteers or both, many are finding gratitude and focusing on Christ’s all-encompassing love this Thanksgiving weekend.

“We have to look at our blessings. You ask God for a directive and are inspired. You recognize the broadness of what you’re doing and move forward,” Charles Johnston told ENS. “I am fortunate. I have the ability to recover.”

A member of St. Luke’s, Charles Johnston has been a wine grower and maker for 26 years before the fires destroyed his home and his organic vineyards at Helena View Johnston Vineyards in Napa Valley.

The wildfires that raged in Northern California in October destroyed lives and billions of dollars in property, including Charles Johnston’s Helena View Johnston Vineyards in Napa Valley. Photo courtesy of Charles Johnston

He also lost 30,000 bottles of red wine and 12,000 gallons of wine in barrels. Although Johnston has a separate home in the city of Calistoga, he, his wife and youngest daughter had moved all their belongings into the vineyard home. After the fires, he had two pairs of pants and one pair of shoes, all that was left back at the city home.

The Diocese of Northern California gave him two $250 checks for Daisy, his 6-year-old daughter, to replenish her Roman Catholic school uniforms. “That’s amazing,” Johnston said, his voice cracking. “I’ve been on the donor end most of my life. For us, we’re the victims this time. It makes me cry.”

Johnston sees signs everywhere of community and regeneration.

More than a month after the fires, several high school students from Los Altos in the Bay Area arrived at his vineyard to re-seed his land with 30 pounds of organic fava beans. They’ll come back next spring to pick them and take them home.

Johnston, a delegate to the 2017 Northern California diocesan convention, made it to the gathering just days after the fires and shared how this experience has changed his spiritual perspective.

“God has given me the pleasure of having nothing to deal with that’s material. All the letters, personal things, every single photograph – everything is gone. I look to my spiritual roots and say well, maybe there is something bigger than this that I’m supposed to do,” Johnston explained for ENS. “It takes heart to make this happen, how we all come together for a common cause. It wakes up our minds.”

Emily Liu and Alicia Wu, high school volunteers from Los Altos, California, help vineyard owner Charles Johnston Nov. 18, with organic reseeding as a way to control erosion and nitrogen enrichment. It’s one example of how communities unite to help in food efforts after the Northern California fires. Photo: courtesy of Charles Johnston

People are helping each other all sorts of ways with food.

Lori Korleski Richardson, diocesan interim communications director, said the community-supported agriculture group to which she belongs, Farm Fresh to You, has been asking its members to buy an extra box to be donated through the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Sonoma. The food bank then donates another box to double the food going to fire victims. St. Andrew’s Mission in Monte Rio is one of the food bank’s partners. Located in Santa Rosa, the mission’s food program provides groceries and hot meals to needy people.

The Rev. Josephine “Phina” Borgeson, a non-parochial deacon of the Diocese of Northern California and food ministry networker from the Russian River Deanery, told a Nov. 18 gathering at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Healdsburg: “Food ministry is my thing. With this fire, this urban fire, there is so much that is unknown. What’s happening to our crops? I contacted the cooperative extension and UC Davis and they said they had no research on toxins that are released during urban fires. Well, they should have plenty to work with soon; we’ve been doing lots of sampling in our watershed.”

Borgeson added in an interivew with ENS that there is a sense that heroic crisis efforts did not always jibe with existing food-recovery efforts, such as gleaning and food rescue, as well as they might have. The Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition has been working on an online directory to ensure that produce and other food donations find a good home in ordinary times.

“We hope we can make it even better by learning what worked in the recent crisis,” Borgeson told ENS in an email.

In the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative October newsletter, founder Steve Schwartz wrote that the Sebastopol, California, organization’s mission is to work for food access, justice and sustainability, not necessarily emergency hunger relief. Yet: “some of the same ‘infrastructure’ such as coolers, refrigerators, storage bins and shelving that are key during an emergency also position a congregation to do more with gleaning, greening the pantry with fresh vegetables and other food access projects during more normal times,” he wrote.

Episcopal Community Services supports the development of community gardens, food pantries and feeding programs with mentoring, information-sharing and start-up grants, the Rev. Lucretia Jevne, president of the board of directors, told ENS by email.

Volunteers with the Community Meal Program at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, California, prep for one of two weekly meals offered at the little church. Photo: Church of the Epiphany Community Response

One of those feeding programs is Green’s Community Meal Program at Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, which received a United Thank Offering and is a Jubilee Ministry Center. “This group stepped up at the time of the fires by providing meals and supplies to various shelters,” Jevne said.

Green and her fellow volunteers coordinated the delivery of tents to those who lost their homes that first night. She started tearing up as she recalled the choking smoke, the cats whose ears and whiskers had burned off and the traumatized horses they fed and watered at the dilapidated stalls at Dixon May Fair, an evacuation site.

“It was one road away from burning the north end of our town. It was really scary,” Green said.

In a normal week, Green’s church kitchen prepares about 350 meals for the needy in the community. To accomplish this service, Green has a network of other Episcopal churches and churches of other religions, corporate food companies and local bakeries, and social services and government agencies. When the fires took over, that network enabled Green to quickly match the fire victims’ immediate needs and with available resources.

“In this environment, it’s not just cup of soup we hand you and say move along; we care about you. It’s where two or three are gathered, you know? It’s crazy how transforming that dynamic becomes when you just let go and let God,” Green said. “When everybody chips and does something as a team, it’s amazing what you can do; it’s like the loaves and fishes concept.”

The food has been aplenty.

At Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, the Rev. James Richardson, the priest-in-charge, said they are still serving their Open Table Sunday breakfast and haven’t seen an upswing in guests for that program because of the fires.

Northern California residents came together to help each other during the late October wildfires. Even if those fires are out of the headlines, the need and the love continue. Photo: Church of the Epiphany Community Response

“The food banks during the fires were turning away food donations because there was nowhere to put it,” Richardson told ENS. “We also have a CSA that delivers to people at the church, and the service has not been interrupted. We really don’t have a shortage of stuff.”

The bigger issue at the moment is finding people rentals to live in and helping people pay their rents, Richardson said.

The Venerable Gary Brown, archdeacon for diaconal ministries at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Grass Valley, said some of his parishioners were evacuated from their communities. His rural town is in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of the major fires, although two smaller ones threatened them. A former psychiatric nurse for 40 years, Brown visited deacons in the harder-hit areas a month after the fires and listened to their experiences and emotions. Some were concerned about undocumented workers getting food and other necessities without land to work on.

“Just because the emergency is over, doesn’t mean it’s over for the people. It’s too easy to let that drop after the emergency services leave,” Brown said. “These folks have been very traumatized. What the church can do is provide people and places to listen to them. Just listen. Don’t ignore them.”

Those living far away can give to Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Fund or to the Diocese of North California, via the options here.

“And pray,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of hurt and a lot of pain going on around here.”

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com. Lori Korleski Richardson, diocesan interim communications director, contributed to this story.

New legal actions promise to extend South Carolina property litigation

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 1:15pm

[Episcopal News Service] Litigation in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina apparently will continue, despite the state Supreme Court’s recent refusal to reconsider its August ruling that the property, assets and most of its parishes must remain with the Episcopal Church.

The latest attempt to overturn that ruling came late Nov. 21 with the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to consider the state court’s decision. That announcement followed other news that another suit involving the property and assets has been filed.

Episcopalians in South Carolina have been reorganizing their common life since late 2012, after then-Bishop Mark Lawrence and a majority of clergy and lay leadership said that the diocese had left the Episcopal Church. They disagreed with the wider Episcopal Church about biblical authority and theology, primarily centered on the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.

The breakaway group filed suit in January 2013 against the Episcopal Church. The diocese came into the lawsuit later. After a three-week trial in July 2014, Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein ruled in February 2015 that the breakaway group had the right to hold onto the diocesan name and property, including individual church buildings.

The state Supreme Court agreed in April 2015 to consider the case. The court took more than two years to issue its ruling, which came Aug. 2.

The remaining Episcopalians offered in June 2015 to let 35 parishes keep their church properties, whether or not they choose to remain part of the Episcopal Church.

In exchange, the proposal required the breakaway group to return the diocesan property, assets and identity of “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” to the diocese that is still affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The breakaway group rejected the offer the day it was made public.

South Carolina Bishop Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III on Nov. 19 welcomed what he called the clarity that the State Supreme Court’s decision provides the diocese, and he kept open the desire for reconciliation. “We believe this is what the Lord Jesus would expect of us and it is consistent with the teachings of St. Paul,” he said in a written statement. “We renew our commitment to this hard work of reconciliation in the days to come.”

That same day, the group that left the Episcopal Church filed their new lawsuit in the same county court where it began its original lawsuit. The new filing in Dorchester County cites a “betterments statute” to seek compensation from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the Episcopal Church for the cost of improvements made to the properties over the years, according an announcement from The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

“This new filing is not only completely without merit, but unfortunate and inappropriate. It moves us no closer to the kind of resolution that restores unity to our diocese,” South Carolina Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale said in that announcement.

Adams said in the announcement that he hoped that all the parties could work toward a common goal of reunifying and restoring the diocese.

“I appeal to the leaders of the disassociated group and their counsel to allow the people in the affected parishes to start having the necessary conversations with us to ensure that they can continue to worship in their churches. It is time to begin healing this division,” he said.

All parties in the case had previously agreed to mediation to work out how to implement the state Supreme Court ruling, as well as issues raised in a separate federal lawsuit. That mediation is scheduled to resume in Columbia, South Carolina, Dec. 4-5.

But, on Nov. 21, Lawrence announced that it was “with the weight of decision but conviction of heart and mind” that he supported his Standing Committee’s decision to petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, asking it to review the case.

A writ of certiorari asks the Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling. Filing a writ does not mean the high court will agree to take the case. The court receives more than 7,000 petitions and accepts between 100 and 150 cases, according to information from the federal court system. The Supreme Court usually agrees to consider cases that could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal circuit courts, and/or could have precedential value.

Lawrence depicted the appeal as a battle.

“All too soon, we were thrust into a battle for Religious Freedom,” he wrote.

“So, we have before us our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ to which we are unwaveringly wedded; a civil concern for religious freedom for ourselves and others; and a public duty to petition for constitutional due process to be upheld,” he wrote. “Any of these might justify taking the next step down this legal road. Together they make a three-fold cord not easily broken.”

The two groups are also involved in a separate federal case filed under the Lanham Act, claiming that Lawrence is committing false advertising by continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese. The Lanham Act governs trademarks, service marks and unfair competition. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit sent the case back to the U.S. District Court in Charleston for another hearing.

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

A fire-scarred community rallies with spiritual family

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 1:02pm

[Episcopal News Service – Healdsburg, California] Healdsburg, a quaint little town about 70 miles north of San Francisco, has been through a lot in the past six weeks: a massive fire that burned 36,807 acres came dangerously close to the Episcopal church, and several of its parishioners who live in outlying areas lost everything but their lives when they evacuated in the middle of the night.

But as the rector of St. Paul’s, the Rev. Sally Hubbell said: “We know how to feed people here.” So on the night of Nov. 18, about 60 people from St. Paul’s and its neighboring parish to the south, Incarnation, Santa Rosa, gathered to eat chili, slaw, cornbread and desserts. And once they had eaten and had a glass of wine – this is, after all, the heart of the Sonoma wine country – the stories began.

The Rev. Sally Hanes Hubbell gives directions for crowd flow before inviting everyone to serve themselves from two big pots of chili. Photograph: Lori Korleski Richardson

Hubbell started off the storytelling by saying she had hoped that she had left the dealing with wildfires behind her when she moved to Healdsburg from Colorado Springs in 2016. “Yet, even with everything I went through in Colorado, when it happened here, it was totally different.”

“We had less than four hours to evacuate, trying to figure out where people are, with no cellphone coverage, no Internet. … I went to the church thinking that I could at least use the landline. But I got there and no landline. I had no idea what was happening. Then I looked out the window and saw a guy in a North Carolina sweatshirt talking on his cellphone. He had AT&T and an East Coast number, so he was able to dial out. I followed him to his room, explained the situation and he let me use his phone, so I got a little info that way.”

She had to pack up the sacristy later that week when evacuations were ordered. “I took my BCP, my ordination certificate off the wall, the Body of Christ in the ciborium, the record books and the silver.” Luckily, the fire stopped short of downtown.

Hubbell choked up a bit as she said, “I was trying to be in a position of leadership, and it’s hard to be a leader when your flock, everyone, was so scattered.” She tried writing a sermon for that Sunday “but I really couldn’t envision how this would play out.”

Suzanne Kurtz said she got her car packed up as her husband, Richard, urged her to go ahead. “You just go and drive and stop where it feels safe.” She said she got to Petaluma and thought to call the deacon at St. Paul’s, the Rev. Mary Taggart. “Mary called (the Very Rev.) Daniel Green and he found a place for us to stay in Petaluma. We got back home a few days later and everything was fine.”

One man said he “smelled smoke at 2, got out at 2:30 and by 5:30 a.m. our house was gone.” He shook his head sadly, shrugged, but managed a little smile as he continued: “The love I’ve felt from this congregation… I can’t thank you enough for that.”

Colleen Carmichael, executive director of Reach for Home, said, “Trying to find housing for our clients before the fire was hard, and now it’s even harder.” But she did have good news: The two houses she was trying to secure in Cloverdale in early October were approved for loans and a $75,000 grant she had applied for in the first part of the year came through as well. “It was as if God said, ‘OK, you got two, let’s make it three.’ ” She has put an offer in on a house in Windsor. “Now the real work of helping people begins,” she said, ticking off fundraising projects such as a dance marathon that raised $5,000 the previous weekend.

Randy Collins talks of what steps everyone who lives near fire danger should take. Photo: Lori Korleski Richardson

Senior Warden Linda Maxwell said she felt helpless since she was up in Lake Tahoe when the fires broke out, but she started calling everyone she could think of. “Nobody said they needed anything, but later they told me it meant the world to them that someone called. Because,” she said with deep emotion, “we’re family here at St. Paul’s. We may not be biologically related, but we’re spiritually related, here,” touching her heart.

Randy Collins, who has spent his life fighting fires and leading fire-safety efforts in Northern California, reminded the crowd that its family in disasters is vast. “You have a huge family out there that extends across the state. Many people have experienced wildfires in this state, and they are ready to help,” he assured them. He urged those who still had dead trees on their property to remove them and to follow the “Ready, Set, Go! Program.”

“History repeats itself,” he said, reminding the group that the year after the Hanly fire in 1964, the grass grew back and burned again, much like the cycle so familiar in Southern California.

“You get too many people on her back, the Earth shrugs and moves on,” says Betty Banda. Photo: Lori Korleski Richardson

Betty Banda, who grew up in the hills outside Geyersville, a little community north of Healdsburg, remembers many close calls and hurried trips down the mountains when fires would threaten, but she says she takes them all in stride. “I’ve always thought of it as nature,” said the Apache Nation woman. “You get too many people on her back, the Earth shrugs and moves on.”

After those who could manage to talk about what they had been through had their say, they hugged many more who could not, not yet. The crowd looked forward to the confirmations of several youth and adults from both congregations in the morning, so they brought their empty bowls and glasses to the kitchen, and with many hugs and good wishes said goodnight.

– Lori Korleski Richardson is the interim communications director for the Diocese of Northern California.

Episcopalians voice fear, uncertainty as Trump administration ends protected status for Haitians

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 12:35pm

Haitian immigrants and supporters rally Nov. 21 in New York City against the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to terminate TPS for Haitians. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] Haitian Episcopalians living in the United States were shaken this week by news the Trump administration is ending a program that has protected from deportation Haitians who couldn’t return to their country after a devastating 2010 earthquake.

The Haitian communities in some American cities have grown large enough to support sizable Episcopal congregations, like St. Paul’s et Les Martyrs d’Haiti in Miami, Florida, and Haitian Congregation of the Good Samaritan in New York City. Some of those families’ legal status could be thrown into limbo by the administration’s decision.

“It’s a very tough situation,” said the Rev. Panel Guerrier, associate priest for the Haitian congregation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Naples, Florida. He is a permanent resident, but his 23-year-old daughter is among those who could be deported in 2019 unless they are able to change their residency status.

Guerrier said his community’s hope for a legislative solution is mixed with plenty of uncertainty.

“We don’t know if they will come up with some change in the immigration law that will help with the Haitian people,” he said, “It would be very difficult for them to go back.”

The Episcopal Church has long joined other faith groups in advocating for granting what is known as Temporary Protected Status to immigrants who can’t return to their home countries because of natural disasters or armed conflicts. That status was granted in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama to Haitians who were in the U.S. at the time of the earthquake.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention approved a resolution in 2015 pledging to support Temporary Protected Status “for all immigrants fleeing for refuge from violence, environmental disaster, economic devastation, or cultural abuse or other forms of abuse.”

The Trump administration had previously announced it was ending Temporary Protected Status for citizens of Sudan, Nicaragua and Honduras. It remains in effect for those from El Salvador, Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The loss of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians “directly affects several members of our congregation,” including a mother with two children, said the Rev. Sam Owen, priest-in-charge at Haitian Congregation of the Good Samaritan.

“They’re leaders in the church,” Owen told ENS. “If they’re forced to return, it’s not just going to be a blow to the leadership of the church, it sort of rips our hearts out. These are people that we love and that love us.”

Temporary Protected Status , or TPS, “has been a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of individuals already in the United States when problems in a home country suddenly make return untenable,” the Episcopal Public Policy Network, or EPPN, said in an October policy alert calling on Episcopalians to defend TPS.

Earlier this year, the Episcopal Church joined more than 400 other faith leaders and organizations in signing a letter urging the Trump administration to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitians. On Nov. 21, the Office of Government Relations issued a statement expressing disappointment in the administration’s decision.

“Conditions in Haiti are currently unsafe and unstable, with critical lack of improvement since the 2010 earthquake compounded by devastation from Hurricane Matthew and a cholera epidemic,” the statement says. “At this time Haiti cannot safely repatriate 50,000 people, and the decision to terminate the program will harm our communities, the Haitians who will be forced to return and communities in Haiti.”

More than 50,000 Haitians are living in the United States under the program. The Department of Homeland Security announced Nov. 20 that it had decided to let the protections end for those Haitians, giving them until July 2019 to obtain permanent residency status, return to their native country voluntarily or face deportation.

“The decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals,” the statement from Homeland Security said.  The department “determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.”

Archdeacon J. Fritz Bazin of the Diocese of Southeast Florida disagreed strongly with such optimistic assessments of conditions in Haiti.

“Haiti isn’t and will not be in any condition to receive some 50,000 returnees from the U.S. in 2019,” Bazin, a native of Haiti, said in an email to ENS. “Clearly a more comprehensive solution needs to be considered,” he said, pointing to a legislative proposal in Congress to create a path to permanent residency for those Haitians.

The Diocese of Haiti is part of the Episcopal Church, and the church has been deeply involved in rebuilding efforts in the country since the magnitude-7 earthquake that struck on Jan. 12, 2010.  The earthquake killed more than 300,000 people, left as many wounded and displaced more than 1.5 million.

As the country has slowly recovered, signs of the earthquake’s toll have remained. It destroyed 80 percent of the Diocese of Haiti’s infrastructure in Port-au-Prince, for example, including Holy Trinity Cathedral, which has yet to be rebuilt.

“Almost all infrastructure on the local stage was destroyed by the earthquake and has not been built back,” said the Rev. Nathanael Saint-Pierre, a Haitian priest in New York City.

He was priest-in-charge at New York’s Haiti Congregation of the Good Samaritan in 2010 and noticed an increase in Haitian immigrants joining the congregation after the earthquake, as the church provided help to those seeking the Temporary Protected Status .

Saint-Pierre, now rector at St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church in Manhattan, said he is concerned about what will happen to Haitian immigrants who suddenly need to obtain permanent residency status. They won’t have many options.

“The effect on the [Haitian] community is definitely negative,” he said. “I don’t think there is a lot of hope for these people.”

Lack of rebuilt infrastructure is one of the problems facing those who would be forced to return to Haiti, which has long been considered the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Difficulties in finding employment and health care also are concerns, Saint-Pierre said, especially if there is a large influx of people at once.

Those concerns were shared by the Rev. Smith Millien, priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s et Les Martyrs d’Haiti in Miami, just north of the city’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

“We are disappointed because we know about the situation in Haiti. It’s very difficult,” Milien said.

The Sunday service in French and Creole at his church typically draws more than 100 people. Milien didn’t think the decision to end Temporary Protected Status would have much effect on his congregation, because most members are U.S. citizens, but it will be felt by the local Haitian community.

Additional concerns facing those who might be forced to return to Haiti include recent political protests that have turned violent and the threat of crime, said Guerrier, the Naples priest.

That danger prompted Episcopal leaders last month to postpone the grand opening celebration at a rebuilt school in Haiti out of a general concern for security amid an outbreak of political violence, some of which had affected foreign visitors.

Guerrier’s daughter has applied for permanent residency in the United States and the family is hopeful she will be able to stay. He estimated about 15 of his parishioners, in a congregation of about 50, also are in legal limbo due to the expiring Temporary Protected Status .

His wife and son, on the other hand, already are on the path to permanent residency and are waiting to schedule immigration interviews. Guerrier’s status is secure, and he has applied for U.S. citizenship.

“We are to keep praying, and acting,” he said.

Owen said he feels “a fair bit of despair” about how the Trump administration’s decision will affect his New York City congregation of about 70 Haitians and the local Haitian community, but they also find hope in God.

“This has only served to strengthen our faith and to put it where it belongs, in standing with the marginalized and being there in a way that is of service to them,” he said.

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

Archbishop of Canterbury and patriarch of Moscow appeal for Middle East Christians

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:46am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia have spoken out in support of Christians in the Middle East. Welby was in Moscow for a three-day visit, during which he formally presented and introduced the new chaplain to Saint Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow, the Rev. Malcolm Rogers, to the patriarch as the archbishop’s apokrisiarios, or representative. In a joint statement, issued after their meeting, the archbishop and patriarch appealed to the international community to “render speedy help to support the Christian and other populations of the Middle East.”

Read the entire article here.

Vision for 100 new churches in London begins with first new purpose-built church in 40 years

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:41am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Bishop of Edmonton has dedicated a new church in London – the first purpose-built church in the diocese of London for 40 years. The new Saint Francis in the Engine Room Church is part of ambitious plans to see 100 new Christian communities planted in the diocese, which covers the part of London situated north of the River Thames. Elsewhere in the city, planners have given consent for the 1970s Holy Trinity Church in Swiss Cottage to be demolished and be replaced by a new £11-million six-story complex including a 450-seat auditorium, recording studio and accommodation for vulnerable young people.

Read the entire article here.

Episcopal delegation to COP23 encouraged by talk of taking action on climate change

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 3:41pm

Episcopalians representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry welcome visitors to their booth in the public zone of the COP23 conference in Bonn, Germany. Photo courtesy of Marc Andrus

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians have returned home after spending two weeks in Bonn, Germany, representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and contributing voices of faith in support of environmental stewardship during the U.N. climate change summit held there.

The Nov. 6-17 conference, officially known as the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP23, was an annual intergovernmental meeting to focus on global dialogue and action. The Episcopal Church, granted observer status, sent about a dozen Episcopalians to continue the church’s advocacy that began at the previous two conferences.

“The Episcopal Church, through the presiding bishop’s delegation, is taking a very strong presence in the life of these climate summits,” Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus told Episcopal News Service after returning from COP23. “We’re making strong networks in the faith communities.”

Andrus and his wife, Sheila Andrus, spent the full two weeks in Bonn, while two groups of Episcopalians alternated in participating in the first week and then the second week. They led daily worship services, maintained a booth with information on the church’s environmental advocacy and, on a more limited basis, were able as observers to enter the U.N. zone where the intergovernmental negotiations were occurring.

Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus helps lead an opening chant at an interfaith prayer service in Bonn, Germany, before delivering a statement titled “Walk Gently on the Earth” to the COP23 leadership. Photo courtesy of Marc Andrus

“I’m very, very grateful to Presiding Bishop [Michael] Curry for trusting us, this delegation, with this work that I consider so vital, and it’s a great honor to serve,” Andrus said. “Our church is responding in an important and beautiful way.”

The Episcopal Church has made environmental justice one of its three priorities, in addition to racial reconciliation and evangelism, and General Convention has passed numerous resolutions on the issue, whether supporting federal climate action or pledging to mitigating the church’s own impact on the environment. A 2015 resolution created the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation to support “ecologically responsible stewardship of church-related properties and buildings.”

Through its Office of Governmental Relations and the Episcopal Public Policy Network, the church has advocated for government policies in line with General Convention stances on climate change, and the House of Bishops made environmental justice one of the themes of its September meeting in Alaska.

An Episcopal group was in Paris, France, in December 2015 to make a spiritual case for climate action during COP21. At that conference, member countries, including the United States, reached a landmark agreement to set voluntary goals aimed at keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists think would be necessary to prevent a spiraling catastrophe of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and related weather extremes.

The COP23 summit was intended to build on the Paris agreement, but the agreement’s effectiveness was thrown into doubt this year when President Donald Trump said he would withdraw from the accord rather than hold the U.S. to its pledge to dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

“We remain open to the possibility of rejoining at a later date under terms more favorable to the American people,” U.S. diplomat Judith Garber said last week at COP23.

The Trump administration’s noncommittal stance loomed over COP23, where negotiators began drafting the rules for how the member countries will be expected to report their emissions reductions. Final approval of that framework could come when the next U.N. conference is held in Poland.

“If the United States does not keep its commitment, that’s a very poor predictor of the success of the Paris agreement,” Andrus said.

He and the rest of the Episcopal delegation were encouraged by the presence in Bonn of what has been called the “We’re Still In” movement. While the Trump administration participated in the U.N.’s intergovernmental negotiations, an alternate, unofficial American delegation in Bonn included U.S. lawmakers and leaders of states and cities, as well as business and faith leaders. They vowed to live up to the United States’ Paris agreement commitments – thus the label “We’re Still In” – even if the federal government won’t.

“The end result of this COP23 is being seen as a rather positive and fruitful outcome, all things considered,” Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s representative to the U.N., said in an email to ENS after attending part of the conference. “Member states demonstrated unparalleled commitment to the Paris agreement, although there is an urgent need to increase their level of ambition.”

The plight of various Pacific island nations was a recurring theme at COP23, because of the direct effect that rising ocean levels will have on their ability to survive. Main said the prime minister of Tuvalu had warned that his country would be submerged by 2030 if nothing is done to limit or reverse climate change.

Those low-lying countries’ request for an increase in financial assistance, however, was not approved, Andrus said. The result could be dire.

“They are losing their lives. Samoa, for instance, has been inhabited for about 3,000 years, and this is their home and it’s deeply threatened by rising water levels,” he said. “This is not distant future or even near future. This is happening.”

What could a small group of Episcopalians hope to contribute in a place like Bonn? At COP23, Andrus said the church and other faith communities were welcomed by participants and visitors who were eager to ground their activism in shared values.

People of faith are climate activists, Andrus said. “Our spiritual values are the basis from which we act.”

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

A resurrection nearly 10 years in the making, San Joaquin celebrates with three-day revival

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 1:00pm

San Joaquin Bishop David Rice uses his crozier to knock three times on the door of St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Bakersfield, California. After the door was opened, a Eucharist began during which he was invested as San Joaquin’s third diocesan bishop and the first since theological disputes fractured the diocese in 2007. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

An image galley of more scenes from the “Called to Be …” revival is here.

[Episcopal News Service – Fresno, California] The recent three-day revival in the Diocese of San Joaquin was an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual journey by Episcopalians there to discern what God is calling them to be.

The journey has brought Central Valley Episcopalians to the point where they are ready to share their healed selves with their neighbors.

“We have spent nearly 10 years needing to focus on our own rebirth. We are ready to look outside and to really live into this revival of the Jesus Movement,” the Rev. Nancy Key told Episcopal News Service as the gathering began. “We needed to heal and then, once healed, we needed not to stay there. We needed to go out into the world.”

For the Rev. Suzy Ward, the first women ordained in the diocese, “life has been blooming but this event really acknowledges the fact that things have turned a corner. Things are being made new.”

The “Called to Be …” celebration ranged the length of the diocese on the eastern side of central California with stops in Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield. The revival included emotional stories of fear and frustration from immigrants, a Stations of the Cross-like neighborhood prayer walk, liturgical pomp and tradition followed by a food-truck dinner and Episcopalians filling yellow backpacks with goods for people living on the streets. It included touchstones from the past – an old quilt and an old bishop’s ring – as well as interfaith visitors and powerful testimony to the rebirth of the diocese.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joins in the Nov. 18 neighborhood prayer walk around the Fresno, California, block that forms the campus of St. James Episcopal Cathedral. He is flanked by two of his canons, the Rev. Michael Hunn and the Rev. Stephanie Spellers. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

At every turn, people stopped to reflect on the nearly 10 years since then-Bishop John-David Schofield and a majority of Episcopalians attending a Dec. 8, 2007 diocesan convention voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church. Schofield was at odds with the church over the ordination of women and gay clergy and issues of biblical authority. Those who left call themselves Anglicans, although the Anglican Communion does not officially recognize their organizations.

The intervening years were at first marked by the introspection Key described, a turn inward to take stock of what and who was left in the diocese. Key, now a deacon, was a lay person in 2008 when she and others helped those who remained Episcopalian pick up the pieces and reorganize the diocese.

Returning to church buildings but looking beyond their walls

The rebuilding years also took Episcopalians to court to recover the property of the diocese and the Episcopal Church. They persevered and succeeded. All but one of the property suits have ended. With that success has come discernment about the future shape of the diocese. The diocese has decided it will try to sell 25 properties, planning to invest the proceeds in future ministry. About 21 congregations are viable, but many, if not most, are struggling financially. There are few paid full-time clergy. They work with retired clergy and clergy who work full-time but earn part-time salaries.

As church properties came back to the diocese, the very small diocesan staff joined with elected diocesan leaders to take inventories, assess deferred maintenance and triage needed repairs.

In some cases, they arranged for Anglicans to stay in the buildings until they could make other arrangements, according to Cindy Smith, the out-going Standing Committee president. Smith told ENS that the diocese, in some cases, allowed the Anglicans to take memorial donations with them when they left.

Taking possession of the recovered property required both administrative and emotional work, she said.

Those assessments and calculations about keeping or selling a church building, based on the viability of congregations, led to a deeper discernment, according to another Standing Committee member.

“Of course, we’re rebuilding. We need the infrastructure and all that but we’re not just rebuilding the things one needs to run an office,” Erin Rausch, a young woman who became active in St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Stockton after the departures. “We have an opportunity to call the question who we want to be as a community of faith. That’s a challenge and a gift.”

Episcopalians, including soon-to-be Bishop Diocesan David Rice, gather in the courtyard outside St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno, California, on Nov. 18. This second day of the Diocese of San Joaquin’s three-day revival marked a historic step: Rice was seated in the newly returned cathedral. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

That discernment has not always easy, said Bishop David Rice, who was invested Nov. 18 as the diocerse’s third bishop diocesan. There is always the temptation to keep doing what had been done and to resuscitate, rather than be resurrected, he said.

“We’re going to travel light for as long as I am here,” he said in an interview in the raucous parish hall of St Paul’s in Bakersfield on Nov. 19. “That is not anti-building or anti-growth – [it is] realizing that keeping this minimal and simple is true to how we have emerged over the last nine years.”

Rice’s own path to this revival is an example of that minimalism. The diocese elected him in March 2014 as its third bishop provisional. Then in March of this year, delegates to a special convention overwhelmingly voted to elect him as their diocesan bishop. Rice was the only nominee in a somewhat unusual election. It marked the first time in recent memory that a bishop moved from provisional to diocesan. Moreover, the election came without the typical bishop search involving multiple nominees and what diocesan officials estimated would have cost upwards of $50,000.

Remembering the past but not being deterred by it was a theme of the weekend. Rausch suggested that the “Called to be …” revival “is an opportunity to not put this behind us but to carry it with us into whatever we do next.” Ward agreed, saying San Joaquin Episcopalians don’t want to relive the past, “we just want to learn from it.”

The learning is hard, sometimes. “All those years of isolationism” from ecumenical partners, adjoining dioceses, the wider Episcopal Church and from the local contexts couldn’t be overcome that overnight, Rice said. That work is ongoing, he added, and reaching out to Central Valley residents in new ways is “challenge for a lot of people.”

An Episcopalian leans back and laughs while Presiding Bishop Michael Curry makes a point Nov. 17 during the kickoff event for the Diocese of San Joaquin’s three-day “Called to Be …” revival. The event took place on the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton, California. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

However, folks are getting there. The Rev. Lyn Morlan stood in a courtyard of Lincoln Elementary School, across the street from St. Anne’s in Stockton where she is the rector and explained how her parishioners now tutor students at the school, which receives federal aid because of the high number of low-income students. She recalled that they “stepped out in faith” and donated the proceeds of a recent fundraiser to the program. That money is usually “the budget balancer” fund, she said.

St. Anne’s Episcopalians are seeing that “God isn’t confined in the that little red church,” she said pointing back toward the church. “God’s out here.”

Episcopalians in Visalia have been back in their building just shy of four months. Recovering St. Paul’s property has been a challenge and a gift, said Ward, St. Paul’s priest-in-charge. Those who remained Episcopalians and those who joined the church after the departures of 2008 had been renting a small house and worshipping in a synagogue. The campus takes up just more than half a city block. The congregation worried about how its return to that large space will change them.

St Paul’s location and size “gives us visibility.” More importantly, it is an asset that Visalia Episcopalians want offer to the community as part of the hospitality that its members value. The parish hall has hosted community meetings and trainings for social service organizations. It will soon become an overflow night shelter for the local Rescue Mission’s homeless ministry.

“We’re trying to find our way. That’s a part of the revival; how do we revive this place in a way that is meaningful for the community in a way that it might not have been used before,” Ward said.

Two chalice bearers and San Joaquin Bishop David Rice administer communion after Rice was invested as the bishop diocesan and seated in St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno, California. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Nick Lorenzetti is a former Roman Catholic priest who retired to the Modesto area from Philadelphia but found no Roman Catholic parishes that would welcome him and his husband. They began attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church there. When the Rev. Cathleen West fell ill, then-Bishop Provisional Chester Talton  asked Lorenzetti to help out with preaching and home visits. Four years ago, Talton received Lorenzetti’s orders and made him an Episcopal priest; he is now priest-in-charge in Modesto.

Lorenzetti said the San Joaquin model of community engagement is something he longed for in his previous parish-priest days. Back then, the priest stayed in the office and prayed that people would come, he said. In this diocese, “it isn’t just about how many people are sitting there on Sunday; it’s about whether the gospel is being lived and whether we’re making a difference in the communities in which we live.” None of that work, he added, can be done without clergy developing and enriching lay ministry.

Whether it is helping to form Unify Stanislaus (County) so that Muslims, Jews, Christians (including non-English-speaking ones) and Buddhists can quickly respond to immigrants in need of help, working in homeless ministries, gathering produce for area feeding program or counseling women suffering from abuse, “we’re doing church in all those situations,” Lorenzetti said.

The Helping Urban Bicyclists ministry, run out of a Stockton storefront by Deacon Stephen Brantley, shown here working on a bike, is an example of the new models of being church in the community with which the Diocese of San Joaquin is experimenting. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Tom Hampson, another person who retired to the Modesto area and is now in the diaconate process, agreed. “We’re reinventing what church is going to look like,” he said, sitting in the Helping Urban Bicyclists (HUB) ministry’s storefront shop in downtown Stockton.

As street people came in to ask for a bike or get their bikes repaired or for some conversation, Hampson, who worked for Church World Service for 30-some years, observed, “This is what church looks like.” Many weeks Brantley and his crew at the HUB minister to more people than attend worship at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church down the street.

The Rev. Stephen Brantley, a deacon who developed and runs the HUB, added helping people see church in new ways is part of the HUB’s goal. The idea of “having people realize that the church is much more vital than four walls and an altar. It’s how we engage with people, it’s how we engage with the community, it’s how we minister to them” is new, and not just for Episcopalians.

“Everyone that comes by here wants to know what we’re all about and why are you guys so open?” said Brantley, who is also a cartoonist who draws the comic strip Herb and Jamaal. Those people ask, “How come you don’t think like the rest of them? Why are you guys so different? What are you guys doing?”

Much work remains to be done in the conservative Central Valley, Smith said “to share an inclusive message and to be that inclusive church.”

The HUB is not to be confused with three other hubs in the diocese. The northern, central and southern deaneries each have what are being called “ministry hubs.” They are meant to help the diocese’s slim resources go farther by sharing expertise, equipment, personnel and ideas. Congregations are encouraged to do the same. The churches in Visalia, Tulare and Hanford, for instance, share a treasurer.

San Joaquin is a far-flung diocese that stretches from the agriculturally rich Central Valley floor to the high desert and to the mountains. Driving such vast distances, especially in the winter in the mountains, can be treacherous. Governance and training is happening in virtual, video meeting rooms.

“This is an incubator, a holy laboratory, this is a great and wonderful experiment,” Rice said, noting,  “there is no risk aversion in this diocese.”

Praise from the church, and a check from the diocese

“You may well have shown us the future hope of the Episcopal Church, and its witness in this world” Curry told San Joaquin Episcopalians during the Nov. 18 service at St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno. “You have been a witness for Jesus by standing up for love … and you have shown the whole Episcopal Church that we can do it. We can witness to justice. We can witness to compassion. We can witness to goodness. We can witness to kindness. We can witness to Jesus.”

“Thank you, San Joaquin,” he shouted to thunderous applause.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, reminded the congregation at the service that a decade ago, women and LGBTQI people in the valley were not fully welcome in the life of the Episcopal Church.

“You are called by God to go the margins and to serve in places that we couldn’t possibly have imagined a decade ago,” she said, noting Episcopalians’ ministry with homeless people, victims of human trafficking, and with people in prison. “In your journey, you have found strength not just for yourselves, but for the people of God across the San Joaquin Valley. Here, in this place that once turned away so many of God’s people, you are following Jesus into new life.”

“You show the rest of us in the Episcopal Church what it truly means to believe that resurrection follows death.”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry hold up a $1 million check presented to them Nov. 18 during the investiture and seating of Bishop David Rice. The check comes as part of a loan-forgiveness arrangement agreed to by the church’s Executive Council. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Fresno service included the passing of a large check, both in amount and size. That check, for $1 million, represented the conclusion of years of support and some months of negotiations.

The church’s Executive Council agreed last month to forgive $6.8 million in loans to San Joaquin, along with the accrued interest. In return, the diocese promised to pay the Episcopal Church $1 million; fund the cost of remaining property litigation along with all costs of repair, lease termination and maintenance of recovered properties, including the costs of selling any of them; and fully pay the costs of having a bishop. The diocese also agreed to begin paying its full assessment to the churchwide budget in 2019.

Council agreed to the deal because it was, in the word of one member, a “significant investment in this diocese.”

“They definitely made an investment in us,” Smith told ENS. The loan-forgiveness deal means “sustainability long-term, being able to not be completely focused on surviving but thinking about how we thrive.”

Smith echoed Rice in saying that if San Joaquin is the testing ground for new ways of being church, then she hoped “our experiences and our experiments can be used by the rest of the church. That would be a wonderful thing and a wonderful way to pay back the support and generosity that people have given us.”

Rice said during the Fresno service that the check for “$1 million to the Jesus Movement” represented “resurrection and a new lease on life for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin” and a way of “offering our own gratitude, expressing our own generosity.”

The shape of the revival

On Nov. 17, the revival began with Episcopalians, friends, faith partners, and civic leaders gathering at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, to hear people’s stories about immigration and DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). A Latina high school student, two Episcopal priests (one Latina and one Nigerian) and a doctor who is Muslim spoke. Each round of testimony included prayer and singing, and ended with remarks by Presiding Bishop Curry.

The next day at St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno, ministry leaders and partners went on a “neighborhood prayer walk” to highlight how ministry in the diocese is increasingly inclusive, ecumenical and interfaith. The walk ended at the church doors and led into the Eucharist during which Rice was formally installed as bishop of the diocese and seated in the cathedral. Curry preached and the food-truck dinner followed the service.

Bishop Bavi Edna “Nedi” Rivera, second from left, presents Bishop David Rice and his wife Tracy with a quilt made many years ago by Diocese of San Joaquin Episcopalians for their parents, San Joaquin Bishop Victor and Barbara Rivera. Rivera also gave Rice her father’s episcopal ring. Victor Rivera was San Joaquin’s first bishop diocesan after two missionary bishops. He served from 1968 to 1989. Nevi Rice is the diocese’s third bishop diocesan. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

During the service, Bishop Bavi Edna “Nedi” Rivera, whose father Victor was San Joaquin’s first bishop diocesan, gave Rice her father’s episcopal ring. She and one of her sisters also returned to the diocese a present Episcopalians had given her father and mother, Barbara, when his 31-year episcopate ended in 1989. It was a quilt with panels from every congregation.

Also during the service, Jennings presented the House of Deputies medal to the diocese. She established the medal in 2012 and awards it to laypeople and clergy for distinguished service to the House of Deputies and the Episcopal Church. This is the first time Jennings has awarded the medal to a diocese or group of people.

Curry preached and presided on Nov. 19 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bakersfield on the southern end of the diocese. Following worship and brunch, participants took the “1000 Yellow Bags Challenge,” filling backpacks with toiletries, socks, and other necessities for the homeless.

At the end of the Fresno service, Rice sent out the congregation with a gentle admonition that could almost be the unofficial diocesan motto. As he began his blessing, he said, “Take this blessing. Embrace it. Use it and make sure it’s alive.”

An aggregation of social media posts during the revival is here.

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

Mothers’ Union members learn about gender-based violence as part of 16 days of activism

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 2:15pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A senior police officer has briefed members of the Mothers’ Union in Northern Ireland about the extent of sexual and domestic violence in the area. Detective Chief Inspector Anne Marks, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland told members of the union in the Down and Dromore diocese that one in every 18 calls to the police service relates to domestic abuse; and that 1,393 reports of sexual assault were reported to the police in a 12-month period. The briefing took place ahead of the international “16 Days of Activism” campaign, which begins Nov. 25.

Read the entire article here.

 

Diocese of Newark to revise diocesan profile after discovering plagiarism during bishop search

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 1:58pm

[Diocese of Newark] The Diocese of Newark is revising the diocesan profile it published to guide the search for its next bishop after discovering that a section of the profile was plagiarized from the profile of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

The Rev. Joseph Harmon, interim vice president of the diocesan Standing Committee, announced Nov. 20 that the search process is paused until Jan. 2, 2018, at which time the application process, which had closed on Nov. 17, will be reopened until Jan. 10 to accommodate candidates who might wish to apply based on the revised profile.

This delay in the search process will not necessitate a change in dates for the episcopal election on May 19, or the consecration of the eleventh bishop of Newark on Sept. 22, Harmon said.

Bishop Mark Beckwith, who has led the diocese since 2007, called for the election of a successor when he announced in February that he planned to retire.

The Standing Committee’s statement follows:

Nov. 20, 2017

Last week, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark became aware of an issue of plagiarism involving our diocesan profile for the search for our eleventh bishop. This act is an unacceptable breach of trust and disruptive to the otherwise prayerful discernment of everyone presently engaged in our search process.

We discovered that the profile section entitled “The Bishop We Seek,” was plagiarized in its entirety from the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem’s search profile. This regrettable incident reveals poor judgement on the part of an individual, who subsequently resigned from the Search/Nominating Committee which created the profile. Our Standing Committee has offered our deepest apologies to Bishop Sean Rowe and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

After consulting with the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development, who oversees matters pertaining to episcopal elections for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, we have modified our search process timeline and are working to prayerfully revise the profile.

The profile has been removed from our diocesan website. A revised profile will be released on January 2, 2018, after a period of prayerful reflection. At that time, the application process will be re-opened and will remain open until January 10, 2018. The screening of our applicant pool will take place in January, culminating in the extension of invitations to a discernment retreat for selected applicants, scheduled for February 19 – 22, 2018.

Individuals who have already submitted their applications have been notified personally of the temporary interruption of our search process and they have been advised that should they wish to continue in the process based on the content of the amended profile, they will have an opportunity to update their essays.

Our electing convention remains scheduled for May 19, 2018 and the Consecration/Ordination will take place on September 22, 2018 with The Most Rev. Michael Curry presiding.

As we seek to join God in shaping our future, we trust that God’s faithfulness and grace will continue to guide us, and ask you to continue to hold our Diocese and our search for the eleventh bishop in prayer.

Supreme Court rules in favor of Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 10:58am

[Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina] Ruling in favor of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the South Carolina Supreme Court has denied two motions from a disassociated group and upheld its August 2 decision that property and assets of the Diocese of South Carolina, and most of its parishes, must remain with the Episcopal Church.

The Nov. 17 orders can be found here: denial of rehearing motion and denial of recusal motion.

The rulings reject two motions that were filed by a breakaway group that left the Episcopal Church in 2012. One sought a rehearing of the case, while the other asked that Justice Kaye Hearn, one of the five justices who wrote the opinion, be recused, and her opinion vacated.

The court voted 2-2 on the rehearing motion; a majority would have been required in order to grant a rehearing. Hearn did not vote.

The court voted unanimously to deny the motion seeking Hearn’s recusal. Justice Jean Toal, who was serving as chief justice at the time the court heard the case, noted that “an adverse decision is no reason to excuse a nearly 2 1/2-year delay in making a request for recusal.” 

“While I make no criticism of the respondents’ lawyers for filing the motions to recuse and for vacature, I am disappointed in the tone of these filings. They are unreasonable, harsh criticisms of a highly accomplished judge and a person of great decency and integrity,” Justice Toal said.

Statement from Bishop Gladstone B. Adams of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

We give thanks for the clarity that the State Supreme Court’s decision provides and we are grateful for the thoughtful and difficult work the justices have undertaken in this case.

From the time this lawsuit was filed against the Episcopal Church, the hope of reconciliation has been our guiding principle. We believe this is what the Lord Jesus would expect of us and it is consistent with the teachings of St. Paul who said in his second letter to the Church in Corinth, “All this is from God, who reconciled himself to us in Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” We renew our commitment to this hard work of reconciliation in the days to come.

We understand that the many people in the parishes affected by this ruling may be experiencing pain, fear, and confusion. Let me say to all that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is committed to finding a path that will allow the people of God to continue to live their lives as a part of the Anglican Communion in and through the Episcopal Church. As former bishop of South Carolina William Alexander Guerry said more than 100 years ago, “If we are to be truly Catholic, as Christ himself is Catholic, then we must have a church broad enough to embrace within its communion every living human soul.”

The Episcopal Church seeks to be an expression of faith in Christ that welcomes all to his expansive table. Our prayer is that every person in every parish of the diocese will join in working and praying together to bring healing to the church, the body of Christ, in this part of South Carolina.

— The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

Episcopal Church’s advocacy fights hunger at intersection of public policy, Christian values

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 9:57am

Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World’s government relations director, speaks at a kickoff worship service for the nonprofit advocacy organizations 2017 lobby day in Washington, D.C. The service was hosted by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Photo: Bread for the World

[Episcopal News Service] Every can of food donated to a church food pantry is welcome support for someone struggling to afford the next meal, though in the broader battle against hunger, there is nothing to match the scale of U.S. government spending.

The federal program known commonly as food stamps, as one example, is a multibillion-dollar safety net credited with raising millions of Americans out of poverty. And while Episcopal congregations’ food ministries can respond directly to their communities’ needs, the Episcopal Church also advocates at the federal level for programs that have a national and even international impact on food security.

‘Food and Faith’

Episcopal News Service’s five-part series focuses on anti-hunger efforts in the Episcopal Church, from food pantries to the church’s advocacy on government programs that fight hunger. The final story in the series will post next week. All stories in the series are available here.

Episcopal News Service’s “Faith and Food” series is highlighting ways the Episcopal Church is involved in efforts to fight hunger. Previous stories mined the scriptural basis for such work and detailed the ways some congregation-level ministries are making a difference, often through their partnerships with regional and national feeding agencies.

The Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations fights hunger at the intersection of public policy and Christian values – advocating based on General Convention resolutions by monitoring legislation, coordinating with partner agencies, developing relationships with lawmakers and encouraging Episcopalians’ activism through its Episcopal Public Policy Network.

“We as Episcopalians want to support the programs that help those who are living in poverty,” said Office of Government Relations Director Rebecca Blachly. “We want to show that there is a constituency of people who care about these big issues, and then we also need to be able to do our work in government relations.”

The stakes are high this year as Congress and the Trump administration wrestle over a federal budget and tax reforms that could result in sharp cuts in discretionary spending. An estimated 95 percent of food assistance in the United States is funded by the federal government, compared to private giving, according to a policy paper the Episcopal Church released this year on “Appropriations for Domestic Human Needs.”

The Episcopal Church amplified its anti-hunger advocacy starting in hunger in May, when it joined with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other Christian advocacy partners on the prayer, advocacy and fasting campaign called “For Such a Time as This.” The fasting is scheduled for the 21st of each month during the current Congress because that is when monthly food stamps benefits typically run out for families participating in what is officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

 

“We are asking you to join with other Christians and other people of goodwill to help our government reflect the best of the American spirit by feeding the hungry, caring for our children, and making sure that everyone has the opportunities for life and liberty not only in our country, but in our world,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a message kicking off the campaign.

About 400 people, including Episcopalians, participated in Bread for the World’s Lobby Day in June after gathering for breakfast and worship at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church near Capitol Hill. Photo: Bread for the World

Episcopalians also joined with the ecumenical organization Bread for the World for its annual lobby day in June, which began with a breakfast and worship service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church near Capitol Hill. About 400 participants spent the day meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to persuade them to support programs that alleviate hunger.

Curry has often stressed that the Episcopal Church’s political activism isn’t based in partisanship but rather in values, as guided by resolutions passed by General Convention. Those resolutions have pledged the church’s support for numerous federal programs, some administered by government agencies and others administered by local organizations, including churches in some cases.

“God has provided for all of creation, forming a world of sufficiency for all,” a 2015 resolution states. “Inequality exists not because there is not enough, but because of the way resources are distributed; we depend on God and one another and are commanded to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the suffering and afflicted.”

Programs like SNAP, the national school lunch program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, and food assistance available through the Women, Infants and Children, or WIC program “lift and keep people out of poverty and address basic food and health care needs in vulnerable populations,” the General Convention resolution says.

Episcopalians can add their voices, make a difference

SNAP alone provided $66.5 billion in benefits to more than 44 million Americans in 2016 to help them buy food. It was credited with lowering the U.S. poverty rate by 8 percent in 2009, at the end of the last recession.

“SNAP is a wonderful, effective program,” said the Rev. Diane Riley, a vocational deacon from the Diocese of New Jersey who has worked for years toward hunger and poverty relief. “If you cut that you will never be able to make up that food with your food drives.”

Episcopalians like Riley can get involved in the political process in a range of ways that reflect their faith values, from calling or emailing the office of their elected representatives to paying a visit to the representative’s district office and arranging to meet with the lawmaker or staff.

When those kinds of direct appeals are based in a deep personal commitment to an issue, they can have a big impact on policy decisions, said Riley, who serves at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Montville, New Jersey.

“Our faith calls us to think deeply about everything we do,” she said. “I know that’s daunting, but it doesn’t have to be daunting.”

The Office of Government Relations is a key resource for Episcopalians who are thinking deeply about hunger issues but don’t know where to start. They can subscribe to the office’s Episcopal Public Policy Network, or EPPN, and receive emailed policy alerts letting them know to contact their representatives when certain legislation is advancing. Some of those alerts allow recipients to fill out simple forms with their messages to lawmakers and provide guidance on what to say when making those contacts. Episcopalians also are encouraged to learn more about the issues on the Office of Government Relations website.

The office also partners with other organizations, like Bread for the World, to coordinate anti-hunger advocacy. Bread for the World has led planning of the “For Such a Time as This” fasting campaign.

“The Episcopal Church has actually been one of our biggest partners in regards to pushing Congress to support proposals to help end hunger and poverty,” Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World’s government relations director told ENS. He cited the Episcopal Church’s involvement in the “For Such a Time as This,” as well as Circle of Protection, an ecumenical initiative to protect social safety net programs.

In addition to participating in the lobby day, Episcopalians have contacted and met with their lawmakers on their own to support safety net programs that include hunger-relief spending. lobbying efforts didn’t end on the 2017 lobby day.

Diocese of Maine Bishop Stephen Lane hosted a meeting in October between a Christian delegation and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Collins is in the center with Lane to the right. Photo: Diocese of Maine, via Bread for the World

Episcopalians have led other lobbying efforts. Diocese of Maine Bishop Stephen Lane hosted a Christian delegation that met in October with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to thank the Republican lawmaker for bucking her party’s proposals to roll back some or all of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Although that meeting wasn’t focused specifically on hunger issues, Lane said such personal contacts with lawmakers are effective in influencing a range of government policies in ways that reflect the Christian calling to serve the poor.

“As a follower of Jesus, I have a message of carrying and compassion that needs to be heard in the public square, and one of our roles as church is to raise those concerns with our leaders,” Lane said in a phone interview with ENS.

His diocese also has formed the Maine Episcopal Network for Justice, with a mission that includes training Episcopalians on ways to lobby their state’s lawmakers.

“I believe that the health of a society is measured by the way we care for our weakest citizens, and we need to be constantly reminded of that as a society,” Lane said. “God cares for the least and the lost, and it’s a measure of maturity of our society that we pay attention those folks.”

Riley, who now works as executive director of the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey, previously served as director of advocacy for the Community FoodBank in New Jersey. In that role, she would travel to Washington, D.C., a few times a year to attend conferences, visit members of Congress and participate in events promoting anti-hunger efforts.

The Rev. Diane Riley meets with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez during the New Jersey senator’s 2013 visit to the Community FoodBank in Hillside, New Jersey. Riley was the food bank’s director of advocacy at the time. Photo: Maria Christina Hernandez, via Diane Riley

She also has worked on policy issues back in New Jersey, such as when she welcomed U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez at the FoodBank in 2013 at a time when he was advocating for maintaining food stamp spending. Riley also was involved with making improvements to how New Jersey administers SNAP benefits for its residents.

But Episcopalians don’t have to work a full-time job in the social service sector to make a difference. One way to fight hunger locally is to get involved in your school district, Riley suggested, by making sure school officials are aware of all federally supported school meal programs.

Again, the Office of Government Relations can help, with policy papers on some of the top issues facing Congress, including school meals and SNAP funding.

“You can see how that kind of advocacy can really work,” Riley said.

Feeding the hungry at home and abroad

Hunger is also a global problem, and the global reach of the Anglican Communion means individual provinces, like the Episcopal Church, can leverage that network to make a difference in alleviating hunger wherever it may be in the world, said the Rev. Michael Battle, professor of church and society at General Theological Seminary.

“We say we can address those things together as one identity, as Anglicans,” Battle said.

Some of that work takes the form of direct aid from agencies like Episcopal Relief & Development that take the donations made by Episcopalians in the pews and use them to feed people in disaster areas around the world. Anglican Alliance helps coordinate such efforts across the Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church also advocates for U.S. government policies and foreign aid that can alleviate global hunger, reflecting what Battle sees as a positive evolution in the church.

“The Episcopal Church may be leading the Anglican Communion, of moving from the church of the establishment to the church of advocacy,” Battle said.

Foreign aid, supplemented with donations by Episcopalians, can go a long way toward fighting hunger in poorer countries around the world – including in Episcopal dioceses. Haiti, for example, lacks the resources of its wealthier neighbors, but American congregations have been generous in supporting the Diocese of Haiti, especially after a devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean country in 2010.

Foreign policy is a large part of the “For Such a Time as This” fasting campaign, which highlights the rising threat of famine in parts of the world.

“As we look overseas, we must acknowledge that foreign assistance and humanitarian relief can help to address regions confronting famine and food insecurity, including South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lake Chad Basin,” Curry said in his statement for the campaign’s kickoff. “We will challenge proposals to eliminate or defund proven anti-poverty programs, at home and abroad.”

Blachly said that Episcopalians, rather than tune out the needs of people on the other side of the world, are generally interested in reaching out a helping hand to those suffering from hunger overseas, both through financial giving and by supporting Episcopal Public Policy Network’s advocacy efforts on those issues.

Whether the hunger is domestic or foreign, though, there typically are underlying issues at the root of the problem. In a place like South Sudan, war is a greater cause of famine than drought. And in the United States, hunger often goes hand in hand with poverty.

An estimated 12.7 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2016, and 41.2 million were said to be food insecure, meaning they lacked access to enough food to maintain an active and healthy life.

And last year, the number of children receiving free meals through the National School Lunch Program topped 20 million for the first time.

“If someone is hungry, there is a much deeper problem, so you can’t just try to address giving people food without addressing why people are hungry in the first place,” Battle said.

Time and again, when discussing such issues, those involved in the fight against hunger cite the old saying that if we teach people to fish they’ll fish for a lifetime. Riley, the New Jersey deacon, offered a caution to all who may reflexively nod heads in agreement, inviting them to think about the real-world context of that lesson.

“Can they afford the rods to fish? Do they have access to the lake to fish?”

Such questions that should compel us to “think deeply,” she said, about what we really need to do to make a difference in the lives of others.

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

Follow social media coverage of Presiding Bishop headlining San Joaquin revival

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 4:24pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry are holding a three-day Episcopal revival from Nov. 17 to 19, with an emphasis on sharing a bold, inclusive vision of faith in action.

The weekend features a variety of public events and preaching by Curry, whose office is teaming up with local leaders to organize Episcopal revivals across America and beyond. You can follow the events this weekend using the hashtag #EDSJrevival or by checking the social media feed below.

Anglican redevelopment project in Hong Kong wins UNESCO award

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] An innovative community regeneration project by the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the Anglican Church in Hong Kong – has been given an Award of Excellence by UNESCO in its Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The Blue House Cluster Project, by the HKSKH’s St James’ Settlement NGO, is the first project in Hong Kong to win Unesco’s top award in this category.

The citation states that “this unprecedented civic effort to protect marginalized local heritage in one of the world’s most high-pressure real estate markets is an inspiration for other embattled urban districts in the region and beyond.”

Read the full article here.

Invitación a presentar aportes y comentarios sobre el borrador preliminar del presupuesto para el trienio 2019-2021 de la Iglesia Episcopal

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 7:05am

Los episcopales de toda la iglesia están invitados a presentar aportes y comentarios sobre el borrador preliminar del presupuesto para el trienio 2019-20121.

“Los presupuestos del trienio anterior y en curso se elaboraron para reflejar las Cinco Marcas de la Misión”, manifestó en su carta resumen Tess Judge, miembro y presidente del Comité Permanente Conjunto [del Consejo] de Finanzas para la Misión. “El presupuesto de 2019-2021 se basa en el Movimiento de Jesús cuyas prioridades son la Evangelización, la Reconciliación y Justicia Raciales y la Mayordomía del Medioambiente.

Añadió Judge “una de las ventajas del presupuesto del Movimiento de Jesús es que este refleja el modo en que el personal está organizado, por departamento, en lugar de disperso a través de las Cinco Marcas y otras áreas como en el pasado. De manera que las partidas de comunicación, informe, colaboración y creación del presupuesto resultan más claras. En la transición al Movimiento de Jesús, algunas secciones del presupuesto cambiaron de lugar, de manera que puede ser difícil hacer comparaciones directas entre gastos en áreas de presupuestos anteriores con los gastos que se proyectan en el próximo trienio. Y la comparación de porcentajes puede resultar inexacta”.

Después de las sugerencias y aportes, el borrador preliminar del presupuesto será elaborado para su aprobación por el Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia Episcopal en su reunión de enero de 2018. De ahí en adelante, el Consejo Ejecutivo presentará el borrador de presupuesto al Comité Permanente Conjunto de Programa, Presupuesto y Finanzas (PB&F por su sigla en inglés) en febrero, el cual a su vez elaborará el presupuesto final para su aprobación durante la Convención General el próximo verano.

• El borrador preliminar del presupuesto está disponible aquí
• Puede someter sus aportes y comentarios aquí

• La fecha límite para presentar comentarios es el 10 de enero de 2018. 

Hitos
Una narrativa disponible aquí presenta información resumida sobre el borrador preliminar del presupuesto.

He aquí unos cuantos hitos:
• Las dos primeras páginas proveen un resumen del ingreso que se espera, 128’429.734 dólares y se proyecta que los gastos ascenderán a 132’921.145, lo cual resulta en un déficit de 4’491.411 dólares

Entre los hitos de la página de ingresos (1): 
• Partida 2 – Compromisos diocesanos (Tasaciones obligatorias a partir del 1 de enero de 2019). En los compromisos del actual trienio la solicitud [diocesana] se redujo de un 18% a un 15% con una exención de 150.000 dólares para cada diócesis. La cifra de la partida 2 [del presupuesto] 2016-2018 es el compromiso real que se esperaba (no un pleno compromiso asumido). El presupuesto 2019-2021 muestra una cifra bruta, la totalidad de la tasación prevista del 15% con una exención de 140.000 dólares proyectada para todas las diócesis. El recuadro rojo que sigue es una prestación para aquellas diócesis a las que el Consejo Ejecutivo podría concederles dispensas de pagar el monto total en el proceso de Revisión de Tasaciones.

• Partida 3 – Ingreso proveniente de activos irrestrictos y de fondos externos. Estos dos renglones representan una extracción de un 5% de las inversiones.

• Partida 3 – Campaña de Solicitud Anual – 500.000 dólares provenientes de la nueva solicitud anual de fondos del Departamento de Desarrollo para financiar ministerios en el presupuesto operativo. De este [dinero] 88.000 dólares cubrirán los costos de las campañas anuales.

• Partida 4b – Reconciliación Racial – Se reservaron 2 millones de dólares de las reservas a corto plazo en el trienio actual. Puesto que este era un programa completamente nuevo, tomó más de un año que se pusiera plenamente en marcha, de ahí que no se gastaran los 2 millones de dólares. El presupuesto 2019-2021 contempla más de 1 millón de dólares para esta labor.

Entre los hitos de la página de gastos (2):
• Las categorías de los gastos para el presupuesto 2019-2021 incluyen: Evangelización, Reconciliación y Justicia Raciales, Cuidado de la Creación, Ministerio del Obispo Primado para la Iglesia y el Mundo, Misión dentro de la Iglesia Episcopal, Misión fuera de la Iglesia Episcopal, Gobierno de la Misión y Áreas Financieras, Legales y Operacionales de la Misión. Estas [categorías] no se corresponden perfectamente con las categorías presupuestarias de las Cinco Marcas.

• Personal- todas las partidas de personal incluyen un aumento de un 3% cada año y un cálculo estimativo de un 9% en costos de seguro de salud. El Obispo Primado ha expresado su satisfacción con la actual plantilla del personal y pide que no haya nuevos contratos en el presupuesto 2019-2021.

• Cámara de Diputados, Partida 298 – Los costos de personal incluyen 900.000 dólares para salarios y beneficios para el/la Presidente de la Cámara de Diputados para garantizar que los fondos estén disponibles si los aprueba la Convención General.

Convención General
La 79.ª Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal se llevará a cabo del jueves 5 de julio al viernes 13 de julio de 2018 en el Centro de Convenciones Austin  de la ciudad de Austin, Texas. (Diócesis de Texas)

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

Study measures economic impact of historically black colleges, including 2 with Episcopal ties

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 3:52pm

[Episcopal News Service] The two historically black colleges with longtime ties to the Episcopal Church have significant economic impacts on their communities and on the lives of their graduates, according to a study released this week that quantifies that impact for a hundred such institutions in the country.

Saint Augustine’s University generates $72 million in annual economic activity in and around Raleigh, North Carolina, while Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, generates $17 million in economic impact, according to the study from United Negro College Fund, or UNCF.

Those two Episcopal-affiliated institutions and other historically black colleges and universities, also referred to as HBCUs, combine to generate an annual economic impact of $14.8 billion, the equivalent of a top 200 ranking in the Fortune 500, according to the report, titled “HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

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

“Not only are each of our institutions strong as far as educational vehicles for American society, but also, to look at it from an economic impact … these are universities that have tremendous impact,” Everett Ward, president of Saint Augustine’s, said in a phone interview with Episcopal News Service.

The report defines economic impact as “direct spending by HBCUs on faculty, employees, academic programs and operations and by students attending the institutions, as well as the follow-on effects of that spending.”

UNCF also collected data on jobs produced by the colleges and the estimated lifetime earnings of the colleges’ graduates.

“The economic benefits of HBCUs extend to more than just the students themselves,” UNCF President Michael Lomax said in the study’s summary. “They’re

equally important to the communities, and the regions, that HBCUs have served for more than 100 years.”

Historically black colleges and universities were founded in the post-Civil War period to provide educational opportunities to black men and women who were excluded from white institutions of higher education because of segregation. The Episcopal Church at one point supported 11 HBCUs in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Saint Augustine’s was created in 1867 by the Episcopal Church and opened its doors the following January. The school that later would become Voorhees College was founded in 1897, and the Episcopal Church has supported it since 1924.

The Episcopal Church’s financial support of those two schools continues today. General Convention approved $2 million for the two schools in its 2016-2018 budget, including $400,000 in long-term development grants. Separately, the church’s Development Office is working to increases awareness of the schools within the church and to help with fundraising.

The UNCF report is based on 2014 data, which showed all HBCUs generated 134,000 jobs and more than 50,000 graduates that year who could expect to earn a combined total of $130 billion in their lifetimes.

For Saint Augustine’s, the study tallied 684 jobs, 301 on campus and 383 off campus, and the  university’s 226 graduates in 2014 were expected to earn $574 million in their lifetimes.

Voorhees was found to generate 287 jobs, including 196 on campus and 91 off campus. The lifetime earnings for its 117 graduates in 2014 were estimated at $297 million.

The study also concluded that those earnings estimates represented 77 percent more than what the graduates would have earned without college degrees, or about $1.1 million more per graduate.

Facts sheets on each of the 100 HBCUs are available on the UNCF website.

The scope of the study was limited to the direct economic impact of the colleges and universities, which paints a positive picture but doesn’t tell the full story, the website HBCU Digest said in an analysis. “So much vital data about HBCU value is absent,” the website says, citing the additional economic value of the institutions’ athletics, social events, volunteerism, capital projects and philanthropy.

Ward, the Saint Augustine’s president, acknowledged the study could have incorporated more data but said it was well done. “This study can grow in future years as they begin to widen their scope and look at other indicators,” he said.

One key metric from his perspective is the 65 percent of Saint Augustine’s students who come from North Carolina, many of whom are expected to remain in the state after graduation and contribute to the local economy.

Ward sees the UNCF study released this week as a valuable tool for showing the impact of his and other colleges.

“We plan to share it with the business community here,” he said. “We are sharing it with community stakeholders so that the larger community understands the impact that the university has.”

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

Webinar to discuss Churches’ global birth registration campaign

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 3:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The World Council of Churches will hold a webinar – or online seminar – next Nov. 20, World Children’s Day, to discuss the global campaign for birth registration. The participants will include the director for mission in the Anglican Communion, the Rev. Canon John Kafwanka, who will explain the consequences he faced as somebody whose birth, in Zambia, wasn’t registered. Every year, 51 million children worldwide are not registered. Without birth certificates, children become vulnerable to sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour, forced conscription, illegal detention and child marriage, officials say.

Read the entire article here.

Fijian churches unite to ‘Break the Silence’ on violence against women

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 2:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches across Fiji will observe “Break the Silence Sunday” this weekend, in what is described as “their most visible effort to halt the epidemic of violence against women in Pacific Island nations.” Research conducted by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre suggests that 64 percent of Fijian women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical or sexual abuse meted out by their husbands or partners. Church leaders say they want to break “the culture of silence and shame” on gender-based violence.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican archbishop calls for prayer, dialogue amid political upheaval in Zimbabwe

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 2:15pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Church leaders from Zimbabwe, central Africa and Europe have been commenting on the ongoing political situation in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe remains under house arrest.

In a pastoral letter Nov. 16, Archbishop of Central Africa Albert Chama echoed the call for prayer and dialogue that was issued a dat earlier by the Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe. “This sad situation needs more than a political solution. It also needs all people of faith to pray and all citizens to engage in dialogue for the sake of peace and stability in Zimbabwe,” said Chama, who is also the chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa.

Read the full article here.

Ahead of General Convention, Episcopalians consider Church Pension Fund’s service to a changing church

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:09am

[Episcopal News Service] As the Church Pension Fund rounds its 100th anniversary year and enters a second century, many Episcopalians are considering how its ministry might need to change to serve a changing church.

If the church’s “traditional” clergy employment model was a priest – always male until 1977 – employed full time with regular salary increases, who rarely interrupted his service and who rarely worked in the church after retirement, then only 58 percent of clergy now fit into that model, according to recent Pension Fund research. Sixty-one percent of those priests are male, 33 percent are female.

A growing number of clergy typically work part-time for multiple church employers over the course of their service. They often have some employment outside the church. Many clergy have their ministerial service interrupted for many different reasons. Their compensation does not necessarily increase over time.

Many clerics continue to work after their retirement. In fact, 58 percent of retired clergy younger than 72 still serve in some capacity and 95 percent of retired vocational deacons do the same, giving many congregations clergy services they otherwise could not afford.

The benefits landscape for Episcopal employees, lay and ordained, is also influenced by the continuing debate in the United States about the future of the Affordable Care Act and the disruption that the ensuing uncertainty has created in the insurance markets.

“The reality of the church is that there are fewer people and, more than that, less money,” the Rev. Winnie Varghese, the Diocese of New York deputy who chairs the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, recently told Episcopal News Service. The result, Varghese said, is a growing and more permanent class of part-time clergy and lay church workers.

The committee is one group considering the question, in Varghese’s words, whether the church has the structures it needs for the church as it is today, rather than the one it was 25 or even 10 years ago.

Some changes already are set for next year when the Church Pension Fund plans to enact the biggest revisions to the fund’s benefits in the past 60-some years. Two important aspects of the clergy plan will not change in this round of revisions. The plan will remain a defined-benefit one and the mandatory assessment a cleric’s employer pays to will remain at 18 percent.

Mary Kate Wold, Pension Fund chief executive officer and president, said earlier this year that the revisions, expected to go into effect Jan. 1, are needed to “create more-modern plans that address the realities of a changing Episcopal Church, while ensuring that each pension plan remains financially sustainable.”

Canon I.8 of the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons (page 41 here) authorizes the Church Pension Fund to provide retirement, health and life insurance benefits to the church’s clergy and lay employees. (The Pension Fund is one of five companies that make up CPG).

Source: Church Pension Group Annual Report for 2016. Graphic: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Staff members have spent more than three years traveling the church to listen to more than 1,500 Episcopalians discuss how the Pension Fund ought to react to the changing church. As CPG was listening to the church and discussing possible revisions, General Convention in 2015, via Resolution A177, approved the effort. In Resolution A181, it also told CPG to study compensation and the cost of benefits for clergy and lay employees in the dioceses of Province IX, the Diocese of Haiti, the Episcopal Church in Cuba, and with its covenant partners.

Staffers are winding down a tour of the church’s dioceses, both explaining the changes and, at times, tweaking them based on responses during those sessions.

General Convention committee is studying the Pension Fund

Meanwhile, House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings has charged the State of the Church Committee to focus part of its triennial study on the Pension Fund, as well as on the church’s multicultural ministries and justice and advocacy ministries.

Jennings told ENS that she chose those three aspects of the life of the church based on the concerns she has heard raised in her conversations with deputies and other leaders, and as she travels around the church.

In July, the committee offered Episcopalians the chance to take two surveys, one about the Church Pension Fund and the other about social justice ministries. Nearly 1,200 people completed the Pension Fund survey.

The survey itself stirred some concern, according to Varghese. Some people contacted her worried that “somehow we were changing the pension plan or proposing changes to it.”

“I had to write back quickly and say it’s a survey just to understand our church and to hear from people who are really engaged in the life of the church but who don’t come to convention,” she said. “It’s simply a survey. This group had no authority, or delusion, of changing the pension plan and would never think to.”

Instead, Varghese said, the committee wanted to hear what people thought about the pension plan, “including some mandates we have in front of us that conflict with one another.”

For instance, she said, the General Convention is concerned about parity for certain benefits between clergy and lay employees. But many clergy face years of debt for the education required to work in a church that does not pay for seminary education, she added. Paying off that debt sometimes influences priests’ employment decisions and their sense of financial security. Add to that the aforementioned changing financial and demographic circumstances.

So, Varghese asked, hypothetically, does equity required raising all employees to the current benefit levels or does it mean reducing benefits for some in order to increase the level for others? And, who bears what pain of each of those choices?

Based on questions and concerns raised in the responses to the July survey, the committee sent a set of questions to the Church Pension Fund. Wold told ENS in written replies to questions emailed to her that she worked with staffers and the Pension Fund’s board of trustees to respond. What Wold called a “very collaborative process” included videoconferences with the subcommittee working on the issue and follow-up questions from the subcommittee that eventually resulted in the fund’s 19-page response.

When the Pension Fund sent its report to the State of the Church committee late last month, it also released it to the entire church. The responses are part of the data that the State of the Church committee is using to write its report. Normally such information requested by the committees charged with work in between General Convention is not released to the church ahead of the so-called Blue Book collection of official reports.

Jennings told ENS that it is “a bit confusing” that the Pension Fund chose to release its responses without any context ahead of the committee’s Blue Book report. However, the State of the Church committee is completing its report and it is due to do posted here early next year.

“We believe our clients and others would appreciate having the information contained in the report,” Wold wrote to ENS. She and her colleagues realized that many of the questions raised by the subcommittee might be asked elsewhere in the church, she added. The subcommittee’s work “helped us create a document that tells the story of the Church Pension Group well. It is a report we are proud to share with anyone who wants to take the time to read it.”

A question of relationship and authority

One of the more interesting parts of the Pension Fund’s response involves its answer to the committee’s question of how it sees its relationship to the church. While noting the authority outlined in Canon I.8, the report describes the relationship as “transactional” with the fund providing services to the church, which is described as a “client.” The fund says that it has “no legal or governance relationship” with the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the name under which the Episcopal Church in incorporated).

The Pension Fund suggests that the church can influence that relationship by the fact that General Convention elects 24 of the fund’s 25 trustees and can amend Canon I.8 to increase its services to the church. The most recent amendments came in 2009 when the convention told the Pension Fund to establish a mandatory lay pension plan and the Denominational Health Plan.

The canonical relationship between the DFMS and the Church Pension Fund “is a subject about which reasonable people can disagree,” Jennings told ENS. The leaders of both organizations have had “thoughtful conversations about those issues and how General Convention might direct the Pension Fund to address contemporary realities and justice issues in the Episcopal Church, including the needs of part-time and non-stipendiary clergy and lay employees,” she added.

Varghese said that questions about “the authority of General Convention with regard to everything and anything in the work of the Pension Fund” come up in many conversations at every one of the triennial gatherings. Part of those conversations involve whether the Pension Fund ought to have the same questions and concerns, and whether responding to them could make the pension fund more, or less, effective and financially sustainable.

“The more that we can clarify that and be in the agreement, the better of the church,” Varghese said of the debates.

The committee, she noted, cannot make any changes on its own. That authority rests with the General Convention and CPG.

“As much as anyone I trust the great decisions about things I don’t understand to the people that are authorized to make them. I am happy that there are people who know a lot more than I do about a lot of things,” she added. “But some of these philosophical decisions, we collectively have to make and they are absolutely in resistance and often very different language and a different understanding of humanity and compassion than the culture around us and that’s really hard, and not just on the issue of pension.”

“I hope that this work is understood,” Varghese said. “We are not people external to the system but we need to be mature enough to face the decisions that we’re making and to hold ourselves responsible for them.”

More information about the State of the Church committee’s work is available here.

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

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