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Bishop says UK government’s new climate change goal will benefit the poorest

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 11:50am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A tough new goal to cut greenhouse gas emission in the United Kingdom to almost zero by 2050 has been welcomed by the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment.

“This announcement is very welcome, and the U.K. can be proud to be setting an example by making this commitment to address the global climate emergency.” Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam said, but he warned that the commitment must be backed by “relentless action.”

Read the full article here.

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Executive Council moves toward lay-clergy pension parity for members of churchwide staff

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 5:09pm

Members of Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finance June 13 sing a song they wrote to the tune of “There is a balm in Gilead.” The song, “Is there a pledge in Baltimore,” urged members to participate in The Episcopal Church’s Annual Appeal. Photo: screenshot from video by Frank Logue.

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] Acknowledging that true “benefit equivalence” is unlikely, The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council decided June 13 to take two concrete steps to get closer to parity in pension benefits for its lay and clergy employees.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, or DFMS (the church’s legal and corporate entity), will increase its base contribution to the Church Pension Fund’s defined contribution plan for lay employees from 5 percent of salary to 8 percent. If employees contribute the maximum 4 percent to receive the maximum matching employer contribution, the increase will essentially equal the 12.25 percent of salary contributed for clergy staff. The decision applies to approximately 114 lay employees.

The task force that recommended the move found that of the 18 percent contribution that Episcopal employers are canonically required to make for each clerical employee, 12.4 percent goes towards the clergy defined benefit plan. Of the remainder, 3.3 percent covers disability, death and maternity benefits; 2 percent goes to retiree medical insurance costs and .3 percent is for life insurance for active clergy. Clergy are not allowed to contribute to the plan.

Council also agreed to pay for the Medicare supplement insurance premium for spouses of retired lay employees with at least 10 years of service. That move will mirror the benefit provided for clergy retirees. Currently, 51 lay employees meet that threshold and 34 of them have spouses, according to the report that task force sent to council.

The decision applies only to lay employees of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the church’s legal and corporate entity). It does not pertain to diocesan or congregational lay employees.

The Rev. Mally Lloyd, council member from the Diocese of Massachusetts who chairs the council’s finance committee, describes the lay pension parity resolution. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The changes are effective July 1. For a full triennium, increasing the pension contribution will cost $1 million and the Medicare supplement premium decision will cost $500,000. The task force also considered but did not recommend increasing the post-retirement death benefit for lay spouses from $10,000 to match the $50,000 provided to clergy spouses. That increase would have cost an additional $550,000.

Money to cover the remainder of this triennium’s payment will be drawn from a $2.6 million fund in the DFMS’s short-term reserves designated for lay employee benefit related expenses. The $1.5 million plus any inflation expense will need to be built into subsequent triennial budgets.

The task force told council in its report that while “benefit equivalence is unlikely to be achieved between a defined benefit (clergy) plan and a defined contribution (lay) plan,” it decided to focus on making pension contributions more equal. The Church Pension Fund board told General Convention in 2018 that most Episcopal Church employers have chosen to enroll their eligible lay employees in its Lay Defined Contribution Plan; only about 11.6 percent of eligible lay employees participate in the Lay Defined Benefit Plan.

“This is a good example for dioceses because while it does not mandate it for the dioceses, lots of dioceses will say ‘oh, well, the [DFMS] is only doing x percent, we only that to do that,’” said Council member Diane Pollard. “This could be an incentive to places that are doing five percent.”

While no one spoke against the proposal during council’s plenary session on June 13, some members of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finance expressed concern about the impact of such a model during the committee’s discussion earlier in the meeting.

“If this is to be a model that we hope to perpetuate on the rest of the church, this is going to kill parishes,” warned the Rev. Mally Lloyd, council member from the Diocese of Massachusetts who chairs the committee and joined the group in unanimously agreeing to forward the proposal to the full council.

The Rev. Anne E. Kitch of the Diocese of Newark told her committee colleagues that if they want to support parishes they must acknowledge that the discussion is about parity and privilege, and “the way to fix it would be to lower what clergy get.”

Lloyd also warned that when the 2022-2024 budget is presented to the next meeting of General Convention in July 2021, the $1.5 million decision “will have major impact on program or staffing, or something.” Convention might have to require dioceses to pay more money into the churchwide budget, she said. On the other hand, she added, the market might go up, which would increase the church’s income.

Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple said the pension decision is consistent with the values of equity implicit in the Jesus Movement. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said during the committee discussion that he hoped the next budget process could remember the lens that Hodges-Copple described.

Also on the agenda of the final plenary session, council:

* heard from the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and stewardship of creation, that they will soon be the first The Episcopal Church leaders to receive a survey and thus engage in a new effort aimed at “speaking the truth about our church and face.” The online survey will look at the racial, culture and ethnic makeup of various leadership bodies in The Episcopal Church. Council members will be asked about their racial and cultural identities, as well as where they saw race playing a factor in their election and in their time on the council, she said.

The survey will eventually go the members of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, as well as cathedral deans and the leadership in three dioceses in each of the church’s nine provinces. The data collection, along with interviews with selected people who have answered the survey, will take a year, Spellers said.

“By the time we get to the next General Convention we will truly have a comprehensive picture of race in our church, where we have fallen short, where we have moved forward,” she said.

* passed two resolutions setting vaccination standards for Episcopal institutions and events, and “recognizing no claim of theological or religious exemption from vaccination” for church members while reiterating the spirit of General Convention policies that “Episcopalians should seek the counsel of experienced medical professionals, scientific research, and epidemiological evidence” when making decisions about vaccinations.

A summary of all resolutions council passed at this meeting is here.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 laypeople) elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

Complete ENS coverage of the meeting is here.

Some council members tweeted from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The June 10-13 meeting took place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center outside Baltimore. Council convenes again Oct. 18-21 in Montgomery, Alabama.

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

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A summary of Executive Council resolutions

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 4:37pm

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] During its June 10-13 meeting here The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council adopted multiple resolutions that are summarized below.

Committee on Finance

* Establish Trust Fund 1197, Protestant Episcopal Bishop of San Joaquin for the benefit of Saint Paul’s, Bakersfield, for the Diocese of San Joaquin, California (FIN030).

* Establish Trust Fund 1198, Hunt Bequest-Kitchen STPAAS for St. Peter & All Saints Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri (FIN031).

* Establish Trust Fund 1199, Hunt Bequest-Canterbury STPAAS for St. Peter & All Saints Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri (FIN032).

* Establish Trust Fund 1200, Hunt Bequest-Food STPAAS for St. Peter & All Saints Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri (FIN033).

* Establish Trust Fund 1201, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico (FIN034).

* Establish Trust Fund 1202, St. Paul’s KCMO Parish Endowment, for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri (FIN035).

* Use income and appreciation of trust funds 179.01, 240.00, 341.03 and 773.01 to benefit Voorhees College; and, if this is not possible, use income and appreciation of those trust funds to benefit other Episcopal historically black colleges; and, if this is not possible, use income and appreciation of those trust funds to support any African American Episcopalian student attending a college or university affiliated with The Episcopal Church, as the Executive Council sees fit (FIN036).

* Use a portion of accumulated appreciation not to exceed $55,000 of Trust Fund 188, Gift of John H. Hewson (1908), to fund management training for staff (FIN037).

* Authorize raising the employer base contribution from 5 percent to 8 percent of base salary, effective July 1 to make contributions to lay and clergy pension savings plans more equivalent for all lay employees of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, or DFMS, (the church’s legal and corporate entity); and authorize DFMS to pay for the Medicare supplement premium for spouses of retired lay employees who have served at least 10 years; costs be funded, as needed, from council’s “reserve for lay employee benefit-related expenses” during the 2019-2021 triennium and costs be included within the budgets adopted by General Convention in subsequent triennia (FIN038).

* Designate a portion of the total compensation paid to two DFMS missionaries for calendar year 2019 as housing allowances pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 107 and Internal Revenue Service Regulations S1.107 (FIN041).

* Approve the marketing and sale of two buildings and five lots in Guam, proceeds to be used for general purposes of the Episcopal Church in Micronesia (FIN042).

Committee on Governance and Operations

* Establishes a nine-member Foresight Committee to bring forward to council issues key to the effective future ministry and mission of The Episcopal Church for discussion, consultation and potential action (G008).

* Acknowledge receipt of the report of the Church Pension Fund (CPF), in its capacity as the Recorder of Ordinations, in response to Resolutions 2018-C029 (Clergy Compensation by Race) and D037 (Expand Clergy Compensation Report); ask that CPF engage in further review and modification of the proposed implementation plans, particularly addressing the issues of education, self-reporting, privacy and data protection; CPF to submit a revised proposal for implementation of the resolutions to the secretary of General Convention not less than 30 days prior to the October 2019 meeting of council (GO009).

* Direct that before council accepts any nomination to fill an unexpired term for a vacant council seat, nominees undergo the background checks and reviews described in Joint Rules of Order of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, Section VII.21, to determine whether anything in that background check precludes the proposed nomination; before nominations are made at provincial synods for the election of lay and clergy representatives to council for 2021, each nominee’s name be submitted to the office of General Convention for the same background check and review; if it is determined by office of secretary of General Convention, in consultation with the chief legal officer, that the results should preclude a person from holding the office sought, the General Convention office shall share the determination with the proposed nominee and remit that determination, but not the background check results, to the nominator. (Background check information shall not be shared beyond those entities); costs of such background checks shall be covered by the General Convention budget (GO010).

Committee on Mission Beyond The Episcopal Church

* Elect the Rev. George Sherrill Jr. of the Diocese of Southern Ohio as a member of the Presbyterian Episcopal Dialogue Committee for a term ending December 31, 2021 (MB007).

* Express concern about the ongoing political and humanitarian situation in Burundi, dating from April 2015, when plans were announced to hold a referendum to revise the nation’s constitution; note with grave concern United Nations Commission of Inquiry’s finding that “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015” and confirming “the persistence of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence in Burundi since April 2015;” commend the work of the Anglican Province of Burundi and Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, who seek to transform, empower, and promote justice in the community; call upon all parties to the conflict, and their international partners, to work towards a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis; encourage the Office of Government Relations to partner with Anglicans and ecumenical partners to advocate for peace, human rights and good governance in Burundi (MB008).

* Express The Episcopal Church’s continued support for the principles of multilateralism that underpin global dialogue and concerted action in the world; encourage all member states of the United Nations to continue to support and engage in its work and functioning, including through timely payment of their dues (MB009).

* Express thanks and appreciation to Ursuline Bankhead for her presentation on implicit bias, leading the council into a deeper appreciation of this aspect of our common life as the Beloved Community; state that the Executive Council desires to continue this important work with her, with sufficient time devoted for meaningful conversations between members of that might result in transformations in the shared life of the council; Bankhead, or another facilitator with equal training, passion and insight, be requested to offer a presentation at the October 2019 council meeting that would prepare hearts and minds more fully to appreciate the experience and context of the meeting in Montgomery, Alabama; call for implicit bias training and presentations be a part of the work of the next triennium, beginning with the October 2021 council meeting, so that the new class of members will be enabled to share the fruits of this important work (MB010).

* Express grave concern and sorrow for the recent rise in easily preventable diseases due to anti-vaccination movements which have harmed thousands of children and adults; condemn the continued and intentional spreading of fraudulent research that suggested vaccines might cause harm; recognize no claim of theological or religious exemption from vaccination for our members and reiterates the spirit of General Convention policies that Episcopalians should seek the counsel of experienced medical professionals, scientific research and epidemiological evidence; call on the Office of Government Relations to advocate to the United States government for stronger vaccination mandates informed by epidemiological evidence and scientific research; urge all religious leaders to support evidence-based measures that ensure the strongest protections for our communities; ask congregations and dioceses to partner with medical professionals to counter false information, and to become educated about programs in their communities that can provide vaccinations and immunizations at reduced or no cost to those in need (MB011).

Committee on Mission Within The Episcopal Church

* Approve Roanridge Trust grants (MW002).

* Approve United Thank Offering grants (MW003).

* Request General Convention Office have staff or an appropriate contractor analyze information from the 2018 Parochial Reports to report to council and the wider church about the number of congregations who host or conduct worship in a language other than English (including sign language for hearing impaired congregations), the languages used and, to the extent the data can be readily gathered, information on whether these congregations have prayer books authorized by The Episcopal Church or another province of the Anglican Communion in their language, and whether these congregations have the full Scriptures in their native language; request that the report include the number of congregations lacking either or both (a) Scriptures in their native language and (b) an authorized version of the BCP in their native language, together with estimates of the cost and effort needed to assure that these resources are made available to such congregations and to those intending to begin mission work in these linguistic communities; if a full report is not available, request an interim report two weeks in advance of the October council meeting (MW004).

* Adopt policies for vaccination standards within Episcopal institutions and programs requiring them to ensure the safety of participants, including that all participants and staff participating are vaccinated in accordance with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Schedule and/or applicable state law; outside of the United States, local health agencies, ordinances and protocols should be followed in place of the CDC Immunization Schedule; a participant may be exempted from this vaccination requirement only by presenting a certificate from a licensed physician to the staff stating that due to the physical condition of the participant one or more specified immunizations would endanger the participant’s life or health; coordinator of applicable programs and facilities should review for completeness the immunization records of all participants, staff and volunteers for the safety of all involved in the program; dioceses, parishes, schools, camps, daycare and childcare programs, and other programs at Episcopal facilities or sponsored by Episcopal institutions should strive to ensure funding is available or partner with charities to ensure that vaccinations can be made available so that no child is prohibited from participation due to financial burden of vaccination; request the chief legal officer to create a model policy for the church based on this resolution (MW005).

* Express deep concern that additional restrictions on remittances and travel, and recent efforts to marginalize Cuba will cause U.S.-Cuba relations to deteriorate further; express concern that any additional travel and financial restrictions will have a negative and harmful impact on the church’s religious activities; and that it will be increasingly difficult for our clergy to obtain visas to come to the United States from Cuba and to go to Cuba from the United States; religious exchanges, travel and engagement, particularly when there is a shared faith tradition, help sustain faith communities and contribute to religious expression and religious liberty, and bridge building, fellowship and continuing to be in relationship will allow the transformation of the political dynamics between the U.S. and Cuba; assert that the policy changes are also likely to negatively impact U.S. relations with Canada, the European Union, Latin American and Caribbean nations, and limiting the frequency and amounts of remittances will increase economic hardship for many Cuban families and will further isolate the Cuban people; reiterate The Episcopal Church’s call for an end to the embargo; and reassert a commitment to strengthening relations between the Cuban and American peoples (MW006).

Complete ENS coverage of the meeting is here.

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Comunicado del Obispo Presidente sobre el Mes del Orgullo honra a los episcopales LBGTQ

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 1:41pm

[13 de junio de 2018] El Obispo Presidente Michael Curry, ofreció el siguiente comunicado:

Jesús dijo: “Les doy este mandamiento nuevo: Que se amen los unos a los otros. Así como yo los amo a ustedes, así deben amarse ustedes los unos a los otros. Si se aman los unos a los otros, todo el mundo se dará cuenta de que son discípulos míos”. (Juan 13:34-35)

En mis años de ministerio, he visto y sido bendecido personalmente por innumerables hermanas y hermanos LGBTQ. Queridos amigos y amigas, la iglesia ha sido bendecida de la misma manera por ustedes. Conjunto a muchos más, ustedes son fieles seguidores de Jesús de Nazaret y de su camino de amor. Ustedes han ayudado a la iglesia a ser verdaderamente católica, universal, una casa de oración para todas las personas. Ustedes han ayudado a la iglesia a ser un verdadero reflejo de la amada comunidad de Dios. Ustedes han ayudado a la iglesia a auténticamente ser una rama del movimiento de Jesús en nuestro tiempo.

Sus ministerios para con esta iglesia son innumerables. Yo podría hablar de cómo a menudo ustedes lideran nuestras juntas parroquiales y otros órganos de liderazgo en la iglesia. Yo podría hablar de cuántos de ustedes organizan nuestras liturgias de adoración, levantan nuestras voces en el canto, gestionan los fondos de la iglesia, enseñan y forman a nuestros hijos como seguidores de Jesús, lideran congregaciones, ministerios y diócesis. Pero a través de todas esas cosas y por encima de todo, ustedes siguen fielmente a Jesús y su camino de amor. Y al hacerlo, ustedes ayudan a la iglesia, no tanto a construir una iglesia más grande solo por el mero hecho de hacerlo, sino que ayudan también a construir un mundo mejor por el amor de Dios.

Durante junio, los estadounidenses y las personas de todo el mundo observan el orgullo. Mientras lloramos a las 49 personas que fueron asesinadas en el club nocturno Pulse en Orlando hace tres años, estoy consciente de que el orgullo es a la vez una celebración y un testamento del dolor y la lucha que aún no han terminado. Especialmente este mes, ofrezco un agradecimiento especial a Dios por la fortaleza de la comunidad LGBTQ y por todo lo que comparten con sus cónyuges, sus parejas e hijos, con sus comunidades de fe, de hecho, con toda nuestra nación.

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Iraqi Christians, chicken farmers rebuild their lives in the Nineveh Plains

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 12:02pm

Ghazwan holding chicks in a farm previously destroyed by ISIS. Photos courtesy of International Christian Concern and Stand With Iraqi Christians

[Episcopal News Service] At a cost of $5 each, chicks are helping Iraq’s Christian chicken farmers rebuild their livelihoods in the Nineveh Plains, a region historically home to Jesus’ followers dating back to his time on Earth.

With the cooperation of the farmers, Stand With Iraqi Christians and the nonpartisan, ecumenical International Christian Concern, the first of two chicken farms are up and running as part of an economic revitalization program aimed at re-establishing farmers in the Nineveh Plains, in an area known as “chicken city” prior to its occupation and destruction by ISIS, or the Islamic State.

“The SWIC initiative in chicken farming speaks to the need for sustainable economic development in a region devastated by violent conflict. The local commercial infrastructure, being destroyed during the fight to reclaim territory from ISIS, needs to be restored to its former levels for job creation and food production,” said the Rev. Robert D. Edmunds, The Episcopal Church’s Middle East partnership officer, in a press release. “This is a far-reaching effort to start to reclaim hope for a prosperous future for the people of the Nineveh Plain.”

 For more information on Stand With Iraqi Christians or to donate click here.

A U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003 overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s government and initiating an eight-year war. A dictator, Hussein ruled the country for a quarter century and was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged in 2006.

Throughout the Iraq War insurgents targeted and terrorized Iraqi Christians, whose numbers fell from 1.4 million at the start of the war to less than 250,000 today. When the United States completed its troop withdrawal in 2011, the then-fledgling Islamic State, began to take hold.

“In Iraq, 80 percent of Christians from some of the oldest Christian communities on earth were driven from their ancient communities by ISIS. Yet, those who remain are extraordinarily courageous, resilient, faithful, and are desperately in need our friendship and help,” said the Rev. Christopher Bishop, Stand With Iraqi Christians’ founder and president and the rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Radnor, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb.

Still, some Christians have chosen to remain, including chicken farmers in the Nineveh Plains.

“The Western Church and societies must understand that without our assistance, the impending loss of these communities would constitute a humanitarian, political, cultural and economic catastrophic for Iraq, and an irreparable wound to the world-wide body of Christ,” Bishop said in an email to Episcopal News Service.

A chicken coop on the Nineveh Plains destroyed by ISIS. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dixon

Before ISIS’s invasion, the northern Iraq city of Qaraqosh, located about 20 miles southeast of Mosul, was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community and had some 100 poultry farms. ISIS killed or displaced the city’s residents and destroyed their farms.

Today, however, as conditions improve chicken farmers are returning to the area. Stand With Iraqi Christians and International Christian Concern plan to help farmers establish two more farms in July and another four by October. Each farm creates or supports 134 jobs, from farm laborers to chicken sellers and hatcheries to butchers, grocers, to feed sellers, veterinarians and truck drivers, and generates $48,000 in income during each growing period, according to Stand With Iraqi Christians.

Bassam (right) in his newly rebuilt chicken coop. Photos courtesy of International Christian Concern and Stand With Iraqi Christians

“They’re chicken farmers, they know what they are doing; they’ve been raising chickens for a long time and what they want is to re-establish their chicken businesses. What they lack is the startup capital to re-establish the infrastructure,” said Buck Blanchard, a Stand With Iraqi Christians board member and the missioner for outreach and mission in the Episcopal Church in Colorado, in a telephone interview with ENS.

“Once they get their chicken farms back up and running, they’re capable of running a successful business and supporting their families,” he said.

Blanchard visited Iraq with Bishop in October 2018. Bishop launched his organization in 2015 as a grassroots mission to address Iraqi Christians’ struggles; through friendship and material aid, it supports the right of Christians and their communities in Iraq to survive and thrive.

A former filmmaker, he documented his first trip to Iraq in a 36-minute video, “Where is Our Place?”

The Anglican Church in Iraq is one of 14 Christian communities under the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf. Regarding Stand With Iraqi Christians’ economic revitalization efforts in the region, Bishop Michael Lewis said: “I think what you are doing is fantastic. So, the primary thing is ‘thanks.’ Another thing I’d like to add is tell your friends, get more involved, spread in your state, spread across the country.”

The Episcopal Church’s 79th General Convention adopted a resolution in support of Iraq’s Christians. In part, it resolved “that the General Convention encourages The Episcopal Church, working in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, to provide prayers, friendship, and material support as determined by the needs and aspirations of Iraq’s Christians, as an expression of our love and recognition of their religious, cultural, and humanitarian inclusion in the sacred Body of Christ.”

Bishop, on Stand With Iraqi Christians’ behalf, drafted the initial resolution.

“The presiding bishop’s staff and the Global Partnership Team at The Episcopal Church have been immensely helpful in raising up Iraq as a long neglected and extremely time-sensitive focus of The Episcopal Global Mission commitments. As Anglicans, Episcopalians are both free of the long-standing religious tensions and conflicts roiling Iraq and are known world-wide as honest and effective mission partners,” Bishop said in an email to ENS. “As Americans, we have a special responsibility to extend the hand of friendship and support. We are uniquely equipped, and have a unique opportunity, to make the crucial difference in walking with our sisters and brothers in Iraq out of a crucifixion into a resurrection story.”

-Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at lwilson@episcopalchurch.org.

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Presiding Bishop’s Pride Month statement honors LGBTQ Episcopalians

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 3:06pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry today offered the following statement:

Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

In my years of ministry, I have personally seen and been blessed by countless LGBTQ sisters, brothers and siblings. Dear friends, the church has in like manner been blessed by you. Together with many others you are faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth and his way of love. You have helped the church to be truly catholic, universal, a house of prayer for all people. You have helped the church to truly be a reflection of the beloved community of God. You have helped the church to authentically be a branch of the Jesus movement in our time.

Your ministries to and with this church are innumerable. I could speak of how you often lead our vestries, and other leadership bodies in the church. I could speak of how many of you organize our liturgies of worship, lift our voices in song, manage church funds, teach and form our children as followers of Jesus, lead congregations, ministries and dioceses. But through it all and above it all, you faithfully follow Jesus and his way of love. And in so doing you help the church, not to build a bigger church for church’s sake, but to build a better world for God’s sake.

During June, Americans and people around the world observe Pride. Today, as we mourn the 49 people who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando three years ago, I am mindful that Pride is both a celebration and a testament to sorrow and struggle that has not yet ended. Especially this month, I offer special thanks to God for the strength of the LGBTQ community and for all that you share with your spouses, partners and children, with your faith communities, and indeed with our entire nation.

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In California, celebrating a new name and affirming authentic identity for transgender Episcopalians

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 1:20pm

Jennifer Gonzales affirms her new name with “I am a new creation, grateful to embody Christ’s image” during the renaming ceremony at Holy Trinity Church in Covina, with the Rev. Steve DeMuth, rector. Photo: Pat McCaughan

[Episcopal News Service] For Jennifer Gonzales, 49, participating in a June 7 Service of Renaming at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Covina, California, near Los Angeles, was claiming her authentic self.

“I knew I was transgender from a young age,” Gonzales told Episcopal News Service after the ceremony. “Even though I did all the boy stuff, biking, skateboarding. My mom didn’t know, really. One time I told her, Mom, I’m transgender. She laughed at me.”

The ceremony is included in the Book of Occasional Services 2018, a liturgical resource of The Episcopal Church that was released in April 2019 and is available online. The service of renaming is intended for “when an event or experience leads a baptized person to take or be given a new name … this new beginning is distinct from the new life begun in Holy Baptism.”

The Book of Occasional Services is a companion to the Book of Common Prayer and offers ceremonies and rites for occasions that occur too infrequently to be included in the prayer book. Authorized by The Episcopal Church General Convention, it includes rites intended to aid congregations in celebrating specific occasions, such as: the Blessing of a Pregnant Woman; St. Francis Day animal blessings, and the Way of the Cross, typically used during Holy Week and representing Christ’s journey to the cross.

Vicky Mitchell, 58, who attended the June 7 ceremony and identifies as a transgender woman, said the ceremony makes sacred what too often has been ridiculed and shamed.

It has often led to “dead-naming,” the practice of referring to a transgender person by the name they used before they transitioned to their new identity.

“For trans people, identity is a really core thing,” Mitchell said. “It has to do with the divine image, with personal identity. Naming is just so special, having our name accepted. Knowing that our name is lifted, and that we have found the right one for us.”

She, like many transgender people, “knew years and years ago, that the outward image that all the rest of you saw did not match the image within our hearts,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t know how to communicate that to you for so long. But we kept looking, kept seeing this, and finally one day, it was either let it out or harm ourselves.”

“I knew I was female in spite of being the father of three children,” she added. “I tried for years to fit in with my male counterparts.”

The discontinuity between inner awareness and outer appearance can lead to heightened suicide rates compared to the general population, she said.

A 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicated that among transgender teens, more than half of males, 29.9% of females and 41.8% of nonbinary, or youth whose gender identity may fluctuate, said they had attempted suicide at least once.

Additionally, a Human Rights Campaign online survey of 12,000 LGBTQ youth from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., revealed “heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety and rejection” from family and others. It also indicated that all LGBTQ teenagers “overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own school classrooms.”

The 2017 report indicated that transgender youth were twice as likely to be harassed and mocked by family members. About 51% reported they are barred from using school restrooms matching their gender identity.

‘I am a new creation, grateful to embody Christ’s image’

After the April release of the Book of Occasional Services 2018, “Jennifer and I read the service together and we both started crying,” recalled the Rev. Steven De Muth, Holy Trinity’s rector. “I asked her if doing it would be a blessing, and she said yes.”

Gonzales, who lives in Covina, said she felt nervous before the ceremony’s start, practicing again and again, her one-line response: “I am a new creation, grateful to embody Christ’s image.”

“I’m trying to memorize it,” she told De Muth, who officiated. The ceremony recalled scriptural name changes such as: “Sarai, who became Sarah; Jacob, who became Israel; and Simon called Peter” and included prayers for the LGBTQ community written by Rabbi Heather Miller of Temple Beth El of South Orange County, California.

“This isn’t my story to tell. I am simply a companion on the road,” De Muth told about 50 worshippers in a reflection during the ceremony.

Speaking directly to Gonzales, he said: “Along the way, you captured our hearts, with your willingness to participate in our ministry of feeding those who are hungry.

“You captured the imagination of The Episcopal Church who, until they met someone who was transgender, the beauty of experience and the challenge of experience were just on a written page. For us, you’ve brought that to life.

“It’s sometimes not until your heart is touched by someone you love that you begin to understand and to care.”

The service was co-sponsored by the Covina and Pomona chapters of GLEAM—Gathering of LGBTQ Episcopalians in Active Ministry in the Diocese of Los Angeles. During a meal after the ceremony, they led a conversation about challenges specific to transgender persons.

“The Episcopal Church has been way ahead” in supporting LGBTQ persons, Robert Amore, coordinator for GLEAM’s Pomona chapter, told the gathering. He described “as groundbreaking” the General Convention 1976 Resolution A069, which affirmed the full and equal claim of homosexual persons as children of God deserving of the love, acceptance and pastoral concern of the church.

From the election of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as the first gay bishop in 2003 to renaming ceremonies, “we just keep going,” he said. “Here I am, 64 years old, and things are opening up and I’m so grateful.” During the renaming ceremony he said: “I could just feel the joy in God’s spirit, and this is how we go forward, in joy.”

Accepting new names; new understandings

When Gonzales first selected Jennifer as her new name, “the people I told laughed at me,” she told ENS.

Others dead-named her, “almost weaponizing my former name and calling me by it to make me feel bad. It makes me really mad.

“When I was a guy, I didn’t like myself,” she said. “I was really self-conscious. I couldn’t even go into a place or a building that had people in it, I hated myself so much. But I don’t care now. I go wherever I want and if somebody’s hateful to me, I say to myself, just give it to God.”

The Rev. Julie Kelly, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Riverside, California, told the gathering she is “the proud mom of a young bisexual man, two straight young men and a nonbinary transgender transmasculine child as well” and that dead-naming is a very real and very damaging occurrence.

“‘Dead name’ sounds so powerful and hurtful for some people,” she said. “Some trans persons don’t use the word because they appreciate their history, their previous name, but they also know that is not representative of who they are now.”

As a member of several support groups for transgender parents and children, she said often parents have difficulty with the new names chosen by their children.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re ever denying the love, the intentionality, the nurturing of that person. It’s just a name we picked before we knew the person, and now the right name has risen up and that is a sacred thing,” Kelly said.

“We rebirth our children over and over again. That’s what parenting is. We rebirth, we go through the pain and we watch them become a person on their own in the world. When we let the dead name go and we acknowledge how important that is, we give them that breath, just like the first one they take after they are pushed out of the womb.”

She said it is vital for communities to understand and support the importance of acceptance of transgender persons’ chosen names.

“It is such a tiny thing for us and yet for a trans person, it is everything,” she said. “It is lifesaving. It is breath. I invite you into that as a mom who has seen what happens to my kid, every time they’re dead-named … I hear a little part of them die. I invite you into that practice, because it’s life-saving.”

Maria Guadalupe Sanchez, 61, a Holy Trinity parishioner who also attended the celebration, said both ceremony and conversation felt wonderful.

“I am very proud of my church,” Sanchez told ENS. “It is very open, very human. We really try to help everyone believe they are made in God’s image. We celebrate our diversity, and our dignity, that we are all God’s children.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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Appalachian Trail inspires Episcopalians to embark on weeklong ‘Camino’ trek in Pennsylvania

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 3:08pm

About 3,000 people each year attempt to hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine, including this segment in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of the Appalachian Train Conservancy

[Episcopal News Service] The United States may lack a pilgrimage path quite like Spain’s centuries-old Camino de Santiago, which draws hundreds of thousands of foot-powered Christian pilgrims each year, but American hikers have a worthy alternative: the Appalachian Trail.

Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan’s diocese is leading a group hike on part of Pennsylvania’s segment of the Appalachian Trail from June 23 to 28. Photo courtesy of Audrey Scanlan

At 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It crosses peaks, dips into valleys and passes through or near communities along the way, step by step revealing the natural beauty of the Appalachian mountain range.

About 3,000 people attempt to hike the trail’s full length each year. The Rev. Dan Morrow is not one of them. Instead, Morrow and his wife set out on a day hike in spring 2018 on the part of the trail that passes a couple miles from their home in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and by the time they returned, Morrow had found inspiration.

“I thought, how cool would it be to have a pilgrimage on the trail, like the Camino in Spain?” Morrow, the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania’s canon for congregational life and mission, told Episcopal News Service. “If we truly believe that God is active here in our communities, then Central Pennsylvania is holy ground, too.”

That inspiration was the spark behind Appalachian Camino, a weeklong group hike organized by the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania that will cover most of the trail segment through the diocese starting June 23. Participants will begin and end each day in worship, with churches near the route offering the hikers a place to camp for the night.

The Rev. Justin Cannon presides at Holy Eucharist at one of the Holy Hikes outings of the original chapter in the San Francisco area. Photo: Holy Hikes

Morrow and other organizers of Appalachian Camino are following in the footsteps of nature-minded Episcopalians who have launched numerous outdoor pilgrimages and ministries in recent years. Holy Hikes, which originated in California’s San Francisco Bay area in 2010, has grown to more than a dozen chapters across the country that organize day hikes incorporating Holy Eucharist and creation care themes. And in New England, the region’s Episcopal dioceses have collaborated on annual paddling pilgrimages called River of Life that since 2017 have turned the Connecticut River into a place of prayerful meditation and communion.

The River of Life pilgrimage influenced the planning for Appalachian Camino. Central Pennsylvania Bishop Audrey Scanlan, before becoming bishop in 2015, had served in the Diocese of Connecticut, and after welcoming Morrow’s idea for a hike, she conferred with Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas about how he and his fellow paddlers approached their journey. The Connecticut River pilgrims, for example, typically start their mornings in silence to open their senses to the world around them.

Pilgrims launch from a dock in Essex, Connecticut, on July 9, 2017, the final day of the River of Life pilgrimage. Photo: Kairos Earth, via Facebook

“I’ve wondered what that would be like for us to begin our hike each morning with some great silence of our own,” Scanlan said in an interview with ENS.

One of Scanlan’s goals as bishop has been to bring her diocesan staff members into the diocese’s communities so they can foster deeper relationships with Episcopalians on their home turf. She saw Morrow’s idea as a unique opportunity to further that mission.

“It’s connections between ourselves, among people of our diocese as we continue to try to build unity across the diocese,” Scanlan said. “It’s connections with the Earth and initiatives around creation care, and actually being in creation and spending time appreciating and walking through God’s place. It is gorgeous here.

“The other piece is getting out and being among other fellow pilgrims who are hiking and being the church in the world.”

Those “fellow pilgrims” are not just the 25 or so Episcopalians who signed up for Appalachian Camino. “Thru-hikers” who started in Georgia and plan to go all the way to Maine should be passing through Pennsylvania this month, Scanlan said, offering the possibility for trailside fellowship.

Scanlan isn’t the only Episcopal bishop with an eye for ministry and mission possibilities on the Appalachian Trail. Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher leads a diocese that includes the trail’s full 91-mile Massachusetts segment, and when the Rev. Erik Karas took over as rector of Christ Trinity Church in Sheffield two years ago, Fisher suggested he consider a trail-based ministry.

Christ Trinity Church, a joint Episcopal and Lutheran congregation, is just a few miles from a point where the Appalachian Trail crosses a sunny field. Karas hatched a plan to create “a corner of kindness” in the field for passing hikers.

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail pause for a break at the rest stop maintained last July by Christ Trinity Church in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Photo: Erik Karas

His congregation bought shade canopies, chairs with backs, a grill and a table and stocked the makeshift oasis with high-calorie snacks and lunches. Church volunteers staffed the rest stop midday on Wednesdays and Saturdays last July, when the thru-hikers were most likely to pass by.

“The hikers call it trail magic, and the people who give that kind of hospitality they call angels,” Karas said. His parishioners benefited from the experience, too.

“It’s an opportunity for the people in my church to practice hospitality and kindness to strangers,” he said. “It sort of embodies that gospel, that grace moment, unexpected and abundant.”

They are planning to bring the ministry back to the Appalachian Trail this July and to expand the number of days if more churches sign on to help.

Episcopalians in Central Pennsylvania have a long history of trail magic along their stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Bishop James Henry Darlington, the diocese’s first bishop in the early 19th century, is remembered as an early booster for conservation efforts and trail development in the region. Darlington Shelter, named in his honor, is one of the landmarks the Appalachian Camino hikers will pass.

The Appalachian Trail covers 229 miles in Pennsylvania, though only part of that segment passes through the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. The group hike will kick off June 23 near the Maryland state line at Calvary Episcopal Chapel in Beartown, Pennsylvania, and it is scheduled to conclude on June 28 with an end-of-hike celebration at St. Andrew’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Harrisburg.

About 15 people have signed up to hike the full six days, Morrow said. Others will join the hike for a day at a time. A support van will shadow the group along the route, lightening their load while they’re on the trail and transporting them to and from the trailhead at the start and end of each day.

“It’s not going to be overly programmed, but there will be some opportunities for reflection and silence and, I’m sure, some singing as well,” he said.

This stretch of the Appalachian Trail is known as “Rocksylvania” because it crosses some rough terrain, though much of it remains relatively flat, Morrow said. A mix of clergy and laity, as well as some young children, have signed up. The group will hike 13 to 20 miles a day, with options for shorter day hikes.

Each evening, the group will leave the trail and join a local congregation for dinner, worship and fellowship – and, in some cases, access to showers. These overnight stops will offer additional opportunities to make connections with Episcopalians in communities near the trail.

“Most of the churches along the route are smaller rural churches,” Morrow said. “We’re hoping that they just want to come out and hang out with us.”

The churches will have space, such as in parish halls, for the hikers to roll out their sleeping bags for the night, though certain hikers might prefer the church lawn.

“Some of us, like me – I would rather put my tent up and sleep outside,” Scanlan said.

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

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Episcopal Church in South Carolina outlines plans for bishop transition

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 2:47pm

[Episcopal Church in South Carolina] The Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina on June 11 issued a letter to the people of the diocese regarding transition plans for episcopal leadership. A copy of the letter can be viewed here, and the text of the letter follows.

Dear Faithful People of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-13

In January of this year, your Standing Committee began exploring options for the future of the Episcopacy in our diocese. Over the course of these past several months we have discerned that our diocese is ready for the next faithful step as we continue to “grow into the full stature of Christ.”

In our meeting on May 23, the Standing Committee voted unanimously to initiate a process that will lead to our calling for the election of a full-time Bishop Diocesan. With that goal in mind, the Standing Committee is working to find a full-time Bishop Provisional who can provide episcopal leadership during the transition period ahead.

As you are aware, Bishop Skip Adams has been our Bishop Provisional for nearly three years and plans to conclude his time with us by the end of 2019, or as soon as a successor is in place. Bishop Adams has been working on a part-time basis for these three years, and both he and the Standing Committee are convinced that our next bishop needs to be full-time to meet the needs of this growing Diocese.

Therefore, the Standing Committee continues to work in consultation with the Right Rev. Todd Ousley of the Episcopal Church’s Office for Pastoral Development on two fronts: First, to identify persons for the Standing Committee to consider for the role of full-time bishop to serve our diocese in the interim, and second, to prepare for an official call to election for a full-time Bishop Diocesan.

As you may know, electing a bishop is to engage in a significant process of discernment. From the time such a call is issued until a new bishop is ordained and consecrated typically takes 18 months to 2 years. The Standing Committee will oversee that process, which typically includes the formation of search and transition committees, the creation of a diocesan profile, and a period of nominations before the slate is announced. An electing convention would be called. The election then must receive consent from a majority of the House of Bishops and a majority of the Standing Committees of the 110 other dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Upon the successful completion of the canonical consent process, the bishop-elect can be ordained and consecrated.

We are developing a plan and timeline for this process in consultation with Bishop Ousley and will be able to announce more details in the weeks ahead. Please know the Standing Committee is committed to keep everyone informed along the way and to be as clear and transparent as possible throughout the process.

Please remember that we are at the very beginning of what we believe to be a major step forward in “building up the body of Christ” in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. We will continue to update you on the next steps as they unfold.

Your Standing Committee asks that prayers begin for all involved in this process. Pray for +Skip, our bishop, the councils and committees of our diocese; for all diocesan leadership and all who might be called upon to serve in this process. Most of all, we ask your prayers for those persons whom the Holy Spirit will call forward to provide episcopal leadership for our Diocese.

Faithfully,

The Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

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Council is ‘leading from the future as it emerges,’ mutual ministry review shows

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 5:37pm

Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple, an Executive Council member, breaks the bread during the Eucharist. The Rev. Lillian Davis-Wilson, a deacon and council member from Western New York, served with Hodges-Copple. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Executive Council is starting to lead The Episcopal Church toward the future using what is currently happening in the church and in the world, according to a recently completed mutual ministry review.

General Convention in 2015 called (via Resolution A004) for a cross section of council members to do such reviews on a regular basis. The reviews are not meant to be performance evaluations. Instead, they are designed for groups to reflect on their ministry together. A group of 12 council members, including the officers and the six people who formed a transitional executive committee of council between the 2015-2018 triennium and the current 2019-2021 triennium participated in the reviews in late 2016 and 2018.

The reviews are aimed at “looking at the present from the standpoint of the future,” said Matthew Sheep, who teaches management, organizational behavior and leadership at Illinois State University. Sheep, who facilitated both of the reviews, told the council during the opening session of its June 10-13 meeting here that the participants in the most recent review that begin in November 2018 were open to considering a number of “possible futures.”

The 2018 review found that the participants felt there is a “rebuilt trust” among council members, officers and the church-wide staff. All have a sense that people assume the best intentions on the part of others, rather than assuming that others are only looking out for their own interests. They also appreciated, according to Sheep, what they saw as a clarity and strength of the organization’s mission and vision, impactful leadership and council’s decision in October to reduce and restructure its committees.

Episcopal Church Executive Council member Julia Ayala Harris of the Diocese of Oklahoma preaches June 10 during a Eucharist that opened the council’s June 10-13 meeting at the Maritime Institute Conference Center (http://www.ccmit.org/) in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, outside Baltimore. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

The council has an “improved organizational climate,” Sheep said.

The participants are also concerned about sustaining those improvements, regardless of any changes that might happen in the leadership. For instance, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, will complete her third and final term at the end of the 2021 meeting of General Convention and leave the council.

Among the areas that need improvement, the review said, were the financial cost of governance, further clarification of roles and responsibilities, how to bring the Way of Love to all levels of the church and how to deal with tensions as they arise. Sheep encouraged the council’s willingness to look at “possible futures,” envisioning what it might look like to improve these areas “and where it might lead.”

Earlier in the meeting Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told the council during his opening remarks that the relationship between the council and the church-wide staff is “growing and developing in healthy and positive ways.”

At a June 3-5 gathering, the staff spent time considering how each person’s work advances the church’s priorities of evangelism, reconciliation and care of creation. Sometimes, that work is obvious, Curry said, but sometimes the relationship of work such as making sure the boiler is working and the checks are written on time to those priorities is not so clear.

Evoking Ephesians 4:11-12, Curry said his job, and that of both the staff and the council, is to “equip the church to be the Jesus Movement in the world, witnessing and walking the Way of Love.”

In @PB_Curry's opening remarks to #excoun, he gives a shoutout to the staff of @iamepiscopalian. They convened last week for their regular in-house meeting. He described them as remarkable and hardworking as well as lots of other accolades.

— Andrea McKellar (@AMcKellar17) June 10, 2019

Jennings agreed with Curry’s idea of looking at staff and council effectiveness by how they equip the church for mission. And, she added a caution. In her opening remarks, she noted that many people want to say that the world is in a “post-institutional age.”

Even in The Episcopal Church, she said, people “seek to flatten structures and decentralize power.”

“Every three years, we go to General Convention to debate the budget, and we hear about how we should be funding mission, not governance and institutional structures. As though the mission happens by magic,” Jennings said.

If the church wants to be the Jesus Movement “we have to focus on how we are actually going to move,” she said. “We have to remember that governance is mission, just the same as programs that more commonly get defined that way. General Convention’s commitments to creation care and to racial reconciliation and to evangelism would mean very little without the governing structures of the church that help make them happen.”

If we are going to be the Jesus Movement, and we do, we need to figure out how to move. Our work as Executive Council makes mission happen. President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings #excoun @gaycjen pic.twitter.com/MjBkvext6i

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) June 10, 2019

Also during the meeting’s first day, the council

* heard a report from Treasurer Kurt Barnes that showed the 2019 part of the church’s 2019-2021 budget is on track. Barnes also noted that the Episcopal Church Center in New York is fully leased. The two newest tenants are a True Value Hardware store, which has taken over the former bookstore space on the street level, and a physical therapy practice.

Barnes said the first of three mailings soliciting donations to the church’s Annual Appeal from 38,000 constituents has raised $90,000 towards the $250,000 goal. In addition, the church’s effort to raise money to provide future retirement benefits for current and retired clergy in the Episcopal Church in Cuba has raised $730,000 through the end of May. Additional unconfirmed pledges could take the total over the $800,000 goal, he said.

* spent time with Ursuline Bankhead, a New York psychologist who led the members in implicit bias awareness training. Implicit bias, Bankhead explained, is an automatic preference for certain groups over others. It operates below the consciousness, is culture-bound, pervasive, evoked by group membership and is taught by parents and other elders. Implicit bias is normal but also malleable, she added. “We can change it. This is the beauty of bias; it is not stuck,” Bankhead said.

Curry had said during his opening remarks that racial reconciliation in the United States is “the gateway to all the ways we are broken and fragmented and separated from each other so, it’s the entrance not the end.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s opening remarks to the #Episcopal Church Executive Council reports on a recent staff meeting discussing their work of equipping the saints for ministry. #excoun @PB_Curry pic.twitter.com/EpyATs5TgK

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) June 10, 2019

* learned that the Rev. Jabriel Ballentine from the Diocese of Central Florida had resigned his seat. The council will elect a person to serve the remainder of his term, which runs through General Convention in 2021. The Rev. Michael Barlowe, the church’s executive officer, told the council that its executive committee will develop a list of nominees. He said he and others were considering the propriety of council to hold a special electronic meeting for the election so that the person could begin serving at the next meeting in October. Information on the solicitation for nominations will be released soon.

The rest of the meeting

Council will spend most of June 11 and 12 meeting in its four committees.  On June 13, the chairs of those committees will each report to the full body, proposing resolutions for the council to consider.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seat and voice but no vote.

Some council members are tweeting from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The June 10-13 meeting is taking place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center outside Baltimore.

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

 

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Episcopal Church joins efforts to mark 400 years since enslaved Africans’ arrival in North America

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 3:16pm

[Episcopal News Service] A historically black Episcopal church in Washington, D.C., hosted a service June 9 marking 400 years since enslaved Africans first landed in North America at Jamestown in what is now Virginia.

The event at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, one of seven participating capital-area churches that were founded by slaves or former slaves, was led by Bread for the World’s Pan African Young Adult Network, and it kicked off this week’s annual Bread for the World Advocacy Summit, a large, ecumenical gathering of anti-hunger advocates.

The kickoff service at St. Luke’s was framed as a time both of lament for past injustices against African Americans and of hope for a better future, Bread for the World’s Angelique Walker-Smith told Episcopal News Service. She said the commemoration also was a fitting start to this week’s advocacy on Capitol Hill on issues related to food.

“We’re bringing historic roots and historic lens to our legislative agenda,” Walker-Smith said. Four hundred years ago, “people of African descent were basically fed the crumbs off the table.”

The calendar this year is filled with services and events marking the first transatlantic voyage of Africans in 1619 to the land that would become the United States, and The Episcopal Church is in the middle of planning its own commemorations. The church is coordinating with the Diocese of Southern Virginia, which includes Jamestown.

“Staff of the presiding bishop’s office are co-laboring with the people and staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia to plan a meaningful commemoration of the arrival of enslaved Africans to Jamestown,” the Rev. Charles Wynder Jr., staff officer for social justice and engagement, said by email. “The commemoration will afford The Episcopal Church a space, time and place to tell the truth and grapple deeply with the implications of its role in the transatlantic and domestic slave trade in North America.

“It will be a significant offering to the church and the world alongside numerous ecumenical, regional and national commemorations.”

Racial reconciliation was identified by The Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2015 as one of three priorities for the 2016-18 triennium and beyond, along with evangelism and care of creation. Resolutions dating back decades have helped guide the church as it responds to racism and atones for its own complicity in racial injustice and support for racist systems.

A 2006 resolution specifically apologized for the church’s complicity, acknowledging that “The Episcopal Church lent the institution of slavery its support and justification based on Scripture.” Three years later, General Convention voted to encourage each diocese to research the church’s role in enabling or resisting slavery and segregation, as well as “the economic benefits derived by The Episcopal Church from the transatlantic slave trade and the institution of slavery.”

The Episcopal Church also regularly partners with ecumenical organizations like Bread for the World in advocacy on Capitol Hill. Bread for the World, for example, led planning for the “For Such a Time as This” fasting campaign, which The Episcopal Church supported, and its Advocacy Summit was expected to bring hundreds of participants to Washington this week.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington is serving as home base for much of Bread for the World’s two-day Advocacy Summit. The congregation, near Capitol Hill, will host a breakfast and worship service June 11 before participants leave for their rounds at Senate and House office buildings to meet with lawmakers and their staffs in support of legislation that would prioritize global nutrition efforts.

Setting the stage for those meetings, the sanctuary at St. Luke’s was filled with song and prayer on June 9 as a modest crowd gathered for a service based on a yearlong devotional that Bread for the World developed to commemorate the quad-centennial of Africans arriving in North America.

Among the highlights was a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a hymn penned by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson in 1900 for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and now known as the black national anthem.

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.”

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

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Brazil archbishop highlights justice, peace in Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 5:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] As Christians in the Southern hemisphere celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week in the days running up to Pentecost, the Primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Archbishop Naudal Gomes, has highlighted the struggle for justice alongside peaceful dialogue. In an open letter, Gomes writes: “It is impossible to be a Christian without being open to dialogue, partnership, the common walk.”

Read the full article here.

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Young people at the heart of new international Finland-Wales ecumenical partnership

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 3:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Finnish and Welsh young people will be at the heart of a new partnership between their country’s church leaders, officially sanctioned this week.

A group of young people from Wales will travel to Finland for a program this month, and in October, a group of their Finnish peers will be immersed in Welsh culture during a visit to North Wales. Plans are also in place for the Diocese of St. Asaph to run a Confirmation Camp for older teenagers in Finland next year.

Read the full article here.

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United Nations hears of Anglican Communion churches’ active role in tackling climate change

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 3:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The vital role of the church and faith communities in tackling climate change was highlighted during a televised discussion broadcast live June 6 from the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Jillian Abballe, advocacy officer and head of New York office for the Anglican Communion, was one of six panelists taking part in the discussion of the role of faith communities in planting and nurturing the seed of climate responsibility. Abballe shared stories of how members of the Anglican Communion are having an impact through influence, and earth stewardship and in modeling responsibility towards the environment.

Read the full article here.

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Covenant for Christian unity to breathe new life into Canadian churches in Regina

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 12:32pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A renewed relationship between four different churches in Canada, including the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle, was celebrated at a covenant service at St. Athanasius Ukrainian Catholic Church in Regina last month.

Lutherans and Ukrainian Catholics joined the annual celebration of the Anglican and Roman Catholic ecumenical covenant, which began in 2011 between the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina.

Read the full article here.

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Priests give voice to victims stories eight years after Fukushima nuclear disaster

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 3:28pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Japanese parish priests shared stories of suffering from victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster at an International Forum for a Nuclear-Free World held in Sendai, Japan, last week. A joint statement from the forum, due out next month, is expected to strengthen the call for a worldwide ban on nuclear energy and encourage churches to join in the campaign.

The forum, organized by the Nippon Sei Ko Kai – the Anglican Communion in Japan – follows a General Synod resolution in 2012 calling for an end to nuclear power plants and activities to help the world go nuclear free. The disaster in 2011 followed a massive earthquake and tsunami which caused a number of explosions in the town’s coastal nuclear power station and led to widespread radioactive contamination and serious health and environmental effects.

Read the full article here.

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Anglican Communion Environmental Network encourages churches to tackle air pollution

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 3:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches were encouraged to support a call to action to tackle air pollution – the focus for World Environment Day on June 5.

Air pollution has been described as one of the greatest environmental challenges of modern times by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network. The campaign #BeatAirPollution encourages faith-based organizations to lead the fight for cleaner air and a better environment.

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Delaware church helps high school turn students’ college dreams into reality

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 3:19pm

Students at Seaford High School in Seaford, Delaware, meet with volunteers from St. Luke’s Church to work together on scholarship applications. Photo: Episcopal Church in Delaware

[Episcopal News Service] In 2016, when Terry Carson, then principal of Seaford High School, asked St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seaford, Delaware, for volunteers, no one could predict the profound results. From a lay-led parish with Sunday attendance averaging 35, six parishioners stepped up to help high school seniors with their scholarship applications and have been supporting students every year since.

With 750 students, Seaford High School is a Title 1 school, with 60% minority enrollment and more than 45% of students coming from low-income families. That the school now has so many graduates going on to higher education because of scholarships is a kind of a miracle.

School counselors provide incoming seniors with an extensive folder of material: an overview of possible career and educational paths, a timeline for navigating senior year, a checklist, templates of resumes and letters, and resources for SAT and ACT preparation. A vital component of the folder is a chronology of more than 250 scholarship opportunities open to Delaware students, ranging in value from $250 to $31,500.

Under the guidance of the school counselors, the St. Luke’s volunteers mentor the students twice weekly from mid-February through early April to meet the scholarships’ spring deadlines. The volunteers review the students’ scholarship cover letters, personal resumes, supporting essays and applications.

The diverse group of retiree volunteers includes a former engineer, English teacher, social worker with legal experience, two nurses and a lifelong hospital volunteer. In the first year of the program, the students called the St. Luke’s volunteers the Council of Elders. This name, a sign of respect, has stuck.

The “elders” believe in the students, share their own life experiences with them and commit to helping them succeed. The students believe in the elders and return for additional help that they may not be getting elsewhere. In spring 2018, the church volunteers met with 59 students. Each student met with the volunteers up to six times, with an average of eight seniors per session.

During one of the mentoring sessions this year, the volunteers prepared in a designated room for the influx of seniors. As they arrived, the students sat down and, each with a laptop, immediately began to work one on one with the volunteers. Conversations ranged from how best to answer a specific application question to the most effective way to phrase a resume statement, the requirements of a specific scholarship opportunity to the proper punctuation of an essay.

Volunteer Bonnie Getz said punctuation is one of the major skills they work on with students. The school has many students originally from Haiti and Central America for whom English is not their first language, and the church volunteers’ support is especially helpful for them.

Getz explained that the volunteers really enjoy the work. “When we found out just before Christmas that we were invited back again this year, it was like an early Christmas gift to me. We really look forward to it.” She went on to say, “We learn a lot from our students, just by listening to them. We don’t quiz them, but we learn from them because they share a lot with us.” Of her personal experience, she stated, “It’s witnessing to these students that we believe in them.”

The students value and appreciate the elders. “I can’t thank them enough,” said student Trevor Holmes, who received assistance from Bill Hubbard. “Mr. Hubbard helped me out on the first day, and I got six or seven scholarship applications done with him.”

Holmes said he was profoundly grateful for the assistance. “You guys are the reason all of us are going to college,” he said. “We’re the future, and you guys are helping prepare for the future.”

That same day, volunteer Deb Spandikow worked with student Caden Dickerson, who said he’d received help ranging from developing essays to filling out applications. Parents and teachers may not have time to give extra assistance, he explained.

“It’s like a third party to step in and help, especially at this time of year,” Dickerson said. “It always lifts some pressure off our shoulders when we have someone there who listens, talks with us and gives some advice.”

“It’s good for us, too,” Spandikow responded, “to get excited for you and say, ‘Wow, you’re doing great!’ We get to see the wonderful things that students are doing.”

Several of this year’s high school seniors have faced and overcome daunting challenges. One student is fighting cancer, while another is wheelchair-bound. Another, who arrived in this country from Haiti two years ago not fluent in English, is graduating as an honors student.

Clarence Giles, associate principal, appreciates the volunteers’ support of the students.

“This is an avenue for someone to come in that the students don’t see on a daily basis, to help them with their applications,” Giles said. “I think the elders get back more than they give. Obviously, our students are getting the assistance they need for college scholarships. It’s an unintended positive thing that they’re giving back to the Council of Elders.”

That reciprocity is key, Giles said. “This is an opportunity for school and community to meet, and that’s what the ultimate goal is — for school and community to have that connection. This is an excellent vehicle to make that happen.”

Each year since this effort started, there has been an increase in scholarship money awarded to graduating seniors. Giles said that in 2018, Seaford High School’s graduating class of 163 students received almost $4 million in scholarships. This has enabled more students to afford a post-secondary education. He thinks this can be attributed to the attention to detail encouraged by the volunteers from St. Luke’s.

At the end of the academic year, the volunteers were invited to attend the honors and awards ceremony for graduating seniors, family and friends. They joined the students at their senior breakfast and were recognized with gratitude at commencement.

Since its founding in 1835, St. Luke’s has had a rich history of vital parish ministry and mission. As this year draws to a close, with another group of students having successfully secured scholarships, St. Luke’s is grateful to the Seaford School District for the opportunity to be of service to its community and remains committed to this outreach.

Having no children or grandchildren, Hubbard initially felt unsure about volunteering with teenagers. Now, he said, “I see this as an opportunity to recognize young people as young adults, having motivation and a desire, already knowing what they want to do with their lives, and making a plan to get it done,” Hubbard said. “Now, they are my grandchildren, and I am so very proud of them!”

– Lola Michael Russell is a regular contributor to the Delaware Communion Magazine and the editorial assistant for the Episcopal Church in Delaware.

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