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Voorhees College draws on strong bond with Episcopal Church to live into educational mission

Episcopal News Service - sex, 24/01/2020 - 15:28

Six Voorhees College students pose together for the college’s announcement in June 2019 that they were selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the college’s paid internship program. Photo: Voorhees College

[Episcopal News Service] Christina Donovan considers herself a nontraditional undergraduate student. At age 27, she is older than many of her classmates at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. Yet she exemplifies, with her personal background and academic interests, the type of student whom administrators say they strive to serve at Voorhees, a historically black college whose ties to The Episcopal Church date to 1924.

With about 500 students, the college’s faculty can devote greater attention to nurturing students academically than what pupils could expect at a large university, Donovan told Episcopal News Service. And as a young black woman from Brooklyn, New York, she appreciates being joined by other African American students as they spend these years focused on their education.

Christina Donovan, a senior at Voorhees College, served last year as president of the Student Government Association. Photo: Voorhees College

On campus, “everybody knows everybody,” she said, like a family. “I love it. … The fact that I was able to be around people that looked like me was a little easier because you’re not competing or not dealing with a lot of the issues.”

Those issues often center around race and racial tensions, which sometimes become distractions in multiracial learning environments, Donovan said. Instead, her academic career has flourished since she left New York in 2017 for Voorhees, including a stint last year as the college’s Student Government Association president and a fellowship this year with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Behind the success of students like Donovan is a range of assistance – financial, administrative, spiritual – provided to the college by The Episcopal Church, Voorhees President W. Franklin Evans said in an interview with ENS. He became president in 2016 and has been encouraged since then by the church’s solidification of its financial support. The church’s last two triennial budgets included more than $1.6 million for Voorhees and Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, another historically black school with Episcopal roots.

“Having support from The Episcopal Church is paramount,” Evans said, and the importance of that connection to the church goes beyond the direct payments that help Voorhees and Saint Augustine’s keep operating. Church staff, particularly in its development office, have helped the colleges improve their financial controls and increase their own fundraising capacity.

“It’s really critical that we have donors, and we are able to tap into folks who can really help us financially,” he said.

The church also is in its third year raising money for the two schools through its Absalom Jones offering, named for the first black Episcopal priest. The campaign has collected more than $75,000 in the past two years, and this year’s campaign is underway, leading up to Jones’s feast day on Feb. 13. Donations can be made online here.

Such assistance, as well as the church’s administrative guidance, has been critical to ensuring that Voorhees and Saint Augustine’s maintain their accreditations after the uncertainty of previous years.

That uncertainty was particularly acute at Saint Augustine’s, which just two years ago was operating under the cloud of probation and the threat of losing its accreditation due to past financial struggles and enrollment decline. In December 2018, however, the university announced it had turned a corner after implementing its improvement plan; its accrediting agency removed Saint Augustine’s from probation and granted it a 10-year accreditation.

W. Franklin Evans has served as Voorhees College’s president since 2016. Photo: Voorhees College

Voorhees received its 10-year accreditation in 2011, though it was still working to bring some of its operations up to standards, such as in record-keeping and financial management, Evans said. Shortly after he became president, the college completed a five-year review, and its accrediting agency responded favorably, without identifying any concerns. The college now is preparing for its next 10-year reaccreditation, in 2021.

The Episcopal Church’s recent work with historically black colleges and universities, also known as HBCUs, coincides with a greater emphasis on racial reconciliation under the leadership of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who was elected in 2015 as the first African American bishop to head the church. Evans said Voorhees is looking forward to welcoming Curry to speak on campus this April 7 as part of the college’s 123rd Founder’s Day celebration.

“Historically black colleges and universities are essential institutions that help prepare people from diverse backgrounds for success in an array of vital professions,” Curry said in a news release this month announcing the Absalom Jones offering campaign. “It is fitting that we honor his memory by lending our support to two schools that continue to form new African-American leaders.”

Historically black colleges and universities like Voorhees and Saint Augustine’s 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 learning because of segregation. Saint Augustine’s was established 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 Rev. Martini Shaw, chair of the HBCU committee of The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, thinks the church stepped up its support of those two schools in 2015 at a critical time, particularly given the uncertainty at Saint Augustine’s.

“Having the support and the partnership of the church really helped the school attain accreditation,” said Shaw, rector at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Absalom Jones first served as rector.

The HBCU committee also is encouraged by recent enrollment and fundraising gains at Voorhees. “The church continues to serve as a partner and a supporter of the institution,” Shaw told ENS. His committee has scheduled an in-person meeting on the campus in April, which he explained, is “our way of letting them know at Voorhees that the church is in full support of that institution.”

The church’s financial support in recent years has included hundreds of thousands of dollars through various grant programs, including Educational Enterprise Grants, Sustainability Grants and the United Thank Offering program. The UTO grant of $73,700 that was awarded to Voorhees in 2019 is supporting a renovation and construction project on campus that includes an admissions center and a community wellness complex.

“We believe in the mission of educating young people in order that they might become all that God intends for them to be, as positive, productive citizens of our nation and the world,” Episcopal Church Chief Financial Officer Kurt Barnes said by email. “By enabling a healthy, continuing and independent Voorhees, we hope the relationship promotes racial healing, justice and reconciliation.”

When Donovan graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, she’d like to find an opportunity to continue working in Washington but doesn’t yet have firm plans. She will leave Voorhees with memories for a lifetime, like the time she served as the thurifer on Absalom Jones’ feast day in the campus’s St. Philip’s Chapel and “smoked it out” with an intense level of incense.

The college’s affiliation with The Episcopal Church was one reason she was drawn to Voorhees. “I’m able to still have my church life and be at school,” she said, also recalling childhood Sundays when she would serve as an acolyte at Christ Church in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood, near her home in Sheepshead Bay.

Donovan will remember feeling initially apprehensive at moving to a small Southern city but then quickly right at home as a part of the campus community. Her memories also will include listening to Voorhees professors who shared with students their experiences traveling to Ghana and seeing firsthand the vestiges of the transatlantic slave trade.

She’ll also remember her first visit to campus when she learned about Voorhees’ founding in 1897 by Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, whose mission was to improve black lives through education. And the college continues to “keep her spirit alive” for new generations of students like herself, Donovan said.

“It’s a place for you to find who you are and what you can do for the world or in your community.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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Spirited revival opens Rooted in Jesus conference on modern ministry in Atlanta

Episcopal News Service - qui, 23/01/2020 - 15:01

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks during ReviveATL in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 22, 2020. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

[Episcopal News Service – Atlanta, Georgia] When it came time for the passing of the peace at ReviveATL, the rousing revival service on Jan. 22 featuring Presiding Bishop Michael Curry that coincided with the Rooted in Jesus conference, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright told the crowd of between 2,000 and 3,000 people to introduce themselves to at least three people they didn’t know and greet them in the name of God.

“The peace of the Lord be always with you,” Wright said.

“And also with you!” the audience shouted back.

“Prove it!” he urged them, and the arena at Clark Atlanta University became a sea of handshakes, hugs and laughter.

At left in the ReviveATL shirt, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright joins others in singing at the revival service. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

Proving the reality of God’s love – by welcoming strangers and caring for the needy and forgotten – was a central theme of the revival and the four-day conference, which features workshops and presenters from across The Episcopal Church on topics like innovative ministry in the secular age, strategies for reaching new communities, digital evangelism and civic engagement.

The Rev. William Barber II delivers a speech at the Rooted in Jesus conference. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

The conference officially kicked off earlier in the afternoon with an address from the Rev. William Barber II, the Disciples of Christ minister and activist who founded the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, which has since spread around the nation. Barber – a friend of Curry’s who also hails from North Carolina – is now spearheading the Poor People’s Campaign, a reboot of Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts on political and economic injustice. The Episcopal Church is an official co-sponsor of the campaign, which will hold a march on Washington on June 20.

The revival drew a diverse crowd of conference attendees and locals, including a busload of seniors from a nearby retirement home and a lively gaggle of teens from the Diocese of Atlanta’s youth programs. It opened with a multilingual prayer of invocation, with several languages interweaving and overlapping, and almost the entire service was translated into Spanish, either by the presenters themselves or on screen. Prayers and hymns alternated between English and Spanish.

Featuring performances from the choirs of Clark Atlanta University, a private historically black university, and local churches, the service was structured around four groups of people that the Diocese of Atlanta is making special efforts to reach out and serve: children, refugees, prisoners and veterans. For each category, a video of testimonials from people in the diocese was shown, illustrating the challenges members of the group face and the kind of help they need. Each video was followed by a speaker from the highlighted group.

A Rwandan refugee named Anamaliya, identified by first name only, told the audience how her parents and four siblings were all killed in the 1994 genocide. A Christian family welcomed her in, she said, and from them, she learned the power of love and forgiveness and was able to move on and help others seeking refuge from war.

“I have dedicated my life to help and advocate for refugees, especially single moms who come here full of hope, regardless of the horror they have experienced,” she said. “We must give back to our community and be kind to foreigners in our land.”

Dock Anderson shared his firsthand knowledge of how welcoming The Episcopal Church can be and how transformative that experience was for him. A recovering addict who served time in prison on drug charges, Anderson had a hard time finding work as a church musician and felt excluded from churches because of his sexuality. But St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Carrollton, Georgia, saw him differently. When he showed up to interview for the organist and choirmaster position with his boyfriend, “no one batted an eyelash,” he said.

“And when the time came to share my story of addiction, incarceration and recovery with the search committee, I was told that my story, rather than being a liability, should be viewed by the congregation as a gift,” Anderson said to enthusiastic applause. “I know that all are welcome in The Episcopal Church. Well, if they will hire an openly gay convicted felon who shows up for his job interview with his boyfriend, they will certainly welcome you as well!”

Attendees sing during ReviveATL. Photo: Egan Millard/Episcopal News Service

In his speech, Curry referenced the ongoing impeachment trial and other political topics in connection to his now-famous catchphrase: “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” He explained that, just as the U.S. Supreme Court interprets the legality of any law through the lens of the Constitution, Jesus interprets the morality of any law through the lens of the golden rule.

Bursting with excitement, Curry urged the crowd to break through the political and cultural barriers that increasingly separate Americans from one another.

“Love of neighbor is affirmative action on steroids,” Curry exclaimed. “If there’s a Democrat in the house … if you love your neighbor, you’ve got to find yourself a Republican and love that Republican!

“And if there’s a Republican in the house, I want you to find the most liberal Democrat you can get your hands on and you love that Democrat!

“And if there’s an independent in the house, you can love anyone you want! But love somebody!”

The conference continues through Jan. 24 at various venues in Midtown Atlanta.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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Oldest Episcopal parish’s past holds uncomfortable truths in city where African American history began

Episcopal News Service - qua, 22/01/2020 - 19:19

St. John’s Episcopal Church dates to 1610 and the founding of the community now known as Hampton, Virginia. Its church was built in 1728. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Hampton, Virginia] No Episcopal parish has been a witness to a longer span of American history than St. John’s Episcopal Church in the heart of this coastal city’s downtown.

The city and parish share an origin story that dates to the earliest Colonial beginnings of both the United States and The Episcopal Church. In 1610, some of the British settlers who had been suffering from illness and hunger in Jamestown, about 35 miles north along the James River, attacked and expelled the indigenous Kecoughtan Indians from their village here. The settlers took over this land near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, coveted for its abundant natural resources and proximity to the ocean. They established an Anglican parish, and when the community was renamed Elizabeth City in 1619, the parish became known as Elizabeth City Parish.

Also in 1619, the settlers here were witness to the first arrival of enslaved Africans in British North America. The story told by Jamestown colonist John Rolfe describes “20 and odd Negroes” who were taken ashore at nearby Point Comfort and sold for supplies. That transaction only hinted at how slavery soon would dominate the economy and the social life of Virginia and slaveholding communities like Hampton. Black chattel slavery was codified in Virginia law in the second half of the 17th century and began to surge, replacing white indentured servants as the preferred labor source for tobacco cultivation. In Hampton, black residents, most of them slaves, made up nearly half or more than half of the population throughout the antebellum period.

Today’s Hampton is a city of about 135,000 residents, more than half of them African American. Last year, commemorations marking 400 years of African American history generated renewed public interest in the city. The Episcopal Church joined in some of those commemorations, including a kickoff worship service hosted by St. John’s, and the Diocese of Southern Virginia is planning a pilgrimage in the Hampton area on March 6 and 7.

“It’s a small town, but there are these rich stories,” said the Rev. Charles Wynder, a Hampton native and The Episcopal Church’s staff officer for social justice and engagement. Wynder sees something representative in his hometown and its churches’ struggles to assess the past honestly. “These churches’ narratives reflect stories of other parishes and the witness of Episcopalians throughout the church.”

A historical marker notes that this stretch of shoreline is where the first enslaved Africans were said to have been brought ashore in British North America in 1619. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The St. John’s congregation has been Bob Harper’s “church family” for more than 20 years. “The longer you’re in a church, the more you appreciate the different personalities that make it up,” said Harper, who serves as senior warden.

After retiring from the Army, Harper, who is white, said he chose to move to Hampton because of its racial diversity. But that diversity is not reflected in Hampton’s Episcopal congregations.

St. John’s, with an estimated average Sunday attendance of 125 to 150, remains mostly white, while most black Episcopalians worship at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, just west of downtown. St. Cyprian’s, which Wynder grew up attending, was founded in 1905 because St. John’s at that time didn’t welcome African Americans.

More than a century later, St. John’s now opens its doors to worshippers of all races and backgrounds, and the two congregations have come together for various special events. But “on Sunday morning, we don’t have a lot of blending of the congregations,” Harper said.

Only in the last 15 years has The Episcopal Church, a denomination with a membership reported to be 90 percent white, taken deliberate steps to acknowledge uncomfortable truths about its past complicity with slavery and segregation and to encourage racial healing.

In 2006 and again in 2009, General Convention called on dioceses and congregations to research their history of supporting and benefiting from racial oppression. They were asked to confront long-ignored truths and, as appropriate, to repent of past sins. Some have done the work, but certainly not all, said Byron Rushing, vice president of the House of Deputies.

“The history of The Episcopal Church is parallel to the history of the United States,” Rushing said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. “That’s a lot of time, and that’s a lot of stories.”

Seeking the truth of the church’s racial past

The Episcopal Church took the additional step in 2015 of identifying racial reconciliation as one of its core priorities, along with evangelism and care of creation, and that year the church also elected Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the first African American to lead the church.

In 2017, church officers endorsed Becoming Beloved Community, now The Episcopal Church’s cornerstone racial reconciliation initiative. “Telling the Truth” about the church’s past is a critical component of the initiative.

“We wanted people to just go back and do their own history of their relationship as organized Episcopalians to people of color,” Rushing said. “Because if you’re in the United States, you are a very, very peculiar Episcopal church if you have a history that does not coincide in any way with people of color.”

Hampton has four Episcopal congregations, including Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which formed in 1897 as a mission of St. John’s, and the smaller parish of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a 57-year-old congregation that last year moved out of its own church building and began worshipping at St. John’s partly due to financial strains.

In 2013, following the recommendations of General Convention, the Diocese of Southern Virginia held a Service of Repentance, Reconciliation & Healing in Norfolk, just south of Hampton. The diocese also assembled a brief written summary of its history with racism and encouraged its congregations to do the same, and then-Bishop Herman Hollerith issued a formal apology on behalf of his diocese’s churches for their roles in sustaining slavery and segregation.

“Spiritual common sense would suggest that a community of faith cannot move forward in its common life in Christ until it has first confessed its wrongdoing,” Hollerith said.

The four Episcopal congregations in Hampton organized their own Service of Repentance in 2015. It was modeled after the diocese’s service and held at St. John’s, but five years later, the host congregation has only recently begun engaging in deeper discussions about its historic ties to slavery and the Confederacy.

“I don’t know that churches are always good at talking about uncomfortable things,” the Rev. Samantha Vincent-Alexander told ENS. She has served as rector at St. John’s for the past six years, and last fall, she began leading a group of about 20 parishioners through Sacred Ground, The Episcopal Church’s 10-session discussion series on racism and racial healing.

“I think everyone is getting something out it,” Vincent-Alexander said, including the experience of “talking about things we’re not accustomed to talking about.”

In her first years at St. John’s, she recalled it “never occurred to us” that re-examining the congregation’s past ties to slavery might be a necessary step toward racial reconciliation. “I think that’s something you need to lay groundwork for, and I don’t think we were there.” She also senses that some members believe that the church’s past already is well known and that the congregation isn’t trying to hide anything negative, so it would be better to move on and look instead to the future.

But St. John’s also proudly celebrates its long history, and going forward, Vincent-Alexander wants to encourage the congregation to confront less-comfortable stories as well. “If we want to take pride in who we have been,” she said, “then we also have to take ownership in the negative things that we have done.”

In historic church’s cemetery, Confederate markers abound

A chest-high brick wall encircles the cemetery and buildings at St. John’s Episcopal Church, identified by a sign out front as the “oldest continuous Protestant church in North America.” Within the wall, monuments to the dead form constellations that envelope the church and stretch north to a back corner of the cemetery.

An estimated 3,000 people are buried here – native Hamptonians, transplanted Northerners, church rectors, vestrymen, husbands and wives, young children, and 145 Civil War veterans whose Confederate service is dutifully inscribed at their final resting places. Just 15 paces off the path leading to the church’s front door looms a 20-foot monument, its inscription memorializing “Our Confederate Dead.”

“It’s a cemetery, but it’s also a historical landmark, too,” said David Bishop, the cemetery’s administrator, as he walked among the graves. The church and its cemetery are “one of the centerpieces of just about every map that’s drawn of Hampton.”

David Bishop, the St. John’s cemetery administrator, indicates the grave of Solomon Fosque, who served the church as sexton in the early 1900s. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Wearing a University of Virginia hat over his Ray-Ban sunglasses, the 64-year-old Bishop walks the cemetery’s paths with the unrushed gait of someone who retired in June after teaching history at Kecoughtan High School for 22 years. A St. John’s member since 1991, Bishop is an adept guide. Rectors are buried near the church, such as the Rev. Reverdy Estill, who served here from 1905 to 1911. Over there is Alaska Bishop John Bentley, originally from Hampton. And here are the graves of James McMenamin and J.S. Darling, two Northerners who helped revitalize Hampton’s economy after the Civil War through the city’s burgeoning crab and oyster industry.

A large headstone behind the church marks the grave of Solomon Fosque, the parish’s “faithful sexton” who died in 1936. Another longtime sexton, William Parker, died in 2012 and is buried nearby. Fosque and Parker are the only African Americans buried in the cemetery, as far as Bishop knows. “It would be very unusual for there to be any more,” he says.

Yet African American history and parish history overlapped nearly from the beginning. Two of the enslaved Africans who landed here in 1619 were thought to have been taken into the household of prominent Elizabeth City parishioner Capt. William Tucker. The African couple, Anthony and Isabella, had a son named William, who was baptized either in Jamestown or Elizabeth City – the baptizing church is up for debate, as is the family’s status, whether slaves or indentured servants.

St. John’s, however, makes no reference to slavery in its online history, which instead focuses primarily on the various church sites and the structures that were built upon them. The congregation now worships in a church that was built in 1728 on the parish’s fourth site in the city. In 1830, it took its present name, St. John’s.

Some of the earliest details of St. John’s complicity with slavery are presumed lost to history. Surviving vestry books go back to 1751, leaving a gap of more than 140 years from the founding of Elizabeth City Parish. Other documents begin to flesh out the lives of ministers, vestrymen and parishioners, but “the life of the slaves owned by these gentlemen and other residents of Elizabeth City County went unrecorded in the pages of history,” historian Rogers Whichard wrote in 1959.

Though details of their lives may have gone unrecorded, those early African Americans left lasting marks on the community – including presumably in the bricks that have formed the walls of the church for nearly 300 years. Though no one knows for sure, slave labor likely was used to build the church.

“I would be surprised if it didn’t,” Harper said.

St. John’s Heritage Working Group members Billie Eiselen, left, and Carolyn Hawkins look at some of the archival material collected in a storage room in the parish hall. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Billie Eiselen also assumes so. She is a member of the parish’s Heritage Working Group, which formed after St. John’s celebrated 400 years in 2010. Its main tasks are to sort and manage the church archives and assist outside researchers, but the group is doubtful that the archives contain any details about the church’s construction.

“I would think that slaves would have helped in this,” Eiselen said, but she can say for certain only that Henry Cary Jr. was the contractor hired to oversee the job. She thinks the group might be able to find documentation of Cary’s projects, possibly including use of slave labor, at William & Mary College in Williamsburg, though the group hasn’t undertaken that research.

Congregations around The Episcopal Church, both in the North and the South, have similar unanswered questions about their racial history, Rushing said, and as the highest-ranking, most prominent black lay leader in The Episcopal Church, he believes that researching such uncomfortable details is a crucial task in a Christian denomination that describes itself as anti-racist and reconciling.

“We are doing this in order to get to a point where we can talk to each other about how we understand where we are right now. Because that is completely based on where we have been and what we have been,” he said. “We need to be on the same page, and the same page is truth.”

More history to be told

Other researchers have found ways of confirming and quantifying The Episcopal Church’s complicity in slavery. Julia Randle is one.

The Diocese of Southern Virginia split from the Diocese of Virginia in 1892, but during the era of slavery there was just one Virginia diocese. Randle, who serves as registrar and historiographer of the Diocese of Virginia, confirmed with census records that at least 84 of the 112 Episcopal clergy in the diocese owned at least one slave in 1860. Her research was published in a diocesan article in 2006 and presented to General Convention that year.

“In a slave society, in a slave economy, you cannot escape it. You are a part of it no matter what you think,” Randle told ENS. “It is a rare congregation that has really looked hard at it.”

The Hampton congregations, though still unlikely to blend most Sunday mornings, have attempted to bridge their racial divides on special occasions, such as a joint potluck dinner in November that drew about 60 people to St. John’s parish hall. Harper, the senior warden, collaborated on planning that dinner with Stephanie Kendall, the senior warden at St. Cyprian’s, and they hope to partner on more events in the future.

St. Cyprian’s worships in a modern church building about five minutes west of downtown Hampton. Kendall doesn’t have to look back far to recall who built St. Cyprian’s. She remembers bringing them “lots of chili and Brunswick stew,” a regional specialty.

Stephanie Kendall talks about the history of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, where she is senior warden. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

She and other parishioners volunteered their time for three years to complete construction of the congregation’s present building. It hosted its first worship service in 1985.

Wearing a pendent cross over her black shirt, Kendall stood in the aisle at the rear of the sparsely appointed nave and recalled those days of transition. “We had a lot of sweat equity on the weekends. The men of the church would come and lay the brick and do lots of things, except what had to be contracted like the electrical and plumbing,” said Kendall, who now serves as senior warden.

In 1905, the Rev. C. Braxton Bryan, rector at St. John’s, was among the local leaders credited with helping 10 black residents of Hampton found St. Cyprian’s. Bryan made no effort to hide his own paternalistic views toward the black community, which were based in a since-discredited belief in white racial superiority. But he and his congregation were willing to support St. Cyprian’s in its early years as a mission of St. John’s.

“St. Cyprian’s was born in a different time from today,” the historically black congregation says in a brief written history. “It was a time of strict segregation of races in all areas of life’s activities.”

Kendall has called Hampton her home nearly all her life, and her spiritual home has always been this church. Now 68 and retired after a career in clinical pathology, she proudly took time out of her afternoon to point out the features of the church, parish hall and offices.

She grew emotional recounting two childhood experiences she had with segregation and integration – neither of which she wanted shared publicly. And when asked whether she thought St. John’s could do more to face its own historic complicity with slavery and segregation, she declined to comment about another congregation’s decisions.

Instead, she framed her response in terms of her own congregation.

“If there were more history to be told about St. Cyprian’s, I would want to know it,” she said, “simply because it’s my church and I love it.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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Southern Virginia moves female bishop’s consecration in response to backlash from Roman Catholics

Episcopal News Service - qua, 22/01/2020 - 13:35

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Southern Virginia announced Jan. 17 that it would change the location of its Feb. 1 consecration of Bishop-elect Susan Haynes from a Roman Catholic church in Williamsburg in response to backlash from some Roman Catholics who said they were disturbed by the ordination of a woman bishop.

St. Bede Roman Catholic Church originally was chosen as the location because the Diocese of Southern Virginia doesn’t have a church large enough to host the 800 to 1,000 people expected to attend the consecration, said Ann Turner, the diocese’s communications officer. The consecration is now scheduled to take place Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. at the  Williamsburg Community Chapel. The consecration service will be live-streamed on the diocesan website.

“The decision to change the location from St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg arose out of concern and respect for the ministries and leadership of both the Catholic parish and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. Learning that its intended use of the building was causing dismay and distress, the Episcopal Diocese withdrew from its contract with St. Bede,” read the diocese’s press release announcing the change in venue.

In addition to online posts and emails expressing dismay, 3,207 people signed a petition addressed to Diocese of Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout, protesting the consecration, an event that “would result” in “desecration of one of his own parishes.”

“This is highly disturbing given the fact that Ven. Pope Leo XIII solemnly declared Anglican ordinations to be ‘absolutely null and utterly void,’ and the Church has repeatedly reaffirmed the fact that women cannot receive the sacrament of ordination. Simulation of a sacrament is an excommunicable offense under canon law. Additionally, Canon 1210 asserts that only activities which ‘serve to exercise or promote worship, piety, and religion’ are permitted in sacred spaces,” read the petition posted on

Upon receiving a letter from Haynes notifying him of the change in venue, Knestout issued his own statement explaining his decision to permit the ordination and reaffirming his commitment to ecumenical dialogue.

“In granting permission for this ordination to be held at St. Bede, we were welcoming, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council encouraged, those who have in common with us ‘the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit’ (Decree on Ecumenism, 3). We were following the example of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis who enthusiastically engaged in ecumenical outreach and hospitality,” wrote Knestout.

The Diocese of Southern Virginia elected Haynes its 11th bishop in September 2019. She is the first woman elected to lead the diocese.

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Five primates elected to serve on Standing Committee of Anglican Consultative Council

Episcopal News Service - ter, 21/01/2020 - 16:28

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Primates of the Anglican Communion, heads of the communion’s 40 provinces, have elected new regional primatial representation for the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council. The regional representatives are: Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Archbishop Julio Murray Thompso of Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America, Bishop Humphrey Peters of the Church of Pakistan, Archbishop of Wales John Davies
The Church in Wales and Bishop Philip Richardson of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Read the full article here.

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Go-ahead given for new Anglican Communion Province of Alexandria

Episcopal News Service - ter, 21/01/2020 - 16:19

[Anglican Communion News Service] The ancient city of Alexandria, which was founded by Alexander the Great more than 300 years before Christ’s birth, will give its name to the 41st province of the Anglican Communion.

The new province will be formed when the current Diocese of Egypt becomes independent of its current home in the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. The move had been requested by the diocese – which covers Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and it has been endorsed by the synod of the current province.

Under the Anglican Consultative Council’s constitution, the creation of new provinces requires the assent of two thirds of the Communion’s primates. At their meeting in Jordan last week, the primates agreed to the move.

The Province of Alexandria will contain four dioceses: Egypt, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Gambella.

Read the full article here.

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Anglican Primates renew baptism vows on the shores of Jordan River

Episcopal News Service - ter, 21/01/2020 - 16:13

[Anglican Communion News Service] At the end of a successful Primates’ Meeting in Jordan last week, the leaders of the Anglican Communion gathered at the shores of the Jordan River near where Jesus was baptized for a service of holy communion and to renew their baptism vows. The primates had visited a conference hall near this site at the start of their meeting, when they were received in audience by King Abdullah II of Jordan, who spoke of Christians as “an inherent component and an integral part of the fabric of the region.”

In a homily during the service, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke of the history of conflict in the region since 1945, saying: “This is a place of the reality of pain, of sin, of struggle and of death and of the call to reconciliation. And that reality is a reality for so many of us, so many of you. As we have heard in the last few days, you live in places of pain and struggle and sin and war and death.”

Read the full article here.

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Presiding Bishop says Anglican Primates at meeting showed commitment to ‘walking together’

Episcopal News Service - ter, 21/01/2020 - 13:44

The Primates Meeting, held Jan. 13-15 in Jordan, was attended by the heads of 33 of the Anglican Communion’s 40 provinces. Photo: Anglican Communion

[Episcopal News Service] The heads of 33 of the Anglican Communion’s 40 provinces gathered last week in Jordan for the Primates Meeting, with The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry among those seeing opportunities to look beyond the provinces’ theological divisions amid preparations for this summer’s Lambeth Conference.

“It was a really good meeting. For example, at the end we went to the baptismal site of Jesus and St. John the Baptist and renewed our baptismal vows together and had Eucharist together; it was a harmonious and respectful group of people that love and respect each other,” Curry said in a phone call with Episcopal News Service. He and the other primates also met with Jordan’s king and learned about religious persecution in the Middle East.

Additional coverage of the Primates Meeting can be found here.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in a Jan. 15 news conference at the close of the meeting, described the meeting as the most “constructive and creative” of the three he’s attended, with “a real sense of people seeking to walk together, to build the life of the church and to look outwards.”

“There’s been a real sense of the presence of God … in the meeting as we’ve gone through some of the obvious difficult issues that arise when you have people representing provinces that cover 165 countries, 2,000 languages or more,” Welby said.

The Anglican Communion Primates Meeting is one of four Instruments of Communion, the others including the Lambeth Conference of bishops and the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main policymaking body. The fourth, the archbishop of Canterbury, the “first among equals,” is recognized as the focus of unity for the Anglican Communion.

The primates attending the Jan. 13-15 meeting in Jordan included 12 new primates. The provinces in Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria declined to send representatives over theological differences related to sexuality. Four other provinces weren’t represented, due to health, vacancy or other reasons.

The actions of the primates attending the meeting were outlined in a communiqué. The meeting was called principally to prepare for the 2020 Lambeth Conference, to be held from July 23 to Aug. 2 in Canterbury, England, during which at least 650 bishops and 506 spouses are scheduled to gather.

At last week’s meeting, the primates spent a full day listening to one another about challenges their countries are facing, like the rise of global nativism and sealing off of borders. They emphasized “the need to find a better way,” Curry said.

They also accepted a yet unpublished report from the Task Force on the Anglican Communion, a group convened after the 2016 Primates Meeting. The task force examined how Anglicans could walk together in the face of complex theological and cultural differences.

The report, Curry said, recognizes “that we have profound differences on human sexuality, but those of us there have committed to walking together as followers of Jesus.”

The primates have “come a long way since 2016,” Curry said. “I think that’s significant.”

The task force’s report “encouraged us all as a communion to be mutually repentant in any way that we have hurt each other,” he said. It also offered proposals about liturgy and guidance on how to handle disagreements in the future.

The task force’s report now goes to the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Consultative Council, with the latter scheduled to meet next in 2022. The primates asked that churches across the communion set aside the fifth Sunday of Lent, March 29, as a day to focus on prayers of repentance produced by the task group.

Meeting in Canterbury in January 2016, a majority of Anglican primates voted to censure The Episcopal Church over its General Convention’s decision in 2015 to change canonical language that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and to modify marriage rites to fit same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054).

The language around walking together came into use with the 2004 Windsor Report, “to avoid walking apart,” and it called for moratoria across the board on the consecration of bishops in same-sex relationships and on the authorization of liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships and on cross-border interventions.

Rifts over sexuality have surfaced in the Anglican Communion before, but the current differences stem from two actions. In 2002, the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Westminster Synod approved blessings for couples in same-sex unions, and in 2003, The Episcopal Church elected and later consecrated New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson as the first openly gay, partnered bishop in the Anglican Communion. Robinson, who has since retired, was not invited to the 2008 Lambeth Conference by then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

This year, Welby has invited the few openly gay and lesbian bishops, but he did not extend the invitation to their spouses. That exclusion drew objections from many bishops of The Episcopal Church, two of whom have spouses affected by Welby’s decision. Two additional Episcopal bishops with same-sex spouses are scheduled to be consecrated before the Lambeth Conference this summer.

How to respond to Welby’s exclusion of those spouses will be among the topics to be discussed in March at the House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas.

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Headlining 50th annual Martin Luther King breakfast, Presiding Bishop decries political injustice

Episcopal News Service - seg, 20/01/2020 - 17:52

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivers the keynote address at the 50th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast in Boston, Massachusetts, on Jan. 20, 2020. Photo: Tracy Sukraw/Diocese of Massachusetts

[Episcopal News Service – Boston] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s keynote address at the 50th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast on Jan. 20 was full of Scriptural interpretation, moral lessons and charismatic preaching reminiscent of King himself.

Several times, however, he jokingly reminded the audience of around 1,500 that he had been asked to give a keynote address, not a sermon.

“But imagine that it was a sermon,” he told the laughing audience before diving back into a reflection on the prophet Jeremiah.

Curry’s fiery speech, which drew parallels between the political injustices of Jeremiah’s age and present-day America, was the highlight of the event that traditionally draws appearances from Boston’s most influential leaders. The breakfast was founded by St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church – a largely African American parish in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood that features a stained-glass depiction of King – and Union United Methodist Church. The event’s proceeds benefit both churches’ community programs and services. This year, tickets for the breakfast – held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center – were sold out for the first time in about 30 years, organizers said.

The morning began with a prayer offered by Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris.

Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris gives the opening prayer at the 50th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast in Boston on Jan. 20, 2020. Photo: Tracy Sukraw/Diocese of Massachusetts

“We gather in what seems to be a weary year, with many silent tears from violence and war,” Harris said. “It seems at times the truth and our principles are under a guillotine of political expediency.”

Harris encouraged the audience to draw strength from King’s wisdom and tenacity in dark times.

“He reminded us that we cannot and must not remain in the valley of despair, hopelessness and helplessness,” she said.

After a performance from a gospel choir that had the audience clapping and singing along, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gathered on stage for a candid discussion about past and present manifestations of racial injustice in the state and the rest of the country. The consensus that emerged among the four politicians of different races and parties was that the specifics and semantics may be different now, but systemic racism persists, echoing the theme of this year’s event: “The Struggle Continues.”

“One of the things that frustrates me when we talk about the civil rights movement is that we bookend it as if we’re not still in it. The same is true when we talk about abolition. I’m still an abolitionist because my people still are not free,” Pressley – who is black – said to cheers from the audience.

“We can’t have a just society until we admit that we do not have a just society,” Markey said, calling for an end to private prisons and the mass incarceration of people of color. “And we have to have a conversation about reparation. … The truth is that in many ways, we have just substituted the cells of slave ships for the cells of prisons.”

When Curry took the stage to deliver his speech, he applauded the elected officials’ willingness to speak frankly about such difficult topics.

“It was wonderful to hear political leaders speak with a moral voice,” he said.

The central motif of Curry’s keynote address came from Jeremiah 17:8: a sturdy tree that endures drought by spreading its roots toward a stream. He recalled a tree he saw during a pilgrimage to Ghana with the descendants of American slaves and slave owners – a massive tree that, he was told, had stood for centuries. A witness to years of mass enslavement and colonialism, the tree continued to thrive.

“The tree, as large as it was above, was bigger below! It had a complex root system, a root system that spread out all over the land, a root system that was wide and inclusive,” Curry recalled enthusiastically. “If you want to navigate in moral ambiguity and complexity, when lies are substituted for truth, when misbehavior is exalted as just plain behavior, when people are treated like animals and put down, when mamas are separated from their children at the border of this country – you want to navigate that? You’ve got to be like that tree!”

Although he only mentioned President Donald Trump by name once, Curry talked about the actions of kings in the time of Jeremiah and let the audience fill in the blanks.

“Caring for those who have need was not their concern. In fact, they played political games on the level of geopolitics. They entered into unwise alliances. They canceled treaties that had long been in place. I’m just giving you a biblical lesson, now,” Curry said to laughter and applause. “They prepared to seal off the borders of Judah. Build imaginary walls. They segregated and separated people by their class and their caste. They separated folks, even in the house of God.”

The solution, as it was for Jeremiah and for King, is “a revival of relationships and a revolution of values,” Curry told the audience.

“In a country that was bereft of moral decency, a country that had lost its way, a country that abandoned its true roots … in times like that, you must be like the tree.”

He ended with a nod to the slogan used by Trump and his supporters, bringing the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation.

“When love is behind every law, America will be great!”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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Alabama elects Glenda Curry bishop coadjutor

Episcopal News Service - seg, 20/01/2020 - 16:33

The Rev. Glenda Curry was elected bishop coadjutor on Jan. 18. Curry is the first woman elected to lead the Diocese of Alabama and she will become the diocese’s 12th bishop. Photo: Sarah Sexton Photography

[Diocese of Alabama] The Rev. Glenda Curry was elected bishop coadjutor to become the 12th diocesan bishop at the electing convention held on Jan. 18 at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham. Curry is the first woman elected bishop in the Diocese of Alabama. She will succeed the Rt. Rev. John McKee Sloan upon his retirement at the end of 2020.

To be elected, a candidate needed to receive a simple majority of votes from both clergy and lay delegates, voting separately on the same ballot round. Curry was elected on the second ballot, receiving 77 clergy votes and 127 lay votes.

“We are grateful for the hard, faithful work of all the people involved in the search process,” said the Rev. Candice Frazier, president of the Standing Committee. “We are excited about the experience that the Rev. Curry brings to this ministry, and we will continue to support her and her family with love and prayer as we are guided by the Holy Spirit on this journey.”

In addressing the gathering, Curry said “I’m overwhelmed and I’m humbled. I know that we can do whatever God points us to do, with God’s help. And that’s what I’m going to count on, your help and God’s help.”

Curry serves as the rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Birmingham. She has served as the rector of Epiphany Episcopal Church in Leeds. Prior to her ordination, Curry served as the president of Troy State University in Montgomery. She received her M.Div from the University of the South, Sewanee, in 2002. Curry is married to Dr. William Curry, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and they are the parents of two adult children.

According to the canons of The Episcopal Church, all bishop elections must receive the consent of a majority of diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. Following a successful consent process, Curry will be ordained and consecrated bishop on Saturday, June 27, 2020, at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, by the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church.


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As nation honors Martin Luther King Jr., some churches pay tribute in stained glass

Episcopal News Service - sex, 17/01/2020 - 19:02

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is featured, along with the Rev. Absalom Jones and Bishop James Theodore Holly, in stained-glass windows at the front of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in Chicago. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Chicago] The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is in good company at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church on the city’s South Side. For nearly 25 years, the late civil rights leader has held a position of prominence between the Rev. Absalom Jones, the first African American priest in The Episcopal Church, and the Rt. Rev. James Theodore Holly, the first black Episcopal bishop.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of 33 black religious and historical figures featured in stained glass at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in Chicago. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

They are among the 33 black religious and historical figures whose simple portraits are featured in the stained-glass windows above the narthex, nave and sanctuary at St. Edmund’s, a church in Chicago’s mostly residential Washington Park neighborhood.

The Rev. Richard Tolliver, who led the campaign to install the windows in 1996, informally describes them all as “saints,” and King is set at the front of the church by design. “In the morning when the sun rises in the east, there’s something about the rays that come through that window that really illuminate him,” Tolliver, the congregation’s now-retired rector, told Episcopal News Service while sitting for an interview in the church’s front pew.

This weekend, Episcopal congregations across the country will honor King at various services and special events, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is scheduled to speak at an annual memorial breakfast in Boston, Massachusetts, on Jan. 20, the federal holiday devoted to King, who would have turned 91 this month. St. Edmund’s is one of a handful of Episcopal congregations that also have paid permanent tribute to the slain Baptist minister by depicting him in stained glass.

A window at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia, that was dedicated in 1997 shows King seated, with the Washington Monument in the background, evoking the March on Washington and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The window also features Absalom Jones, Mother Teresa and Samuel Seabury, The Episcopal Church’s first bishop.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is depicted in a stained-glass window at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Atlanta, along with Samuel Seabury, Absalom Jones and Mother Teresa. Photo: Parlee Teague

Another example can be found at Boston’s St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, one of two co-founders of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast, now in its 50th year.

At St. Cyprian’s, King is portrayed in a minister’s robe above the words “I Have a Dream,” and his stained-glass panels are positioned next to panels featuring abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The church’s windows honor a total of 16 “black heroes,” in the words of parish treasurer Josephine Mitchell.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass are paired in stained-glass windows at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Boston. Photo: St. Cyprian’s, via Facebook

Mitchell, 67, has attended services for 48 years at St. Cyprian’s, which is located in the Roxbury neighborhood south of downtown Boston. A native of Belize, Mitchell explained that she wasn’t fully aware of the United States’ history of racial segregation before immigrating in 1972, but her husband shared with her stories of growing up in segregated South Carolina.

She thinks the stained-glass windows offer a valuable lesson in black history. “It’s not just for the ambiance and beautification of the church, but really, it’s a source of education,” she said in a phone interview.

Mitchell also feels a personal connection to King, since she shares his birthday, Jan. 15. She listens to his “I Have a Dream” speech every year.

“Every time I hear that speech, it just resonates with me, and it just brings chills to me because he was such an influence in the community,” she said. “And he didn’t just reach out to blacks, he reached out to everybody.”

Before Tolliver became rector of St. Edmund’s in Chicago, he spent several years in the 1970s as rector of St. Cyprian’s in Boston. The Boston congregation’s King window was already installed at the time, and Tolliver oversaw the installation of additional stained-glass windows, including one honoring Massachusetts Bishop John Burgess, The Episcopal Church’s first black diocesan bishop.

The Boston and Chicago congregations were founded around the same time in the early 20th century but under different circumstances. St. Cyprian’s has long been a congregation with a large number of West Indian immigrants, who began worshipping together in 1910 because they weren’t welcomed at that time by white congregations in Boston.

When St. Edmund’s formed in Chicago in 1905, its parishioners were mostly white. By the 1920s, membership had dwindled due to white flight as more black residents moved into its South Side neighborhood, Tolliver said. Those new residents helped St. Edmund’s grow and transition into a vibrant African American congregation.

In 1948, when the neighborhood’s Greek Orthodox congregation chose to move to the suburbs, it sold its church building to St. Edmund’s, which has worshipped ever since in this church at the corner of Michigan Avenue and 61st Street.

The Rev. Richard Tolliver, 74, who retired in 2017 as rector of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in Chicago, talks about the stained-glass windows that were installed during his time with the congregation. As rector, he also oversaw creation of the St. Edmund’s Redevelopment Corporation, which he still leads as president and CEO. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The worship space hadn’t changed much by the time Tolliver joined the congregation in 1989. “All of the iconography and paintings reflected a Greek Orthodox facility,” he said, “so we wanted to have more cultural symbols and images in the church that reflected the congregation of the day.”

Drawing on his experience at St. Cyprian’s in Boston, Tolliver envisioned converting the unadorned windows at St. Edmund’s into stained glass, featuring King and other prominent black figures. He presented his idea to the congregation at the 8 a.m. service one Sunday morning and asked if any parishioners would be interested in sponsoring one of the 33 windows, each costing a couple thousand dollars.

The Martin Luther King Jr. window, second from left, is positioned at the front of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church overlooking the altar. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Tolliver had 29 volunteers from that early service alone, and after the 10:30 a.m. service, another four had come forward to sponsor the remaining windows. Their names are featured on a plaque in the narthex.

Today, the King window is a particular source of pride for longtime parishioners like Doris Howell.

“He was an inspiration for me,” said Howell, a 92-year-old retired teacher. She also felt it was important for her students to learn about King’s legacy. “Dr. King was part of what I wanted to impart to the children.”

Howell remains active in the congregation and continues to sing every Sunday in the choir, which takes its seat to the right of the altar, just below the windows featuring Jones, King and Holly. The windows around the church are positioned high above and grouped in threes, with 15 on the right side of the church and 15 on the left. The other three are found in the narthex, near the church’s front door. Each features a simple portrait and a name.

Howell said she sometimes sits in the choir pews and looks up at the light coming through the faces of all those well-known men and women, and in that moment, “I feel like the Lord is shining through them on me,” she said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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Northern Michigan Episcopalians speak out in favor of retiring high school’s ‘Redmen’ nickname

Episcopal News Service - qui, 16/01/2020 - 14:04

A photo shared to Marquette Area Public Schools’ Facebook page in 2015 shows a sign that features Marquette Senior High School’s nicknames and its former Indian chief logo. The logo has since been phased out.

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are joining calls for a local high school to change its nicknames, which many consider derogatory toward Native Americans.

Northern Michigan Bishop Rayford Ray wrote a letter Jan. 3 to the school board in Marquette calling for an end to the use of “Redmen” and “Redettes” at Marquette Senior High School, and the Rev. Lydia Kelsey Bucklin, Ray’s canon to the ordinary for discipleship and vitality, spoke in favor of changing the nicknames at a tense school board meeting on Jan. 6.

“The ‘Redmen’ and ‘Redette’ nicknames are not only hurtful to indigenous members of the community, but to all who believe in human dignity, freedom and justice,” Ray said in his letter. “We are called to recognize an injustice, to educate each other about the nature of this injustice and to follow the lead of local indigenous leaders who recognize how to heal this unnecessary trauma.”

Of the 12 federally recognized Native American tribes based in Michigan, five are in the state’s sparsely populated Upper Peninsula. Marquette, overlooking Lake Superior and home to Northern Michigan University, is the Upper Peninsula’s largest city, with a population of about 21,000, though only a few hundred Marquette residents report Native American heritage, according to census data.

Last year, the Marquette school board asked a special committee to research the high school’s nicknames. The committee collected evidence that the nicknames were offensive, harmful to Native American students and not universally embraced by the student body, and it recommended changing the nicknames.

“A change to a culturally appropriate nickname and mascot common across all seven schools within the Marquette Area Public Schools might serve as a rallying point and a point of pride,” the committee said in its report, presented to the school board on Dec. 16.

A photo on the Marquette Senior High School website shows the school’s current logo, a bold red “M.”

Dozens of people attended the board’s next meeting on Jan. 6, and they reportedly spoke for more than three hours, some defending the nicknames and others opposing them. Defenders argued that “Redmen” originated not as a racial slur but as a tribute to the crimson red of Harvard University, which was a former superintendent’s alma mater. Even so, the school long embraced the racial connotations of “Redmen” by featuring an Indian chief’s head as its logo, until that image was phased out a few years ago and replaced with a bold red “M.” Opponents say the nicknames need to be retired as well.

“For us, it really is just this basic recognition of the need to respect the dignity of every human being,” Bucklin told Episcopal News Service, referencing the baptismal covenant in the Book of Common Prayer.

Bucklin’s comments at the Jan. 6 school board meeting in opposition to the nicknames also were rooted in her personal history. The Diocese of Northern Michigan is based in Marquette, and Bucklin attended Marquette Senior High School in the 1990s, when her father, the Rev. James Kelsey, worked as the diocese’s ministry development coordinator. He later served as bishop until his death in 2007.

In 1998, during Bucklin’s senior year, she was editor of the student newspaper. She and her fellow students devoted one issue that year to questioning the appropriateness of the “Redmen” mascot and nickname.

That year, the school board voted to retire the logo, but the decision didn’t last long. A backlash in the community led to the election of new board members, Bucklin said, who voted to reverse course and keep the “Redmen” nickname and logo.

The ongoing debate in Marquette echoes conversations happening across the United States over Indian mascots. While some communities are reluctant to give up such mascots, critics argue they glorify racial stereotypes, objectify indigenous people and amount to a form of cultural identity theft by teams and fan bases that often are largely non-Native.

The most widely discussed case is that of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, whose owners have adamantly refused to stop using a racial slur as the team’s name despite protests and pressure from Native American groups and their supporters. Other professional teams have been somewhat responsive to such complaints. The Cleveland Indians baseball team, while keeping its name, chose after the 2018 season to retire as its mascot a Native American caricature known as “Chief Wahoo.”

Colleges generally have phased out references to Native Americans in their mascots and nicknames since a 2005 NCAA ban on the practice. The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, for example, is now known as the Fighting Hawks after deciding to end the use of its Fighting Sioux nickname in 2012.

“Rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples,” the National Congress of American Indians, an advocacy group, said in a 2013 report. “Widely consumed images of Native American stereotypes in commercial and educational environments slander, defame, and vilify Native peoples, Native cultures and tribal nations, and continue a legacy of racist and prejudiced attitudes.”

Such arguments also apply to American high schools, where mascots have commonly drawn on Native American imagery. A USA Today Network report on Wisconsin school mascots noted in 2018 that dozens of schools had eliminated Indian mascots since the 1980s, but 31 such mascots remained in the state.

A Capital News Service report in 2013 counted at least 63 high schools in the country that still call themselves “Redskins,” and one of those schools is Paw Paw High School in lower Michigan. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a complaint over the school’s mascot, and the U.S. Department of Education is investigating, according to MLive.

The ACLU’s complaint warned that the use of the nickname was creating a “racially hostile educational environment.”

In 2017, a state senator from Detroit proposed legislation that would have banned racially insensitive mascots in Michigan, but the bill appears to have stalled after being referred to a Senate committee.

A crowd listens to people speak in favor of and against the proposed discontinued use of the Marquette Senior High School nicknames at a Jan. 6 school board meeting. Photo: Christie Bleck/Mining Journal

In Marquette, the school district’s student body is nearly 90 percent white, and only about 3 percent of Marquette Senior High School students reported Native American heritage, according to demographic data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

After the research committee presented its findings at the school board’s Dec. 16 meeting, high school senior Roxy Sprowl was among those who spoke in favor of the committee’s recommendation of a new nickname, according to a Mining Journal story on the meeting.

“In my experience as a Native American student at Marquette Senior High School, I have been told that I don’t deserve anything as a Native person when I step out and say that I don’t support the mascot,” Sprowl said. “I am told that I don’t deserve to be here.”

Chris Swartz, tribal council president of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, also spoke at that meeting. “It’s time to change the name,” he said.

The school board has yet to act on the committee’s recommendations. The issue wasn’t on the agenda of the Jan. 6 meeting, though residents flooded the meeting to comment about it anyway.

“I think that input is so incredibly important and we need to see and do what is best for our students, and I think this is a great opportunity as a community to really show what we stand for and to show how you can work on complex issues and resolve those issues,” School Board President Rich Rossway told WLUC-TV after the board’s Jan. 6 meeting. Its next scheduled meeting is Jan. 27.

Bucklin told ENS that the debate in Marquette comes at a time when the Diocese of Northern Michigan is stepping up its efforts to confront The Episcopal Church’s historic complicity with systematic oppression of Native American tribes. The diocese and its churches also have worked to build closer relationships with the tribes that are based in the Upper Peninsula.

In 2018, the diocese received a United Thank Offering grant of $30,000 for an initiative called “Walking Together: Finding Common Ground Through Racial Reconciliation.” The initiative entails “listening and learning sessions” with tribal members as well as a traveling exhibit focused on Native American history.

In listening to tribal members, Bucklin said, Episcopalians have learned firsthand of their opposition to Indian mascots and nicknames. “For this local issue [at Marquette Senior High School] to bubble up in the midst of all of that feels like it’s really appropriate for us to speak out in favor of changing the name.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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Anglican Primates meet with king, heads of church in Jordan

Episcopal News Service - ter, 14/01/2020 - 15:04

Anglican Communion primates met Jan. 13 with the King of Jordan at a conference center near the site of Jesus’ baptism. The primates are meeting in Amman, Jordan, Jan. 13-15. Photo: Jordan News Agency

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican Communion primates began a weeklong meeting Jan. 13 with an official audience with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The audience took place at a conference center near the site of Jesus’ baptism, and was followed by a wider gathering featuring the heads of churches and other Christian leaders.

“The gathering of the primates of the Anglican Communion brings together the archbishops, presiding bishops and moderators who are spiritual leaders of the provinces that make up the Anglican Communion. We’ve gathered here in Amman, Jordan, as guests of Archbishop Suheil Dawani, our good friend,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in an email to Episcopal News Service.

“We had an audience with King Abdullah yesterday and time with Orthodox leaders and other Christian leaders in the Land of the Holy One. The purpose of the gathering of Primates is always for fellowship and prayer as our way of engaging the needs of the world as people following the way of Jesus. As the week goes on there will be more to report, but we gather in the spirit of Christ in the Way of Love,” Curry wrote.

Leaders of 36 of the Anglican Communion’s 40 member churches are gathered in Amman, Jordan, for the Jan. 13-15 Primates Meeting. The meeting is taking place in advance of the 2020 Lambeth Conference, to be held July 23-Aug. 2 in Canterbury, England.

The Primates Meeting is one of the three Instruments of Communion, the other two being the Lambeth Conference of bishops, which takes place approximately every 10 years, and the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main policymaking body. The primates last met in Canterbury in October 2017.

(Who are the primates and what is the Primates Meeting?)

On Jan. 14, King Abdullah was accompanied by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the senior adviser to the king for religious and cultural affairs. He told the Anglican leaders that Jordan is committed to its historical and religious role in protecting Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

The king said it was important to confront any attempts that would change the historical and legal situation in the Holy City of Jerusalem, and said that Jordan would continue to promote the values ​​of dialogue, tolerance and brotherhood among religions. Christians, he said, are an inherent component and an integral part of the fabric of the region.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said it was “a great honor” to be received in audience by King Abdullah. He explained that the primates had been discussing the forthcoming Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops and said, “We are looking at issues of climate change – very relevant here in the Jordan Valley and around the shrinking Dead Sea. We are seeking to see how to support peace in this region, grateful for the examples of yourself and this kingdom.

“We seek to raise the awareness of the issues of refugees and migrants globally, where Jordan sets an example to the world. We are especially concerned about the plight of Christians in this region and other numerous areas where they suffer. Jordan is a shining example of good practice, where Muslims and Christians practice their faith freely and without fear.”

Jordan is part of the Anglican-Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which Welby said, “under the leadership of its archbishop, His Grace Archbishop Suheil Dawani, is heavily involved in building peace, and in the long-term work of education and health. It has hospitals and clinics across the area, including in Gaza, and more than a dozen schools, including schools for the deaf, blind and those with special educational needs. This action on health and education is a best example, and typical of Anglican ministry in all its provinces.”

The Primates Meeting began Jan. 13 and will continue through Jan. 15. On Jan. 16-17, the primates will undertake pilgrimages and spiritual retreats in Jordan, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

– Anglican Communion News Service and the Jordan News Service contributed to this report.

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Anglican Communion pleads to United Nations for an end to gender-based violence

Episcopal News Service - ter, 14/01/2020 - 14:19

The 2019 CSW63 delegation meets the deputy permanent representative of the Solomon Islands, Janice Mose. Photo courtesy ACNS

[Anglican Communion News Service] An end to gender-based violence and the role of faith communities in the fight for gender equality are among the issues highlighted by the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations (ACOUN) ahead of this year’s meeting of the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women. The 64th UNCSW meeting in March will mark the 25th anniversary of the keynote Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

In an official statement to the UNCSW, ACOUN is also highlighting the need for a strong response to the threat of climate change and the importance of the voices of women on the front line of creation care, particularly indigenous women; as well as investment in economic empowerment for women.

Read the entire article here.

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Anglican Church of Australia responds to bushfire crisis

Episcopal News Service - ter, 14/01/2020 - 14:09

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Australia is responding to the bushfire crisis with words and actions as it seeks to bring relief to the country. At least 25 people have died since September due to the fires and more than 63,000 square kilometers of bush, forest and parks have been burned.

Almost 2,000 homes have been destroyed and countless animals killed. The fires have been worsened by 40-degree Celsius temperatures and strong winds, creating difficult conditions for firefighters. Analysts predict the crisis could cost the Australian economy $20 billion AUD (approximately £10.5 billion GBP) in lost output.

The Melbourne Anglican Foundation Trust opened a bushfire emergency relief fund on Jan. 7  as a practical way for communities to respond to the disaster that has spread across Australia over the past few months.

Read the entire article here.

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Why schism? United Methodist leaders explain proposal to split the denomination

Episcopal News Service - ter, 14/01/2020 - 13:04

Members of the unofficial group of United Methodist bishops and advocacy group leaders who negotiated a proposal to split the denomination speak about the process Jan. 13, 2020 on a livestreamed panel hosted by United Methodist News Service. Video screengrab via UMNS

[Religion News Service] The 16 United Methodist bishops and advocacy group leaders who negotiated a recent proposal to split the denomination explained their reasoning at an event held Jan. 13 that was streamed live by United Methodist News Service.

They also forecast dire consequences if the proposal, officially called “A Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation,” isn’t approved this May by the denomination’s global decision-making body.

United Methodist Bishop John Yambasu of Sierra Leone, who first convened the group that led to the negotiations last summer, said a failure of the proposal would be “catastrophic for the church.”

“It would be total disaster,” Yambasu said. “It would mean more pain and more harm to the entire church.”

The unofficial group, which was joined by veteran mediator Kenneth Feinberg, offered a behind-the-scenes look at how they arrived at the proposal, which was announced earlier this month and is now being written into legislation for delegates to approve at the General Conference in Minneapolis in May.

“We’re asking them to do something historic, not just for the United Methodist Church, but frankly something needed in America and in the world right now, which is to watch a group of people in a large, 12 million-person institution cooperate in such a way that we help each other do the things that we desire to do and answer the callings we feel God has laid on our hearts,” said the Rev. Tom Berlin, who represented centrists in the group.

United Methodists’ conflicts, which have expressed themselves mostly in questions of the inclusion of its LGBTQ members, go back to 1972, recalled Patricia Miller, executive director of the conservative United Methodist Confessing Movement.

That year the General Conference voted to add language to the denomination’s Book of Discipline declaring that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

That language was revisited every four years at subsequent General Conferences until 2016, when delegates voted to hold a special session to finally settle the debate. That meeting, held in St. Louis, Missouri, in February of last year, voted to strengthen the enforcement of that language banning the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists, but many LGBTQ United Methodists and their allies immediately vowed to resist and remain in the denomination.

Now, after nearly five decades of controversy, Miller said, “It’s time for us to move to amicable separation.”

Despite their victory at the special session, it is the conservative congregations and conferences that would split from the denomination to form a new body under the new proposal. If approved, they would retain ownership of their church buildings and other properties and receive $25 million to form a new “traditionalist” Methodist denomination.

At Monday’s event, Yambasu described the special session as a “catastrophe” and a “poor witness of who we are as United Methodists.”

The bishop returned to Sierra Leone “devastated,” he said. American United Methodists had presented a “galaxy of plans,” he said, “but none of these plans to us seem to provide the answer to the situation.”

Last summer, still hoping for a solution, he called a meeting of several bishops from outside the United States and leaders from advocacy groups identified as having traditionalist, centrist and progressive views.

To be successful in yet another round of meetings, Reconciling Ministries Network Executive Director Jan Lawrence said, “we felt like we needed something different.”

“Our answer to that was to discuss having a professional mediator join us,” she said.

With Feinberg on board, they settled on a group of 16 participants who would represent a variety of viewpoints in the denomination. The mediator had acted as special master of the U.S. government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and later as the special master for TARP executive compensation.

“Two of the things that he offered during this process were that our job was to get to yes, and he kept reminding us of that. He also reminded us that we had the opportunity to write the narrative, and that if we didn’t write it, someone else would,” said Lawrence, who represented progressives.

The group met for negotiations over six two-day sessions, sometimes breaking a deadlock with prayer, according to participants.

Like others within the church, LGBTQ United Methodists and their allies still are processing the proposal, Lawrence said.

Some are hopeful, she said. Some are skeptical. Some view the denomination as “beyond reform.”

And while the proposal isn’t perfect, she said, it does call for a moratorium on church trials against clergy who are LGBTQ or who perform same-sex weddings.

“It changes the landscape for people who have been deeply harmed,” said the Rev. David Meredith, who has faced complaints of violating church law since marrying his husband in 2016.

“I speak to my LGBT friends out there: This protocol ends the harm. It just does. I couldn’t believe that until this group met. I couldn’t believe that could happen in the United Methodist Church.”

Centrists within the denomination had three priorities, according to the Rev. Junius Dotson.

They wanted to have “room” for different perspectives, Dotson said. They wanted to remove all language and policies from the denomination’s rulebook that treated LGBTQ United Methodists as “second-class Christians.”

And they wanted the United Methodist Church to continue in some form. Most of the plans to split the denomination that already have been submitted to the 2020 General Conference would dissolve the United Methodist Church altogether, he said.

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, recently elected to be the next president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, said she couldn’t predict what the post-separation United Methodist Church would look like.

“It’s an opportunity to grow. It’s an opportunity to be more nimble and more responsive to our mission fields,” she said.

“And my prayer is that the post-separation United Methodist Church will continue to be a big tent church, a place where everyone can be the best that God has called them to be — the best expression of what it means to be a United Methodist.”

The Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association, wouldn’t speculate how many churches and conferences might join a new traditionalist Methodist denomination, though he said he anticipated it would be a global denomination.

While traditionalists’ beliefs were affirmed by the special session, Boyette said, they were willing to leave to “set the church free from this conflict.”

“Progressives and centrists were making it very clear that they were not prepared to voluntarily leave the church and that they would persist in their advocacy for their deeply held convictions and beliefs,” he said.

Before the special session, Boyette had said he would recommend Wesleyan Covenant Association members leave the denomination if delegates did not back the existing language in the Book of Discipline. Afterward, the association had affirmed that still was an option if conflict continued.

“As everyone has conceded, we’ve been preparing as a contingency for just this sort of event to unfold, but still substantial work remains to be done,” Boyette said.

The new denomination likely would not meet in Minneapolis immediately following the General Conference, he said, but perhaps before the end of the year.

Yambasu, however, was confident that United Methodists in Africa, where the denomination is growing fastest, will support the proposal.

“I believe 100% of Africans will support this proposal,” he said. “I’m very positive about that.”

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Lucinda Ashby consecrated as bishop of El Camino Real in California

Episcopal News Service - ter, 14/01/2020 - 11:26

Bishop Lucinda Ashby was ordained and consecrated Jan. 11, 2020, in the Diocese of El Camino Real. She is seen after the consecration service with Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves (left), who served as diocesan bishop of El Camino Real for 12 years, and the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori (right), previous presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, who ordained Gray-Reeves in 2007 as California’s first female bishop. Photo: Elrond Lawrence/Diocese of El Camino Real

[Diocese of El Camino Real] “El Camino Real, meet your new bishop!”

With that joyful cry, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry introduced the Rt. Rev. Lucinda Beth Ashby to a cheering crowd of nearly 850 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, California. Ashby was ordained and consecrated on Jan. 11 as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real, the second female bishop to succeed a female bishop in Episcopal Church history.

The service was held in English, Spanish and Tagalog, reflecting the diversity of the diocese that extends from Silicon Valley to lower San Luis Obispo County. Presiding Bishop Curry led the service as chief consecrator, while the sermon was preached by the Rev. John Kater, professor emeritus of ministry development at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. Following the service, a celebratory reception was held at St. Andrew’s.

The consecration service marked the close of Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves’ memorable and transformative 12-year era as bishop of the Diocese of El Camino Real, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020. Gray-Reeves has been named the managing director of the College for Bishops.

More than 1,200 have viewed the consecration service, which was originally livestreamed. A series of viewing parties were also held with live Communion timed to match the events taking place at St. Andrew’s. The service can be viewed at the diocesan YouTube page here; photos and videos can be seen at El Camino Real’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

Ashby had previously served as canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Idaho, a position she held since 2011. She was ordained in 2004 in the Diocese of Northern California, where she served as assistant rector at St. Martin’s in Davis and then rector at St. Matthew’s in Sacramento. In addition, she taught at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. Before ordination Ashby taught Spanish and music in grades 7-12 and was head of school for a private school in Sacramento. She also founded and built a school for Native Americans in Capay Valley, California. She and her husband Bob share two dogs, Charli and Sammi, as well as three grown children who live in California with their spouses.

The Diocese of El Camino Real was founded in 1980 and has approximately 10,000 members in 42 congregations spanning five counties.

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Episcopal Church, affiliates press Texas governor to reverse move to end refugee resettlement in state

Episcopal News Service - seg, 13/01/2020 - 19:46

People protest against Trump administration cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement program, in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington in October 2019. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church and its refugee resettlement affiliates in Texas have condemned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recently announced decision to block resettlement of refugees in the state as the Trump administration steps up its efforts to hollow out the federal government’s 40-year-old resettlement program.

President Donald Trump ordered a new rule this year that makes refugee resettlement conditional on local consent, allowing states and municipalities to opt out of receiving refugees in their communities. More than 40 governors, of both parties, have consented or said they would consent to continuing the program in their states, but Abbott, a Republican, announced Jan. 10 that he would end refugee resettlement in Texas.

“Texas has carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process,” Abbott said in his letter to the State Department informing it of his decision. “Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”

Episcopal Migration Ministries, or EMM, is one of nine agencies with federal contracts to resettle refugees in the United States. Of the 13 affiliates around the country that partner with EMM to conduct that work, two are in Texas: Refugee Services of Texas in Austin and Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, both in the Diocese of Texas.

They and other agencies that resettle refugees in Texas are calling on Abbott to reverse his decision before the policy takes effect on June 1.

“Texas has been a leader in providing safety, fresh starts and open hearts for thousands of the world’s most vulnerable children, mothers and fathers since the U.S. refugee resettlement program began,” Refugee Services of Texas CEO Russell Smith said in a written statement. “We stand with thousands of Texas employers who hire refugees, partner organizations, faith-based groups, such as churches, and the most loyal, committed and devoted volunteers in the nation who are deeply hurt by the Governor’s decision.”

The Episcopal Church issued a statement on Jan. 11 affirming its commitment to refugees and the agencies in Texas that assist them.

“Texans have long been known for their southern hospitality and generosity of spirit,” the church said in its statement. “Additionally, many Texans are people of strong faith who take seriously the Gospel call to welcome the stranger and to help those who are fleeing religious persecution and violence. The Episcopal community in Texas shares these values.”

The state has a “long tradition of welcoming refugees,” Diocese of Texas Bishop Andrew Doyle said in an emailed statement. “Refugee resettlement embodies our Christian commitment to assisting those in need. Let us continue to pray for those seeking refuge in our state, that they might find safety and hospitality.”

EMM has resettled nearly 100,000 refugees since the 1980s, providing a range of services for these families upon their arrival in the United States, including English language and cultural orientation classes, employment services, school enrollment and initial assistance with housing and transportation.

“We stand with our faith and community partners in opposition to this decision,” EMM communications manager Kendall Martin said by email. “We remain committed to uplifting new Americans and standing for welcome.”

In addition to requiring local consent, the Trump administration limited the number of refugees to be resettled in this fiscal year to 18,000, a historic low and a sharp reduction from the 30,000 who were resettled in the United States in the previous year. For most of the past two decades, that cap had remained between 70,000 and 90,000, and President Barack Obama raised it to 110,000 during his final year in office.

The uncertainty caused by the dramatic shift in refugee policy under Trump has challenged the operations of EMM and the other eight resettlement agencies, which include Church World Service, International Rescue Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This year, they have been granted contract extensions only until June, Martin said. Then, the State Department may decide to renew all nine contracts, or it may end its work with some of the resettlement agencies.

Whatever happens to the agencies’ contracts, refugee resettlement is poised to end in Texas. Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston said on its Facebook page it was “very disappointed” by Abbott’s decision, and the agency vowed to press the governor to reconsider.

The changes to the refugee resettlement program are the latest developments in the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to limit and reduce both legal and illegal immigration into the United States, a policy platform that was a central part of his 2016 campaign.

Smith, the Refugee Services of Texas CEO, noted in his statement that Abbott was adding to the “ongoing confusion between illegal immigration and border security and the American refugee resettlement program.”

Syrian refugee Ahmad al Aboud and his family members, on their way to be resettled in the United States as part of a refugee admissions program, walk to board their plane in Amman, Jordan, in 2016. Photo: Reuters

Refugees face “the most stringent vetting process in the world,” Smith said. “Refugees who arrive in the U.S. have legal documentation, have been fully vetted and security screened, and represent one of the most resilient, hard-working, entrepreneurial, and successful segments of the population.”

The refugees who are resettled in the United States typically are fleeing war, persecution and other hardships in their home countries. The Episcopal Church first began assisting refugees in the 1930s and 1940s through the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief, supporting people from Europe fleeing the Nazis. Under the State Department’s program, EMM once oversaw 31 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses, but now that number is down to 13 affiliates in 11 dioceses.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention regularly expresses its support for refugee resettlement, most recently when it met in 2018 in Austin. There, it passed a resolution that included a measure calling on governments “to expand refugee resettlement as a humanitarian response that offers individuals safety and opportunity.”

“Refugees bring immense value to communities throughout Texas,” The Episcopal Church said in its Jan. 11 statement. “They have invigorated the economy, brought innovation to small towns, and made communities stronger through their contributions to public life and cultural institutions. Refugees in Texas are students, entrepreneurs, dedicated employees, customers, elected officials, and community leaders – just like us. They are us.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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Son of El Salvador bishop detained by ICE in Ohio, denied asylum

Episcopal News Service - sex, 10/01/2020 - 16:12

[Episcopal News Service] The son of the Anglican bishop of El Salvador, who fled to the United States after being kidnapped and threatened in his home country, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in November, his father says. Now, with his request for asylum denied, he is in jail in Ohio awaiting potential deportation.

Bishop David Alvarado of the Diocese of El Salvador, which is part of the Anglican Church of Central America, said his 34-year-old son Josue Alvarado Guerra had to flee El Salvador because his life was in danger. He had been working as a taxi driver in Colón, just northwest of San Salvador, one of the most dangerous cities in the country with the world’s highest homicide rate. Hundreds of thousands have fled violence brought on by the ruthless gang wars that have raged in El Salvador and the neighboring countries since the early 1990s, many of them seeking asylum in the United States. Alvarado Guerra was “threatened, kidnapped and persecuted by one of the largest gangs operating in the country” and forced to drive them around, his father told Episcopal News Service by email.

Alvarado Guerra complained to the police, but he was no longer safe in El Salvador, so he sought refuge in the U.S., his father said. Over several years, he moved undocumented around the country for work – from Los Angeles to Denver to Sacramento and finally Ohio. It was there that he got a flat tire near Cleveland on Nov. 27, 2019. As he waited for a tow truck, the police arrived, and when they discovered he did not have proper immigration documents, he was detained.

He has been in the custody of ICE at the Seneca County Jail in Tiffin, Ohio, since then, as his petition for asylum worked its way through the courts. On Jan. 8, his petition was denied. Unless that decision is overturned by an appeal, he will likely be deported to El Salvador.

“We are sad and worried because he can be deported and he is in great danger here in the country,” Alvarado told ENS.

The Rev. Aaron Gerlach, rector of Old Trinity Episcopal Church in Tiffin, has been visiting Alvarado Guerra in jail – where he is not allowed to receive phone calls – to provide pastoral and logistical support, along with members of his congregation. Gerlach and the Rev. Margaret D’Anieri, the Diocese of Ohio’s canon for mission, attended his hearing in immigration court on Jan. 8.

“My sense is he’s been scared from day one about being deported back to El Salvador,” D’Anieri told ENS.

Various bishops have written letters of support for Alvarado Guerra, according to Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr. of the Diocese of Ohio.

“We join Josue in gratitude for the support of the wider church from numerous dioceses and the Presiding Bishop’s office,” Hollingsworth said.

“I ask you first of all for your prayers to alleviate the sadness of knowing that our son is under arrest,” Alvarado wrote. “It goes without saying that we are trusting God to help us, but we also rely on people who can also help us in this situation.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

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